Thursday, October 22, 2020

COVIDiary: What a Long, Strange Trip

Sigh. A long, strange never-ending trip. 

We're finishing up the 9th week of virtual school, and I'm still in awe of the teachers. The amount of work they put into ensuring a variety of teaching methods, learning tools, apps and off-computer assignments that allows for just about every learning style is truly amazing. They seem to work around the clock, as assignments come through at all hours of the day and night. 

As a writer I'm particularly impressed with the amount of writing the kids have to do, both the 2nd graders and the 5th graders. All are getting well-schooled in grammar and parts of speech. Punctuation, capitalization, and neat handwriting count. Dramatic and information narratives, short dramas, and writing exercises for, yes, language arts, but also math, science, and social studies are required several times a week. Glad they're all getting lots of practice in expressing themselves effectively.

Virtual learning has its ups and downs - so much freedom and variety, but a lot of extra work for everyone (especially the teachers) and just plain ol' missing the structure of being at school, being with friends. 

And I have to admit - inwardly screaming, actually - that I'm tired. Working six days a week - three with the kids and three at the History Center - is testing me right now. It's a physical thing, but it's more than that. I feel dispirited. Part of it is this crazy virus, certainly, but it's also the awful things that Trump has foisted upon our nation and the stress of worrying about the upcoming election and its outcome. (Yes, I've voted and my ballot received and accepted.)

This could have been a time when we all came together to fight COVID-19, saving lives, the economy, and everyone's mental and emotional health. But this awful, low IQ, vindictive scam artist creep that a minority of us put into power has made everything - everything! - worse. I want him and everyone in his government gone. Out. Never to be heard of again.

So, yes, months of stress and feeling helpless and hopeless wears on one. Throw in working a 6-day week, and I'm beginning to sink. Even all the Halloween candy and horror films aren't doing much to bring me cheer. 

But like everybody else right now, I have no choice but to stay on this long, strange trip carrying a tiny  candle of hope that we'll turn a corner and behold a better world. 

So, fellow travelers, let's link arms and hold each other up as we struggle along. [insert hopeful Depression Era song here] Sigh.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

City Limits: How Horror Films Made Me a City-Dweller

I love horror films, and if I've learned one thing from all my scary movie-watching it's never, ever leave the big city. 

Great horror stories - I mean really good ones - are hard to come by. Alas, most horror films since the 1970s seem to follow a few templates that wear thin after a while. Those story templates are:

Family living in New York/Chicago/Boston/London experiences some kind of trauma or upheaval  (impending divorce, death of a child, loss of a job, or all three) and believing that somehow leaving the city behind will solve things, hightails it to some small village or bucolic setting to start anew. Unfortunately, horrors beyond all imagining await them in these little idyllic burgs - ancient curses, possessed houses, creepy yokel neighbors - that make anything NYC can throw at 'em look positively Disney-esque. 


A group of villagers hiding a big secret causes something unspeakable to happen to one of the townspeople or to some poor schlub just driving through. Do not stop in a small town, city people. You'll be sorry. Especially if the townfolks' eyes are just a little too far apart. Also, don't stop in a cornfield.


College students leaving trendy campus for fall/winter/spring/summer break, heading to a remote mountain or lake cabin, only to end up chopped to bits by inbred goofballs or monsters from the deep woods or lake.  

These repetitive tropes, however, serve up an important lesson: bad things happen when you leave the city. I don't care how cute a cabin is or how peaceful that sweet small town looks, it's all a murderous, bloody facade. Flee the bright lights at your peril, children. 

Now, there is the occasional city-horror story - Rosemary's Baby, Devil's Advocate, and several films about haunted rent-controlled apartments left to broke, unsuspecting relatives - but none are as terrifying as venturing outside the city limits to small-town or countryside locales. Anyway, who can turn down a fabulous apartment at the Dakota with Ruth Gordon as a next door neighbor, eh? Makes baby-devil worth it, I say. And a rent-controlled apartment? Shoot, who cares if it's haunted? I mean, even after bad things happen, you can forget it all by going to a Broadway show or a museum. 

So I'll take my chances in the chaos of city life. The crimes are predictable, and by taking a few precautions can usually be prevented. Besides, all sorts of weirdness and horror await in small-town Maine or on that Spanish moss approach to a Louisiana mansion or inside the rustic mountain cabin belonging to crazy grandpa. 

I'm a city girl, and I'll take the Dakota and Ruth Gordon every time.