The Blue Bell

•August 7, 2008 • 3 Comments

It wasn’t a dark or stormy night.

It was a blisteringly hot sunny evening as some friends and I made our way into the Blue Bell Saloon in Guthrie, Oklahoma to attend the OKPRI Ghost Hunt night at the oldest saloon in Oklahoma.

The saloon was much the same as it had been last time I had been there, with the exception of all the chairs having been arranged into rowed seating in front of a video screen that dominated the far end of the bar. Oh and it was HOT. Gotta love Oklahoma in August. As we looked around, waiting to begin the evening we noted the old decor, the bar, the huge mirror behind with three tiers of alcohol below. There were various stuffed and mounted animals around the walls and ceiling and then there were the bullet holes.

Five to be exact, still present and preserved from the days when gunfights were a little more common, well check that, with shootings in some areas these days maybe they’re still as common today, just not automatic weapons.

About ten minutes into the presentation my friend B leans over to me and tells me one of the ghosts is watching us from by the bar. I figured this was a sure sign the night was about to get interesting. B is what some people would call psychic or sensitive. It seems to run in her family, as her teenage daughter has that same uncanny knack B does for being dead on about, well, anything.

After the presentation they split us up into groups and divided us out into the three floors of the saloon: basement, main floor and brothel. Our group started on the main floor and after some brief instruction on taking photos and using the electromagnetic detectors we started our hunt in the unlit saloon. As we walked around one of my friends captured some activity near the bar while I looked back into the shadowy half lit kitchen that “Dog” our OKPRI leader was about to take some people into.

Then one of the shadows moved.

My stomach jumped. For a moment I thought I was seeing things, until Dog came barreling back out of the kitchen yelping “He was right inside the door!”

The ghost on the first floor is a man with a handlebar mustache and old derby hat and a penchant for cursing at patrons and hunters like a sailor. I only saw his shadow, so I can’t confirm that, and he didn’t curse at us, but maybe he knew we had a 17-year-old in the group.

Next stop was the bordello. The second floor was an interesting place, all four of us got sick feelings in our stomachs as we entered the main room and started walking around. People started asking the ghosts to give them a sign, knock etc… B sat down at a table and started telling us that the ghosts were talking to her. Dog came over and started listening to her talk about the ghosts, who they were telling her they were and their history. The more she talked, the more Dog started nodding and listening more intently. Then he told her she was right, their historical research about the people in this place and what she had said matched up perfectly. From that point on Dog kept track of us.

When we moved to Miss Lizzie’s room, the sinking feeling hit again and B told us and Dog that Lizzie was not a good person, only interested in profit etc… and cared about nothing else. Considering she is said to have murdered at least one of the girls under her charge and was known to buy girls from families about to lose their farms to work in the brothel, that wasn’t surprising. The electromagnetic detector kept maxing out in the room while we were there, and I took a shot while there and ended up capturing a swirl of what would best be described as ghostly energy pushing out at someone nearby. As instructed I took a second pic in the same area a moment later, to make sure it wasn’t just a trick of light and there was nothing remotely like that present. I felt a bit victorious in getting a ghost shot, since another of my friends had managed to catch a image of one of the woman ghosts pecking the 17-year-old on the cheek a bit earlier. We filed out of the room and headed to our next sweep area.

When we got to the bottom floor B and another one of my friends were both getting impressions from the ghosts. I made my way back to the storage area where one of the ghosts is said to be buried inside the walls of the old tunnels that are long since sealed. I took some pictures and heard some faint whisper like sounds, but nothing I could make out. After that I made my way out of the back where I heard one of my group had their cell phone knocked out of their hand in the women’s bathroom.

Dog excitedly called our attention to one of the pool tables where a light was swaying back in forth on its own. Checks were made to make sure nothing was acting on it, breeze etc.. Nothing could be found. We stood and watched it, whichever ghost was acting on it had no more to say despite everyone’s repeated attempts to get it to knock, mess with meters etc… It eventually got bored and stopped. The night ended for the majority of the hunters as we all went back upstairs and the OKPRI thanked people for coming, told them about upcoming events and bid everyone farewell. Except us. We were told not to leave.

Christy, the lead investigator and Christian psychic, (which may be a bit of an oxymoron) came over and listened to B’s tales, looked at our photos and verified again everything B had said about the ghosts. She also encouraged her to do more with what abilities she had. They asked us to mail them pictures and gave us all cards to keep in touch with and we departed.

We left Guthrie and I got home about 1:30 in the morning feeling both drained from the long night and energized from the experience. Truth be told, as fun as this had sounded I didn’t really expect to see these ghosts or catch them on film, let alone have them talk to people I know. I figured it would be an entertaining night and there would be little more to the story than us fumbling about and enduring the woman who claimed to be psychic but whose only real ability was to wander into any picture you were taking.

Instead I got an eye opening night of things I believed were out there and confirmation that they were. Seeing is believing and as the bard said:

“And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Hamlet Act 1; Scene 5

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Fire Drill

•July 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

So I was sitting in my office minding my own business when the fire alarm starts bleating like some dying sheep in the hall. Working in somewhat advanced building, my first thought was the thing was malfunctioning again. Then they said it was a drill.

I haven’t been in a drill since high school. I remembered the old rules, leave everything, proceed out in an orderly fashion etc… Well, screw that. I took a moment to pick out what things I needed to save and took them along. My jackelope must live after all.

After a few minutes we were all gathered on the grassy knoll across from our building in the blazing one hundred degree heat. It was at this point that the administrative assistant from upstairs started proclaiming that the fire drill was her idea and proceeded to tell us how well we’d done ad nauseum.

I spied a Coke truck turning onto the street and for a moment contemplated pushing her in front of it. Administrative assistants are secretaries with delusions of grandeur, for the record. I’m not sure at what point the decision was made to change the name and make it sound more powerful than it is, but I think we should consider changing it back to secretary and telling them to deal with it.

This is the sort of thing that happens, people get a bit of power and try and control and run everything. I’m still baffled how a glorified secretary makes the decision to empty the building in the middle of the day and disrupt a workshop full of visiting guests with no repercussions.

With great power comes great responsibility, a core of the Spiderman movies. No one has watched that here. Especially her. Controlling, negative and personally invasive, I can’t count the number of times I’ve fantasized about pushing her down the stairs. Sadly everyone hates her so much my co-workers would probably fall over themselves to alibi me. Still I’ve watched Spiderman, just because I can push her down the stairs doesn’t mean I should. Besides I know she’ll get hers times three before it’s all said and done. None of her bad behavior will get her canned though.

One of the other people in the building with this title is so mind numbingly incompetent it’s driving other people past the edge of sanity. Not a far drive for some, but said assistant is still here. Gotta love bureaucracy.

If Shakespeare had met some administrative assistants, I wonder if he’d changed his mind about who to kill first…

Many Happy Returns…

•July 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I’m not sure what it is about coming back to work after time off. It always feels like someone’s taking my head and rolling it through a vise while giggling madly at me first thing in the morning. This is later replaced by that cottony feeling in the brain that makes you wonder if you should have had more caffeine first thing in the morning.

By some miracle people expect you to be fully functional within a couple hours, like you never left. I’m only now getting over the vacation hangover, or maybe I should call it the return to work hangover. Either way my head doesn’t appreciate the call to duty.

Luckily there has been no crisis to deal with beyond the regular work drama, unlike a couple weeks ago when I had to deal with a monumental screw up by one of my bosses and his over zealous colleague. Thankfully that was resolved, despite their attempts to blame each other, with only me glaring at them and verbally smacking them on the nose with a newspaper. Not to sell the glare short, it’s taken years to perfect and can reduce people to apologetic sputtering.

Still, there are other things I could be doing.

My Xbox called earlier wondering where I’d run off to. I could be writing on the novel, comic book, etc.. or just watching a movie. There’s always the Y. Working out with AC is never a bad thing.

Nothing outside would work except for a freezing cold pool, the blasts of air from the fire pits of Apokolips tends to make being outside a bit untenable.

Or I could be watching The Dark Knight again, the amazing movie of the summer that everyone should see. Returning to The Dark Knight would definitely beat being back to work. If you haven’t seen it, shut the computer off and go now.

Seriously. I’d say a few words about it, but I don’t want to spoil it. Maybe in a week or so.

So to summarize, coming back to work sucks, stay on vacation if you can. It’s more fun.

Time Travel

•July 25, 2008 • Leave a Comment

For anyone who didn’t know the title of the post as well as some of it’s accompanying designs are nods to Doctor Who, one of my favorite television shows about a time traveling hero racing across time and space helping people and saving the universe. Time travel is an intriguing thing. It brings up all sorts of questions about where you’d go, who you’d see and what you would do. Hopefully with some care.

Of course, time travel isn’t possible for us. At least not in the same sense. I can’t suddenly rocket into the future and see all the cool gadgets while avoiding being killed by whatever intelligent machines might live there, nor can I gallivant into the distant past where I would no doubt be chased by sword willing people who haven’t bathed in a week because I don’t speak the language. But we do have our own version and mine has been happening a lot these past few months.

As we live we move through life, grow and change and the people in our lives either do the same or separate from us and walk a different path. That’s life, as much as it sometimes sucks, but we get used to it and we go on.

These past six or seven months have been a little outside the ordinary though. People long gone have returned and set up residence in my life in the midst of my current and new friends. This has been a good thing, if only because all the people who have returned were in the wow, it sucks that I haven’t seen them in a while category. It just sort of happened and I think things are better for it.

That said, time travel can also suck. I’ve been fortunate that the people who’ve come back into my world have been people I am glad to see. For every one of those though , there are those people from the past you randomly encounter and for all the time you spent together back then, you have no idea what to say to them. Or for some, in my case, people you left in the past for a reason.

Turn Left: A review

•June 26, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The latest episode of the BBC television series, Doctor Who, opens with The Doctor and his current companion Donna Noble shopping in an alien market. Donna is lured into a shop by an oriental fortune teller where she is asked how she met her friend the Doctor. What choices led her to meet him? Through flashbacks we see Donna and her harping mother, last seen in the two part Sontaran episode, as Donna is on her way to the temp agency and her mother trying to convince her to go the opposite direction and take a job locally, all she has to do is turn right.

Something skitters across the floor and the fortune teller asks “What if you had turned right? …What if you st could still go right?” We hear the skittering again and Donna’s panic as the fortune teller tells Donna to turn right and change the world. We flash back and Donna’s car goes right and the world changes.

Turn Left marks Season four’s Doctor free episode, a tradition in the new series since Season 2, and gives us a peek of what the world would be like without the Doctor. Without Donna we learn the Doctor would have died at the beginning of Season 3 and through Donna’s eyes we see the fate of Martha Jones, Sarah Jane Smith, the Torchwood team and humanity in a world without the Doctor. The aforementioned are all spin off series of Doctor Who for those that don’t know.

This alternate reality is a dark place, where things simply get worse and worse for Donna, her family and the human race as a whole. A nuclear irradiated London, a decimated United States and alien attacks are just the beginning of the disasters this world faces. Then Rose Tyler arrives.

Last seen trapped in a parallel universe at the end of Season 2, she’d come looking for the Doctor. She tells Donna that the stars are going out, in all the universes and only the Doctor can save them. She also tells Donna about the alternate reality created when she turned right instead of left.

The rest of the episode is well done, as the two work out a way to fix things and try and set things right once more. Rose’s appearance foreshadows a much larger threat that looms over the upcoming season finale and links back to the first season of Doctor Who.

In addition to moving the story arc of the season along, this particular episode touches on a question people often struggle with in their lives. “What if…”

We all have those moments where we look back and wonder what would have happened if we’d made a different choice or said a different thing. It’s human nature. Granted to most of us making a turn one way or another won’t result in the destruction of life as we know it, but it would probably alter more in our lives than we care to imagine.

Turn Left illustrates what would happen if you changed just one little thing in your life. An episode worth watching whether you’re a fan of Doctor Who or not.

Reciprocity

•June 18, 2008 • Leave a Comment

It’s amazing how many people in the world expect us to do all the work for them. A good friend of mine has a T-shirt that reads: “I work hard so people on welfare don’t have to.” My boss recently figured out that you can collect about 1200 dollars a month on unemployment, and the government wants to extend that by about 3 months now.

These are the easy examples though, the ones we can all think of when we think about people taking advantage of us, of the system and enjoying the free ride. They’re “the worst” according to society in general.

But are they?

I find them inconvenient, frustrating and though I don’t appreciate them taking advantage, on a personal level I’m not so deeply affected. I don’t know any of these people. We don’t run in the same circles. Or do we?

I don’t know any of the welfare types, but I do know some people who are inconvenient, frustrating, and who take advantage when they get the opportunity. These are the people that expect me to be doing all the work. I can number them among the people I call friends, co-workers and employers. Truthfully I started noticing this back in February, and I wondered how the hell they ended up in my orbit. One of them, on closer examination, has been a close friend.

With some of this examination complete, I decided I was putting out more effort into these people than I was getting back and that was just insane. We all operate on the risk/reward scale at some level. If the payoff for our effort isn’t equal to or greater than what we put in we’re just operating with diminishing returns. This is why businesses fold. Relationships aren’t any different.

Reciprocity is defined as “consisting of or functioning as a return in kind” by Webster’s dictionary.

A few months ago, for example, I started to call a close friend of mine and stopped myself. I asked myself when was the last time he called me? I couldn’t remember. Half the time I’d call and leave a message and wouldn’t get a call back. I’d get an instant message on AIM the next day. “Sorry I missed your call blah blah blah”

Using that as an example, if you’re making all the effort and the other person isn’t, what’s the point? If they’re giving you less back than you’re getting, then you’re still losing in the long run. This goes for dating, friends and co-workers.

So how do you know the difference between someone on welfare and the real deal?

The real deal makes effort. They make calls. They stop by. They ask about you. They keep their word to you. They pay attention. Sometimes they’ll surprise you with their interest and intensity. Being around the real deal is energizing at the very least and you’ll probably be in a better mood just by being around them.

The welfarers are content to float down the river of apathy. You’ll be making 9/10ths of the effort here. You’ll have to call. You’ll have to stop by. They might ask about you if it occurs to them, probably not before you’ve asked about them and you may find yourself getting into a habit of offering information which they’ll like since they won’t need to expend the calories to ask you themselves. Lengthy pauses in conversation will frustrate you since sometimes keeping up their end of the conversation is too much to ask. Their word is nebulous at best as you’ll be lucky if they were paying attention when they told you they’d do something. You’ll mostly be exhausted from pouring all your energy down this drain of a human being.

From a work stand point a lot of the same rules will apply, co-workers and employers are different though. The welfare employer or co-worker is often mysteriously busy though with what you’re not sure. They’ll be off doing this or that, they may or may not engage you unless they happen to run into you in the break room or a main work area. They won’t seek you out unless they want something. This can be anything from a mindless task to a “brilliant idea” they’ve had and want you to implement or maybe just to work for them. Then they’re all personable and friendly and you’re old pals.

The real deal co-worker is in my experience a little more rare, but they are gems when you find them. They pull their weight, they’ll help you with your tasks and can be valuable team members and friends. They’ll actually behave like the real deal friend for the most part, except you might not have much to do with them outside of the office. But hey you do spend 8 hours a day with them.

Unfortunately we’re not likely to get rid of the relationship welfarer any more than we’re likely to get rid of their counterparts in the economy. The only weapon we really have is our choice as to how far we let these people into our lives.

Just remember, reciprocity is key.

Force Golf

•May 13, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Last night marked my first foray onto a golf course and by extension my first game of golf. It was an unseasonably cool 70 degrees in Oklahoma in June. Perfect weather for golf or anything outdoors, with just a slight touch of humidity that comes with summertime in the Midwest.

We made our way to a small nine hole golf course just off of Highway 9 in Norman, picked up a cart, loaded the clubs and set off to golf the evening away. My buddy, who has been doubling as a golf instructor of sorts,(we’ll call him Sensei for now) asked me what club I was going to use.

I should backtrack a bit here, I’ve been to the driving range with the new clubs exactly one time, and at that one time I used about half the clubs. The other half are still wrapped in plastic at the beginning of this adventure. I really don’t have just a huge grasp on what plays best where as this game begins so asking me what club I want to play with is about as useful as asking George Bush about the WMDs in Iraq. Well, maybe not that bad. I knew I had clubs after all.

So I set about selecting a club that looked playable. So many choices.

“Use the Force.” I heard Obi Wan tell me in the back of my head. Yeah, I’ve watched Star Wars too many times, shoot me.

I selected small driver and Sensei tells me that’s the one he would have picked for me. I rolled my eyes inwardly, proceeded to set up my shot and promptly knocked the ball into the water with a resounding sploosh.

I repeated this process at the next hole, though this time into a creek as opposed to a pond. Consistency is key when playing a game.

I did start to get the hang of things as the night went on. My swings improved somewhat, and I got a little more comfortable. I also got some interesting golf tips. I should just swing not do practice swings as that was messing me up. Yoda’s “Do or do not, there is no try,” in action.

I did learn two important first game of golf lessons.

First: Par? What’s par? As my second time out on a course, I was well aware that there was no way I was going to be competing or winning a game against Sensei, regardless of the crappy night he was having, evident from the grumbling and muttering to himself. I let all that stress go and went for the experience and getting comfortable out there. I didn’t have any blood pressure spikes, unlike Sensei.

Second: I’ve got a lot to learn and a long way to go.

That one I can deal with. I still think about life in these terms, so I can certainly handle that in a game where I’m chasing a small white ball across a green with some sticks.