I’m Going Back to School

When I was in middle school, age 12 or 13, I took one of those aptitude assessments that’s supposed to tell you what you want to do for the rest of your life. I found the actual sheet a few years back — since my mother was a notorious pack rat, and hell she was right, I did enjoy seeing it — and I listed three occupations that I’d like to pursue:

  1. Baseball Player
  2. Detective
  3. Therapist
Keith in Spring Little League
Super young Keith in a baseball uniform.

Baseball has been a lifelong passion of mine, and at the time I was a pretty decent ballplayer. I could hit the snot out of the ball, and I had an accurate, strong arm in the outfield. I couldn’t run for shit, but my bat was good enough to keep me in starting lineups. It’s every kid’s dream to be a star of some type, right? Music, movies, sports…

It certainly wasn’t meant to be, but it didn’t stop me from fantasizing about it.

Detective might seem weird to you, or it might feel right on with what you know about me. I’m logical, thorough when seeking out facts, and I was even mockingly nicknamed “Mr. Technicality” by my immediate family because I kept pushing them for specifics on questions I asked. Vague answers about birds and bees weren’t enough. I needed the details on erect penises, vaginal penetration, sperms, eggs, fertilization, and gestation. I’m sure it was a nightmare for them.

pembleton
Andre Braugher as Frank Pembleton

My favorite show of all time is Homicide: Life on the Street, and my favorite character on the show was Frank Pembleton. I loved his intensity and attention to detail. I strove to emulate that when I’d play cops and robbers with my friends. I’d carry around a little field notebook and record details about what the bad guys were doing. It would get to the point that they wanted to stop playing because I took it so seriously and they were obviously called out on what they were trying to cover up. I continually piss Dorena off when we argue, because I recall specifics in conversations and environmental changes that aren’t significant to most people. It’s a gift and a curse.

Unfortunately, I turned out to be pretty squeamish, so any job dealing with blood and guts was not for me.

The reason I wanted to be a therapist was because I was so incredibly grateful to one for helping me at that age. I was a problem child, and not in that goofy 4-star movie kind of way. I was a kleptomaniac, pyromaniac, and pathological liar. I won’t go into the specifics of what was behind all of that, because that could be a 2,000-word post on its own. Basically, I was given tools to evaluate my feelings in a way most adults don’t have, and it made me turn my life around in a substantial way. I thought it would be cool to aid others akin to the way I was.

The problem is that I was never a good student. I didn’t apply myself at all, and when the time for college came around I settled for an education in web design. It was the only thing outside of playing music that I had any real talent for, and I went for it tepidly. I dropped out of college after four years of half-assed attempts at classes that didn’t interest me.

animal-houseHere I am at 33, twelve years after my last college course was completed, and I’m going back to school. I’m going to become a psychologist.

I’m going to become a psychologist.

I’m repeating that for emphasis, but not for you. It’s for me. I’ve made up my mind, set up my first semester of classes, and I’m working toward that goal. It’s still not real to me yet. The idea that this fucked up kid could become a doctor, let alone earn any college degree is taking its sweet fucking time to sink in.

While battling through my depression, I was helped immeasurably by another mental health professional. For the second time in my life, someone helped me get back on track through therapy, and I’m intoxicated by that potential again. I’ve also got ten months of direct care experience that’s been insanely fulfilling. It’s a really great high when you see in someone’s eyes that they appreciate your help, and that you’re responsible for facilitating a better life for them. I want to do that with as many people as I can.

It doesn’t matter if it takes six, ten, or fifteen years. I will become a psychologist, and I will impact a lot of lives in a meaningful way.

Learning to Love Some Music Again

It can be years — hell, it can be decades — since last hearing a song, but the music and lyrics come back to me, and it floods my mind with memories of when and where I’ve heard it before.

I accredit this to my mother, who always had music playing while I was growing up. In the house, she had an extensive vinyl collection that extended back to the days of her youth, and in the car, she’d have mixtapes she spent hours compiling. She followed my lead on the portable electronics front, going through multiple generations of Walkmans and Discmans alongside me, and fully embraced the streaming movement right before she died. Spotify was pretty close to replacing me as her favorite child.

The weekend she died, my aunt, sister, and I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy to get our mind off it for a couple hours. What a shitty choice.

Within the first ten minutes, you see the main protagonist’s mother die, and how important their bond over the same music was. Then you get tidbits of music Ma sang together with all of us for two more hours, culminating with Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (a song that, two years later, I still can’t hear without tearing up).

My therapist told me that everything gets easier with exposure so, with increasing frequency, I’m revisiting music that I’ve shied away from the last couple of years. I get choked up — sometimes cry like a baby — but do my best to sing along. It’s an interesting experience to say the least.

It’s not so much overwriting the emotional response to my musical memories, it’s more like refining the visceral reaction. Motown is creeping back in my life, and I love it.

Yeah, I’m crying. But I’m also smiling. This feels pretty damned good.

 

Why do strangers talk to me?

Last night, I went to Walmart to pick up sinus pills, a box of Mrs. Grass soup, elbow noodles to mix into it, and a peanut-buttery snack because I was feeling miserable. It was shaping up as a perfect in-and-out trip until I got to the registers.

I approached the only express lane open, and waited my turn. I was next in line as the cashier caught a peak of my shirt and flashed a goofy grin.

hatebreed keep calm and destroy everything shirt
My Hatebreed “Destroy Everything” shirt looks like this, but I’m not that scrawny.

It’s a look I’ve grown accustomed to over the years, as people who listen to the same music as me are relatively scarce. Usually people notice the band on my shirt, and they remark how cool it is to see someone else that likes that band, and I get roped into an awkward exchange. He fit the stereotypical “heavier music guy” look, but the hesitant smile had nothing to do with Hatebreed.

“Your shirt reminds me of a quote,” he said, as he scanned my box of soup with a widening smile. “Well, it’s a line by a character named Poffo, a 245-year-old vampire, in the novel Poffo: The Strange-Ass Garbage Story of a Vampire by Some Crazy Fucking Author.”  I don’t recall the specifics, but I’m doing my best here.

My eyes widened because I was so taken aback by the introduction. Give me a fucking break, dude, I’ve got four things for you scan.

I hoped my look of incredulous judgment would embarrass him into silence, but he prattled on. “Poffo is often locked in the basement of her master’s manor because she just doesn’t know how to control her own incomprehensible strength,” he said gleefully, trying to pique my interest.

Instead, I focused on the card reader to dissuade further discussion. Undeterred, he continued, “She’s not necessarily an evil vampire — I mean, she feeds on humans, because, duh, she’s a vampire — but she’s a great person, and she just can’t help it. It’s cool because her sister sneaks small mammals down into the basement to feed her when she’s being punished for decimating her playthings. It’s a fascinating look into the domain of…”

I continued staring at the card reader to follow the scanning process. Here’s the box of elbow noodles and peanut butter bars… Almost there! His words stole focus as the absurdity of what he was saying sank in.

“…constrains her ability to transmogrify into a bat, and the chain around her neck actively combats incantations she would normally invoke to…”

Meanwhile, I haven’t said a single word, and I haven’t looked him in the eye since the first glance as I stood next in line.

“There’s one novel where– Oh, I need your I.D. for the, uh, ‘daytime/night-time sinus tablets’ for some reason.” He looked bewildered as though he didn’t realize there was an alternate use for the medicine.

With great disdain, I grumbled, “Dude, I’m 32. I’m sick. I just want to get home.” There was no fucking way I was going to let this guy know my name or address.

“Oh! You do sound sick,” he replied, as he hit the okay button to let the pills through. He hit the total button, selected credit card as the method of payment, and looked back up at me to continue his story while the receipt pooled in his hand. “Anyway, Poffo befriends an imp that’s able to communicate with the real world, despite being kept afloat in purgatory after a mishap with a woodland–”

“Thanks,” I interjected, reaching for the receipt. I had more than enough. He turned to keep talking to me as I walked away. I heard his voice, but I have no idea what he was saying. As I got to the exit, the door-greeter stood up from his stool and took a step toward me. One corner of his lip curled into a sneering grin as he spoke.

“He’s a piece of work, ain’t he?”

You have no idea, man. No fucking idea.

What’s up with the new Ghostbusters?

The New Ghostbusters crew
* not to be confused with The New Ghostbusters.

So there’s a shot of the new Ghostbusters* over on Polygon and there’s a lot of backlash that I’m going to classify under three categories:

  1. Don’t mess with my nostalgia!
  2. Stop being a social justice warrior by having them all be women!
  3. Why is there another fucking reboot?

I’m a self-proclaimed SJW, and I wear that badge proudly. I’m a firm believer in that things aren’t better because that’s the way they have been traditionally, and exposing the fallacy of that argument is important. Women are half (or slightly over half) of the world’s population, and they’re still often considered second rate to men. I like that Hollywood is doing its part in giving us female leads that aren’t just damsels in distress or love interests.

I like that Melissa McCarthy isn’t in movies to be made fun of. She’s there doing funny things, but it’s never cheap shots at her weight. I like that Fantastic Four — sorry, I mean Fant4stic — is bringing in an African-American to play Johnny Storm. Using a larger cross-section of America in your movies is a great thing, and I’m really excited that there’s a movie about transsexual hookers coming out today that doesn’t need to explain itself. It just drops you in on the action, shows us people with an interesting story and let us fill in the blanks as we see fit.

The Ghostbusters was a great story, and the brand has a history of diversity across different mediums. I mean, shit, how many shows can you name that featured a cast which had a person of color, a woman, and someone in a wheelchair?

Leading characters from Extreme Ghostbusters
I can name only one show… Extreme Ghostbusters.

I think that’s my major problem with all these reboots. We can’t just go back and remake movies every 20-30 years because technology is better and we can slap better special effects on them — just ask George Lucas — and we shouldn’t reboot franchises to cash grab because they’re known entities to retell the story because we think we have a better angle on it.

Total Recall and Robocop are perfect examples of what makes me weary of Ghostbusters. They were remade with better graphics, but they cut out all of the things that made the originals special. Let’s hold the hand of the audience and tell them what to think instead of leaving the ending open for interpretation. Let’s take all the dark sarcasm about voyeurism in society and instead turn it into a mockery of opinionated talk shows…

If you’re adamant about showing us a new vision of a story, why do you cling to so many of the design cues of the original? We don’t need a casting director to go out and find four people to fit the mold of the guys in the 80’s movie.

“Okay, here’s the ‘normal’ one, the tall black one, the chubby one, and the quirky science nerd. We’re ready to start principal filming!”

At least if these were kids of the original characters, it’d make some sense why they look the way they do. I can see how some people are saying that it feels like a “checkbox, politically correct reboot.” I also think that’s the easy way out, but I can see why they’d reach that conclusion.

I know I shouldn’t judge it before I see it, but I’m suffering from a major movie meltdown that’s been building up. I’m fucking burnt out on all the reboots, origin story movies, and the lowest common denominator action flicks. I want to see something new. I want stories that are interesting.

Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters (2016)
Why are the new Ghostbusters using a car that looks just like the original one if it wants to be its own movie?

Maybe Ghostbusters will be charming and pique my interest, but I doubt it. Nearly every re-envisioning I’ve seen of a movie I liked has let me down. I don’t need cheap ploys, like nods to the original, or better effects on the proton beams to draw me in.

I predominantly watch documentaries now, and yes there are junkers out there. At least they’re telling unique stories, not some rewritten movie that occupies the same exact space, mere decades later.

I am so hyped up for Jurassic World.

My aunt, Joette, took me to a lot of movies growing up, and there’s a bunch that really stand out to me. Masters of the Universe, BatmanAn American Tail: Fievel Goes WestTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hook, Batman Returns… All of these movies have external memories and feelings attached to them that make those viewings significant to me. Only one movie we went to was the centerpiece of so many more memories: Jurassic Park.

The first time I saw Jurassic Park was opening weekend in 1993, about a week after my 10th birthday. I was a kid fascinated by dinosaurs in elementary school, borrowing the same encyclopedia of dinosaurs from the library so much that they suggested to my parents that they buy me my own copy. I was excited for JP because it was dinosaurs, and my aunt liked Michael Crichton and read the novel. It was the summer movie we were most excited for, and it did not disappoint.

Juarssic Park Dr. Grant and Velociraptor Toys
Some lucky mook’s pictures of Dr. Grant and a Raptor. I still have mine, but they’re not in this good of a condition.

Right after the movie, we took our customary trip to K.B. Toys to pick up a figure related to the film we just saw. After JP, I picked up Dr. Grant and a Velociraptor because, “You can’t have a human and not a dino.” I know now that she was into it as much as I was, but back then I just thought I was getting spoiled as hell.

The next few days, I couldn’t stop talking about the movie. I had Dr. Grant and the Raptor decimate every other toy in my collection. I was obsessed. That next weekend, we went again.

After that trip, there wasn’t a visit to K.B. We went to Border’s instead, where Joette got me my own copy of the book. She kept talking to me about the differences from the book to the movie, and wanted me to experience it the same way. The catch was she didn’t want to give me her copy, because she was revisiting it after she fell in love with the movie.

I read the book in two days, and we saw it again the following weekend. It was the first time we went to the same movie more than once, and after it came out on video, it was on constant rotation on my sleepovers at her house. Hell, 22 years later I still get glued to the screen if I’m looking at the guide and see it on HBO.

I am so excited for Jurassic World tomorrow. It’s a week after my birthday, and I know that Spielberg went through eight different scripts before letting it go to principal shooting. My expectations are high, but deep down I know that 10 year old me won’t let me be disappointed either way.