Monday, October 10, 2011

Doctor, I'm Up To My Ass In Alligators Again

I woke up this morning thinking about fear. I didn't wake up fearful or following a bad dream, but as I lounged a few extra minutes in bed cuddling with Raffi (that's a cat, for those of you not in the know), my mind started contemplating the manifestation of fear.

Clowns are a big fear image for some folks. Not for me. Personally, I'm rather ambivalent about clowns. Some are cute, some are creepy. I've been a clown for Halloween in the past and I've clowned around. No problems with either.

If there is one thing that scares the pee out of me it's alligators and crocodiles. Snakes, too. Hmm, guess you could say I'm not too keen on reptiles in general. Years ago, after reading Where Serpents Lie by the very talented T. Jefferson Parker, I had nightmares for weeks. Just mentioning that book's title still sends shivers up my spine. Last week on Dexter, tiny black snakes crawled out of dead body and I nearly latched my fingernails to the ceiling.

My serious fear of snakes aside, it's alligators that cause me to curl into the fetal position and whimper. Even watching them on TV will make me break into a cold sweat. Much as clowns do to other folks. You'd never find me living in Florida. Period. Even if I was guaranteed the creatures were hundreds of miles away and I lived in the concrete heart of a city. I'd have the same issues with Louisiana.

When I'm fearful about something in my life, whether it be a physical threat or an emotional one, those fears manifest themselves into dreams about alligators. In dreams they have chased me across docks, through woods, and once even around a kitchen. When I have a dream about an alligator, I know to stop and examine what is scaring me and why, and I try to work out a way to make the fear go away through resolution. I guess, in a strange way, the dreams do me a big favor. The fear of having more of them, forces me to address my issues head on and quickly.

My Mom had a purse identical to this.
I don't know where this fear came from or when it started, but my first remembrance of dreams involving maniacal alligators is from my late twenties. As a kid, I went to the old alligator farm that used to be next door to Knott's Berry Farm, and I was fine. No one had to put me down with a tranquilizer gun because I started screaming hysterically. But even then I was suspicious of the creatures. I remember my mother having a shoulder bag when I was very little.  It was made from the skin of a small alligator, complete with the head, claws and teeth. I don't recall that bothering me.  

One of my favorite phrases is "up to my ass in alligators."  I use it all the time, especially when I have a writing deadline nipping at me, like now.  I can easily picture my short, chunky legs churning up the pavement as an ancient reptile gives chase, its 10" razor teeth inches from my fat behind. Does it make me write faster? Probably.

What's your fear manifestation: white bread, okra, turtles, kitties? Everyone has them, but not everyone recognizes them.

I just hope one day I don't dream of an alligator coming after me with a clown on its back.

5 comments:

gregkshipman said...

Grew up in inner city East Baltimore... and never, evah, I say evah had a fear of anything until relatives came up from N.C. for a churchy thing. After Praisin'-the-Lawd we had a big family dinner and somebody popped the lid on a big bowl of Okra... DAMN!... fear- most disgusting- fear! Slime- slithery Slime. Them things even had hair on them... HAIR! Ruined my appetite for fried chicken, mashed taters, corn onna cob and bread pudding (not to mention baked sweet potatoes). Nothing... I say nothing... competes with Okra on the Greg-Fear-List. I've survived East Baltimore, Vietnam and Interior Alaska... small potatoes (preferably mashed) compared to a creepy, slimy bowl of Okra... even the name should make it to Fear Factor (sounds like the scream of a giant bird of prey swooping out of the dark skies to snatch me up and drop me in its nest of hungry baby nightmares). WTF, Sue Ann, I'
m going back home and climb under the covers. Maybe I can calm down watching a mild-by-comparison episode of 'Dexter'.

By the by, my dad made me eat that stuff 'cause Aunt Edith put it on my plate. The house rules were if its on your plate you eat it (something about starving kids in Africa- yadah, yadah, yadah). When I mentioned I didn't ask for it, Big Papa mentioned I was about to get something else I didn't ask for! That night I dreamt of being constantly slimed by a giant Okra wearing a stingy brim fedora... (just like my dad's)

Peace and Love (unless you're a flippin' okra)

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Greg, I feel the same way you do about okra and no one forced me to eat it. Once was enough! I'll only eat it in gumbo.

ladymarilyn said...

Ya'll have never tried southern fried okra - cut okra in thin slices; add corn meal, lots of salt, little pepper - no bath -just roll it round in the corn meal and fry 'til it's almost burned - really crisp. Eat it like popcorn. It is best thing in the world. The ONLY way I'll eat okra.

gregkshipman said...

I'm just sayin'...

Seems to me like that's a good recipe... maybe leavin' out the Okra (damn bird of prey screechin' again!) would make it a great recipe!...
remember; I'm just sayin'...

I ever tell you about the time I was in the movies (7 yrs old) and these two big dudes sittin' behind me kept boppin' me inna head with popcorn... I had some hellacious nightmares that evening!... not that I blame it on the popcorn bullets...

havenwriter said...

Oh man, do I agree with you about Where Serpents Lie. Jeff did a number on me with that book, too. I still can't stop at a mountain overlook without thinking about what may be lurking in those bushes just below. And it's been years--YEARS--since I read the book!