Monday, November 23, 2015

Dad's Dad

my father, Ernest Varga
My father just told me a story about his father, and how on this day in 1956 he died. My mother added details to the story that my father no longer remembered and hearing their combined recollection only cemented my understanding that death is just a transitive stage, a moment that leads us from this life to the next. It holds no more importance than that because it is the constant in all of our lives, the end which we should be prepared for, the final act that instills in us the necessary human characteristic of compassion.

It was a cerebral hemorrhage.Dad remembers that while he was at his bedside, his father's breathing was shallow and he could not speak or open his eyes. He did, however, do one thing that meant the world to my dad. It was there in that moment that dad's dad squeezed his son's hand for the last time. A hand squeeze can mean so much, but in this particular moment, as the 56 year old dying father touched the hand of his 28 year old son, he fulfilled my father's greatest desire.

My grandmother and grandfather, on my father's side, met in Chicago, having both emigrated from Austria to escape the stifling economic recession brought about in Europe after the end of the First World War. He, a day laborer, and she, a chamber maid, set out to earn their American dream, or at least I'd like to think that's what they did. The truth is I don't know. Neither does my dad, who now at age 87 has few warm memories of his family at that time to share. Listening to him talk about his childhood in the States is like listening to a timeline being read aloud. July 13, 1928, he is born, followed by his sister two-and-one-half years later. A half year after that, his mother took her children back to Austria, without their father who remained in Chicago for reasons unknown but based on the story my father told me today, it was in all probability so he could live the life of a bachelor again without a wife complaining about his drinking.

After leaving Chicago, dad had no contact with his father, a man whom his mother constantly reminded was very close with his son for the three years of his life before they left. As strange as it seems to consider a father who is very close to his son letting him slip away like that, another three years later my father would be abandoned by his mother as well when she returned to Chicago, leaving her two children to be raised by their aunt and uncle in a land that would soon host the Second World War. My father still cries when he remembers going to the train station with his mother and aunt and sister, and pleading with her to let him come along. He is six years old in that moment, has had to learn two languages, and both parents have said goodbye to him. Seeing how withdrawn he becomes from the relating of these events, I can only conclude they come from an empty place within him where he keeps his indescribable pain.

It is here that his life ceases to be the annotations of hash marks on a time line and becomes warm and rich with memories he shares. He and his cousin were very close, almost like brothers, and enjoyed the benefits of life. As they grew, they not only ran and played and challenged and fought as all boys do, but they also watched changes that would redefine human history. With chalk they would mark with crude swastikas the siding of houses where secret meetings of the burgeoning Nazi party members in their village met. They waved goodbye to the Gypsy families from outside their village as they were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. They hurried home from school on the eve of the Anschluss to help make the requisite red flag with white circle and black swastika that all houses were required to display the next morning.

As an American citizen he could not join the Hitler Youth along with his friends, but he did receive a Red Cross care package every month which contained useful items in a country starved by a two-front war. He was forced at gunpoint to dig graves for Russian soldiers killed in fighting around his village, and was sent to live with other family members in Vienna when his citizenship status and proximity to ground fighting brought suspicions about his loyalty. While in the capitol city, he cowered one evening in the basement of an apartment building whose walls were shaken by the thunderous drone of Allied bombers, right before one of their bombs struck the building abutted to the one he was in. Through the darkened and dusty air, he assisted evacuating survivors from that other building through a hole was broken out of the shared foundation wall, pausing briefly to take note of a medic on the other side euthanizing a man who was too badly injured to be saved. And all of these things over all those years took place without a mother or father to rely on for comfort.

After the Second World War ended, my father and his sister returned to the United States to live with their parents together for the first time in 14 years. At age 17, my father was not only excited about going to America, he was especially keen to see his father, the man whom he was told once shared a close relationship with him. He did  meet the man, but not the father he dreamed of meeting. He was not close to him at all and their relationship never recovered. His father remained simply a working man. And with that perspective, to have this man on the last day of his life in 1956, reach out to his son whom he was reunited with eleven years previous, and finally squeeze his hand, was nothing short of a miracle.

Last night I had my mother and father over for an early thanksgiving supper with my family. This pre-festival is our tradition as my son from my first marriage spends the holiday with his mom. He is now 17, as was my father was when he came back to America. Diner was warm and cheerful, my wife was beautiful, our youngest son drew a picture for his grandparents. Mom corrected dad and dad watched over a portion of his family. The evening was wonderful and afterward my son and I talked about a good number of things, from American history, to dating girls, and whether or not his truck's brakes needed work. So simple, yet so satisfying.

What am I thankful for this Thanksgiving? I think you already know.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The final thoughts of Lt. Joseph "G.I. Joe" Gliniewicz after he went too far.

Aside from the names and events described, what follows is an entirely fictional story inspired by journalistic depictions from news media of the events of September 1, 2015, and the subsequent revelations and allegations of misconduct. No disrespect is meant to anyone, especially the Gliniewicz family, the Village of Fox Lake, Law Enforcement agencies, or youth outreach programs, nor is the story intended to tarnish the nearly 30 years of service that Lt. Gliniewicz provided to his community.

Hold on Joe, just hold on. Calm down... Think! think. It's not... I just need to think. Man did I fuck this up. Just hang on. Where's my gun? Dammit! Okay, think... It's gonna be fine, you just need to figure this out. You can do this. They never... they came close but you always came out on top... smelling like a fucking rose, man... None of 'em. Nobody figured it out yet. They got nothing on me. That scrawny bitch. She won't take me down. None of 'em will. I never stole nothing in my life, nothing I didn't deserve. Man, I just need to breathe. Come on, Joe. Breathe man! You got help on the way. Remember the story. Just stick to the story. Line of duty injury. That bitch. Man, fuck her. She's gonna take away what I earned? Fuck no. Christ this hurts. Move your arm, man. Come on, just move your arm. Move something... Come on. Move, man. Not much longer now. Help's coming. You're gonna retire. That party... I'm retiring sweetheart, no one's gonna find out, come on, just the tip... Air conditioning in there, man. Nice and cool. Fucking EMT's get air conditioning where they work... I'm sweating my balls off... Stay here. Just stay. Move something, man. A toe, anything. Something's wrong. Where's my gun? Scared the shit outta me when it went off... What happened, I know what I was doing. It just, I must have... too low. That's it. John fucking McClane did it. Clean, through and through. Hero time... I was just protecting the citizens... I'm a fucking hero. I do the job... thirty fucking years I did it. Fuck the Village Administrator and her whole fucking office... What the fuck is that. What gives her the right? Money? That's nothing. I'm here, sweating... Scared the shit outta me. Where's my gun? Man is it hot. Christ... if I could just move a little. It'll come back... I'll be back. Just breathe, Joe. Come on. Where's my backup? If my gun's under me that'll ruin it. I can't be on my gun. They took it from me and dropped it. So hot. Summertime on the Chain. Next time you shoot yourself... just a breeze would be nice. Come on, God. A little breeze. I'll make it right. It'll be okay.... You want me to say I'm sorry? Fuck yea, I'm sorry. Sorry I fucked this up. Fucking gun scared the shit outta me. Too soon, bitch. I wasn't ready. Just this last one. One more time, then I'm straight. No more. I got nothing more than what they owed me. That's all. Just a loaf of bread... if my kids was starving... just a loaf... it's fine, I'll be fine. I'm just bleeding... my fucking thumb... I musta let go. The round launched it off me. Good, good. My gun's over there, not next to me, perfect... Never shoot a gun with your thumb on the trigger. John McClane, man, he could do it. Right through the shoulder. Sure to miss, don't hit anything important. Christ... it went too deep. The vest. I shoulda thought about that. The vest was in the way. Next time. Loosen the Velcro. The muzzle... That's what did it. Thumb on the trigger... I couldn't balance it... no meeting for you Anne. I'm a hero. I got shot. When I get out I'll be retired. Stop worrying about the money I took, worry about finding my pension in the budget. The kids. I'll tell the kids what I did. They'll fucking build a statue... I squeezed too hard... damnit... how else? My vest. Shoulda taken it off. The vest wouldn't move away. How'm I gonna shoot myself in the fucking shoulder with the top of the vest in the way? ... I tried to push it out of the way. Damnit Joe! Take the vest off. You rushed it. Stuck the barrel in... tried to line the shot up... the collar bone, man. Shoot there... just like Die Hard. You squeezed the trigger asshole. What the fuck? Fucking idiot, man. Come on backup. I need you. Finally, a fucking breeze. Yea man, we're okay now. Nice and cool...too cool... Your dad's a hero, D.J.... Punks tried to shoot him... you can't kill G.I. Joe, man... he's lost a lotta blood but he's a fighter. You'll see. Your old man's a hero. That bullet went deep. Fuck man, that fucking bullet. Never put your thumb on the trigger and never use your pistol to pry your vest off your shoulder... Fucked up, man, I fucked up. Come on, man, open your eyes... No texts for you Anne. Can't make the meeting, I'm in the hospital. Leave him alone, he took a bullet for Fox Lake. He's a hero. He was here before you and he'll be here after you're just a bad memory. Just let him be. He's a hero. That bullet went too deep... Fuck me... No way I'm dying here. No fucking way. Where's my gun? Shit... I can't feel it. It was in my hand. No way I'm dying. I'm a hero. Clean up my stuff, man. I'd do it for you. Clean it up, throw it away. I'm dying, fuck I'm dying, I can't... I can't hear... no sirens man, I need backup! What's going on? It's almost done... Just get me home, I'll be fine. Just come get me... I'm sorry man, I fucked up. Don't let me... I'm just wounded. Don't leave me here. Come on, it's just money God. Don't let me die for that. I paid for it, man, I'm just doin' my job. Don't call my wife. I just need some time to figure this out. Just breathe man, just take it easy. A week from now you'll be sleeping in every day, Joe. All you gotta do is figure this out. I need to move... come on, Joe. You've been worse off... just a shoulder wound, maybe a little more. Get the mother fuckers that shot me. Remember the story man, stick to the story. You got shot in the line of duty, Fuck man, too late, you fuckers! Come get me! Where are you? I can't... I can't... I'm a hero... I'm a hero... Why now? Just money... Come on, man, breathe, why can't you breathe? Never use your thumb to shoot yourself. Tell the explorers... remember kids, not the thumb. Don't... loosen your vest first, kids, loosen your vest first so you can feel your collar bone. The EMT's are gonna take it off you anyway... no one will know you loosened it first... Just a clean shot... Yea, it's gonna hurt but getting pinched hurts worse... no one's gonna tell me to be in a meeting when I've been shot... I'm a hero... I'm a hero...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

tell us a little about yourself

I recently submitted a picture book manuscript to a publisher that uses an on-line submission form that's a clearing house for several publishers. To make my submission, first I had to create a profile, which required filling in lots and lots of answers to questions that were at the same time vague, yet needless. One of those questions asked for a third person biography statement explaining what events in your life were influential in becoming a writer.

That's a question deserving of a good answer, if you're a good writer.

"Whenever he looks back at his childhood, Edward can't help but bite his lip in anguish. So many wasted days redefining the phrase 'latchkey kid' while nursing on whatever was in the refrigerator and watching whatever was on the television. Mentally gifted, as evidenced by standardized tests, he grows larger while his true intelligence is masked by an apathy for school work. He is the third and last child in his family, the enormous baby of the litter, ignored by a brother and sister already set loose on the world, and by parents too busy with their own careers to have dinner with him at night. It was here in this emotional prison of abandonment where he begins to tell himself stories to make himself smile, and laugh, and shutter with excitement. Now is his time, today is his day, when the world will find out what he was doing with himself when he should have been playing baseball and taking piano lessons. You see, Edward has become a writer."

That's some serious Joker shit right there, leading to the next question, "Why so serious?"

Thursday, October 29, 2015

So a relative walks into my kitchen...

I want to be a writer, blah, blah, blah.

I've been saying it for years now and doing my best to follow all the salient advice I can find, especially that of writing and reading every day. Even with hard work, the shadow of doubt occasionally darkens my desk and I don't read or write as much as I should. It's times like these I give myself a break from the minimum requirements I set for myself daily (actually Stephen King set them) since I know that, "Working while discouraged makes for discouraging work." Like that? I just made it up. Quote me if you use it and include my twitter handle @edwardvarga if you would, please.

"Doubt is the hemlock of the creative mind."
(--Edward Varga @edwardvarga)

Seriously, I can make these up all day, but what does that last one mean? Well, to decide to end one's life, one must have a reason and a method. Doubt is both. In "Meet John Doe," Gary Cooper let the nation down and was on top of a tall building at midnight on Christmas Eve. Why didn't he jump? Capra had it scripted that way originally but for many the scene did the unspeakable, and that was to admit discouragement can, and is supposed to, win some times. What? Truth in cinema? Someone should come up with a name for that. (It's Cinéma Vérité, by the way)

I can speak with confidence when I say writers clothe themselves in discouragement. Right now I have a 10,000 word paranormal short story to finish editing, an 18,000 word science fiction story to finish editing, a steam punk middle grade novel at 30,000 words to finish writing, twenty picture book manuscripts, a 100,000 word YA novel, and a 35,000 word chapter book that no agent has picked up yet, a dozen or so flash fiction pieces looking for a home, and this blog post that I'm writing. Yet I have the balls to say, I'll never be good enough. When was the last time you told a story to a friend and they said, you should write a book. It was probably pretty recently because people say that shit all the time. That's encouragement!

Now to the point of this post. Something's been gnawing at me for a while and I've decided to come to terms with it as a way of applying salve to my wounded soul. My son is a senior in High School and after he graduates he wants to pursue film making. He is accepted at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, a top ten rated film school in the United States. He's been making amateur films since he was seven and I have the greatest hope he will do much with his natural talent. As his father, my greatest challenge now is to keep the discouragement off of him... and here comes my family.

Not all my family, mind you, as many of them are very supportive. There is just one, and every time she (I'm narrowing it down a little) talks about my son and his aspirations, she blurts out how it will be very hard for him to enter film so he shouldn't be disappointed if he doesn't make it. WTF, lady? Are you in film? (She's not, by the way) What's that? No, you're not? So do us all a favor and take a little sour grape break in the corner and relax while we encourage dreams, like making films, and writing stories. That last part is about me, and I feel a new quotable coming on.

"Success starts with a dream, not discouragement."
(--Edward Varga @edwardvarga)  

Whoever you are, I believe in you, and if you believe in yourself, you will make this easier for the both of us.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Okay, now what?

Writers need a better gauge to tell how their doing. A little over five years ago, when I embarked on this journey to become a creative writer, it was like going to college. There was a great deal of activity but I didn't feel like I was getting anywhere.

Now that some of my short stories are published, I'm getting the feeling I should be assuming the mantle of accomplishment, but I haven't. It's the role of being the child on bring your kid to work day and you sit at an empty desk and kind of scribble on a piece of paper presuming you are doing what everyone else is doing and you show it around to all of your parent's co-workers and they nod and smile and say how good your work is but only because they have to. In the end, weeks later when you are doing something else, you realize they were all just patronizing you because they had to and that feels pretty bad. I'm getting that same impression now, like I've written millions of words through the years and a few of them got nods of approval but none of that makes me a writer.

Seriously, how do I know that I'm on the right track?

What I'm wrestling with right now is not at all unlike the perils I went through as a single father. You keep your kid clean and fed, most of their homework gets done, and they don't speak some feral language of barks and growls they make up when lying in bed at night wondering why mommy left, but does that make you a good parent? The son I rose on my own will be going to college next year, having achieved a 30 ACT score, which they tell me is pretty good. He's a good looking kid who stays out of trouble and is charmingly shy around girls. Having churned our a good child is wonderful for the world at large, but does that make me a good parent? Some would say yes. I'm not so sure.

I used to be a radio DJ in Waukegan, Illinois, at WXLC-FM. Being the young kid fresh out of college, I did a lot of fill in and overnight work in the pre-smartphone-internet-satelite-tv-days of the early 1990's. When I would pull a Saturday night overnight that would end Sunday morning, I would be hard to wind down. At 5AM I'd walk to my car and feel wide awake in complete contrast to the deathlike silence that enveloped the world around me. No cars on the street, no stores open, not even a preacher on his way to church yet, Just me wondering if I did a good show and if anyone cared. Radio geeks will tell you about the ionosphere that surrounds the earth and how at night it acts kind of like a mirror, allowing AM radio frequencies to travel much farther than they do in the daytime. Using this phenomenon to clear my mind, I would start my car and try to find an AM radio station as far from me as possible to listen to on the way home. One particular early morning, I caught onto a station somewhere in Tennessee. It was a religious themed call-in show, and being a Sunday morning one hour ahead in time, was quite lively. A preacher of some sort was answering various listener's questions about the Bible and God, while spinning his own evangelical charm through the airwaves. Then a woman called with an uncharacteristically philosophical question.

She asked, "How do I know when I have made the changes I need to make to be a good Christian?" Now mind you, I'm a Catholic and such a question never cropped up in my mind. We go to church, give a little more at Christmas and Easter, and keep our questions to ourselves. Simple enough was my background that I couldn't wait to hear what the popular pastor had to say in response, and his answer remains to this day. He told the woman, in a syrupy southern accent that sounded like his studio was in a log cabin on top of a mountain, that what made her a good Christian was that she asked that question and always tried to make herself better.

Brilliant and depressing.

Equated into my life, I am a good Catholic if I keep asking how can I be better, I'm a good parent if I keep asking how can I be better, and I'm a good writer if I keep asking myself how I can be better.

Let's try that on for size. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

I am old

My son is at Boy Scout camp this week. Usually I look forward to this time of the summer as I get a break from being Dad to a teenaged boy. It's hard work, don't let anyone deceive you, but it's definitely worth it, the parenting, not the week off. Oh, hell, the week off is pretty sweet too. This year, however, it doesn't feel the same. This year, my son is seventeen years old, which means, this is his last year as a Boy Scout.

There really should be another step after Boy Scout. Next year he'll be going to college and honestly the term Boy makes you feel like you have more time than you actually do to prepare for your son going away. He's in the BOY scouts after all. I have plenty of time to adjust. Now I realize I do not. His mom left when he was three years old. I raised him. I remarried five years ago to a woman who accepted my son as her own. Life was good. She adopted a child from Haiti and we formed a family. I never wanted that to change. Too late, I have no choice, the clock wears horns and a red cape and it's hands are tiny pitch forks. My boy is no longer a boy, even though he is at Boy Scout camp.

Family night is on Wednesday, tomorrow. I'll make the drive and hike around looking at the stuff on my bad hip and wonky ankle. I didn't have those back when my son was a boy. Now he's becoming a man and everything on me is falling apart. Still, I'll go and look and show interest, even while my heart is breaking. I wish it would never end, what I have now, so I've decided to make it last as long as I can. How you ask? This year, unlike other years, I've written a letter to my son at camp. After reading what I said, I've decided to share it with the world. Click on the image to see the original, or read what I wrote below.

So, how’s the weather? Just kidding. Since I’ve never written you while at summer camp before, I thought I would take the opportunity while I still can.

Yes, the time has gone quickly since you began your scouting journey, but the time has not been wasted. The temptation to turn this message into a maudlin tome about me and how I sacrificed my life for you and how age has left me frail while making you strong is hard to resist, so I won’t. I am older and more frail and you are now taller than me and ready to head out to the world, and it’s not fair. I wish I was still the energetic dad that was your cubmaster back in the day and that our biggest challenge was losing to the Spence family in the pinewood derby with grace. It’s just not so, and I’m okay with it.

Why am I compliant to my age? The answer is simple. I did a good job raising you and for that I take full credit. Yes, you are impulsive and overly passionate, but as you move forward in life, you will find that people like you are in rare supply. Your intelligence and creative spirit are your best gifts and I know you are using them well, not only at camp, but in every aspect of your life. Eleonore just walked in and wants me to tell you that she misses you. She’s not the only one, but if she didn’t see me type that, she wouldn’t have left me alone. She’s good at that, making sure everyone in her life knows that she is there, just in case. I hope you turn out like that too, someday, always ready to help, knowing that service to others makes you a better person.

We are praying for you regularly and hope that you return the favor. No doubt you will question your faith if you haven’t already, and may even turn your back on it in the future. It’s okay, God’s shoulders are broad and He can carry quite the load, even if you do not help. Please remember, though, I got to this point only on the assistance of prayer and Paige. You’ve got the prayer, good luck finding your Paige. By the way, we’ve stayed out of your bedroom so far but I don’t know that we won’t find ourselves there eventually. ‘Wink’

Hey, your quasi-girlfriend messaged you on Facebook and called us “Dr. Snoop.” I guess that means she thinks we’re snooping. Blah, blah, blah. You guys think your messages are interesting, but please. People in comas are more interesting to “snoop” on. It does bring up an interesting point. Choose your words carefully in life. No matter what you’re talking about or who you’re talking to, someone will take your words more seriously than you mean them. Always be aware of other people’s feelings and be quick to apologize, even if you’ve done nothing wrong intentionally. Learn to be a healer and the world will give you many opportunities to be rewarded.

Oh well, I guess you need to go roast a squirrel over the camp director’s lighter or something, so I’ll wrap this up. We all love and miss you, and can’t wait to have you home to annoy us again. And be careful if there’s a skeeter on your peter... you might have to whack it off.

Your Dad


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

abreast of publication

The first book I read that was written by Stephen King was On Writing, his memoir/guide to becoming a writer. In some ways it reminded me of an anecdote attributed to John D. Rockefeller. A reporter is said to have asked the oil tycoon if he had any advice for someone looking to be as successful as he was. Rockefeller's answer was, wake up early every morning, work very hard all day, and strike oil. Reading the part of On Writing where Mr. King landed a six digit payment for the paperback rights to Carrie made me think of Mr. Rockefeller's quip.

Every day I read how the trend is for established writers to see less and less money for their work while being given the assignment of becoming their own side show barkers. Stephen King admits he was lucky enough to be in on the tail end of the golden age, where publishing was lavish and exciting, before self publishing and e-readers ruined it all. Just imagine the reclusive J.D. Salinger having to go on a book tour to promote his works, or trying to read the blog of William Faulkner. The times they are a chainging.

So how is a new writer like myself supposed to recapture the feeling of that golden age Stephen King wrote about? Maybe the answer is found by retracing the steps of Mr. King as described in his book. Since my mother does not smoke, I don't think I'll be able to recreate the scene where he and his brother take turns helping their mom hold a cigarette to her lips as she lay dying from cancer. Likewise I am not inclined to become a janitor and stare in wonder at the feminine product garbage can that was the inspiration for Carrie. There is one avenue of his, however, I thought suited me well.

Stephen King used to write short stories for Men's magazines. As a matter of fact, here's a copy of one of his first appearances. These were pages filled with nudes that were pale comparisons to the king-of-the-hill Playboy magazine. Not that glamorous or soaked with prestige, they did turn out to be fertile ground for him to practice his craft. Pennies on the word and copies of the magazine to sell on his own was his payment, a humble beginning for a great American writer. King admits in his book that such magazines are no longer in abundant supply, one of the reasons the golden age is over. Nudity drips out of the internet every day and as a culture we seem to have forgotten how to read, mostly.

Still, there are a few unique publications out there, and I found one of the greats of the genre. Bachelor Pad Magazine  pays tribute to the pre-Playboy era of men's magazines. Published quarterly, it focuses on the atomic age, busty women, tiki drinks, and playful semi-nudity. I submitted a story with a gangster theme that got rejected. As the publisher said, he had enough guy with a gun walks into a bar stuff. Then he asked what else I had. After I looked a little closer at his magazine, I wrote something just for it. Turns out, it was a pretty good fit and it just got published!

I'm sure Stephen King checks out my blog as soon as it's published, so let me offer a brief apology if I came off being cynical or otherwise disingenuous. He struck oil, a lot of it, but he also worked very hard every day. His is a good lesson for anyone wanting to achieve. But I would be remiss if I did not thank the true heroes that help creative writers get their start, women willing to take their clothes off for the camera. We owe a lot to you, and your skin.



Saturday, January 31, 2015

it's the end of the world as we know it

Do you think the end of the world will come at nighttime?
    Jim Stark: 
Uh-uh, at dawn.

That was how James Dean visualized the end of the world in the 50s teen angst expose', Rebel Without A Cause. Yawn. In that movie, reference to the end of the world is underused as simple foreshadowing. Plato's gonna die at dawn, we get it.

In a larger sense, however, media and popular culture references teach us how to know when things in our society are going well. When things are good, start dreaming about how it will all go to hell. The equilibrium of life requires there to be an end time. No matter who I've encountered in this life, everyone seems to have their own idea of how all that we have which we label civilization will be drained away from us, seemingly in a matter of seconds. Jerry Seinfeld said it best when he said he's always got a friend whose up and a friend whose down, but he's always in the middle. Could it be that Jerry Seinfeld is God?

By the way, yesterday was my birthday.

(So this is why we're examining the end of the world, Ed? No, of course not... Well, maybe.)

I'm actually reflecting on a book I just read called Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. (It's title comes from a graphic novel one of the characters is working on). In it, she paints an interesting picture of what takes place at the twilight's last gleaming, when a virus ravages the earth, wiping out mankind for the most part. It's even more chilling for me, since a short story I wrote two years ago, that just got published in an anthology, has a strikingly similar account of the end of humanity. I'm sure she didn't rip me off, or vice-versa, but those end of time stories all seem to share some common elements.  

Trying to imagine what the end of the world will look like, can be fun, in a haunted house kind of way. There is no shortage of possibilities presented in literature and media, and I started thinking about those which remain prominent in my head while reading Ms. Mandel's masterpiece. Let's take a look now at the depictions of the end which still manage to keep me up at night.

The Bible
The Book of Revelation is the first account most of us are familiar with when it comes to the end of time. Jesus blows the whistle, and all game play stops, usually with everything on fire. The lesson here is every moment has to be spent preparing for the end, so get off your ass, because the big man sees everything.

Time Enough At Last
Rod Serling did his best to deprive us of sleep with his ultra creepy television show, The Twilight Zone. As much as I hate him and CBS for scaring me on a regular basis, you gotta admit, his stories were fantastic. In, Time Enough At Last, our main character is a book worm who can't focus on anything else but reading. Driven into the vault at the bank where he works so he can read in privacy during lunch, he is the only one saved when nuclear war happens. Glad that he will no longer be bothered about his lust for reading, he gathers all the books he can and settles in for a post apocalyptic one man book club binge. Good plan, right? Ha ha, fate has a different idea as his uniquely thick glasses break before he can read word one. The lesson here is no one escapes the end.

Gone With The Wind
Oh, fidlee-dee. That's right Ms. O'Hara, worry about the details tomorrow, like every other spoiled white girl does. What's the worst that can happen? Oh, I don't know, maybe every man you marry dies, there's only one chicken left for you to feed the man that won't touch you, and the privileged world you knew full of pretty dresses and genteel parties crumbles to ash? Welcome to dystopia, southern-style. No zombies here, just Yankee carpetbaggers, which I suppose are like zombies since nothing can stop them. The lesson here, slavery is wrong. (like I had to tell you that.)

The Day After
If Jason Robards can't make it out in one piece, who will? The Day After was a must watch mini-series when I was in grade school. Kind of a modern day "War of the Worlds," ABC produced this program as a way of highlighting the perils of a post atomic winter world in which human turns against human and we all learn the importance of keeping canned food in our basements. Rumor has it a town in Georgia lost power just as the scenes of the nuclear weapon detonations were shown and a riot broke out. The lesson here is we should keep spare underwear with the canned food in the basement for the kids when they watch The Day After.

Logan's Run
In the future, it's a perfect world for the first 21 years of your life, then you report to a sleepshop to voluntarily end your life or a sandman will bust a cap in your ass. I'm not sure a perfect world will look like a seventies indoor shopping mall, but in Logan's Run, it does. All this happens because of a population control initiative that rivals Obamacare in it's strict societal application. Is it an end of the world tale? Of course it is, as runners can escape to the surface where the remnants of the old world still exist. The lesson here is look as good as you can as long as you can, then run like hell.

The Jetsons
No, I'm not crazy. I'm pretty smart and I'm sure the saturday morning cartoon show The Jetsons was not only a future equivalent of The Flintstones, it was also a warning of a post apocalyptic, ravaged by atomic war, earth. What's my evidence? First off, no one walks on the earth's crust anymore. Second, no one exposes themselves to the atmosphere, opting instead to rest comfortably in clear domes. Finally, all the buildings we see are on tall stilts, obviously because of the lingering radiation and rotting corpses in the rubble below. The lesson here, invest in stilt high rise construction companies, because the future looks sweet up there.

Night of the Comet
I saw this movie in high school and it spoke to me. A comet flies too close to earth and spreads instant destruction. The outcome of exposure; either you die and turn to dust instantly, or become a zombie, all in one night. Luckily, there are a few humans left, mostly attractive teenagers looking to get it on, just like me and my friends. The lesson here is, we'll make it man, just as long as all the parents die.

Chances are, the real end won't look anything like we imagined. I bet the dinosaurs didn't think we'd replace them. Hopefully, the zombies and mutually assured destruction and mutated viruses will stay away long enough for us to meet again, or at least long enough for us to watch Night Of The Living Dead, The Andromeda Strain, Mad Max, and I Am Legend, one more time.

And if the lights go out, and all forms of communication stop working, and you decide to show up at my doorstep with a copy of that God-awful movie, 2012 to watch while society collapses, I'll shoot your ass.