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When Movies Were Magical

My mother took me to see the movie Gremlins in the theater. I was probably way too young to be seeing it. I think it was maybe the second time it came around in theaters. (Back in the olden days of my youth, if a movie was really, really popular, they used to send it around in theaters again after the initial run. There was still a demand for it, and people weren’t able to just go out and buy a VHS tape of it to watch in their home endlessly at their leisure. VHS—see, I dated myself again.) It wasn’t a giant multiplex like they have now. It was a small theater downtown with only two screens, one theater was not much bigger than the average living room. Somehow this made the viewing experience more intimate.

Okay, I may have shown my own son Gremlins too early as well.

Okay, I may have shown my own son Gremlins too early as well.

And I would not even have suspected walking out of the theater that the movie had affected me at all. But then we went to go eat at McDonald’s. We ate in our car, because my mom is weird like that, then she sent me over with the empty bag and wrappers to the garbage can, a duty I usually loved. But suddenly I didn’t want to push open the little brown swinging door and leave my hand so exposed like that. The scene from Gremlins flashed in my head where the guy is trying to mail a letter and a gremlin pops out of the mailbox and starts chewing on the guy’s hand. My overactive child’s imagination could picture that happening, and it scared me.

How many movies now a days do that for you? For any child, even? Do they believe that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will really pop up out of the manholes in the street?

I remember when my mom took me to the same theater to see The NeverEnding Story. I don’t even remember any marketing for it. I don’t think there were ads on television; I didn’t beg to go see it. She just took me because she thought I would like it. Or maybe because she wanted to see it, I don’t know.

"It's not real; it's only a story!"

“It’s not real; it’s only a story!”

Because the theater was downtown in our closest, but small local city, we had to walk down a block, through an alley, and back to the parking lot where our car was after the movie. The tallest buildings are probably only four stories, tops. But the alley and the tall buildings were enough to give me the impression of the city Bastian lived in in the movie. And so I looked up in the blue, sunny sky at the smattering of clouds, and I BELIEVED that Falkor could fly over us at any moment, as he had at the conclusion of the movie. It was thrilling. I felt it in my blood. I have NEVER forgotten that feeling.

And I am not sure that I have ever experienced it since.

Yaaaaaaaaa!

“Yaaaaaaaaa!”

Are children going to walk out of the theater and believe that Transformers can really fly through the sky over their heads?  Maybe. But they also can go home and play with plastic toy versions on the floor in their bedrooms.

Part of Falkor’s magic was that you could not go buy a stuffed one in the store then. (You probably can now. If so, buy me one and then call 555-GUN-GLOW for the address to ship it to.)

This weekend the Rave theater near us had special showings of The NeverEnding Story. It might be greedy or stupid, but I yearned to be in that theater again when the theme song blared through the speakers, blocking out all the other sounds of popcorn and candy wrappers and slurping straws as clouds churned on the screen. I wanted to walk out of that theater again and believe that Falkor could be flying in the sky. Really, I was hoping my son would have a similar experience to what I had in 1984*. It turned out he wasn’t as impressed by it as I was. There could be several factors to that, including that he has seen the movie before on DVD in his own living room.

But, seeing it again was AWESOME. Maybe, sometimes, movies can still be magic.

Ever wonder what happened to Bastian, played by Barret Oliver? So did I. So I found out and wrote a post about it. It angers the dreadlock community. You can read it here: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2013/01/13/what-i-learned-this-week-1132013/

Just a reminder I have an event this Sunday: The Kerrytown BookFest in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For more details, click here: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/events/

*All the awesome things came out in 1984: The NeverEnding Story, Punky Brewster, Night Court

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It THE CONTINUING ROMANCE!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

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My Current Obsessions

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I am currently totally obsessing over Night Court.

What? You expected me to say Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black?

You haven’t been hanging around here long, have you?

Yes, of course I realize that Night Court is old. I’m old too, and watched it in its original run.

A scene from Night Court.

A scene from Night Court.

If you don’t remember, Night Court is a zany comedy set during the night proceedings of a courthouse in New York City. We have Brandon Tartikoff to thank for green-lighting the show and keeping it on the air when it was still trying to find its footing. I love Brandon Tartikoff. He was the head of NBC during its golden time in the 80s and the birth of Must-See TV. He is also the one who came up with the idea of Punky Brewster, naming it after a childhood friend of his. In turn, Punky’s dog was named after him. And then when I got my Punky Brewster-inspired tattoo, a guy named Brandon did it.

Coincidence?

Tartikoff also allowed Night Court creator Reinhold Weege to hold on tight to his baby and craft the show as he felt it should be, with as little network interference as possible. When there was, Weege firmly held his ground. I think I need to take a lesson out of that for my writing.

I totally need to add Brandon Tartikoff to my list of who I would want to eat dinner with, living or dead. One of my favorite episodes of Night Court even includes Tartikoff when he comes to the rescue of a Nielsen family in court. They never go on dates because then shows get cancelled. My heart aches right along with the woman when she wails, “WE LOST PUNKY!” Of course, I also love the episode guest-starring Michael J. Fox. I can see how tall I would be compared to the other cast members (Mikey and I are roughly the same height). I also love all the episodes with hard-luck couple Bob and June Wheeler. Brent Spiner is so laugh-out-loud funny in that role. I also love the episode where the hurricane hits and they are trapped in the courthouse and must deliver a bunch of babies. Paco is in that episode, who I love. It is also where we learn that Dan’s real name is “Reinhold.” But also that is where I learned what the word “breech” meant, which would come in handy around 25 years later when my son was born.

Bob & June Wheeler & their daughter little Carol Ann. And yes, that is totally the same actor who plays Data (Brent Spiner).

Bob & June Wheeler & their daughter little Carol Ann. And yes, that is totally the same actor who plays Data (Brent Spiner).

Night Court is a show that when doled out in weekly episodes is pleasant and funny. But it is really a show that benefits from binge watching. I realized this when it first hit syndication in the late 1980s. At that time, I could watch it four times a day, five if the prime-time episode was on that night as well. Currently, we own the DVD of season one. And when I binge watch Night Court, I always fall in love with Harold T. Stone.

Or is it Harry Anderson? Hard to tell. I also own season one of Dave’s World that I watch quite frequently.

Part of it may be that the first season episodes contain more “heartwarming” scenes than later seasons. Harry gets to be the voice of reason. Anderson claims he is more of a con man than an actor, but you wouldn’t know it from those episodes.

This sent me on a search for all things Harry. I found a Showtime special featuring his magic tricks and cons from Showtime in 1986 on YouTube. This is one of those times modern technology is great. (Unless you are Harry Anderson, wondering where all your royalties for “Hello, Sucker!” have gone.)

I am eagerly awaiting getting season two, although I realize the show hit its stride and was the best when Markie Post joined on in season three.

Still no Pikachu for me :-(

Still no Pikachu for me 😦

I wanted to mention that I also tried Pokemon Go. I have never ever played Pokemon in my life. But with all the news stories about how dangerous it is and people walking into traffic while playing it and such, it was like an irresistible commercial for it everywhere. (I am the girl who used to go home from drug awareness day at school and see if any of my glue would give me a high, because the school had just opened my eyes to the world of inhalants. Everything works the opposite on me.) I had to try the game. I like it a lot, even though the camera on my phone and the game don’t seem to like each other. I do think it is cool how Google Maps (I assume) is integrated into the game, customizing it to your neighborhood. It is kind of slow. My husband and I walked for up to ten minutes sometimes without a Pokemon showing up. I love that the game is incredibly simple, because I am not good with most video games.

I’m not sure how much I will continue to play it, as I have to actually leave the house. It also eats up the battery on my phone like Cookie Monster at the Keebler factory. I can’t walk my dog while playing it. But I did take two walks yesterday, that I honestly probably would not have without the game.

Here is a fun article about the phenomenon from USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/gaming/2016/07/10/five-things-we-learned-pokmon-go/86928122/

And now I totally can see how people follow their Pokemon right into traffic. I might be playing it right now as I typ tis..

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It THE CONTINUING ROMANCE!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

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Oh Look! There is Paco!

To understand this post, you will have to realize that my mom and I LOVE entertainment trivia. We love to find an actor or actress in a television show or movie that we already know from another project. It is even more fun when it is an old show you are watching and you find someone who has since become famous. (This is the 50% of my mother that I love. See People of Interest if you don’t get this percentage reference.)

This all started before there was an Internet, before there was an IMDB.com. While IMDB is handy, it sort of takes the fun out of having to memorize all these actors and roles. My mom doesn’t have a computer and I am usually too lazy to turn mine on just to verify a past role, so we usually do things the old fashioned way–with our brains.

In this way, my mom and I have a code for certain actors. No one else would know who we mean.

This drives my husband nuts.

I will include the most often used nicknames below:

BIG BROTHER

Eric Allan Kramer
Photo: comicbookmovie.com/fansites/CookiepussProduction/

There used to be a short-lived sitcom on television called “Down Home”, which starred Judith Ivey, Dakin Matthews, and Gedde Watanabe. On the show, there was a big burly blond guy who played Judith Ivey’s brother. I don’t even know if he WAS her BIG brother. But this role was played by Eric Allan Kramer. Ever since, we just refer to him as “The Big Brother”. He also was in “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”, and often plays a bodyguard (such as on the most excellent “Growing Pains”). He was also on another of my favorites, “The O.C.” (as Ryan & Luke’s soccer coach). Kramer is great in whatever he does. Currently he stars on Disney Channel’s “Good Luck Charlie”.

CLAIRE DANES

Laura Prepon
Photo: Wikipedia.org

My mom started this nickname. One time she was like “You know, that big redhead from ‘That 70’s Show’. Claire Danes!” Although I quickly assured her that that role was not in fact played by Claire Danes, the nickname has stuck. So, anytime my mom or I see actress Laura Prepon in something, we say “Hey, it’s Claire Danes.”

HONEY & FRISKY

Photo: Lucywho.com

Photo: Lucywho.com

Photo: tvlistings.zap2it.com

Photo: tvlistings.zap2it.com

This one is my fault. I frickin’ loved the 1990’s television show “Homefront”. One time I was trying to tell my mom about a storyline with the black servant couple on the series. I couldn’t remember their names, so I just called them “Honey & Frisky”. The name has stuck. The actual names were Gloria (played by Hattie Winston) and Abe Davis (played by Dick Anthony Williams). They are both very excellent actors. Honey went on to be a series regular on “Becker” with Ted Danson. IMDB.com just gave me the terrible news that Frisky died last February:( See what I mean? IMDB.com can be a blessing and curse.

CHARLIE’S STALKER

Melanie Lynskey  Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris – © WireImage.com

Melanie Lynskey
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris – WireImage.com

My mom used to watch “Two and a Half Men” pretty regularly, although I am guessing grandmothers in their 60s are not their target demographic. She seemed to be fond of Jake (Angus T. Jones), until he recently got all crazy Kirk Cameron religious. My mom ain’t down with that shit. But because my mom watched that show, now actress Melanie Lynskey will forever be known to us as “Charlie’s Stalker”. Which I must say is a lot shorter than saying “There is the chick who had her baby in a bar”, referencing one of my favorite movies, “Sweet Home Alabama”. Lynskey was also in “Coyote Ugly”, another of my favorites. She was very good as a disturbed teenager in Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures”, her first role. She is probably the best in the role we will forever identify her with, Rose, Charlie’s Stalker.

PACO

Carlos Lacamara Photo: IMDb.com

Carlos Lacamara
Photo: IMDb.com

What of the Paco in the title, you ask? Once upon a time on NBC there was a little show called “Nurses”. It was a little, unassuming show that could be easily forgettable. Actor Carlos Lacamara played Paco on the show. Paco was always in romantic pursuit of one of the nurses (I don’t remember her name or face. Go figure.). Paco has worked A LOT in television and movies. My mom & I will always be “Hey, that’s Paco!” I always add “Paco! I love Paco!” Sidenote: Paco also played a character named Paco in the memorable episode of “Night Court” with all the pregnant chicks. Sometimes I have a little crush on Paco. He was also in episodes of some of my favorite shows, such as “Misfits of Science” (subject of a future post), “Growing Pains”, and “Friends”. Also was in the movies “License to Drive” and “Independence Day”.

I am sure there are way more of these type of nicknames, but I can’t remember anymore right now. These are the big ones. If I come up with a long enough list of actors I forgot, then I will make another post.

1/13/13
MOM: Am watching independence [day]. Think I saw paco. 12:05PM
MOM: Is Paco Carlos LaCamara? 2:32PM
ME: Yes. 2:33PM
MOM: Then he is in Indep Day. 2:34PM

SUICIDE SPEAKS: Remembering Chester

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Life happens. We have to try to find some way to be happy in it.
— Logan Courtney from Angry Macey

Chester Bennington of Lincoln Park died July 20, 2017.

I own the CD Hybrid Theory. It contains many of their biggest hits. I listened to it often for many years. It got me through some difficult times, as the right music often can. I believe that CD and their others were that medicine for a lot of people.

Upon hearing of his death, I got into my music chest, located that CD, and put it in my car to listen to it. It reminded why Linkin Park is so great. And, unfortunately, the lyrics also reminded me of the pain that Chester must have been in. But that is probably the part that I identified with the most.

I used to think that the highest risk time period for suicide was the teenage years, which maybe actually is the case; I did no research for this post. I used to think if you got past that hell of peer pressure and trying to figure out who you are, that then you would be safe.

But recently two musicians well beyond their teen years, Chris Cornell and Chester, have taken their own lives.

In our society, we are made to believe that celebrity & riches will cure what ails you (depression, relationship issues, etc.).

In reality, it often seems to make existing matters worse.

We are made to believe that if you have a loving family who supports you, you will not take drastic measures to end your own life by your own hand.

But it happens every day.

When someone finds a healthy outlet for their demons (music, art, writing), we assume they will be alright now and make it through.

Chris and Chester have proven to us that is not the case.

Contemplating all this last night, I realized that I will never be able to get rid of my anxiety. It is a part of me, just as much as my hands and feet are. Although, I really wish it would quit waking me up in the morning, my heart pounding and my lungs gasping for breath over some irrelevant conversation I had the day before and how stupid I may have sounded.

But maybe I can manage it and live with it. People with other diseases do it all the time. They don’t let one dark space inside them take over control of the main show.

Well, unfortunately, Chris and Chester did.

So, I’m asking you, don’t ease your pain the same way they did.

A phrase keeps repeating in my head right now. It is actually from something my asbestos friend wrote about success & persistence in a career. I feel like it may apply to life in general as well. It seems as though this quote is also attributed to many famous Americans.

If you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on.

I was not Linkin Park’s biggest fan by any means. But I do see the genius in their music and why they had maintained such popularity over the years.

Here is video of Chester literally baring his soul on the radio. It was a very brave thing to do. Hopefully by him speaking that day, and the video of it circulating now, he helped one person to prevent what he himself could not.

My kid has told me he would be sad if I died. I am sure Chester’s six children told him that too. I am sure they were also witness to the battle he waged every day to stay in this world. Hopefully they will remember that and be able to forgive him for his untimely absence.

 

If you need it, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline now.
1-800-273-8255

From the broken mind of Jennifer Friess, the joining of hearts & souls…
NOW AVAILABLE! Troll Gurl and the Cursed Kingdom

Ghost Trestle Letdown

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I tried to be like Scooby-Doo and his gang this weekend and solve a ghostly mystery, but no such luck.

A few years ago, courtesy of Facebook, I learned of a spot near Adrian known as the Ghost Trestle. I am all for anything related to trains, so I printed out the directions how to get there. And stuffed them in my desk. And a year or two later, I actually got around to finding the spot. It is a very creepy spot that does provide sufficient heebie-jeebies.

The Ghost Trestle on Bailey Hwy in Madison Township, just south of Gier Road.

The Ghost Trestle on Bailey Hwy in Madison Township, just south of Gier Road.

I drove my son out there recently so that he could see it. He wanted to know the ghost story. I tried to cobble it together from what I could remember. When I got home, I Googled it. Here is what I found:

Legend has it that at one time there was a farm house built near the tracks. Late one night a fire broke out in the barn. While the father ran to the barn to try to get the horses out, his wife and young son went to the tracks to wave down one of the many trains that would use that right of way. They were too close to the tracks however and both were struck by the train as it went past. The father was killed in the barn. Now if you go out there late at night, you can sometimes communicate with the Father. He will not allow you to talk to his wife or son; as if he was protecting them . There are other people living in the area now, and a large streetlight has been placed there by the people who own the neighboring land. If you stay there to long, they will call the police. However if you make your visit short enough they will usually leave you to it. This place has also been described as a good place to go to contact other spirits. The Father can be asked to help in this matter. He will not allow antagonistic spirits to talk however; once again to protect his family.

www.paranormalmichigan.com

Low and behold, all five or so results that come up are all the same story. EXACTLY THE SAME. Cut & paste in this age of technology, baby. Everyone is saying “This is the story”, when in reality, it is just one person’s story repeated over and over. The originator could have been a big, fat liar, and no one would be the wiser.

So, I decided it would be MY job to come up with the definitive truth behind this legend. I took a genealogical approach to the situation. I began how I begin every search, which I am sure is not at all how everyone else begins: with an atlas and a cemetery search. I know, it sounds weird and labor-intensive, but I have found the best stuff about my ancestors that way.

The atlas is a combined reissue from 1978 from my local historical society featuring maps from years 1874, 1893,  and 1916. Where the ghost trestle is located can be pretty easily found on the map, as it is just south of the intersection of Bailey & Gier roads, the Wabash (also DT&I and Lake Shore & Michigan Southern) railroad, and the nearby south branch of the River Raisin. I jotted down the names of the people who owned the land near there at those three times.

On the 1874 map, the railroad is just a “proposed route” which differs slightly from where it was actually built, so I use 1874 as my starting date. I found mention of an article from the Adrian Daily Telegram on August 23, 1897 where an N. Stevens talks about a haunted house. A website attributed it to the ghost trestle. I didn’t verify it, but used 1897 as my high-end cut off for dates.

Then, since it was 10:00pm at night and too late to go to the actual Madison Township cemetery, I searched on the website FindaGrave.com to look for any family members who all died on the same day or year. I came across the tombstone of “B. Carpenter and wife Eliza and Dau. Lucy.”

Tombstone from Madison Township Cemetery

Tombstone from Madison Township Cemetery

When I found the tombstone, I cried. It was really no proof of anything, but just the thought of a family all dying together upset me, the proof before me, their names carved in stone. And what if it had been under such tragic circumstances?

No dates visible in the picture or provided on the website. But that they are all on the same marker struck me as interesting. I had relatives, a husband and wife, who perished with another couple when they all fell through a frozen Devil’s Lake in 1858. All four of their names are on the same tombstone, two different sir names. Most people other than myself would have no idea why.

Michigan has an AWESOME database where you can look up actual death certificates. I found out how my great-great grandmother and infant aunt died using it. But, unfortunately, it BEGINS in 1897. No Carpenters for me.

So, I started Googling and looking at census for the Carpenter family in Madison. I watched them age every ten years, learned their family relationships. B. most likely stood for Benjamin. Eliza may have stood for Elizabeth. Very common names back then. And if he were to have married and had a child between census, it wouldn’t have caught it.

I went to the historical museum and searched their card catalog of obituaries, some dating from the 1800s. It is usually a gold mine of info. All I found was the possible listing of Benjamin’s mother’s death on December 10, 1893. It was a death notice, and not a full obituary; sometimes they are like mini-family histories. I asked all the employees at the library. The one gentleman used to go out to the Ghost Trestle with his friends as a teenager. All he could remember was that when heading south on Bailey road on the northwest side of the tracks on the right there was an old house that has since been torn down. That was cool, but didn’t really help me much.

And there are so many variables to consider, giving me roadblocks. The ghost story relies on the sweet image of a newlywed couple and their first child, an entire family perishing tragically in one night. But what if there were other children who survived? What if it had been grandparents with a grandchild?

And some seem to believe the Ghost Trestle is haunted from those who died roughly 10 miles away in Seneca in 1901 in the wreck of the Wabash. (There will be an event on September 24, 2016 at Oakwood Cemetery in Adrian to memorialize all the victims, including 75 to 100 Italian immigrants whose resting place has only recently been discovered.) But I don’t feel like the Seneca ghosts would want to trot that far to spook a bunch of drunk teenagers. And the houses? One allegedly torn down and another still standing? They could be a clue for someone else, but I am not good at researching property records.

I wanted this blog post to be the absolute history of the Ghost Trestle, with sources and shit. I didn’t set out to prove if it was haunted or not, just if it had a story that could support the possibility.

So, I was unable to find any concrete proof of anything. I still just have a tombstone with no dates. And there was Benjamin Carpenter who had a son Benjamin. Families all reused names over and over again. Who the hell knows who is really buried under that stone! I need to run out to the cemetery, see if there is maybe a family marker with more information. There is a very real chance that these people died totally uneventfully and are at peace in the afterlife. But, well, I have to abandon this search for now. In the next week I have a book to convert from longhand to electronic and a list of four books I want to have read, in addition to planning and packing for my first ever trip to Utopia con, a writers conference.

I made a fake ghost. Do not believe that this is real.

I made a fake ghost. Do not believe that this is real.

My thoughts right now are that it just happens to be a creepy bridge, and nothing of the story of the farmer and his wife and child are true. It would almost be good if that were the case, it is such a sad story.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It THE CONTINUING ROMANCE!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

Save

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