I Hear Snakes

I did not come by my aversion to snakes naturally. This aversion happened over time, slowly, through various moves with my family.

Living in Chicago, I never saw a snake unless there was an exhibit at the Shedd Aquarium. Snakes were never part of the conversation of “things to watch out for.”

When I was 10, we moved to a small town in West Tennessee. Snakes suddenly became part of everything I heard. Snakes were something to fear, to dread, to watch out for even outside or inside the house.

“If a snake is wrapped around your leg, run to the house.”

“The only good kind of snake is a dead snake.”

“Snakes have teeth and there are several kinds that will do everything they can to come and get you.”

“It does not matter if they are poisonous or not. All snakes bite.”

I went to the library and checked out a snake book. Snakes like to coil up. Their necks stretch upright before they strike. Some snakes are camouflaged in the grass and in the leaves. Sometimes you don’t see a snake until you are right on top of it. If you see one, you had better run and go the other way.

My grandpa, a truck farmer, did not help alleviate my fear once we got to Tennessee. As we drove down the road to go work at his farm, he would yell out the car window to folks walking down the side of the road or out in the field.

“Watch out! You are going to get snake bit!”

Was this for real? What kind of fresh hell had we moved to?

I watched for snakes out at the farm and only picked the peas or tomatoes that were close to the top of the vines. I did not care if my brother Kris picked the most to win the praise and the Popsicle at the end of the day. There was no way I was sticking my hand down that close to the ground. Something could be lurking and twined up, unhinging their jaws for a taste.

I quickly learned the names of these West Tennessee snakes. There are 34 kinds of snakes in Tennessee. Four of the most poisonous snakes could be out in my backyard. Copperhead, cottonmouth, and two kinds of rattlesnake. They all moved in a serpentine fashion. They slithered and came at you with their mouths open and fangs exposed. When I thought about them, they were always in my face.

Even going to the lake was hazardous. When the family went canoeing at Reelfoot Lake, I figured I was safe enough to drop my snake watch. Then a snake flung itself from a tree into the water not one foot from the boat. The first of many items to mark off of my never going to do that again list.

When we moved to Saudi Arabia, there were other kinds of snakes to watch out for: the king cobra and the sea snake.

I did not worry too much about the king cobra. It seems the cobra is a timid and shy, albeit, deadly snake. Then we got the phone call to be on the lookout. A nest of cobras were moving from the desert to the town at such a speed that at cloud of sand could be seen from a mile away.

This was before Google so I had to let my imagination do the thinking. I stayed indoors, sitting on the kitchen counter until the all clear was sent. Kris periodically came in and made hissing noises at me, which did not help.

Later that week, I took my little brother Mark out snorkeling in the Arabian Gulf. We were almost to a floating dock stationed about a fourth of a mile from shore when I looked down. Floating not three feet away was a sea snake. I knew sea snakes could not open their mouths widely as other snakes, and typically aim towards appendages in order to strike. Our feet were covered with flippers but our hands were exposed. I grabbed my little brother, put him on my back, and proceeded to set some sort of salt-water-to-sand speed record than can never be reproduced. Of course, no body was there to see this except for my little brother, the SNAKE, and me. Check going to the floating dock off of the list.

Green, black, coral, with yellow stripes, with diamonds, with rattles, with both diamonds and rattles; there are too many snakes to keep up with. They all, in my mind, are deadly poisonous vipers with venom and boa constrictor-like tendencies.

Even when I watch movies the snakes are there. There are obvious movies I have not seen. “Anaconda.” Nope. “Snakes On A Plane.” No way. In some of my favorite movies such as “Chamber of Secrets” or the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” I have to shield my eyes and resist the urge to flee. The scene from “True Grit” where Maddie gets bit by a rattler and Rooster Cogburn tries to save her arm still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

I now live on Snake Pond Road. Seems the pond where the snakes hang out is just a stone’s throw from our house. I have seen the snake holes and heard the “sssssstttt” in the yard. I watch them on the driveway, on the road, in the grass and on my porch. They are there, coiled up, moving sinuously, and waiting for me.

I am moving to Ireland next. No snakes are there I hear.

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Side Effects

As with some folks my age, with kids, jobs, pets, a house and a yard, there are times when the occasional aches and pains start becoming more frequent and pronounced. While aches, pains and serious illnesses are no laughing matter, the advertisements for the drugs to relieve your symptoms to make you feel better are.

Here are some examples of recent commercials I have watched where everyone’s life is made better through modern chemistry.

Scene: Mid-fifties couple, walking hand in hand on the beach, at the ballpark or on a carefully manicured lawn. The voice-over tells us one of them cannot sleep. But who knew they were sufferers of insomnia? They are not tired or cranky in the commercial, nor do they have deep raccoon-eye-like bags under their eyes.

The couple goes to get ice cream after going to the movie or whatever, and the voice on the advertisement continues: “Symptoms of insomnia include trouble falling asleep and waking up often during the night.”

I think the insomnia sufferer already knows that he or she can’t get a good night’s rest.

The announcer goes on. “Lunesta® (eszopiclone), is the #1 prescription branded sleep aid with over 31 million prescriptions written to date. Some sleep aids are approved to help you fall asleep and others to help you stay asleep. Lunesta® is approved to do both. Side effects may include unpleasant taste, headache, morning drowsiness, and dizziness, hallucinations, swelling of the tongue or the throat, aggressive behavior and/or suicidal thoughts or actions.”

Really. Do the pharmaceutical companies even test this stuff?

The couple wakes up feeling refreshed. They should feel great because they’ve lived!

Knowing that the awful side effects could outweigh any pain the symptom is causing, why would someone take the medication? What I really want them to say is, “During allergy season—if you have skin, a heartbeat, breathe air, and eat on a regular basis—do not take this medication.” The side effects seem far worse than the symptoms!

There is a reason that more than half of these commercials list all potential side effects of taking the medication. Studies show that the lengthier the side effects stated in the commercial, the more likely people are to buy them (after talking with their physician, of course). Knowing you may get diarrhea, headaches and mild skin rash after using toenail fungus drops in order to make you feel good and look good apparently makes the advertiser more trustworthy.

Scene: Man and woman are hanging laundry on the clothesline on a farm somewhere in Anytown, USA. As the sun beams down on them and the sheets billow in the breeze, the man comes in close to give the woman a romantic kiss. Seems he has erectile dysfunction and prostatic hyperplasia, so he takes Cialis®.

Voiceover: “He should not have to pause in the moment to take a pill or find a bathroom.” The commercial goes on to tell the commercial watcher to talk with their doctor and other warnings.

“Do not take this medication if you have heart problems, high or low blood pressure, stroke, liver or kidney problems, or an erection lasting more than 4 hours. The side effects may include headache, indigestion, back pain, muscle aches, flushing, and stuffy or runny nose.”

Egad!

The commercial ends with the couple in two claw-foot bathtubs at the edge of a lake. I’m not sure why or how they are lying in bathtubs next to a body of water, but they are happy. They live.

These commercials make me wonder. If your life came with warning labels and potential side effects, would you change?

Scene: Middle-aged woman happily walking along a tree-lined path.

Symptoms: Arthritic ankle caused by a little brother who should have come with his own warning label. Because of several sunburns, going out into the sun causes freckles and age spots on her skin to create a road map to every beach she has ever visited. Crow’s-feet around her eyes are due to laughing with children. Lack of sleep, because the dog she got for her daughter’s 6th birthday has recently become an incontinent wanderer at 13 years of age. The red-haired boy she met at 16 years of age breaks her heart.

Outcome: She wears an ankle brace some days, puts on SPF 50 sunscreen, sleeps in during the weekends to make up for lost rest, thanks goodness everyday for her children, gives the dog extra love with his medication, and does not worry about her heart since the red-haired boy became her one and only best friend 30 years ago. She lives.

The medical information in this article comes from <www.lunesta.com> and <www.cialis.com>.

A Night Without Light

This is a story of survival during the TVA “great power outage” in Sewanee on March 14. Times are approximate.

6 p.m. My son John and I have been preparing for the great power outage in Sewanee all day. We gathered up flashlights, candles, and other supplies. We charged the iPad, the iPhone, and the MacBook Pro. We made stir fry pork because that would taste good cold, just in case. We made a double pan of brownies.

7 p.m. Ben was coming back that night from his trip, so we cleared everything he could trip over out of the way.

8 p.m. John went upstairs to play his Minecraft game. I started watching a movie, “The Edge of Tomorrow.”

9 p.m. My daughter Sarah calls during her break from work. “The stupid shuttle does not run during the stupid spring break because it is stupid.” I remind her I am 14 hours away by car.

9:21 p.m. “Did you remember to turn off all of the light switches?”

9:58 p.m. John calls down from upstairs, “And the power is going to go out now.”

9:58:10 p.m. I continue to watch the movie.

9:59 p.m. John lights half of the candles and puts one flashlight in his pocket. “And the power is going to go out now.”

10 p.m. The movie is almost at the end. Tom Cruise falls into a giant hole full of water and the Omega alien is swirling towards him. “And the power is going to go out…” It is dark and really quiet. I don’t need to watch the end of the movie at a later date because according to the premise of the movie, I have already lived through it. I know how it ends.

10:01 p.m. John and I light the rest of the candles. The glow could have been seen in space. We turn on the flashlights and hold them up to our cheeks to see the reddish glow. “Why doesn’t this work when you hold the light directly under your chin?” “That is not how you do it. Hold it to your ear and then open your mouth.” “That is going to be some kind of reddish glow through my head all the way to the other wall.”

10:02 p.m. The dogs decide they need to go outside and bark. Our black cat decides to be extra helpful and makes an escape to the outside darkness. “How long is the power outage supposed to be?”

10:03 p.m. Sarah sends us a text. She is waiting on her father to call her back before she can call us. He was stopping to get fuel outside of Atlanta. “I don’t know. How would you use schadenfreude in a sentence without mentioning any political party?”

10:05 p.m. “Can I flush the toilet?”

10:06 p.m. Half of the pan of brownies is gone.

10:20 p.m. Dogs and the cat are back inside. John and I get on our pjs, drink a glass of milk, and blow out the candles. “What time is it?” We shine our flashlights through the windows.

10:30 p.m. John and I gather all of our electronic devices so we can communicate with the outside world and climb into bed. Some of the flashlights are in the middle of the bed. One is in my hand and one is on the nightstand. “I am fairly certain your side of the bed is more comfortable than this side of the bed. Want to switch?”

10:31 p.m. The Internet is not working on the iPad or the MacBook Pro. John and I listen to some 80s music on the iPhone. “Why would you wear your sunglasses at night?”

10:41 p.m. John and I try to scare each other with the flashlights by shining the lights on the ceiling and making shadow finger puppets. I start singing Little Bunny Foo Foo. I can’t remember how the bloody hook story goes that got told around the campfire at camp.

10:51 p.m. The elderly dog decides to urinate in the hallway as a sign of his displeasure for not having his night-light on. John shines his flashlight on the floor and as I chant “out, out damn spot” with the mop in my hands.

11 p.m. “Are you sure we can flush the toilet?”

11:15 p.m. Sarah calls. She found an Uber ride back to campus from her job. We tell her about the power outage.

12 a.m. “The scariest part about night is seeing car lights on the road, thinking they are coming up the driveway and you don’t know who is in the car.”

12:15 a.m. I hear snoring.

1:30 a.m. Car lights are coming up the driveway, followed by the noise of barking dogs. John and I hide under the covers with our flashlights.

I wake up to the sound of the printer and heating unit stating up. All the lights are on. The microwave and oven clocks are flashing 1:15. The pan of brownies is gone. I wonder what else happened while we were watching in the dark.

I Predict

This is my favorite time of year, playing the Oscar “who will win game” among my top three films. Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel lead the nominations with nine a piece. Boyhood has six nominations. Here are my predictions for winners at the 87th Annual Academy Awards in the major categories.

Three of the major category winners are foregone conclusions. One is Best Actress for Julianne Moore in Still Alice. Her portrayal of a woman suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s is hauntingly beautiful. The other is J.K. Simmons, Best Supporting Actor in Whiplash as a sadistic music professor. You will never look at those Farmers Insurance commercials the same way again.

Patricia Arquette in Boyhood has won every major award and then some for Supporting Actress in the movie Boyhood. Who better to play a single mom trying to better herself for her family than a single mom?

For Best Actor, based on the winners in previous awards shows such as the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild, it boils down to Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything or Michael Keaton in Birdman. Third time Best Actor nominee Bradley Cooper is the long shot as the movie American Sniper was released too late to be considered for nominations at other award shows. SAG award winner has also won the Academy Best Actor Award for the last 10 years, and Redmayne won the SAG. But my money is on Keaton for his portrayal as a washed up superhero actor trying to reinvent himself. This is Keaton’s story and he told it well. My write-in candidate is Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel. He gives an outstanding performance that is right up there with his role in The English Patient.

Best Director pits Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel) against Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu (Birdman) and Richard Linklater (Boyhood). They directed very different films and all are worth watching. Iñárritu will edge out the competition for his innovative approach to filmmaking: making the film seem as though it was done in one long take, and the tightrope walk between reality and madness he takes us on. My write-in candidate is Ava DuVernay for Selma.

My top three movies are battling for another award in the Original Screenplay. Wes Anderson has been nominated three times in this category. I do not think they even had a script written down for Boyhood. Birdman is nominated for its cutting banter. I predict Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness will be the winners for their highly imaginative and creative story in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

In the Best Picture category, eight films got nominations. Four of these are based on true stories, three could have been somebody’s true story, and one is crazier than the floral print on your grandmother’s chintz couch.

Controversy surrounds two films: Selma (when does historically accurate need to outweigh creativity in storytelling?) and American Sniper (is it propaganda or is it a tribute?). The two polished British biopics (The Theory of Everything, and The Imitation Game) cancel each other out. Whiplash is lucky to have been nominated.

It is a two-way horse race with Birdman, and Boyhood. The Grand Budapest Hotel is trailing behind coming into the final turn. While Boyhood is a stand out story, it is not Best Picture material. If Boyhood wins, it is a reward for the 12 years it took to make. My personal favorite is The Grand Budapest Hotel, a witty comedic romp of friendship, nostalgia, and love set in a mythical Central European town. Birdman is a technical achievement with almost flawless acting and dialogue. I do have to remember the Academy voters rarely give a Best Picture win to a comedy. The last comedy I remember winning was Shakespeare in Love at the 1999 Oscars. But with two strong comedies nominated this year, the odds are Birdman will come out on top as Best Picture.

See if I am right when the winners are announced Sunday, Feb. 22 beginning at 6 p.m. on the ABC network.

Après the Golden Globes

It is award season for the movies, one of my most favorite TV watching times of the year. The 72nd Annual Golden Globes, hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, airs from 8 to 11 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 11 on NBC. While a Golden Globe nomination does not guarantee an Academy Award nomination, I think the Golden Globe nominations should be considered for the Oscars. Here are the Golden Globe nominees for Best Motion Picture, Drama and Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy. I predict a few of these are going to make it to the Oscars.

“Birdman.” Michael Keaton stars as a washed up superhero actor trying to reinvent himself by staging a Broadway play. The best part is the bold movie making magic of director Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu shooting the film to resemble it was shot in one long take. Why I watch: I cannot help but think this is Michael Keaton’s story. Keaton was Batman (“Batman” 1989 and “Batman Returns” 1992), gave up that franchise, and then moviegoers heard nothing but crickets from his career. Keaton is definitely back with a roar. Oscar Best Picture nomination.

“Boyhood.” Written and directed by Richard Linklater, the movie tells one story of growing up and parenting. While most folks are focusing their attention on Ellar Coltrane who plays the boy Mason, my attention was focused on the single mom played by Patricia Arquette. The most gut wrenching moment for me is when she says, “I thought there would be more.” I wonder if any single mothers ever thought the same thing. Why I watch: Linklater films the same people during a 12-year period, giving an intimate portrait of a family life. While this is not everyone’s story, everyone can relate to some of the shared experiences. Oscar Best Picture nomination.

“Foxcatcher.” This is based on the true story of Olympic champion wrestlers David and Mark Schultz, and philanthropist John du Pont. Du Pont gets Mark to train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics at his estate, and eventually gets brother David to join. Why I watch: Steve Carrell plays du Pont as a ticking time bomb. With each breath, gesture, and word, you can see his paranoia building until it bursts out with the tragic death of David Schultz. Oscar Best Picture nomination.

“Into the Woods.” Some Brothers Grimm fairy tales come to life centering on the story of a childless couple and a witch who wants magical items in order to lift their curse. It is a musical with Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack from the Beanstalk. Why I watch: Johnny Depp is the Wolf! No Oscar Best Picture nomination.

“Pride.” At a Gay Pride March in London, the LGBT activists decide to raise money to support families of the striking National Union of Mineworkers, but nobody wants their money. This movie is based on a true story. Why I watch: Bill Nighy plays a gay ex-miner named Cliff. Brilliant. No Oscar Best Picture nomination, but a Best Actor nomination for Bill Nighy would be great.

“St. Vincent.” This comedy stars Bill Murray as Vincent, the neighbor, and Oliver’s babysitter. Oliver’s parents are in a middle of a divorce and need childcare after school. Vincent takes Oliver to the racetrack, the bar, and the strip club. This could be a companion piece to “Little Miss Sunshine.” Why I watch: Murray is in fine comedic form as an alcoholic Vietnam vet turned nice guy. No Oscar Best Picture nomination, but another Best Actor nomination for Bill Murray is long overdue.

“Selma.” History plays before our eyes including the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., to the signing of the Civil Rights Act. Why I watch: Actor David Oyelowo’s portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a person who believes in the rights of all people is spot on. This film also illuminates there is still work to be done. Oscar Best Picture nomination.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel.” A popular European ski resort in the 1930s, concierge Gustave H, played by Ralph Fiennes, runs the hotel. Zero Moustafa is the junior lobby boy who becomes Gustave’s trusted friend. Part love story, part “who dunnit,” this movie is a witty, madcap tale of friendship centering on a priceless painting and a family fortune. Why I watch: The Society of the Crossed Keys is a hilarious bit where all the hotel concierges figure out a way to help Gustave and Zero after Gustave escapes from jail. Oscar Best Picture nomination and I have my fingers crossed for this one.

“The Imitation Game.” Based on the true story of Alan Turing, a famed British cryptologist. Turing and his team create an electromechanical device, a computer, in order to crack the secret German naval code, Enigma during World War II. Years after the war, Turing is sentenced for indecency and placed on estrogen treatments “to cure his homosexuality.” Why I watch: Played by Benedict Cumberbatch, Turing says, “machines can never think as humans do, but just because something thinks differently from you, does it mean its not thinking? … What is the point of different tastes, different preferences if not to say that our brains work differently, that we think differently? And if we can say that about one another, then why can’t we say the same things for brains made of copper and wire and steel?” Oscar Best Picture nomination.

“The Theory of Everything.” This is the story of Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane, their romance, and the struggle with his disease. Why I watch: Eddie Redmayne portrays Hawking as just a person, not as a brilliant mind with a body withering away. No Oscar Best Picture nomination.

I have predicted six of the Golden Globe nominated films will receive Oscar nominations. Rounding out my top 10 Best Picture Oscar nominations are: “Inherent Vice,” starring Joaquin Phoenix as a detective trying to solve a disappearance case in a groovy 1970s California beach community; “Gone Girl,” starring Ben Affleck, with a glimpse into the secrets of a crumbling marriage; “Unbroken,” the story of Olympian Louis Zamperini and his survival during World War II; and “American Sniper” based on a true story, starring Bradley Cooper as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle who cannot leave the Iraq war behind him. The Academy Award nominations will be announced on Thursday, Jan. 15.

Grateful for Parades

I honestly love to watch parades. Since I can remember my family has watched in its entirety the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. When I was younger, it marked the time between the turkey in its final throes in the oven and the start of the Detroit Lions football game.

As I got older, I began to anticipate the sounds of the marching band drums coming up the street. Would the Snoppy and Underdog balloons still be part of the parade? How could the Rockettes kick and fan their legs with such precision? And Santa Claus in his sleigh at the end of the parade was the first herald to a new season. I stopped and watched the whole celebration.

It is no wonder I decided to join a marching band while in school in Trenton, Tenn. I was a member of the Peabody Band of Gold, one of the best marching bands around. (They still are.) We drilled our steps in the summer and practiced our music at home in order to be the best. We worked to play to an almost flawless performance. This band was on the same level as any varsity sport. We had a Band Boosters Club, letterman jackets, and our own overflowing trophy case.

The crowd would stay in their seats during halftime at the Golden Tide football games because they came to see our show. In marching competitions if we were not number one, we were at least number two. We performed in the parades: the Trenton Teapot Festival, Strawberry Festival, Lions Club Christmas Parade, and the Paris Fish Fry.

Our band was almost always placed in the latter part of these parades. As we marched up the street, everyone in the crowd stopped, formed a line on the curb, and turned to watch. Though it seemed impossible, the band members stood a little straighter, moved our legs higher in unison, and played without missing a beat to the snap of the color guard flags. Playing in perfect rhythm until the end of set, the drum corps picked up a new cadence and we turned to move down the street.

While I am no longer part of a marching band, there is another show I have drilled for and practiced to almost perfection: Thanksgiving dinner. This is the same Thanksgiving menu ritual from my mother and her mother before her. I have this performance down pat.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, I go to the grocery store where it seems half of the town is on the parade route. Shopping carts wheel in unison up and down the aisles armed with ingredients: water chestnuts for the stuffing; heavy cream for the pumpkin pie topping; and oranges for the cranberry sauce. The line goes to the checkout to unload the carts onto a conveyor belt. Items are scanned and snapped into place in bags. The shoppers pay, say thank you, turn, and walk out the door left or right to their car. We wait our turn to move out on to the highway to head home.

The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, the whole process is repeated because we have forgotten nutmeg or the eight pounds of butter needed to complete the celebration.

The ingredients take their place on the kitchen counter. Buttery button mushrooms, celery, and onions sizzle in the pan on the stove, waiting for the stock and breadcrumbs to join in. Coconut-pineapple salad is mixed together. Pans are prepped for the corn pudding and the sweet potatoes. At the head of the line is the almost cooked turkey, the star of the show. Green beans are snapped, washed, and rinsed. Flour and stock form ribbons in the pan as I whisk the gravy.

The kitchen hums in a perfect rhythm. It is show time.

Mom and I eat all the olives in the relish tray. Dad says the parade is over and he wants his pie. Ben sharpens the knife in order to properly carve the turkey. Sarah and John put the final touches on the table and decide who is going to get to pull the wishbone to make a wish. The family stands in line at the buffet, picking up utensils, waiting our turn to fill our plates, and moving to our places at the table. We hear the sounds of “pass the gravy,” forks piercing a bite of turkey, and the clink of ice in our glasses. We give thanks we can be together.

I sometimes take for granted the show that occurs in my everyday life such as standing in line to buy a ticket to a show, walking down the street in unison with my son, or anticipating the sound of the door opening as family arrives. I just love a parade and it does not always have to be a big event. I need to remember to always stop, turn, and watch the whole thing.

REDRUM and Sweet Dreams

It is almost Halloween. Instead of remembering the end of harvest and the beginning of the darker half of the year when spirits of the dead come back looking for treats, most think about costumes and candy. But there are a lot of scary movies to watch, reminding us that spirits and things that go bump in the night are more likely to appear during the month of October than at any other time.

Scary movies portray worst fears and nightmares. Real life is scary enough when considering deadlines at work, bills to pay or that the only thing to watch on television is a reality show. Watching a scary movie for me is like riding a rickety roller coaster. It is an all-at-once thrilling/pant wetting/limbs akimbo/frightening adventure that is completely safe and a relief when it is over.

Even though the movies are not real, some of the emotional triggers do stay with me. I dared not sleep after watching “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” I was afraid to touch my TV after “Poltergeist.” I am certain the shadows and wind were not the cause of the images and noise coming from my bedroom wall (“Amityville Horror”). I do wonder if a nuclear detonation would really wake up a sea monster (“Godzilla”).

My taste in horror films involves monsters and the paranormal. I cannot watch “Saw” or “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” My idea of a slasher movie is “Jaws.” There is one horror film I watched and will never watch again. At our house we call it “the movie that must remain unnamed.” It is Japanese and involves black hair floating in the sink and one hell of a scary staircase. I will never un-see that one.

I really do not like the “bad teenager horror movie” genre. For a snippet, watch the Geico commercial about horror movie characters making bad decisions. As the group runs through the woods looking for safety, they try to decide what to do. “Let’s run into the barn with all the chainsaws!” or “Let’s hide in the attic!” I have watched enough horror films to know if I heard a voice say “Get out!” that I would not hide in the basement.

You do not have to make bad decisions about which scary movie to watch during All Hallow’s Eve. Here are a few of my favorites.

“Psycho” (1960). Anthony Perkins stars as Norman Bates. He is a taxidermist with mommy issues, running a broken down motel. Janet Leigh’s first clue to get out should have been all those birds in various stages of flight in the living room. Remember: You don’t steal money, have sex out of wedlock or talk bad about Norman’s mother.

“Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975). Tim Curry stars as Dr. Frank N. Furter, a mad scientist from another planet, who builds a creature. Part musical comedy, part horror movie, this is really fun to watch in a theater. You just have to remember to take newspaper, toilet paper, toast, and your fishnets and gloves.

“When A Stranger Calls” (1979). “Have you checked the children yet?” I did not babysit ever again.

“The Shining” (1980). You do not want to know what is in room 237. Jack Nicholson descending into homicidal madness is one of the scariest things you will ever see. While I like to repeat “REDRUM” and “Danny’s not here, Mrs. Torrance,” in everyday conversations, the scariest line to me is, “Come and play with us, Danny. Forever … and ever … and ever.”

“Ghost Story” (1981). Four elderly gentlemen belong to the Chowder Society, where membership is contingent upon telling a ghost story. This group shares a gruesome, 50-year-old secret that begins to affect them and members of their family. Revenge has never been so chilling.

“Beetlejuice” (1988). Michael Keaton stars as Beetlejuice. Beetlejuice is a ghost who is hired by the recently deceased Maitland couple to scare away the new owners of their house. Oh no! I just said his name three times.

“Jacob’s Ladder” (1990). Timothy Robbins is a soldier in Vietnam. He is a NYC postman. Then he is a father, husband and boyfriend trying to figure out what is real. You may get whiplash.

“The Sixth Sense” (1999). A boy seeks the help of a child psychologist because he can communicate with dead people who do not know they are dead. Bruce Willis is terrific, but the real star is Haley Joel Osment, who aids the ghosts with their unfinished business on earth.

“Signs” (2002). Crop circles, water and asthma attacks. Thank goodness Joaquin Phoenix is handy with a bat.

Playing now at a theater near you are “Annabelle” (the evil doll from “The Conjuring” got her own movie) and “Dracula Untold” (find out how Prince Vlad got to be known as the Impaler).

Have a safe and happy Halloween. Sweet dreams!