Stephen King: The Stand

In 1978, Stephen King took it upon himself to rewrite Revelations in his own image and called it The Stand.  Today, still considered a masterpiece, it’s a sprawling epic that exceeds 800 pages in its 1980 paperback version.  And I have to say, even when King released his 1200-page monster version in 1990, it was still a damn site better than the paranoid and overly preachy Left Behind series.  (For starters, King can actually write like he’s made it out of high school.)

The story begins in 1985 (1980 in the hardcover original and 1990 in King’s restored version), when a sickened soldier plows his car into a gas station in Texas.  He appears to have the flu.  Soon, it becomes obvious that, flu it may be, it’s something much, much worse.  Within two weeks, 90% of the human race is dead, leaving a handful of bewildered survivors.

Those survivors are haunted by dreams of two people:  Mother Abagail, a 108-year-old daughter of a freed slave living on her own in Nebraska; and Randall Flagg, aka The Walking Dude, The Dark Man, or just him.  Mother Abagail invites people to “come see me in Hemingford Home.”  Randy just likes to scare the bejesus out of people.

The bulk of the book is the group of survivors who congregate around Mother Abagail as they take over Boulder, Colorado.  It becomes clear that they are the forces of good.  They form a committee to run the town, the members reluctant to take on the leadership role.  There are a couple of malcontents among them, however.  Harold Lauder, still a high school teen when the story begins, shows promise as a possible future leader, but he is driven by jealousy and hatred for Frannie Goldsmith, a crush he soon learns will not be requited.  He hooks up with Nadine Cross, the virginal former schoolteacher who is saving herself for Flagg.  Together, they plot to blow up the committee.  They succeed in killing a few of them, but don’t stick around, fleeing West toward Las Vegas and The Walking Dude.

As far as Antichrists go, Flagg is a damn site more convincing – and interesting – than Left Behind‘s annoying Romanian male model, Nicolae Carpathia.  Flagg is damn sure of himself and brooks no dissent.  Whereas Mother Abagail is something of a sage, afraid of her own sinful pride, Flagg is cocky, capable of using wolves, crows, and weasels as his literal eyes and ears.  However, Flagg gets really scared when he learns of Mother Abagail’s death.

That’s when everything starts to fall apart.  After raping Nadine in the desert, she coaxes him into throwing her off the roof of the MGM Grand.  He misses another spy until the last second, but fails to control her when she opts for suicide instead.  Worst of all, he is outwitted by poor, simple Tom Cullen.  (M-O-O-N, that spells Tom Cullen.)  Tom is hypnotized and sent to Vegas as a spy.  He leaves just ahead of Flagg’s own downfall.  In fact, Flagg’s discovery of Cullen marks the beginning of the end for him.

One of the most interesting characters is one of Flagg’s underlings, The Trashcan Man.  Trash is a schizophrenic pyromaniac who loves fire.  His goal is to find an atomic bomb for the ultimate fire.  If you saw Matt Frewer’s edgy, over-the-top portrayal of Trash (“Bumpty-bumpty-bump!”), you know he finds one.

It’s a long and sprawling epic.  Many consider this to be King at the peak of his skills, which would be depressing, since he first published it in 1978.  I’m not sure about the wisdom of making only the extended version available, but it’s impressive King could handle the nearly two dozen characters that populate this story.  It’s a far cry from Salem’s Lot, which had a more narrow focus and tighter storyline.  On the other hand, the one King novel that comes closest to equaling The Stand is It.

MTM Cincinnati – Honeymoon Cincinnati

Last Friday, I posted about our second wedding anniversary.  So what did we do?

I decided to spoil Nita taking her downtown for the weekend.  Here’s the breakdown.

  • Dinner at The Palomino, which overlooks Fountain Square from the building it shares with Macy’s.  The staff decorated our table for our anniversary.
  • Our original choice was The Palace at the Cincinnatian Hotel, but we were bumped when a private party took over the restaurant.  The lesson here is to call and verify your reservation day of.
  • Carriages normally run evenings downtown.  Not this weekend, but if you can catch them running, I highly recommend one.
  • Took Nita for a stroll around Fountain Square.  We could have stopped for drinks at Nia Nite, Rock Bottom, or Mynt Martini, or even watched a movie shown on the giant screen overlooking the Square from Macy’s.  Instead, we helped ourselves to some Graeter’s ice cream.  (Note to United Dairy Farmers:  You need to put a location in or near Queen City Square.  It’s not fair only one Cincinnati brand ice cream is sold downtown.)
  • Our room at the Westin overlooked the Square.  In the middle of the night, when the Square is quiet, the Fountain itself is gorgeous, lights mounted inside the water.  And the buildings help make for a pretty sunrise view.

And that was our Queen City second honeymoon.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

It Was Two Years Ago Today…

January, 2008 – I and the former spousal unit reveal to the world that we’re separated.  Later that month, I start a casual conversation with a woman I met through my dying standup career and ask if we might meet at a bar somewhere for a drink.

February, 2008 – The only available day for us to meet is Valentine’s Day.  I opt to spoil Juanita with a Valentine’s Day date.  We have three more dates by the end of the week.  I practically live at her house by the end of the month and am getting along well with her son.

March, 2008 – The paperwork is filed for Juanita to claim me off waivers.

April, 2008 – While discussing whether I should go on an already-planned trip to Gatlinburg, TN, Juanita half-jokingly mentions there are plenty of wedding chapels in the area.  I promptly drop to my knees and propose.  AJ approves.

May, 2008 – The date is set.  We now live together as a family already.  We buy each other rings.

June 18, 2008 – Happiest day of my life.  When I should have been well into my single life, I am instead happily married again.  Nita makes my jaw drop as she comes downstairs in her wedding dress.  We are married in a mountain-top chapel.  AJ gives his mom away.

Thank you, Sweet Rose for taking a chance on me.  You’ve given me a family when I expected never to have one and made me a very happy man.