Sunday, June 24, 2007

Buffy Wednesday (24 June 2007)

Or rather, Buffy Sunday.

One of us had the entire weekend to himself, so I went to tyranist's house for a good thirty hour stretch. We had planned to debauch on the couch, go to a soccer game, get a pizza, and watch a buttload of horror films. As it stands, we watched exactly one horror film, one that was so bad I regretted the invention of film, and I spent some of the morning vomiting. We watched a little TV, I wrote on the computer for a while, we drove to the next town up, hit the cinema (we saw 1408 and enjoyed it), and watched Escape From New York, EuroTrip, and Fight Club.

I feel obligated to mention that Tyr may be the only person that claims EuroTrip as his favourite film. Seriously, he loves and watches that film the way I did Star Wars when I was ten.

And we also hit the "Buffy" DVD. The next episode in chronological order was called "Earshot," and I learned later that it was not the next episode to air chronologically.* This is another one written by Jane Espenson, and right before we started it, tyranist announced that this would be the first crappy episode, breaking our months' long run of only the best. It was just a feeling he had.

It begins with Buffy fighting a pair of naked, flesh-coloured, mouthless demons. She kills one of them and gets some of his . . . I hope it was blood . . . on her. Later it is revealed that she has inherited "the aspect of the demon." She begins to be able to read peoples' minds.

At first, this is fun. Xander thinks about sex all the time. So do all guys, except for Oz, apparently. Wesley thinks about Cordelia. Willow thinks about Buffy becoming more than human. Cordelia thinks exactly what comes out of her tactless mouth. Joyce thinks about when she slept with Giles. Unfortunately for Buffy, she can't read Angel's mind, because that's easier than asking him what went on with him and Faith (and if he dug it). But the ability increases and soon she is overwhelmed by a barrage of people's thoughts . . . including someone in the lunchroom who is going to kill everybody the next day.

Buffy is incapacitated by her new gift, so it's up to the rest of the gang to find out who it was in the lunchroom that's planning on committing murder. They don't make much progress, save interviewing the many suspects.

To make a long story short, Angel finds and kills the other mouthless demon and from its heart, they cure Buffy's condition. She rushes to the school, while the others are confronting who they think might be the evildoer.

Buffy sees Jonathan, a semi-recurring character, up in the clock tower, loading a rifle. Jonathan is a pitiful loser who no one will ever love. At last, there's a character I can truly relate to.

She goes up there to lay the smack down, but talks to him instead about how all those students who ignore him do so because they have so many problems in their own lives, not because they're bad people. And then it is revealed that he wasn't up there for a shooting spree, but to end his own life.

Meanwile, Xander Harris, quite accidentally, walks in on the lunchlady pouring rat poison into the school lunch pot. Turns out she hates the students and is trying to do them in. Buffy shows her to the door, and everything is safe and happy for another week.

You know, of the last few episodes, this was the closest we got to a truly weak one. But it wasn't. It was still very very good, and that's actually starting to bother me. I guess I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, or for a star to fall, or for the Governor to call, or some standard cliche. I only hope that when it happens, I'm man enough to take it, and don't join Jonathan in a bell tower of my own.

Before that happens, we have an episode called "Choices" I need to blog about. This is the next chapter in the Faith Goes Bad story arc, and dealt with that as well as the group deciding where they want to go after high school. Willow has been accepted to every school from Oxford to South Harmon Institute of Technology.** Xander, apparently, hasn't been invited to pursue higher education, but Cordelia has, and rubs it in his face. Kordileea iz meen. Surprisingly, Buffy has been accepted to a few, including Northwestern. Is that a good school? I'm really only familiar with colleges that have "Community" or "Technical" in their names.

Buffy decides that she wants to be able to go away for school too, like a regular girl, and thinks that if she can stop the mayor and his ascension, then maybe Giles will let her. It's not exactly logical, but it gets the job done.

Faith is charged with bringing a special box to the mayor and Buffy gets wind of its importance. The gang decides to destroy the box, but they need Willow to perform a spell before they can do so. They break into the mayor's office and steal the box, but Willow is captured. Buffy plans on trading the mayor the box for Willow.

Willow has been locked up and there's a lot of menace there, especially from Faith, who holds a knife to her throat at one point. I think I remember Joss saying (in a "Firefly" commentary) that if he wanted to piss off the audience, he'd have a character do something to Willow.

Willow escapes where they're keeping her--there's a great moment where Willow uses her levitation powers to kill a vampire with a pencil--and discovers the Books of Ascension from a couple of episodes back. She would have gotten away, but she stops to read through them and Faith catches up to her.

I really enjoyed their conversation, as Faith says, "Now you're gonna tell me that it's not too late for me to do what's right," and Willow says, "No, it's way too late for that."

The Mayor and Company take Willow to the high school cafeteria to trade for the box, and just as they're doing so, Principal Snyder busts in with the cops, thinking it's a drug transaction going down. When one of the cops (or were they just school security?) opens the box, some kind of huge face-sucking bug pops out, killing him. The Mayor leaves with the box, mentioning that there are thousands of those bugs in there.

Principal Snyder also leaves, as I suppose there was nothing prosecutable going on (or maybe he knows a bit more about the Mayor than the average Sunnydalian). Boy, it's gotta be tough to be principal at that high school. As they pointed out in the last episode, theirs is the only high school I know of with a weekly obituary section in the school paper.

In the end, Buffy realises she can't go away to college, but will stay in town. Willow says she's going to say in Sunnydale too and go to school with Buffy at UCS. She also reveals that she stole some particularly important pages out of the Books of Ascension, and gives them to Giles. More really good stuff, and only three left in this season.

I also have to mention that I seriously considered just watching them all, to the end of the season, just because we could. Luckily, saner heads prevailed, and BTVS Season 3 will continue into July.

Tyranist and I are both longtime comic book fans (in fact, according to him, that's what made him think to talk to me back in high school), and we talk about the restrictions placed upon comic book writers crafting stories about Batman, Spider-man, the X-men, She-Hulk, and Uncle Scrotor. When you're working with a property you don't own, there is only so much you can do with the characters (and even then, someone else can come along and say, "That was all a lie/dream/devious trick/robot/clone/genetically altered actress." According to tyr--and he's right--the best way to go is to create your own comic book characters, and then you can do whatever you want with them, from killing them to marrying them off (some say that's the same thing), turning them powerless to turning them evil.

You can see where I'm going with this. While I'm pretty sure that Fox owns "Buffy" and its characters, Joss runs the show, and he seems to have pretty complete freedom. And instead of making a run-of-the-mill, you-can-watch-any-episode-at-any-time, cookie cutter programme, he has crafted a series that's constantly changing, with characters who are evolving, and yes, Faith seems to be genuinely bad, not just misguided or under someone's control (and I have it on fairly nonsuspect authority that she's not the last long-running character to go bad).

I think Joss watched a lot of TV growing up (and maybe read a lot of comic books) and just HATED it when he'd notice that, week after week, when the hour was up everything had returned to the way it was before. I've sort of learned to hate that myself.

So he created something to be completely unlike that. And it's astounding. I guess it's been done before (and it's certainly been done after), but not with the degree of success I see in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

I only wish I had appreciated Joss's genius when I used to run into him on a regular basis back in Los Angeles. You will tell him for me the next time YOU see him, won't you?

Rish "Joss Whedon Is (Still) My Master Now" Outfield

*They say the whole Columbine school shooting incident occurred right before this show was to air, so they shelved it until the next year. I remember that period, when suddenly the media was to blame for everything wrong in society ("What was he listening to? What was he listening to?" Chris Rock echoed in his stand-up at the time. "What was HITLER listening to?"), and TV and movies had to be uber-careful when it came to violence and what the BBFC refers to as "imitatable behaviour."

**I was going to say Miskatonic University, but I choose to go lowbrow. That's me, folks, in a nutshell.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

21 June 2007

Another week, another Buffy Wednesday.

It's Summer Solstice today, the longest day of the year. I may actually get a full night's sleep out of it.*

This week, we had two episodes, which is how I like it. In reading through a couple of my old posts, I'm beginning to realise that I say pretty much the same thing in every one of these "Buffy" posts. I was even going to comment that I thought Buffy might be short for Bufanda, and I think I've done that one already too.

So, the episodes this week were "Doppelgangland" and "Enemies."

The first, written by Joss Whedon, was a great show (which, again, is something I say way too often). In it, Anya returns and hatches a plan to retrieve her wish-granting necklace. She manipulates Willow into casting a spell which opens a rift into the parallel universe that was created in "The Wish" (probably my personal favourite episode of this season), and the evil, leather-clad vampire version of Willow Rosenberg is accidentally transported into our universe, mere seconds before she would've died in her own.

What we get is a merry bout with mistaken identity, as Willow, who is used as a doormat by teachers, principals, students, and Slayers alike, is suddenly wandering around with guile, intimidation, and mean-spiritedness, daring people to get in her way.

Oh, and Alyson Hannigan is even paler than usual.

In this show, Willow has learned to magically make objects float, and she is also assigned to be a tutor to a popular jock, who also walks all over her. Of course, he learns a little humility in the end, and may be a semi-recurring character now.

Vamp Slayer Faith takes another step towards the dark side as she informs the Mayor what Giles and Company are up to, and doesn't seem concerned when Mr. Mayor orders Willow's vampiric execution for attempting to break into his computer files.

There is a moment when Faith, who looks better than she ever did on the show for some reason, is all giggly and jumping on the bed, and I thought, "I like this character. I don't know why, though."

The vampire assassins find Vampire Willow, and she turns out to be tougher than they are, putting them to work for her instead. It was laugh-out-loud funny when our heroes encounter the vampire Willow, think she has been turned into one of the undead, and then find the real one . . . hugging her unabashedly. THAT's probably not something I say every week: this show is, without exception, always damned funny.

As amusing as it is to see Vampire Willow wander around a Sunnydale that's back to being . . . well, Sunny, they somehow manage to make us feel sorry for her. Yeah, I don't really get it myself. Oh, and here we get our first glimpse of lesbianic Willow, though it is her evil self that swings both ways.

They do switch the Willows' outfits and make our Willow pretend to be evil, which is also amusing, and Anya seems to be the only one smart enough to recognise that she's human. That will be an interesting character too, if she comes around again.

In the end, Cordelia frees Vampire Willow, is rescued by Wesley, and no real harm is done. I was hoping we'd see Vampire Willow again, but as I said, they took her out of her reality just as she was about to be killed. They return her to the exact same moment. Nice.

Great stuff, which I know I've said before. My only regret is that we didn't get to see some kind of confrontation between Vampire Willow and (our universe's) Angel, who was kept as a pet/plaything in her reality.

The second episode, "Enemies," actually started out weak (Uh oh, I thought, Here we go. After all those great episodes in a row, we had to hit a bad one sometime. And here it is.), with Angel and Buffy all horned out but unable to do anything about it. Then Faith and Buffy encounter a demon who wants to sell them "The Books of Ascension," which could come in quite handy for our side, or the Mayor's side.

Unbeknownst to our heroes, Faith sets out on her own to obtain the books before Buffy can. She kills the demon and brings the books to her new boss. She and the Mayor have a chummy, almost daughter/father relationship.

The Mayor is fascinating, in that he's an ageless character with smugness and endless reserviours of evil, yet he's a germophobe and seems to have an odd sort of warmth for Faith. Oh, and he's recently been made invulnerable to harm. For reasons we are never shown, he wants Angel on their side, so Faith goes to see Angel and tries to seduce him (knowing that it would remove his soul once again). It doesn't work, but Buffy walks in just at the wrong time . . . as people are wont to do in the world of televised entertainment.

So, the Mayor conjures up a great-looking, truly scary demon (in the kind of hood and cloak combination I could actually name if I did a little internet research . . . damn) with blue skin and scary reflective eyes. He has a way to turn Angel bad again without having to take anyone's clothes off. Faith visits Angel again, and when he reaches out to her, she turns on him, spattering him with blood, and causing the return of . . . oh yeah, Bad Angel.

I gotta say, I was happy to see him. The character just comes alive when he gets to be supercold and calculating. He and Faith go to see the Mayor, where Bad Angel (I know his name is Angelus, but I hope you don't mind if I continue calling him "Bad Angel") vows to kill Buffy. He and Faith head to the Summers house and get Buffy to go to their hideout with them, before Angel knocks her one over the head.

They tie Buffy up and plan to torture her. Bad Angel and Faith enter into a torrid embrace, and our girl Buffy just has to respond in horror. It's pretty mean. But even though Faith taunts Buffy, Buffy doesn't take it. Buffy sugar-coats nothing, and frankly tells her she's better than Faith, even with all this going on. It's pretty darn tense, and I don't know how we'll get out of this one.

Faith rubs it in Buffy's face that the Mayor is going to undergo an ascension on Graduation Day and life is gonna get really really bleak for everybody that Buffy loves. Faithie sneers and laughs, and then Angel reveals that she has been had: he's not Bad Angel at all; it was all an act to find out where her true allegiences lie.

The shock was amazing, in that they had me as utterly convinced as they did Faith. I applauded, we cheered, and tyranist paused the DVD and we talked about it for the next five minutes.

I may have mentioned it before: tyranist is the smartest person I know. Maybe I've ever known. I mean, hey, me, something of a prodigy, learned Right from Left when I was nineteen years old, but tyranist just blows me away. You've heard of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle? Morons! And he didn't see it coming. So good on us, Joss.*

A great, wonderful, cruel and surprising twist.

So, Angel reveals himself, Buffy unties herself, and Faith flees, running back to the Mayor, who tries, rather unsuccessfully, to comfort her. The creepy blue demon was actually working for Giles, whom he owed a favour, and it was all part of a fiendish plan. Which couldn't have been more successful.

Man, I love this show. Have I said THAT before?

Rish "Dr. Originality" Outfield

*Whoops, I've just been told that it's not actually any longer than a regular day, there's just more daylight in it. No wonder I feel so tired.

**Or good on you, I don't remember what the saying is.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

15 June 2007

In case there's any confusion about the last (rather bloated) post . . .

Well, they're dead. They're all messed up.

Apparently, a handful of people (or maybe a lot of people, I don't know for sure) out there decided to get into the spirit of the season and blog as though the zombie apocalypse was here. Unfortunately, I didn't find out about it until it was already happening, and it was too late to do anything about it. Isn't that always the way?

Tyranist came to pick me up after work and told me about it during our twice-monthly drive to the movies. There was a fire right on the side of the freeway, so traffic slowed down and eventually stopped, and I figured, "Sure it's stopped, it's the zombie apocalypse, after all."*

When I got home that night, I jotted down the first two or three paragraphs, then went to bed. The majority of the story I wrote in the wee small hours on a borrowed laptop in the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas. I thought it was something short and fun I could pound out the way I pound out a . . . bowel movement, I guess.

Sadly, it got completely and totally out of control, so that I was still working on it a bloody week later. $%!@#.

I initially intended for the story to be that I go to work, passing a homeless guy on the way, then during the day, we see people walking around the cemetery (which really is right across the street from my work). I guess I wanted there to be a zombie in the restroom, but honestly, I expected the entry to be about a dozen paragraphs long. Sorry, kids.

If another opportunity like this comes up, I promise I'll get started on it sooner than the day it is due.

According to my friend, they'll be doing this kind of (rather twisted) thing every June the 13th, so we at least have one thing to look forward to in '08.

Rish "No More Room In Hell" Outfield

*Oh yeah, tyranist said he would prefer it if we referred to it as "The Zombie Holocaust," rather than "Apocalypse." So I will try.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Z Day Report (13 June 2007)

Boy, today was strange. I guess you remember, right? I mean, everybody will have their June 13th stories (I wonder what they'll call this day in the history books), and ask, "Where were you? Who did you lose? How close did you come?" But hey, this is my blog, so I'll tell you about my day. I hope this doesn't get too out of hand.

Where do I begin?

I guess it really started on the way to work this morning. I was driving along, a little bit late as usual, and noticed a homeless guy walking on the side of the road. He looked pretty out of it too and I really only looked at him as long as I did because there's not so many homeless guys around here. Odd.

My job is fairly new and is north a couple of miles in a squat, offensive-looking two story building at the base of the hills by the cemetery. I work at ChotusLink, which is the name of a bunch of buildings in that area, each one making products or selling services. Basically I work in the AT&T phone center, answering incoming calls about products, sales, and new equipment rebates. It's not my favorite job . . . in fact, I knew from the first week in that department that it wasn't going to be for me. But I need money, and have stuck with it, hoping somebody somewhere will offer me a better job and take me away from all this.

I got into work and sat at the first free computer pod on the far row, logging onto my phone as quickly as I could. They check to see what time we come in, so I'll often log on, then boot up my computer, take my lunch in to the fridge, and sit down a few minutes later to start taking calls. Depending on my mood, that can take me up to fifteen minutes. Eventually one of the supervisors will find out about it, but it hasn't happened yet.

I looked at the queue and saw we weren't red-lining (which is what we call it when there are more than seven calls waiting for service), and answered the first call that came through.

I began my oft-repeated spiel. "Thanks for calling the AT&T high speed internet rebate center, my name is Eric, can I get your DSL telephone number please?"

To be frank--and there's no point in being anything but--it was a terrible job, listening to people complain over the phone, or wondering why they hadn't received their rebate yet, or worse yet, listening to them explode when I told them they'd missed the expiration date and they no longer qualified for a rebate. I'd been thinking about quitting since I'd transferred over to this department from data entry, but I'd been planning on starting up a pretty serious drug habit when I turned thirty-five, so I figured I ought to start saving now.

The department micro-managed everything we did, from length of our phone calls to what we wore on Fridays to the time we were gone on breaks to whether we offered customers the chance to take a brief survey on how their needs were served by our telephone representative.

A few minutes later, a blond almost-surfer dude named Rick (or was it Dick?) came in, talking loudly into his cellphone. I hadn't made any real friends at this job, but Mick (?) was at the bottom of my list.

Just my luck, he sat down in the pod across from me. That meant I'd be hearing his cheery "I'm yer bud!" voice for the next seven hours. The guy next to him said, "So, what happened, Nick?" Nick (whoops) began jabbering to the people around him how he just paid off his truck and then nearly hit into a skinny old woman walking in the middle of the street, "like some kind of tard."

He'd probably scared some rest home escapee half out of her mind and he had had the temerity to roll down his window and yell at her. "The lady didn't even bat an eye, just kept walking, wobbling a little like she was drunk," I could hear him saying. I glanced down at my phone, sure I had taken it off Available, but no, there just weren't any calls coming in.

That continued for the next couple of hours and I mostly read through my "Princess Bride" paperback and ate peanuts all morning, glancing at my phone to make certain it wasn't ringing without me hearing it. I was waiting for it to be breaktime (where I would get away from my desk and read my book like I was doing now) or for Denisse to come in, whichever came first. I got online to look something up on Wikipedia (it was Wang Chung, if you must know), when my rebate line rang.

"Thanks for calling the AT&T high speed internet rebate center," I said, "My name is Eric, can I get your DSL telephone number please?"

A man with a heavy Southern accent began speaking immediately. "And the ground did open and every unclean thing did wander, and the secrets of men walked outwardly where none could shield his face--"

"Hello?" I interrupted. Sometimes people didn't realize I'd picked up, or worse, they thought I was a recording.

"Where none could shield his face, though in his guilt, he may try," the man finished.

"Excuse me?" I said, trying to be polite. After all, every call was apparently recorded for quality purposes.

"Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Chapter seven," the man said. So, he had been quoting a creepy ass scripture. Should've guessed. "Are you a believer, Eric?"

That he knew who I was unnerved me, and I thought about that old movie where the girl is getting calls from some guy watching her from outside the house. But then I remembered that I give my name at the start of every call. I shifted in my seat. "Uh, I really only help people with their rebate questions. Did you want to check the status on your--"

"Haven't you been watching the news?" the man said, his voice getting higher. "The dead were gibbering in their resting places, and outward they came, to seek out those who knew not the Lord. And as the unrighteous saw the sharpness of their fate upon them, they were fearful in their sin."

"That's not from the Bible, sir," I said.

He continued, in something of a fervor now. "For they knew not the Lord, and the graves opened up their dead, and those that were still did walk."

I glanced three pods down and saw Denisse Ortega, just logging onto her phone. She was small and shapely, unbelievably sexy yet somehow innocent. Today she was wearing a pair of stone-washed jeans and an undersized white t-shirt. Except for the paycheck, she was the only thing keeping me at ChotusLink.

"Eric?" the man on the phone said. I looked away from the Hispanic jailbait and to my computer monitor.


"Do you know the Lord?"

"Not on a first name basis. Do you have a rebate question?"

"I did, I wondered why I hadn't received my check yet. But after what's been going on in the world, it doesn't seem so important anymore."

"I can understand that," I said, though I really couldn't. All I knew was that I hated working there and was a stubborn little masochist for still sitting in that chair and taking calls.

"I'm going to hang up now, Eric," the man said. "It's probably too late for you to repent, but you'd better try it just in case."

"I'll do that," I lied and thanked him for calling the rebate center. About once a week I'd get a call from a crazy person or a really angry lawschool dropout. I logged the call (Code 11 - Wrong Number/Transferred By Mistake) and did my internet search. The phones were barely ringing, which was a nice change.


Ms. Endora walked by, saw I wasn't on a phone call, and asked me if I had seen Wade the day shift junior supervisor. I hadn't. Ms. Endora was a squat mannish lady with black hair with a white tuft in the front, like Rogue if she turned fifty and let herself go. She had hired me in my original position at ChotusLink, which was a pretty good job when it first started.

Still no new calls. A half hour passed. I would get to go to lunch soon. Something I'd eaten the day before was making me fart.

Wade the day shift junior supervisor came in, sweaty and exasperated. He was clutching at his hand and even from where I was sitting, I could see blood there. He had had some kind of accident coming back from a bagel run, evidently, though I didn't hear details. A Level Three and a couple of his friends rushed to his side, asking him what happened and what they could do. I think I caught ". . . jumped on me" as they kept moving.

I guess I should have followed them to the bathroom, but I had just logged onto the Hollywood Stock Exchange at my desk and was looking to see how my Blockbuster Derivatives were doing.

I farted again, then looked up and regretted it. Denise was walking over. God, what if she actually needed to talk to me (unlikely, I know, but it had to happen one day) and she got there at its most pungent?

But she just walked on by. I saw people around me rising in their pods. I took my headset off and looked where they were looking. Ms. Endora walked up to our row, and signaled to us. "Come over here, people," she said. "Look at this."

I went to the window, where a handful of people were congregating. We were located on the second floor of our building, so there was a pretty good view of the cemetery two blocks away, where there were a few people gathered. Except there was something wrong with them. Two or three were crawling, but they were all moving in a jerky, unhealthy manner. They almost didn't look like people anymore.

"They said something about this on the news," a small woman I didn't know said to the lady beside me. "Something about people in a trance."

"Creepy," the lady breathed.

And it was. Down on the ground, the people moved like sleepwalkers, like the dizziest of children, like blind men. They were leaving the cemetery, and they were, without exception, wearing suits or dresses: church outfits . . . or funeral clothes.

My heart lurched to a stop as a pulsing buzz started down near my genitals. It was the cellphone in my pocket, set on vibrate since we weren't supposed to even have them on at work. It scared the hell out of me, frankly.

It kept ringing, and I pulled it out and checked it before I answered. It was my best pal Joe, who called from time to time, but not during work hours. I would never be Employee of the Month anyway, so I pushed Talk.

First Joe asked if I had heard the news. Then, not waiting for an answer, he told me that there was some kind of rabies epidemic that was spreading all over the country. "It's happening all at once," he said, "People are getting attacked all over. It's spreading. You get it like the flu, except faster."

"Joe, I--"

"You get it if they touch you. Then you get infected with the . . . the madness as well."

Normally I would've told him he was a poor practical joker and an asshole, but there were crazed-looking people below us on the street, and I'd already seen one person with a bite or gash on his arm.

Suddenly, the people around me gasped. Down below, a pickup truck had apparently come around the corner, and slammed into one of the lurchers. The body hit the pavement like a sack of potatoes, and the pickup screeched to a halt.

"Somebody call 911," a girl cried, and a dozen cellphones suddenly came out of pockets and purses. Down below, the accident victim was rolling on the pavement, trying to get up, it looked like. Hadn't Rick almost hit someone on that exact same road earlier today? The pickup driver got out of his vehicle, presumably to help, and two of the sleepwalkers approached him. They didn't wait for him to explain, they just attacked him immediately. There were shrieks from the people around me, not all of them female. Joe was still on the phone at my ear, saying my name.


"Dude, I'm coming over there," he announced.

But I had brought my own lunch. "Here? Why?"

"They just canceled work. Anyone who wants to go be with their families can leave."

That made sense. Except it didn't. "But why are you coming here?" I asked him.

"You wanna stay there?"


"I'm on my way. I'll call you when I get there." He hung up. So did I.

People beside me were crying, glued to the window, or vomiting. No one was talking to 911 operators. Out of service. Busy. On hold. All operators are currently busy with other customers, please wait. Just ringing.

Denisse Ortega walked past me. "That's it, I'm outta here," she said to a friend of hers, a droopy-eyed Latina girl with more cleavage than Denisse, but less everything else. The friend, whose name I didn't know, agreed and they strode toward the stairs. They were leaving, going out into the dangerous world outside.

I should say something, I thought as she rounded the first bank of pods. Or take Denisse in my arms and stick my tongue down her throat. Or at least let her know that she's the hottest thing since tabasco sauce and I often fantasized about making such passionate love to her that our pelvises burst into flames.

But I just watched her walk to the exit and disappear. Pussy, my conscience told me. It, oddly enough, has a different voice than my thinking brain. A snootier, more disgusted voice. You're going to die alone.

"Denisse is way too young for me," I told my conscience. "And regardless of that, a girl that sextastic has many boyfriends, all higher up in the food chain than me."

You suck, my conscience reminded me. You're never gonna see her again and she won't even remember your name.

"Yes, but she'll probably remember me as the guy who salivated when he looked at her. It's better she not know what my name is."

Pussy, it said again. I don't like that word. I never have.

And then Denisse was back. She walked through the door, quickly, and went to her pod, grabbing her keys from beside the computer monitor and telephone headset. She took a breath and started back the way she'd come.

"Denisse," I said, and she looked at me. Gosh, she was well put together. "You're one of the best-looking people I've ever seen," I said. "You take care of yourself."

She smiled a little bit and I liked what it did to her eyes. "You too," she said, and was gone.

Alright, that was pretty good, my conscience said. But you're still a pussy.

"Thanks," I said aloud, and went to grab my own stuff from my desk.

I took my bag of snacks, pens, vending machine change, and napkins, and started to log off my computer. All around me, people were either sitting in stunned silence, or getting ready to leave. Or already gone. The crowd at the windows was bigger than ever, but nobody seemed to be taking rebate or sales calls. I glanced at my phone. There were only two calls in the queue.

I signed off my telephone.

I took a few steps toward the door, then turned around. Joe had not yet called me and I had to pee. I went to the other end of the building where the restrooms were. I passed a group of employees in the training room. I thought they didn't know what was happening outside, but when I paused to look in, I saw they were all bowing their heads in prayer.

They knew.

I entered the men's room and hit the urinal. I smelled vomit in there too. Somehow it was worse mixed with the urinal cakes. I flushed and turned to wash my hands. I saw blood in the sink and some on the mirror in front of it. There was a still-wet trail of blood leading down to the handicapped stall. There was a lot of it, on the wall, on the closed stall door, on paper towels all over. It was like nothing I'd ever seen. This was like a bathroom at a rugby stadium, not a call center.


The noise came from the far stall. My body tightened up at the sound, like I'd been shocked turning on a desklamp. It had been a moan of some kind, though like nothing I'd ever heard outside of medical dramas. Or really bad dreams.

"Hello?" I said softly, aware that I was breaking men's room protocol by addressing someone in a toilet stall, but uncaring.

The moan came again. Strained, low, suffering. The sound made snowcones from my blood.

"Dude, are you alright?"

At the sound of my voice, the guy in there banged on the stall door. It wasn't locked, but it opened inward and the man was pushing on it. He moaned again . . . not the sound of a normal man. This was what Joe was talking about.

I had to get out of there.

I left the bathroom at a half run, expecting a hand to close around my arm before I could reach freedom. I still heard the moaning as the restroom door swung shut behind me and scooped up my bag where I'd set it.

My cellphone vibrated again. I was sort of expecting it this time, but it still startled me. I didn't stop walking as I pulled it out of my pocket. It was Joe. "I'm on my way," I said at the same moment he said, "I'm pulling in now." I glanced back at my workplace. Ms. Endora was holding someone in her arms. I could hear muffled wailing, but I didn't know if it was her or the woman she was holding. I hit the stairs.

Normally there was a security guy who would go through our bags before letting us leave, but there was nobody there now. The door to where the time clock was located stood closed, but there were people in there . . . some lady had her face to the window in the door, looking out at me. She shook her head as I walked by. I didn't know if she was telling me not to go outside or that I couldn't come in where she was.

Either way, I wasn't listening.


Joe's gray Pontiac was parked by the main entrance, the engine still running. It was a warm day, but his windows were all closed. I could hear sirens and horns honking and some kind of intercom voice, but I couldn't make out what it was saying. I could see smoke in the distance, by the freeway entrance.

I tried to get into the passenger seat, but Joe's doors were locked. He pushed the button to unlock them, but I had been holding onto the handle and it didn't work. As I tried again, I saw a girl walking our way in the parking lot. I didn't know if she was one of the infected or not, and I told Joe to hurry and unlock the door. He shouted something from inside the car and I have to admit that I was close to panicking. The girl in the parking lot looked my way, took a couple of steps in my direction, then reached her own car and began fumbling for the keys.

Joe's door unlocked and I got in. "Thanks," I said.

"Lock the--" Joe started to say, then locked the doors himself. He backed out of the parking space, a little faster than usual. "Dude, this is way beyond insane."

I nodded, though I didn't really know what he meant, exactly. "What's up with Maggie?"

Joe lived in Praisden, a few miles south, with Maggie, his long-time girlfriend. Er, fiance, I guess, since--and this is something of a secret--she was a few months pregnant now and they were going to get hitched at the end of the summer.

"Maggie's fine. She's at her sister's. I told her to wait for me."


"Right, us." Joe drove out of the parking lot, turned right, then immediately hit the brakes. There were three columns of stopped cars headed toward the freeway entrance, even though there were only two lanes. No one was moving.

"Damn," Joe said. "We'll have to go anothe--"

"That's fine," I said, distracted by the sight before me.

ChotusLink was at the top of a hill, and I could see at least three car accidents from where I sat. One of them looked horrifically bad, with a UPS truck on its side, half crushing a PT Cruiser.

Joe turned the car around, turning down a side street, and heading subtly southward.

I turned on the radio, but there was only the emergency broadcast signal. I turned it off again.

"Man, Center Street was a mess," Joe said. "Wrecks are everywhere. Somebody actually hit into a fire hydrant, like in the movies."

"I've never actually seen that before," I told him.

We drove on, passing a major intersection (the stoplights were blinking red). We drove through, slower than usual, and I could see people walking here and there, in the Albertson's parking lot, outside of McDonalds, on the sidewalk. The people with blood on them, their faces unnaturally grey, walking the way the homeless guy had, the way the people from the cemetery did.

"I've never seen anything like it," Joe muttered.

"Maybe in movies," I suggested. "Like a vampire movie or somethi--"

"These aren't vampires. They . . . I don't know what they are."

And then there was one moving toward us, stepping right into the street from the Del Taco entrance and heading for my window. He was a middle aged man, dressed in a t-shirt and jogging shorts. His hand was all mangled . . . a couple of fingers missing. And also missing was the life in his eyes, the humanity. He looked like a maniac, a Holocaust survivor, a lobotomy patient.

The man gritted his teeth at us and kept moving toward the car. Joe hit his brakes to not hit the man, but the man hit into us anyway, walking right into the Pontiac like he hadn't seen it was there. The blood from his injured hand spattered the glass beside my face.

"His hand," I said. "I think he'd been bitten."

"That must be how they're spreading the infection," Joe said. "It is like vampires."

The man pounded on the window, trying to break the glass to get at me. I swear, he didn't look human anymore. I guess I keep repeating that, but I can't really get over it.

Joe drove on, having to go around a banged-up Camry abandoned in the middle of the road. Behind us, the lurcher was following, stumbling along too slow to ever catch us.

Joe switched the radio on. The emergency signal was still blaring and he changed the station. It sounded like a news bulletin. It turned out to be a CDC spokesman reading a statement. We were supposed to stay in our homes and not answer the door for anyone. If we came in contact with strangers or people behaving in a violent or unusual manner, don't touch them. Get away. The rabies spread quickly. There were also reports--unsubstantiated at that time--of cannibalism in those infected.

At that, Joe and I shared a look. "Man, I have to pee," he muttered. "Praisden never seemed far before, but it is."

"Why did you come and get me?" I had to ask.

"I don't know. It was on the way."

True enough, but it wasn't exactly an explanation. I kept glancing at the blood on the passenger window, as afraid of it as I was the creature it came from. I wished Joe could wash it off somehow.

I turned our attention to the other side of the road, where a bicyclist was speeding along, going much faster than we were. A pale man in a suit and tie lunged at him and the cyclist hit into the sidewalk. His bike flipped over, and he hit the pavement hard, laying there stunned. The pale man leapt upon the bicyclist. He very much appeared to be eating him.

Don't worry, my conscience told me, This may just be a dream.

I turned to Joe. "Is this really happening?"

"I think so. Cody at work was saying this might be some kind of germ warfare. It's all over the country, all at once."

"I don't know Cody."

"Sure you do, he's the guy who named his kids after Pirates of the Caribbean."

"Oh yeah." He had named a son Jack and a daughter Sparrow, at least according to Joe. Joe swore he was a sane, even cool guy, other than that.

My throat felt very dry and I wished I had taken a drink before leaving work. "What did Cody say?"

"He said it was maybe in our water supply, or an airborne virus."

"How come we don't have it, then?"

Joe shrugged. "Cody thinks that it was just in major cities, and now it's spreading through saliva."

Saliva made me think of Denisse Ortega, for some reason, but I shook that thought off. "So, terrorists, then?"

"I don't know. Some girl at work was saying this was the end of the world."

"End of the . . ." I started to repeat. "You mean, like in the Bible sort of way?"

"Yes.  Eric, she was hysterical, she said that the world got too corrupt, so Jesus hadn't come after all, that we were all gonna burn as sinners."

"Yeah, a guy on the phone said something like that too. I didn't know what he was talking about at the time, but--"

"Maybe he was right," Joe said quietly, and it gave me the shivers to hear him say that. I'm not a religious person, and the concept of Armageddon was one of the least comforting aspects of that sort of belief system. That, and Hell, I guess.

Joe slowed the car once again. A semi was jack-knifed in front of us, blocking off ninety percent of the road. We had to drive up on the sidewalk to get around it. I heard the undercarriage of the Pontiac scrape and thump under us. Joe's was a nice car too.

Just past the semi, a woman with no lower half was dragging herself out from under a crushed car, a smear of gore beneath her. Joe kept driving.

"Did you see that?" I asked, my mouth drier than it had ever been.

"No. What was it?"

I didn't say. That had been impossible. Nobody could survive that. You'd either bleed to death, or be dead instantly. But she was moving, like a squashed cockroach somehow pulling itself along, defying death right in front of you.

I'd heard somewhere that a cockroach could live a week without a head.

The sounds of sirens were loud and omnipresent. I didn't see any police cars or fire engines, but they were all out and about.

"We could go to my dad's cabin in the mountains," I suggested.

"Maybe," Joe said.

"It's in Fairview, miles away from any cities or towns. Probably even farther away from . . ."

Joe waited for me to finish. When I didn't, he tried to answer for me. "From what? Anybody with this infection?"

I had been thinking cemeteries. But I just nodded and let him drive.


We were just about out of town, not going fast, but making fairly good time when Joe tensed up. Ahead, there was a little boy, walking in the road in front of us. Joe slammed on the brakes, bringing us to a stop right in time. The child was in the middle of the intersection, with a little suit and bowtie on, like a miniature gentleman. But one look at the way the boy was walking told me he was either severely intoxicated or one of them.

I looked over at Joe. He was eyeing the boy with a cross between nervousness and concern. Joe had a son in Montana about his age, so I understood him being a little freaked out. I looked back at the boy. It turned, slowly, and looked toward us. There was nothing childlike about the boy's face. Its teeth were beared like a snarling dog, its eyes rolled up to the whites. God.

I looked back at Joe, about to tell him it was too late for this kid. But I couldn't say anything. On his side, a big black pickup truck was hurtling toward us, much faster than necessary. It was too late for us too.

A remember seeing a flash of white, and the sensation of sudden falling, like the feeling you get right before falling asleep sometimes. I opened my eyes and saw the windshield opaque with cracks in front of us. My shoulder hurt where the seatbelt had dug in, but I thought I was alright.

Joe seemed to be knocked out, from what I could see of him. Joe had taken the majority of the hit, his window shattering and the airbag obscuring my view. Fat lot of good it did. Side impact airbags, folks, look into them.

Beyond him, the black pickup was rolling slowly away from us. I didn't know if the driver was backing it up, or if it was just drifting. My ears were ringing, but I was in no pain.

I unlocked my door and went outside. I thought I was alright, but the truck's driver might not be. The pickup truck's front end was smashed in, both headlights broken, the grill hanging halfway off. But it was drivable, apparently.

The pickup shifted into Drive, making a grinding sound I could hear even through my ringing ears.

"Hey!" I shouted, and the pickup pulled away, driving as best it could down the road. I had gone out there to see if the other driver was hurt, and there he went.

I swore and got back into the car, closing the door behind me.

"Joe, you okay?"

He didn't say anything, he just moaned and pressed himself harder against the still-deployed airbag. Like he was trapped in a particularly bad dream.


I knew he was alive, just dazed, or whiplashed, or concussed. Fat as I am, Joe outweighed me by a good forty pounds. There was no way I'd be able to support, pull, or carry him to safety.

"Joe," I said louder. I shook his arm.

He turned his head my way, still leaning forward like the airbag was a pillow. His glasses were broken and there was a cut where they rested on his nose. His nose might've been broken, but it wasn't bleeding.

"Hey Joe, can you hear me? We gotta go. Does the car still work?"

He moaned louder, definitely in pain, and pulled his head back. My point of view shifted from Joe to the person standing at the window, his little blond head previously hidden from my sight. It was the infected boy. There was fresh blood all over his mouth and nose. It looked almost black on his pale skin.

"Joe!" I shouted. He stirred again, raising his arm. The one the boy had been feasting on. A half dozen silver dollar-sized bites had been taken from Joe's meaty flesh. It bled copiously and--

That meant my friend was infected.

"Oh shit, Joe," I said, fumbling for the door handle again.

Joe said, "Ehh?" and looked at me sleepily.

Seeing his movement, the boy made a quick snapping movement, like a junkyard dog. I didn't see what it did until it pulled away. There was a wet clacking sound--the infected boy's teeth coming together--and when I could see the boy again, he had something in his mouth . . . part of Joe's ear.

I was on my own.

I wished I had stayed at ChotusLink, at least it was on the second floor and you could only get in with a by swiping your keycard. Why hadn't I told Joe to come in with me? I guess I was scared, 'cause I was so near the cemetery. And that's where they had been coming from, of course. But it had been a mistake to run.

Now Joe would be dead soon.

Then he'd be one of them.

And he'd try to bite me as well.

I left the car and ran.

I'm pretty out of shape, but adrenaline was coursing through me now. And the lurchers were even slower, lucky for me.

The ringing in my ears had faded and I looked up to a new sound. There were helicopters in the sky, passing overhead. They weren't news choppers, but the bigger, uglier military type. I should have been happy to see them, since it might mean rescue, but I don't know what it was--maybe too many bad movies--but I was scared to see them there.

I kept running south for one, two blocks. I saw one or two people running around in hysterics, and several more hiding in their cars. But mostly the streets were empty. Empty of live people, that is. The creatures were recognizable by the way they staggered around, by their dazed slowness, by the blank expression on their faces. And the fact that most of them were spattered, smeared, or covered with blood.

There was a high school up ahead, and as I ran toward it, a voice shouted, "Over here!" I looked her way and saw a middle-aged woman holding a big steel door open a few inches so she could wave me over. She looked motherly enough, so I turned and ran in her direction.

As soon as I slipped through the door, she pulled it shut after me. It was cool inside, the air conditioner blowing away. Apparently, there had been summer school classes going, and the school was fairly secure.

A janitor named Hector asked if I was alright, looking me over before I could go any farther into the building. After seeing Joe back at the car, I knew what he was looking for. Hector deemed me acceptable and led me down the hall. I breathed heavy as I followed him, pausing to gasp over the drinking fountain and splash cool water on my face from the restroom. Two classrooms had people in them, and I joined one of them, sitting at a desk, my body sweating and my nerves thrumming like an overstretched elastic.

The school currently held four teachers, twenty one students, Hector the janitor, and seven people like me, in from off the street. They had been watching the news for hours and filled me in on what was happening so far.

Law enforcement was mobilizing. Word was, they had some way of containing the disease. Or whatever you called it.

From the people who wanted to talk about it (and there weren't many), a surprising few would admit the truth: this wasn't some sickness or contagion. Those people had been dead.

And a lot more were now.

Though "dead" is a relative term, isn't it?


In the end, I wasn't involved with any of the newsworthy stuff. The soldiers came in and loudspeakered for people to stay in their homes if they didn't want to get shot (this they did in English and Spanish), and spent the next three days fixing the problem, most of which I wasn't a witness to. The military seemed to do something good for a change, and all of that Red State/Blue State nonsense went away for a while.

I never went back to that job at ChotusLink. Life just seemed too important--and too damn short--to waste it somewhere I was that unhappy. I've done a lot of thinking, a lot of reading (turns out there isn't a seventh chapter of Ephesians), a lot of pondering about my existence, about life after this one, and about the point of it all.

In the days since I started this post, the world has gone through some significant changes, but just like every major shake-up, I'm sure things will return to normal soon. At night, when the shadows get thick and I'm left with my thoughts and a lot of images that seemed burned into my eyelids, I wonder if the world will ever truly be like it was before. I wonder if there might be something lurking in my room (they can't have gotten ALL of them, can they?).

And I wonder about Joe--did he stay in the car? How long did he last before changing? How long did he last after that? What was he thinking at the end? Did he feel abandoned by me? Angry? Sad? Did he come looking for me after he changed? And what if he didn't change? What if he . . .

Well, there's lots of things now to fill my normally empty head.

I think about all the people whose lives June 13th affected, and if they will ever forget. I worry about the children who experienced this thing, and who now will think about death differently than any of us ever did. I wonder if they'll grow up used to the new status quo, the way my parents grew up thinking television was no big thing, and I grew up thinking videos were common. I hope that this event will make the next generation better than Generation X or Y, that there's some positive to get out of everything.

The plague only lasted for a few hours. The infection stopped spreading before nightfall, and even those infected that were not "dealt with" by the military laid down and died that evening or the next day.

What if they hadn't? What if it had continued like it did, into the 14th, into the next week, into July? Would I have survived?

Would any of us?

Something that bothers me, though it seems to bother other people less is . . . why did it happen? Doctors and scientists and researchers and government-sanctioned panels say that it will take some time to nail down the source of the "reanimation epidemic," but they'll let us know as soon as they find out. A lot of people seem satisfied by that explanation, figuring that since the danger is over, it's something to put behind us, like an earthquake or a fire.

But I lie awake at night, worrying about the implications of the dead not being that way anymore, listening for that awful sound of moaning, and wonder if it will happen again.

Time will tell.

The End

"I will never say the word procrastinate again,
I'll never look myself in the mirror with my eyes closed."

They Might Be Giants

Monday, June 11, 2007

The One Day Road Trip, Complete With Music & Hallucination (11 June 2007)

I'vm very tired ttoday. I have decided to keep in all typos and mistakes in this paragraph because it might be explary--examplary of my mindset right now. I left for Denver yesterday morning to see The Police in concert , but because I just started this new job, I couldn't very well ask for today off. So isntead of stayning at a motel rooma nd getting some rest, I drove through the night, heading straight for my job (I brought a change of clothes) and getting wto work as soon as I could. Due to that lack of sleep, my head is heavy and my sight grows dim. But I made my bed, so notw I have to not sleep int it.

I drove to Denver yesterday with my pal Merrill. I used to work with him and we'd commute together almost every single day. We also went on a road trip to Comic-Con last year. If his wife has a miraculous change of heart, we'll go to Comic-Con again this year. This was a mini-road trip to see the Police in concert. We're both big Sting fans, though not as big as tyranist (who once got a drunken tattoo on his left buttock in the Philippines, but had to have it removed because it looked more like "Stink" than "Sting").

I'm not old enough to have seen the Police back when they were a real touring band, so of course I jumped at the chance to see them perform for their little reunion. I was hoping for some new songs (which may still happen), but I'm one of the few fans that actually prefers the Sting solo music to the great stuff he did with Andy and Stewart.

The drive wasn't too long, and we kept ourselves occupied by talking about a variety of subjects, but mostly writing, podcasts, time travel, and homosexuality. The landscape in Colorado was amazing, with many European-looking ski towns built right at the base of the mountains, and more neat rows of green trees than I thought possible.

The concert was at the Pepsi Center and we arrived early enough to park in downtown Denver and wander around the outdoor mall near the college campus. It was pretty nice and--no, I gotta take that back. For the size of Denver, this downtown area was immaculate, safe, clean, well-maintained, and pretty. In Los Angeles, you'd have to go up to the Universal Citywalk or some other such remote location to find a place where you could not only walk around alone at midnight without fear, eat your meal on a parkbench without being accosted by angry and/or insane homeless people, and see real green grass.

The only other time I went to Denver was in 1999 for the Star Wars Celebration. I always assumed I took a wrong turn on the way back because the drive back took more than two hours longer than the drive there. I realised this morning that I just missed the turnoff to a shortcut that goes through the mountains, shaving a considerable length off the drive.

Merrill and I hung around for a while until it was time to go to the show, then we just followed the people (usually between 25 and 45) who were making their way to the Pepsi Center. I didn't see a lot of people with Sting or Police shirts on (maybe four, counting myself), but we found a booth selling overpriced t-shirts and each bought one. By the end of the show, there were a lot more people with them on, but what I thought was strange was that literally EVERY single shirt showed the Police as they were twenty-five years ago, and there wasn't a poster, jacket, shirt, or button with Sting, Andy, and Stewart as they look now. I don't know how odd that is, but I found it pretty odd.

I don't go to a lot of concerts anymore. As I get older, there are less and less bands that thrill me enough to go out and see them, and when there is somebody, it's often hard to find somebody to go with that feels the same way. Merrill and I talked about concerts we both went to in the past, and there's really only two we had in common: Sting and Metallica. Musically, we aren't really on the same page, as demonstrated by the mix tapes I made him listen to on the drive (half the songs he declared either gay or unknown to him).

Our seats were in the uppermost section, but the first row of it, so we could put our feet where we wanted. The seats themselves were quite small, and poor Merrill, who has gotten a bit rotund, found it uncomfortable to sit there. The crowd was very sedate and very calm, and there wasn't a lot of dancing, screaming, or people singing along (really). I noticed a lot of text messaging going on, which may be the chewing and spitting of the modern age.

The opening act was already playing when we got to our seats. They were so far away from our section that I couldn't read their name, but they sounded an awful lot like very early U2 (we're talking "Boy" and "October," before "War" and "Unforgettable Fire"). Later I learnt that the band was called Fictionplane, and the lead singer, rather than being related to Bono, was Joe Sumner . . . Sting's oldest son. Interesting.

When they were done, we got a few minutes of filler video on the three screens above the stage, then the Police came out. We had talked about what music they might play, having listened to all of their Message In A Box collection during the drive. I wondered if they would play Sting solo songs, or perhaps some of their favourite covers (like Beatles or Hendrix tunes), but the answer was no, only Police songs. It wasn't just the greatest hits kind of stuff, they also played fairly obscure album tracks like "Visions of the Night" and "Lowlife,"* as well as semi-famous songs like "Driven to Tears" and the "Bed's Too Big Without You."

Merrill and I have (yet another) disagreement when it comes to concert-going. He wants the songs to be as close to the album versions as possible, and hates it when they've futzed with the lyrics or the timing or fused it with other songs, etc. Me, I'm just the opposite. If I want to hear album versions, I listen to . . . you guessed it, the album versions. When I go to a concert, there's nothing I love more than to try and guess what the song is as they start to play, participating in an informal Name That Tune game with the rest of the audience.

The Police concert was sort of the best of both worlds, with half the songs being instantly identifiable and the other half being drawn-out, jazzed-up, or experimental versions of the songs we've known for years. He and I both had a list of songs we wanted to hear them play, and I imagine Merrill was disappointed, since they played none of the ones from his list. Me, I was happy to hear "King of Pain," "Don't Stand So Close To Me," and "So Lonely."

I used to hate sitting in front of older, fatter, or lazier people who would tell us to sit down if we stood up for one of our favorite songs. Merrill and I stood for one song, which I no longer remember, but stayed seated the rest of the concert, until the group behind us finally went home. Then we stayed seated the rest of the time.

I didn't date enough Catholic schoolgirls growing up. As it stands, I have no, "And then she unzipped her jumper" stories.

They had three giant screens above the performers and each one showed a different part of the stage. It was like we were watching a three camera sitcom setup live as it happened. During "Walking In Your Footsteps," they projected images of a brontosaurus skeleton stomping around. Merrill had just told me that years before he made a video for his dad's birthday or Father's Day or something and his sister wanted him to use that song in the background. Merrill had said, "Wait, the song the goes 'Hey Mister Dinosaur, you really couldn't ask for more?" and she told him yes.

The concert was a short one, in my opinion. They certainly played a lot of songs, but it seemed almost no time had passed before they were off the stage, coming back for one of . . . three (I think) encores. Every Sting concert I've gone to has either ended with "Every Breath You Take" or "Fragile," so it's kind of easy to know it's not over, but this one was unpredictable. I wanted to hear them talk about their songs, about getting back together, about new material, about how they're getting along, but there wasn't much talk from any of them. At one point, Stewart broke a drumhead (don't know what you call it) and Sting talked for a moment while they fixed it. But even then, it was terse, "The elevation is really high here" talk rather than, "The reason we got back together was . . ." or "I think the level we hate one another is about the same as it was in 1981 right now."

But again, that's just me. Obviously other people thought the concert was too long, as they took off after the band left the stage the first time (or the second). And even though everyone knows the show's not 100% over until the houselights come up, I'd say more than half the crowd had started for the exits before that happened.

I think my favourite song was when they performed "Wrapped Around Your Finger," always one of my faves to begin with. Stewart left his drums to play a gong, cymbals, and a xylophone. It sounds silly, I know, but it was really eerie and unique. He did hop back onto the drums for the end of the song, though. Stewart did double duty like that again on "King of Pain" and "Walking In Your Footsteps."

After the concert, Merrill and I got lost. I don't know how it happened, but suddenly we found ourselves alone, on some school campus, a mile or so away from my car and the Pizza Hut/Taco Bell we had planned on eating at. The restaurant stayed open until midnight, but when we got to it, they were out of all the Pizza Hut food and had no more chalupas. The girl behind the counter talked to us about the Police, and I thought she was just feigning disappointment when we told her we'd just come from the show, but then she talked about reading an interview with Stewart Townsend so I knew she was really a fan.

They had good Pepsi at that Taco Bell and Merrill and I went outside to eat it. Young people were hanging out, skateboarding, holding hands, making trouble, and walking around, and I remembered my own lost youth and how it seems I never did any of that stuff when I was a kid.

We went back to my car and started the long drive home. Merrill, though he's a miser of Dickensian proportions, was more than willing to get a motel room, but like I said, I had to be back at work the next morning, so we had to get going as soon as we could. Merrill has a logical, if infuriating, No Sleep policy on road trips, declaring that it's the passenger's job to make sure the driver is awake and alert.**

After we got gas, it was Merrill's turn to drive, and I was playing guard dog. There wasn't a lot to see now that it was night and we were away from the city. In fact, there were times when we had to turn on the high beams because the sky and the road in front of us were equally black. It was hard to stay awake.

About an hour outside of Denver, I gasped. There was an elk the size of a VW bus standing right there on the soft shoulder of the freeway. I swore up a storm, seriously freaking out about it. I didn't think there were animals that big outside of Alaska and Tattooine. But Merrill had seen nothing. A couple of miles later, there was a small doe standing beside the road . . . but Merrill didn't see that one either. Hmmm. I asked him if it was possible I hallucinated the monstrous elk, and he pointed out that there were deer crossing signs all over the Colorado freeways. He also asked me how to tell him many fingers he was holding up . . . but it turned out to be one.

Knowing that I'd be at my new job in just a handful of hours, I didn't feel like talking much, and when Merrill put on his headphones to listen to mp3s, I lost consciousness for a while. He awoke me by rolling the back window down, and since it was in the forties outside and I had shorts on, I couldn't go back to sleep after that. There were many twists and turns driving through canyons and gorges, and like I had been the day before (after six hours of driving or so), Merrill started to struggle with the road and the wheel. At some point, we switched again, and I had no problem with Merrill going to sleep. He must've been exhausted, because he made that seriously disturbing rasping noise you make when you pass out in a bathtub, on the stairs, or on an anthill. It sounded almost like a death rattle, except it happened every time he breathed. Poor guy.

But poor guy me, looking at the clock, my dreams of being able to take a quick nap before work were rapidly fleeting. Soon the sun began to rise and I thought about vampires and if I was one, how long I could drive before the light would kill me. Eventually, I got to the last CDs in the car--a couple of Oldies compilations I had made for my mother--but was too tired to sing along (except for "Midnight Train to Georgia," which I learned backup vocals to before the chorus, which is an uninteresting story I might someday regale you with).

Because I now live in the Land Of A Thousand Wal-marts, that is where we had parked Merrill's car (which is for sale if anybody has some loose change lying around), and I dropped him off to go home and sleep and headed to my job to go to work. I came in and changed my clothes in the bathroom, splashed some water on my face, and began my day. It wasn't really so bad, though I was a little punchy when it came to typing or remembering things.

In retrospect, I guess I could've done things differently to make it easier on myself. But it's fun to hang out with my friend and it's fun to see a band that I like, and I have the money to blow on high priced gasoline and equally high priced concert t-shirts. I don't know if it was a stupid trip to take or not, but it probably won't be the last one I go on.

I hope.

Rish "Lord I Was Born A Ramblin' Man" Outfield

*Actually, they may have played neither of these songs and I just can't remember right. Lack of sleep damages the brain, I've been told. Please substitute "Voices Inside My Head" and "Next To You" for those two examples.

**The last time I drove to Denver, I had to be home for the start of college classes the next day. My two passengers fell asleep after a while. About an hour before we were home, the guy in the passenger seat woke up, the sunrise hitting his face. He looked over to see me, driving the car, asleep at the wheel. He woke me up (rather loudly) and we switched places. I have no idea how long I had been asleep or how we survived.

P.S. P.S. In the days since I wrote this post, I went to see the Police again, this time in Las Vegas with Jeff and Emily. I gotta say, the show was a totally different experience than last week's show, even though literally every single song was the same. The environment was different and the crowd was so much more into it than Denver's was. We were singing along, dancing, and making merry. At the Denver show, it was all the crowd could do to keep from soiling themselves in will-sapped apathy. But hey, that's life, isn't it?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Buffy Wednesday (6-6-07)

I discovered that a child at tyranist's house refers to the days I come over as "Buffy Wednesdays" too. Children scare me.

I much prefer the summer over the winter, mostly because of the weather, but also because it seems I accomplish so much more with hours of extra daylight. When I get to tyranist's place--no matter how late I arrive--it's still light out and by the time he forcibly removes me from his house, there's no problem with icy roads or worries that my rapidly aging car will fail to start.

Recently, I found out that if I bring a movie over, I can convince The Captain to only watch one or two episodes of BTVS. This week, it was a weaker-than-average horror flick, UNREST. Expect my review of that one around September.

So, we caught two episodes where Faith played a major role. The first was called "Bad Girls," and in it, Faith's devil-make-care antics begin to rub off on Buffy (is Buffy her real name? Couldn't it be short for Belinda or Bethany or Buffadrona or something?). Faith, as we saw in "The Zeppo," gets an almost sexual thrill out of killing vampires, and convinces Buffy her experience is very similar. She unsuccessfully tries to convince Buffy that Slayers are better than other people and should be able to take and do whatever they please. I believe that I made a similar statement in another post, but it comes out kind of ugly when Faith says it, and Buffy feels strongly the other way. It's funny how much growth as a character Buffy has made in such a short while, but maybe it just takes a person like Faith to demonstrate that.

We're introduced to a group of vampires who dress like monks and wield swords. Also making an appearance is Balthazar, an immensely fat (and naked) demon. And Wesley, Giles's replacement as Watcher for Buffy makes his first appearance. No idea why Faith still doesn't have a Watcher, but hey, I don't write the show.

Wesley is so British and uptight that when he pees, it only comes out a drop at a time. He's stuffy and arrogant and in need of a good beating, but he's another of those characters who is merely an impediment to Buffy's happiness, and not a villianous soul. Also, he seems to find Cordelia attractive, which is amusing. Somebody told me that the actor who plays him, Alexis Denisof, married Alyson Hannigan in real life. So he must've done something right.

Speaking of Hannigan, it constantly surprises me how they manage to give Willow something interesting to do in every episode. This is sometimes the case with the other characters (though Cordelia and Angel tend to have the least interesting one scene business), but she must be a writers' favourite, 'cause there's always a moment, however brief, they give her to shine. In this one, she is jealous of Faith's influence on Buffy, and how the fact that they're Slayers gives them a bond she can't share with them. At least Buffy has to turn to her to get her studying done . . . except that in this episode she blows all of that off to go vanquish evil and/or party with Eliza Dushku, and that hurts Willow's feelings. Willow is sweet.

Tyranist either doesn't like Faith or ... maybe I'll rephrase.

Faith and Buffy are up to all kinds of tomfoolery, and even get arrested at one point (though they get themselves out of it with zero difficulty). The big moment in this show came toward the end where Faith stuck her stake into a man lurking about (despite Buffy's warning), only to find that it was not a vampire, but the mayor's all-too-human assistant. The big conflict between them has been brought to the forefront in as unsubtle a manner as possible. Buffy is shaken by it, Faith defends her accident, and later returns to dispose of the body alone.

I don't want to say that it was badly written--'cause it wasn't--but it seemed like a contrived situation to me. In the next episode, it's explained that the lackey was seeking out the Slayers (perhaps to warn them, perhaps to sell his secrets to them, perhaps to kill them himself, perhaps just because they looked pretty hot that night) and hence was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There was also a neat moment when Wesley is captured by Balthazar and before he can be tortured, or even threatened, he tells the demon what he wants to know, quite the opposite of what we've seen Giles do. Clearly we're not supposed to like his character (and we don't), but it'll be fun to see what they do with him. And if they can change our minds about him.

And speaking of our opinions changing about characters, the next episode, "Consequences," brings our girl Faith farther along a darker path than I certainly ever expected. For some reason, the mayor's lackey's death is a big piece of news in Sunnydale, which must be dirt-cheap to buy a house in, 'cause people are always showing up to be murdered.

Wesley thinks this murder should be investigated, and Buffy wonders whether she should tell someone what happened. The mayor figures out that a Slayer killed his assistant, and sends the police Faith and Buffy's way. Luckily, nobody remembers that they were arrested and got away a couple of days earlier.

Faith seems to feel remorse for killing the man, but then turns away from it and goes back to her "Slayers are above the law" attitude, especially when she finds out that the mayor has dealings with vampires. Buffy entrusts Willow with the truth, and decides to tell Giles as well. When she goes to the library, Faith is already there, and has told him what happened . . . that Buffy accidentally killed the mayor's aide.
At this moment, tyranist paused the DVD and we talked about it. It is what we would do every week during the commercials, were "Buffy" airing in real time. Since tyranist (The Captain) wields the remote control, he is the one who decides when we should talk about something, but sometimes I will ask him to pause it and he obliges, because I need a plotpoint cleared up or want to express how I'm feeling about something. In this case, we had a lot to talk about. Why did Faith go to Giles first? Was it because she knew Buffy well enough to know she'd be unable to keep the secret, or was it some kind of pre-emptive strike? Would Giles believe Faith over Buffy? If he did, would that be out of character? After all, Buffy had lied to everyone about Angel's return earlier in the season.

Well, we needn't have worried, because Giles saw through Faith's deception and only allows her to think that he believed her story. He wants to help her, but Wesley overhears and decides to turn Faith over to the Watchers' Council in England. The gang gets together to talk about what to do with Faith and Xander volunteers to go confront her about it. He thinks that he has a connection with her and reveals that he slept with her a couple of episodes back. Buffy sort of dismisses Xander's suggestion, understanding that sex doesn't mean to Faith what it means to . . . well, all the other characters.

In the next scene, Willow cries alone in a bathroom stall. Jesus, the poor girl.

I honestly don't know why she was so broken up by it. It's not something that tyranist and I talked about, and there's a good chance I'll never know.

I'm reminded of the "Firefly" episode "Heart of Gold," where Mal sleeps with . . . what was her name? Nandi, it was Nandi, the leader of a group of prostitutes. And Inara seems not only cool with it, but manages to insult Mal about when she catches him the morning after. Before we can judge her as too heartless, we see her alone, weeping uncontrollably in her bedroom, and at the end of the episode, she tells Captain Reynolds she's leaving the ship.

It's one of the most memorable moments in the short-lived show and definitely the most telling about Inara, though it has always struck me by its contradictory nature.

But in "Buffy," I just don't understand the Willow thing. Is it because she loved Xander first? Is it because they almost got together and had to separate for the good of their significant others? If so, she's gotta understand that while she got cute and cuddly Scott Evil back for plenty more non-carnal interaction, Xander got the one-two punch of jack and shit. Does it have something to do with the fact that she is not sleeping with Oz in lieu of a more Disney Channelesque relationship? Is it because she knows that Faith is a giant skank and is sad that Xander would sleep with that? Is it because . . . of all the roads not taken?

Like I said, I may never know.

So, back on "Consequences," Xander decides to go see Faith anyway. His attempts to get through to her fall on deaf ears, and first she tries to seduce him, and then, strangely enough, she begins to choke him. I thought it was just a sex thing, and then a power thing, but you know, she may well have actually killed him had Angel not shown up and popped her in the head with a baseball bat.

Sounds a bit like my high school Homecoming dance. Only with more romance and less rain.

Angel takes Faith to his non-sunlit hideout and chains her up. He tries to get through to her by telling her he knows what it's like to kill someone, and it looks like he's making headway, where Buffy and Xander could not. But then Wesley busts in with his Watcher Posse and restrain Angel while they take Faith into custody. In retrospect, Angel got off pretty easy, since the Watcher Posse knew he was a vampire, using crosses on him. They might have staked the guy as well, instead of throwing a net on him and leaving.

Faith manages to escape Wesley and Co., and Buffy knows just where she'll go: the docks. Buffy tells Faith to let her help, Faith tells Buffy to come over to the Dark Side with her ("with our combined strength we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the Buffyverse"), when suddenly, Trick and his vampires attack. Buffy saves Faith from being crushed, and Faith saves Buffy from Mr. Trick, staking him just in time.

All's well that ends well, and it appears Faith is going to be okay. Except then she goes to the mayor's office and volunteers to take over Mr. Trick's place in their sinister organisation. The End.

Nice dark stuff, kids, again written by Ms. Marti Noxon.

As I said in my very first "Buffy" post, I never found Angel interesting until he went bad. I have no idea how long Faith will stay bad (or even if she is truly bad, we'll see), but I am interested. Morally ambiguous characters can be fascinating, and I'm reminded of the X-men panel I went to where the writers said they had no interest in resurrecting (the saintly, heroic) Jean Grey because (the cunning, arrogant, and occasionally duplicitous) Emma Frost was infititely more fun to write. Hey, I ain't saying that Buffy is a boring character, but take that as you will.

Tyranist pointed out the other day that we're not even halfway through the series, and that's a good thing. We've got a week off between Buffy Wednesdays, but I can't wait to find out what happens next.

Rish "To Be Continued" Outfield

7 June 2007

I started a new job today. It's not far from my last job and the commute is only five minutes or so longer. I've got my own little desk with my own little view of trees and a street and nearby hills. The large windows along my wall let in a lot of light and if I stand up, I can see the holding pins at the rendering plant next door. of course, I can always close the blinds if I need to.

I can't say whether I'll be good at it or not, but it looks semi-promising. There's something kind of thrilling about a new job, in that you never know how it's gonna work out or what you will enjoy or grow to dread, who you'll befriend or despise, how long it will all last, and in what novel and surprising way you'll get fired.

When I was an extra, working on television, movies, and commercials, there was that newness and wonder practically every day. Plus, you got the extra thrill of being around filmmakers and often seeing the world's hottest chicks. Ay, I miss it.

Of course, working a real, five-days-a-week job, I could buy and sell Extra Rish (circa 2000, or 2005/06). But if he could see me now, he'd probably make an attempt on my life. Or just kill himself, which would be more sure. And easier.