So Long, Peter

A week before the seventh anniversary of Davy Jones’s death and just a little over a week after his own birthday, Peter Tork passed away.

I’m heartbroken.

I wrote about my attachment to The Monkees when I remembered Davy after his passing. Losing the guys is something I’ve dreaded for a long time. Losing Davy hurt badly. Losing Peter doesn’t hurt any less.

He was a brilliant musician and a gifted songwriter, something that goes terribly overlooked just because he was part of a band initially created for a TV show. He played a slew of instruments. He just had that natural talent for understanding them and playing them. I always felt that he was underused as a vocalist and songwriter in the band, as well. The other guys had songs that were catered to their voices and styles. Peter should have had more of that treatment. Maybe he wasn’t the strongest vocalists, but he had a sound that should have been heard more.

I have a lot of his solo and non-Monkees work. I adore Shoe Suede Blues. I love the stuff he did with James Lee Stanley.

And of course I’m forever grateful for the role he played in The Monkees as an actor and a musician and as one of the architects of the happy place that I started constructing back in 1986.

Blessings to you, Peter. Safe trip beyond the horizon.

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A Dead Neighbor on Sunday

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The Universe has an interesting sense of humor. Last Sunday, just days after I finished re-reading Deadhouse: Life in a Coroner’s Office and typing up a blog post for it (it’ll be up Friday), I found a dead body.

I took my cat Maudie Moo for a walk (our “walks” involved wandering around the yard together; Maudie likes it when her people are outside). At the end of our yard is a narrow alley and on the other side is the backyard of another house. It’s fenced in with a weird sort of chain link privacy fence that makes it difficult to see into the yard. I got down to the alley and walked down it a few feet, trying to lure my cat into the sun.

There I was, standing in the alley, singing along with Paul Simon on my iPod (“50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”) when I realized there was someone laying in the neighbor’s yard. At first, I was a little embarrassed that I’d been singing along without realizing someone was there. Then I realized the person that was there probably wasn’t in any condition to hear me. He was laying on his back next to his lawn mower, one arm outstretch, his other arm curled up with his hand on his chest. A water bottle stuck out from his sweatshirt pocket. He looked like he was napping, but I knew he probably wasn’t.

I approached the fence and asked him if he was okay. No answer. I got closer and asked again. Still no answer. I got right up to the fence, peering between the weird privacy slats that blocked the view but didn’t. He wasn’t moving. It didn’t look like he was breathing. His skin had a waxy look to it.

I figured he was dead, but I ran to the house and got Dad for a second opinion. He confirmed it (Dad is uncanny with his ability to determine death without taking a pulse; 25 years as a cop helped develop that skill) and called it in. I then sat back and watched as first police officers, fire rescue, and paramedics, then the coroner, dealt with the body, my dad holding court with all of them just as he had when he was still working.

Meanwhile, I was left to explain to the neighbors (and friends of the neighbors who were on vacation, but heard the call on the police scanner) what had happened. Near as we can figure, he’d been out mowing that morning between 10 and noon. Dad saw the mower out, but didn’t see him, which he didn’t think much of at the time. I found the body sometime later, around 4:30. Dad said the mower was in a different position than when he last saw it, so he probably came back out, maybe started the mower again, maybe even mowed some, and then collapsed. He’d been laying there for at least four to six hours. Rigor was already starting to set in, so he wasn’t long for the world after he collapsed. There probably wasn’t anything that could have been done for him. Speculation is that it was most likely a heart attack, but he’d been taken to the hospital last week for his blood sugar, so maybe that was the deciding factor. I’m not sure.

Carrie felt bad that the man collapsed and died in his backyard and no one noticed for several hours, but really, I think it was a blessing. He was a quiet man, not exactly social, though very nice when he did speak. If he’d died in his house, it might have been days (or longer) before anyone found him. I think that would have been worse. And really, it was a nice day to die in the yard. A little chilly and breezy, but sunny. Not much in the way of flies, if you want to get scientific about it.

People kept asking me if I was okay since I was the one that found the body, which one hand I found odd, but on the other hand, I appreciated. It was nice of them to ask, but I couldn’t understand why they thought I’d be upset. I didn’t know the neighbor very well. And as my personal beliefs dictate, the soul or spirit of the man was long gone by the time I found his corpse. That’s all it was. A corpse. Out of the ordinary, sure, but not traumatic.

This isn’t to say I didn’t feel bad. I did. It’s a shame. But I guess I’m just one of those people that doesn’t fall apart at the sight of a dead body. I suppose, with reading all of those books about death and decomposition, it makes sense.

However, I’m not immune to those weird human thoughts when confronted with death on a back lawn. At the time I’d been sick for over a week and I was still dealing with a cough. While standing at the fence, waiting for the circus to arrive, I kept coughing and every time I did, I thought it would get the dead man’s attention. And then later, a slight case of embarrassment set in when I was recounting the story to someone because I’d realized that I’d asked a dead man if he was all right. Of course, I wasn’t certain he was dead at the time, but still I felt a little silly admitting to people that I’d tried to start a conversation with a corpse.

And honestly, I felt less awkward trying to talk to a dead man than I did trying to talk to the living neighbors.

That’s because death is more natural than my socialization skills.

Remembering Davy

Davy Jones of The Monkees passed away on February 29, 2012 and he took with him to the great beyond my love, respect, and a little bit of my heart.

The Monkees are my favorite band. I make no secret of it and I admit it with pride. I love them. I love their TV show. I love their music. I love them individually and together.

I first became acquainted with The Monkees during their 20th anniversary tour. I was six and it was love at first sight and sound. Davy was my first favorite (over the years, they’ve each been my favorite to the point that now I can’t really pick). He was cute, he was small, he had a tambourine…what more could a six year old ask for?

Mom let me watch the show in the afternoons when everyone else had to be outside playing. I’d stay up extra late on the weekends to watch it, sneaking out of my room while Mom slept (Dad worked nights) to watch it on the TV in the living room (we only had one TV).

Then and Now: Best of the Monkees was the first tape I ever asked for. It was the first of ANYTHING I ever asked for, as I was raised by parents that didn’t abide by children asking for things every time we went to the store. But I saw the cassette among the others in the rack at Wal-Mart and I couldn’t stop myself. I asked my mother for it and instead of getting the negative answer and the lecture, Mom ended up getting it for me.

I still have that tape.

The first story I wrote (okay, maybe not the first, but definitely the first one I remember writing) involved The Monkees. Today it’s commonly known as fanfiction, but at six or seven, I had no idea there was a name for it. It was a “book” I wrote, complete with illustrated cover and big words (albeit misspelled). I was very proud of that story.

I still have it, tucked away with the papers I never want to lose.

Ten years later, I was living with Dad in housing and my parents were going through a rather bitter divorce. The typical challenges of being 16 were compounded by the war zone my parents created. Most kids hated going to school, but it was the only place I got to feel like an actual kid. At home, I was expected to be the adult.

As my luck would have it, The Monkees decided to celebrate their 30th anniversary, reminding me of the happy fun-times of my childhood. I dug that old tape out of the few things I had and it became my life raft in the stormy sea of what had become my life. I submerged myself into rediscovering The Monkees. I constructed a happy place out of their music and the show, filling it with news and stories and CDs and solo work and pictures and memorabilia and fandom.

The summer before my senior year, 1997, I worked for my cousin in her daycare. When I found out that The Monkees would be in Chicago in August, she became my partner in crime so that I could go to the concert.  Not only did she help me get the tickets, but she also took me and paid for the hotel room. The entire Monkees Trip Experience deserves to be retold in another post (and probably will be), but suffice it to say, I had an amazing time at the concert, watching three of the four men that I credited with keeping my head above water perform on stage.

My senior year is forever tied to The Monkees. I listened to Justus so much I’m surprised the CD didn’t wear out. Mom enabled my obsession, getting me a cardboard cutout of the group from a music store. Papa got me a few their CDs. My sister helped me decorate my graduation cap with the Monkees logo. I had all four of their names written on it. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have made it through high school with any sort of sanity intact (though, friends might argue the sanity part, since my graduation cap also featured “Loco 4 Life” written on it and my nickname was Skitz, short for skitzo, but I stand by what I mean).

My Monkees Happy Place was built to last and over the years, I’ve only added to it with more music (not just The Monkees, but their solo stuff as well), shows, and memorabilia. Family and friends see Monkees stuff and they think of me. I had a friend bring me a Monkeemobile model car from Canada because he saw it there and thought of me. I’ve grabbed unique items off of eBay and been able to find the not so easy to find music on Amazon. I visit it often; my iPod is full of Monkees music and on shuffle. I don’t go a day without hearing one of their songs. Bummer of a day? Nothing an episode or two can’t fix. I’m working on a collage of their album art. It’ll be really great addition to the happy place when it’s finished.

But first, I need to fix the happy place.

On Leap Day, the Universe kicked down a wall of my happy place. Davy’s death leaves a pretty big hole, one that I will patch up with memories and music and pictures. It won’t be the same, of course. But even though Davy slipped from the mortal coil and crossed the horizon into the next world, he left behind a lifetime that he shared with the world. His smile, his laugh, his voice have all been preserved. It’s not the same, but it’s not that different, in a way. At least for someone like me, a fan that only got to see the star from a distance. It’s the future that’s been compromised, not the past. He can’t do anything more, but he’s already done so much.

And he did more for me than he can ever know. Except maybe now, he’s in a place that he does. I hope he knows how much I appreciate it all.

Catch you on the flip side, Davy Jones.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Pregnant Lady?

As a human being, I have my quirks and my fears and my quirky fears. I chose to forego any of the typical phobias like bugs and snakes and decided to jazz up some of the more traditional fears like heights and death. I can only guess at the sources of some of these out of the ordinary hang-ups. Friends and family have no desire to understand them. They just filed them in the “weird” column of my personality and moved on.

So, what scares me?

Mascots- Okay, lots of people have this one. I’m definitely not alone. And it’s more of a love-hate thing with them. I think mascots can be a lot of fun and very funny. I just don’t want them close to me. I don’t want them coming at me. I don’t want them interacting with me. Mascots are fine…over there.

The big headed mascots really freak me out. The bobbleheads at Chase Field, the Presidents at Nationals Park, Rosie Red at Great American Ballpark. I don’t even like seeing them on TV. I don’t think I could handle them so well in person. There’d be a lot of walking in the opposite direction.

This is a late blooming fear, as I don’t remember ever having a problem with mascots before my twenties. Even at DragonCon, people in certain mascot-like costumes caused me concern. The Pennywise Clown, complete with balloons and evil grin, in the elevator, however, did not.

Pregnant Women- I think this is a product of seeing Aliens at a young age. While I fully understand and recognize how amazing it is that you can grow a living creature inside of your body, you’re growing a living creature inside of your body and it’s going to want to come out. I see a heavily pregnant woman and I think it’s just a chestburster incident waiting to happen. And no, I don’t want to feel the baby kick because I don’t want to be too close when it decides it’s done incubating and claws it’s way through your belly button.

Okay, that’s ridiculous and I know it and considering the fact that people close to me have been bearing children pretty regularly for the past ten years, I’ve had lots of opportunities to plaster a smile on my face and pretend not to be creeped out by the fact that there’s something MOVING in my friend’s gut.

I imagine that should I ever get pregnant, I’ll spend the entire time pretty skeeved out and possibly flapping my hands like a girly-girl that’s just seen a spider every time the kid moves.

Wait. Why would I even consider getting pregnant if I’m scared of pregnant women? Hold that thought. I’ll come back to it.

Falling- I don’t mind heights. I don’t mind being in high places, looking out over the land, taking in the view. I don’t mind working on roofs or climbing ladders. I love ferris wheels and the Power Dive at Great America. I have no trouble with heights.

It’s the falling from heights that bothers me. I don’t get too close to the railing. I don’t like other people to get too close to the railing. We were sitting over the bullpen in Kansas City and this guy carrying his baby boy stood next to us and the whole time I was in a highly tense state because his baby was too close to the edge. Logically, I know that Daddy isn’t going to drop the baby, but on the other hand I have this overwhelming desire to not risk it and please step back, sir, you are making me nervous.

And it’s not just high places that this bothers me. It’s stairs, too. I am quite careful going up and down stairs because I’m terrified of falling down them. I think the last time I actually fell down a flight of stairs I was probably three or four and I wasn’t hurt. But be sure that if there’s a bannister, I’m hanging on.

Corpses- Yeah, I don’t like dead people (most people don’t). I’m not big on dead things in general, but I really have a problem with dead people. This means that I don’t do funerals. Period. End of story. Why? There are dead people there. I find it really disconcerting that there is a corpse laid out like a Thanksgiving centerpiece in the room.

I realize that this provides comfort to most people (for some odd reason), but it does nothing for me. As far as I’m concerned, the deceased person in question is already gone; their spirit or soul or what have you has left their body and all that’s left is a hunk of spoiling meat. And I don’t want to be in a room with it.

This goes for ashes, too. My grandparents both chose cremation and no funerals, which I thougth was great, but so long as Dad had their ashes in the jeep, I wouldn’t get in it. There are dead people in there. Nope. (Grandma and Papa have since been moved to Dad’s closet and I have no desire to get in there any time soon.)

Surprisingly, most of my family are very understanding about my funeral-aversion. They understand my problem with being in a room with a corpse and I’ve been given a free-pass for most funerals. Other people don’t understand it and think I’m just a selfish, uncaring bitch. And that’s fine. So long as I’m not in a room with a corpse, you can think of me what you like.

Fears are considered a sign of weakness in my family and I do my best to face them.

I spent most of the Cornbelters season getting used to Corny so I could get within two feet of him when I took my nieces to get his autograph (I still used the children as a shield). I like Corny. And he seems to respect my need for extra mascot personal space and I appreciate that.

I challenged my fear of falling by going on the Mine Drop ride at Great America (it takes you up a gazillion stories and then drops you straight down). Sure, I screamed all the way down, was shaking so hard I couldn’t get my harness off, and would never do it again, but I did it once and that’s what counts.

Same with getting pregnant. If the opportunity to have children arises, I would get pregnant despite that fear just to say I did it. Nine months is a lot longer than thirty seconds, but the reward would be greater for all of the time I’d put in.

The dead people thing I’m kind of stuck with. That’s going to be a tough one to get around. I’ve basically made a deal with myself that certain funerals I have to attend. I will probably sit as close the back as I can and do my best not to be anywhere near the casket, but I will go.

That’s right. If you’re really special, I’ll go to your funeral.