The creeping horror that infests my happy place

I must open with a confession.  On this All Hallows Eve, I must spill a dark secret that will earn me enmity, derision, and scorn.


I really really really HATE Nightmare Before Christmas. I didn’t always hate it, but I never liked it.  It was… okay.  The songs were generic, trying to be all gothy while still being sugary pop (An Elfman staple.  Sorry, his music is hit or miss for me. )  The story was…  blah. Jack as a character was… blah.  I rooted for Oogie Boogie, really.


All that changed one fateful October, after years away, visiting the Happiest Kingdom on Earth with my mom and brother.  I raced for the Haunted Mansion. Unaware of what waited. I saw the additions on the outside, and was all… well, okay. As long as they didn’t mess with the inside.  15 minutes later, exiting the Mansion, my rage slowly rising the entire time, I now HATED that movie with a passion. How DARE they.


Anyways, a couple weeks ago, a coworker announced they were going to Disneyland for Halloween weekend. I scoffed.  “I do not go to Disney in October. It’s too… painful”


Another co-worker, who has heard me rant before, rolled her eyes.  “Jesus Alex, you’re so dramatic about it.”


I… may have been temporarily possessed by the ghosts of Houdini, Vincent Price, and Ken Anderson. That is the only thing to explain the next few minutes.  Note, this is from memory, I MAY have tweaked a few lines below.


“Dramatic? Too dramatic?  NAY!  I say I am not dramatic enough about this… evil.”


I looked at the original coworker, the one who as you read is enjoying the Mouse. “You may be unaware. But my feet will not find themselves passing under the gates this month, or the next, no. Not even until after the Yule season has passed, and the three Kings have finished their annual pilgrimage to the manger, can my soul walk with ease upon the grounds of the so called, Happiest Place on Earth.”


I fluffed an imaginary cape behind me, and stood straight.  My voice was carrying, and carrying a mild unidentifiable accent, and I started drawing a crowd. The last three words, Happiest Place On Earth, were said with a sneer and slow sarcastic cadence that I hope would have made Price proud.


“You see, there is an unholy abomination this time of year.  There is a blight, a disturbing blasphemy that winds its tendrils through the Temple of Terror. A creeping evil that grows along the walls of that shrine of darkness, that plot of land where all may bask in true darkness.

Yes, within the sacred graveyard where I have buried my very heart, to forever thrill in horror and dream sweet in the concentrated nightmare of Glory, the seeds of disdain are planted, and growing vines of decay. My beloved Haunted Mansion, the Manse of Macabre where my true self can be free, is BOUND.  BOUND I SAY!

Bound in chains of crassness, bound with shackles of commercialism, bound by the gauche gaudy ungainly streamers hung by that… that villain.  That KNAVE of pumpkins, who would DARE attempt to claim the crown of Halloween and name himself King, the Man Jack. ”


At this point, my coworkers were evenly split between giggling and backing away slowly.  I may have spun a few times and gesticulated wildly with my hands.  I do that.


“But his profane influence wanes.  The Glorious Holy Imagineers who, caught in his spell as the summer fades, and fall begins, will soon find their minds clearing.  Yes, even they whose hands did the dirty work of the Pumpkin Knave will doubt, and the true Unholy Peace that is the spirit of the Mansion will cleanse their minds of his taint.  And LO, in the cleansing powers of the new year’s frost, they will put right that which they themselves have put wrong, and Jack and his Ilk will find themselves again in boxes, gathering dust through spring and summer, waiting for their time to again blaspheme. And then, once its halls are restored to their rightful sinful terror.  THEN, and not one moment before, will my feet once again walk the Main Street, and find happiness in the darkness as I wander the tombs of those who have gone before, and enter the Halls of the Haunted Mansion. ”


At this point, the crowd was a bit tense.  I figured, enh, cathartic end.


“And don’t even get me started on Space Mountain.”

On Hamilton, and the meanings of “Father” and “Son”



“Don’t call me son.”

I’m listening to Hamilton: An American Musical this morning while driving to work. I often skip Meet Him Inside. I get… emotional. I’ve read that Lin-Manuel Miranda has a good relationship with his father.  He must know someone who doesn’t though, that he could channel.  He has a view of those words, father, son, that only comes from hate and fear.


Hamilton’s father was, from all accounts, abusive, controlling, and then absent, having “split, full of it”.  Father was not a concept that Hamilton liked.  Father was not a title to bestow on a man who you looked up to. It was a swear word.  And in the same token, so was son. I understand that concept well. Father was fear. Father was hate. Father was pain.  I understood why other people used the term, but whenever it was suggested that someone could be a “father figure” to me, I always winced.

Mr. Meacham, the second grade teacher that got me into gifted testing and blew my mind with his kindness, taught me how to allow myself to think and feel.


Jim, the man who’s name I took as my own middle name by choice when I had to change my name to hide from “Father”, who taught me to ACT and not stand still, and how to decide when you do or don’t NEED to act.


Jeffrey, my step-father in spirit, if not in law, whose last name I bear proudly, who taught me one of the most important things I feel a parent can teach a child. Responsibility for one’s own actions.


Ron, who wanted to be a father figure to many, and taught me a very valuable lesson without realizing it, by showing to me the exact kind of man I did NOT want to grow up to become, a warning of what happens when arrogance and religion mix.

People call them “father figures” I like role models. Father is a swear word to me. And the word son is very much a swear word to me as well. I can’t STAND being called son by anyone other than my mother.  And I still prefer Shorty or Bubba from her, if not my name.


“I’m not your son.”

I’m with Hamilton there. I’ve had it from teachers, from bosses, from older people in general. “Son” means wisdom about to be imparted, means a lesson, which to me means pain and fear and ….   Don’t call me son.  The word son means I’ve screwed up. It means I’m about to be hurt. Or worse, someone else is.




That line always catches my breath. When I’m singing alone in the car, I scream it, with a lot more emotion than Lin-Manuel, ragged, and harsh, and I can’t finish the song. I shut up until the next song starts. Son is not something I like being called. And… not something I ever thought I would call another person.

Until I had one. And then two. Strong willed, bright eyed, almost impossible to fool.  They see the world with a fascinating combination of the analytic styles of their mother and I, they feel the world with a heart unburdened, free of the pain that held mine prison, and yet with just as much empathic ability.  They cause problems, they get into trouble, they make things up, they make stories, drawings, sculptures, art, song, they compliment people randomly, they often try to make strangers happy.

“Pride is not the word I’m looking for.There is so much more inside me now.“


They call me daddy.  Not father, not often.  The oldest, Flint, he’s called me father a couple times, sarcastically.  But daddy does the trick. It catches me every time. It’s…  its a good word, for them. When they say their name for me, it’s not out of fear. It’s out of love and hope, and I just want to do everything it takes to make sure that connotation never changes for them. The words father and son mean something different to me now. And yet, I still very rarely call either of them son. They are Flint and James. They are “my boys”, and not my sons. Because the word is hard on my lips, and I can only say it when I think only of them, and can say it untinged with the hatred I have held so long for the word.



“Philip when you smile I am undone, my son.  Look at my son.”

And you can see Hamilton feeling the same, as he has his own son, then daughter.  Son is a title of pride. And yet, listen to the song.  He’s testing the word out. “My Son”, and there are echoes in his voice, “Don’t call me Son.” The second time is clearer, he’s putting aside his hate of the word, because it means something new now. And Father, Father is something to be, a goal to make the word itself better for his children than it was for him, to make sure Father means that guy that was always around. And that’s what it means, right?  To have kids?  “If we lay a strong enough foundation.” To make sure their childhood, their world, is better than ours was.

Even if it’s just making sure that the words, father and son, never feel dirty to their lips.