Archive of ‘unquiet things’ category

2019 Halloween/Autumn Collection At Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

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Weenie time, weenie time! It’s Weenie time at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, and I’ve reviewed over 40 fragrances from their Autumn and Halloween collection over at Haute Macabre this week!

There’s so many good ones, but I’ll share four of my favorites here. Shhhh! Don’t tell the others!

🎃 Cozy Pumpkin Sweater (a dribble of pumpkin spice spilled onto a fluffy orange angora sweater) Ok so imagine that demented cashmere sweater scene from Lord Love A Duck but transplant it into the eternal autumn of the Sabrina universe. Pumpkin spices and that enchanted inch or so of knitted or woven fabric along your cardigan collar that even when removed at the end of the day, retains the warmth of your skin and the phantom perfume of your favorite shampoo.

🎃 Anthocyanin (red musk, mandrake root, patchouli, pimento, saffron, red oudh, clove, and basil) Fall air rich with decaying leaves and cider-y scents and gorgeous spice and incense-saturated veils billowing in a sun-warmed October afternoon’s breeze. Like… if your very favorite head-shop had a stall at your favorite autumnal renaissance fair. This is basically the best of all worlds.

🎃 Dead Leaves, Moss, And Mushrooms if there was ever a better argument for “more is more,” I don’t know what that could possibly be. My favorite “Dead Leaves” scents have thus far been those signature dead leaves plus some unexpectedly bright or springy floral pairing…but as it turns out, the very best one is comprised of a “like + like” formula. This one smells as if you had swept your favorite mug across an autumn flotsam of forest floor and brewed up in boiling rainwater all the sylvan sweepings you had gathered. Best served warm and cozy in tiny acorn cups, to ring of sleepy woodland creatures. If you love fall but you don’t love pumpkin, maple, or apple scents, I think you are really going to fall for this one. Pun intended–I always intend my puns.

🎃 Death’s Head Moth (dusty brown sandalwood, nagarmotha, brown oudh, clove husk, white patchouli, black pepper, vetiver, green cumin, and ash.) Hand-made lace, only a little moth-eaten and musty, that has retained the gentle perfume of its owner –a combination of warm skin, fine-milled soap, and sweet, cooling herbs– a century later. This is an understated and sublimely beautiful scent

Currently {11.6.19}

dreamboat annie
I’ve been in a funny place for the past few weeks. Funny, and a little unfamiliar, and I almost don’t even know what to do with it. I’m feeling kind of …carefree? And generally good about life? Like everything might actually be ok for once and the world doesn’t feel like it may crash down around my head …any second…any second now?

This is such an alien state of being for me. And what makes it worse (what makes good…worse? Ah, Sarah.) is that so many people I know are struggling and suffering and just really having a rough go of it at the moment. I feel awfully guilty for feeling as great as I do.

I feel so great, in fact, that every day for the last three and a half weeks I have launched myself out of bed at five a.m. sometimes, at 4:59, before the alarm has even gone off. I’m immediately out the front door–in my pajamas, no less–to take in the world while everything is dark and quiet and still. I used to walk in the early mornings for exercise; it was a slog, and I hated it, and more often than not I would find reasons to avoid it and lay in bed for another few hours. Now I have begun to think of it as a gentle stroll to stretch my toes and wake myself up, and I’m finding that it’s become a really vital part of my morning. (I still get the stupid, sloggy exercise at night, though. Bah.) It may sound as if I’ve contracted some sort of passing mania, but I have kept this practice up for nearly a month now, even on weekends, and as it turns out, I don’t really need more than 5-6 hours of sleep a night. Which doesn’t quite sound right, does it? But I feel loads better than when I was getting 7-8 hours a night? And anything over 8 makes me feel awful, anyway.

I’m attributing this change to a handful of things:

-In late summer we finally wrapped up this interminable business with my grandparent’s estate, so after nearly three years, that particular dread is no longer weighing on my shoulders. My grandfather passed in 2015, and my grandmother’s decline was long and slow  (she passed in 2017) so between caring for them before their deaths and dealing with the  aftermath and the house and the paperwork and finances, it finally feels like I can let go and properly say goodbye. Goodbye, Mawga and Boppa. Until we meet again!

-I submitted some of the final stuff for a project I’ve been working on, and even though it’s not even close to being done, I think the most challenging aspect of it has been taken care of, and even if nothing ever comes from it, or if it all falls through… at least I will know that I was able to commit to writing 12 chapters of something. Yes, I am writing a book. Yes, this is what I have been obliquely alluding to since March earlier this year. Nope, still not really ready to talk about it yet.  But I will say this: be careful what you put out into the universe because sometimes you just might end up eating your words.

-I had a difficult conversation with my boss that I was scared to have, and it turned out ok…it didn’t kill me at all. Now I finally feel good about plans to eventually move to the West Coast, and hopefully sooner rather than later. Portland, here we come!

-Another thing I am loathe to talk about for myriad reasons is that I have lost almost 25 lbs. I’m actively working on just feeling better in general, and unfortunately, weight loss is a part of the process. I just want to be able to squat comfortably again, man. And I don’t even mean for exercise, I mean for when I want to squat down and look at a tiny roly-poly on the sidewalk or something. And maybe wear one particular dress I bought four years ago, but which didn’t even fit me at the time.

-And finally, I am fixing my teeth, a thing I’m terribly self-conscious about.

But listen: I may be in a better mood and I may have nicer teeth–but I’m still not smiling for anyone. No way, no how!

Oh, and another great thing is that I found a Heart record for $8 at a boba shop, of all places.

tofu scramble sammie

So, let me tell you about this sandwich. First, slice up a shallot and quick pickle it in a little bit of vinegar and sugar. Set that aside. Crumble half a block of tofu and saute it with some garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, nutritional yeast, turmeric, and a bit of black salt (it’s sulfurous and will make it taste eggy.) While that’s cooking, toast a few slices of sourdough bread, and when they are ready, mush up some avocado slices on them, top with a few spoonfuls of the tofu scramble and garnish with the pickled shallots. This was something I threw together last weekend, and it was pretty tasty.

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Next, allow me to bring your attention to this pumpkin bread. I have been making it since 2002, using ingredients and directions from allrecipes.com, but which I have slowly been tweaking and changing over the years. I use half brown sugar/half white sugar, mostly applesauce in place of oil, and for the remainder of the oil I use olive oil, twice as much cinnamon, omit the nutmeg, add cardamom and black pepper, and sub in fresh ginger for the powder. I reckon it’s a whole new recipe by now!

pumpkin curry

Finally, this is a pumpkin curry I improvised when I realized I’d bought more pumpkin than I was ever going to eat in my oatmeal. (I always think pumpkin oatmeal is a great idea for like, the first week in October. And then I’m over it.) First, whiz up one medium onion, 5-6 cloves of garlic, one serrano pepper, and a knob of ginger in your food processor. Or, you could mince it all by hand, whatever’s easiest. Cook in the instant pot using the “saute” function for about five minutes. (I might do a few minutes more.) Add to the pot  a can of chickpeas, or if you thought ahead to cook up some dried chickpeas, add about a can’s worth, about 15 oz or so; a 15 oz can of coconut milk, a 15 oz can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling) and a cubed sweet potato. To this add 2 tbsp curry powder, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and fenugreek leaves. Or whatever you generally like to add in terms of curry spices! I just sort of threw in whatever sounded good. Stir it together, close the pot, and cook for 10 minutes, with a natural release.

I served this curry with short grain brown rice because that’s what we had on hand, and which was also cooked in the instant pot. Our formula for rice–whatever kind of rice– is to rinse it in cool water 2-3 times, drain and use a 1:1 rice to water ratio, minus about a tbsp of whatever (to account for whatever liquid is still left in the rice after the rinsing). Cook on high for 6 minutes and then do a natural release. Most of the time this makes for perfect rice. I also roasted some cauliflower that had been tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, garam masala, and a pinch of turmeric.

For something that I did not consult a recipe for, it was really quite good!

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This is a shawl that I knit last month. I think it broke me. It was the most epically tedious thing I have ever created. I was warned, going into it, that I was probably going to be bored with the pattern, and man, I sure was. The funny thing is, it seems to be a pretty beloved pattern among most knitters (it’s the Find Your Fade shawl.)

I don’t mean this as a criticism to the designer, but I wouldn’t recommend this to someone who enjoys the challenge of a more intricate pattern. Which I normally do! But sometimes I like to rest my eyes a little and not stress out so much about something that’s meant to be an enjoyable pastime. If you need something a little mindless for a netflix binge, this is perfect!
…but be certain that there’s at least 6-7 seasons of it because this knit is interminable.

In blocking this I noticed A LOT of dropped stitches. I think I got so bored with it that I just totally tuned out and mindlessly sped through it, without even noticing. I performed some surgery after blocking, so I think it’s okay. (Here’s a good video on how to pick up dropped stitches on a finished piece of work.)

So just an FYI: don’t daydream your way through this project. Check every few rows for some dropped or wonky stitches so that you’re not surprised by them after you have already finished!

cooties

Two movies and a cocktail: I did not do my thirty-one days of horror films this year; however, I did watch one movie at the beginning of October and one at the end, and I highly recommend them both.

Cooties was kinda funny and kinda dumb and a whole lot of fun, and I’ve been meaning to watch it for years now, ever since I saw that sonic creepster extraordinaire, Kreng, was involved in the soundtrack. It’s more or less about zombie children, and, Frodo, who plays the part of a failed writer who has to move back in with his mom in the town where he grew up, and is a substitute teacher at the school where the kids start getting freaky and bitey and gross one day.

Knife + Heart was a beautiful and brutal homage to the giallo film, almost entirely populated by queer characters, and I don’t know what I was expecting but I sure wasn’t expecting what I got–a dreamy, kitschy, sleazy, thriller, the likes of which I have never seen before. This one also has a pretty great soundtrack.

This is not a themed cocktail, but I suggest you pair either of these films with the rum Old Fashioned that this guy shares on his youtube channel (skip to 5:35 for the specific recipe). We crafted a few this past weekend, and I’m fairly certain that I liked it even more than a regular Old Fashioned!

Ok, so that’s it. You can all go home now. Oh, but wait! I got a fancy new mattress, too. Which is kind of hilarious, considering I don’t spend all that much time sleeping anymore.

this, that, and the other thing {l}

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🎃 How the Great Pumpkin Became Great
🎃 There’s Nothing Scarier Than a Hungry Woman
🎃 Poetic Rituals for Self-Care & Self-Exploration
🎃 David Tennant reads five disturbing Victorian vampire stories
🎃 8 Lightly Murderous Mythological Ladies to Dress as This Halloween
🎃 Revisiting Eiko Ishioka’s fairy tale nightmare costumes of The Cell
🎃 Mr. Rogers & the Wicked Witch of the West, Margaret Hamilton
🎃 Through Doorways: Portal Fantasies and Queer Escape
🎃 The Scariest Thing This Halloween Might Be the Holiday’s Environmental Impact
🎃 Kiki Dombrowski on taking back the magic and allure of pumpkin spice
🎃 Did Elvis have a Secret Fetish for Vampires?
🎃 Decoding Bosch’s Wild, Whimsical “Garden of Earthly Delights”
🎃 10 Spooky Videos To Watch When You Don’t Have Time For A Whole Horror Movie
🎃 What To Do On Halloween: The 2019 Edition, according to The Ghost In My Machine.

this, that, and the other thing {xlix}

Cover of "Strange Affair" by Edwin West (pseudonym of Donald E. Westlake). Illustration by Harry Schaare.

Cover of “Strange Affair” by Edwin West (pseudonym of Donald E. Westlake). Illustration by Harry Schaare.

Pulp Fiction Helped Define American Lesbianism
A Group Of Czech Students Recreate Weird And Strange Scenes From Medieval Books
Bury Us Beneath Occult Books: The Ritman Library Digitized
Going Against The Decluttering Craze: The Book Hoarders Who Defy Marie Kondo
This Open-World Game Lets You Solve Mysteries As A Gang Of Cats
English Heritage Map Of Myth, Folklore, And Legend
Scientists Find Huge World Of Hidden Galaxies, Changing Our Understanding Of The Universe
Metallic Bras From Space! Sci-Fi Pulp Ladies & Their Shiny Metal Brassieres
7 Books About Magic Doors for the People Narnia Left Behind
Dazzling Color Photos of the Legendary Romanov Costume Ball of 1903
Artistically Arranged Time Slice Photos Show the Stages of a Total Solar Eclipse
8 Days Alone In Italy: On Ancestral Work, Fear, Solitude
Don’t Look Now: VR horror enacts our greatest fears about technology
I’m ugly. (And I’m proud.)

10 Goth Cheeses and What to Pair with Them

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For August’s installment of our Ten Things series, I am over the moon that Cheese Sex Death is paying us a visit and taking us to moody midnight cheese church!

As lover and fanatic of all things cheese, I was beyond tickled when I came across the Cheese Sex Death Instagram at some point over the past few years, and it’s been such a treat getting to know the person behind the account: former cheese-monger Erika Kubick. Erika believes that cheese is the sexiest, holiest food in the world and that we should all pleasure ourselves with it every day. She created Cheese Sex Death as a guide to buying, plating, pairing, cooking with, and tasting cheese, and to inspire people to indulge their funky fromage fantasies!

According to Erika:

Even though the world of artisan cheese seems intimidating,  all you really need to know is that you like eating it. I’ll help you learn the rest.

With Erika’s cheese classes you can enjoy a customized luxury cheese tasting in the comfort of your own home or office, and you can frequently find Cheese Sex Death doing pop-ups and events–as a matter of fact, she’ll be at the Chicago Oddities Market this very weekend (8/24 and 8/25 at noon) serving up some sexy raclette nachos, which sound really freaking amazing. Stop by, grab some cheesy goodness and say hello!

In the meantime, put on a Siouxsie album, don some black lace gloves, light a few candles, and peruse Cheese Sex Death’s 10 Goth Cheeses And What To Pair With Them, below. And a million black lipsticked kisses to Erika and to intrepid intern Zoe for this dark, dreamy and utterly delicious post today.

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10 Goth Cheeses And What To Pair With Them

Most people associate it with cute images of love and romantic picnics in the park, but cheese is one of the most magical and goth foods out there. Many different kinds of cheese spend their youth aging in cold dark cellars, much like a crypt, where they are left to decay and mold. And if that’s not goth enough for you, both Pagans and Christians alike have a history of using cheese in magickal spells and rituals. Some have used it to manifest good fortune or ward off illnesses, while others used it to tell the future!

By interpreting the holes in swiss, the veins in blue, or the cracks and bumps on a cheese’s rind, a fortune-teller would be able to read the markings and find patterns and signs that tell the future—a practice known as tyromancy.

Now that you have learned a little about the magical history of cheese, let me introduce you to 10 different goth cheeses, and what to pair with them.

Humboldt Fog

Humboldt Fog

Goat cheeses like Humboldt Fog from Cypress Grove are cloaked with vegetable ash before aging in cellars. This helps the rind develop and gives the cheese a spooky, shadowy look. Goat cheeses are especially eerie, with a bone-white paste that contrasts against the ghastly gray rind. Pair a wedge with charcoal crackers, which add an extra touch of darkness and a nice crunch to oppose the soft cheeses.

Casa Marzu

Casu Marzu

Casu Marzu (which literally translates to rotten/putrid cheese in Sardinian) is a sheep’s milk cheese which is aged beyond the regular fermentation period of cheese. The result is a decomposition, brought about by the maggots that live inside of it. How did the maggots get there? Cheesemakers place a specific kind of fly on the cheese, so that they lay eggs inside. Due to the acid from their digestive system, the fats in the cheese break down when the maggots eat their way through it. As if that’s not creepy enough, the cheese must be consumed while the maggots are still alive. They’re known to be able to jump up to 6 inches, so pair Casu Marzu with a blindfold to protect your eyes.

Couphole

Coupole

This delicious, creamy goat’s milk cheese from Vermont Creamery is covered with a wrinkled rind that resembles a brain. These cerebral wrinkles are caused by geotrichum candidum, a fungus widely used to develop the rinds on soft-ripened cheeses. Its rich, fudgy interior is snow white and begs for something sweet, so pair with roasted beets for a beautiful blood-stained effect.

Mimolette

Mimolette

With its bright orange pumpkin-like inside, Mimolette from Normandy is one haunted looking cheese. The rind has a sweet, floral aroma and resembles the outside of a cantaloupe. The cavernous exterior is formed by tiny cheese mites that feed on the rind and aid in the aging process. It’s a nutty cheese with a savory finish, so pair with the equally magical and delicious dried figs, which look an awful lot like shrunken heads.

Clothbound Cheddar

Clothbound Cheddar

This is not your mama’s Wisconsin cheddar. Clothbound cheddars are made in the traditional English-style. Rather than shaped into blocks, it comes in wheels, which are coated in lard and wrapped with muslin cloth before going into the cellar to age, like a mummy to a tomb. Pair this cheese with a hard cider as apples symbolize immortality, and are traditionally placed as offerings to the dead for Samhain.

Smokey Blue

Smokey Blue Rogue Creamery

Smoked cheeses evoke images of fire and brimstone. While smokey flavors can often overpower a cheese, Smokey Blue is a rich, buttery blue with just a kiss of campfire. The wheels are gently smoked over smoldering hazelnut shells, creating notes of bacon, funk, and sweet cream. Spread onto a square of Novo Coffee chocolate from Ritual for a perfect bite reminiscent of campfire s’mores.

Black Betty Goat Gouda

Black Betty

This goat cheese Gouda from Holland is firm and crunchy from a full year spent aging in a cave. Filled with crunchy bits of cheese crystals, which are actually clusters of the amino acid Tyrosine, the pale wheels are coated in black wax to distinguish it from the others. Have yourself a sultry and kinky night alone with Betty and enjoy with a whisper of whiskey.

Foxglove

Foxglove

You can pretty much expect any soft cheese with an orange or pinkish rind to fill a room with the distinct scent of gym socks and decay. These are called washed-rind cheeses, and most of them have more bark than bite. It stings the nostrils, but the inside is milder with a buttery, beefy flavor. Foxglove from Tulip Tree Creamery is bathed in porter beer before aging, creating a sweet and custardy interior. Pair it with Dead Guy Ale from Rogue. It’s malty and sweet, but still bubbly enough to cut through the richness.

Harbison

Harbison

This cheese from Jasper Hill Farm is bound with spruce bark, as if crafted by the Blair Witch herself. The interior is so sinfully gooey that without the wooden ring, it would spill right out of its rind. Peel back the rind and spoon out the indulgent, pudding-like center. The inside is as rich as custard with subtle notes of the forest. Pair with rosemary roasted potatoes to complete the woodland feast.

Challerhocker

Challerhocker

Challerhocker is a delicious Swiss cheese that has been washed in brine and spices, then aged for at least 10 months. The name translates to “sitting in the cellar” and is stamped with a haunting face peeking out from the cheese. Pair with onion jam, as the flavor compliments the buttery, nutty, and slightly sweet cheese.

And there you have it cheese sluts! Now you can impress your friends with the yummiest, gothest cheese board they have ever seen. Cheesus bless.

Find Cheese Sex Death: website // blog // instagram // facebook // twitter

Photo credit: All photos courtesy Cheese Sex Death, with the exception of Casu Marzu

Here We Go

Kofi

Ok, so. I’ve been blogging and writing for over two decades. It’s probably about time I made one of these accounts for myself. If you’ve enjoyed my ramblings on fashion, perfume, art, books or horror; or perhaps my writings and reflections on matters of mortality, grief & loss & trauma, mental health, or hell, even my old Skeletor Is Love content, please consider supporting my work through Ko-fi, a platform which allows creators to receive money from fans of their content. Anyone who clicks my link can support me with a ‘coffee’ (a small payment that is roughly equal to the price of a coffee).

In full disclosure, I didn’t think I was ever going to make one of these “please consider donating to support my writing” things. But…I remember following a blog back in 2010 or so; it was a fairly popular art blog where the guy shared a lot of imagery, but he misrepresented the information half the time, and when he wasn’t getting shit dead wrong, he just didn’t bother sharing artist credit at all! And if this dumb-dumb could slap a “please consider donating to support my curation work!” on his blog, then surely I can be afforded the same indulgence. And unlike that asshole, I think my work is actually worth something. Ahem.

So anyway! Yeah, I did post something at the beginning of the year about the trepidation I had about being paid for my work. It might place an obligation on me that I would come to resent, I didn’t want to create any expectation levels, etc. etc. I still feel those things, and so I would probably never set up a Patreon, for example. Or do free-lance writing for pay. Too much stress! Nope! But a little donation link that I can put on my “about” page and I don’t even have to think about 99% of the time? I mean, why not?

So, If you like what you read here, throw me a couple bucks every now and then.

But you don’t have to, you know?

I’m going to write anyway.

Currently {Mental Health Edition, July 2019}

I am currently in a hardcore avoidance mode. When this mood sets in, I get the sudden urge to clean house when most other times I can’t be bothered in the slightest; I get in at least 20K steps a day due to the sudden desire to keep fit; I uncovered a scattered ambivalence of WordPress drafts that I started two years ago and I center all of my focus on them because clearly, that’s a priority right now! The bottom of the barrel items which are so insignificant that they don’t even register for the to-do list suddenly become of vital importance when I am avoiding certain work or projects. I made jam this past weekend, for god’s sake! Which…to be fair…making jam is totally a thing that I would do, so that’s not a great example. But I should absolutely not be making jam right now! I have things to do! Which is also why I rearranged all of the art on my walls.

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…and since I am still not doing the things I should be doing, I thought it might be a good time for a small update.

I have been going to a new therapist since January of this year. I say “new” like I’m trying to distinguish her from all the other therapists I’ve seen, but really, that list is not terribly long. I tried one out back in 2015, right around the time my grandfather died, but it wasn’t quite a fit. I don’t know how to say this without sounding like an asshole, but I just didn’t love the feeling that I might be smarter (maybe a lot smarter) than the person who is counseling me. I mean, how can that be? They went to school and got degrees and all that sort of thing, so I can’t be all that much smarter, right? AND YET.  Also, I don’t want this person to be too chipper. Or too “normal”. I don’t even know what I mean by that, but basically, I just don’t want to get therapied by someone who reminds me of the most average person in my high school class. The sort who was probably raised in a nuclear family with a nice mom and dad and was in a sorority and grew up to have three kids and who gets regular blowouts and does Zumba classes (and I KNOW these are all ridiculous qualifiers but I can’t help it!) I can’t talk to that person about my problems and I can’t take advice from them.

Right now I am seeing a therapist, twice a month, who reminds me of a grown-up Pippi Longstocking, which I find somehow really comforting. She drives a jeep with a “Chewie is my co-pilot” sticker on it. She wears skirts but doesn’t bother to wear stockings with them. I like that. Not that she needs me to like it, I just mean I dig the carefree aesthetic. She doesn’t seem to say a lot. I don’t know if therapists are supposed to? I find myself talking until I’m hoarse, and during this time I have observed that she barely even guides the conversation. Is that normal? Is this how it works? Oftentimes there are silences and I jump to quickly fill those in. I don’t want to be thought of as a bad conversationalist, but is what’s happening even considered a conversation? It’s a one-woman show, really.

…and yet. I have of late found that in these hour-long sessions I seem to shepherd myself along a circuitous route to some fairly impressive epiphanies and revelations. This is unexpected. What does it all mean? It’s hard to know. It’s maybe to soon to tell. I have been holding space for my wounds and trauma and broken bits for so long, I am not sure who I would be without their strange and dreadful companionship. It might be interesting to meet who that person is, though. I’m open to it.

One of the things that came up is how sometimes–most times, really–the only way I can get myself to actually go somewhere and do something, is because I know that afterward, I shall have a memory of having done it. It’s the pursuit of the perfect memory that finally compels me to do the thing, whatever that thing might be. But funny enough… the things I have the most wonderful memories of, are those unprompted moments– the things I did on a lark, decided on a whim, without having time to hem or haw about it or to have worked up a fine amount of dread.

On the way home that particular day after non-talking with Pippi, we grabbed some coffees at a cramped but charming donut shop, and as we were readying to leave, we realized that an accident had just occurred on the street just outside the building. A damaged truck was lodged on the curb right behind where we were parked, and we couldn’t back our car out of the parking lot to leave. As we waited for the police to take statements, we stood holding hands under a flimsy awning in a downpour, its meager shelter barely keeping us dry…and in the space of that moment, I was so inexplicably joyful. I have no idea why. But I knew I would stash this afternoon away in my mental drawer of mind-nibbles as one of those wholly unexpected morsels of happiness.

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Another instance of this spontaneous joy happened while I was visiting BGF in Philly last month. I had been fiercely looking forward to the trip–to seeing her, to decompressing after a few months peppered with more stressful kinds of travel–and though we had a few things planned for my time there, it was a late afternoon hour or so spent walking through the city as the sun was setting, glaring directly in our eyes and blinding our vision, that remains a memory to cherish. I was practically trotting, attempting to keep up with her long-legged stride as we hoofed it through a more worrisome part of town, and either right before or right after that, we walked by the park where the Chinese Lantern Festival was being held. Nothing was lit up yet, so I didn’t really get a sense of what it was all about or how beautiful it would be after dark, but I did snap a photo of this lovely sidewalk Chinese zodiac along the way. I was overheated and overstimulated and my feet were bruised and blistered and bone-sore, but that time spent with my beloved friend on that particular afternoon left a vividly buoyant feeling in my heart that I can still summon when I conjure the imagery of those moments.

During my most recent visit with my therapist, I began what I believe will be several sessions of EMDR, which is a treatment designed to diminish the distress associated with traumatic events. I don’t think I am quite ready to talk about it yet, but I will share that I was a walking wound afterward. My eyes were raw from all of the savage, furious crying until well into the next afternoon. That was a week ago. Now, when I attempt to call forth the feelings I’ve associated with that particular experience, I feel a little differently about it than I have for the past 25+ years. It’s still very tender when I probe at it, but I think I may be looking at it from a different perspective now, through different eyes. I was stuck at that point in time, and it’s a little easier now to see it through the eyes of someone older, someone not standing so close.
Is this progress?

I sought guidance from the cards, above. Which is somewhat absurd, since I am not really all that knowledgable about the tarot. I just like the art, much like my mother did when she was alive …which is funny, because she is a major source of the angst and trauma I am currently working through. Oh, universe! You’re such a hoot. I am sure that someone much more well-versed in this divinatory art than I could give me a more thorough analysis and interpretation, but from what little I understand, I was encouraged.

Nine of pentacles + Three of cups + Two of wands. Seems…promising?

This psychedelic eyeball tarot deck is designed by artist Oliver Hibert, whom I have written about before.

Depop Updates!

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The olde depop shoppe has been updated! Have a peek! But please don’t ask me lots of questions/ask me to hold an item/ask me to lower the price on an item… and then end up not buying anything at all! That’s annoying as hell, and actually kinda rude, and you will fall quite a bit in my estimation.

Wow, I am such an engaging and enrolling shopkeeper, huh?

 

10 Things to Stop You Burning it All Down (the World, the Universe, and Everything) by Ekho

ten things ekho

This month’s installment of Ten Things is brought to us by my friend Ekho, whom I originally met over on instagram and while now I don’t recall the exact circumstances, you can bet your booty there were lots of books involved.

I am consistently awestruck and wonderglobbed by all of the unique, diverse, and interesting titles and beautiful cover art they share– and my to-read list has grown exponentially in the time I have known them. But more important than the book envy they inspire are the super fun chats that we have on topics ranging far and wide; humorous, heartfelt, and well, just very human things: dreams, therapy, the dumb idea of “glowups”, the vagaries of our physical meat suits (and the skeevy rando turdmuffins who offer unsolicited comments about same) and ever so much more. Ekho is such a phenomenal companion for conversation … I was actually going through our DM history just now, and to be perfectly honest, I think we would be so fascinating to eavesdrop on!

Ekho is a nonbinary trans person living on Wurundjeri land, writing, daydreaming, doing social anthropology, dyeing their hair colours in the blue/green spectrum and looking for shortcuts to mushrooms. Find them on Instagram or check out their blog they promise to update soon. In the meantime,  however, I am so happy that they have generously contributed to Unquiet Things this month with 10 Things to Stop You Burning it All Down (the World, the Universe, and Everything), featuring Tolkien tenderness, why comic books have no gender, and how they fill their broken heart.

ten things ekho

Acknowledgment of Country
Before I begin, and you begin to read; I wish to acknowledge the Wurundjeri and Wathaurong peoples of the Kulin Nations, the traditional and original landowners where this article was mentally gestated and developed as a digital taskscape, whose sovereignty was never ceded. I pay my respects to the Elders, past, present, future, and, emerging.

Introduction
These 10 Things might not be for you, they might not inspire you to keep fighting the good fight. This might in fact just be a wee snapshot of the insides of my mind and how I reason with myself to get out of bed, put on my clothes in that very specific order I need to keep myself going, make that coffee, take my dogs out to the loo, switch on the laptop and do what needs to be done. Generally what needs to be done is University work (for some strange reason, that began with a hole in my heart, and sorrow I couldn’t fix; I have been enrolled in various Uni courses since 2010), or attending to life stuff like waged-labour and making sure my world doesn’t fall apart. I recognise that I have manifested a portion of self-harm into the research and uni work I do. I tackle the hardest, most painful topics, I refuse the easy way out, I go above and beyond with research and I write out my pain in complex, analytical anthropological essays. I am not fully ready to work on this and make it something more positive. We develop in stages and it is enough that I am willing to think about it and evolve these behaviours in the future, however; sometimes I need to remind myself that I cannot fight if I am dead. The why of the fighting will emerge throughout this article, and the reasons I stay sane might be inane, cute, childish, simplistic and definitely not cool but here we are… I don’t have time for cool anymore, it’s 2019. As 2 parts Anarchist and 1 part Nihilist I will tell you cool is pointless and the pursuit of it is just subscribing to social approval but that might also be the 90s kid or the Gemini in me.

Radical Vulnerability
(Making time to heal, and acknowledging that healing looks, smells, and feels like a dumpster fire.)

Let’s start with something really easy, like the concept of Radical Vulnerability. I hate being vulnerable, ew (have I mentioned I am a Gemini) and vulnerability generally = feels, and weakness. For the past decade, I strove to make myself indestructible. As someone with a shopping list of medical and mental health diagnosis, we can see that panned out really well. Radical Vulnerability is something I saw trans nonbinary icon Alok Vaid Menon start mentioning on their IG. They would discuss when they were hurting, they would acknowledge their abusers were likely hurting too and told others what they needed (a hug, love, friendship, safety, an escort to a cab or home, etc). Through being vulnerable, and expressing it, we normalise the very human need for help and kinship and love (of all forms) and we invite others to experience it too. We allow those around us to let down their walls//their golden hair//and allow others in.

I do believe now that Radical Vulnerability has changed my life this year. At the end of 2018 I had yet-another-health-scare and ended up having to see bunches and oodles of specialists, changing my diet and supplements yet again, and do tri-weekly body conditioning. I do not believe in Cartesian Duality so I anticipated the physical struggle would be accompanied by an emotional/mental struggle and that perhaps if I got through it, I could change some of the unhealthy mental landscapes I was existing in. Radical Vulnerability had a big part to play, communicating to myself and my friends the changes I wanted to make, what I wanted to introduce into my life, communicating (EW) feelings, communicating when boundaries had been crossed, allowing others to be vulnerable, admitting I wanted to heal/myself/things… this list goes on. And it’s not easy. I have spent a really long time not being vulnerable, burying feelings, being stoic or angry but defs-not-vulnerable. This has taken practice and active brain rewiring. It has been exhausting. I am also happier this year than I have been in forever because I feel as authentic as I can be.
Please follow Alok on IG  see their shows, buy their poetry etc.

10 things pokemon

Pokémon
(Something I can always rely on and turn to when my brain is noisy and my heart hurts.)

Something totally different… As a kid who grew up in the 90s I was left salivating after Pokémon cards, Red and Blue, OG Gameboys, yet I was not allowed to participate in that world. I don’t think my Mum liked it. I don’t think she got it. I think she thought that the cards were a waste of money and we were too middle class (aspiring) for that. Who knows? Then my sibling and I got Gold and Silver. My life was forever changed. I remember the moment my egg hatched into an Eevee and the love of my Pokémon life appeared. I was dedicated to Pokémon, I had books that I filled with my analysis of patterns in the game, when specific Pokémon appeared, when items went on sale in the underground Poke-Marketplaces, how to make Pokémon like you more (haircuts). I was 10. I was obsessed. It was the best summer of my life.

Since then I have had my fluctuations with the games, times where I was less inclined to game. But the reinventions and changes have brought wholesome additions to the Pokémon experience. Pokémon Go has introduced a level of accessibility that bypasses the privilege emphasised by being able to afford games. As a free app, it is pretty easy to avoid in-game purchases. This level of accessibility is so important because gaming is expensive. There are so many testimonies to the benefits of the gaming experience as well, with folks playing it to de-stress, increase exercise, socialise, deal with anxiety in its many forms and also network. I used to play it a lot more when it was first released but then went back to the DS games. I have recently started Let’s Go Eevee and am reminded why these games help me alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. The new gaming format has a bigger emphasis on compassion and empathy, and the games have always had a big respect for nature, animal life, nonhumans, and compassion. Introducing these ideas to kids, and adult-kids, is no bad thing. A world where we are compassionate to one another, to animals, to ourselves isn’t a bad place. If you have not checked out the Detective Pikachu film yet then please do, it was for me, what the War Craft film was for my Dad (family of #gamers). If it wasn’t for the fact that a cute person had started holding my hand (see- Ew gross- Radical Vulnerability), and felt the need to talk to me throughout the entire film I probably would have been in tears coz that is the world I want to live in. It was beautifully depicted and so wonderful.

10 things pratchett

Terry Pratchett
(His writing can be relied upon to remind me others empathise with the world and the situations we are in and anger is a valid tool to get shit done; he didn’t have his days of rage for nothing.)

One day Terry Pratchett became my favourite author, the end, good bye. I never imagined that would happen to me. Me, an outrageous gothic queer, a nonbinary dreamer, an activist academic (aspiring)… perhaps that is why he became my favourite author. You cannot read a book of his without realising he was/is pro-equality, a dreamer, and a realist; able to dismantle social justice issues then reboot them into heartbreaking sci-fi fantasy narrative.

At first, I didn’t exactly click with his writing. Discworld has no chapters and that was a bit of a head fuck, plus his older writing is short and satirical; which took time and probably maturity to adjust to. Pick up a Discworld book towards the middle of the series and they are different books and he is a different writer. He turns literary clichés on their head while still weaving an amazing gothic narrative. He gives us ghetto gang warfare but between trolls and dwarves and still breaks your heart. DEATH is a kind, curious anthropomorphic manifestation that I hope will usher me on to the land of black sand. I still weep that Terry Pratchett is gone (sort of, I mean he lives on in his books and creations and our imaginations) yet he politically resonates more than ever.

Good Omens the TV show was a perfect culmination and evolution of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimans’ book brain baby. It was a pleasure to watch with a lot of discourse that is gender affirming in a sense of nonbinary gender and the lack of gendered behaviour. The main characters which had always appeared campy and gender nonconforming in the original text are beautiful soft marshmallow babies who deeply love each other (whether you interpret that as platonic or romantic) and fumble around and don’t really save the world (a very practical witch does, and a young ordinary boy who happens to be the antichrist) but maybe they save each other. Read it. Watch it.

10 things mushrooms

A Short Cut to Mushrooms
(Rewilding is a gross buzzword I won’t mention here or again because it’s ridiculous but also go out to a forest or a stream or a sand dune or some tundra or a bonfire and get out of your own messy head once in a while.)

It’s no lie that when I am stressed out, the stressed get going – to the forest – to look at mushrooms. I adore fungi. I am not a mycologist so I do not know everything about them but I know enough to look and not touch coz somehow the edible ones in Australia also look like the ones that give you the runs and also look like the ones that make you cough blood and also look like the ones that will kill you. The most distinguishable, in fact, are the ones that will get you high, which I think the local parks council has realised much to my dismay when I went to my favourite wet bush walking spot and half the place had been dug up. Now, I get where they are coming from. They think ‘fellas some class A drugs are growing IN THE GROUND’ and probably ‘we Australians need to make this forest Australian again so we will dig up the introduced holly, psylocibin fungi, non-native trees and let’s just hope the ecosystem bounces back and looks like the hardwood forest pre-invasion’; (hot tip that forest was decimated by logging by colonisers to make happy homesteads and farms, it will never ever look pre-invasion, not a single one of those trees exist anymore). The land there seems sad. The land there seems like it is waiting. I deeply love the Macedon Ranges, it welcomed its self to me in its damp mossy ways and I plan to live in this area as long as is feasibly (fiscally) possible. I spent a lot of time in this forest looking after my mental health (by walking and taking photos of fungi), many a friendship has been forged as I forced a pal to walk one of my dogs here, and I have spent freezing afternoons with the heater in my car pumping while starting (gasp) the prelude to a romantic relationship. Spending time in a spot that I feel deeply enriches and soothes me is one of my favourite parts of living in the Australian state of Victoria, and living on Wurundjeri land. The land is diverse, exquisite, and bursting with narratives. You only need to step out your front door to encounter stories, old, new, and emerging to help you fall in love with the land.

ten things elderlings

Realm of the Elderlings
(This book series reminds me that having everything crap happen to you makes for a hell of a narrative, forgive me Beloved Fitzchivalry Farseer.)

As a series of books I passionately love. it is a little bizarre that I haven’t reread these novels yet. The Realm of the Elderlings is a recent turn of phrase for the sprawling universe Robin Hobb developed with her multiple fantasy series. It begins with a coming of age story, a boy and his dog, except this child is nameless and then given the lovely term of endearment Fitz (yikes) and begins many an adventure as an emotionally underdeveloped and unreliable narrator. You may wonder why I adore these books as Fitz is pigheaded at the best of times and downright problematic when the occasion arises. Hobb is a brilliant writer (is why) with a beautifully constructed gender diverse character who weaves their way throughout the entire series (sort of) also SPOILER. Hobb gives us a crash course on how fantasy can be hugely gender inclusive and gender diverse without mirroring transgender narratives in the Western world. I refer to her writings when discussing great ways to be gender inclusive to author friends who want tips and do not want to rinse-repeat the male-to-female, female-to-male coming out trope. It’s trope even in our world; something frequently expected of trans people to experience. What if that person was always nonbinary but had a doctor assign a different gender at birth because we equate genitalia with gender. What if that person was always male regardless of what stage they are in with their physical transition; they’re not trying to achieve masculinity because masculinity is a social construct, they are just on their gender journey to their gender destination. Fantasy and sci-fi books can be fantastic ways to think about these things and apply these concepts without people breathing down your neck telling you what trans is/isn’t or spewing transphobic rhetoric. Oh, wait they do that anyway to the author?

Damn. I guess this circles back to Radical Vulnerability, writing about this stuff makes me vulnerable, and as soon as a transphobe opens their mouth (or Twitter account) they are vulnerable too and fear leads to hate, and hate leads to the dark side, and dark side leads to goth, and goth leads to emo, and emo leads to scene kids, and now we have Instagram Influencers with big eyebrows and snatched things and I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S SNATCHED I AM TOOOOOO OOOOOOLD I am one sprained ankle away from Baba Yaga and a cauldron full of semen and smeg (neither of which are gendered either, they are simply bodily emissions and some folx can do both).

ten things star wars

Star Wars
(This cash cow brings me a lot of binge watching down-time pleasure. Also social justice in space, Finn and Poe are my princes, maybe Rey will bring balance to the Force?)

A Long Time Ago, in a cinema… far far away; I was 7 years old, it was 1996 and I was watching The Empire Strikes Back because the films were in cinemas again and my little sibling was being babysat and my parents wanted to take me. No, I wasn’t scared. Yes I ADORED HAN SOLO he basically is the same person as my (Grand)Pa and OMG DARTH VADERS’ VOICE is exquisite thank you James Earl Jones (I am sorry they stuffed an old bald white guy into your sexy rubber suit for Return of the Jedi). I watched the full trilogy on VHS and yep dug it, medieval space battles, magic swords, and celibate wizards. Got it.

Then oh boy, then… The Phantom Menace came out. I have zero interest in debating whether this is a good film, I literally don’t care if you don’t like it. It was a bloody masterpiece with a martial artist actually getting to play the character whom he is doing the judo chop for, and Yodas’ furry green ball sack; Darth Maul changed my life. Gothic af, his aesthetic is still drool-worthy, his stunts and choreography are breathtaking and John Williams’ “Duel of the Fates” is still my favourite cinematic score and basically the soundtrack to my internal dialogue. Whenever I am frustrated, I build Star Wars Legos, I jump into a generally trashy Star Wars novel, I chuckle about all the forced celibacy and sexual yearnings of the Padawans and Sith apprentices, and I let myself emotionally uncurl and unspiral while watching podracing … and try to not write mental essays on the colonisation of Naboo and reoccurring, always-there-NOT-A-NEW-THING-social-justice politics embedded in the narratives.

ten things buddy reading

Buddy Reading
(If I burnt everything down, who would read with me?)

A few years ago I relocated from the place I grew up to the place I am now. I did in fact make a handful of IRL friends, however, our calendars often clash and I often have not enough spoons to physically go out (and they, for the most part, don’t have cars). Creating a Bookstagram on IG became a wonderful healing process where I connected with all kinds of bookworms and discussed my love of literature, comics, novels, and all-round geekery. I have had my Booksta account for around 3 years now and due to this, I have made some incredible lifelong friends. I love finding odd nooks of the internet where all of a sudden your nerd herd emerges and you are no longer alone.

The chaos that the TV adaptation of Good Omens has brought to the internet has kept me going all June. It is a gender non-conforming queer life force. Buddy reading, this was about that. It really got me communicating with likeminded people and sharing my bookish love. It is this wonderful feeling to curl up on your couch, in your time zone and send a voice message to a friend overseas about where you are up to in the book you are reading. Or send photo reactions for your heartache. Or grieve together for the death of a fictional character. It has really helped fill that sense of lacking within me due to loss of community and has brought me back to myself. There are less intense ways of participating in Buddy reads of course; like, you do not actually have to record how much you have cried over The Faithful and the Fallen (by John Gwynne) but if you are so inclined, you can. You can be as extra or as introverted as you wish. Did I mention this has somehow formed kindred spirit type friendships and also made friends for me, with folx in my own new-to-me city?

ten things comics

Comics
(Beautifully illustrated and written capsules of narrative, I would miss you the most if I burnt everything down.)

I was lucky to have access to comics from a really young age. A few years back when a lot of femme readers came forward to me saying they felt gate-kept by the comic community and like it was something just for cis-boys I felt really confused. My Mum would take me to the corner store to buy Archies, Jugheads, and Sabrina Double Digests in the 90s. My Dad would take me for my Birthday, and then again for Yule, to the expensive comic book store in Brisbane city to buy me 2 trade paperback comic books (that was basically all I got for those events and I literally do not care, priceless) in the early 00s. No one around me read comics so not only did I NOT FEEL LIKE THEY WERE A GENDERED ACTIVITY, as an Australian I was seeing very little evidence that it was a masculine thing.

Growing up in Brissy, the cis-boys were skateboarding or surfing or playing AFL. The cis-chicks were playing netball or softball or getting orange fake tans coz it was Brisbane in the early 00s. Geekery has no gender (none of the above-mentioned activities have genders either FYI), so for me, I never felt like I was reading something for boys. The rebirth of the comics industry ESPECIALLY WHERE IMAGE COMICS ARE CONCERNED works to cater not only to being gender inclusive but simply put; inclusive AF.

You want POC driven feudal fantasy? I got ya, fam. You want empathy robot children in space with sexy cyborgs? I got ya, fam. You want alt-world Batman where the Joker is a woman and Barbara Gordon is in charge? I got ya fam. You want a queer urban fantasy with pop-icon deities in stunning fashion? I got ya, fam. You want a femme murder mystery with drama galore? I got ya, fam. You want comics written and illustrated by Indigenous creators? You want comics written and illustrated by women? You want comics written and illustrated by queer folx? I GOT YA, FAM. All of a sudden, I realised the stuff I loved about comics, was beloved by more than me, and these people weren’t sitting on their hands (like me) wishing they could create, they were creating, and I was reading and buying their work. Not only are comics for everyone, (ok unless you are blind, I mean there is word-to-audio conversion programs but unless it describes what has been illustrated this is not as accessible as I imagined 2 seconds ago), ahem if you are willing to pay, they are being made by… everyone.

Look around and women are taking over DC, Latinx creators are getting their voices out there, DC has an Aboriginal superhero (WHO DESERVES HIS OWN COMIC), Marvel is writing trans characters and Image is covering every base there is. If a new identity emerges I know Image will feature a creator or include a character by next comic book day (so Thursday).

ten things reading

Reading
(Because it builds empathy, slows you down, gives you access to more voices than the ones in your head, and ideas can change this world.)

Reading has saved me, and many a friend, many times over. It’s what I turn to when life gets too much (so, daily) and it has been a companion from a young age. One of my earliest not-quite-memories is of walking over to my Mums’ tabby cat Cosmo and throwing a pile of board books on her head screaming “READ TO ME” like the demon child I was. I think my Mum had to surgically remove the cat from my arm. My childhood was full of bizarre health issues which impacts my behaviour and moods and often made doctors send me off for CT scans. When things got too much, my Mum would read to me. Read absolutely whatever, but as a bookworm. the children’s lit library she developed for me, and then for my sibling was, and is, phenomenal.

One of my fondest summer holiday memories is after swimming for hours we’d sit outside drying off (in the Brisbane humidity, yep it took a while) and she would read one chapter of The Hobbit, acting out sections and doing scary voices where necessary. I was petrified of Flies and Spiders, and my sister wept when Thorin lay dying. My Mum was bemused, “didn’t you say every afternoon you hate this book?” I remember my sister replying, hands crushed in fists against her eyes, golden curls refracting blistering sun “bu-bu-but I loved [Thorin] him”. That dried my tears up quickly. I knew as the loud, annoying older sibling that this was teasing dynamite. I was ready to explode. My Mum saw this immediately and made it clear I was not allowed to tease other people about their feelings. I still maintain that feelings are gross.

ten things lotr

The Lord of the Rings
(Middle Earth is debatably where I belong, I am definitely an Orc, an eloquent Orc however.)

My family took me to Middle Earth at a young age, (no not New Zealand, still not visited yet) and introduced to me to a wonderful universe. As an adult, I have had my fair share of qualms with Tolkien, pastoralism not the least of them, but on average they are wholesome books with wholesome characters and wholesome adaptations and SO MUCH QUEER CODING SWEET BABY GANDALF. Something I really adore about the film adaptations is the tender masculinity present in the characters. Aragorn kissing his friends’ foreheads and singing poetic verses. Sam weeping over salt or rope or potatoes or Frodo or Rosie or pints. The sweet sexual tension between Gimli and Legolas. Legolas’s facial expressions. Pippin and Merry–the bffs or friends-with-benefits?

These characters fought the good fight, for others, not themselves. And some are lucky enough to live, but never to live unchanged. They give me hope in dark places when I need courage, and when I need to remember that the smallest of folx can make big ripples in this universe. Plus the LOTR community make pretty sweet memes. And fanart. And fanfic. When I am stressed out I put on Howard Shore’s An Unexpected Journey (perfect for reading any kind of fantasy book or just having on low volume for naps). When I am weary I binge well, the LOTRs film trilogy, not the Hobbit so much; this is an article about things keeping me in the world or keeping me from destroying the world so SKIPPING OVER THE HOBBIT FILMS (the first is not so bad, and Thranduil is glam af) is a good idea or I may just need to write a follow up rant article on 10 Things that Make Me Want to Take Back My Word and Burn Everything.

Whether you think Bilbo and Thorin are perfect soul mates or just platonic enemies to frenemies, there is a lot of comfort in these tales. I think that’s what Tolkien set out to achieve, to talk about awful traumatic things that change the shape of your world and how you then relate to that changed world and your changed self. There is a sense of comfort whether it’s imagining Bilbo’s larder and pantry (drool), listening to Thorins’ singing voice (drool), pushing yourself to go on an adventure without your damn pocket handkerchief, crossing over to the Grey Lands as some kind of … assisted dying with emotional support group; there is a lot of beauty in Middle Earth. Which means that it is a beauty that can still be found in our world; Tolkien based his creations on Saxon, Norse, and Anglo myths to bring new meaning to the history of the land he lived on and fought for. This resonates with us; we live now seeing the outcomes of these wars and like a Nazgul on the horizon, we know too that another war is coming. We don’t know how it will be fought, I cannot anticipate this stuff despite my study, despite my heart, despite my paranoia. But we have the stories of our ancestors, our transcestors, our Elders, and we still have time to learn. Maybe that’s what Tolkien set out to do, not build a great faerie tale or a mythic cycle for Britain, but caution us against ourselves and our shared history of violence. To be gentle, to be tender, to kiss those we love (ew), and to find a peaceful mode of living.

Find Ekho: blog // instagram

Some Rambling Thoughts About Friendships And Why I Don’t Comment On Your Stuff Online

A Thorn amidst the Roses, James Sant (1820–1916)

A Thorn amidst the Roses, James Sant (1820–1916)

“Am I fawning?” “Do I look too desperate? Am I trying too hard?” “Am I being weird and needy or clingy?”

These are thoughts that constantly plague me, and have, ever since that day in first grade when Natalie W. told me to leave her alone and stop trying to be her friend. (I had thought that maybe the two least popular girls in Mrs. Holbrook’s class should be friends, but apparently, I was a moron for thinking so.) I remember feeling a little bit hurt by the exchange, but somehow it also felt inevitable. I had come to believe that, at six years old, I was hopelessly unfriendable–and to my young mind at the time, this humiliating exchange proved my theory beyond the shadow of a doubt. I gave up all attempts at making friends after that, and it would be a very long time before I gave it another shot.

That is not to say I never had any friends, but the companions I had were usually girls that decided, for whatever reason, to make friendly overtures to me. On my first day of fourth grade, it was already several weeks into the school year; I was new to the class, and the school, and the state of Florida as we had just moved to the southeast from Ohio. A frizzy-headed blonde girl with watery blue eyes took it upon herself to immediately become my friend. M. was a rather large girl; she was, in fact, the largest human I had ever seen. But I didn’t care what she looked like. I didn’t care that her family lived in a crowded mobile home that smelled weird and they drank bitter yellow grapefruit juice for every meal (they were constantly dieting, as they were an entire family of rather large people) and that they took me to stupid boring church every Sunday, and that all my new friend M. ever talked about was Kirk Cameron, who I quite frankly thought was a curly-headed goon. Nope, I went along with all of it–I finally had a friend and, dammit, I wasn’t going to do anything to screw it up!

M. and I stayed friends for my remaining years of elementary school, and we had big plans for middle school– but they were soon to be derailed. During my first week of seventh grade as I was shuttling between classes, trying to figure out how my locker worked, how not to get noticed by the wrong people, and myriad other details that I still dream about once a week,  I felt a tap on my shoulder, and a note was thrust between my fingers. Intrigued, I skimmed its contents. In a bold, looping hand was a frenzied note of introduction and flattery. The writer commented on how much they loved my hair and clothes (huh? I hardly ever washed my hair and I was going through a ratty jeans and tee-shirt phase), and by the way, was that me they saw at the heavy metal concert the other night, hanging out with the band? (Uhh? No? I wasn’t allowed to go to concerts, let alone hang out with skeezy dudes twice my age) I didn’t even catch a glimpse of this person, and I didn’t know what to think, and thus began a friendship that throughout its development often felt just as confusing and fraught with as many such moments of “how is this even happening?” as it did at its inception.

V., I was to learn, was a bit of a trouble-maker. A mediocre student with a big mouth, who was always talking trash to the popular girls who looked down on her, she was a sassy whirlwind, and I often thought, much too wild to continue being friends with boring, quiet me–yet she adored and idolized me in a way that I have never encountered since. At the time I thought it was maybe because she coveted the way I lived; my family was in a lower-middle-class sort of situation, but in many ways, we may have been better off than they were. Her family lived,  literally, on the other side of the tracks, the wrong side. They were what I thought of at the time as, “poor people”…which had a thrilling, sort of illicit ring to it and looking back now I wish someone had given me a talking to about how incredibly insensitive and irresponsible it was to romanticize such a thing. Wow, all of this is so uncomfortable to confront and write about now. But back then all I knew was that when I’d visit her home, no way were they going to make me eat a Weight Watchers burrito and a sadly dressed salad for dinner– it was deep-fried fish and french fries and buckets of iced tea so sweet we’d be buzzing around and off the walls until way past midnight.

V. took me to parties where there were boys and beer (gross and grosser; I was a late developer); she convinced me to skip school and see big hair heavy metal bands down on the boardwalk during the era when Daytona was a big destination for crazy college spring breaks; she began an affair with her aunt’s boyfriend when she was 13 (he was 28). At 16 she met a construction worker at a bus stop while she was skipping school, and shortly thereafter she was pregnant. After that there was no more school for V. And no more V. for me.

In both instances, these friends were strangers who approached me, and, not having any better options at the moment, my instinct was, “well, why not?” As such, I suppose I wasn’t as invested in the relationships as I could have been, and when we drifted apart, my response was most likely a shrug and an “oh well.” I never pushed for strengthening our bonds or for making things work, or for another chance. I just let it go.

I’m afraid I do this still in many areas of my life, but I will get back to my thoughts on that after this brief but related next tidbit. I did manage to snag one more best friend in my early 20s. We met through a mutual friend who had organized an evening for us all to meet up and make sushi together, which sounds like a fun, nice way to get to know someone new, right? Facilitated through the buffer of someone you already know? Sounded like a fine idea to me. Well, the mutual friend never showed up. Instead, I spent the evening in a stranger’s kitchen, just the two of us awkwardly warming up to each other while shaping rice and fish into sushi rolls and trying to figure out why our other friend flaked. Nearly twenty years later we still don’t know the answer to that, but I am profoundly grateful to her for she introduced me to the most fascinating, fabulous, complex, and complicated human I have ever met, whom I love with all my heart, and who became my dearest friend in the world. I know it’s a cliché to say so, but in the course of our friendship, although we have had our ups and downs, we have always managed to work them through and emerge from them stronger and more devoted to each other than before. And that’s what’s so wonderful with this particular friendship: when things get weird, or wrong, or challenging, I didn’t just say, “oh well” and walk away. I actually cared about it. About her. About us! And it big-time breaks my heart to think of a life without my dear BGF, so I will always fight to keep her in it.

My M.O. for a long time was to let go, to walk away, to “oh well”.  At this point in my life, although I’ve gotten better at the initial legwork of making friends, it’s the part that comes after the befriending that stumps me. And really, that’s the whole reason I started writing this. A friend on facebook requested some feedback from their friends about something or other…and I was too shy to chime in with a public comment, so I sent her a DM instead. But that got me to thinking…I notice that I don’t comment on a lot of my friends’ stuff– whether it’s on Facebook, or twitter, or Instagram…I oftentimes feel that my commentary or feedback or hell, even my vaguely applied emoji might be taken as too clingy, or needy, and then someone thinks I’m a fawning, bootlicking toady.

As it relates to blossoming friendships, that’s where this fear of neediness and desperation trips me up. How soon to reach out again once we’ve discovered that “hey! we’ve got some things in common and want to be friends!” How much is too much? What sort of continued overtures does one make? How do you build that into something more meaningful? I still haven’t figured that out, really.

I don’t want to be seen as trying too hard or come off as desperate, and I don’t want to think I should back off because maybe I’m innately supposed to know who is worth making the effort for, and who is not. I am not sure that I always do! As I’ve gotten older, though, it has become more important to me to make an effort; I’ve actually got more fucks to give than ever before! I just want to make sure that I’m not throwing them all at new acquaintances who might be made uncomfortable or freaked out or maybe just uninterested in all of my fucks and my genuine attempts at forging a bond and making a friend.

All this is to say, I guess, is that if you wonder why I lurk about and I don’t ever comment on your stuff online, aside from the alleged algorithms that hide your stuff from me in the first place–it’s probably because I don’t want to come on too strong or I’m afraid my earnestness is off-putting, or all the different ways I could phrase it really, just boil down to one thing: I’m scared. I’m scared you won’t like me. That maybe I am as unlikeable or unworthy as first grade me felt so many years ago. I’m just…scared you don’t want to be my friend.

If this reads like a long-winded secret diary entry that was written with the hopes someone will stumble across and read it, I guess that’s because that’s more or less exactly what it is. It feels a little mid-life crisis-y, too. I mean, maybe I should have this figured out, already, you know? Anyway, I use my blog here for a lot of things; an art gallery, a recipe book, a dream journal, a catalogue of covetations, and more recently, and for things like this, I guess it’s just a big ol’ brain dump 

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