Another Descent Into...
My Breakfast With Chris Jacques-
*In James Lipton voice* I would like to share with you reader a recent blog post from my next guest. I feel as if this one of the most heartfelt, passionate writings I have read in quite awhile.
I hate to beat a dead horse, especially when that dead horse is my father. For a single man, a man who didn’t do a ton while he was here and a man who lived a rather short life, I sure do write about him a lot. But he has to be here, this time at least, as he figures into this story, too. He figures into a lot of them, it seems. I guess that, despite not living a life full of the fame and grand importance he wanted, he did live one of being loved by his friends and having an incredibly keen sense of dramatic entrances and exits.
Well, this story begins with one of his exits. He died on the 11th of August, 1992…or maybe the morning of the 12th, about 1:45 am. That, I don’t remember. We had the funeral, and Mr. & Mrs. Winston both showed up…
…quick aside: for the 2nd 1/2 of my 4th grade school-year, and all of my 5th grade school year, I was plucked out of the public school system and placed in a school called Samaritan House for Boys. It was a Christian school for wayward and unruly youth, where corporal punishment was dealt with glee. Mr. and Mrs. Winston were the housemasters there, along with their little poodle, a cute black pup named Deuteronomy.
I got sent there because I might very well have been an absolute monster of a child, although the years pass and it seems more like the coincidence of my arrival at the school and our family’s conversion from the Catholic to Lutheran faiths (and the connection that our Lutheran church had with this school) was much more expertly orchestrated than I could have imagined.
Simply put, in 1990, my family went bankrupt. My dad was super sick and needed over $3000 of medications to keep him alive each month. My mom was a hard-working nurse with an insurance plan, but insurance has and always will only cover so much. The family doctors helped with free samples. The pharamacists helped with programs, generics where they could, bargains, running tabs, small, credit card-free monthly payments…and it still wasn’t enough. Dad had disability, Mom worked so hard that she gave up dreams of a great life (which she deserved and still deserves) to work her job and take care of the man she loved. She didn’t re-marry. She loved being a nurse with all of her heart, and she loved my father with more than that. She’s the best woman I’ll ever know, and she was ultimately powerless to do anything but watch him die that night. She stood there, screaming and crying and my father turned as pale as any flesh I’ve ever seen. He died, and she lost. Powerless.
12 days later, school had just begun, I believe. I was wearing my dad’s clothes to school (as I know I’ve mentioned before) because I got very fat very quickly. My mom didn’t even take time to grieve; she went right back to work after only a few days, right back to the hospital where we took my father, her husband to die. School had just begun, but they shut us down and were looking to evacuate the area, because a Category 5 hurricane called Andrew was heading straight for us.
The trajectory, as it had been for days prior, was for the eye to eventually make landfall over Jupiter, FL, which is about 35 miles south of where my family has lived for almost all of my life. My mother took me to work with her, as she’d undoubtedly have to work non-stop, should this hurricane hit. With no electricity, with scarce supplies and death everywhere, she’d have had to work to help the sick. If she was sick, injured, she’d have had to patch up and help everyone else…and she would. I don’t lie, and I don’t exaggerate when I say that my mother is the best woman I’ll ever know; she has since retired from nursing, but in her day, she did it all, and she loved her job more than anyone I’ve ever met in any job they’ve ever performed.
We were staying in the Port St. Lucie Medical Center, the local hospital, and it was rated to sustain a Category 3 hurricane. We were expecting a 5, but I suppose the logic is that it’s somehow better to be in a place that might not completely blow over than one that will become toothpicks in the wind. I don’t remember sleeping that night; I remember my mom trying to sleep, but my eyes were glued to the Weather Channel. I do believe that this was the beginning of my obsession with the news, and with being a bit of a weather hound. For as awful a time as we were about to face, seeing that giant green doppler blob of death was strangely calming.
Eventually, I must’ve fallen asleep, though, and the next morning came. We weren’t ducking under anything, we weren’t hiding. I was being a cutesy boy with the nurses on staff and my mom was probably making her rounds…or maybe just sneaking a smoke break away from her son, Capt. Annoying! Either way, we weren’t dying…Homestead was. Overnight, and really within just a few hours, the storm took a sharp turn to the south-west, and that was that for Homestead, who was absolutely decimated by Andrew. If my hometown of Port St. Lucie, FL, still has visual remnants of the damage left behind by hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, a Cat. 2 and Cat. 3 respectively, Homestead must still have some obliterated sections of town…I hope not, but they weren’t a wealthy town from the start. We dodged a bullet, but that bullet still had to hit someone.
That was the first time I felt powerless. My dad died, and I thought that I just hadn’t prayed enough, hadn’t called in time, hadn’t given him the right meds, or enough of them. I feel like I did things wrong, like others might have done things wrong. I felt like we could’ve saved him…as much as he made me feel like an awful human being, we could’ve saved him, and I would have wanted that.
But Andrew had no conscience. I couldn’t even see the “God” in Andrew. It was a big, mean, unfathomable force of nature that was going to take everything anyone I knew had ever known and turn it to rubble, to ash and garbage. It turned south, just enough, but had it not, I could easily be dead. My mom, sister, so many people I had crushes on or loved…all could’ve been dead. And there was. Nothing. I could do.
Praying? How do I pray, with a clear conscience, for the hurricane to not hit us? That’s basically a prayer that asks for the storm to kill someone else! Who am I to pray for another’s murder?!? It’s out of the question…I still did it…but it’s out of the question.
No, I was powerless, and I’ve felt that way for plenty of storms since. I felt that way when I got cancer and didn’t know what kind of cancer I had. I feel powerless every time I step up on a stage and try to make people laugh, or cry or think or feel with my work. I barely even feel like I have a speck of power as I careen down the highway at 75 mph, just like the rest of the monsters with nowhere to go and only 5 seconds to get there.
But this week, this week was the worst. I have a friend. He or she remains nameless here, but I have a friend. My friend has a life that certainly leaves me dumbstruck and awestruck as what you’d definitely call a “rare” life, a “tough” life, a unique life on so many levels.
My friend had a decision to make this week, one of the hardest decisions a person can make. My friend, he or she had to give so much of what he or she is in making this decision that the decision alone could incapacitate a person. Not her or him; my friend lived through it, dealt with it, and is already following the plan set before him or herself.
Immediately, I offered my support. I’m a friend, a person who loves my friends and loves some of them more than most. This guy or girl is so close to me, so crucial to the composition of my heart that I don’t know what I’d do if this person were to be so drastically altered, changed, hurt, destroyed in any way…God forbid anything worse.
His/her choice was made, after careful consideration and steady, strong debate. That choice is now something in the past, something that lives every day but can not be revoked. It simply can’t be undone, untold, unheard, unexperienced. It, for lack of a better term that conjures up less sickening views than does the movie named after this word, is irreversible.
And there was nothing I could do. If it was a money thing, I didn’t have it to help. If it was an address, a physical support, I couldn’t make it in time. I’m currently unemployed; if I wasn’t, if I’d had the money, I’d have been the fool who gives his friends money to keep them afloat and help them succeed. Man or woman, money is not worth much to me when I have it. When I do, it’s there to make for good times with myself, my friends, my family. It’s there to help those I love. It’s there to be used to initiate change or simply just to plain ol’ buy some fuckin’ painkillers if I can score them, because Vicodin is awesome and I have no shame in saying that. Those…those don’t make me feel powerless. I can’t come to save my life on them, but I’ll have a boner that’d last through a stutterer’s reading of War and Peace.
I had none, so I gave him my support. I was broke, so she got my encouragement and the knowledge that I have her back, would get in a fist-fight and go to jail for a night for him. There was so much more than that, though.
I became 12 again on Monday night, into Tuesday. I, the man who feels pain in believing that there’s a God in this world, got down on my knees and prayed. I offered my legs to God, because I want my arms to be able to right and touch the faces (and occasionally boobs) of the people I love). I offered my stake in that friendship: if God would just save him, save her from what was about to come, I’d never talk to that person again. If it was me, God, I’d have let you put me through so much more pain. I’d have gone to Hell if you’d have let my friend know true Heaven.
I said something I haven’t said in a long time, and I meant it more than I ever have.
“Save *******, God. Save ******** tonight and I will lay down my life for you. Take it, or ask me to live as a preacher of your word. I will give you everything of me. Please God, just don’t let this happen!”
I’ve never felt so powerless in my life. I knew that the wheels were in motion, that just like when I was powerless to save my cat’s life in 2002, because I was broke and couldn’t afford the tests that would need to be run on his frail, sickly body, I couldn’t save my friend because I was broke. Again. A decade later, and I still didn’t have the simple fucking quantity of money to save my friend, and as a result, everything I’d never want my friend to experience was on the nearest horizon.
I drank a lot that last Monday night. I did an episode of The Four Horsemen Podcast with some of my closest friends, and we had a great time. I stayed up the rest of the night, drank bottle after bottle of wine, didn’t get drunk, then went to work and the doctor’s office later that next day. My blood pressure was fantastic. Work was fantastic. I was anything but. I was powerless, adrift in the first breezes of a maelstrom that was coming to kill me, and I stayed up for over 2 days before my body would finally let me sleep.
I woke up the next day, and things were a little better. With each day, they’ve become better yet. Through it all, I have to remind myself that my friend is an adult, and adults don’t need to be saved. Maybe they need advice, people who love them, and people who will tell them the truth without destroying their hearts…but they don’t need saviors. And if they do, I have to resign myself to the knowledge that I can’t be that savior.
I saved one woman’s life, one time. Her name is Marie. I haven’t seen her in a decade, but I still think about her all the time. I can’t be the savior I want to be because I can’t take the weight on my heart of being responsible for rescued victims for the rest of my life. I am, after all, here to live a life of my own, too. And maybe, just like my friends and I never knew it, I don’t want to be saved and they might not want it, either. What’s better? Protection or peace?
This gentleman not only writes on his blog, http://xtopherjacques.wordpress.com/, he also co-host of The Four Horseman podcast, http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.blogtalkradio.com%2Fthefourhorsemen1%2F2010%2F04%2F27%2Fepisode-3&h=95596. He hails from the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia.
Ladies and Gentleman, would you please welcome...
I assume that the post in question was "Powerless," and if so, I really appreciate your opinion of it! Whether the quality is up to par or not, if I read or hear the word "heartfelt" in response to my work, it makes me very happy!
It wasn't hard to write, once I committed to finally throwing it down, I ran through and pounded it out in about 90 minutes or so, very few edits. I'm sure it shows all over my style, but I don't edit much. But then, that's not the question here, is it?...
...My take on the healthcare system is much like everyone's, I'd say, or at least like everyone whose current healthcare setup is sub-par, barely-affordable or non-existent. We do need radical reform of the healthcare system in the U.S., but I really feel that what was finally passed isn't going to do much of any good for anyone. I really hope I'm wrong and that it works as smoothly as the very best government programs ever have...one has to allow for that inefficiency! But overall, I think that the Democrats crafted a terrifying plan, and the stubborn Republicans did nothing to fix it, everything to fill it with pork payoffs, and then went into a corner to pout about it. It was a classic example of politicians doing their very best to COLLECTIVELY be the biggest assholes in the universe. They succeeded, and that just means that we the people get another big failure in our lives. So it goes, and so it sucks.
2. Tell me and my readers more about The Four Horsemen podcast. What other topics have you covered on the show? What are your future plans regarding the show?
The Four Horsemen is a project that makes me feel very fortunate. I've known the other guys in our team--Jerry Dennis, Jon Medina and Phil Grech--for half a decade at the very least, and we've always had a mutual admiration for each other's points of view and various passions and the way we wrote about them. Jerry's our podcasting mastermind, doing two other podcasts every single week, and The Four Horsemen came about as a result of a podcast Jon used to do a couple of years ago. Jerry loved it because it was free-form...we all loved it for that. So we put it together, Phil was the final piece of the puzzle, and that's us.
We'll cover everything, but so far we've covered music, movies, dealing with stress, coping with the death of loved ones, Brooke Shields, having sex with Simon Birch, politics, reflections on Columbine, 4/20 and the Oklahoma City bombing. And we're just getting warmed up! We're open to absolutely everything, so the future plans are very amorphous. I think we're all very comfortable with that.
3. What is that you LOVE about Philadelphia,if anything?
There's a lot to love about Philly! For the arrogance and a bit of stupidity that can make life here sad and tough on occasion, it's an awe-inspiringly beautiful city. The history here is as much as one will find in the U.S., pretty much, and it's an amazing thing to see. The rich people are definitely shitty and out of touch with the world; or not!
They talk only to each other and don't really care if we hear their conversations or not. It's in the news and on TV, and the only real info we middle-class folks get from the major media is dumbed down and interjected with more opinion than fact. It's weird like that, but it underestimates the undercurrent of very thoughtful, bright people with strong senses of a decent, yet truly human morality that are all over this city. This city focuses on its dumb, macho jerks, its mindlessly arrogant upper crust and its abject social failures. But for all of that, there are a lot of really cool people in this town. They have to be sought, but that's a fun thing about living here, too. Wow! Sorry about the rambling there!
4. Who influenced you to write? What are your favorite novels?
My mom influenced me early on, actually by being disinterested in my stuff. I felt I had a knack for it, and really just loved putting a pen or pencil to paper and writing until my hand was sore...then giving myself a minute to rest and doing it again! I don't know if she's come around to actually liking what I write, but she at least likes the fact that I write now, and I'm not going to press my luck any more than that!
As far as really getting motivated to make writing the love and the real work of my life, though, I have to thank Mr. Tickner and Dr. Trew, two high school English teachers of mine. Mr. Tickner always supported the fact that I was a different writer--whether my work was stunning or stunningly awful--and encouraged me to search for the writing voice within me, introducing me to stuff like ee cummings that really got me thinking. I don't particularly care for ee cummings, but his work was definitely a motivation for my desire to constantly play with the language, however I could.
Dr. Trew, on the other hand, introduced me to Beowulf. It remains my favorite story, though I love all manner of horror authors, love Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson, Tobias Wolff, Albert Camus, a touch of Ayn Rand, Hugh Nissenson, Terry Pratchett. I basically like drunks, dreamers, losers and lovers, and I think all of these folks fit those bills a bit, in one way or another.
5. Why atheism?
For me personally? I don't know. I suppose it's a convenient answer when the topic of religion comes up (or I forcefully bring it up) in conversation. More accurately, I'm trying to take a permanent vacation from God. When I was in high school, they called that "willful disobedience," and I got suspended for it a couple of times!
Basically, my experience has been that my belief in God is very childish. I used to pray, and I really thought that someone was up there, listening to me, who was going to help me. Time after time came, horrible thing after horrible thing, and those prayers never got answered. Not a single one, not ever. It wore on me, to the point where I felt I truly hated God. And then, I started saying I was an atheist, meant as a dig of sorts at God.
But despite my friends who I think are so bright, despite the women who have passed through my life that I wanted to have sex, relationships, love with so badly that I'd have said just about anything, including a booming decree of my untrue atheism, I do believe in God. I chalk it up a bit to just being raised in a Catholic, then Lutheran household, having a lot of religious talk in our house and just being immersed in the Christian culture as a child. But then, I do feel a little something more, something I can't explain...
...and that's ultimately where the "permanent vacation" begins to make sense in my life. I don't know for sure if I have an eternity somewhere else after this life. I don't know if I'm reincarnated, if my life energy takes another form, if I become a unicorn's foreskin or become a part of God him/her/itself. I have so many questions, so many doubts, and so many options in this world that I realized that nobody really knows what they're talking about with this stuff! We're all right! We're all wrong! We're all both, or neither!
Whatever the case, the "permanent vacation" is that I'm going to finish this life, living as though it's the only one I'll ever have. I want to focus my love on people who are here. I want to focus my energies on making this life, this world and my time here work as well as it possibly can. And worrying about the nature of a God, what that God has in store for me, questioning its will or, worse, spending time being angry or hurt by that God, are all things that take away from the loads of things there are to do here and now, both work and play. I doubt more with each day that, if there is a God who created us and all of this, and never came down to hang out with us in two millenia, or only gave us the vaguest clues...
...If God couldn't even come down and do a book tour or some autograph signings, I just really doubt that God wants us to think about what's going on beyond this life. And besides, if there's a Heaven, wouldn't you want it to be full of really awesome, loving, caring, cool, open-minded, bright people who made the most of the opportunities they had when they had them? I know I would; if Heaven is full of the fundamentalists of any religion I've seen, then I think my soul is actually begging to get sent to Hell right now!
Thank you very much, Mr. Jacques
Nightmare on Elm Street(1984)-
The next day, she finds out that her friend Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) experienced a similar dream involving the same sinister figure, but Nancy is convinced that all is well. That night, Tina, Nancy and her boyfriend Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp) have a sleep-over to make the distraught Tina feel better, as she is still troubled by her nightmare. Tina's rebellious boyfriend, Rod Lane (Nick Corri), crashes the party. He and Tina have sex in her mother's bedroom. However, Tina has another nightmare, and this time the killer catches her and murders her brutally. Rod wakes up to find Tina being cut open by invisible knives and then dragged up the wall and across the ceiling. Rod, being the only other person in the room at the time, is accused of the murder, flees the house and is caught the next day.
Nancy then has three violent nightmares in which she is viciously stalked, then attacked, by the same terrifying figure who attacked Tina. These nightmares cause her to talk to Rod in jail, who tells her what he saw in Tina's mother's bedroom, and also remarks he had a nightmare involving the fiend with the "knives for fingers". Much to the dismay of her mother Marge (Ronee Blakley), Nancy becomes increasingly convinced that the figure appearing in her dreams is the person who killed Tina. Nancy and a skeptical Glen rush to the police station late at night to talk to Rod, only to find that he's been strangled by his own bedsheets. To everyone except Nancy, it appears to be a suicide.
Nancy's mother takes her to a Dream Therapy Clinic to ensure she gets some sleep. Once again, she has a horrendous nightmare. This time, her arm is badly cut, but she finds that she has brought something out from her dream: the killer's battered hat. It arouses concern, but also other feelings in Marge, who is clearly hiding a secret. Eventually, while drunk, Marge reveals to Nancy that the owner of the hat, and the killer, was a man named Fred Krueger (Robert Englund), a child murderer who killed at least twenty children over a decade earlier. Furious, vengeful parents burned him alive in his boiler room hideout when he was released from prison on a technicality due to an improperly signed search warrant. Now, it appears he is manipulating the dreams of their children to exact his revenge from beyond the grave. Nancy's mother, however, reassures Nancy that Krueger cannot hurt anyone, pulling Krueger's bladed glove from a hiding place in the furnace as proof. Eventually, Marge installs bars on all the windows and begins to lock the door as "security".
Nancy and Glen devise a plan to catch Krueger, but when Glen falls asleep that night he is pulled into his bed and regurgitated as a spew of gore and bone. Nancy is left alone with Krueger after pulling him out of her dream into the real world. She runs around her house and forces him to run into booby traps she had set earlier. After setting Krueger on fire Nancy locks him in the basement and finally gets her father, police lieutenant Donald Thompson (John Saxon) and the rest of the police to help. After discovering that Krueger has escaped and that fiery footsteps lead upstairs, Nancy and her father witness Krueger smothering Marge with his flaming body, disappearing to leave her corpse to sink into the bed. After sending her father away, Nancy faces Krueger on her own and succeeds in destroying him by turning her back on him and draining him of all energy.
The scene changes to the next morning as Nancy gets in a car with Glen and the rest of her friends, on their way to school. Krueger possesses the car just as she gets in. The car drives away with Nancy screaming for her mother, and Marge being pulled through the door window by Krueger's bladed hand.
I know everyone and their brother has scene this movie so I'm not going to go into what worked and what didn't, we all know. For me personally, I see this as a girl's descent into(no pun intended) maddness. I mean you have this All-American gal who by the end of the movie is a couple sandwiches short of a picnic. I didn't pick up on this until I just watched the movie again this evening. Oh sure, Freddy is the one people talk about, but it's Nancy who provides a perfect countermeasure to Krueger's evil deeds.
I declare Nightmare on Elm Street as the fifth member into the exclusive fraternity that is my HOF.