Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Vampire Logic: What I learned about COVID by starring in a horror movie

Illustration by Rich Hauck.

About eight years ago, I was in a weird, and admittedly, terrible movie.

Although I wasn’t a lead, I played the character who drove the action—a modern-day vampire by the name of “Dragar.”

Now, I’m no one’s thespian. I hadn’t acted since the dreaded senior class play (“Fiddler on the Roof”) at my New Jersey high school—and let’s just say that was eons ago.

But an old friend roped me into his little horror flick after his “professional” actor flaked at the last minute, leaving him with a shooting schedule and no time to find a real substitute.

So, I became Dragar.

I mention this episode because my moviemaking friend recently uploaded his film (“The Temperature of Darkness”) to Amazon’s streaming service. So, some family and friends watched it for the first time—despite my warning that I couldn’t give them back that hour and 15 minutes of their lives.

Afterwards, a few diplomatically said nothing. A few said the equivalent of “WTF.” And a few others actually wanted to know more—like why I played the role in what seemed like a semi-comatose state.

“I felt that the character was caught between two worlds—this life and the afterlife,” I explained. “He’s confused. He only half understands where he is and what’s happening around him.”

Based on the quality of my performance, they may have been surprised that I actually gave the role this much thought.

But I had and, maybe around the third or fourth time that I explained my “motivation,” I realized something. These days, I actually feel like Dragar.

For over five decades, I’ve lived my life in certain ways based on fairly predictable assumptions.

In April, baseball season starts. In August, the school year begins. Over the course of the year, there are summer vacations and waterfront festivals and trick or treating. There are regular restaurant outings and gym workouts and drinks with friends. There are workdays, and there are weekends. Year in and year out, life breezes by in a rather regular, knowable pattern.

But not this year.

This year, there was school, then there wasn’t school and then there was sort of school, depending.

There were sports, then there weren’t sports, then there were sports again, but who really knows?

There were restaurants and shops and places to visit, then there weren’t, and then there were again, kind of, but maybe not.

Since March, I’ve spent my year in a state of constant confusion—much like how I imagined my Dragar character felt—and perhaps you have, too.

Our lives have been tossed about, new rules adopted and changed again. The only certainty has been uncertainty, as we’ve tried to determine, individually and collectively, from week to week and month to month, what the heck is happening and how we should respond.

If you’re an office worker, should you commute to your job or should you continue working from home? If you’re a business owner, should you be open or closed? What rules should apply for customers? Is it safe to return to school and, if not, how does that impact your home life?

Our patterns have been disrupted and disturbed. The way we’ve structured our lives, the very fabric of our realities, has been riddled with many questions and few answers. Yes, the change has been that profound.

As we go about our newly surreal lives, I believe that it’s useful to understand that this disorder is a shared experience. Everyone is affected locally, statewide, nationwide and even internationally, like few other historical experiences outside of all-out mobilization for war.

I would hope that we, as a people, would understand and appreciate this, that we would respect the gravity, complexity and historical uniqueness of this confounding situation—and respect each other’s individual struggles. Unfortunately, I find that’s often not the case.

So, I wish to conclude this column with an appeal for civility and understanding in our community. These are confusing times, and, on some level, everyone is struggling—some health-wise, others psychologically and many financially. Most of us have never endured anything comparable, a total disruption to our lives at best, a threat to our lives at worst.

Like my character, Dragar, we’re trapped in a grim, hazy reality that, despite our best efforts, we don’t understand and can’t escape. Dragar did not choose kindness to try to make sense of his strange, baffling life. But we can.

Lawrance Binda is co-publisher and editor-in-chief of TheBurg.

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