Jersey Derby story online

I updated the “My Work” page with a link to the article I wrote about New Jersey-based roller derby, in case you’re interested in checking it out.

If there is a sport I was healthy and badass enough to participate in, it would be roller derby.

I spent a year or so traveling to games all over New Jersey and Pennsylvania (the pictures taken above come from a tournament held in PA). And what I saw were players working together to come up with strategies and score points. They were athletes; either starting out as “fresh meat” or seasoned veterans of the sport. And like any sport, there were rivalries and in-fighting, players splitting off to form new teams, gossip. But I never once got the impression that these people (they were women, men, transgender) didn’t take the sport seriously. Any professional wrestling-type vibe is fading away, fast. There is discussion of making it an Olympic sport – at least on an exhibition level.

And there’s this:

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Those are kids, they play co-ed, and they are awesome.

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Filed under Roller Derby, Weird NJ, Writing

Going Viral

Nope, not the flu.

A few weeks ago, there was a Twitter post from Eric Alper, which asked an innocent question: what movie disturbed you as a child? He often asks questions like this, and because I had a great example, I responded:

This is the scene in Invasion of the Body Snatchers when the results of an unfortunate man/dog pod combo come running up to the character played by Brooke Adams, who of course screams. What I shared was a gif file that shows the scene, and it’s really disturbing. You can see a video of it here.

I accidentally made this scene even more disturbing during my teens. I was changing channels on our old-school cable box (no remote). It was on top of our TV, so as I was reaching up to change channels from my spot on the floor, my face was right in front of the TV. And, as I passed the lone HBO channel we had back in the day, this creature was RIGHT THERE.

I screamed louder than Brooke and pulled the neck of red turtleneck I was wearing over my face, much to the amusement of my brother and mom, who were in the room at the time.

Haha.

So legit, this has always been a marker of disturbing movie scenes for me.

I responded to Eric’s post and went away for a bit. And then I came back to my iPad and saw my Twitter notifications were more active than they usually were. A lot more active.

Someone made a Twitter moment of the question and some of the responses, including mine. And since mine had a gif, and was really freaky and long forgotten/never seen by many, it blew up. Not like millions of impressions blowing up, but enough.

These were the results a day or so later:

Crazy. For one gif. I will likely never see this response again. Also notice that after all that, I gained one follower. So it’s fun to see people flip out over something you shared, but nobody is really taking it to the next step. And honestly, that’s okay with me. It’s not a life goal of mine to have thousands of followers. Some people ended up seeing a good sci-fi movie as a result. Works for me.

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Filed under Movies, Social Media, Writing

Following Annie

Yesterday I took a trip to two New Jersey towns–Blairstown and Hope–that were featured in scenes from the 1980 horror movie, Friday the 13th. Both appear early in the film, when we’re following the perky and independent Annie, who signed on to be the cook at Camp Crystal Lake and is getting there on a combination of foot power and hitchhiking.

My visit was for research, as I’m working on a story about the Blairstown connection for the next issue of Weird NJ. The museum in town has hosted movie-themed events for the past three Friday the 13ths, with the next one on schedule for April 13, 2018. So the story is about those events, but also a little bit about why these locations got their screen-time in the fall of 1979.

And yes, there are spoilers here for anyone who has never seen the movie.

I re-watched the movie twice in preparation for my visits. The last time I saw it was decades ago, probably on cable TV. But back then I just watched it for the scares, and even if I was aware that some of it was filmed in New Jersey I didn’t make it my focus. So now I watched as Annie stops at some old gas pumps to pet a dog, walks over a bridge, and walks past a few storefronts that have clearly seen better days. Today, it’s much nicer and has a variety of shops you can visit, plus the Blairstown Museum.

She goes through this cool walkway at one point. It looks like only the tiniest of people can walk upright in it, but it’s kind of like a Tardis.

And she walks down this street, past a performance venue called Roy’s Hall. In the movie, Roy’s Hall is painted red.

She stops in a restaurant (interior is from a location in Hope, I think) and asks how far it is to Camp Crystal Lake. The locals all look at her like she’s crazy, and one woman encouragingly refers to it as “Camp Blood.” But the friendly local oil tanker driver is willing to drop her off a little closer to her destination, so they leave. But only after Crazy Ralph comes up to them and tells Annie that she and the rest of the camp staff are “all gonna die up there.”

Annie is dropped off in front of this cemetery, which is in Hope.

I’ve been past this spot it many times before, as a kid on my way to my grandparents’ home in Knowlton, NJ. And it never clicked in my head that it was THAT cemetery. Or that we probably visited my grandparents in the fall of 1979, when they were filming the movie (though in Hardwick – at the camp where most of the slashing takes place).

This is the last we see Annie among people she can trust. She soon hitches one last ride, and despite her sweet charm, she can’t make the driver, aka Pam Voorhees, aka the killer, aka not Jason, understand that. She’s just one of a new crop of teenagers that must die. I didn’t visit the locations where these final scenes from Annie’s life were filmed – there’s nothing really distinct about them that would stand out today. Wooded roadways are wooded roadways.

This most recent viewing of the film has established Annie’s character as one of my favorites. I suspect that if she had been a counselor at Camp Crystal Lake in 1958, she would have kept an eye on Jason.

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Filed under Cemeteries, Horror, Movies, Weird NJ

A year of not posting

I see I haven’t posted here in almost a year. Like a lot of people, I’ve been a tad distracted, and not busy enough writing. A quick list of what’s happened:

1. Post-election freakout and obsession over the direction my country is headed in. It’s been taking up a lot of headspace.

2. Participation in the Women’s March on January 21. I was awake for almost 24 hours straight. I’m still amazed at the experience.


3. A trip to a resort in the Caribbean that I would never have been able to afford on my own. 


4. Dealing with the aftermath of my significant other’s severe ski injury right after getting back from #3, plus the resulting money concerns that are ongoing.

5. The death of one of my beloved pets, which is still too painful to write about. 


6. The completion of a story on roller derby that is appearing in issue #49 of Weird NJ. This involved a lot of travel around the state, and I learned a lot about an amazing community of people. 


7. The completion of two online writing classes; one on weird fiction and another on writing into the body. I fear I’ve been too distracted by other things to have participated the way I should have. 

There’s more, too. I could have been blogging like mad about any of it, but I’m having a hard time getting enthusiastic about writing…and many other things. 

But for now, at least there’s this, right?

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An update on KD

About a year ago, I wrote about KD Cyr, a young woman and fellow lover of the weird who died in a car crash. I wanted to let you know that you can learn more about her through the website that her family created not only to mourn her loss but to also celebrate her many talents. Please take the time to check it out.

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Filed under Death, Weird NJ

Home State Hauntings now in print

Today I was surprised to find out that an eBook that features a lot of my writing and editing has become a printed “special issue” of Weird NJ. Home State Hauntings: True Stories of Ghostly Places in New Jersey is available through the magazine’s online store, as well as their Amazon store. As you can guess, it’s about ghosts in New Jersey.

I believe it has the same content as the eBook: Just a different format for you luddites out there. With illustrations by the always amazing Ryan Doan.

Trees have died so that you may have this.

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Sunflower


I planted a few sunflowers from seed in my veggie garden this year and this is one of only two that managed to fight through the weeds into flower status.  I already see little birds eyeing this one up, so I took a photo for posterity. Next year I’ll try to plant more. 

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Being quiet near a little stream

One of my favorite websites is Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings. And an image that frequently pops up on the site is this:

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The artist is Maurice Sendak and it appears in the book “Open House for Butterflies,” one of many he collaborated on with author Ruth Krauss. Every time I see it, my heart is glad because it’s dead solid good advice.

I’m lucky to have a little stream to be quiet near and listen. Though the stream is technically a creek: Wawayanda Creek, to be exact. And this is what it looks like:

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The Wawayanda going past Pacem’s mill-turned-concert-hall. Photo by me.

It meanders through an outdoor sculpture park called Pacem In Terris in Warwick, NY. It features the work of Frederick Franck, who along with his wife, Claske, opened it up as a park/museum in 1965. He lived there until his death in 2006.

I’ve been volunteering at Pacem for about 12 years, spending about one Saturday a month during the spring/summer/fall doing what we call “watch,” though that makes it sound a lot more serious than it actually is. I open the place up, stay there all day to make sure that visitors behave themselves, and then close it down at the end of the day. Sometimes I sell books, prints, or postcards that are available for purchase. Sometimes I recommend nearby restaurants.

It’s not all about that, though. In the course of an average day there, I have time to meander, to write in my journal, and to take photos (not of the artwork so much as everyday things that are also there). And I have time to sit by the Wawayanda and listen.

It’s a distinct white noise, made more deliberate than a stream thanks to the small waterfall that intersects the creek about halfway along the property. The air around it is tinged with a metallic smell that I love to inhale. Sometimes, after a rough week, it’s like breathing after being under water a tad too long.

It’s very easy to take Ruth’s and Maurice’s advice seriously there.

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Rabbit Tree Redux

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It’s been 18 years since some photos I took of the Rabbit Tree in Vernon Township were published in the May 1998 issue of Weird N.J. These photos taken last weekend show that it hasn’t changed that much, except that somebody unhelpfully decided to spray paint over the “eyes” and “nose” of the rabbit, in case you couldn’t figure that out from just standing there looking at it. *Sigh.* Anyway, it looks pretty surrounded by the phlox.

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Filed under Weird, Weird NJ

Katie in Death’s Garden

My story, Katie Likes Flowers, was recently published on the Cemetery Travel: Adventures in Graveyards Around the World website, as part of the Death’s Garden project by Loren Rhoads. Check out the story and take the time to read the other posts on the website, which features stories about cemeteries, graveyards, and how death impacts life. It’s all really amazing.

And thank you, Loren!

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Filed under Cemeteries, Weird, Weird NJ