Things That Scare Me: Alarm Clocks

In cynical celebration of our favorite death celebrating season, we’re going all out on fear based topics this month. Every day, Ben will present one thing that scares him, ranging from the anxious and annoying to the deadly and doomed. This is… Things That Scare Me.

Groundhog Day | YouTube

There’s one noise, one piercing sound, that I fear above all the rest. I fear it more than the sickening sound of that neighborly owl tearing into a fresh rodent, a meal that always seems to take place in my backyard. I fear it more than the booming sound of an unexpected explosion, prank fireworks or overloaded transformer boxes. I fear it more than the sound of a child crying, a helpless wail. I fear that sound more than any of that crap combined. That sound? My godforsaken, piece of shit alarm clock.

I understand that the objective function of an alarm clock is to wake someone up. I get it. It’s inherently startling. I COMPREHEND THE CONCEPT, GUYS. But every single time my asshole alarm decides to unleash the fury of a thousand decibels of unfiltered siren into my ear, I FREAK the fuck out. I can’t help it! My alarm, no matter what time I fall asleep, no matter what day of the week, no matter what time it’s set to go off, will always go all *WARNING YOU’RE IN A SINKING SUBMARINE* during my deepest, most peaceful moment of REM sleep. EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT.

Well, okay, that used to be true at least. See, my fear of the alarm (or maybe just my fear of waking up in general. Jobs, am I right?) has created an embedded state of anxiety that occurs in the morning hours of bedrest. So now instead of getting blasted awake by a nuclear meltdown warning, I don’t spend a single second of my 4am-6am sleeping hours in my happy dream place. Nope, now I treat myself to the flopping, frantic turning that accompanies vast, insurmountable fear, inevitably leading to my constant checking of time, an every-fifteen-minute occurrence involving squinted, light-blinded eyes and frustrated sighs. IT’S A REALLY HEALTHY HABIT, YOU GUYS. NO PROBLEMS FROM THAT AT ALL. NOPE. MY WIFE DEFINITELY DOESN’T HATE ME.

I’m so scared of alarm clocks, that I’m now not even being woken up by alarm clocks, but rather by the anxiety of the alarm clock itself. THAT’S TRUE FEAR, YO. And before you get all judgmental (way, way too late, huh?), please know that I know that it’s pathetic. It’s not like spiders or getting buried underground, or any other massively felt fear. And it’s certainly not lethal by any stretch of the imagination. BUT IT IS LOUD AND IT SCARES ME. Or, I guess, it’s silent in the inertia of potential sound energy and still scares me? Or, I guess, it’s it all in my head and still scares me? I don’t know. Now I’m frustrated thinking about my frustration! Whatever. Fuck the flow of time and fuck mornings. Maybe I’m just scared of those.


Things That Scare Me: Everything Underground

In cynical celebration of our favorite death celebrating season, we’re going all out on fear based topics this month. Every day, Ben will present one thing that scares him, ranging from the anxious and annoying to the deadly and doomed. This is… Things That Scare Me.

Batman Begins | YouTube
Batman Begins | YouTube

I’ve got a confession to make. It’s a hard one too. I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but… I could never be Batman. I know, I know. I’m just as hurt as you. Who would have thought a married dude with lower middle class ambitions, thick-rimmed glasses, the hand-eye coordination of a one-eyed moose, and a standing height roughly that of an upright Pomeranian couldn’t be Batman? Well I thought it. Because it’s the truth. Because I couldn’t be Batman. Because dude, I’m fucking SCARED of caves.

And it’s not just caves. It’s everything underground. Sewers, tunnels, shallow graves, it’s all terrifying if it’s below the surface of the earth. I want nothing to do with any of it. I’m sure there’s a deep-seeded psychological reasoning for this fear, perhaps a claustrophobic experience in the womb, but if that’s true, I don’t want to know. I want to keep everything surface level at all times, because the deeper you go, both into the earth and into your mind, the scarier shit gets.

Look, I don’t need to spend an afternoon hugging stalagmites to appreciate nature. I know a lot of people who disagree with that, so if you’re a geologist or a spelunker, that’s whatever, you’re cool. You’re an insane, crazy person, but you’re still cool. Because you can still be Batman. You can post up and brood in the dark, moist corners of grand caverns, desolate spots reserved for bats, bugs, and mole people, and not panic. You can squeeze into tight crevices, exploring new rock formations and mineral deposits. You can do you! But don’t expect me to follow with a bucket of lubricant for when you get stuck. No way. Fuck that.

You know the easiest way of avoiding ever being buried alive, a slow death by suffocation? BY NOT FUCKING GOING UNDERGROUND! Sure, there are freak natural occurrences you can’t avoid, sudden rock slides or earthquakes, or sentient dirt people looking to gangbang. That happens. But death by premature burial, especially self-inflicted, is one of the EASIEST deaths to avoid. Never go underground for any reason ever. Nope, not even for buried gold. Nope, not even to rescue a princess a golem. Nope, not even to be Batman. Case closed.

Things That Scare Me: Epidemic Disease

In cynical celebration of our favorite death celebrating season, we’re going all out on fear based topics this month. Every day, Ben will present one thing that scares him, ranging from the anxious and annoying to the deadly and doomed. This is… Things That Scare Me.

Contagion | YouTube
Contagion | YouTube

There’s this mobile game called Plague Inc. that I’ve been addicted to lately. Its basic premise is simple: you create a disease and try to spread it across the globe, eradicating humanity as quickly as possible. The game’s customization ability is one of its biggest strengths; you can genetically enhance your made-to-order death bringer, buffing it against antibiotics and extreme temperatures, worsening symptoms to include nasty treats like total organ failure and hemorrhagic shock, tweaking your little plague’s distribution methods until it’s capable of running wild.

And if it sounds morbid, that’s because it is. Again, you’re designing a disease to ERADICATE HUMAN EXISTENCE. For fun. Forget moon bases and shark lasers, that’s some real mad scientist shit. And as much as I hate to admit it, it’s easy to find immense perverse pleasure in sending the human race to an early extinction. It’s cathartic. Because deep down inside, we’re all scared that that’s how we’re going to die, wiped away by an invisible killer, a virus or bacteria evolved to lethal perfection, our lives gone before we even knew what was there.

Now I’m not an epidemiologist by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve seen the movie Contagion, so I’m pretty confident in my ability to say that a mass epidemic is exactly how the world is going to end. Oh that’s a fictitious movie you say? Well I say there’s a lot of truth in fiction. Because for every imaginary crusade against humanity we’ve created, from The Walking Dead’s TS-19 to Edgar Allen Poe’s Red Death, there’s an equally scary, real disease waiting to pop out of our nightmares and into our bloodstreams. Spanish Flu. The Black Plague. Ebola. And it’s not going to matter how disaster ready your apocalypse bunker is; we’re all doomed. Because people are above all two things: stupid and gross. It’s just true. Have you seen a men’s public bathroom? Have you spent time out there? In the world? IT’S FULL OF IDIOTS! It doesn’t matter how smart our scientists are, people will always be the biggest inhibitors to their own survival. That’s why the Darwin Awards exist.

I’ll never forget the experience of watching Contagion for the first time, an impulse decision to catch an afternoon matinee while I was living in uptown Minneapolis. As I sat there, watching a fictional account of a fictional disease rip through a fictional block on the very real street I actually lived on, I felt sick. I couldn’t stop looking around me, anxiously shifting in my seat. The idea of disease had taken root. I heard every exhale from every theater patron. I smelt every last dying skin cell in the air. I felt every sticky germ, every microbe that had previously sat in my seat. And I panicked. I went home. I showered for far too long, scrubbing away at an invisible, fictional, non-present disease that I could feel worming its way through my skin. Because I was scared. Because I was consumed by it. Because that movie might not have been, but disease is, very real.

Things That Scare Me: Public Bathrooms

In cynical celebration of our favorite death celebrating season, we’re going all out on fear based topics this month. Every day, Ben will present one thing that scares him, ranging from the anxious and annoying to the deadly and doomed. This is… Things That Scare Me.

Zombieland | YouTube

Public bathrooms… Just, so, so much yuck. I don’t even know where to start. I refuse to use public bathrooms unless it’s a situation of ACTUAL emergency. I’m talking Threat to National Security level of bowel concern. If I can hold it, I will. Because dude, fuck going in there.

Public toilets are literal totems to human filth, manifested physical pockets of humanity’s deepest, darkest, digested despairs. They’re vial, gutted structures of shit seepage, slimy cesspits holding solidified remains of excretory mistakes. To sit on a public toilet is to risk total molecular collapse by the hand of a super fungus, a degenerate disease grown in the bubbling gasses of captured flatulence, unidentifiable discharge, and puddles of boiling salted piss.

Or they are in men’s rooms are at the very least. As an unpaid child laborer, I was once offered the privilege of mopping a women’s restroom. It was like traveling to the fucking Shire. Gone were the hellish holes of molded black goop, encrusted sludge pits formed from rusted pipe sneezes, opened sores leaking the wafting rise of forgotten summer eggs. Instead, I found a tranquil, respectable place; despair replaced by the hint of a warm sea breeze and bleach, a healthy supply of toilet paper, and, for some inexplicable reason, an actual COUCH. A FUCKING COUCH! WHAT DO YOU NEED A COUCH IN A BATHROOM FOR?

I’m just jealous. Men’s rooms could never sustain a couch. Given eight unsupervised minutes, every clean surface is a men’s room WILL become covered in a fine layer of ass fur, as some Johnny Pubic-hair will inevitably stroll through, bush bundle in hand, decorating the stained linoleum with wayward strands of curled pubes, planted hairy seedlings hoping to blossom into fully grown pubic trees someday. 9 out of 10 urinals in men’s rooms look like they were installed under the watchful eye of a barber’s chair. Even if your super power is the ability to ignore the embedded smell of decades-long subfloor defecation build-up, it’s best not to inhale in a men’s room, least you find yourself hacking hair like a secondhand cat. I’m not scared of Hell, but I am scared of breathing that air.

I made the mistake of walking into a men’s room while wearing flip flops one time, intent on talking a quick piss. While trying my best to not look at, touch, smell, or otherwise interact with anyone or anything in the room, I noticed a vaguely wet feeling at my feet. I assumed it was just a little urinal splash-back, and took an adjustment step away, only to step DEEP into a warm puddle. Yup, warm. A quick examination of the room told me a pipe had backed up and the main drain was spitting back out a steady stream of human piss, leaving me to enjoy the sole-warming feeling of having a human urine collage flood around my mostly bare foot. AND THAT’S WHY YOU ALWAYS HOLD YOUR PISS NO MATTER WHAT.

Things That Scare Me: Spiders

In cynical celebration of our favorite death celebrating season, we’re going all out on fear based topics this month. Every day, Ben will present one thing that scares him, ranging from the anxious and annoying to the deadly and doomed. This is… Things That Scare Me.

 Eight Legged Freaks | YouTube
Eight Legged Freaks | YouTube

The wife (long story!) and I were on a road trip a few weeks back, trudging alongside the listless fields of Iowan grain, when during one point of our monotonous journey I felt a brief flutter against my exposed leg. I thought little of it at first, my mind hardly lucid as it was, drifting in and out of consciousness in the passenger window sun. But then I felt it again. And again. And again. And again. Eight little flutters on my leg in all. Most curious. So I forced open my eyes, pulled myself from the blissful hugs of Nap Town, and looked down. And that’s when I screamed and we nearly died.

Yes, screamed. Because when I looked down, a goddamned eight legged, fist-sized, MONSTROSITY was clinging to my calf, a fucking hell-spawn with a fur covered abdomen, fang tipped chelicerae twitching back and forth, and row of marbled black eyes constructed from loose remnants of damned human souls.

So yeah, I screamed. I screamed loud, and I screamed high, my shriek splintering the windshield into fractured cul-de-sacs of visibility. My wife tried her best to maintain control, but my piercing wail was too much, and we swerved into a ditch. I jumped from the car in hysteria, she came scrambling after, wondering, begging me to tell her what happened. “A spider,” I said, “A fucking spider.” That’s when we burned the car. We’ve been carpooling ever since.

Well or maybe we just pulled over and got out of the car covered in goose bumps, shivering from the heebie jeebies. I can’t really remember because spider incidents are grotesquely traumatic and I’ve blocked out that part of my memory. I do know that we eventually found the little poisonous hairball, having leapt from my leg in the pandemonium, curled up on a wire under the glove box, where it was eventually extracted with a four hundred or so foot stick.

And that’s the thing about spiders: they can be anywhere at any time, lurking, waiting in the shadows. They’re all around us, those deviant hairy arachnids, spinning silver webs to encase their prey. They exist to feed, to drain the lifeblood from other living things. And as a living thing, the only thing stopping them from wrapping you up in sticky thread and sucking you dry? Size. That’s all we have on them. For now. Eventually they’re going to grow and we’re all going die.

Fuck spiders.

Ben’s Diary: I Made A Huge Mess In The Kitchen But I Can’t Clean It Up


Dear Diary,

I made a huge mess in the kitchen but I can’t clean it up.

But first, I’m sorry, Diary. I’ve neglected you. Again. Our relationship has stalled out these past few months, hasn’t it? But as you’ll see, it’s not you, it’s me. I know, I know, that’s the type of clichéd bullshit we whisper into the ears of tearful lovers, but Diary, you and I aren’t lovers. You’re a physical object. Well, an… electronic cloud? At the very least, you’re a webpage, which is not a thing you can love in the human relationship sense, but it is a thing you can love in the “hey, I love this thing” sense. So I love you, Diary, you great thing, you. And I’m back! To tell you about how the roommate and I keep forgetting to buy fucking paper towels.

We’re going on several MONTHS since a paper towel has stepped a quilted, papery foot in our house. Yes, months. Yes, that’s absurd. No, it’s not on purpose. No, it’s not an environmentalism thing. No, I’m not mad about. Yes, it has gotten gross. The kitchen that is. We’re in trouble. Like, real bio-hazard trouble. I think the EPA is about to send in their elite corps of Bio-Hazard Bros to sterilize the joint, wrapped in layer after layer of HAZMAT suit, armed to the teeth with Super Soakers filled with bleach and Lysol grenades. And honestly? I wouldn’t blame them. I’d blame Continue reading Ben’s Diary: I Made A Huge Mess In The Kitchen But I Can’t Clean It Up

Traversing Small Town Iowa And The What Cheer Flea Market

What Cheer, Iowa is stuck in a constant population decline. In the late 1800s, What Cheer was a booming coal town with a population of over 3,200 people. By 2010, that number fell below 650. But three weekends a year, every year, that population turns back the clock, swelling back up toward its 19th century peak. Why? What Cheer’s Collectors’ Paradise Flea Market, one of the largest flea markets in the Midwest and a triannual celebration of used crap.

Now in its 39th year, What Cheer’s flea market is a sprawling web of second hand merchant shops packed into the local fairgrounds. The market truly is massive. Pop-up stands, tents, RVs, and tables encircle the ground’s dirt track, winding back through the middle of the field, spilling over into the half dozen or so show barns scattered across the grandstand area. At only $45 per dealer space, the market is an affordable place to set up shop, resulting in a juxtaposing mix of local amateurs and seasoned traveling professionals, hawking everything from furniture to action figures. Anything you can dream of you can find, in varying quality, for a negotiable price.

The What Cheer fairgrounds.

The worst time to go, and the time I’ve gone most often, is the market in early August. At the summit of summer, the Midwestern heat sits on your neck like a despondent child, beating your back with fists caught in the throes of inexhaustible tantrum. The air is thick, palpable with humidity, deep breaths taken with caution less you might drown in nature’s invisible smog.

But it’s also the time that inspires a little Iowan magic, precipitating the allure of small town wanderlust. By August, the market is walled in by a fortress of towering corn, fields stretching out into infinite crop points on the horizon. With the corn high, the market feels sunken in, swallowed low like a hidden valley, an oasis of commerce tucked away in the hillsides of food fields. It’s tempting to allude to the Field of Dreams as the market is a thrift bazar on dirt paths, built and rebuilt every season specifically so they’ll come. They. The masses. The masses that shop. The masses willing to spend. The masses that built this rickety empire on the backs of fluttering George Washingtons and Abe Lincolns.

And yes, the comparison to Dysersville as corny as a lazy crop pun, but it’s also fair. There’s an enduring earnestness to small towns in Iowa, encapsulated bubbles with diluted flows of time, a specific nostalgia that runs through the blood. It’s that feeling tickling up at you when you’re surrounded by a sea of rustic and rusted farm equipment, encompassing everything from needle nose pliers to irreparably broken oil lanterns. It’s that feeling that sits heavier in the pit of your stomach once you see the towering stack of antiquated technology for sale, used Betamax players, VHS cassettes, and working 8-track tapes. It’s that feeling that bursts forth in an audible laugh when the women at the ticket counter shouts out in enthusiastic glee, “Post some photos of the market on our Facebook page!”

A pile of rusted scrap at the What Cheer flea market.

If you go in with the wrong mentality, it’s all too easy to get washed into the tinted greys of depression lingering in the air. You’ll find yourself wandering aimlessly, overwhelmed, adrift in the dilapidated fairgrounds of second hand commerce. But if you attack the flea market with a sense of adventure, an opportunistic pride, you’ll find the experience redeeming and worth repeating. You’ll also find some really cool and weird shit!

Anyway, enough poetic waxing, here’s the awards for Best and the Worst in Show: Continue reading Traversing Small Town Iowa And The What Cheer Flea Market