Remembering Return of the Living Dead

When I was six I went with my mother to a friend’s house.  This wasn’t unusual as the house belonged to her childhood friend who had twin sons my age who were now my friends.  I spent a significant chunk of my youth with and around that family, so being over at their house was business as usual.

What was not business as usual was the movie playing on this particular day.  Return of the Living Dead had come out the year before and their father had bought a copy of it on VHS just the night before.  And because he was kind of a sick twisted dick, he decided that playing the movie for a group of children ranging from three to 10 would be tons of fun.

The movie terrified me.  I mean, run out of the room screaming into my mother’s arms terrified.  And yet, it was also fascinating.  I’d never seen anything like it, literally.  I’d never seen what I now think of as typical 80s punk look:

A few years later I would try - and spectacularly fail - to replicate some of these looks in an attempt to look radical

A few years later I would try – and spectacularly fail – to replicate some of these looks in an attempt to look totally gnarly

I’d never seen a fully nude woman as Linnea Quigley’s character Trash does about 19 minutes into the film.

I’d never seen zombies or vast amounts of blood and gore and destruction.  I’d never seen a good guy, as I thought of dopey protagonist Freddy, turn bad and proceed to try to murder anyone around him.

The movie marked a lot of firsts for me, but perhaps it is most notable for being the movie that began my fascination with zombies.  Without seeing this movie 27 years ago, would I be working on my Zombies? Zombies! anthology today?  I really don’t think so.

And so when I saw today on Youtube that the entire movie is available streaming on the site, well, I couldn’t resist a walk down memory lane.  I watched the movie for a second time about 10 years ago and after watching it for a third time today I must say it holds up surprisingly well.  In my mind at least, but in my mind it’s been a hokey, silly experience since I was old enough not to be terrified of zombies anymore.

There’s really nothing hugely special about this outside of the morbid humor used at times, “Send more police” but it will always hold a special place in my heart.  It changed my life, which is kind of sad because it’s such a ridiculous movie, but I’m okay with that.  And so here it is in its glorious majesty, Return of the Living Dead


Cold Turkey Week 1 Recap

Well it’s been seven days and I did cave to a certain extent last night.  I had a couple of glasses of excellent scotch whiskey (The Glenlivet, yum) and drinking has always been my smoking weakness.  Even when I wasn’t a regular smoker, if I drank I smoked.  So after those couple of glasses, I shared a cigarette with my wife.  Just one.

And today, I’ve not felt a single craving.  I thought that moment of weakness might cause some sort of setback, but nope.  I feel good again.  Maybe the secret will be to just have one or two a week and stick with that.  I’ve gone a week with only half a cigarette while my wife has smoked about two packs.  I’ll take it.

Anyway, to celebrate 1 week since my last cigarette I created a special 7-day recap.  It’s fairly gif-heavy in what is hopefully a successful attempt at comedy, so I decided to put it on its own page.  Click here to check out my Cold Turkey Week 1 Recap and let me know what you think!

Cold Turkey, Day 6

Today has been rougher than I expected.  I’m not exactly sure what I expected, except maybe deep down I believed the battle would magically be over after 5 days without a cigarette. Even though I’ve read about nicotine withdrawal and I know it can take up to six months for symptoms to disappear, I didn’t expect the craving to be this strong six days on.

For example, it took me ten minutes to write that first paragraph, because I kept daydreaming about smoking a cigarette.

Kind of how I feel on day 6

Kind of how I feel on day 6

I may have been overconfident.  I’ve always considered myself a reluctant smoker for two major reasons.  I know what it can do to a person, as I saw firsthand with my father.  And cigarettes taste godawful.  I mean, horrible.  Unlike other smokers I’ve known and know, I never grew to enjoy the taste of burning tobacco.  For those two reasons, I guess I believed quitting would be a piece of cake after the first 48-72 hours of unpleasantness.

I guessed wrong, because I really want a cigarette.  If I stop and think about it I can feel my body reacting to the brain’s command to fulfill this chemical dependency.  My head starts to ache and I begin to feel nervous for no obvious reason.  I feel my body’s response to those nerves, a jolt of adrenaline that starts in my midsection and spreads through my body like little waves of lightning bolts.

I keep picturing myself on my front porch, cigarette in one hand, Kindle in the other.  No, today’s bitterly cold wind would spoil that.  The back patio, then, in the sun.  Part of me wants that very, very much.

That part of me is not going to receive what it wants, because there are currently no cigarettes in the house as my wife took them to work with her.  If there were, I think I would probably smoke one.  Just one, because the awful taste and the unpleasant dizziness/queasiness will remind me why I don’t like smoking in the first place.

But I won’t, because I got this.  A little nervousness?  Pshaw!  For some awful reason I feel nervous every time I’m in public, but that doesn’t stop me.  A minor headache?  Headaches end.

No, I don’t think I will smoke just one.  While I may want one, I certainly don’t need one.

I didn’t need them when I started smoking regularly either.  It was the summer of 2005 and I was working at Books-A-Million until the fall when I planned on getting involved full-time with the student newspaper.  That summer was probably the greatest of my life.

I had just returned from a semester spent in England.  I was in love with my future wife and though we lived in a crappy little apartment, it had the most amazingly large deck that was perfect for reading outside or having drinks with friends.  And thanks to working at Books-A-Million, I made some pretty awesome friends.

It was because of those friends that I became a regular smoker.  Or rather, it was because of my politeness toward those friends.  Many of my coworkers smoked and would often accumulate outside for smoke breaks.  I would join occasionally to give myself a break and get some fresh air, and inevitably bum a cigarette from one of my new friends.

Sneaking away and leaving Darcy, the nice, innocent eighteen-year-old or Jenny, a friend who didn’t smoke at the front counter became a thing between me and what were fast becoming two good friends.  And after a week of that, I started feeling really bad about bumming a couple of cigarettes a night from these guys, so I bought a pack.

“I’m just doing this so I don’t become a nuisance,” I told myself.  “Not because I need them.”

It’s as true today as it was then.  I’ve never smoked a cigarette because I need one.  And here’s to hoping I continue to refuse to smoke because I want one.  The problem is I’m just beginning to realize that I can kick the habit, defeat the withdrawals, get it completely out of my system and I will likely always want one.

And this pretty sums up my reaction to that.

And this pretty sums up my reaction to that.


Cold Turkey, Days 2-5

Okay, so deciding to quit smoking was a bit of a spontaneous decision.  Deciding to blog about it was also rather spontaneous.  What wasn’t spontaneous was the trip to Indianapolis we had planned for this past weekend, which put a bit of a wrinkle in my plans to write daily about that withdrawal.


No really, I’m going to be barrels of fun come tomorrow afternoon!

Also providing wrinkles: a day-long trip to the Children’s Museum which was a lot of fun but also incredibly frustrating with two kids who stayed up late the night before swimming, got up early to do more swimming and as a result were nearing their breaking points before we even set foot inside the museum.

There are two things that can drive me to madness faster than almost anything: my children being whiny and acting out in public and being confined in public with large crowds.  Both of these at once, while quitting an eight-year smoking habit?  All I can say is I feel incredibly proud of myself for not going insane.

That’s not to say I haven’t had my moments of being less than pleasant the last few days, but overall I’ve been very surprised at how easy quitting has been.  There were the moments of irritability, the anxiety, the withdrawal headache, and more.  But to be perfectly honest, they just weren’t that bad.

Like I said in the first post, it could be because I only smoked on average 5 cigarettes a day, but the few times I’ve tried to quit in the past have been hellish.  Especially the third day, when symptoms are often the worse.  So when I realized that the third day coincided with our trip to the Children’s Museum, I thought things were going to go horribly.

My wife begged me to wait until Monday to quit.  “I just want to have a nice weekend,” she told me Thursday night when I broke the news that I had smoked my last.  I couldn’t do that, I knew, because the strength to quit that seemingly came out of nowhere might not still be there on Monday.  I had made a decision and I needed to stick by it, even if it meant I was going to be a grumpy dick during a family outing.

Don't be fooled by the smile; lurking behind that pleasant facade is an expensive whine aged almost seven years.

Don’t be fooled by the smile; lurking behind that pleasant facade is an expensive whine aged almost seven years.

And while I was indeed a bit of a grumpy dick by the time 5 pm rolled around on Saturday, it wasn’t that bad.  I know I keep saying that, “it wasn’t that bad” but it really wasn’t!  Despite my children being tired and whiny, despite being rather tired myself from lack of sleep and lots of swimming/walking, despite the massive crowds pressing all around me causing my social anxiety to peak, and despite my wife seemingly deciding to make up for my quitting by smoking more often, it wasn’t that bad.

I have wanted a cigarette, but not as badly as I thought I would.  I even held my wife’s lit cigarette for her Friday evening while she was fishing something out of her purse, and while the thought to take a drag came to my mind, it was almost too easy to resist.  I keep waiting for some other shoe to drop, because this has been a piece of cake so far.  I hope it continues that way.

More to come tomorrow.  For real this time.

Cold Turkey, Day 1

Like just about any smoker, I’ve wanted to quit for almost as long as I’ve smoked.  Today, I decided to do it.  Cold turkey.  No gum and no patch; nothing but willpower and my general disgust of tobacco.

How can I quit these things?  Look how much fun I'm having!

How can I quit these things? Look how much fun I’m having!

This should not be difficult.  I’m not a heavy smoker, my intake being maybe five cigarettes a day on average, but that’s enough to feel the damage being done to my body.  Enough to know I don’t want to continue to do that damage.

I smoked my first cigarette when I was nine, trying to look cool in front of a group of kids a couple of years older than me.   It didn’t work because I didn’t know how to inhale.  I wouldn’t learn how until I was twelve.

I don’t remember how I got the pack, only that I somehow had a pack of cigarettes which meant I was king of the kids at Camelot Lanes this particular Friday night (my dad’s bowling league night).   A small group of us slipped behind the building to smoke, and an older kid – someone who wouldn’t have bothered with us were it not for the free cigarettes – finally taught me how to inhale.

It was awful.  Dizziness, headache, queasiness.  I didn’t understand how people claimed to enjoy the things, but I kept smoking them because smoking makes you cool, right?  And they didn’t get any better.  The headaches didn’t go away, so I handed the pack to the older kid and walked away from cigarettes.  Too gross.

A year later my father died of lung cancer, and watching that disease eat away his body was enough to keep me away from cigarettes the next several years.  Despite a summer spent hanging out with older kids, most of whom smoked.  Despite the majority of my friends in high school being smokers.  Despite almost all members of my immediate family smoking.  I stayed away, for the most part.

I’d have the occasional lone cigarette every once in a while in social situations or when drinking, but they were just too gross.  And I won’t lie, I enjoyed the bit of uniqueness I felt at being one of the few people in my group of friends who refused to get addicted.  As someone who spent a lot of time trying to fit in, I liked having something that made me stand out.

I finally became a regular smoker in the summer of 2005.  It felt a little like giving in to the inevitable.  Once again I was always around people who smoked.  My fiance, her friends, a few of my friends on campus, and many of my new co-workers.  That last group was the one to finally break down my non-smoking barrier.

I’ll write about that more tomorrow.  Save the past for the future, you might say.  Why you might say that I don’t know, but hey, you’re the one saying it.  Anyway, let’s get back to the present:

It’s 4:10 pm and I haven’t smoked a cigarette in sixteen hours.  I feel pretty good.  A little anxious, a little irritable, but those symptoms are to be expected.  I’ve “quit” a few times over the last few years and have experienced those before.  I know that what I’m feeling today is nothing compared to what I’ll be feeling tomorrow and that’s nothing compared to the hellish third day of quitting.

This won’t be like those other times, I hope.  Many of those times my wife and I would run out of pack and just decide to try not to buy another.  This time there’s a full pack in my wife’s purse, but I’ve just decided I’m done.  It’s not worth it.

Over the next week I’ll write about my struggle to quit and the withdrawal symptoms my body is putting me through.  I’ll also delve into more of the history of my smoking.  I hope by next Thursday I can report that my body is completely free of this terrible drug.

Wish me luck.

The Toddler’s Shoe Obsession

My son had what you might consider an unhealthy obsession with shoes from a young age.  It started with his teeth.  His first tooth came in at three months and they continued in what felt like a nonstop stream for the next three years.

Like most babies who start moving around, he would put anything he could find in his mouth.  It’s the baby handshake, like dogs sniffing each others butts.  Gabe would chew on just about anything he could find, but he took it to a whole new level with shoes.  His favorite were my thick leather flip-flops.  I quickly learned to put them on the shelf next to our front door after stepping into small puddles of cold drool, and then to find a better hiding place.

Remember when you were able to hide stuff from me on here?

Remember when you were able to hide stuff from me on here?

Those were his favorites, but a shoe was a shoe.  Once we learned to keep our shoes out of his reach he would take any lapse as a chance to stash one away for later, to do with as he would.

One night my wife was getting ready to go out with her friends.  It was the first time seeing her best friend in a couple of years and one of her first going out since having our son.  She had her outfit picked out and ready to go, but she couldn’t find her favorite pair of black flats.  We looked just about everywhere there was to look for those shoes – and in our first house there wasn’t a lot of space to look – but could only find one.  She eventually settled for a different pair and went on her way.

Two hours later, Gabe was getting tired but he was fighting sleep.  I was letting him run out any extra last burst of energy when I noticed he had been quiet for an awful long time.  I called his name, then stood up to notice that he’d somehow gotten through the baby-gate leading into the kitchen and den.

I started to walk that way when he came bustling into the living room in his patented shamble run.  Even though he was still trying to master the art of walking, my son insisted on running when he could, and it looked like (and sometimes was) disaster just waiting to happen.

“Mommy’s shoe, found!” he beamed as he bestowed upon me his trophy.  He was completely naked and in his hand was my wife’s missing shoe.

“Wow, good job buddy,” I started.  “Where did y-”

That was when I looked at the shoe.  I did a double take.  Then a triple take.

I got my son a diaper and put his pajamas back on him, and then I rushed to get my cell phone.  I texted my wife the following:

“The good news is, Gabe found your shoe.  The bad news is, he took a crap in it.”