An Interview With Karyn Crisis

Karyn-Crisis-by-Virginia-Tieman-2014

Last month I had the thrilling privilege of interviewing artist, songstress and seeker, shaman, healer, Karyn Crisis, for Haute Macabre. I’ve been fascinated with her many-layered presence in this world ever since I began posting her eldritch imagery on my tumblr blog, and I was beyond pleased to share her stories and insights and wonderful energy with everyone.

Where The Magic Lies: An Interview With Karyn Crisis

Links Of The Dead {July 2017}

Conquering Princeling by Tia Kinsman

Conquering Princeling by Tia Kinsman

A gathering of death related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From somber to hilarious, from informative to creepy, here’s a snippet of things that have been reported on or journaled about in or related to the Death Industry recently.

More reading: Links of the Dead {July 2016}

💀 The One Thing No One Ever Says About Grieving
💀 This Is Why So Many People ‘See The Light’ Near Death
💀 The Lady Anatomist Who Brought Dead Bodies to Light
💀 Want to Cut Your Carbon Footprint? Get Liquefied When You’re Dead
💀 I’m Terrible, Thanks For Asking
💀 9 Secrets of Coroners and Medical Examiners
💀 When photography was new, it was often used to preserve corpses via their images
💀 DIY coffin-building workshop reviving dying art of casket-making
💀 What I Learned Hanging Out with Corpses Around the World
💀 Death Becomes the Wounded (In Conversation with Daphne Deitchman of Little Wounds)
💀 Photographing Victorian Corpses Exposes the Beauty of the Human Body
💀 Life in Death at Tower Hamlets Cemetery
💀 Japan’s “Corpse Hotels”: It’s There That No One Will Stare
💀 A Year Gardening the Grave of a Stranger
💀 The Professionals Who Want to Help You Plan Your Death
💀 ‘Stop the corpses rolling into my garden’: Desperate man’s plea as bodies from cemetery fall into his land

this, that, and the other thing {xxxvii}

Annalu-Boeretto-Mizuko-kuyo3Biblio-alchemy: The Liquid Library of Annalù Boeretto

MysticalSymbolism-JeanDelville-1080x859The Heavy Metal Symbolism of the Salon Rose+Croix

The All-Time Best Burns Of New York Times New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani
Meet the Woman Teaching ‘Financial Domination’ to the Masses
Excerpts from Lana Del Rey’s Upcoming Book of Spells
Sleep paralysis: How a deep-sleep glitch can conjure the boogeyman
Christina Mrozik: Metamorphosis, Quietus, and In-betweens
Beam me up, Gucci! New campaign inspired by vintage sci-fi
12 eerily beautiful photos from Kat Von D’s all-black flower garden
Why Story Matters in Video Games
Junji Ito’s Horror Manga is Getting an Anime
How To Decorate Your Apartment Like A David Lynch Project
In Defense of Imaginary Friends
The American Eclipse of 1878 and the Scientists Who Raced West to See It
Night-Time At The Roadhouse, An Ever-Growing Playlist With A Twin Peaks Vibe

Currently {7.30.17}

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I find that I increasingly dread and actively avoid putting these “currently” posts together lately. I’m not sure why that is, exactly. To be quite honest, I love talking about myself and all the stuff I’m into, so it’s not like I’ve all of a sudden gotten weird and self-conscious about it. I operate under the assumption that my friends and acquaintances are a lot like me, in that they are curious about the lives of the people who they care about in some form or another (either on the internet or in real life), so if I want to know all about you, is it so hard for me to believe that you might want to know about me? Nope! For whatever reason, as anxious and uneasy as I feel about other things, sharing without feeling uncomfortable or awkward, or precious about it, has always been a thought process that’s come naturally to me (even when someone might actively try to squash it).

So what’s the problem, then? I suspect my low level dysthymia (undiagnosed, but that’s what my counseling-for-a-career sister tells me, and I guess I can’t really sue her if she’s wrong) really amps up in the summer time; I lose all motivation and energy, I stop taking care of myself and participating in the activities and passions I love, and it’s just a vicious cycle–I haven’t got the energy and life to do the things that give me energy and life.

So, yeah, here I am. My heart isn’t in it, but I’d be cross with myself if I skipped my monthly installment of talking about myself. Also, I will take this opportunity to show you my bangs-growing-out-progress, as well as the sparking new addition to my earthly meat suit: my new nose piercing, which I have fondly dubbed “lil crusty”.

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My youngest sister has been checking in with me via email every day. I think she’s realized that for mental health checks, phone calls actually stress me out even more (although Melissa, I hope you know you should always feel free to call, I don’t mean to sound so singularly shitty about it) and so email is the way to go. This daily correspondence has been very helpful; it’s comforting to know that there’s someone out there who realizes I am going through …whatever…and who takes time to say hello every day, and shares with me little links she finds that will interest me, or maybe gives me a piece of advice that she finds helpful in her own life.  Early in the week, when I told her that it was a struggle to even get out of bed,  she urged me,  “…just do SOMETHING to break the cycle. Some activity, to get the momentum going.”

So, I took her advice. I made a list. I did not get to the big stuff. But I ate a goddamn apple, and it was a start.  I shared the imagery on instagram, and it was heartening and encouraging, all of the positive feedback I received, all the kind words and helpful sentiments. I won’t say I was surprised, because I am surrounded by thoughtful, generous, compassionate people. I always appreciate these wonderful souls, but to say I’m surprised by their reaching out to me in kindness? No way. Never surprised. That’s the kind of people they are. You all make me better for knowing you. Thank you. /end cheesiness.

quilt

So, that’s a lie. I have some more cheesiness for you. I received some wondrous gifts in the mail this week, from two incredibly special people. I was utterly moved to tears (and finally in a good way this summer!) at their generosity and the sheer amount of talent and astoundingly hard work that went into these treasures.

My sweet friend Lisa, who I began chatting with online during (I think) the final few years of my time up North, is thoughtful and clever, and very, very funny. I remember us poking fun dumb inspirational memes, and coming up with ridiculous ones of our own, and thinking “yep, Lisa is my people for sure.” Lisa is a quilter who creates the coziest, loveliest patchwork pieces and had apparently been working on this quilt for me since 2015! Accompanying this masterpiece was a beautiful note detailing her inspirations for the project, information on the fabrics used (one was from a collection called “spellbound”!), and the pattern, which is called Storm at Sea and interestingly involves sewing the pieces of the fabric directly onto paper templates and then tearing the paper away when it’s all put together. Lisa also included a marvelous poem which she noted had provided the “narrative underpinning” for the piece, The Plantation, by Seamus Haney. I finally read it in its entirety this morning, curled under the quilt in the dim glooms of my parlour, as the rain outside pounded against the windows–while I was warm and dry and feeling very, very loved.

At any point in that wood
Was a centre, birch trunks
Ghosting your bearings,
Improvising charmed rings

Where ever you stopped.
Though you walked a straight line,
It might be circles you traveled
With toadstools and stumps

Always repeating themselves.

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Friendgift #2 came from the the inimitable jewel priestess/sorceress-solderer, sisterkin and glittering heart, Flannery Grace Good. I had placed an order for a few treasures from her shop, and she included this extraordinary moonstone spirit moth, in addition to some sage for smudging, a floral hydrosol, various stone talismans, and other things for general good juju.

This package had a bit of an adventure finding its way to me! I’m still not sure what happened, but somehow it got lost in transit, somewhere in the murky postal ether, and floated frustratingly out of reach for a week or so. When it finally arrived, I took a moment to breathe a sigh of relief and then commenced parading around in my shimmering new jewels. Flannery Grace Good, in addition to being a wonderful friend, is truly a master of her craft, and coupled with her imagination, creativity, and intense drive, she creates some of the most beautiful jewelry I have ever seen. If you’ve not peeked in her shop yet, you should certainly take a moment to do so, and say hello. 

books

Summer reading! If you recall, my mini quest in my overall yearly reading challenge was to read twenty five books in the months of June, July, and August. Last month I managed six, and this month at eleven books read (one of them is not pictured, above) I’ve nearly doubled that, so I think we’re moving along at a good pace.  Six + eleven = seventeen, so by the end of August, I’ll need to have read eight more books to hit my goal of twenty five, and…uh…win? I guess? I never actually got that far in my planning, I guess.

With Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu, fans are were probably like, “what’s this heartwarming crap about pet cats? I want grotesquerie and repulsion!”…but if that’s your initial reaction, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by this fantastic read, and trust me, you’ll get your Juni Ito grossness, but just…in a different sort of way. I was finished with the book before I realized it, and was sad to see it end! He writes about having to adapt to living with his fiance’s cats over time, and it’s both adorable and creepy, and overall a fantastic addition to his body of work. Thanks for this little surprise, J-Kun!

Actually, everything I read this month was pretty good, with Gilded Needles and Monstress at the top of my list, followed by The Beguiled, The Graveyard Apartment, and Bleed (all three would make excellent beach reads, with Bleed probably being my least favorite of the three)

Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu
Bleed
Monstress Vol. 2
The Graveyard Apartment
Southern Cross
The Lottery (graphic novel adaptation)
Rachel Rising Vols. five*, six, and seven
The Beguiled
Gilded Needles

 

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And now I’ve got just enough energy left for some one-word movie & teevee reviews…!

6/29 A Dark Song : yes
6/30 The Belko Experiment: yes (except for last 5 minutes)
7/1 From A House On Willow St: ugh
7/3 What We Do In The Shadows (rewatch): ALWAYS
7/4 Kong Skull Island: meh
7/5 Attack On Titan Season 2: fun!
7/6 Lake Bodom: skip
7/17 Split: sure
7/20 Logan: yeah (but for beardy, bespectacled Wolverine reasons)
7/22 The Killing, Episodes 1-6: yes
7/22 Martin: YES
7/23 Creepshow: eh
7/26 Dawn of the Dead (original): fantastic!
7/29 Zeder (thanks Maddie!): yesyesyes

What was your July about? Wondrous things? Terrible things? Middling-meh things? What have you read or watched or seen or done that thrilled you? Or repulsed you? Let’s dish.

FIX YOUR HEARTS OR DIE

fixyourhearts_1

Do you know about my amazing friend, Lau? That’s not her name, per se, but I have a bad habit of referring to people whom I first met on the internet, by their internet moniker–even long after I have actually met them in person. At any rate, a Lau by any other name would be just as amazing, and I want to share something she’s created recently which I know, Know, KNOW will resonate with so many of you.

{P.S. Lau is the fantastic eye + brains + talent responsible for the the design of Unquiet Things!}

“Fix your hearts or die”. I get chills whenever I think of this beautifully devastating sentiment, courtesy David Lynch’s character, Gordon Cole, expressed to badass transgender DEA agent-turned-Chief-of-Staff,  Denise Bryson. After more than two decades of working her way up to a position of authority in a hostile environment which hasn’t always accepted her, it was such a fantastic, empowering moment to see her in that huge office of her own, behind a stately desk, addressing Cole as an equal, and or, if memory serves correctly–as his superior

In their short scene together in the Twin Peaks revival, Cole points out that Denise didn’t have an easy road to her new title.

“When you became Denise,” he reminds her, “I told all of your colleagues, those clown comics, to fix their hearts or die.”

As someone more eloquent than I remarked, “It’s a surprisingly affecting moment, showing not only a former superior addressing his mentee-turned-boss but also seemingly Lynch himself addressing the situation of a marginalized character in his own universe.”

When I heard those now iconic lines uttered, I knew deep in my heart, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that it was to be a passionate notion that would resonate with so many people, and within hours–on twitter, instagram, facebook, blogs, think pieces, etc–it was tenderly, joyously, triumphantly resounding far and wide.

“Fix your hearts or die”. My eyes brim with triumphant tears every time these words echo across my heart. And now, thanks to Lau & RECSPEC, I can wear it emblazoned across my chest. 

The shirt is $25 and 10% of all proceeds go to Casa Ruby, the only Bilingual Multicultural LGBT Organization providing life saving services and programs to Transgender, Gender Queer and Gender Non-conforming Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual people.

Curious as how to style this shirt? I’ve got some ideas for you, below. As always, click on the image for a link to all of the items used. And if you’re looking for a righteous, empowering scent to accompany it, you should take a look at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s “activism” tag, where they offer fragrances to specifically raise funds for the American Civil Liberties Union and National Center for Transgender Equality, as well as, Planned Parenthood and EMILY’S list.

hearts

 

A Gallery Of Moods

Feebrile1

A few months ago I wrote about the life-saving effect that the beautiful, profound art which speaks to one’s heart can have on one’s troubled soul.

This idea, and the art I shared, resounded with many people, and so I thought I’d create a small series inspired by the concept, and which will show up here at Unquiet Things periodically throughout the rest of the year.

If you follow my facebook or my instagram, some of the following pieces will be familiar to you–many of them are the kind of thing I look at and immediately think “IT ME.” Imagery that I will share on social media because I’m feeling goofy, or it makes me laugh, and I can relate to it in some ridiculous way. I thought I’d collect them all in one place, for your amusement as well! Have a peek below to see my #currentmood, #squadgoals, and various other dumb sentiments as reflected by a piece of art that caught my eye. Maybe you’ll see yourself in them, too :)

And check back over the next few months for some interview with the artists who create the art I’ve been admiring, as well as some giveaways!

 

#currentmood

artist: Christine Pellicano

artist: Christine Pellicano

altered art by Robin Isely

altered art by Robin Isely

artist: Kebba Sanneh

artist: Kebba Sanneh

Loie Fuller, 1887. Photographer Otto Sarony

Loie Fuller, 1887. Photographer Otto Sarony

artist: Lisa Sterle

artist: Lisa Sterle

artist: Kensuke Koike

artist: Kensuke Koike

artist: Gosia Herba

artist: Gosia Herba

 

#feelings

artist: Charlie Bowater

artist: Charlie Bowater

artist: Brooke Didinato

artist: Brooke Didinato

artist: Julia Agafonova

artist: Julia Agafonova

artist: Alex Stoddard

artist: Alex Stoddard

artist: Leo Peralta

artist: Leo Peralta

 

#wardrobeinspo

A History of Caricature and Grotesque in Literature and Art by Thomas Wright, 1875.

A History of Caricature and Grotesque in Literature and Art by Thomas Wright, 1875.

Spider Lady by Caz Williamson

Spider Lady by Caz Williamson

artist: RUNE NAITO

artist: RUNE NAITO

artist: Adele Mildred

artist: Adele Mildred

 

#beachbodygoals

Art commissioned by Charles Band for the Italian film THE BLOODSTAINED LAWN. Artist Lee MacLeo

Art commissioned by Charles Band for the Italian film THE BLOODSTAINED LAWN. Artist Lee MacLeo

Loraine and the Little People by Elizabeth Gordon and illustrated by M. T. Ross, 1915.

Loraine and the Little People by Elizabeth Gordon and illustrated by M. T. Ross, 1915.

 

#careergoals

The Old-Fashioned Fairy Book by Mrs. Burton Harrison, illustrated by Rosina Emmet

The Old-Fashioned Fairy Book by Mrs. Burton Harrison, illustrated by Rosina Emmet

artist: Forever Autumn by Stephen Maycock and Jen Brook

artist: Forever Autumn by Stephen Maycock and Jen Brook

"Her majesty led this strange orchestra" by Rosina Emmet Sherwood

“Her majesty led this strange orchestra” by Rosina Emmet Sherwood

 

#squadgoals

artist: Chiaki Sakamoto

artist: Chiaki Sakamoto

Harpies in the Forest of Suicides, Gustave Doré

Harpies in the Forest of Suicides, Gustave Doré

artist: Sara Ray

artist: Sara Ray

art: tin can forest

art: tin can forest

 

#saturdaynight

Erik Desmazières - The Temptation of St Anthony [a reimagining of the original art by Jacques Callot.]

Erik Desmazières – The Temptation of St Anthony [a reimagining of the original art by Jacques Callot.]

artist: Fernando Falcone

artist: Fernando Falcone

artist: Lena Bryksenkova

artist: Lena Bryksenkova

The Hoard of Chaos by Sanjulián

The Hoard of Chaos by Sanjulián

 

#GPOY / #itme

artist: Feebrile

artist: Feebrile

artist: Nate Burns

artist: Nate Burns

Señorita Gato, Stephanie Chaves

Señorita Gato, Stephanie Chaves

artist: Sean Gadoury

artist: Sean Gadoury

The Spirit Feast by Kat Philbin

The Spirit Feast by Kat Philbin

Respect The Zombie; or, On Mourning The Death Of George Romero

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My stories are about humans and how they react, or fail to react, or react stupidly. I’m pointing the finger at us, not at the zombies. I try to respect and sympathize with the zombies as much as possible. –George Romero

With the news of George Romero’s death, there’s a peculiar hole in my heart that I am not certain will ever be filled. Romero’s films had a profound impact on me at young age, and have been a part of my life, in some form or another, ever since that time. I felt I knew him intimately, and yet I never met the man–and if given the chance, I probably wouldn’t have (I’m not really big on meeting celebrities. Or people in general, I guess.)

NotLD

Where were you when you saw your first zombie? I think I was ten years old, in 1986, and it was Romero’s 1968 film Night of the Living Dead, whilst seated upon an ugly floral sofa in the living room of my family’s small house on Viking Drive, the empty, troubled house that I still dream about to this day. From the opening scenes of Barbara and Johnny’s ghoulish encounter in the cemetery where they trekked to place a wreath on their father’s grave, to the expository radio and television updates on the zombie phenomenon, presented with such deadpan expression: “…the wave of murders…in the Eastern third of the nation is being committed by creatures who feast upon the flesh of their victims,” and those unforgettable scenes of the bloody aftermath of the gas-station pump explosion and little Karen Cooper (the OG Ghoul Next Door) hacking her mother to death in the basement of that abandoned farmhouse…these are scenes I have watched so many times that their shadowy afterimages are burned indelibly behind my eyelids, and I can replay them in an instant.

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When I was eleven or twelve years old, a book suddenly appeared on my mother’s bookshelf. I suspect it was a gift from her boyfriend at the time, whom I believe was really quite fond of my sisters and I, and delighted in introducing us to all manner of gruesome, gory movies. I’m not sure my mother really appreciated the gift of this book–in retrospect, it just doesn’t seem like her cup of tea. It was very much my cup of tea, however, and captivated by its lurid cover, I would steal into her bedroom time and time again, sneaking The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh from her shelf, secreting myself away in my bedroom and devouring the story of George Romero and his fascinating filmography. For a period of several months, I thought of nothing but this man and his zombies, but far from working myself into a state of terror, I just grew more and more fond of this visionary and his shambling undead creations.

Already a fan of horror, and of ghosts and monsters, (thanks Scooby Doo in my formative years!), the concept of the zombie was relatively new to me at that time, but my interest in it grew to influence my every decision regarding reading, viewing, and even listening, for years to come. I believe that’s what got me into Iron Maiden; after all, their iconic mascot sort of looks like some crazed, skeletal, undead flesh-eater, you know?

I think it was easier to fixate on these ghastly monsters and fantastical stories of the macabre instead of focusing on my own life, which was becoming increasingly chaotic. In the grips of addiction, my mother had grown quite monstrous, her frightening rages unpredictable and inconsistent–I never knew what might set her off, how to deal with it, or how to prevent it from happening, again. I became paralyzed with fear anticipating the fury of her next explosion, numb with guilt and shame and recriminations: why is our mother like this? What did we do to make her angry? How close are we to becoming that family on the street, the ones that the neighbors call the police on once a week? (We were somewhat lucky, there was already another family that had us beat in that regard.) In the face of my mother’s alcoholism, I found myself shutting down, shutting people out, becoming a zombie myself. These many years and mommy-issues later, monsters, and zombies in particular, are still a safe haven for me. How funny is that?

Martin

But, although I’m very familiar with Romero’s oeuvre, I’ve still only seen Night of the Living Dead! Well, and maybe snippets of Creepshow. I suppose after having read about these films so often, I almost feel as if I have already seen them? I did see the Dawn of The Dead remake, and I saw The Crazies remake, and well, I guess I suppose I have seen most of Land of the Dead, but I barely remember it, so I am not certain that counts.

At any rate, I was terribly saddened to hear of George Romero’s passing. Thinking about his life and his body of work dredged up a lot of issues for me–old bones I thought I’d buried deep, as well as the good stuff, too, the lifeblood that sustained me in troubled times, and the passion it sparked in me for the themes he touched on in his work and all my related interests that grew from that. Without him, I’d be a very different ghoul today.

I shall miss George Romero–the “Godfather of the Dead”,  “father of the modern movie zombie”–tremendously. To celebrate his life, I have commenced watching all of the films I’ve come know and love from reading about them so very long ago, and which influenced me in ways I am still discovering today. To start with, one that Romero called his “most realized film”, Martinwhich is actually not a zombie film at all! A story about a confused, misunderstood youth committing a series of vampiric murders, Martin has long since intrigued me. I also think that since I so closely associate Romero and his zombies, it might be easier on my heart to watch a film that would seem to be so distanced from that.

What are some of your favorite George Romero films? How are you holding up since the passing of our beloved storyteller? Disembodied hugs for you all can be found here.

Stitch Fix: The Final Reckoning

box

So, I think my relationship with Stitch Fix has now come to a close. I’ve shared with you the ups and downs since our rosy beginning, the teeth gritting through our rocky, troubled middle, and our feeble, fumbling ending, so it seems fitting then, to document our last hurrah together.

Stitch Fix

After my last box, I sent in some pointed feedback, not exactly “wtf is this foolishness”, but…well, it was actually pretty close to that.  I received a response that they would wave the $25 per box fee on my next one, if I wanted to give it another go.

I didn’t think they’d send me anything really worth looking twice at, but it wasn’t going to cost me anything to look at it, so why not? Within a week, I had received a package containing the above items. Sally, my stylist, sent me four tops, and a dress, with some styling suggestions, per usual. A denim jacket, Sally? What am I, 10 years old in 1986? No denim jackets for me, thanks.

 

top1The Market & Spruce Bexley embroidered bib halter knit top, $48.  This is pretty cute, right? I’m not big on sleeveless tops–especially those of the variety that require a non-standard bra–but there was something about it that tricked me into thinking I could make it work. Maybe with a long gauzy black skirt? I liked the idea of that, but the reality of these sleeveless tops is that I am not comfortable in them unless I am wearing a cardigan with them. And it’s just too hot for that right now, and it doesn’t really look good with anything I own. Any suggestions for me? How might you wear this?

top3

As I remarked on Instagram, what the hell is this picnic basket bullshit? It’s the Skies Are Blue Dory embroidery detail top for $54, is what it is and I hate it with every fiber of my being. It really does look like the lining of a picnic basket to me…or I don’t know…macaroni art, or something. Also, while it’s a halter, like the previous top, somehow the neckline is infinitely more hateful to me. Back in the box.

dress1

The 41Hawthorne Tova dress for $64 is probably a very pretty dress for someone with the right shape, however, it looks like a lumpy potato sack on me. Unflattering, if you’re not an actual lumpy potato. Aside from that, red+white+blue is not my favorite color combination. Returned.

sf

Upon first gazing this Papermoon Paulette lace detail blouse, my instinct was to cringe but I can’t quite pinpoint why. I like the black lace, I don’t mind the colors, the black and that pink… but there’s something about daisies and polka dots that all that white space that makes me really twitchy. I feel like I need to pick up my kid from an extracurricular and meet up with the squad for a pottery painting + wine class, and then demand to see someone’s manager. Ack! None of those things sound good to me, shirt, so you’re outta here.

top4

After two years (or however long, I lost count) on and off with Stitch Fix, I finally received the moody floral of my dreams. And so of course the Adelene top from Velvet by Graham and Spencer is the most expensive of the lot, at $128. Of course. I could wear this with black jeans or that long black gauzy skirt, and I don’t have to wear a ridiculous bra, and it’s almost like a Dutch vanitas painting, so that makes it perfect. This is the best that Stitch Fix can ever possibly do for me, so it is definitely time to call it quits, and I mean it this time!

RE: subscription boxes…what are you guys receiving? I am still getting periodic shipments of wine from Bright Cellars and that’s it! Well, except for a new one that I started, which is kind of fun, and I will fill you in on that one soon (hint: it’s horror-related, but not with a focus on cheap, tacky tchotchkes!)

Puddles: When Coulrophobia Is Not The Issue

Puddles

A disclaimer: the following is not a review. It’s not even a complaint. More like …a warning? I guess? Sigh. If you read on, please know that I am probably going to come across as a weird, stick-in-the mud killjoy who really needs to get a grip.

This past Saturday night I accompanied my beau, my sister, and my brother-in-law to see Puddles Pity Party at The Plaza in Orlando. I was super excited about this because one, The Plaza is undoubtedly Orlando’s easiest venue for attending live shows. It’s not in the downtown area, it’s got plentiful, non-complicated parking, and it’s just very…low-production. Two, I had seen some youtube videos of Puddles The Clown and loved both his beautiful, booming voice, as well as the concept of his one man show. Except…I didn’t know exactly what his show entailed. Oh, if only I’d watched a few of his live performances, instead of bunch of overly-produced videos. If only I’d known what was in store.

See…I have this thing with audience participation. Not only do I nearly go catatonic with fright at the mere idea of enforced participation from a personal standpoint, I can’t even watch it happening to other people in front of me, while I watch. Heck, I can’t even watch it in television or the movies. The very thought of it fills me with unspeakable dread. And Puddles the Clown is a master of walking that line between delighting his audience and making them suffer through these uncomfortable feelings . “He doesn’t just break the fourth wall,” writes one reviewer; “he invades people’s personal space.” Time and again throughout his show, Puddles would prowl through the seated, sold-out crowd for volunteers and victims.

When I witnessed the third person pulled from the crowd to join Puddles onstage for some unexpected humiliation, I realized “oh, so this is how it’s going to go,” and literally felt my lower lip tremble and tears threaten to spill. I was seated in the balcony, and there was no way Puddles was making his way up there to grab me. Or…was he? “Please dear god no,” I prayed desperately under my breath as I slunk lower and lower in my seat.

I glanced to my companions on either side of me–both of whom were enjoying themselves, and the show, immensely.  Their laughter sounded faint to my ears, as, unaware of my distress, they joined in the crowd’s merriment of Puddle’s fidgets* and quirks and shenanigans. What is wrong with me? I thought miserably, wishing to be swallowed up entirely by the worn upholstery of the fold-up seats.

NYMag recently posted a fascinating article about why audience participation is so terrifying; they compare it, somewhat, to public speaking, but note that “…the spontaneity of an audience-participation situation, on the other hand, can be stressful because it eliminates that preparation time and adds a layer of spontaneity. It also subverts expectations for the role you’re expected to play. Generally, audiences are supposed to be passive. Performers who single out audience members for an active role have ‘flipped the script,’ , turning a relaxing activity into anything but.”

And of course this can be especially distressing for “shy people or people with social anxiety disorder, who often rely on a predictable and limited set of scripts for social interaction and have a lower tolerance for uncertainty.”

And yet…that rich, extraordinary voice! Was it worth the torment and torture to have heard his gorgeously sorrowful rendition of Space Oddity?  Now that a few days have passed and I have the luxury of the experience as a memory, I can *almost* say yes. Almost. I have to ask myself though…if I had known that was the sort of evening I was in for, would have done in the first place?

I…am thinking no.

*Puddles The Clown was chomping on an obscenely enormous wad of gum throughout the entirety of the show. If you don’t know this about me, you should: I cannot stand gum. There is nothing–nothing!– that disgusts me more. I have to walk away when someone is chewing it in the same room with me, and I’m starting to dry heave just a little right now, even as I type this out, about that imaginary offender.

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