A little nervy

So this morning, in about an hour, I have a meeting on Zoom with the State Teachers Retirement System.

We’re supposed to start mapping out the retirement plan in advance, so I decided that two years before go-time was a decent starting point.

Not sure how I feel about all this. I mean, I plan to retire from teaching, but not from working full time. Like I told my sis the other day: I make bad decisions when I have too much free time. Heh. I need a full-time project to keep me busy, focused, and, especially, disciplined.

I guess I’m really just ooked out by the whole prospect. I mean, for the last 29 years, I’ve done the same job, with 23 of those 29 at the same place. Sometimes I struggle envisioning myself doing anything else, because basically, it’s all I know. But…old dogs can learn and all that. When it comes time to hang up my pedagogue badge, I will look back with fondness, but forward with new resolve.

Hopefully. :-)

I was not entertained

My sense of empathy has always hovered around the “overdrive” setting, for good or ill. OK, mostly ill. If I watch a sad movie, I’m a wreck: bawling, sniffling, worn out.

If I watch a scary movie (“watch” being an approximate term, as I spend most of the movie with a pillow in front of my face), I can go weeks in fear, jumping from the floor into the bed, so the demons hiding underneath it can’t grab at my feet.

Still, I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic where ghosts are concerned. As such, in September of 1980, when I was given two free tickets to hear a lecture by Ed and Lorraine Warren, I was mildly amused.

The Warrens were the lead paranormal investigators in the case of the now-world-famous house in Amityville, New York, where the Lutz family lasted all of 28 days before they fled from what they said was absolute demonic terror. The case spawned the movie The Amityville Horror, which came out in the summer of 1979, and the Warrens were on the lecture circuit, discussing their techniques. They are also tied to the stories surrounding the more recent Conjuring film series.

Anyway, I thought about not going, but since the tickets were from my boss, I decided it’d be impolite to refuse, and besides, ghosts aren’t real, so what the heck.

Yeah…about that.

The lecture hall at the college where the event was held was typical of that sort of venue in the 70s: dimly lit, with a raked (upwardly sloped) seating plan; movie-theater-like, with room for 200 or so people. As I was eight months pregnant at that time, I was grateful to have seats in the front row, where I could stretch out my legs.

The Warrens came out onto the small stage to polite applause, and were seated. Then, with the exception of a wide spotlight on the two of them, everything went completely dark. I started to feel ever-so-slightly uncomfortable.

Lorraine and Ed Warren

Lorraine then addressed the audience. According to what’s seared into my memory, she said:

For our lecture this evening, we ask that you do not smoke, as cigarette smoke entices and attracts paranormal activity. 

As folks put out their cigarettes, I seriously fought the urge to get up and leave. But I was in the front row; if I left right at the get-go, people would definitely out me as the chicken I was. So I stayed.

The lecture and accompanying slide show laid out the general facts about Ronald DeFeo, Jr., who, in 1974, systematically shot his entire family as they lay in their beds. Ed stressed the fact that, even though Ronald used an un-silenced .35 caliber rifle to go from room to room and murder his parents and siblings, none of the neighbors ever heard a single shot.

Also, Ronald remembered that it was 3:15 a.m. when the killing, which he says was ordered by “voices,” began.

The lecture couldn’t get over with soon enough. I skipped out on the question-and-answer session afterwards (they turned on the lights for that, of course, as the spooky-boo part was over), dramatically pressing my hand to my lower back, as if to say, “Ugh, I have to get this pregnant body home to bed.”

And I did just that, until I had to visit the bathroom in the middle of the night, as most pregnant ladies do. I opened my eyes and looked at the bedside clock.

It was exactly 3:15.

I lay there, horrified. But I *had* to get up, you know? Babies take up a lot of room. So I did the only brave thing I could, and dragged my husband out of bed to come with me to the loo, where he sat, half asleep, on the edge of the bathtub, like a good sport. Then we both went back to bed, hand in hand, because somehow that would keep me safe from the menacing ghosts of Ronnie DeFeo’s slain family. That went on for several nights in a row.

There’s a documentary called Devil’s Road: The True Story of Ed and Lorraine Warren that I’m watching right now, instead of doing the work I should be doing. I hope I don’t give myself nightmares, because there’s no one to hold my hand if I need a bathroom break tonight.

At 3:15.

It wasn’t the fire; it was the smoke

This morning over coffee, I ran across this picture of 1967 Las Vegas:





And, as is the norm for me, one thing led to another, and I fell down the hole. Eventually, I found myself reconnecting with some unpleasant memories.

Fellow crusties might remember the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino fire of 1980, which started in a deli kitchen and ended up gutting the bottom floors and killing 85 people who were stranded on the floors above. The flames incinerated the main floor of the casino and surrounding area, but it was the poisonous smoke — made worse by upper-floor hotel guests smashing out the windows in hopes of breathing fresh air, but instead inviting in all the deadly fumes — that did the worst damage.

While I can’t find the piece of video that has haunted me for 41 years, I remember it like it was yesterday: on a newscast or in a documentary, they showed a person leaping to his/her death in this fire. To this day, I can’t unsee it. Kind of like when they showed someone filming an ultralight aircraft in the sky, and suddenly, the aircraft flipped upside down, and the pilot tumbled out. I was horrified. And this was in the 1980s, mind — not some crazy independent TikTok or YouTube thing. But back to the hotel…

Talk about an absolute disaster waiting to happen. Not only were there no evacuation signs to tell guests where to go in the event of an emergency, there were almost no smoke detectors, and no sprinkler systems anywhere in the massive hotel and casino. Like the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Co. fire in 1911, the tragic death toll in the MGM fire forced city officials to revisit and improve fire safety measures.

Anyway, back to the effect this video image had on me. I had trouble sleeping for a while, although, with a newborn baby in the house, sleep was fleeting anyway, so I guess it didn’t much matter. But the whole thing terrified me to the point of insisting for years that any hotel room I booked be on the ground floor.

[Come to think of it, 1980 was a weird year for me all around. Remind me to tell you about the first-person encounter I had in the fall of 1980 with Ed and Lorraine Warren, the demonologists and ghost hunters of the Amityville Horror case. Yikes.]

A short documentary was produced shortly after the MGM tragedy. I don’t remember seeing this, but I’m sure I must have.

Funny how some images stick with you for your whole life. I’m sure we all have those memories. *shudder* Do you have any?


Edit: Unfortunately, my outdated comment script doesn’t recognize mobile phone emojis. Currently looking for new software to take its place!

“Time ake up, Mommy. Make panpakes?”

That’s what Lars used to say when he was a toddler. “Panpakes” was his favorite breakfast.

While I’m not sure how long (or if) it will last, it’s time to “ake up.” I look forward to reconnecting with you all here.

I don’t know what happened exactly, but the whole Covid mess took me out of the writing habit. I’ve dropped the occasional post now and then since March of 2020, when everything fell to crap, but as you’ll see if you root around in that time period, the writings are few and far between.

This morning, I got up early and started the laundry. When I checked email, there was a reminder notice from my domain provider that I needed to renew finkweb.org. That got me thinking…do I want to pay upwards of $300/year to keep this little circus going, or do I want to give up my erstwhile dream of being a real writer, and just concentrate on other things?

Well, for today, the answer is “A.” :-) In fact, as I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of reading old posts from 2009 and whatnot, I’m overcome by nostalgia that, I confess, is enjoyable. I don’t want to just trash all these experiences — many with you, my fiends — and let the whole project die a quiet death.

Not yet, anyway.

So if you’re still with me, check in! Let’s test out the comment script to see if it still works. And as always, if something looks hinky, let me know, and I’ll get it fixed.

Much love…

Review: CrioBru Cacao

Here I go again, testing a new product to see if it’s worth the hype. (Looking at you, Bang Cookies.)

This morning, I tried the CrioBru cacao beverage instead of my usual coffee. I wanted to see if A) it would satisfy my (probably made-up) morning requirement of having a hot-beverage jolt to get me going, B) it could provide a healthier alternative to caffeine, and C) it tasted good enough to spend the money regularly on it.

The CrioBru gang have many flavors to choose, but given my love for all things chocolatey-sweet, I went with the basic double variety. The initial skinny:

  • For a 12-oz. bag of grounds, including shipping, it’s $18. (As a reference, I’d pay $7.50 for the same size of Dunkin’ Donuts ground.) If that’s a deal-breaker, then yeah… It ain’t cheap.
  • The first place I look on sites like this is their manufacturing page. While no company is going to hit it out of the park in every area, I was pleased with their methods and vision.
  • What especially interested me was the nutrient info. The phrase “natural appetite suppressant” didn’t escape my notice, either. ;-)

I followed the directions on the back of the bag, and used 2 tablespoons of grounds in my one-cup French press.

You’ll need to readjust your color expectations, as this is a lighter brown than the almost-black hue of brewed coffee. In fact, for a moment, I thought that 2 tablespoons weren’t going to be enough, because the brown just looked “weak.”

Another difference between this and coffee is the steep time. When I make my Dunkin’ Donuts brew every morning, I wait about 2-3 minutes before pouring it into the mug. The Crio directions say to steep for 6-8 minutes, then press, then drink.

I think I made it to the 4-minute mark before charging ahead. haha

Of course, all the above yammering is just stage dressing for the true test: What does it taste like?

For starters, it depends on your palate. I like my coffee sweet. I don’t need cream, but it can’t be bitter. So, as the Crio people tell you, it’s the best if you just sweeten or lighten it however you like.

I added a shot of ReddiWip out of the can, and my standard sweetener. And wow, is it ever tasty. Delicious, even.

It’s exactly like hot cocoa (because, actually, that’s what it is), but without the super-super-sugary sweetness. *You* control that aspect. Again, points for that. If you’re like me and also enjoy European drinking chocolate, there’s another readjustment of expectations, in that this brew’s consistency is that of coffee: much thinner than drinking chocolate.

I’m still waiting to see the nutritional effects, of course (especially the “appetite suppressant” part), but it was like having dessert for breakfast.

I wouldn’t begin to have the nerve to drink it straight, but different strokes and all that. The downside is that I want to have another mug of the stuff, and that will end up costing me down the line.

Great — one more obsession to wrangle.

However, I recommend this highly to anyone who wants to shake some caffeine, and who also loves chocolate. It’s not like the weak excuses for “mocha” flavor that some coffees attempt. This is the real deal, and you can definitely taste the difference.

They have smaller packages on the site, and there are variety packs to try as well. I say go for it if you’re curious! I loved it.