Freudian Slips: Remote Control

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

February 08, 2008

Remote Control

If this blog story were simply a television show, the three introductory words “Ten Years Ago” would slowly bleed onto the screen for viewers. In a far away Amish Country in rural Lancaster County Pennsylvania, I had a paranormal experience.
On a guided tour of a working Amish farm, our loquacious bearded guide explained this throwback culture in living color. The Amish worked off the land and their great green rolling pastures magnified the way things must have looked most places one century ago. The Amish customarily shun modern conveniences but somehow thrive with their self-reliant horse and buggy ways. During the tour, my mind fixated on the Amish’s choice to live like shut-ins from the outside world and not own television sets. I experienced a déjà vu feeling that I could not pinpoint, distinct and indescript at the same time. Even though the tour consisted of the entire workings of the Amish community, I could not escape their communal rejection of the television. A future intersection of three things kept repeatedly circling my thoughts – Amish, TV, and my life. Since the Amish barred television sets and I held no association with the Amish, I dismissed this awkward feeling not long after my dirty shoes left the splendor in the grass farm.
Fast forward a decade of time. After I sold a New York Giants bookmarker on Ebay, I emailed the seller indicating her package was about to be mailed. The signature post-script to every sent email is my Freudian Slips blog address. This Ebay customer took the initiative to visit my active blog. As if appearing for her eyes only, the customer read the then lead story of transferring my home movies on VHS tape to DVD. She promptly emailed me to ask if she could pay me to do the same service for a bunch of her video cassette tapes. A week after I signed on to the project, a package arrived in the mail. A wrinkle in time followed.
Sorting through the package, the VHS tapes contained labels of news broadcasts and televisions specials. I plugged in my first tape only to arrive at a Good Morning America piece on a tragedy that happened in the Amish Country on October 2, 2006. A clinically depressed gunman takes a roomful of schoolchildren hostage in a rural Amish school. In unspeakable fashion, he shoots ten innocent girls. He murdered five of them before he fatally shot himself.
As if the tragedy is too horrific to process, its connection goes undetected. Reminiscent of my former vacation in that region, the same countryside and the unmistakable colonial Amish attire starts to register. I time travel to the Amish farmhouse and the guided tour where I experienced the déjà vu complete with narrative. The ghoulishly similar narrative on the television broadcast hurdled me to that same eerie feeling of déjà vu, distinct and now descript.
Janice Ballenger, who hired me to burn the DVD’s, appears on the taped television program wearing the hat of Deputy Coroner in Lancaster County, Pa. I recalled Janice’s promise to the families of the victims. She wants to show the Amish families affected by the tragedy, the television coverage on a single DVD. Employing my modern technological conveniences of a VHS/DVD up/converter playing on my high definition television, I complete the discs which will eventually become property of Amish families. Burning the discs made me wince. At long last, the unlikely trilogy of the Amish, television, and my life came to fruition. Words bleed onto this page. Five school children just had to die in the meantime.



Blogger Janice said...

Joe, I feel like I've known you all of my life. But I haven't. The bookmarker purchase began it all, but I truly feel our meeting was meant to be.

The day in Bart Township is a day I'll never forget, and I'm not quite certain I'll ever recover from.

It's again ironic that you posted this today, on a day that I was questioning myself as to why I can not overcome this day and move forward. I was asking myself why everyone else on scene that day has moved forward and I find myself stuck in the schoolhouse so many days. But then I don't know that everyone else has moved much more forward than I have.

A few months after the incident I quit a good paying job and went back to school. Mostly because of my boss telling me to "put it all behind me and not remain immersed in that day". Excuse me, counting bullet wounds in innocent Amish children that are lying dead at a one room schoolhouse is not something you just put behind you and move on.

The past year has been a struggle for me emotionally and financially. I've finally found a job in a nursing home that I love and pays decent money; but so many days I feel like I'll never get ahead of the financial game. But at the same time, I don't regret any of the decisions I made.

I will be taking copies of the dvd that you made for me and did a spendid job, to my Amish families that I've befriended since 10/2/06. They have a state trooper that brings in his dvd player for them to watch recorded articles.

Trust me, they are no different than you and me. They grieve and cry the same as we do.

I again thank you for the friendship we've developed and the race is on as to whose book will get published the soonest! :)

I hadn't planned on writing my book for several years, but that day prompted me to begin writing it. Now the first draft is finished. It has been very theraputic.

Joe, thank you again for everything, including your friendship. You truly are a very special person!

Janice Ballenger

7:01 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

Writing is fighting. See you at the Shady Maple Restaurant for your first book signing.

7:42 PM  
Blogger mommanator said...

wow unbelievable post & comment! dejavu INDEED!

9:00 AM  
Anonymous et said...

Soulful and heartwarming post! Outstanding story as related by you...and beautiful comments by Janice Ballenger.

May you both, with the help of the inner light that guides us all, prosper and grow in the love of humanity; and, if possible, make life better for those that you meet along the way.

You two appear to be kindred souls that have met and recognized the connection.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

Now can you tolerate a filler McDonalds picture once in awhile?

Thanks for your kind words.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Janice said...

Thank you, et, for your kind words. I do strive to make the world a better place, especially for those that are facing tragedies. In my humble opinion, when one dials 911 they feel they are having one of the worst days of their lives and I try to respect that and treat them with excellent patient care as well as kindness and compassion.

When I respond to a scene where someone has committed suicide and there is a lot of blood, I'll get down on my hands and knees and clean the entire area so the family doesn't return and see the bloody mess. It's just plain simple respect.

As a deputy coroner, we are often the first step in grief and recovery for the surviving family and friends. But it takes a toll on you.

Again, thank you for your kind words. They are rarely heard, whether on coroner calls or as a volunteer with my local ambulance association.

Joe, if I have a book signing, it will be at Shady Maple and I will treat! One can dream :)

9:16 PM  
Anonymous battery said...

a good read.

6:37 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

thanks for stoping by.

5:30 PM  

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