Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Uncensored


Spooky things have always had a place in my life.

So have mystical things, magical things, unrealistic things.

Those fantastical beasts? I knew where to find them. I knew which shelves they were on. I knew their Dewy number, and I checked them out again and again at the Broad Ripple library.

Fantasy has been just as much a part of my reality as reality.

And this was never to my parents' chagrin.

I grew up in a Catholic home, where I went to a Catholic elementary and junior high. Church was a thing twice a week for me: every Wednesday at school and Sunday (or Saturday night) with family. I had a strong sense of right and wrong. I was a good student, didn't really get into trouble, and loved to read.

Maybe this was why my parents allowed my curiosity for the macabre, and believe me -- the books I checked out from the library's nonfiction section were definitely of the macabre.

You should've seen some of the illustrations in the books about witches. There was dancing, there was a goat man, there were bonfires. I'm sure a pentagram made its way in at some point.

My favorite subjects were about vampires, witches and ghosts. Not the fictional stories, but the books that were devoted to the study of them, the history, where they came from and where they are now. It was through this anthropological interest in the darker side that fueled my story tastes.

I came home with a pile of spooky books, and my parents, my mom especially because she was the one that took me to the library the most, never batted an eye.

I loved a good scary movie, too. In the late 80's and through the 90's, I watched quite a few. It was my one-stop-shop for entertainment. I mean, I made sure to own all the "Scream" movies on VHS. My mom even took me and a friend to see "Scream" on one of our snow days during our sophomore year in high school.

I even wrote one of my AP Comp compare/contrast papers about "Scream" and "Halloween." I had to buy "Halloween" special for that one.

There were many other horror movies I saw and enjoyed.

That and Disney movies. I won't lie. I liked a good Disney movie.

Maybe that's why my parents didn't freak out too much. There was balance in my life.

One of my favorite memories revolves around one of the more epic scary movies I watched with my close-knit group of neighborhood friends.

They were my squad.

One summer, when the TV mini-series of Stephen King's "IT" aired, we all gathered to watch. The first night we all piled into the Churchill's living room to watch it, and the next night, we were in my living room. It premiered when I was 9 in November, so I can't remember if I was 9 when they re-aired it, or if it was later when I was 11 or 12. Regardless, my parents knew we were watching it and this didn't bother them.

Call me sentimental, but when I watched the trailer for the remake of "IT" the other day, it brought back all those childhood memories. I could even relate to the cast. I wore the same clothes as a child of the 80's, I rode my bike with all my cronies, and we investigated around our neighborhood. I was the kid that wore the glasses. You know, skinny and geeky. That was my role.

We just never had to place a restraining order on a demon clown.

Then, in middle school, my love for the macabre found its way through novel form. I read a ton of Beverly Cleary and most of the Boxcar Children, so there was definitely some wholesome reads in my day.

Then I stumbled upon murder books -- I mean -- mysteries, and tales of the supernatural.

Two popular authors existed when I was in middle school, and I bought those paperbacks every chance I got. Sure, I had seen a few Stephen King movies, but I wasn't ready to read his books yet.

I tried "Carrie" since it was one of the shorter novels, but I was not prepared for that beginning shower scene. I put it back on the shelf and kept to what I was used to: "Fear Street" by R.L. Stine and the various novels by Christopher Pike.

R.L. Stine published a book every month. His books were published by Archway Paperbacks and cost less than $5. I went to Glendale Mall a few miles away (I could walk there when I got older) and purchased them each month at B. Dalton. Stine's was the first thriller I had ever read that made my heart beat fast and my palms sweat with nervousness. The book was "Ski Weekend," and it was about a bunch of teenagers that went on a murderous ski weekend.

But there was murder and bad dialogue and I couldn't get enough! Christopher Pike was edgier. I probably shouldn't have read Pike when I was in middle school -- there was definitely some adult situations and language, which is probably why I've continued reading his books. He's still publishing -- or at least, someone is using his name. Pike was also unafraid to dig deeper into the supernatural. Where Stine stuck his toes in, Pike jumped right in. His writing wasn't necessarily the best, but his stories were riveting.

There was a ton of crazy.

And my parents never pulled the books out of my hands.

I'm thankful for that, for them allowing me the chance to choose what I wanted to read and watch, because it also allowed me to censor myself when I knew I wasn't ready for it.

Except that one time my parents took me to see "Sleeping With the Enemy" with Julia Roberts in the theater. And "Pretty Woman." And "Terminator 2: Judgement Day."

Wait a minute. No wonder they didn't censor what I read and was interested in.

They were too busy taking me to see R-rated movies.