28 February 2011

Going Home

This will, according to my current plans, eventually be a part of a novel, compiled of a series of 'essays' (for lack of a better word) written by the characters. However, for the time being it only exists in bits and pieces. This is one of those bits. ~ Kate

Why I drove that route home that night, I don't exactly know. Nobody's ever really frequented that road, not as long I can remember. It's what's known around here as the 'scenic route' -- country code for 'pretty much abandoned.'
Suddenly I saw a fox out of the corner of my eye along the side of the road. I slowed, but the crunching of the gravel under the truck's tires scared it and it bolted off the road onto a driveway.
I watched it run up the driveway's gentle curve to the the house. My truck's wheels followed.
The house was formerly baby blue, now a sort of washed-out grey. I could almost see the geraniums that used to add a bright splash to the paint near the foundation. Now though, the geraniums were gone, leaving in their place brown stalks nestled among frost-killed weeds.
I parked the truck, took the key out of the ignition, and got out. The bang of the door closing seemed like an explosion ripping through the undisturbed air.
I walked up to the front door in slow motion. The thick stillness around me seemed to prevent quick movement.
The white paint was peeling, the handle blackened by years of children's grubby hands pulling at it. I reached out my hand, now much larger and toughened from years of work, and gave the handle the lightest of touches. The door swung open.
Dinner was cooking. Roast and potatoes, if my nose could be trusted. Two of my younger brothers wrestled on the living room carpet, then my older sister came in and reprimanded them. I took off my coat and took a hanger from the closet.
The rusted wire nearly dissolved in my hands. And suddenly I was plunged back into a phantom of something only vaguely familiar.
I put my coat back on and hung what remained of the hanger back in the closet. The step forward raised a cloud of dust and dead flies that fell back to the ground almost immediately as if too tired to hover.
I went to the kitchen. One cupboard door lay on the ground, like a chameleon in the greyness. In the corner of the room was the staircase, the pantry beside it. Next to that was a window.
A nearly-black curtain of age had been drawn across it. I blew on it, but it did little to move the dust that had died there. I unlocked it and tried to push it open, but time had taken the lock's place. It wouldn't budge.
I went back outside and stood on the porch. The stillness in the house was beginning to smother me.
There was a sizable garden plot across from where I stood. Once my mother would harvest zucchinis, carrots, radishes, peas, potatoes... but now there were no vegetables, only weeds too disillusioned to attempt survival. Even the dirt was grey.
Wait. There was something growing along the garden's edge.
A marigold.
Bright orange against the grey. My father's hands were tending it, watering it, gently patting down the soil around it. And suddenly one of those hands was sharply snatched up.
A flash of metal in the summer sunlight... my father's hands pulled up until he was standing. The pure steel was so out of place against his tanned weathered hands.
He looked up into the face of a cop, who rattled off the rights in a serious tone as he handcuffed my father. I saw his mouth moving; I heard the drone of his voice; but the words were lost to shock. I heard Rosa sob behind me and instinctively put a hand on her shoulder.
"It's probably just a mistake," I said. "They're not arresting him for real, you'll see. He and Mom will get it straightened out."
Another sob escaped her. I couldn't be sure, but I thought I heard her say something. I was just about to ask her what when she said it again. And this time I caught it.
"She did it," she whispered through her tears. "She really did it."
I looked at her.
She was smiling.

25 February 2011

Music Day

I remember when this song first hit the radio, back when they actually played decent music on the local station and they knew where the boundaries were that separated 'fun song' from 'if I hear this one more time...'
It was my sister's favourite for a while and my parents bought the cassette tape. We would still have that cassette too, but it was lost in the my car accident.
This brings up an interesting little tidbit I discovered that I'd like to share with you. If you happen to be wondering if you are a true music nerd, here's a way to test it.
First, you get into a severe accident, total your car, nearly lose your own life. Second, discover that you lost the cassette you were listening to (which, naturally, happens to be your current favourite) as a result of this.
If you cry harder over the loss of the cassette than the loss of your car, you are a true music nerd. Congratulations! Now you have to hope the album is on the iTunes Store. Luckily for me it was.

Title: All Around The World
Artist: Raze
Album: Power
Year: 1999
This song used to be on YouTube, but unfortunately it's not anymore. So just buy it on iTunes here.

18 February 2011

Music Day

This week's song is one of the milder songs in my music library, but what it lacks in a thumping beat it makes up for in inspiration. It's not a spectacular song in any way, but it's nice when you want to relax a bit.

Title: 'The Unknown Soldier'
Artist: David Meece (featuring Twila Paris)
Album: 7
Year: 1985
Here it is on iTunes. I couldn't find it on YouTube though.

17 February 2011

Childhood Memory -- Sonic the Hedgehog

My first real exposure to video games was at my friend's house. I was about seven at the time, she was a year older. Some way or another she had gotten her hands on a 1992 Sega Genesis. It was missing a controller and she had only one game cartridge for it -- Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
Since there was only one controller, we would take turns -- one would play until they lost, then the other would play until they lost. It probably seemed unfair to both our parents since she owned the game and I did not, but the truth is we were fairly evenly matched, at least for the first few weeks.
In fact, I distinctly remember one time, not long after she'd acquired the system, when we decided to do a contest -- we would each play until we lost, as usual, but whoever scored the most points would be the 'winner.'
I wrote myself off almost right away. I could scarcely handle the controller, much less anticipate coming grenades and spikes. Still, I accepted the challenge, and we agreed that she would go first.
She played through both zones of the first level, Emerald Hill, and had conjured up a score of approximately eight thousand (I don't recall exactly). She lost early on in the first zone of Chemical Plant.
Then it was my turn.
She was very gracious, telling me when to watch out for robots and cliffs ahead. For the most part I managed to heed her advice, although my unfamiliarity with the controller got me into several scrapes, which, when you're seven years old, frustrate the heck out of you.
Still, I finished out both zones of the level, defeating the Boss with her help. I freed the little critters and the final score was tallied... and I came out with over ten thousand points. It wasn't all that much more than she had, but to our seven and eight-year old minds, it was quite an impressive score (I, for one, was just impressed that I had actually finished the level).
After a few weeks though, her skill began to surpass mine. Luckily for her I was content to watch her play for the most part, without feeling shunned so long as she didn't completely stop talking to me.
One day while I was watching her play, several weeks later, she had scraped together eighteen lives and was doing rather well.
Until she reached the pillars.
Even now on my iPod touch, I have yet to make it past the second zone of Chemical Plant so I have no idea which level she was on -- seven or eight I imagine. Early in this level there were some pillars that would go up and then come crashing down, stomping like the feet of some metallic Bigfoot. There were, if memory serves, about four in a row and it was very much a matter of timing to get past them.
She mistimed her leap under the first one and Sonic was crushed. No matter -- she still had seventeen lives. She was returned to the beginning of the level and soon had made her way back to the pillars.
Another attempt -- and again poor Sonic was crushed.
Back to the start of the level. Get to the pillars. Wait... psych up... deep breaths... fingers poised on the buttons... and press.
Sonic was crushed again. Now my friend had fifteen chances remaining.
Her fourth attempt failed, as did the fifth and sixth and seventh and eighth.
She had gotten past this level before and so was getting increasingly frustrated. I was frustrated too, for her sake, but was careful not to belittle her. It was obviously very difficult and I didn't want to ruin her concentration.
However, no matter when she made her leap, the pillar always came down and crushed the ever-resilient Sonic.
By the time she had whittled the number of lives remaining down to seven or so, it suddenly began to strike us as funny. We began to smile and even to snicker. By the time she had gotten down to five lives remaining, we were starting to laugh.
Four lives remaining... three... and we began to laugh harder every time Sonic was crushed by the pillar. Insensitive perhaps, but by the time we reached the second-last life, she was laughing too hard to try to time the leap properly and Sonic was crushed yet again. Of course this made it even funnier.
Poor Sonic didn't stand a chance on his last life; my friend and I were nearly paralysed with laughter by that point. He was crushed for the final time and the game was over.
I remember the two of us bragging to her mother several minutes later about how she'd just lost eighteen lives in the exact same place on the same level. I wonder if she thought we were sadists or something for laughing so hard at that.
One thing's for sure... I've never before or since had such a good time losing a video game.

11 February 2011

Music Day

This is my absolute favourite song right now. I can't get enough of it. It's like a time machine all neatly wrapped up in a package of five minutes and twenty-two seconds, taking me back to my childhood listening to this song (among many, many others) with my dad. He's the one who turned me into a music nerd in the first place. (Now you know who to blame.)
Not only is the song good (or perhaps that's just my nostalgic bias talking), the cover art is fun to look at. I think I can honestly say it's my favourite album cover. Something about that retro sci-fi look fascinates me.
Title: 'Holding On (First Love)'
Artist: The Imperials
Album: ...This Year's Model
Year: 1987

I couldn't find it on YouTube (although I did find that if you type 'The Imperials' into the YouTube search box you get nothing but Star Wars clips, regardless of what song/album titles you type afterwards), but here it is on iTunes (assuming your version of iTunes is working better than mine has been lately).
Bonus Song: If you'd really like an eighties' kick, go to this album on the iTunes Store and once you've bought Holding On (First Love), buy the second song, Fallin'. Don't say I didn't warn you.

07 February 2011

Music Day

Happy belated Music Day to you all!
This week we're going to the rock playlist. I discovered this band at a concert this summer and have become a bit obsessed with their music (especially the debut album). It's like Skillet without the annoyingly raspy voice. I'm quite disappointed with their latest EP though... hopefully the next album is a return to their hard rock roots.
Title: 'Sorrow'
Artist: Flyleaf
Album: Flyleaf
Year: 2005


04 February 2011

Music Day?

It's Friday!
And that's Music Day here in the asylum, but unfortunately there seems to be a problem with the iTunes Store. That or the computer's acting up again.
Either way, this means I can't get at the iTunes link to the song I was planning on posting today. As a result, Music Day is postponed until the iTunes Store and/or the computer gets its act together.
My apologies for the inconvenience, and be assured that I will post the day's song as soon as I can get at the link for it, although depending where the problem lies, it may be Sunday before that happens...