It was alarming, on two levels. One, it was exceptionally loud when the ceiling fell. I mean, it fell in three big chunks and the whole house shook three times. But two, oh my god, that room is half as wide as this one and it sounded like, if that stuff hit you it’d be like someone dropped a sidewalk on you from eight feet up.

The trouble with troubles is that you always think you know the bottom of them. I thought I knew we could have easily died. But I did not know until I heard it fall. Still, it took them two hours to get it down. The radiant heat seems to keep the ceiling together in an annoying–and yet, comforting–way. The contractor said that it was still firmly attached at the walls inward for about a foot, but then the only thing holding the center of the room in place was the light fixture. When he took it down, he said the ceiling dropped about an inch.

The good thing is that he says he now feels really confident in being able to assess the other three rooms, since he’s seen how the sag looks from above. And he says that he can brace them in place, if he sees the start of sagging, for just a hundred or so bucks a room, so that we can save up the next $3,000 to get them fixed.

So, that’s a load off, as well.

But man. Wow. I tell you, the noise. It sounded for the longest time like it was raining pebbles and then it sounded like a car hit the side of the house, three times, in succession.

I kind of want to cry over it. I cannot tell you how deeply, deeply grateful I am to you guys that this is happening–that we can get the den fixed, too.

But I am still going to have nightmares about that noise.

Allendale: A Shunned House Part 1


A Shunned House

in the way of HP Lovecraft

The ironic thing is that Stephen King must have passed by Allendale a hundred times in the late 70s. It’s a well-known, but little-repeated bit of gossip around Gallatin, Tennessee, that, in those days, he was rich enough to afford to have his own strain of marijuana grown in his precisely preferred soil and light conditions. Like later connoisseurs of high-end coffee, artisanal chocolates, or hand-crafted beers, King had definite and persnickety ideas about what circumstances occasioned the best weed.

It turned out the best pot, in King’s opinion, grew on a hill overlooking a particular bend in the Cumberland River, back behind a rotting shed on a farm closer to the old lock than you’d think a man trying to avoid the attention of authorities would be comfortable with. Perhaps there were enough stills in operation out there that there was some kind of mutually-assured-destruction agreement in place. If no on narced on the moonshine, no one was going to narc on the creepy Yankee and his wacky tobaccy.

I won’t mention the name of the farmer who supplied King, but that small plot, just ten plants, and King’s willingness to pay to have his needs met, put that farmer’s three children through college—the two of whom everyone thought would amount to something went to Vanderbilt and the one without a lick of sense went to UT. Perhaps the UT graduate had been underestimated, since he’s now a wealthy auto executive, but when the other two siblings are doctors, how can that not be slightly disappointing? It’s like the Frists, having to accept that Bill would go into politics.

Back then, there were only a few houses along Peach Valley Road and so King would often park his rental car right at the bottom of the rise Allendale—my ancestral home—sits at the top of and walk into the farmland of his “friend.” Whether he looked up into the unkempt yard or even noticed the slightly dilapidated old farmhouse with the stone chimneys at either end? He seems to have never written or spoken of it, and yet, for the three of us who know its true nature, Allendale equals or outranks in horror the wildest fantasy of the genius who so often passed it unknowingly.

“Frank” Feelings

W. says some really insightful things about “Frank,” which is making me kind of sit here with a weird smile on my face.

He says, “I usually try not to over think my reading, but I really have to wonder if Phillips intended the story to be a metaphor for how day-to-day life makes us all into zombies and the toll that takes on our relationships.” And I can safely say, no, that is not at all what I had in mind. And yet, holy shit, I think “Frank” totally supports that kind of a reading of it.

And that really, truly makes me feel like an artist, like something I wrote that I thought was so obviously one thing can be seen by someone as something completely else. It means more than I can take credit for.


That feels really, really incredible.

I Guess I Want to Know Different Things

I caught the middle of a Led Zeppelin documentary this weekend, but went and did dishes rather than watch the whole thing. Which is saying something, because I really like Led Zeppelin and I hate doing dishes. But I realized that I don’t really give a shit about two hours of talking very little about the music and talking a lot about what life was like for the band. And, I mean, I guess that’s a fine subject for a band. But I am, at this point, really only interested in hearing a couple of things about/from the guys in Led Zeppelin.

1. I will never grow tired of hearing them talk about the music, about what they loved about it, what they didn’t, what influenced them, how they hope they were influential. And how they live with that kind of artistic legacy now. I want to hear about them as artists.

2. I’d like someone to sit down with Page, if he’d be willing, which I doubt, and talk about the occult influences on his art. It’s completely obvious, but I can’t find a single interview where someone who knew what they were talking about asked him really engaging questions about it. And now I’m guessing the time has passed.

But I’m more interested in what people understand themselves to be up to than I am with rehashing the same old facts, I guess.

I’m a Wreck

Thank the gods for the Butcher, because he’s the kind of person you can admit to that you’re an unreasonable mess about the coming week and, even though you know everything is fine objectively, you cannot make yourself know for a fact what your eyes can see and he understands.

We’re doing the den ceiling, starting today. I know I’ve told you guys that. I keep saying it, though, because it’s like picking at a scab. It’s not good, but it gives you a kind of satisfaction you can’t do without. And I am a complete mess about it. I am terrified beyond all reason that the contractor is going to get killed doing the demolition and that his family is going to sue us. I have become convinced that the whole house is falling apart–that it’s cracking down the middle and soon will split open like an egg out of which will emerge some embodiment of my terror.

The embodiment of my terror will be some kind of sentient multiple-eyed, mobile, mushroom that wants to touch you, perhaps climb into your mouth with its eyes open. You die feeling the terror of a thousand open eyeballs sliming around in your mouth.

Your last coherent thought is “God damn it, why didn’t I just sleep in Saturday, then, rather than going to the mechanic, since the $250 I spent on the car is just for the benefit of whoever drives it next?” Your last thought is “ugh, eyeballs! in my mouth!” Maybe your last, last thought is that this wouldn’t kill Andrew Zimmern. And that’s the end of you. Dead of a terror that Andrew Zimmern would hunt down and eat raw for dinner on a special Halloween-themed episode in the first fifteen minutes.

Let us hope Andrew Zimmern does hunt it down and eat it before it goes on to kill again.

Here’s the thing I’m learning about mental health in my medium age. It is really like any other type of health. I used to tend to think of it only in terms of the big mental health issues which would be like the equivalent of cancer or diabetes. Huge things that require medical intervention and constant monitoring.  In that regard, I was an idiot. There are a lot of mental illnesses that are much more akin to having a cold. Like, here I am, having a little bout of freaking out beyond all reason and not being able to feel like things are fine, even though they objectively are, and being unable to match my interior state to the true state of things (like, for instance, I would love, more than anything, right now to go check again to make sure the den is empty, except for the wireless router, even though I know, because I have seen it with my own eyes, repeatedly, every time I walk by it, that it is indeed empty except for the wireless router, which I will move this afternoon).

So, on the one hand, that’s not cool. On the other hand, I find how brains function (or don’t) to be really interesting, so I find this kind of interesting. And I can laugh about it, so there’s that.

Brains, man. If zombies remembered what a fucked-up thing brains can be, they’d be much less anxious to eat them.

“Now, I’m not a religious person, but as a writer, I understand the maxim that heroes are judged by the power of their villains. Imagine Batman without the Joker, Superman without Lex Luther, or Sherlock Holmes without Moriarty; their stature would be seriously diminished. Similarly, the classic vampire is scary and significant because, within that mythology, even God himself takes notice and stands against him. That’s a powerful trope, and one that’s proven very hard to replace.”–Alex Bledsoe