or the Odd Machinations of the Writer’s Mind
Another month is in the books. May was about doors and doorways, the literal and the symbolic. We all encounter doors throughout life. We pass through some and we are denied passage through others. It feels as if the past few months have had more than their fair share of doors. I’m going to end the month with an odd instance concerning my relationship with doors.
I have a fear of knocking on doors. I’m afraid of ringing doorbells too. Why, you ask? I don’t have clue. I don’t have any bad experiences or weird memories (my only explanation is that I’m an odd duck of sorts). I just don’t like knocking on doors, and here is on such experience to give you context.
I’m at my best friend’s house. I’m standing at the back door. The back door is open so there is only the screen door, the kind where the top half of the door can be either screen or glass depending on what season it is. It’s summer so the screen is in the door. My friend and his wife are expecting me. I’m standing there looking through the screen into their house (that’s a creepy kind of sentence). I can hear the TV in the basement. And me? I don’t ring the bell. I knock so quietly I know the sound won’t be heard over the TV. I keep doing this, knocking quietly. My friend’s wife comes walking through the kitchen and sees me. I act as if I just walked up and quickly ring the bell. She says, “Wow, perfect timing.” I agree because telling her I’ve been outside knocking for over a minute would put me in the running for the mayor of Crazy Town.
What’s the moral of the story (beyond now knowing that I’m a bit odd)? It’s not the fear as much as it is how I deal with it that I want to share. The fear of knocking on doors has never left, but I deal with it by texting people when I arrive. No more knocking on doors when all I need to do is send a text. So, what’s the moral? If you can’t through a door then try a window (or maybe a text).
or When You Connect With a Song
Have you ever noticed the wide variety of euphemisms that are used in relationships? Has anyone ever “stepped out” on you or maybe “let you down easy?” If you can answer yes then there is a blues song somewhere out there for you (maybe a couple or few). There is one song from the “Blues at Your Door Mix Tape” post from a couple weeks back that holds an ignominious place in my relationship history.
ZZ Top is one of those bands that you either get or you don’t. I don’t mean that in any sort of critical analysis and deeper meaning sense. I mean you either get where that little old band from Texas is coming from or you don’t. I’ve given up trying to explain it to people so I can only ask that if you haven’t listened to ZZ Top then give their first album, conveniently titled ZZ Top’s First Album, a listen (if you are familiar with it then you probably know where I’m going with this). The last song on the album is “Backdoor Love Affair.” The backdoor man motif, a man having an affair with a married woman, is common to many blues songs. ZZ Top takes this idea and adds their own twist to it (no spoilers), but I will say I’ve experienced what the narrator of the song experiences, and I’m none too proud of it.
We tend to use euphemisms in an attempt to minimize the damage of failed relationships. These euphemisms are common in many blues songs, which may be one of the reasons why blues music is timeless. As long as people “step out” and “let you down easy” there will be material for blues musicians. ZZ Top’s song “Backdoor Love Affair” is one such song, a song that this writer has lived through. But knowing there is a song about it gives me comfort that others have lived through it too.
ZZ Top’s First Album (1971) ZZ Top
or A Rambling Metaphor
Ever bust your ass to get to a door only to find it locked? Ever find out that the key you thought would open a door isn’t the right one? I’m speaking about doors as metaphors, but some doors just can’t be opened.
We hustle and grind only to find doors locked because of who we are or what we’ve done. Keys to these doors are given to a select few. If you aren’t the right kind of person with the correct opinions no keys will be given to you. The requirements for being the right kind of person and the list of correct opinions are conveniently listed on the inside of the door. There are also doors that don’t open with the keys we’ve struggled so hard to earn. Those who guard the doors can change the requirements for the right kind of person and the list of correct opinions one must have at will by changing the locks. This leaves us with useless keys.
Life presents us with numerous doors. We can pass through most of them with hard work. But some doors remain locked no matter how hard we work because we aren’t the right kind of person or we have incorrect opinions according those who guard the doors. So what’s a person to do? I’ve found it’s useless to try to be the right kind of person or to change opinions (unfortunately I found this out after spending way too much time trying to be the right kind of person and changing my opinions). I suggest that we kook for the doors that open for the odd, the outcasts, the rounders, and the ramblers.
Six Bits of Wisdom
• “Men shut their doors against a setting sun.” -William Shakespeare-
• “When you follow your bliss…doors will open where you would not thought there would be doors; and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else.” -Joseph Campbell-
• “There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” -Aldous Huxley-
• “The more dooors there are for you to open, the better the play.” -Tom Stoppard-
• “A very litttle key will open a very heavy door.” -Charles Dickens-
• “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as is, infinite.” -William Blake-
Hellraiser and the Doors to Heaven and Hell
“What’s your pleasure?” That’s about as loaded as a question as you are going to get, and it’s the beginning of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. This is the movie that introduced me and many of my friends to the Cenobites, Pinhead, and the Lament Puzzle Bob. The box serves as a key/door to other dimensions offering both pleasure and pain. Barker’s movie, based on his novella, addresses the idea of being careful of going through doorways that promise something better or different than what you already have (an idea we began with Neil Gaiman’s Coraline).
I remember the first time I watched Hellraiser. I was with a group of friends, each of us brought a horror tape (oh, how I do get sentimental about VHS on occasion), and we had a Saturday night horror movie marathon. I noticed then, over thirty years ago, that Barker’s movie was different from many of the horror movies of the time. There are many great horror movies from the 1980s but most of them don’t have the depth of Hellraiser. The antagonists of many horror movies of the time are one dimensional, as are the protagonists. The world the characters inhabit are also relatively underdeveloped. The characters of Hellraiser are interesting. They have believable motivations and desires for their actions. They inhabit a world like our own but would be wary to inhabit. It is a world of with doorways that can be unlocked with a Lament Puzzle Box. These doorways appear to offer a better world, a world of pleasure, but there is something lurking beyond the doorway, Pinhead.
Most of the horror movies of the 1980s can be viewed as cautionary tales, modern twists on the old tales of foreboding and magical places with their possible dangers. Clive Barker’s Hellraiser is a more developed tale. Barker isn’t telling us to avoid those foreboding places, to not go through those doors. He is telling us to be aware of what is on the other side.
Hellraiser (1987) with Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, and Doug Bradley. Written and Directed by Clive Barker.
Latchkey kids know locked doors and empty houses.
1. “Back Door Man”–Howlin’ Wolf
2. “Don’t Answer the Door”–B.B. King
3. “Next Door Neighbor Blues”–Gary Clark
4. “Howlin’ at Your Door” –Fiona Boyes
5. “Don’t Turn Me From Your Door”– John Lee Hooker
6. “Knockin’ at Your Door”–Bobby Rush
7. “Right Next Door”–Robert Cray
8. “The Hearse is Backed Up to the Door”–Lightnin’ Hopkins
9. “Backdoor Love Affair”–ZZ Top
10. “Back Door Man”–Willie Dixon
and a Locked Door
A locked door is a mystery, and many readers love a good mystery. If you are one of those readers then Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is worth a read. Don’t let the fact that Coraline falls into the YAL genre dissuade you from giving it a read. It may not have the intensity of Clive Barker or detail of H. P. Lovecraft but Gaiman’s novel is a well written piece of supernatural fiction with a handful of awards (once you read the novel you’ll get why I used ‘handful’).
Gaiman’s novel follows the fairy tale tradition of foreboding and magical places, but we all know the foreboding is often mysterious and inviting. Coraline passes through a magical door into world that is just like her own, only a little bit better. The danger of blindly wanting and/or chasing after something that is better than what you already have simply because it is better can be viewed as one of the novel’s themes (if you want to get critical and such). While in the alternate world Coraline must confront a witch who has buttons for eyes. Her primary tools in this battle are bravery, wits and the assistance of a black cat (read my criticism of Gaiman’s “The Price” if you like cat stories). The novel’s well developed protagonist and engaging plot will keep you turning the pages, and Gaiman’s ability to turn a phrase will have you rereading them.
Coraline has all the aspects of a well developed supernatural story with a touch of mystery. The novel addresses the possible dangers of desiring something simply because it is just a little bit better than what you have. Gaiman also show us that even though you may pass through a doorway that does not mean you cannot come back.
Coraline (2002) by Neil Gaiman.