“We … belong dead.” (Not As Morbid As It Looks)

Kage Baker liked to watch movies on New Year’s Eve. Partly that was because she also liked to stay at home on the Eve; maybe a really good dinner out, but that early and swift. She went to ground as soon as possible on New Year’s Eve, so as to avoid the street rioting and such.

Nonetheless, she religiously watched the ball drop in Times Square, toasted the New Year on her front porch every year with champagne, and took a midnight walk. In our youth, it was through the dark precipitous streets of the Hollywood Hills, champagne in hand, dodging cars and toasting other revelers on their front porches and balconies. In our  later years, it was always to the beach – only two blocks way when we lived in Pismo, and usually profoundly deserted, too.

The party goers we’d dodged earlier in the evening would be celebrating loudly in beach front restaurants and rental apartments, but we we were almost almost always the only strollers on the beach. Kage would be carrying a crystal champagne flute (which she never dropped!) and I would have a pewter flask of whiskey. We would vow to survive another year, and then Kage would hand me her glass and her shoes and wade into the surf – Kage, who so hated being cold and/or wet, would spread her arms open to the sea and promise her life to her muse if only she could keep writing: she would swear it on her blood’s heat in the cold sea, and take the salt spray on her lips for the confirming kiss of a god.

Then we’d slog damply home. Kage never dying of pneumonia was surely the first miracle of every year.

But she also loved to watch movies, specific movies. I could always kind of understand Amadeus – it has lots of glorious music, parties and whipped cream: good New Year fare. I never quite understood why Kage loved to watch the Bride of Frankenstein then as well, but it was certainly grand viewing. The antics of Dr. Pretorius are always a mad giggle, and the graveyard scenes cannot be beat for either fright or hilarity. (Kage found them very Shakespearean.) Maybe the pathos and doom appealed to her, too; as well as the slow mythic pas de deux wherein Frankenstein and the Monster change places as hero and villain.

She loved Elsa Lanchester’s amazing rejection of her intended mate. She loved the balletic pace and movements of the ending. And she loved the Monster’s last words, raspily declaring “We belong dead!” as he pulls the huge fatal lever while his witless bride hisses furiously.

The Monster Speaks! proclaimed posters of the time – for Kage, what he spoke was the destruction of all the bad things in the year just past. She mourned his (supposed) destruction even as she cheered the end of whatever evil had haunted the previous year: the crumbling Castle Frankenstein, she always felt, was a cinematic version of the Tower from the Tarot’s Major Arcana.

I don’t go out on New Year’s Eve, even now. My family stays happily at home, eating Christmas leftovers and watching telly. Also, cursing the neighborhood idiots who set off fireworks, and comforting our terrified pets. I may step onto the porch to lift a glass of bubbly (not champagne, Sprite Cranberry) and vow once more to survive: if only to spite all the things that seem to want me dead.

But most of all, no matter what we watch, I will be cheering on the Monster in my heart as he kills the old year of 2017. It was a rotten year of nightmare, pain, fury and fear. It belongs dead. I rejoice to see it die. May its evil die with it, including the evil it seeded in my soul – may my next year be one of more peace, more compassion, more love.

Let me die to hate. Let me live in joy. Let the me who reflected any of 2017 perish, to be replaced with literally any other year of my life. I mean to turn the calendar waaay back, Dear Readers. The Monster’s declaration is also a renewal.

May all our demons and sorrows die. And so a Happy New Year’s unto you all.

My hero