Thursday, December 24, 2009

No country

Once I got onto a dirt road in some random state park that I’ve never heard of, I knew I was nowhere near Jiminy Peak in Hancock, Massachusetts. All I wanted to do was ski, but that was going to be delayed for about an hour as I explored a place so untamed that not even Google knew what was going on. Somewhere from Albany, I had taken a wrong turn.

I had an inkling of how lost I was when I didn’t see the name of the road I was on for half an hour. I called Katie, a wonderful friend and navigator, to look up where I was online. The problem was that most of the side streets weren't listed on Google Maps. Then, I lost my cell phone reception.

Driving through Cherry Plain State Park was scenic, but the unplowed roads and steep cliffs with no guardrails was a bit of a turnoff. I ended up going in circles, so I saw a lot of the area even though there wasn’t much to see. The place was so barren that seeing a home was a highlight. Seeing a business, like a restaurant, was like spotting a unicorn: elusive, mystical and hard to fathom.

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The most important that came out of this was not that I was so late to the mountain that I was able to get the discounted evening rate, which was delightful to someone eking out a meager living as a reporter. Rather, I realized that my fantasy of living out in the quiet countryside is something I don’t want to pursue anymore.

In a city like Bridgeport, where I live, I think a lot of people would want to get away from the crime, the abandoned buildings, the traffic that’s common in the area. None of this really exists in the country, aside from the occasional dilapidated barn or outdoorsmen hunting without a license. With all the problems in Bridgeport, I yearned for the quiet countryside, where I could spend my time hunting rather than cursing at the awful drivers.

I think I still want something like this, but not to the extent I saw it as I roamed these roads I've never been on before. These weren’t even villages I was passing through. It was just the occasional trailer. The outdoors are great and all, but I need places to shop, movie theaters to go to and bars to hang out in. None of that existed in this part of upstate New York.

So I guess I can cross out totally rural areas from the places I want to live in. That still leaves Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix and anywhere outside of the United States as possible future homes. Maybe a summer place outside Cherry Plain State Park would suffice for a couple months a year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dutifully done deception

My favorite television characters include a time-travelling Japanese nerd, a crooked cop who murdered an innocent detective in the pilot episode and a charismatic gay thug who robs drug dealers for their money and drugs. A charming bunch of guys for sure, but the character I relate to most is different.

He’s a dedicated husband, a loving father and a likeable goofball. He’s also a serial killer who feigns nearly all emotions just so he seems normal.

Yup, that’s me. Let me explain.

Dexter Morgan (played by Michael Hall) is a serial killer with a heart of gold. He only kills murderers and has a special hatred of those who harm children. He juggles his dark urges with his family and job. Through his voice-over narration, we see that the only time Dexter is really alive is when he’s killing. All other times, he’s trying as hard as he can to act normal. His stepdad taught him a lot about human behavior. The rest he learns as he goes.

Obviously, none of the serial-killer double life applies to me me. I have no sinister urges or sadistic hobbies (honestly). I relate to Dexter and how he has to pretend. I’m not the only one who feigns interest, laughs or empathy at times. Everyone does it, and I think that’s why a show about a serial killer can be Showtime’s highest rated program. We, as in normal people, don’t build our live around pretending like Dexter does. We just sprinkle it around as we see fit.

Just think how often we pretend things. It’s usually nothing serious that we’re hiding. It can be a forced chuckle after an unfunny story. A smile for no real reason. It can even be anger when all you want to do is hug the person. As a reporter, I see the fakeness regularly. Public relations people laugh at my bad jokes. Politicians express sympathy and grave concern over things when it makes them look good.

Now imagine if we all stopped pretending. I tried, but I can’t.

Framing my life with the tale of a serial killer is admittedly a stretch. Maybe it’s because I see my man Dexter as a tragic figure, which is especially true after Sunday’s season finale. No spoilers here. Just check the show out.