Tag Archives: death

A Cross to Bear

13 Dec

April Hunter is currently a student at Full Sail University for her degree in Creative Writing for Entertainment and a comic book character. She is a former professional wrestler and model.

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The GTO came to life with a roar and idled as Nick sat, unmoving. The loud rumbling comforted him. He pulled the cross out of a box that sat on the seat next to him. Its silver chain draped through his fingers and felt cool, its platinum catching the sunlight and creating dappled patterns on the dark interior. He traced his finger along the inscription that read, For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. -Timothy 1:7

The crucifix looked too bulky for the rear-view, but he draped it over the mirror and watched it dance with the vibrating engine. His mother had kept it on the post of her bed, religiously kneeling before it every evening. The entire situation brought out feelings he didn’t have a label for. Regret? Remorse? They’re often confused as one in the same, but they’re not. He pulled away from the house, slammed the clutch from first gear to second and ripped around a corner to the tune of screeching tires and scent of burnt rubber.

Regret is when you did something you wish you hadn’t. Remorse is when you didn’t do something you wish you had. He’d hastily purchased the flight after putting it off until he was six hours and a lifetime late, which had earned him a middle seat in the back of the plane and a missed connection. By the time he got home, Mom had passed. Remorse.

Maybe she’d played down just how bad it really was. Maybe he’d chosen his career over his mother. Or maybe he just couldn’t stand the thought of seeing her in such a deteriorated state; his treasured memories marred by sunken cheeks, bald patches and shaky hands. After Mom had gotten sick, she’d asked him to come home so many times, and Nick told her his work was too hectic at the moment. Every time he lied to her, saying he’d be home as soon as it slowed down, he felt the gutting ache in the pit of his stomach growing stronger. Regret.

The evening wake had passed in a blur. A smoky pub, his friends and endless cheers for his dead Mom. “To Mrs. Kelly…Brenda…for her ridiculously fantastic brownies and for never ratting us out for smokin’ a dube behind your garage. Salut!”

His father had treasured that classic car even though he kidded about it.

“You know what GTO stands for? Gas, tools and oil.” When he died from a heart attack, Mom kept it partly out of nostalgia and hid the keys from Nick partly because she worried.

“You’re too reckless. I don’t want to get a phone call in the middle of the night,” she said.

“That’s how you drive a car like that, Mom. You have to go balls out. It’s not meant for the speed limit,” Nick said.

“That is exactly why you’re not getting it until you’re more mature,” she’d said. “I’m your mother. It’s my job to protect you, which includes keeping you safe from yourself. You can’t escape me. I’ve got eyes in the back of my head. I’ll always be looking out for you.”

“Jeez, Ma. I’m not a baby anymore.”

“Sorry, kiddo. You’re always gonna be my baby.” She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead and he squirmed, pretending to push her away while laughing.

She left it for him when she died. Dad’s car, Mom’s cross. Nick had never felt more alone. There was no one else. It had always been just the three of them. The house was going to be sold. They say that the one thing that never changes in life is that you can always go home, but what if there’s no home to go to? Who is going to take care of me now? 

Nick pressed the pedal of the GTO to the floor. The deep rumble soothed him on the dark, empty, country road. Miles flew by with nothing but woods and the narrow beams of the car’s headlights on blackened asphalt. Nick caught a glint of something. What is that? Nick slowed, but it was too late. A giant buck stood stock-still in the middle of the one-lane road. Jerking the wheel, Nick swerved hard and lost control.

The cold, dark water started to fill the GTO, creeping up to his ankles. He couldn’t get the car door to open. Gritting his teeth, Nick pushed his shoulder into the door, shoving hard, but it wouldn’t budge. The water had created too much pressure. The power windows, state of the art for the car’s era, shorted out along with the rest of the electrical system leaving him in complete darkness. Water was creeping up to his belt buckle, moving upward rapidly. Nick turned sideways and tried to push the door open with his legs. When that didn’t work, he tried kicking the frame. The door bent slightly, and more water rushed in.

“Oh, God. Shit. Shit!”

As icy liquid reached the bottom of the steering wheel, his heart pounded with the realization that Gas Tools and Oil was about to be his metal grave.

Nick squatted on the seat, keeping his head up for air and grabbed the crucifix off the rearview mirror. Not knowing what else to do, he read Mom’s scripture out loud. For God gave us spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control…spirit not of fear, but of power…self-control. Power.

Power.

He positioned the large crucifix in his fist, fingers wrapped around the cross.

Self control.

Rearing back, Nick took a deep breath and hit the window as hard as he could with the base of the cross. Sounding a dull thud, it shattered inward, releasing a whoosh of glass-filled water over his face. Clutching the crucifix, he grabbed the roof with his other hand, pulled himself through the opening, and swam upwards.

 

By April Hunter

Published 11/16 in Page & Spine Literary Journal

http://www.pagespineficshowcase.com/april-hunter.html

 

 

The Man In The Box-Won’t You Save Me?

28 Jan

David Bowie. Glen Frey. Lemmy. Scott Weiland. The sudden deaths of some of the most beloved musicians hit pretty hard and I wonder if these artists knew how much they’d impacted our lives.

For me, this last month has been a bittersweet reminder of a brilliant musician who received virtually zero mention at the time of his death.

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Most people have no idea that Alice In Chains’ front man, Layne Staley, died around the same time Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes did. The press covered her passing extensively. Every channel, paper and radio station mentioned Lopes, while running TLC video clips and songs 24/7.  Of course, Lisa died from a sudden auto accident while Layne died the typical rock star death at age 34 from a mixture of heroin and cocaine.

I’m not sure how many are aware that Layne Staley was dead for two weeks before anyone realized it.

Two weeks.

When I learned of this, my heart broke. How is it possible that someone who touched so many could have gone unnoticed for so long?

 

I wish I could just hug you all, but I’m not gonna.” –Layne Staley

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Alice In Chains has been a profound and unique grunge rock band, instantly recognizable largely due to Staley’s voice more than their overall sound. When you hear a song by Tool, it’s obvious it’s Tool by their uniquely defined musical style. With AIC, it was more about Staley’s lilting vocals. 

ebd7d75c4c1a975caa0123700cd73151Alice In Chains (and Layne himself) was the true leader of the Seattle Sound grunge movement. They were Sleze in 1984, which morphed into AIC and later became the super-group Mad Season. They influenced and opened doors for Nirvana, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees and Pearl Jam.

Unlike much of what came out of Seattle, AIC was inclined towards rock in addition to alternative in genre. Their heavier sound, array of styles and soulful lyrics struck a chord within me, and I’ve never wavered in my love for them.

 

“Man In The Box”

I’m the man in the box
Buried in my shit
Won’t you come and save me, save me

Feed my eyes, can you sew them shut?
Jesus Christ, deny your maker
He who tries, will be wasted
Feed my eyes now you’ve sewn them shut

I’m the dog who gets beat
Shove my nose in shit
Won’t you come and save me, save me…

 

What I know about Layne’s death is two things: Layne had two families; his blood ties and his band members. He was also a drug user and recluse with a mental disorder.

Anyone who has had to deal with a person struggling with any or all of these issues knows the tendency for that person to alienate everyone who loves them, which is often a harsh reality. We are hard to love.

I am speaking from experience, as an entertainer and someone who has experience in living with mental disorders. My father had one. I’ve inherited it. I’ve seen both sides of this kind of damage.

f4bda0790eaf737aa29ede9017b743cbThe fact that not one single person from his life noticed he was gone for two weeks shatters me.

Even if he’d told everyone to fuck off, just die, leave him alone – did no one love him enough to swing by and check on him? Bring him a meal? Pick up some groceries?

Nothing? Nothing at all?

 

“We started this band as kids, and as time has gone on, we’ve grown and are learning to accommodate each others’ differences.” – Layne Staley

 

There are lessons to be gleaned from losing Layne Staley. Instead of sitting back and judging the situation; blaming drugs, calling him a fuck-up, writing it off to “just another classic rock star death” or practicing Schadenfreude, we should view it as an opportunity to save someone else.

 

“When everyone goes home, you’re stuck with yourself. People have a right to ask questions and dig deep when you’re hurting them and things around you.” – Layne Staley

 

288050e9f560257bcdc70d7ae5ad397fDying alone and forgotten are valid human fears. Alice In Chains sold over eleven MILLION albums. Layne Staley touched an innumerable mass of people from all over the world. If this can happen to someone as known and beloved as Layne, it could happen to anyone.

 

“There are lasting consequences for using drugs. I’ll still be paying for my prior use.” – Layne Staley

 

Layne was introduced to what would ultimately be his cause of death by his own father at the age of twenty.  His father was an opiate addict and used with his son. This is a harsh lesson to wrap one’s head around.

But my main reason for writing this is to make people aware.

Bandmate and best friend Mike Starr bore the brunt of the guilt regarding Layne’s death before he passed in 2011 from a prescription drug overdose. He was the last person to see Staley alive and the two had argued, with Starr storming out and Layne calling after him, “Not like this. Don’t leave like this.”

Reportedly, they argued over Starr insisting on calling 911for help and Layne threatening to sever their friendship if he did. 

 

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When someone we love pushes us away, perhaps there’s more to it and we’re unable to see what’s really going on. Maybe we shouldn’t LET them have their space.

People often push away as a test – to see if you’ll push back, to see if you care. It’s common for many to feel unworthy of love. It’s especially common for those with a mental disorder, since we tend to hurt those around us the most. We simply don’t feel deserving. We need you to push back.

Talk is cheap.  Anyone can say, “I love you, you mean the world to me.” But can you show it? Will you do what needs to be done?

6558bdd586384b723d48edb309a40391In Layne’s case, no one pushed back. He is dead now because of this fact.

It’s pretty fucking simple. If someone had physically removed drugs and needles from his living area, watched over him, fed him – he would be alive. He clearly wasn’t able to take care of himself. It was no surprise how sick he was to those around him. Mike Starr tried. But in these situations, effort doesn’t mean shit. Only results count. If he’d had cancer, there would have been help. But he had a mental illness where he turned to “self-medicating”, which is why Layne was cast away.  

Kurt Cobain, who admitted he was manic-depressive (which is now called bipolar disorder), died in a not dissimilar way. His suicide note stated that his baby daughter would be better off without him in her life. “For her life will be so much happier without me.”

“God Am”
Dear God, how have you been then?
I’m not fine, fuck pretending
All of this death your sending
Best throw some free heart mending
Invite you in my heart, then
When done, my sins forgiven?
This God of mine relaxes
World dies I still pay taxes.

A lot of things aren’t understood about mental illness and suicide, but I can tell you one thing for certain; No one wants to die. They simply don’t want to live in the state they are in any longer. There is a vast difference between wanting to die and not wanting to live. When someone is suffering from something that goes with them no matter where they are and affects everyone around them badly, sometimes they hold on to a belief that the only way out is death.

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Layne’s death is extremely sad on so many levels. Wasted talent, wasted youth, but mostly it’s a constant reminder that our society doesn’t seem to care about the mentally ill. It’s felt we are disposable, to be shamed and anything that happens to us, it’s likely deserved. I’ve seen this attitude in everything from drug overdoses to police beatings.

No matter what we give to the world, it really doesn’t matter.

Or does it?

Push back. Prove me wrong.

 

“Every article I see (about myself) is dope this, junkie that, whiskey this – that ain’t my title. I don’t do much else but stay in my hotel room. Music is the doorway that has led me to drawing, photography, and writing. Music is the career I’m lucky enough to get paid for, but I have other desires and passions.” –Layne Staley

 

 

My hope for whoever is reading this is to have you recognize signs. When someone we care for is ‘acting out’ or being reclusive, maybe we shouldn’t take it so personally, get so angry or give up so quickly.  Think of the bigger picture; that you love this person. Despite what they’re doing, saying or how they’re acting, they need you.

Staley’s last interview: http://www.mtv.com/news/1470138/late-alice-in-chains-singer-layne-staleys-last-interview-revealed-in-new-book/

 

Thank you to Hubert O’Hearn, Brett Schwan & Joe Mays for taking the time to edit. Time is valuable.

 

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Layne Staley: August 22, 1967 – April 5, 2002. NOT FORGOTTEN. 

 

 

                                                    

 

Death Date. A Short Story by April Hunter

15 Jan

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“Dear Mom and Dad…”

     I faltered, unsure what to write. What words could possibly convey what I was about to do? I didn’t want my parents to go to prison and whatever I wrote would be analyzed over and over again as part of the trial. It had to be meticulous.

     From birth, everyone has a number on their leg, the date they will die. Try as they might; no one is able to prevent their inevitable deaths.

My death date was in three days, on my twenty-second birthday.

     My mother had been inconsolable all week. My parents decided to have children because both of them had long death dates, and they felt that genetically, it would be passed down.

     We had just lost my brother Lucas three years ago in a tub drowning. He had been one of the ones who tried his best to avoid it, changing all his patterns and staying home from school all week. He was only seventeen and terrified. On his death date, he didn’t leave the house. By dinner, the tension had eased up a little. Perhaps he’d managed to elude the impending fate. There have been more than a few urban legends about people who have avoided death through various means and tricks. Maybe his careful plotting has worked. By the end of dinner, we were actually joking around and enjoying our food.

     Lucas had excused himself to the bathroom and that would be the last time we saw him alive. When he hadn’t emerged forty minutes later, my father banged on the door. With no response, he kicked it open. The details will never be forgotten.   A Rorschach of scarlet splattered all over the side of the tub and across the white tiled floor. My mother, wailing screams behind me, shoved my frozen body aside. Lucas’s eyes wide open in shock in dark red water, and his neck at an oddly twisted angle. 

     He’d slipped and hit his head, drowning. No one escapes. Death is unpredictable and often gruesome.

     So, how was I coping? I stared at my leg, scratching at the raised skin colored digits.  There was a tiny scar across the eight from the chicken pox in second grade. Nothing had changed. The numbers were as clear as they’d ever been. There were only hours left.

     A strange calm came over me as I set the lavish, crystal gown on my chaise to admire. Tomorrow was going to be my party, a birthday bash and Bon Voyage life party rolled into one. “Alexei’s Last Ride”, I’d named it. I didn’t see the point in finishing school, but I happily ended up with a lot of friends because my parents forced me to continue. I’d planned on leaving everyone with one hell of a memory, peppered with strippers and a disgustingly large stretch limo that would make them smile forever. Or, until their own death dates.

      I had considered fighting my date at first. My friend paid a tattoo artist to change her death date numbers into the infinity sign. It was a great concept.

     The tattoo artist laughed at her. We laughed with her. She died. Everything works in theory.

 

“Dear Mom and Dad,

I’m sorry…”

     It seemed the right thing to say. But was I? 

     Ever since I was old enough to grasp what a death date meant, every birthday card with a one-fifty amero bill and any extra allowance I could put away for as long as I can remember has all been used to collect government rationed painkillers over the years to prepare for this time. Sometimes people will sell their painkillers for a steep price on the black market, usually family of the very elderly.

     Our government only allows us to grieve for a limited amount of time; five weeks and three days for a child, less for a spouse, but they don’t force us to physically suffer. Drugs are strictly forbidden and controlled worldwide, but we are allotted a certain amount when our dates, and those for which we are registered, get close.

     After the grieving period has passed, the medication privileges are revoked and drug testing resumes. You are allowed one strike within a certain period of time of Mourns End, but after that, you face imprisonment. Everyone knew someone who had been in prison or still was.

     Prisons became privatized in America several decades ago, back in the second Bush era when my parents were both just children. We’d learned in school that previously, the imprisoned population was nothing out of the ordinary. Privatizing it became immensely profitable and corporations from all over the world lined up to invest in US prisons. In short time, half of the world’s prison population was held in America, despite the fact that the US was made up of less than 5% of the world population. Nation of the free and brave. Well, maybe just the brave. People were imprisoned for the most minor of infractions, things what would not get a sentence in other countries. The strictest of countries, like Russia and China, didn’t even come close.

     The profits grew wildly and private corporations started to require contractual “lockup quotas”, demanding 90-100% prison occupancy. The US government owned and controlled by the drug companies and corporations, began to criminalize everything in order to keep the money flowing quickly.  All drugs were declared illegal, as was alcohol. Even vitamins and supplements were no longer available without a prescription. To be caught with raw milk or vitamin C and not have a prescription for it? Prison. Midwife for baby delivery without a permit? Prison. Even an aloe plant was grounds for imprisonment. Fear was the main emotion coursing through America’s veins.  

     A rumor circulated that one of the corporations created the death dates to thin the over population, except something went wrong and it spread much more aggressively than anticipated.  Soon, every child was born with a raised, flesh colored date on their lower leg. No one knew what it meant at first. It was thought to be a birth mark until hospitals became inundated with babies bearing numbers; and then some began to die on dates which numbers coincided with those on their legs. These dates just suddenly appeared in 2041, like the AIDS explosion  in the early eighties and rampant Autism in the late nineties. 

     My family didn’t know my plan, and I highly doubted they’d approve. My mother was ardently pro life and one of the head honchos that lead the push ending the era of Roe versus Wade. Once the death dates began appearing, the argument for outlawing abortion completely grew stronger with so many children dying. As luck would have it, several members of Congress had lost infants suddenly that year due to short death dates and had been forced to return to work after Mourns End. My mother struck while the iron was hot. The court case was overturned swiftly and silently without a single abortion clinic bombing, or a grisly showing of fetus photos with torn limbs.

      The UN backed this decision and other countries followed suit. The world as a whole was mostly pro-life and disarmed whether they liked it or not. The federal government had decided that instead of going after America’s guns and risking more “Constitutional Rights” stripping backlash, they would simply stop producing and importing munitions.

     Some were peaceful, like Canada and Germany. Russia, Morocco, Bosnia and much of South America were not. Bullets became worth more than gold for about a decade…then they were gone. Killing still occurred, but it took a lot more planning. Suicide was illegal. Failed attempts were imprisoned for life and if family members helped or had prior knowledge, they were too. Suicides have become unheard of since most people have a much keener awareness of how short life is.

   8887897-pile-of-pills-in-blister-packs  I knelt down to the bottom row of my bookcase and pulled out the worn bible. It was a thick book that included both the Old and New Testaments and was translated in three languages; English, Italian and Swedish, with an extra section of the Old Testament in Hebrew. Its edges were frayed and the title had faded. It was my great-great grandmother Elizabeth’s. She’d had it during The Depression early in the nineteen hundreds and had passed down, from female to female until it reached me. I don’t think my great-great grandmother had anticipated death dates or girls dying so young that they wouldn’t have had any children. Then again, it was The Great Depression. Maybe she did. I opened it to reveal the hollowed out center compartment which had been conceived by young Liz. It hid her copper pennies, bread crusts, stamps and a gold wedding ring. Being in a different sort of depression now, it held the means to an end; my beautiful collection of freedom. Xanax, Vicodin, Percocet’s, Demerol and the rare Oxycontin which had been pulled from the market for nearly fifteen years.

     My mind raced, but I refused to let the fear engross me.  I wouldn’t live that way and I won’t die that way. My numbers don’t say when. I do. The best way to beat the odds is to not be one of the odds. I didn’t feel sorry. I felt in control.

     I sat back down at my desk and picked up my pen again. Chewing the tip of it, I suddenly realized that only when you’re dying do you truly start to live. Your senses become more alert: colors more vibrant, smells crisper, details more fascinating. You realize that nothing is to be taken for granted, because it may be the last time you can enjoy your mother’s incredible sausage balls or the last time you’ll see your dog bound over to you when you walk through the door.

 

“Dear Mom and Dad,

We don’t get many choices in this world.

I’d like this one to be mine.

I love you, forever.

Alexei.”

 

     I tucked the note away into the bible with my pill stash for later. Right now, there was a party to finish planning.

 

——-

Thank you for reading. I’m new to writing fiction. 

–April Hunter

 

(Copyright & story owned by April Hunter.  All words and accounts on this blog are the sole property of April Hunter.)

Alternate Universe

8 Jan

Image“It’s a shame humans get so sad over death. When loved ones die, they mourn for so long and miss out on so much life.

If they only knew.

I wish I could tell them.

But I’m sworn. We all are. If they knew, they would alter their behavior.

It is their actions and reactions that determine if they pass or fail, moving on to the next phase. To know would severely modify that. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it would not show the True Self. We need the True Self to be fully educated in order to pass through.

What am I talking about?

Well…I’ll tell YOU. But only you.

What if I told you that we understand mourning? However, it is purely selfish. Humans are sad that their loved ones are no longer with them because they wish to have them in their lives. But this is because they do not understand.

Earth is only a stepping stone. It is basically a school. Humans are there briefly to learn empathy, compassion, how to care for others, to love, give, respect and protect. When you die, you move on to the next universe…it means you have graduated.

You humans have a saying. “Only the good die young.” There is far more truth to that than is realized. We take the better ones early; it’s similar to skipping a grade. They’ve learned all they need to on Earth and are ready for the next step. 

There is a catch, however. Not everyone graduates. Many never make it off Earth.

Because all mammal souls are created equal.

All of them.

Does not a mother rat protect her babies? Feed them? Fight for them?  Yet, humans look down upon the rat because the rat eats the mess and trash…trash and mess the humans created.

If a dog that was abused or left out in the freezing cold the the human responsible will not be coming up. We call that a Lost Fail. What happens then is that he – well, his soul – is left on earth, but recreated as something that other humans abhor as punishment, usually a cockroach or a mosquito. He will be treated the exact way he treated the soul before him for his eternity; shunned, swatted at and stepped on. Some humans just don’t learn until it happens to them. You can tell them the stove is hot many times. They must touch and burn before they realize the stove is indeed hot. Others never learn that the stove is hot. They repeat, repeat, repeat.

Unfortunately, a human wrote a book of ‘rules’ in order to control others. Solely because of its dated age, people mistake this book as verbatim, despite that fact that it makes little sense in many aspects and is not truthful. It holds story tales instead of fact and cannot be proven. Who could believe, in good faith and with an ounce of common sense, that human females are inferior and animals do not have souls?  But those in charge of religions have twisted words to make people do what they want…and many are lost souls because of it.

To be a good and righteous human is to treat others the way you want to be treated. That is all. If you do that always, you will never make a mistake in life. Humans are much smarter and stronger than they recognize. They do not need a book of conflicting stories that can be translated to justify any thing one can imagine – even bigotry! They need only that one simple guideline.

These are not my rules. This is just how it is.”

He paused and stubbed out his cigar, which had none of the pungent stinking odor I’d always associated with cigars. It smelled fresh and clean, like towels from the dryer.

“Thankfully, most do make it off Earth and on to the next phase.  As a whole, the human soul is a good True Self. It has a very long life on many universes constantly evolving and learning. I cannot tell you more than this. But I will tell you that being kind is never wasted. You learn something new every day – or you do not. That is up to you. Karma does exist. The Earth world is an echo in a way…you will get out of it what you put in. Please trust in me when I tell you this; perhaps when someone good dies, celebrating their life would be far more appropriate than mourning it.”

He touched my shoulder and looked down at me with that slight grin.

“This too, I will divulge, since you are a willing student; in the next phase there is no Wal-Mart. We have no vegans and there is no traffic. If you think that sounds heavenly, it only gets better and better as you keep passing on.”

-by April Hunter

COPYRIGHT APRIL HUNTER. NO PART OF THIS STORY MAY BE USED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.

Paul Walker vs. Anger : The Flip Side

3 Dec

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“I’m so fed up with hearing about the death of an actor no one knew! There are children and soldiers who die every day and no one says anything about it!”

I saw this post on Facebook and it made me think.

I’d agree.

On the flip side, I think it’s a ‘connection’ situation that some aren’t able to fathom. Actors come into people’s living rooms. We occasionally connect with their characters and relate. In this country, we don’t have a Prince or a Queen. Hollywood is our royalty.

Psychologically, this is why people are upset. They feel they know Paul Walker (naturally, we get more upset when prettier people die) and he is on display for us; to a degree, we have access to him and his life.  The USA won’t even so much as release names or faces of the many dead soldiers who have come home each day. Stories on children’s hospitals are few, far between, heartbreaking and gloomy.

Walker represented glamour and an American dream…not death and depression. As a country, we are in an emotional melancholia. Anti-depressant use is up 400% from last year. When this happens, fantasy TV shows like True Blood, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones do very well in ratings because people want escapism.

So, when someone dies whom fans have admired for doing things they’ve always wanted, but never had the balls to (because most people don’t follow their dreams) it affects them on a personal level.

Paul Walker Workout and Diet

Is it messed up that people are mourning an actor they don’t know more than a soldier who is being held hostage? Yes. But it’s completely understandable if you think about it.

We don’t comprehend how others see things or feel at times – even if it’s not right. We don’t try to put ourselves in their shoes. We lash out instead of being intelligent and using the “WHY” question we were originally taught as children, but forgot somewhere along the way when many of us became sheeple herded along by TV and corporate owned mass media. “I wonder WHY she feels that way or WHY he did that?”

Shit could be so much more positive and calm if we could just learn to understand all sides. That’s what tolerance really is. Not being nice to people who are different because you have to. It’s empathy. I doubt my little blog is going to cause world peace or anything, but perhaps it can help one or two of you grasp things a little better. That’s my hope, as I sit here late at night, typing away. (However, I’m a hopeless idealist.)

Ask WHY. Question everything.

…And have a kick ass week.  Life is short.

Chapter 9: If Darryl Dies, We All Riot. Part 1

27 Apr

If Darryl Dies, We All Riot. If Darryl Riots, We All Die.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly – Shows & Shoots.

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The ‘Ugly’ – Pre-Show:

On a pretense of working the Horror Hound convention, I decided to hit the road for a week. I really just wanted to do something fun, make a little money, shoot something artsy and see friends. Cincinnati was a new venue for HH and close to Louisville, so it all came together pretty nicely.

Except for the actual dealing-with-the-convention part.

“Are you sure you’re going to be in Cincinnati? It’s not on their site.”  After several of these emails from fans and only a month to go, I started to contact HH, asking if they needed anything else from me since I still wasn’t being advertised. 

I’d appeared on many other Horror Hound conventions before, so I was surprised that I had a very hard time dealing with whoever was running this show. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, since the fan reviews were pretty harsh and a few regulars I know of that work the show gave up trying to get in touch with them. This is a shame, because the convention looked spectacular. The lineup of guests was absolutely stellar. After being booked several months ahead of time through Pickle Press, my comic book company, I still wasn’t listed as a guest on the HH site. Eight emails, seven tweets and three weeks later, they finally added me – to the vendor page. You know – the page no one looks at other than the vendors. More emails ensued. I got a curt reply telling me they’d been busy with their Horror Hound magazine and “being on the site at ALL is a privilege.”

I recoiled, because I’d never heard anything so inane. Really? Don’t people still pay a good chunk of money to get in? So I wondered if it was personal. That’s the only thing I could possibly think of that would elicit such a stupid, smug comment. I asked, and was assured that it was not personal. I did not buy a table, so I was completely clueless as to why I’d be listed on a vendor page instead of with the others who also earn a living in FRONT of a camera.

Frustrated, I worried that investing a lot of time and my own money into this trip  to work with my comic book company wasn’t going to be worth it. Sometimes the bigger the show, the less worthwhile it becomes because fans exhaust themselves on the huge names.

Wizard World.  Chiller Theatre. GlamourCon. Con-Tamination. Every other Horror Hound convention I’ve ever worked…no one had a problem adding guests to their site since the general modus operandi is to bring in every last fan you can over the span of a single weekend. And, website additions don’t cost a dime.

I normally try not to say too much about bad experiences, but this is how fucktarded it was dealt with – especially since I should have been listed with my co-worker Rhino. We were the ONLY two wrestlers on the convention in what is a pro wrestling heartland. Since I used to tour in that area and hadn’t been back in a while, I was especially annoyed but figured I’d advertise it on my own and hope for the best. (That turned out to be mostly fruitless. My free weekly newsletter tops out at 11,000 subscribers before kicking people off…my Twitter is around 17,500. Facebook is 6,000. Yet for some reason, most people either don’t read or don’t pay attention to anything other than the actual show advertisement listing.)

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THIS is why it bothered me:

When I’m brought in for conventions, situations vary depending upon the show. Usually some (or all) of my expenses are covered by the promoter or vendor and I’m paid a guarantee. For Horror Hound, I eat my expenses because I’m working with my comic book guys to promote ourselves, our books and Pickle Press (HERE-> http://pickle-press.livejournal.com/). It’s a very small budget. We have fun and I’ve always done well enough in sales with being advertised that it’s been worth it. HH is fully aware of this, so that’s why I’m so upset about how unprofessionally it was handled.

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I’d love to have an agent who dealt with this kind of thing, but I’ve never been able to find one who can book me better than I can book myself. I stay busy and handle everything myself as far as shoots, shows and conventions, so that’s why I get to deal with more bullshit than most entertainers are subjected to.  I’m also pretty sure it’s why I’m crazier. Quite frankly, with running two sites, several social networks, doing video and photo editing, writing assignments, bookings, emails to return, shoots to plan and traveling to book…I don’t feel like dealing with the petty stuff. Paying someone a percentage would be VERY worth it if you can find one with real contacts who will actually work for you.

The lack of business sense and professionalism in money making situations never ceases to amaze me with its arrogance and stupidity.

Enough complaining. I could only hope it all worked out.

The ‘Bad’ – Day 1, Thursday:    

The plan: Fly into Louisville, drive to Cincy, work myself ragged over the course of the weekend, then head back to KY to stay a few extra days visiting friends. Because I was staying a week, working a convention, doing photo shoots AND there was still a need for heavy clothing, I had three grossly excessive bags.

Flight delay. I decided to track down food during the interim. A guy sat across from me. “I like your hair color. What did you do to your knee?”

Sigh. I’d been hacking away at a bun-less Nathans hot-dog  since it was the only low-carb, sugar-free, dairy-free protein I could find in the airport. I hate telling people what I do. I wear my knee brace to pre-board on Southwest since it tends to act up from traveling, I get to board first AND it’s pretty much the only perk of being a beat up pro wrestler. This allows me to get on the left side of the plane thus avoiding drink carts and being seated between two 400 pounders. Neither of which is good for knees.

I forced a smile, made polite chatter and then excused myself to find a charging station. Sitting at the same gate I used to call Mom from to tell her I was on my way every other week for over a year…you just don’t realize the habits you’ve formed until they’re not there any longer. It felt weird. Empty. I hadn’t flown much since she’d died a few months earlier, so I haven’t really been back to this terminal. I was so exhausted for her final year and a half, but I would give a hell of a lot for just one more trip.

Mom would sometimes come to the airport with my uncle, or wait at the window and excitedly throw open the door before I’d gotten out of the car. Hugging me with a big smile and an alarmingly frail body, she’d attempt to grab one of my bags. I’d laugh and hand her the little carry-on knapsack I keep my travel pillow in. That would satisfy her. This was always how it happened.

-Except for that last time.

It’s funny how you miss the strangest of things. The unapparent. The little routines. I could always find her in the airport pretty quickly because she dressed in bright colors. Mom loathed dark colors (“They’re depressing,” she’d say, wrinkling her nose)…and that’s pretty much all I usually wore when I traveled. It was easy to mix and match. Everything went with black. I began rooting through my drawers to pack purples, blues, reds and pinks for those trips just to make her happy.

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Random visions hit me out of nowhere. For her entire life, Mom had planned to donate her organs when she died and was devastated to learn that she couldn’t due to having been through so much chemotherapy. I can still see her eyes sadden when she told me everything in her was poisoned.

Friends text. My phone doesn’t ring anymore. I have no one to call. My Gram had just died six months before Mom did. Grandmom was a night person like I am, so I’d call her every evening to chat about nothing. She was nearly housebound without much going on, so I’d either ask her about her stories growing up during the Depression or we’d play a game. “What are you doing tonight?” “Oh, I’m going dancing,” she’d say. “Are you? Did you get new shoes?” “Oh, yes…I found gorgeous stilettos.” And so on. I got Mom started on the game. It was a funnier version because the chemo made her a bit loopy.

Me:  “Whatcha doing? Going to a party?” Her:  “Oh yes!”

Me: “Who is your date?” Her: “I met a tall, handsome man at the bank last week.”

Me: “Oh, nice! What are you wearing?”

Her: “A red dress. With ruching.” Me: “‘Rooshing?’  I thought it was ‘rucking’.”

Her: “Oh we’ll be fucking. Definitely.”

See where I get my fun side from?

There was no one else left. I looked down at my head-to-toe black travel clothing. I hid in the charging station, dabbing at tears that kept welling up, letting my hair fall around my face to hide. Most of my friends were polite about it all, but no one seemed to take an interest in how I was really doing (not well) or understand the sheer exhaustion of running a business out of Florida and traveling every other week to Philadelphia to take care of my dying family. This was a bit of a shock since everyone in Philly had been going above and beyond in being supportive. The absolute worst feeling in the world: When you can’t fix someone you love no matter how desperately you want to. When you are helpless to do anything other than watch them suffer and die.

People I thought would be there for me weren’t exactly going out of their way to cheer me up back in Tampa, other than Jordan, who was really great the entire time. At home I’d reach for the phone to call Mom…then the split second gutting reminder that I could not do that any longer would hit, and I’d crumble. Each occasion was spent with the ever-present knowledge lurking in the back of your head that this will be the last. The last Christmas. The last birthday. The last Easter. The last Mothers Day…what can you do, other than make it as much fun as possible and take lots of pictures? And that’s what I have left. Memories and pictures. Somehow, it’s not quite enough.

 

The ‘Good’ – I arrived in beautiful Louisville. I’ve had several places I’m happy to call home. Philly, Boston, Alabama, Tampa, Louisville. I’d missed it here. I’d thought Kentucky would be just a brief stop for a year, and ended up staying for four. It stole my heart and I love going back.

My friend, Joe Mays (Here -> https://www.facebook.com/AlienTwilightPhotography?fref=ts ), a photographer of the erotic and artistic nature, had arranged for me to stay at a “visiting artist apartment”.  Located on the top floor of a house found in the historical district, it was an adorable little place. Gorgeous, really. A cozy third floor walkup (carrying 149 lbs of luggage up protesting, creaky stairs) which opened up to hardwood floors and huge ceiling windows with a breathtaking view. There was a tiny single bed, an even tinier bathroom, a plush red ottoman and a record player with a stack of vinyl ranging from Michael Jackson to Nina Simone.

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Cheap But Honest Plug: Open Gallery – (Here-> https://www.facebook.com/thegalleryisOPEN?fref=ts ) a hot new gallery that just opened on Floyd Street near Papa John’s in Louisville was rapidly becoming known for its art showings with cocktails, live music and scantily clad models. They house their artists, which enable those who reside there to work part time, allowing them to have more time to spend on creating. Brilliant, yes? I highly recommend a visit.

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The lovely apartment was Allison’s (Here-> https://www.facebook.com/rodney.paintings ), a pretty, redheaded artist from Alabama. (Yes, we grow on trees down there.) She had stocked the refrigerator with coffee creamer, eggs, apples, almonds and cans of starbucks double-shot coffee. The place had a neat energy to it…exactly what my fragile mentality and soul needed at the moment. Warm, pretty, solitude. I’m one of those weirdo’s who loves being alone. I always wanted to buy something like this in a city to have on the side as a retreat.

Day 2, Friday: The Lovely Apartment had very few electrical sockets, half of which worked and a dodgy heating system that roasted you alive. Icicles set in between blasts. The bathroom wasn’t heated and was so narrow; you had to turn sideways to pee in order to fit. Plus, there was just one sad, deflated pillow. But the view of the city was amazing and the coffee pot worked. Joe arrived to collect me. My 149 pounds of luggage and I clunked down the three flights of stairs and onward to Cincinnati after a brief stop at Waffle House, of course. Everything is better after scrambled eggs.

I checked into the hotel and lost my key in approximately 18 seconds flat…a record, even for me. In the time it took to walk from the office to the car, it vanished faster than prom dress at midnight.

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I re-keyed, changed into a little black strapless dress and headed over to Horror Hound. I’d wanted to say hello to Norman Reedus whom I’d met several times at various conventions over the last few years. Being a huge fan of the show, I wanted to see if I could a get a photo with some of the other Walking Dead actors, like “Herschel”. I figured it might be best to do that before the insanity hit. Not realizing to what extent that Norman had become The Man, I also didn’t realize how hard it would be to just say a quick hello. Luckily, the staff pushed me to the front of the line, his agent knew me and I got to chat with him for a couple of minutes. His wait time would be so incredibly long; he’d end up staying until 1 a.m. every night to finish signing for all who had waited. I observed him hugging kids, patiently retaking photos that didn’t turn out and chatting amiably with fans. Star status had clearly not gone to his head. His female fans, Dixons Vixens, had signs that said “If Darryl Dies, We All Riot. If Darryl Riots, We All Die.”

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Most of the others weren’t there yet or were still filtering in wearing dark glasses and baseball hats to avoid getting mobbed, so my fangirl moment came to an abrupt halt. I’d be working wit some of The Walking Dead cast on the Mid Texas Comic Con on May 4 & 5 (HERE –> Please note how excellently they advertise all the guests!  http://www.centexexpo.com/index.html ), so I could be a fangirl then. Joe wanted a photo with John Carpenter, so we took one together. (They Live, ya know.) Carpenter, didn’t seem quite as cheerful. Michael Madsen, on the other hand, was always smiling.

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I would have loved to have spent more time walking around and saying hi, but I felt obligated to get back to my booth. It was nearly 5 p.m. and the doors would be opening to the public. On the way out of the room, a chorus of people said, “April! You dropped something!” Indeed, my pass was on the floor. I laughed and waved. “Thank you!”

“Hey,” hollered a guy in line. “I didn’t know you were going to be here!” Sigh.”Yep, come see me later!”

I shouldn’t have bothered rushing back, since the line to get in stretched around the parking lot. Fans stood outside in freezing temperatures for 2-4 hours (then queued inside for autographs another 2-3 hours).

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Many waited only to be turned away at the door, as passes had sold out. Nearly everyone I talked to drove quite far to attend because of the amazing caliber of guests brought in.

I was joined at the table by my haiku and dirty comic book writing friend Nik, along with his sharp witted wife for the weekend. Plus one of my favorite artists in the entire world, Jay Fife.

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Stripper Viking 2 debuted (Here-> http://www.aprilhunter.com/store/), as did Jay’s new Scooby Doo “Daphne”  print (Here-> https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jay-E-Fife-Illustration/215290038586) and both were wicked NEAT.

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Our section of the convention remained empty until about 8 pm. A blonde stopped by and admired my 8×10’s. “These are really cool pictures. Are you in any of them?” The entire table snickered. Insert dumb blonde joke here…maybe along the lines of “all redheads look alike.” As we were cleaning up to leave at 10 pm, a PA blared announcing that HH was staying open an extra hour. I had a photo shoot early in the morning before the convention, so I groaned. I also groaned over the handfuls of people who stopped short at my booth and exclaimed, “April Hunter! I didn’t—“

“Yeah, I know. I’m here.” Thanks, HH.

“Yeah! If I had, I would have brought the WEW DVD I have.” Awesome! Maybe I’ll sign it when I’m back in the area again-in two years. I don’t like to work a certain area more often than that. Meanwhile – get yer ass on my newsletter. It’s free. HERE: -> http://bit.ly/ahnewsletter Or twitter (@AprilHunter). Or my facebook (AprilHunterOfficial).  Because I’m really good about letting people know when “I’m going to be there.”

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My freshly issued key didn’t work.

FOR FUCKS SAKE.

I walked for what felt like a half mile to the front office with hurting feet in whore clothes lugging my huge bag of shit in 34F degree weather. Somehow, I managed to be nice when I got there. Yay, me. This trip is full of firsts.

(TO BE CONTINUED HERE: https://aprilhunterblog.com/2013/05/11/chapter-10-there-is-no-i-in-cnt-but-there-is-a-u-pt-2/

The Hug.

5 Feb

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My mom died in the middle of the night. She just stopped breathing around two-thirty.

My brother and I completely reclined the overstuffed chair she’d been tucked upright into in order to breathe and covered her up with an extra blanket until morning. There was nothing else we could do. As she laid there, head on a pillow, eyes closed, hair smoothed to the side…she looked very peaceful. 

When I awoke a few hours later, her face was cold, but her body was still warm. I knelt down beside her and gave her the hug I hadn’t been able to while she was alive. She’d been so frail, so weak, so sick; I’d always handled her very gingerly. I’d touch shoulders with her and lightly circle my arms around her with a slight, lame squeeze. With her lung pain, I’d been afraid to do anything more.

That morning, while everyone was outside on the patio speaking in hushed tones about the business aspect of dying, I knelt beside her chair and I squeezed her as hard as I could. I rocked back and forth, holding on to her warm body, her ribs, her chest. I buried my face in her shoulder and I hugged the way I’d wanted to for all the times I hadn’t been able to.

And that’s how I said goodbye to her.

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