Suggested Audio Jukebox:
 AFX (Aphex Twin) “Fenix Funk 5”
 Friends, Family & Lovers “Children’s Stories”
 Russ Abbot & The Sabres Of Paradise “Atmosphere (Basildon Bond’s Madhouse Mix)”
 Seal “Crazy”
 Limahl “Never Ending Story”
We all go a little crazy sometimes. Speaking from experience, there have been times when the cart has come perilously close to vacating the tracks and, in 2013, I even found myself subject to a psych evaluation, one which I fully expected to conclude in a padded cell. As it turned out, I was provided with a clean bill of mental health, and flew over the cuckoo’s nest like the luckiest clay pigeon ever to tempt fate. However, many still believed that I had a few screws loose and they probably weren’t wrong either. You see, life can have a tendency to make us a little gaga from time to time and often it feels as though it is present only to test us. But there’s a world of difference between mild neurosis and being totally unhinged. Subject me to several hours of daytime television and I may well start to exhibit signs of the latter but, other than that, I believe most of the birds are in the nest roosting happily. That said, I’ll never be culpable of letting sanity run my affairs for too long, as it would all get old fast.
By my estimations, I am around 24% crazy and that equates to just under a quarter of my mind that is beyond remedy. I can cope with that particular ratio as long as the other 76% is doing its job correctly and, moreover, feel thankful for the percentage. The manner in which I scribe requires a degree of insanity as I aim to sidestep convention wherever possible and that is why my output fluctuates so much. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries, if that’s the best that sanity can offer then I’m happy to undergo a course of shock therapy. I could stick to what I know – horror – and be like every other aficionado out there but where’s the challenge in that? I’d likely have 2000 film appraisals under my belt by now but nobody would be any the wiser as to who the hell I actually am. It seemed crazy to deviate when I first started out as the name Rivers of Grue doesn’t sound like your average laugh-a-minute knocking shop. However, I followed the 24% of my mind that objected to conforming and it soon led me to far greener pastures.
You may not be aware as I don’t tend to advertise it much but one thing that fascinates me is children’s fiction. I’m not speaking of the floral fluff they have read to them in pre-school, more the darker stuff. We tend to forget how sinister much of it actually is and, while we’re larking about with Dopey and Sneezy, Snow White’s being rushed into the emergency room to get her stomach pumped after being seduced into consuming forbidden fruit by a date-rapist parading as a wicked witch. It wasn’t long before I was introduced to these edgier children’s fables and the one that sticks in my mind all these years later is The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. Had said tree been nearby, then I would likely have thrown a tantrum and pissed my bed linen on principle alone, just to teach my mother a lesson for tucking me in too tight. However, any tree that is deemed faraway, is surely an adventure waiting to happen right? You could fly me to Honolulu but, chances are, I’d still get mugged in the airport. It was all about the journey and 24% of me just cried “fuck it, what have you got to lose?” Actually, I would imagine that “sod it” was as strong as it got as hell hath no fury like mom’s slipper heel to the earlobe.
Firstly, she never actually did that. Stern face worked a treat and capital punishment was never once necessitated but that was even more reason for me to wander off into the cherry blossom. I passed a fair few beacons en route to The Magic Faraway Tree and all of them pleaded with me to turn back before things got really seedy. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries, and not a single one of them interested me in the slightest. I wanted that forbidden fruit, even if that entailed being resuscitated in a gutter at 5am. Fuck, sorry, sod that for a bag of marbles. I didn’t even like poxy fruit but that didn’t make that ruby apple any less shiny or tantalizing. These were the first steps in my lifelong bid to become a journeyman and that is pretty much bang on how I would describe myself. Was The Magic Faraway Tree all it was cracked up to be? Can’t tell, that would mean breaking the tryst, and I’ve seen The Evil Dead so know never to go etching with no underwear on. It’s children’s fiction, locked away until the next kid stumbles upon it wide-eyed and far better for the anonymity. All you need to know is that it started a trend and that delivered me to the place I’m sat now thirty-five years later.
Have I ever told you the one about Doctor Keeper? Don’t make me provide a season six recap. Alright, I shall keep this short and succinct. I was six-years-old, had a stethoscope, may or may not have failed my medical exam and ended up placing it on a young girl’s vagina way before pubic harvest, and never practised again (to the medical council’s knowledge). Anyhoots, this tale is far less gynecological, and likely planted the initial physician seed so it’s guiltier than the sin it committed. Making friends is tough at six. Sure you may find yourself some fair-weather hopscotch buddies; but seldom do you come across a bona fide like-minded journeyman in training. I was fortunate enough to stumble across my other-mother brother at tender years and we embarked on many an adventure as we searched for other Magic Faraway Trees on our world maps. The word doctor came into play once we decided to vacate reality together for a few precious moments each day as the world, as we knew it, was under attack and we were humanity’s last remaining hope.
The medical practitioners in question were a band of evil masterminds hell-bent on global domination and we were tasked with stopping them before they achieved their nefarious goal. This meant scouring the school playground for clues, tracking each doctor back to his/her lair, and thwarting them in the eleventh hour. Others couldn’t see what we saw and, to the casual onlooker, we likely appeared to have taken leave of our senses. Indeed we had but not because we were ordered to do so by voices in our heads, simply because the adventure seemed like one worth partaking in. One by one we defeated those diabolical doctors and the arch-fiends they fashioned through their vile experiments. I knew way back then that I had found myself an associate for life and recently we were reunited once more, when my own world was under direct threat once again. Through events out of my control, I was floundering, and the only safe haven available entailed another trip to The Magic Faraway Tree.
We were all grown up now and no longer lived a stone’s throw from one another. Thus I embarked on a two-hour pilgrimage to his new headquarters, scurried off there with my tail between my legs, and allowed his healing hands to do the rest. By the time I returned from my weekend expedition, I was far better equipped to cope with the very worst life could throw at me, and the pep talk I received was unlike any other. You see, he knows just as well as I, the blessing and curse in possessing a brain that works in a different way from others around us. Extended bouts of self-doubt and depression had plagued him for as many years as they had me and, while I had almost ended up in the cuckoo’s nest at one point, he’d actually been committed several years back and been fortunate enough to escape the loony bin with his senses just about intact. This time it wasn’t about saving the world from incoming threat and, instead, saving mine from capitulation. Needless to say, he didn’t let me down and I returned from my trip utterly rejuvenated.
So you see I’m all for a dash of crazy as sanity can be a sobering affair. However, it’s all about keeping that 24% in check and using it whenever you see fit and not every time it is feeling cantankerous. The more you learn about the way your mind works, the more you can step back a little and observe any conflict from a secure vantage. I know my triggers, each and every last one of my frailties, and precisely what damage can be inflicted should I not remain cognizant to any skullduggery. But the decision-making part of my brain still runs shit on my behalf and is far better informed through knowing and appreciating my dash of madness. Indeed, with my mind having undergone extensive repair, I can sink that 24% into whatever I write, and use the other 76% to steer the vessel when I’m not partaking in Keeper duties. Anyone who meets me in person will know that there are few more regular guys than I. Granted, there have been times where shock therapy was looking like an option, but they are well in my slipstream and I now know how to remain one step ahead of their game.
Of course, I wouldn’t be where I am now had it not been for various leaps of faith along the way. There’s nothing bonkers about trusting your gut and believing that another has the very best of intentions. I happen to have found a podium from which to deliver my sermons and that has been with the full endorsement of my readership. None of you question me when I say the shit that we all think but none of us dare act upon. Nobody questions my judgement or assumes to have me all figured out. But you trust that my purpose is benevolent and, through you taking this leap of faith, I can delve into the vaguely less hinged 24% and return with all the rabbits still in the warren so to speak. Sanity is not to be undervalued, indeed, sanity allows me to prepare myself my early morning caffeine fix and bathe the very moment I begin to smell like a putrid pole cat. But sanity can only take me so far and I count on wacko for the rest.
The best thing about this is that it has introduced me to all number of other fellow wackos and each of you resemble a Magic Faraway Tree. There is well over 3000 miles between many of us and that means an adventure is in order just by choosing to glance souls. Geographically we may be far apart, but the moment I pick up the Crimson Quill, my intention is to drastically lessen the distance. By shunning boundaries when I scribe, my prose is thus afforded the opportunity to travel, and you take the Magic Carpet Ride alongside me each and every time. I knew all along that the name Rivers of Grue meant something more than simple part sums and I’m now fully aware of what that might be. By the riverbank is a tree and one unlike any other. Its roots are deep, so deep, that it can never become compromised. Granted, the twigs have a tendency to get a little frisky on occasion, and you have Sam Raimi to blame for that one. But it’s only too willing to share its sap. It also provides shelter from the storms.
Being a Gruehead has taught me much. Folk sometimes get confused by this mantle and its meaning so allow me to explain it a little better. It’s not some nefarious movement set for global domination, it’s every one of us who loves horror and life in equal measures. I haven’t snagged one in my trawler net every time I use #Gruehead in a tweet or post; I’m just appealing to anyone who wishes to see it for what it is. It’s general and not ever suggesting an affiliation you may not be comfortable with. I’m all about the metaphor you see. Anyone True to the Grue will know this as there’s nothing tyrannical about this one. I’m that five-year-old whippersnapper in the school yard, the wide-eyed boy tucked into his bed sheets too tight, the kid on the Magic Carpet, and the Keeper of The Faraway Tree. You’re damn right I’m claiming that shit. Rivers of Grue is a domain under my legal ownership and that makes any foliage fair game to call dibs on. Anyone can have a stream; why should mine be considered exclusive? However, Faraway Trees are another matter entirely. You were with me when I planned those primary seeds, have watched it grow and unfurl its branches, and never cried wood when it has provided you with a friendly timber grope. I happen to like it under here, don’t you?
Leap Salmon Leap
You may think me absurd
or even wackadoodle
but I believe the word
the whole kit and caboodle
It’s blood that binds us all
it’s hope that never fades
a valuable damn tool
a thousand masquerades
It dances as it dives
and soars each time it drops
it changes fucking lives
and pulls out all the stops
It helps us to create
believes we should believe
refuses to stagnate
accepts what we perceive
No judgement or despair
the key word here is safe
the terms therefore are fair
just one true leap of faith