Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cold Storage

Last week-end, Corb and I cleared out all the stuff we had in our storage unit and drove everything up to Plymouth for safekeeping at my parent's house. It'll save us about eighty bucks a month.

I'm kind of sad about it. Every time I would go visit our creepy unit, I'd feel a delicious chill down my spine.

These places store secrets, after all.

I mean, you really don't know what's actually in the storage unit next to yours. It could be anything: the bones of Amelia Earhart, Al Capone's lost loot...even Cher's original face. Now, I'm sure that the units get checked periodically, but even so...who really knows what lurks in the heart of a storage unit? It could be an actual heart.

I absolutely refused to go to our unit without Corb there by my side. Even though I knew I was perfectly safe, the place seemed so empty. Large. Metal. Concrete. Cold. It felt whispery.

The people that we'd encounter, loading stuff into their units, always made me feel uncomfortable. Like a goose walking on my grave. Their cars looked strange, the looks they'd give me seemed odd. As if they were thinking sinister thoughts. I'm sure they're perfectly fine folk, the same as we are, but even so, going there alone...well, it would have made me uncomfortable. I could have ended up dismembered, or locked inside my unit with no way out.

And to think, people actually live in these places! That fact freaks me out most of all. From what Corb told me, the manager of our facility lives on site, to make sure nothing happens at night.

I can't imagine having a job like that. Our manager has a unit over the office, says Corb, and her living space is quite nice. Still, can you imagine hearing a sound in the middle of the night? Having to go investigate, all alone?

I tell you, I wouldn't last one night.

So, given all that, why does it make me sad to leave our little storage area from hell?

I don't know. I guess there's something fun about locations that give you the creeps. Haunted houses. Liza Minelli's toilet. The inside of John McCain's mouth.

I'm honestly thinking my next book might take place in a storage facility. I've got a few ideas I've been kicking around. Something involving dark magic.

As prep for the book, I had honestly been toying with facing my fear, too. Driving over to the storage unit one day and removing the lock. Rolling up the metal door and pulling out a plastic lawn chair from the pile. Placing it on the cold concrete floor. Sitting down and asking Corb to shut the door and lock it. Handing him my cell phone. Asking him to come back in an hour, just to see whether I could stand it.

There I'd be, trapped like prime rib in a meat locker. Like a sardine in a tin. Like O.J. in a maximum security facility.

What would it feel like? What sounds would I hear? Could I trust Corb enough to hand over my cell phone? What if he decided to forget about me there? Or, got into an accident before he got around to go getting?

What if I had to figure out a way to escape, on my own? What would I do? How long before hunger set in?

What would an hour feel like in there? What if I had to last the night?

How long before hope would fade?

Now I can't do that, and I guess maybe that's for the best. I've got enough hang-ups as it is. Maybe I don't need to add one more to my laundry list. It's long enough.

So I guess I'll wait, at least until I start working on that next book.

When that day comes, anyone have a storage unit I could borrow for an hour or two? I promise not to scream TOO loudly.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fathers and Sons

It's a wise father that knows his own child." William Shakespeare

"My father was so funny on Easter," I said to the Maestro and Traveling Sue on Tuesday night, as we stopped off after rehearsal at our favorite watering hole. "Did I ever tell you how competitive he is?"

"Never did," said Sue, sensing a story coming on. But then, I was in the company of master storytellers.

"After dinner, he challenged me and my sister Kerrie to a game of Scrabble. My mom wanted to play, but he told her that we were actually using words with more than one syllable in them, so she'd be at a disadvantage. That only made her want to play more. She played pretty well, too. Was practically tied with him, most of the game.

"So my dad only had a two tiles left, and next thing you know, he puts them down. Then he looks up and says, 'So I get 50 points, right?' We're like, 'Dad you only get that if you set down all seven tiles,' and he says, 'No, I cleared my board, I get 50 points.' He made us look it up in the rule book to prove that it wasn't actually a rule!"

"He's tough," nodded Sue.

"Then we all went to take off the points left on our boards, and he insisted that he needed to add those points on to his score, too. Now, I had never heard that rule before, but he insisted. Turns out he's right. Can you believe it?

"But then, as we're getting ready to leave about a half an hour later, Kerrie looked down at the floor by his seat. 'What's this?' she asked, and bent down to pick something up off the floor. It was a tile! The guy had deliberately dropped a tile to floor to win the game! But of course, he just stood there, smiling, insisting he didn't do anything. You could just tell, though, because of his dimples."

"Has he always been that competitive?" asked Sue.

"Always. He made me play chess with him, when I was a kid. Wrote down each game, play by play. Recorded the standings. Of course, he was way ahead of me at first, but I studied hard. Started winning games. Finally, one day, I pulled ahead. Put him into checkmate. He grabbed his king, dropped the F-bomb, and never played with me again. Did the same thing to my brother, too."

"Fathers and sons," said Traveling Sue, shaking her head and taking a sip of beer. "That's just the way they are."

"My dad was a really simple guy," said Tony. "Owned a diner in Johnston, you know? Didn't go to college and never really understood why I wanted to be a conductor. Used to ask me all the time, why are you wasting your time with that stuff? Of course, his idea of music was the band he was in when he was in high school, when he used to play the drums. Thought I was just looking to be part of an amateur garage band. He wanted me to get a real career, stop screwing around. So we were always going at each other, you know? Non stop."

"Fathers and sons," said Sue.

"But you know something? When I was around 27, I took a look at what I was doing and I wasn't happy just working in a music store. I didn't see myself getting anywhere the way I was, and so, totally on a whim, I applied at the Hart School. So I went away, for five years or so. And you know what the weird thing was? My dad, the one who I spent half the time fighting with, was the one who seemed to miss me being around most of all. Mom was one of those parents who say they're going to miss their kids when they go off to college, then start celebrating the minute they close the door! But dad...nah, he would call me, twice a week. 'Are you eating?' he'd asked me. Same thing, every week. Just wanted to make sure I was eating." Tony shook his head. "The guy seemed lonely without me around."

"When my son was growing up, he used to fight with Tom all the time," said Sue. "They were at each others throats. Then something happened, somehow. Nowadays I gotta admit, I'm jealous. He calls, talks to me for maybe five minutes, and then spends and hour and a half talking to his dad."

"My dad wasn't a big talker," said Tony. "Sometimes you could go through a whole night and he wouldn't say a word. But every morning when I was living in Bristol, at eight on the dot, he'd call me up, ask me if I was stopping by the diner. Asked me if I was hungry, and then he'd have breakfast waiting for me." Tony paused. "It was all about the food, with Dad."

Fathers and sons. It's a strange balancing act, the connections between the two. And here I am, sitting next to my son as he works away at his homework. I'm typing away, not saying a word. Will he say that I'm quiet and wouldn't talk for hours, when he gets older? Will he say I was all about the food?

Fathers and their sons. How will I be remembered?