Monthly Archives: April 2011
So, what do you think being dead sounds like? Gina Ochsner’s ghost story “How the Dead Live”—about a man who has died and haunts his daughter’s house only because she will not let go of his memory—answers this question beautifully. Ochsner uses sound in a subtle manner to imply the lack of communication between the man and his loved ones when he was alive, and the reader is treated to a piece that renders chills in what is heard: for example, there is the “sad sound of geese honking” (40-41) in his daughter’s dreams.
Ochsner’s story, on the surface, is about losing a loved one; the motif of sound and how it’s used serves as a reminder that we should, while we are still alive, take the time to listen to those around us, and be certain that we are heard.
“How the Dead Live” is found in Ochsner’s 2009 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction-winning Collection The Necessary Grace to Fall. You can purchase it by clicking here: http://amzn.com/0820334235
Daniel Pearlman’s The Final Dream is now available in e-book over at fortykey [www.40kbooks.com]. This piece, about a future world in which nightmares are conveniently avoided (until, of course, something goes terribly wrong), can be purchased here: http://40kbooks.com/?p=7695#. The novella is part of his 1995 collection The Final Dream and Other Fictions.*
* On an incidental note: the original collection The Final Dream and Other Fictions (which can be purchased here: http://amzn.com/1882633059) also contains my absolute favorite short story of Dan’s, “What Rough Beast.” If you were one of the recipients of this year’s chapbook Denigrating David, then you read in the introduction that I was on a quest to discover the specific inspirational roots of many of my stories. Dan read what I’d written—specifically the line in which I mentioned “What Rough Beast,” stating that I’d love to know what had inspired it—and he sent me back an e-mail: “it was the news report of an attempted interspecies mating (a moose—or was it a New Zealand sea lion—with a cow?).”
 Daniel Pearlman, e-mail message to author, February 2, 2011.
Back in November 2010, we attended Nathan’s 20th High School Reunion in New Jersey. He grew up in Sussex County not too far from the state’s famous Waterloo Village, a 19th-century site on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places which was, at one time, a bustling museum. Shuttered in 2006, it now sits in ruins and is abandoned (this 1981 New York Times article describes what a day at the village was like when it was operating as a museum).
Interestingly enough, Nathan’s mother had, as a child, lived in one of the houses on the property. This was during the 1930s and 1940s (more on this here—I’m not real keen on Wikipedia as a resource, but it’s the only reference I can find to this portion of the property’s history. One other note? I’m pretty sure Nathan’s mother wasn’t a “hobo”, however, it was considered, by today’s standards, low income housing). Because of the property’s current state of abandonment and the stories she’d told me about what it was like to live there, I was very anxious to see it. So the day after the reunion, before heading back toConnecticut, Nathan and I went for a drive, camera in hand.
Even on such a clear, warmish November afternoon, the place had a ghostly melancholy; among the collapsing or sagging roofs, molded visitor center floors, dilapidated signage, and vacant picnic tables I could hear voices from the past: visitors, museum staff and original residents alike (I include a complete photo tour below).
For both safety and legal reasons, we did not approach any of the buildings or try to enter them—the zoom on my camera was good enough, and should be good enough, for anyone who wants to visit. There’s a respect that must be paid.
There is an operating church on the property—The Waterloo United Methodist Church, and it was their lot in which we parked. As we were headed back to our car, a gentleman came out of the church and introduced himself (sadly, I don’t remember his name now). Nathan told the man about his personal connection with the village, and then we spent at least an hour talking about its condition and future.
We were pleased to find that there are efforts being made to restore the place to its former glory. An organization called Friends of Waterloo Village is “working in partnership with the NJ Division of Parks and Forestry to raise awareness and to raise funds to restore Waterloo Village, one building at a time. The group plans to begin their efforts with the grist mill and blacksmith shop by raising $100,000. Donations will be deposited with the NJ Land Conservancy earmarked for Waterloo Village.” One of the upcoming fundraising efforts includes the Waterloo Music Festival, which will be held on the grounds May 14 and 15, 2011 and will feature the performances of such well-knowns as the Chapins. Another is the American Heritage Festival, which will be held at the village September 17 and 18 of this year.
Before our conversation ended, the gentleman proudly showed us the original cemetery headstones, which had just recently been power-washed and restored to as close to their original condition as possible (please note that the Waterloo United Methodist Church is privately owned, and I am uncertain as to whether it was the Friends organization or the church which paid for the stone cleaning).
While there is hope, it’s a massive project. There are miles to go before they sleep, here. But based on the passion and courage of the man I talked to, I think the Friends of Waterloo Village will keep going and stay awake until they’re finished.
In many ways, Waterloo Village is an architectural metaphor for all human relationships. When things fall into ruin, it may be so overwhelming it’s easy to abandon them. But it’s important to keep in mind that this really is a choice: nothing is hopeless. Sometimes it’s just a question of our own levels of courage, how much passion we have for the project, and how much we’re willing to invest in rebuilding.
 Ira Henry Freeman, “New Jersey’s Historic Waterloo Village Turns Back the Clock,” The New York Times, May 17, 1981 http://www.nytimes.com/1981/05/17/travel/new-jersey-s-historic-waterloo-village-turns-back-the-clock.html (accessed April 19, 2011).
 Sussex County, “Historic Waterloo Village to Come Alive Again!,” Sussex County New Jersey, May 27, 2010, http://www.sussex.nj.us/cit-e-access/news/index.cfm?NID=18853&TID=7&jump2=0 (accessed April 15, 2011).
 Lyndsay Cayetana Bouchal, “Chapin Family, Molly Hatchet to headline Waterloo Music Festival,” The New Jersey Herald, March 26, 2011 http://www.njherald.com/story/news/27Waterloo (accessed April 19, 2011).
(Melissa Hunt, I understand you used to work at Waterloo Village. If you have ANY comments about any of these photos that can add depth or answer questions, please let me know or comment below. You rock!)
Spring is here (pretty much), so why is this bunny crying?
That’s what I asked myself too when I found him on a shelf at Michael’s. As is typical of any visit to that store, I go in for one thing—like magnet paper or cardstock for my chapbook covers—and I come out with some interesting current-Holiday item (with the exception of Halloween, where I come out with like four or five awesome current-Holiday items). I walked in and saw a shelf crammed with bunnies—bunnies festooned in grapevines, bunnies hugging colorful Easter baskets, bunnies surrounded by their babies. All of them smiling. Cute, I thought, I could use something new for spring. But none of these bunnies inspired me enough to part with $3.99.
I was about to give up when, at the very back of the shelf and clearly set apart from the throng, I spotted one I thought I hadn’t seen yet—all I saw was his back end; somebody had faced him to the wall. I reached for him, and there he was: alone, depressed, sobbing into his little paws.
This I had to have. It was perfect for me and inspired memories of every sad bunny story I read as a kid: The Velveteen Rabbit, Watership Down, and my personal favorite, Martin Bell’s “Barrington Bunny.” In that one, what I consider to be one of the saddest stories ever, Barrington tucks his smaller friends under his tummy to keep them warm during a brutal winter storm. In the morning, his friends emerge from beneath his dead body (my parents figured the fact that Barrington is a Christ figure made the horrifying tale perfectly appropriate for a three-year-old).
I took him home, thinking about what had intrigued me most: someone had not only banished him to “the corner of shame,” but had also turned his sad little face to the wall. Apparently in Retail Bunny Land, sad is bad.
This extends to the real world, too. How many times has someone either told you to stop crying, forced you to stop crying or else, or shamed you enough the last time you did it you either hide it or don’t do it at all? I think we just don’t frame the act of crying properly. Crying is a release, an act of cleansing. We always feel better after we do it—shouldn’t that tell us something? Besides, it isn’t always sad. Sometimes, it’s joyful.
Poor sad bunny will sit on my dining room table this spring and serve as a reminder that sometimes, a good cry does the trick—and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
 Read the full text of The Velveteen Rabbit here: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/williams/rabbit/rabbit.html