Space Zombies

Sometimes you read things in the newspaper about the economy and think wow, this really isn’t getting better at all, not even one little bit and even if I did get a job apparently I am in the minority (especially in print publishing, which just took one step closer to death as you read this) of over 40 y.o. professionals who got leveled as part of the first wave of the recession and just how tenuous is this job anyway and then you might run into a person or two who have been working for years at the company you just started working for and well, don’t they have a thing or two to say about the imminent collapse of the business based on all the company tea leaves they’ve been reading and so maybe you know ha-ha, good luck with nothing! And yeah the rational side of you knows that employees who have been working somewhere for awhile tend to be grousers, but Jeebus Christos, you just moved your family 3000 miles across the country to this beautiful place based on what you thought was a pretty good opportunity and so what if the grousers are right! Ah fuck! Out of work again!

I needed space zombies.

‘Cuz really now, if you wake up from deep space perma-slumber and your memory isn’t intact since you’ve been asleep for four years (maybe even more!) and then you slowly realize the giant spaceship you’re on has been taken over by zombies— and not just any zombies but modern, athletic zombies, not lumbering 60′s zombies— who want to eat you, well then compared to a little anxiety about job loss, well, the you have real problems. Pandorum is a pretty good little ride as zombie picture go. I streamed it the other night after listening to the aforementioned rant that provoked my anxiety. (I also knocked back a couple of tequila shots.)

After he wakes up, Claire’s ex-boyfriend from Six Feet Under (called “Bower” in this movie) crawls through a series of dark airshafts while digitally monitored by a captain with a beard (Alien); the spaceship is dark and wet and gritty and there are long serieses of tubes (Ted Stevens’ internet?) and chains hanging down everywhere (Alien again). What Claire’s ex-boyfriend finds is death, blood and monsters. (He also gets beat up by a girl who eventually becomes his friend, but that is all I am giving away.) Pandorum pays plenty of homage to all the sci-fi and spaceship thrillers that have gone before. To cite a few things: flashbacks to life on Future Earth are wet and dark and crowded (Blade Runner); cities of glass pods containing slumbering humans (a.k.a. zombie food) wired into life-support and covered in goo (Matrix); male and female protagonists jump through secret floor doors to escape certain death and find themselves up to their necks in water and space detritus (Star Wars); creepy, cute, doe-eyed and lethal zombie toddlers (Dawn of the Dead remake, Alien IV); the concept of an entire civilization sent into space b/c Earth has been tapped of all resources and order (WALL-E)— Jeebus, the more I think about it, the more I think this entire movie was an homage.

Then there was the unknown German actress (Antje Traue, see top image) playing the role that Milla Jovovich usually plays, a mixed martial arts guy on board to simulate video game zombie fight scenes and what looked to be enterprising, cost-saving usage of the old Waterworld set on some random backlot. So yeah, a few holes in the story, but mostly Pandorum is an ultra-violence filled good time that startled my troubles away.

If I had control over some space zombies, I think I would send them to attack some the grousers I know, cuz shut the f*ck up already, damn— life is uncertain, business is always changing, don’t get too comfortable and did I mention the volcano up the street??

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It’s Buckner Day, Where Were You?

I was in college and had a job as night security guy at an all-girls residence hall (insert wisecrack.) My portable tv was sitting on my little table at the entrance and I was riveted to the game. Two black guys waiting in the lobby for their girlfriends to come downstairs came over to my desk to watch with me. Turns out both guys were from the city. When the ball went through Buckner’s legs we jumped and high fived and hugged like we were lifetime friends, screaming “Mookie! Mookie! Mookie!”
One of my all time favorite memories ever. Still can’t believe it.
Posted in Baseball, Baseball Playoffs, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, Self-indulgant blather | Leave a comment

From Bellingham to Bizarro World

Bizarro World

(This should have been published earlier this year following trip back to NYC for the holidays.)

Back in New York City and everything felt the same, but everything felt different. Hadn’t been gone long enough for the place to feel foreign, and in fact walking in Brooklyn, taking my daughter to visit a friend, she and I walked pretty much the same commute we walked together for hundreds of mornings from Windsor Terrace to PS 107 and it seemed nothing had changed at all. Looking at us, well, she’d be taller, I’d carry slightly less wear and tear around the eyes, but really, we looked like we have since forever. It looked like home, it felt like home, like we’d never gone anywhere at all.

I have often said that if we never had to leave Manhattan, that if we never had children perhaps, we would still be there in the crappy rent-stabilized apartment (although a quick search of the old address shows me the old shitebox has been completely overhauled and the building has since been sold, so who knows) and maybe I would be employed by Sterling Publishing, which absorbed my former employer. So it sometimes was easy to imagine our own sort of Bizarro World— what might have been had we just made one or two decisions differently.

Returning to New York, particularly the areas of Manhattan around my old place on 25th between 6th & 7th, enabled me to see these alternate worlds of possibility, with along familiar streets scattered tendrils of time spent, decisions made, destinies deterred.  There’s Madison Square Park, where I first learned that there was this whole other, gentler city within the slambang city I knew, a place of brightly colored climbing equipment, swings, and cushioned outdoor surfaces for little people to land on. There’s Stuy Town, where we sought a two year refuge in a rock-bottom sublet that seems like a blink of an eye in hindsight. There’s that little 2BR we thought we were going to buy before the handshake deal turned into a series of unreturned phone calls and felt like a bad breakup— this attempt at playing the real estate game in the early aughts, of which I will say little save we were supremely naive and led to the realization that we needed more money in order to compete and this led to my pursuing leads for an art director job that paid more money and so on. And there’s the little Italian place where B and I had dinner the night we wondered aloud over bottles of wine and Bronzino in parchment paper if our lives were pretty much going to amount to working jobs, complaining about noisy neighbors, and watching The Sopranos. Should we, maybe, could we… a child? Mind’s eye shows that conversation and conception. And so, there was a child. With the child eventually came the need to find better shelter, more secure environs within the city.

Manhattan is New York City and Brooklyn is Brooklyn. (When you live in Brooklyn you still say “I’m in the city” when you are in Manhattan. When you live in Manhattan, you say “Brooklyn? Must we to go to Brooklyn?” This is a whole different column topic.) Four years in Brooklyn. A lifetime my daughter remembers, a cloudy space in which my son was born. At one point, four years was the distance from being a freshman to senior in high school. Eternity! In walking those city blocks again, after having lived in Washington a scant six months, it felt as if we hadn’t gone anywhere at all.

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Letter to the Editor

[My letter to the editor of the Bellingham Herald, didn't get printed cuz the editorial page editor told me it was too late to be included pre-election. (But, jeez, the editor actually contacted me…)]

To the Editor:

Many of Dino Rossi’s talking points reference the Obama Administration’s stimulus bill (the American Recovery and Reconstruction Act or ARRA) as having been an abysmal failure. As a direct beneficiary of ARRA dollars, I can tell you this is not the case.

When I was laid off from my job in the spring of 2008, I discovered I was eligible to receive a health insurance subsidy available through ARRA. This subsidy reduced my monthly insurance payments to around $300 for the 15 months in which I was jobless. Without ARRA, these payments for my family of four would have been around $1100 a month, a considerable strain on my bank accounts and stress level. Instead, with this peace of mind provided by the decreased expenses, I was able to focus on taking care of my children and searching nationwide for a new job.

My story has a happy ending, I found solid employment here in Bellingham. But millions of other unemployed workers are finding relief right now through the ARRA package touted as a “waste of taxpayer dollars” in Republican ads. Don’t believe it. The stimulus package helps millions of unemployed and their families every day.

Sincerely,

Kevin Baier

Bellingham

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Living Dangerously

The Accused

This mountain is going to kill me.

A picture of serene majesty and covered in snow all year long, Mount Baker is the cream-colored peak cresting above the foothills of the Cascade range that rise up just a few miles east of Bellingham. On a clear day the mountain can make for hazardous driving, at least for flatlanders like myself, who find themselves riveted by the sight of Mount Baker to the point of drifting off the highway. But this mountain is more than just the Northwest’s second highest peak (Seattle’s gargantuan Mount Rainier is tops) it is also a volcano. An active volcano.

Oh sure, I know that active volcanos aren’t really active volcanos (until they are) but when you’re a Back Easter used to volcanos being something other people worry about, you find yourself thinking occasionally just how much being near an active volcano might factor into things like real estate values, or one’s own mortality. Seriously, it could go off at anytime! OK, no. That’s exaggerating. (Is it? What about those poor bastards who lived near Mount Vesuvius? They had no idea they were about to become the world’s most famous corpses.)

Yes, Vesuvius was 1931 years ago and these days our trusty captains of science monitor these things all the time. Sensors and all types modern machines can feel miles away when something is brewing miles beneath the earth. Folks say Mount Baker is safe and isn’t likely to erupt, unlike sister Cascades volcano Mount St. Helens, which experts suspected of being likely to go off for decades before she blew in 1980. Still, to me, if there was no chance of my local volcano erupting than why can’t we just call it a passive volcano? Or a “domesticated” volcano? Something that might prevent you telling little white lies to your eight year-old who asks you, “well if the volcano isn’t going to blow up than why is it called an active volcano?”

Fear of an imminent, violent demise was certainly not the reason we left NYC. But family members who have told us they worry less about our safety that we live outside of the “terrorist bullseye”— well, you should all be advised that we are now living somewhere more dangerous. Living in New York, where people are always getting themselves murdered and robbed and bombs almost go off a few times a year, you ignore the horrific possibilities and come up with absurd rationalizations in your own mind to make yourself feel safer: what are the odds the bomb will go off on my rush hour F train?

Could Go Off at Anytime

And even if it does, well, if I am riding in the rear of the train, wouldn’t that increase the possibility that I will be able to escape the wreckage? Surely any well-organized suicide bomber (and fundamentalist jihadists are nothing if not well organized) would be blowing themselves up in the front car of a subway train to inflict maximum damage. I ride in the tail car, I’m golden.

Just ‘cuz we moved from the big city fraught with man made peril does not mean we have necesarily re-located somewhere safer. In Brooklyn, we assumed the various vigilant agencies were out there keeping the bombs from getting on trains, are there similar dedicated people out there making sure they know when the next mega-volcanic eruption might take place?

One day I would like to get up into them big Cascade hills and climb a mountain or two, but I am not about to go off and enter some crazy orienteering contest. We still have boxes to unpack, friends to find, work to figure out, shelves to build, kids to play with, trees to gape at, food to grill, all of which are excuses that keep me from climbing the mountain (or joining a gym for that matter.) So when I say this mountain is going to kill me for now I mean when I am driving the car or riding my bike and see the snow covered top peeking out over the city and I can’t stop looking at it cuz it is right there and it is a goddamn giant ass mountain with a couple of other craggy peaks nearby and I mean, really now, how can you not look at it. And when you’re up early and the sun is coloring the peak pink and orange and the air feels clean and good— WHOA!! You are in that roadside ditch. SKREETCH! You just barely stopped at that red light! I am telling you, this place is way more dangerous than riding the subway and riddled with reasons for sleepless nights: volcanic ash, 600º heat blasts, rivers of lava— all the trimmings of the apocalypse.

And don’t get me started on the rising oceans…

Posted in Anxiety, East Coast Ex-Pat, Pacific Northwest, Self-indulgant blather, Uncategorized, Volcano | 2 Comments

Phase One, In Which Doris Gets Her Oats…

I hated the Beatles throughout my early years as a music listener. I had been too overly soaked in popular Beatles songs from classic rock radio, stuffed with tales of how great they were from teachers and brainwashed kids from band class (shut up already about Sergeant Freaking Pepper already) to ever lend the band an unbiased ear. And while I wished Paul was really dead, John Lennon was the most annoying Beatle of all. It seemed everywhere I looked I saw that poster of him with the psychedelic glasses or the New York City t-shirt.

The teachers in my middle school, idealistic as they were nostalgic, had no interest in the pop music history— they were on a mission to “turn on” the new generation of kids to Lennon’s peaceful ideals— and portrayed him as a modern Gandhi that we could all relate to while attempting to impart lessons of social responsibility and civic engagement. The effect, naturally, was the opposite. Most kids ran towards the Clash, Dead Kennedys, and alcohol; the others embraced Ronald Reagan, Christianity, and alcohol, but either way everyone pissed off the authority figures.

I think John Lennon would have found that funny.

(Except the Christianity part.)

Posted in Beatles, John Lennon, Music, Self-indulgant blather | 2 Comments

The (Don’t) Swing Era

We are not in charge. (P.S. We're in charge.)

It is amazing what one single second of a post-season baseball game can do to a player, a fan base or an entire franchise. Pittsburgh Pirates fans will punch you directly in the face if you bring up the names Doug Drabek, Jose Lind or Sid Bream. The team has floundered since Bream, a noted slow-footed first baseman, somehow scored from second base on a weak single in the bottom of the ninth inning of the 7th game of the 1992 NL playoffs against the Atlanta Braves. Lind’s error allowed Bream to get to the plate in the first place and Drabek was the pitcher who walked Bream, thus forever soiling his own otherwise (mostly) solid career. Whether or not Bream actually touched home plate remains a matter of debate, as does the question of whether or not the Braves groundskeepers kept their outfield grass trimmed to legal height— something certain notable fans will argue was the culprit until the end of their days. What is for certain is that the Pirates have not been in the playoffs (or even had a winning record) since 1992 and the franchise has floundered ever since.

End of an Era

The moment that defined the Mets’ current state of abysmal is Carlos Beltran coming to bat with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning of the 7th game of the 2006 NL championship series. Down by a run with two outs, the almost-best hitter in the National League didn’t even move his bat as he watched St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright’s curveball strike three hit the catcher’s mitt. “You didn’t swing!” I screamed at the the television in our crappy Brooklyn apartment. “How can he not swing!” I asked B, sitting on the couch although her face was balanced in her hands on the coffee table. “Uhhhhhh…” said B.

“I can’t believe he didn’t swing!” I said again— last week.

Following each of the last four crappy seasons of Mets baseball I thought back to that moment and wondered what alternate reality may have been possible if Beltran had swung. It was a great freaking pitch, I usually think, but if he just sticks his bat out there, if he just takes a poke knowing it is an unhittable pitch but hoping to stay alive— then maybe he fouls it off. And if Beltran fouls it off, then he gets another pitch, this one less perfect than that one that was supposed to strike him out— and— it’s a ball. Now Wainwright is starting to think about how many pitches he’s thrown and lo and behold— he throws another ball. The count goes to 2-2. The pitcher’s concentration is slightly off now, he was ahead 0-2 and Beltran fouled off the most perfect pitch he could have thrown— so Wainwright thinks he can throw that same pitch one more time. He winds and pegs another curve almost exactly like the 0-2 pitch, but this time Beltran is thinking ahead— he’s got the trajectory of the Wainwright curve burned into his synapses and guesses on right on the re-creation the perfect pitch. This time Beltran aligns his swing just so and tags the pitch into the opposite field. Two runs score, the Mets go to the World Series. Beltran is a hero.

After two days off, the Mets regain their regular season mojo and trash the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Beltran is a legend. He rides the limo down the Canyon of Heroes in the NYC victory parade. B and I take our 5 year-old daughter to the parade. Jose Reyes is so excited he can’t sit still in a limo with the other players, instead he is runs up and down Broadway shaking hands and hugging little kids with smile brighter than all the lights at Shea Stadium. He signs my daughter’s shirt that we frame and hang it on our wall in Brooklyn and it moves with us to Bellingham, hanging on the wall right alongside the family photos. The Mets are winners. Willie Randolph is now in his fifth year managing the club and nobody dreams of replacing him, having guided the Mets to the playoffs three out of the last four seasons. The Mets couldn’t overcome the Yankees in the Series last year, but they still beat down the upstart Phillies again and again, always overcoming them in September just when the Phils think they have a division title sewn up. And once again, the new era of the winning Mets continues in 2010 as they face the Reds in the division series starting tonight.

Errr, no.

The Master of Disguise

I will sit in Bellingham and watch the 2010 post-season games and root for bad things to happen to the ridiculously blessed Phillies and Yankees, while hoping against hope for some magic to allow something weird to happen, like the Texas Rangers in a World Series. Simultaneously I will wonder who the new Mets GM will trade (Beltran for sure, but, say-it-ain’t-so Jose Reyes?), if the Mets owners were sincere in saying they are sorry for the latest litany of disasters and will leave the baseball people alone from now on, and whether or not they will the they re-hire Bobby Valentine (please!?) But mostly I will continue to obsess about the called third strike ended an era before it had even begun.

Posted in Baseball, Baseball Playoffs, East Coast Ex-Pat, Fantasy Baseball, New York Mets, Pacific Northwest, Self-indulgant blather, Uncategorized | Leave a comment