This story here is to tell of some events that led me to be me, the Ghoul. Now, we all heard of people claiming to be Vampires, or even Werewolves, but who has ever said himself to be a ghoul.
In Dungeons and Dragons terms a ghoul is an undead monster, a former human, who in death has become a hideous figure of its former self, but has retained a twisted cunning mind. It is a low level monster that has a chance to paralyze its enemies with its claws.
In more commonday terms it means "person who enjoys what is revolting, brutal, and horrible."
But what has that to do with me?
Let's start by saying this book is inspired by a Michael Slade book of the same name, and a story by Poe, "The Man That Was Used Up," and their relation to me.
As a child I was always the quiet, introverted type. That hasn't really changed with age. I grew up watching horror movies and reading comic books and listening to rock music, but does that enter into things?
Throughout the years I've kept and made only a few close personal friends. But even they wouldn't get to know the whole me. I have in fact given my self wholly to a couple of girlfriends. There are a couple of girls out there who know just about everything about me - the way I think, my secrets, my loves, and just about anything else they care to remember.
With very few people to open up to and share my feelings with I haven't really been able to express myself effectively with spoken word. So emotions and thoughts get built up inside me without any type of release except for
I listened to KISS as long as I can remember (we both were born in 1973). I was writing lyrics to songs at an early age. I picked up a guitar around the age of 13 with influences of Ace Frehley (of course), Eric Clapton, 80's metal, and just about anybody else that played a mean guitar. So I matched lyrics with music I was writing and voila - songs!
When I was in high school I knew I was going to join the military. After all, I am a military son (although we really don't have a history of staying in the services all that long). This was the time of Desert Storm, which led to my father physically throwing an Army recruiter out of the house. So after I graduated high school, on my 18th birthday I enlisted to go into the Air Force.
The Air Force was alright. Played a little guitar, went out on a couple dates, and managed to get in contact with someone who I fell in love within high school.
Justine was her name (probably still is, now that I think about it). I met her on summer vacation after my freshman year. And somehow we were in tune with each other. We connected. And I have never connected with anyone in that way. So when we split up (her parents didn't want me around her anymore) it wasn't pretty.
About a year later I met a girl named Tina who I worked with. After a few months I finally started talking to her and we started hanging out together. A lot.
In Fort Sam (Houston, Texas) I finally got the nerve to call Justine back (after a few threats of police intervention) and talked to her. It was great. But it seemed it was the bit of closure I needed. Although we have tried to get back together romantically and continued to write each other I have not felt the same way about her and our relationship never had the same emotional intensity. Another had crept in.
Throughout my stay in the U.S.A.F. one face kept in my mind - Tina's. We had really gotten close to each other and in Texas, or later Wyoming, I found myself needing HER. On the dates that I went on in the service, I always kept Tina close to my heart and no other person was able to get as close to me.
When I said after a few months I started talking to her, I wasn't kidding. I am very shy. She was very pretty. Not a good icebreaking combination. And once we were talking it took a long time for her to get through my defenses, my shield that I have built up through the years and over that thing with Justine.
Many an hour I spent with Tina and after some time it seemed we were the closest people TO EACH OTHER. We shared many things. And we were there for each other.
In the Air Force, many states away, lonely, I was hurting being away from her. I was dreaming very powerful dreams. And I realized that I loved her (go figure).
Getting transferred to Wyoming didn't help. It was a very desolate, cold and lonely place. A very quiet place. I did enjoy the nature (there was a nature walk on base!) and the people in the shop where I worked became a surrogate family. The "family" absolutely refused that I spend Thanksgiving alone which is what I planned to do. But then the "family" started getting transferred to other bases. First Airman Frampton to Alaska. Then Airman Crafard to England. And new people were coming in, which didn't affect me because by that time I had already wanted out.
My father had cancer. I don't remember when it started. But by the time I was in the Air Force I do remembering him going to the hospital for it. In boot camp I said a few words to him that surprised him - I love you. I'm not sure why that surprised him.
My father is a lot like me, which is to say I am a lot like my father. Very quiet, shy, and a bit of a loner. In my early life he used to drink. He used to get loud. But I don't think he was a hitter. He had so many dreams, so many things he wanted to do, so many things he wanted to try. But he had a wife. He had four kids. We never had any money. So he had to work all the time. Besides a full time job he had to work part time as a security guard at night and on weekends.
My father's quiet disposition, the drink, and the fact that he was always tired when he came home, none of his children ever got close to him. When he'd go to the parlor to watch TV all the kids would leave. Usually when I watched TV with him there was a horror movie on. Dark Night Of the Scarecrow was a usual that I remember. He tried getting me into karate which I really didn't have an interest in. He tried sharing his interests. But one of the only interests we shared (besides the horror movies and comics) is playing the guitar. Of course our musical interests were different, So that didn't help any. One of the only musical bonds that we had were Creedence Clearwater Revival. To this day I can't hear a CCR song and not feel a big part of my father in me.
At one point in life he stopped drinking. He just stopped. Don't know the reason why. Or don't know how. But he never took another sip.
And when we all found out that he had cancer we all came together a little closer. And I do not know why he was surprised that I told him I loved him. Or why that when I called home for the first time he answered the phone and asked if I wanted to speak to mom. When it was said that mom was working he was surprised that I wanted to speak to him!
Stuck in F.E. Warren A.F.B. All alone. No where to go. My surrogate family was moving away. Tina was always on my mind. And my father has cancer. I had to get out. I couldn't stay anymore. I had to get back home.
For me to get transferred to another base I would have had to stay there at least another year while I move up a career level, which was what I wasn't prepared to do.
I failed a test for my career advancement. They asked me why. I told them. They let me out with an honorable discharge without any bullshit or hassles. Sgt. Mark Carter, my surrogate Wyoming father, drove me to the bus depot to take me home. I still called him every Thanksgiving until he got transferred to Japan.
Back home on Linden Ave in Linden I waited a half a year while my A.F. money ran out till I got a job at a warehouse. Pretty much the same type of warehouse that my father worked at (Plumbing and Heating Supplies). He told me I shouldn't work there if it was the same materials as we was working with (fiberglass and such) but I continued to work there anyway.
Around about that time I started up a band with a buddy of mine which we named Precision Shock. The band became my dream child. I was able to express myself like never before, in front of an audience. I found myself being comfortable on stage. After Marcus left the band, leadership of the band fell mostly on my shoulders which I was getting into. A lot of the time it was just the Drummer and I, or the Drummer, a Phil-in bass player and I, which I was doing all the songwriting and a lot of the gig getting, as well as promotions. Precision Shock was a big extension of myself which I never had before. My thoughts, my feelings, my dreams could be expressed to other people (which I don't even have to know!). Personal shields and emotional walls were not a factor when I had that guitar strapped on me.
I never really got to see or talk to Tina as much as I had wanted. Up until '95 (more on '95 later). But the dreams kept as strong whenever they were about Tina. They were powerfully.
Dreams to me are a very personal thing. It is your mind and heart speaking to you and only you. Whether you can understand them or not. I wouldn't have conventional nightmares. I usually stayed in the nightmare as long as I could and I usually Killed the Killer. I can truthfully say I stood up to Jason and lived...
And with Tina came the most powerful dreams. Hard to explain, but it's those dreams where you wake up feeling uneasy because you realize it was only a dream. Was it myself telling me something or was it HER trying to say something to me - calling to me. We've all seen the STAR WARS movies where LUKE calls to LEIA. But then again you found out that Luke and Leia were siblings.
The year 1995 was a horrible year for me. Too many changes. Too many losses.
In February my father succumbed to the cancer and emphysema. When he died no one was surprised, but actually we were wishing him to die. He was so far advanced with his illness. He was in too much pain. He was getting worse and worse. He fought the cancer for many years. Going into the hospital and almost getting better and being released only to have to get sick and go back to the hospital again and again. I'll never forget one night I went to go visit him. Every night I'd have to go visit him and bring him a thermos of coffee. One night I walk in his room, he was in bed, and he was having trouble breathing. He couldn't talk. I couldn't understand what he was trying to say. I got the overwhelming feeling in the pit of my stomach that this is it. When I left the hospital I lost it. I had to sit in the car for 15 minutes before I was ready to drive. Found out the next day when I went with my mom that the doctors punctured his lung. His good lung (the other heavily damaged with the cancer). That's why he was gasping heavily. That's why he couldn't breathe. It was still uneasy and very hard to take. And we still got that pit feeling that he is not going to go on for much longer.
When he died I wasn't there. I banged up his car on an ice bank and didn't get to go. My mom went though. At one point she told him it was okay to let go. She went downstairs to get some coffee, go to the chapel and say a prayer, and when she returned he was gone.
I didn't start grieving until after the funeral service, I left early from the reception, went home and plugged in my guitar and put a CCR CD in and played to that. Then I was officially grieving.
With my father passing it didn't get better (or easier). Found out that the house insurance didn't cover his death and we had to sell our house. The house that I grew up in. The house eventually was sold to my sister's husband and her and her family are living there. Before it was sold and we had a for sale sign out front I received a letter from Justine saying that with that for sale sign she believes she is losing me forever. I got in touch with her and spent a little time with her but in the end she had already lost me.
Before we lost the house I got a surprising call from Tina. For the past few years she put herself in seclusion and no one got to see her (except of course for her immediate family) and now a call to arrange for me to hang out with her again. The feelings were mixed. I loved that I was again with her and that she was sharing with me but she let it be known that my being in love with her was not being reciprocated. Remember that Luke and Leia thing? That's how she felt.
After a couple of months with her I couldn't take the internal conflict anymore and I had to split. Another part of me died. His name was ACE. Ace was a name I had since I was in second grade. In high school and even in the Air Force most of the people knew me only as Ace. But now I was not the same person I was five years ago. He committed suicide with the loss of Tina. He was never again seen.
Which leads to Precision Shock. It wasn't working out. We couldn't keep a steady bass player enough to actually make some progress, so the drummer and I decided to call it quits. It was the end of an era.
The next two years were tough. I was depressed. I lost my desires. I was a shell of the man I was once. I was just existing. Nothing but existing.
I had no musical outlet for expression. I had no person that was close enough to me who I can talk to and express feelings. The father figure was gone and I was the man of the house. So those two years I just worked and just existed. I was the Ghoul.
The Ghoul name started in high school after reading Michael Slade's book. The personality I was pretty much born with and was able to retreat into it when I needed to. Growing up, being the quiet one, I was always picked on. I had to fight every bully in the school (not at once, duh!). I guess the dabbling in Karate helped. I was able to take care of myself and many of the bullies that I had to fight wound up befriending me. In Middle School I became one of the bullies, and one word of warning: what they say about standing up to bullies and they will back down is wrong. I was a bully; I know. You do have to fight them to earn their respect. And in High School I went my own way. I was able to psyche out any opponents before I had to fight them except for one. I only got into one fight in high school. And I only remember the fight from the standpoint of watching it as a spectator. Someone else inside of me was doing the fighting. The Ghoul. The Ghoul is a combination of the D&D ghoul and Jason Voorhees. Because I carried a briefcase everybody expected me to be a bomber or a shooter. Nope. The ghoul wanted only to strangle who he (I) was fighting. No punching. No kicking. No biting.
So I guess I've always had this dead guy, this ghoul, in me. Now that the Ace is dead, the ghoul is most prominent. Not that I was violent, but more like a walking corpse. Not many emotions. Not many interests.
1997 things started getting better. The band got back together and things seemed promising. My disposition was getting lighter. I could enjoy things and I started having fun again. I got involved with the American Legion (I am a vet now, remember?) and started riding in their parades. And I enjoyed taking cruises to the beach when it was warm out.
Sometime late in '97 things started changing again. My fingers started swelling up and there was a pain throughout my limbs. After numerous doctors and thousands of tests and quarts of blood drawn it was finally diagnosed as psoriatic arthritis. What a bitch. Psoriasis is a scabbing of the skin, so parts of my forehead and both knees had scabs on them - I looked like I was rotting. I have arthritis in: both hips, both knees, both ankles, various toes, both shoulders, various fingers, and both sides of the jaw. Walking was very hard and climbing stairs was a nightmare. So now I walk like a corpse. If you've seen "Night of the Living Dead," hey, there I was. There was not much difference between the walking dead and me, except for the breathing part.
Just when the band was making progress (steady bass player, paying gigs) I couldn't play anymore. My steady job carrying boxes from one end of the warehouse to the other was impossible and I had to give that up. That was devastating to my psyche.
Back to depression. Back to the blackness. Not only was I depressed, but I was also angry at being robbed.
Now that I couldn't work, the next thing was Social Security and Medicade. Now I know how the old people feel. S.S. is a big joke. You can't work and you need money and they make you wait over half a year before you see a dime, and when they finally decide to start paying you they give you some measly amount for which you could not possibly support yourself.
Which leads to my visits to Psych outpatient.
I realized I couldn't handle it. I had nothing left to give. I was drained. For all purposes I was a walking corpse - a ghoul.
I had a counselor at Elizabeth General. I had a psychiatrist also but no pills they ever prescribed worked on me so I didn't go to her often. There was also this nifty little program called the Partial Hospital Program which I went through twice. There was one counselor who did a dangerous job of breaking through my natural defenses. Only the two girls did that before and this one, Alison, was going into dangerous territory, as I get really attached to people that I let my guard down to. And I was really getting into her. We had a lot of similar interests (I love that she can spew out references to Alice Cooper songs) and she was cute as hell. But there is a patient/doctor rule, as well as the fact that she was married.
After countless "extra" hours she broke through a lot of my defenses. She knows what makes me tick. It was extremely hard letting her close to me after that Tina debacle. But she got in. And I am grateful to her. She's a strong woman. We started the therapy knowing what was off limits and where we could go and couldn't go. Although I did push it a bit and had a little fun.
Since then, I've been playing around, played with this band called KnightHawk (cheesy name, huh?). It was a beginning band, but then I had to re-learn how to play the guitar. Which I did. And just for the record - the music, no matter how depressing, was one of the things that kept me going.
The other was my family and friends.
Now I am just waiting. Waiting get back out in the REAL WORLD. The past couple of years I'm been pretty much a hermit. Haven't gone out much. But now I'm restless.
What does the future hold for me? I don't know. I know I still want to play my guitar - it's still my expression. I will get some kind of a job soon (most likely after Winter) and get off S.S.
How is it that I can do that? Well, for now I'm on a miracle drug. I have to inject it. It's so good it costs over a thousand dollars for a months supply. Thank god for Medicaid. The most important issue in finding a job is finding one with a medical plan that will cover the $1000 plus a month. Without this drug I will revert back to my corpse-like self. And I do not know if I will get immune to this drug like I did with all the others....
Okay, you've heard about the Ghoul, and the Ace, but who are they and who else is in here? That is another story....