The Astral Movie House

What if right after your death you find yourself alone, in a one-seat movie theatre, where you arise as if abruptly woken up from a dream.

Your ideal self-image from your life’s memories is manifested, and you look and feel, by your own opinion, as the best you ever have.

An 70mm film projector flickers, and begins rolling a film onto a realistic-as-life screen directly in front of you. A classic black and gray circular countdown starts backwards from 10, in the clearest picture you’ve ever seen, anywhere.

The film begins. Your earliest memory in life plays out as the first scene. You are taken aback. Your emotions criss-cross and crash, and finally, you understand: ‘heaven,’ ‘hell,’ and ‘purgatory’ will all be experienced here, in this single-seat movie house. You’re free to get up and leave at anytime, but the thought never occurs to you.

It all comes back, a full recap of your now-past life. The best moments invoke laughter, tears of joy, leaving you feeling like a rejuvenated soul; while the worst ones trigger despair, regret, and unkempt anger, mostly directed at your past self. But not fear. Fear is for the living.

The movie ends, and as the credits roll, every name of all your loved ones, friends, family, co-workers, people you met just once, all scroll along. You are credited as the lead role, and the director.

There you are, alone in your own private astral cinema – lessons learned, emotions drained, and at peace with your past life – a catharsis unmatched.

There’s a red EXIT sign to the right. A force within you questions where it leads, and beckons you toward it.

You rise from your chair, and walk toward the EXIT sign. It leads you around a corner to a long, maroon-carpeted hallway ending with a single door. It’s an industrial dark gray, with a few scratches, and a worn black and gold PUSH sticker on it. You stop at the threshold, take a deep breath, push it open, and walk through.

You new first memory starts. – RSM

Why Ned Vizzini Will Always Have A Special Place In My Heart

When I was 19 I stumbled upon a curious looking novel at the Borders that used to be at The Shops at Columbus Circle. I had never heard of the title or author before but the description and art work really caught my eye. I bought the novel and instantly fell in love with ‘Its Kind of A Funny Story’ by Ned Vizzini.

The novel spoke to me on many different levels. From the spot on ‘teenage New Yorker’ rhetoric to the descriptions of the city, I was taken to a magical new place which in reality I had always called home. The most profound and apparent way that I related to the story was with the main character, 15 year old Craig Gilner. There are two main ways we related, starting with something that I have never stated on the internet:

Craig and I have both been to a psychiatric ward.

Craig and I were both depressed at age 15.

The story I was reading felt so much like my own. To this day, ‘Its Kind of a Funny Story’ is my absolute favorite book of all time ever in the history of words, not just for its funny anecdotes, unlikely romance and motley crew of characters, but because it helped me let go of so much anguish and guilt that I had kept from my experience.

I mustered up the courage in the summer of 2009 to e-mail Ned Vizzini, just to tell him I appreciated his work.

To my surprise, he responded. I was elated to find a genuine reply in my inbox a few days later from a successful author, what I aspire to be. I told myself I would have to meet him one day. After my study abroad trip in early 2010 I attended a Young Adult Fiction event at the New York Public Library on 6th Avenue and 12th Street. There were several authors there, but I went just for Ned.

I got there early and saw him walking around the room, just wandering like I was. I was talking to a fan of another author and she encouraged me to introduce myself. I walked up to the Average Joe-looking writer who wrote the book that changed my life and asked “Excuse me, are you Ned Vizzini?”

We started talking and I mentioned our email conversation from the previous summer. He remembered me and said he was glad to meet me. I felt on top of the world as I discussed literature, particularly my favorite book, with the author of the book! It was a dream come true. I asked if he could offer any advice about writing, and I’ll never forget what he said:

“Don’t focus right away on writing a book. If you do that it will never get done. Try writing longer and longer stories to build up. Also, read ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King.”

I bought ‘On Writing’ a few days later. I left the event with an autographed copy of his novel ‘Be More Chill’ with a dedication to me which read “Ruben, I’m sure you don’t need a squip!”

To top off the day, I got to take a picture with him. Here I am with Ned Vizzini, in all my overly eager fanboy glory:

Image

He posted it on his blog a few days after we met. Our acquiantanceship didn’t stop there. I came prepared that day and asked if he could critique a short story I had written about a night I had in Rome. A few months later I got a sloppy hand written envelope in the mail, bearing my name and address as well as his. He wrote a handwritten critique of my work. I challenge you to find any succesful author who would do all this for just one fan. The review came with my original copy of the story with his notes, which were very positive, along with his favorite quote highlighted via brackets written in with black ink.

I emailed him again earlier this year, asking him to read my article ‘The Millenial Latin American Identity Crisis Of The United States’. He read it, said he really enjoyed it and even shared it on his news feed on Facebook. I recall him telling me his favorite sentence from my article, which was “We are emigrating to, and reproducing in the United States like a giant herd of nomadic rabbits.”

Given all this, I was completely heartbroken to find out that Ned Vizzini committed suicide on December 19, 2013. His family lost a father and husband, the world lost a great author, and I feel like I lost a friend. My condolences go out to his family, friends and fans. I will always remember his warmth and kindness when he could have just brushed me off as just another kid who read his book. I will more so remember his best novel in my opinion, for changing my perspective of certain life events of mine from what I considered the worst times in my life to, well, kind of a funny story. Rest in peace Ned. -RSM