Friday, July 10, 2015

Almost Home

The move from Los Angeles to Indianapolis is almost complete.

Since April, I’ve kept my head down deep in the planning, logistics, budgeting, packing, shipping, and moving my home and family from the West Coast to my childhood home in the Midwest, and although I’ve technically been here a month already, I’m about another month from the journey coming to a proper end when we move into our new home. Obviously, during that time there was little to no room for hobby, and I won’t be able to do anything on that front again until it all gets unpacked from deep storage.

It’s a surreal feeling being back here. Moving from the drought-stricken concrete and steel of the LA area, to the rain-flooded, tree-lined streets of Indy has been a real culture shock. Even though I grew up here, I had a real claustrophobic panic attack on my first day back when the familiar tree-canopied street I was driving on became a vision of a verdant throat of old-growth greenery swallowing me up into the belly of the city that I had once gotten away from. It was a genuinely terrifying experience that marked the point when I realized that I was here, once again, for good.

I think one of the strangest things about the move has been the objectivity that comes with relocating to a new place, or, of returning to a familiar place after a long absence. Fourteen years in California gave me a certain distance from the psyche of the city, and the ability to look at it with that kind of fresh-eyed separation has been interesting. Unexpectedly, there are many elements of my writing, and my current style and content that I’ve found the roots of reflected in the area, much more than I had realized had been an influence on me, and had never had the ability to recognize before now—not the least of which is the house I grew up in.

Originally a 1920’s orchard farmhouse before the city absorbed the area, the building has become a ramshackle Frankenstein’s monster of a home, having been expanded and built out numerous times by different owners over the years, but still leaving behind hidden architectural anomalies giving the house dark and strange corners that was the stuff of my childhood nightmares.

The original bones of the house groan against the newer structures during storms as if threatening to tear itself apart, and the plaster walls are cracked and buckled in places.

The basement walls constantly weep, and there’s a set of old stairs there that lead up to and stop dead at the first floor boards where an old cellar door was built over. This frightened me terribly for some reason as a child, but what was more unnerving looking back now as an adult, was a fixation I had (but was too scared to do) with wanting to draw a door on the wood of that sub-flooring at the stairs top.

The real door at the top, is in your mind

The attic leaks when it rains, and there is a strange room built into the supports of the roof whose existence we have never really been able to find a satisfactory answer for. This part of the house is especially horrifying because (and I kid you not) it’s essentially a 3’x3’x4’ standalone room of plain boards, with a small shelf and wooden bench, and a door that locks from the outside.

I'll be good, I'll be good!

My father says that it was probably a room for canned storage, but why would you ever put preserved food into an uninsulated attic space that can get up to 120 degrees in the summer, when there’s a better suited cellar for just such a thing? Chances are he’s right, but still…as a child your mind races to what naughty boys and girls were locked in that dark attic room when a lesson was needed to be taught. And worse yet, how many of them never made it out?

With a coyote den in the woods behind the house, bats in the loft of the old barn, and the entire property being uniquely isolated from the rest of the surrounding city by a high, thick treeline, the house is incredibly creepy at times, and embodies the spirit (though certainly not the architecture) of Gothic romanticism as-seen through a Midwest sensibility. Although it scared me to death when I was younger, I love this house, and it’s no wonder to me now that my tastes for art and literature have steered towards the horror, Gothic, grotesque, and weird fiction genres because of that early upbringing of forever dreading the nighttime in that house.

As if that wasn’t enough, I uncovered another precursor to my darker leanings in the form of one of my favorite childhood books waiting for me in my old bedroom.

Originally billed as “Gothic Children’s Fiction”, The Eyes of the Killer Robot, was one of my favorite books as a boy, and I’m sure the thing laid the groundwork for a lot of my current writings. Written by John Bellairs, TEOTKR was one book in a series, following the strange adventures of his Johnny Dixon character. Think 1950’s boy’s adventure stories, mixed with black magic, pseudo-science, and surprisingly graphic horror imagery for a children’s book—a wailing ghost with emptied bloody eye sockets, and a recipe for turning said missing eyes into talismans for the use of arcane magic. Also, kidnapping with a genuine threat of very cold-blooded murder regardless of ransom payoff.

A very strange and dark book, made even stranger because of the juxtaposition of child-friendly reading level and not-child-friendly content. It would probably fall under the younger spectrum of Young Adult fiction these days, probably somewhere at or just below a Harry Potter reading equivalent. An easy read for an adult, but a gloriously weird book that has lead me to start reading the others in the series.

Hopefully soon back on track with hobby stuff.