"Excuse me, Keanu, but could you point me in the direction of Hades?..."

"And, I mean, probably not, but is there by any chance a Starbucks in Hell? Just wondering, you know how it is..."

This past weekend I watched the movie Constantine. Horrifying on so many levels, not the least of which is simply that it stars Keanu Reeves, an actor who I find painful to watch on the big screen. Or any screen, for that matter. I can feel the strain of his effort to act. It makes me so uncomfortable. No one has told him that he can't act, or else he refuses to listen. Either way, he continues to do it, and it's as if he's completely unaware of the damage he leaves in his wake as he plugs away.

So, Constantine is a really bad movie. Really. Bad. But, for some reason it got under my skin. Constantine (Keanu) is a man who committed suicide but was brought back to life by doctors in an ER. Constantine died for about two minutes, and in that time, because it's a sin in the Catholic church to kill yourself, he was banished to Hell. Upon visiting Hell, he decides to spend his life fighting off demons and Satan, in the hopes that this will get him back in the Big Guy's good graces and buy him a ticket on the Acela train out of Hades when he dies again, presumably without emergency medical intervention and thus for good.

I've never spent much time thinking about Hell. But let me tell you, as depicted in this movie, it's a very icky place. And for the first time ever, I got scared. I don't really want to go there. And certainly not for eternity.

I wasn't brought up Catholic, so after my baptism, I didn't get much Hell in my daily life. It wasn't really on my radar screen until I watched this movie.

Prior to this weekend, my thought process was as follows: If there is a Hell, then God is mean. If God is mean, then I don't like this system and therefore I won't believe in it.

Now my thought process is this: If there is a Hell, then God is mean. If God is mean, then I don't like this system but actually there are lots of systems I don't like or believe in that really exist...

Is God, and Hell, another one of these? Is it like our prison system, where you can disapprove all you want of the created laws but you'll still have to go there if you break one? The laws make sense to me, so I don't argue with the prison system (much). But God's laws seem to make sense to lots of people. Am I just the renegade in the religious society? Am I thumbing my nose at a system that in the end has the power to lock me up and throw away the key regardless of my staunchly held disbeliefs?

I started to think... church on Sunday, a couple of confessions... is that a big price to pay for the security of knowing you aren't headed South to the Fires after you kick it? Maybe not. It honestly never occurred to me that Hell could exist without my belief in it. It could just exist. And if it does, then I haven't really taken the proper precautions. I'm a compulsive person, and a woman, and these two things together mean I get my Hep B vaccine series even though I 'probably won't need it', I wear sunscreen, and I wash all my fruits and vegetables before I eat them. I don't take chances. So am I taking the biggest chance of all by blowing off God every weekend for a lie-in and a lazy brunch?

What frustrates me the most is that Keanu Reeves has cast a shadow of doubt over my carefully innoculated world. I hate that I got scared by a B-rated movie and some shit special effects.


The boys are back in town

What is it about sharks? I'm not sure of the clinical criteria for obsession, but I think I've got one. The Oak Bluffs Monster Shark tournament just took place on Martha's Vineyard, and with recent shark attacks off the coast of Florida and Texas, the shark buzz has begun. The New England Aquarium is featuring an IMAX movie called Sharks 3D. The Devil's Teeth is the literary thing to do. It's Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Maybe it's just a natural summer phenomena - the weather gets warm, the beaches get crowded, invariable one or two unfortunate souls lose a leg or their life, and shark mania descends upon us all. And I get swept away with it every year.

Naturally it's on my mind, because tomorrow I'm going kayaking in Rockport, followed by a day of play at Horseneck beach on Sunday. My weekend leaves me vulnerable to an encounter with our toothy friends. Yeah, I know how slim the likelihood of that is. I've heard the stats. I could just as easily win the lottery apparently. But what people seem to brush over is the fact that someone always wins the lottery, no matter how slim the chances. Someone gets that ticket. So when you suddenly find yourself nestled in the jaws of a great white amidst the crowd of a heavily populated beach, would it really matter that your chances were so slim? Would it matter that you could just have easily been stuck by lightening? Not to me it wouldn't. I'll tell you, my luck's not great. If it's gonna happen to someone, I'd say the odds seem to favor that it's gonna happen to me. Statistically, that might not be true. But anecdotally, it sure as hell feels true. Especially on the crap days.

But what's so frustrating to me is that I'm at once totally revolted and mesmerized by sharks. I can't take my eyes off the newspaper photos from the Monster Shark showing. And for anyone else, that might be okay. But I'm afraid of sharks in a swimming pool, or in a lake. Rationality has little to do with my worldview. So for me to start watching Shark Week is asking for trouble. I can barely swim in fresh water and I have the scientific impossibility of a shark attack on my side there. In the ocean, there's no stopping my overactive imagination because there's possiblity fueling it, however improbable. I'm not sure my finely-wired brain will be able to handle the beach on Sunday. My head might just explode from the sheer, self-created terror.