Sunday, December 31, 2006

“It’s on my side, yes it is…”

I am of course referring to time. One legacy of working closely with the deities that we do is that I have a pretty fluid concept of how time works. Var, our Lady’s highest servant (although it could be argued that they are of equal status, just doing different jobs) supposedly functions outside of what we think of as normal time. I’ve heard him try to explain how this works, and while I don’t think anyone listening really understood what he was saying, he definitely conveyed the idea that our concept of time is limited by the perspective of our experience of reality.

All that said, I don’t think that most people have as rigid a concept of how time works as they might think. Witness the following.

A few hours ago I received a phone call from next year. I don’t mean that I got a message from the Bosses about what was going to happen next year. I mean that my cell phone rang and the call was from 2007, while I am still in 2006. At first glance that sounds awfully crazy. But some of you may have already figured out what I am talking about.

Regular readers of BarkingShaman might remember that my partner Summerwind is in New Zealand for three weeks (now closer to two). He called me a few hours ago to wish me a happy new year. Where I am it is the afternoon of December 31st 2006. Where he is it is midday on January 1st 2007. Hence I was talking to someone from 2007 while I was still in 2006. Surely that makes perfect sense, a rigid concept of time should allow that, right?

However, the more you try to parse it out, the less sense it starts to make, not more. Summer and I exist on the same point of the time stream, what we think of as “now.” But a concept of time that allows “now” to be many different times doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. How can now be 5:50pm on the 31st here AND be 11:50am tomorrow (from my perspective)? We accept that that is the reality, but do we try to understand it? I don’t think most people are very comfortable trying to do so. If something in the world happens, such as an election. The people in New Zealand don’t get the results before we do, even though they live in “the future.” Rather it just happens on a different day.

Look at it this way. If the terrorist attacks of 9/11 had included simultaneous strikes in multiple parts of the world, some countries would mourn the tragedy of 9/11, while others would mourn the tragedy of 9/12, even though the attacks would have happened at the same “time.”

We manage to maintain in our minds two separate ideas of time and how it works. One concept is built around the idea of a universal “now.” That is the place on the stream of time which lies between the past and the future, and is occupied by our reality. The other concept is built around clocks and the relatively arbitrary baseline of Zulu (GMT/UTC). This other concept of time, which bases our idea of “now” in relation to Zulu time is what allows for the idea of it being different times in different parts of the world (24 parts actually). Although the two ideas should be incompatible, we maintain both in our minds and function just fine using one or the other when convenient.

Every now and then though, the two collide. My conversation with Summer was a good instance. It was simultaneously the 31st and the 1st. Yet obviously we were communicating in real time, or as close as transmission lag would allow.

I could go on further about this subject, but I don’t know if I could achieve any greater clarity in doing so than I have already done (or failed to do, you decide). The possibilities that this conflict raises are profound. If we really can maintain two disparate time concepts in our minds, surely we can maintain more than two. My experiences with Var have showed me that the possibilities are truly endless when one ventures into the realm of time. Interestingly, a dictionary search (as I just discovered) of the word “var” notes that it is the root word for words describing multiples, such as “various” or “variable” or “variation.”

As spirit workers and/or magicians, I believe, and so does the rest of Clan Tashlin, that we have an obligation to try to examine our spiritual or spirit driven insights with regards to how they interact with the modern world around us. As spirit workers, we sometimes get glimpses “behind the curtain” at the way the machinery of our existence works. In the last few years I have heard about several theories of experimental math or physics that describe many of the same concepts of time and the fabric of reality that Var has tried to explain to us.

I don’t think I’ll ever truly understand how times works. At the very least not while I am shackled to this meat-puppet and meat-brain perspective of corporeal existence. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t be awed by the fact that it does in fact seem to work, or at least our brains trick us into thinking that it does.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I like TV... and that's ok

Summerwind is away in New Zealand with his parents and sister for the next 20days-6hours-55minutes (I have a little count down timer on my google page). Fireheart has gone to Washington, DC to see her folks in exchange for her parents paying for new brakes for her car.

And I have gone to my mother’s house for a few days (with the dog). In the time that I have been here I have had an important realization: I like television. In fact, I think I’ll say it again just for good measure. I like television!

We haven’t had cable TV at our house for a few months because we were trying to save money. We haven’t. The money spent on extra books, magazines, and shows downloaded off of iTunes has equaled out to the same amount. We have an appointment for the cable guy to come in a few days. But that is not the point.

My parents have nice cable. Full out digital with all the premium channels. Last night I sat for a few hours and watched a marathon of Mythbusters, a favorite of mine that is not available on iTunes. It felt great.

In the spiritual, intellectual, and academic worlds that I have lived in for the last eight years, liking TV is frowned upon. Kind of like having a fondness for the occasional Twinky is frowned upon in… well in the same groups of people as TV. Actually, there is a remarkable similarity. Just as I have talked about liking the occasional junk food splurge, I believe that many people in these circles also like their television.

If you are reading this post, I am guessing that you also masturbate, maybe even to pornography. I think that for some people, TV is like masturbation. You do it. You know your friends do it. Maybe you and your friends do it together sometimes. But you don’t tell everyone about it.

If you think that I am embellishing here, well maybe I am. My lasts post have been all serious and shit and I need a break. Still, try going to an open public pagan gathering and after ritual saying loud enough for lots of people to hear “Hey, how about last night’s Survivor?” I’m more of a Project Runway man myself. Surprise! But the point remains the same.

When I was in college, when your family got a television was a mark of pride, the later in your life the better. “Well, I didn’t have a TV until I was thirteen years old!” The older you were when you started watching TV the more “intellectual” you were. This wasn’t everyone by any stretch, but plenty of the people I knew.

I have written in BS about using junk food and television to create mundane space. As a way to get away from the spooky shit that pervades the lives of those of us on the spirit worker path. There is great value in that, but it isn’t the only thing that TV is good for.

TV can just be entertaining. Sometimes you can just watch it because there is something on that you want to see. No better reason is required. Of course, it can also be mind-rotting crap. I will be the first to admit that. Like junk food, you can’t over indulge. And like pornography, sometimes it is hard to find something you like, and tempting to just go with what is there rather than try again later.
I’m looking forward to having the choice to do so again. I like watching endless West Wing reruns sometimes. I’ll have to be careful that I still get work for the company done until I get an office outside of the home, but the same goes for books and porn already. Maybe I’m just a bit crazy, but I don’t think that liking to watch TV makes me less spiritual or intelligent. Like with my increased tics, I think I will endeavor not to care if people agree with me about that.

I am a shaman and a magician. My goddess owns me. I bark like a dog. I am queer and poly. And I also like my porn and my television. So there!

Friday, December 22, 2006

"Life is demanding, without understanding"

“Life is demanding, without understanding.” Those immortal and some would argue, incomprehensible, words lead us into tonight’s topic, signs. Or more accurately, Signs.

Superstition is an inevitable professional hazard when one is a shaman, spirit worker, or magician. Knowing when something is coincidence or fate, a sign from the gods or just a freak occurrence, or even a sign of something but maybe not something spooky, is one of the hardest and most constant challenges in such a profession. There are obviously tools available to us to help make these sorts of distinctions. Divination, prayer, watching for omens, cross-checking our experiences with those of our colleagues and friends, even keeping an eye on the news, can all help us differentiate the likely possibilities.

The entire process of looking for Signs of Significant Things is complicated greatly when the Bosses tell you that you should be looking for Signs (for convenience and not sounding like a wanker that is the last time I am going to capitalize that word unless it is necessary for differentiation) but not necessarily what those signs will indicate or when you should expect them.

Of course, there is a second part to the question of recognizing something as a sign vs. just something that happened, and that is what, if anything, should I do about it? We’ll look at that question in a bit.

One issue that seems to have gripped many people both in and out of the pagan/spirit worker world is that of the weather. I live in New Hampshire which is not all that far from where I grew up in central Massachusetts. So even though I have recently moved, I still have a pretty good idea of what typical weather has been over my lifetime. This hasn’t been it.

This point was driven home especially hard as I was, well driving to Cauldron Farm for the Asphodel Yule ritual. My new car has a little outside temperature readout at the bottom of the speedometer that has proven to be surprisingly accurate to within a few degrees of other thermometers. Granted we left for the farm in the middle of the day but the temperature on our drive held steady at just about 52F. Hard to get into the Yuletide spirit when one can walk around comfortably in short sleeves. At least I can when it is that warm outside. This was not terribly out of synch with the year so far. We have yet to have a snow storm with more than an inch of accumulation on the ground which is ridiculous for New England.

While this has been going on here in New England, the Pacific Northwest has gotten slammed with several unusually severe storms, one of which dropped two feet of snow on Seattle, Washington, which is unheard of.

Has this been an anomalous year brought about by an unusual El Nino pattern, or is this a sign of something more significant? Perhaps related to global warming? More importantly for those of us in Clan Tashlin, what does this mean from a magical perspective? In the records of Clan Tashlin we have notations of severe storms or unusual weather making it much easier for different things to pass between the worlds (this year kids it’s like Samhain, only everyday!). Actually, this year hasn’t been that bad, but we’ve certainly seen periods when it has been in especially in areas where the barrier between the worlds is already weak. Unusual weather patterns can screw with a lot of natural cycles; there was just a report that in Scandinavia they are noticing that several species of migratory birds aren’t migrating. At the Farm I noticed that there was fresh green growth on the ground.

As land magicians we see many ramifications of this sort of thing. Certain kinds of energy flows and patterns are greatly impacted by weather abnormalities, not to mention disrupted growth patterns like non-migrating birds or fresh undergrowth in the wintertime.

Let’s get back to the discussion of signs though. Our Bosses have told us repeatedly that there are a lot of changes coming down the pike. Many of which will greatly impact people, sometimes in ways we might not like so very much. Should we look at the disrupted weather patterns, whether caused by global warming or not, as a harbinger of that phenomena? Or should we write it all of as sometimes the weather does wonky stuff?

I believe strongly in global warming and doing whatever we can to minimize it. I also believe that changes have been set in motion, including certain aspects of global warming, that will be beyond our ability to change. Part of Clan Tashlin’s job is to work on adapting to the changes coming over the world. This is why I operate a design company that does sustainable design and personal defense technology as aspects of its business focus. It is also why the Lady and Var trained us so extensively in understanding the energy and magics of the land.

Part of my job in Clan Tashlin is to monitor world events, political, social, economic, and geologic/meteorological. I also try to maintain connections with people who have demonstrated accuracy in precognition and divination. I have to work hard to try to avoid falling into the trap of believing that everything is a sign of something else. At the same time, too much skepticism can blind us.

Of course superstition or a tendency to regard “coincidence” as significant generally applies even more strongly in the everyday lives of spirit workers. In fact, I have heard it argued that the more one does this kind of work the less one believes in coincidences at all. In fairness, I have most often heard that argued by me. Lore is filled with omens and portents and they often play a major role in our lives as spirit workers.

Some spirit workers cope with this question by assuming that everything that happens has some deeper meaning. Others reject the notion of omens and signs entirely and ignore spooky indicator that are staring them right in the face. I like to think that most of us choose some middle road. As I mentioned earlier, divination and a connection to the gods and the universe are tools that help us differentiate the signs from just stuff that happens. Some spirit workers talk about a “feeling” that they get when something is a sign vs. just a duck crossing the sidewalk in front of a porn shop. Everyone has their system, but no matter what it is, superstition is an undeniable part of this life.

While most spirit workers have their own system for determining if something is a sign or not, one thing that is often not as simple is the question of “what do I do with this info?” Some schools of thought hold that it is best to ignore omens or signs because the universe has its way of doing thing and you shouldn’t get involved. Others hold the opposite view; if you have noticed or gotten the sign then it is your job to do something with the information. The same question applies in matters of precognition.

Back to what prompted me to think about signs and spirit work, the abnormal weather. Very few people in the spirit work world think that the weather changes mean nothing. When hurricane Katrina leveled New Orleans last year there was a feeling that something serious was coming. As I mentioned earlier, many of our gods have been telling their servants that shit is coming down. Is the weather a part of that? And if it is, then what?

As a land magician, I consider weather magic in all but the most select circumstances to be dangerous, irresponsible, and an expression of hubris. Asking the gods for a favor with the weather I don’t see as such a big deal, but a magician influencing the weather themselves tends to be a bad idea. So what I am asking has nothing to do with the weather itself. But should we be taking the strange patterns as a sign of things to come? And if it is, should we be putting in place contingency plans that our Bosses may have given us? How long is too long to wait?

“How long is too long to wait?” Like the question of the signs themselves, it is a question that applies to far more than the current unusual weather. In monitoring world events for Clan Tashlin I am seeing far more worrying things about in the world than some strange weather patterns. Signs? Or maybe the world is just working that way. When is something a sign? When is something just a happening, a duck walking in front of a porn shop, so to speak? Like the discussion of signs and what to do with them, it may be the most difficult, and perhaps the most important question that almost no one is asking.

I promise the next post won’t be as intense as the last few.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Ritual mutilation and discovering "normal"

I’m re-posting an essay that I wrote for another website regarding a subject that is very important to me. I have been active in the movement to end routine infant circumcision for many years. As someone who considers themselves part of the body mod community as well I fully and wholeheartedly support anyone’s right to do whatever they choose to their body. What I don’t support is body modification on someone unable to give consent.

There has been talk in the news recently that circumcision could be an effective tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa. It is argued that mass circumcision could reduce the transmission of the HIV virus in people not using any other protection by 40%. This may be the case; there have been ongoing problems with certain aspects of the research.

I am afraid that the American Academy of Pediatrics will reverse their position that circumcision has no proven medical benefits in the face of this new data. The majority of sexually active men in this country are currently circumcised, yet our HIV/AIDS rates are not substantially lower than those of Canada or Western Europe and Britain. The situation here is considerably different than that of Africa, but that is not the issue. The issue is one of consent or lack thereof. Circumcision removes healthy and important erogenous tissue, a fact accepted in most parts of the world, although occasionally debated in the US.

Those of you who read BarkingShaman are aware that I do not shy away from tough subjects; that I am in fact forbidden by my Boss to do so. In addition to the subjects I have addressed here before, such as religion, sex, and politics. Since this is a subject I will probably be weighing in on again, here is the essay I wrote for blOUCH, a genital integrity site:

Ritual mutilation and discovering "normal" - Wintersong Tashlin

I was born in New York to Reform Jewish parents. I was circumcised at eight days in a traditional Jewish ritual circumcision. This means that my parent’s family and friends were all there to witness and celebrate the occasion of my public genital mutilation. I am told that a lovely brunch was prepared for everyone attending.

On the advice of her friends and family, my mother chose to leave the room where the ritual was taking place before the actual cutting of my genitals, and only returned after I was done screaming. Not one Jewish parent I have spoken to finds this remotely hypocritical, a fact that amazes me. The one time I asked my mother about it she said she just couldn’t stand to see me in that kind of pain. Couldn’t see it, but had no problems arranging for it and absolving herself of her clear guilt by simply not being present during it. I love my mother, and I understand that her person faith prevented her from even considered not having me cut, but the fact that she would not witness what she was cheerfully helping to prepare brunch for, makes me hate her just a little bit.

Because my genital cutting was a traditional Jewish ritual, it was done freehand with only a guide plate to prevent damage to the glans (well damage right then, circumcision could be said to “damage” the glans in the form of desensitization). It would be many years before I realized how dramatic the damage to my penis was.

Growing up Jewish, a religion I should disclose that I no longer belong to, I had no idea that circumcision was anything but the norm. I was a sexually interested child (and gay) from a young age and over the course of many sleepovers I saw many of my non-Jewish friends’ penises as well and, this being the early ‘80 they were all altered in the same way as mine.

I still remember the first time I ever saw an intact penis. I was eight years old and attending a Jewish sleep-away camp for the first time. The boys section of the camp had group showers for the different age groups, but the grounds keeping crew used the same shower rooms and they were mostly European college students who would come to America to work for two months and then spend another months touring the US before class resumed. Most of them were not Jewish, and being European, not circumcised. The first time I saw an intact penis I had no idea what I was looking at. The only conclusion I could come to was that the man’s penis was diseased or malformed in some way. It would be until I was a teenager, taking sex ed, and more importantly looking at gay porn that I would realize that his penis was the “normal” one.

Looking back now, I can clearly see that my adolescent sexual development was strongly shaped by the nature of my circumcision. Because so much skin had been removed, having an erection was often painful. As strange as it sounds to others, I had no idea that this was not normal. The only penis I had experience with from the inside was mine and this was how it worked. I also did not find the skin tearing or even bleeding a bit during erections or masturbation to be strange. Since I had always grown up with the idea of a circumcised penis as being the norm, surely I couldn’t be having problems connected to having been cut.

Right before I left for college, I learned about foreskin restoration on the internet. My interest at this time had nothing to do with being unsatisfied with the function of my penis. Rather as I became more and more involved in Neo-paganism and spirituality, I felt that something about my body was just wrong. Then, in several meditations I found that when I tried to visualize my body, I kept feeling that that something had to do with my genitals. Finally when I mediated with the intent of finding out the origin of this feeling I found my body being pictured as having a foreskin and the feeling of wrongness being gone. This was a strange idea for me, that having a foreskin could be more “normal” or “natural” than not.

After getting to college and becoming sexually active I would, of course discover that pain and bleeding are NOT normal parts of having an erection. This strengthened my interest in restoration. The first several months of trying restoration were discouraging to me as I did not seem to have any change in the tightness of my skin or the discomfort of erection. This was until my partner at the time noticed that I was gaining penile length. I would “gain” over and inch and a half of penile length, allowed for by the loosening skin freeing shaft tissue previously pushed back into the body, before any skin mobility would begin to show.

Years later, I am finally getting closer to being finished with restoration and some of the feelings of unhappiness with my genitals have eased. It has taken me years and years longer to restore than most people in part because I choose to go very carefully to minimize the impact of the radical and irregular nature of the mutilation itself. Also, I have at times given up for months at a time because of the knowledge that my restored foreskin will still not be the one that was taken from me (re-desensitization of the inner skin and glans always gets me going again). My partner of five years is intact from birth and the difference in our status caused issues early on in our relationship as I struggled with feelings of jealousy and inadequacy.

The question I find I ask myself regarding the circumstances of my own mutilation is this: how did my mother bath me and change my diaper for the seven days before the ritual and not find herself satisfied that I was perfect the way I was. How did she look at my body and think to herself “He’ll be even better after we cut some of him off.”

My mother considers my anti-circumcision activism to be a personal attack on her. This is fair, since I consider her endorsement and arranging for, my involuntary genital mutilation to have been a personal attack on me.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Now that the "bark" is back...

For about the past week or so I have been trying something new/old, I have been suppressing my tics as little as possible. At the same time I have not fallen into the trap of simply staying inside the house and moping about my tics coming back. Granted there are some things I simply can not do. For instance, I’d really like to see Casino Royal, the new James Bond film. This is just not practical. I am willing to accept the necessity of not suppressing my tics even in public settings, but I am not a completely selfish bastard. In most other venues though people’s reactions have been dramatically different then I expected. Primarily, none at all.

For the first several days I seriously psyched myself every morning up for dealing with all the negativity I expected to be coming my way. I have some pretty serious hang-ups about ticking in public and I apparently expected everyone else to have them also. It’s not like there haven’t been a few assholes, but I was not emotionally fucked up by them the way I expected I would be. The majority of people have ignored the tics and most of those who haven’t have approached me to ask questions not lob accusations. The more I was able to be out in public without problems, the less the occasional hostility bothered me. I knew that my tics were not intended to offend or annoy others, but seeing that most people understood that as well made it clear on an emotional (already there on the intellectual) level that people who react first and often entirely with hostility are the folks who have the issues, not me. Just reading that over it sounds like the kind of self-help feel-good crap that is often disregarded for its hokey-ness, but it is true none the less.

At the risk of sounding like a whiny little fuck; oh hell, I’m going to sound like a whiny little fuck for a few. I come by some of this emotional baggage legitimately. While most of my biological family has always been incredibly supportive when it comes to my Tourette, my biological father has made himself something of an exception. After my folks split up when I was very young, I only lived with my father for one year. I was thirteen and there were a lot of reasons I went to live with him for a year but they are not relevant here. What is relevant to this issue is that my father knew that folks with TS could suppress for periods of time and he felt that he needed to make me understand that it was my duty to do so in public at all times for the sake of others. I received a good number of lectures about “not imposing my condition on people I don’t even know.” He wanted me to promise not to tic in public which as my symptoms were very severe at the time, I couldn’t do. Since I couldn’t guarantee that I wouldn’t be ticking in public, my father wouldn’t take me out of the house when I wasn’t in school. At one point he even complained about me taking walks in the neighborhood and ticking because people in the condo development were starting to ask questions. Since I already had plenty of other issues around my father, this experience messed up my head but good.

Not that he didn’t have a point; he just took it way too far. I don’t think it is unreasonable for me to avoid movie theaters when my symptoms are too severe to safely suppress for several hours. I just don’t want to be a virtual prisoner in my house.

Whiny little retrospective over, sorry ‘bout that.

Interestingly, I am actually much more willing to go do errands and such now that I am not suppressing. Being out at the supermarket or other such banal happening is no longer the stressful exhausting experience it was. It is amazing what just removing the constant thought of “what if I tic” made things much more tolerable. Obviously, not having the strain of suppressing has also been a great help.

The Lady and Var have been amazingly generous in the last few weeks with regards to letting me focus on getting an emotional handle on this aspect of my life. Readers of this blog have probably noticed that the “shaman” in “barking shaman” has been absent for the past few weeks. There is some heavy shit coming down the pipe in the next few years and I guess that my Bosses were willing to grant me a few weeks to get my head in better order. I have it on good authority that I am going to be getting back to work quite soon and “work” is going to make my recent shamanic ordeal cycle look like the “employee orientation and break in period” that She claims it was.

“Notes from a Barking Shaman” was intended as an amusing and in the end, self deprecating and ironic title for a blog that She insists that I write. Over the past several months however, I have found myself seeing it more and more as simply a statement of fact. I have many different aspects to my personal identity, but I am realizing that the barking shaman is one of those. Not as someone with TS who happens to be a shaman. Nor as a shaman, spirit worker, and magician who just happens to have TS. Some part of my identity is to be the Barking Shaman, not just a shaman who also barks. Just as being queer has had an impact on all aspects of life, especially the sprit work and magic, so will the Tourette.

Sometimes I just fucking hate it when They turn out to be right about something they’ve been saying for a while after all.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Well that didn't take long

Saw this on CNN Online this morning:

Cheney daughter's pregnancy dismays some

I honestly do feel a bit sad for Ms. Cheney and Ms. Poe that what should be a simply joyous announcement is tainted by the bigotry of people they've probably never met.

Then I remember that Mary Cheney was a key player in her father's election campaign and I care less.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The downfall of human civilization

I have several serious posts I could be making this evening but I am unable to. The reason for my inability to think in any coherent way is that my beloved Fireheart posted this to her blog:
(work safe other than the f-word appearing in it, but then I use such language all the time in BS)

The last one on the bottom is my absolute favorite. I am sure that I should be writing some sort of biting social commentary here. After all, thoughtful and thought provoking posts were the reason I created Barking Shaman.

But a picture is worth a thousand words, and I fear I will never have the literary talent to capture the 3000 words entailed in those pictures.

It's so nice when...

I love it when I can be legitimately happy for an event in someone's life that is also going to make people I'd just as soon be miserable, well miserable.

I checked CNN Online this morning and saw this article, which brought a big smile to my face:

Vice president's lesbian daughter pregnant

I am happy for Ms. Cheney and Ms. Poe, as I would be for anyone who had decided to have children. Of course I am especially pleased for them as it is not a simple process for a gay couple to have a child (and while yes, it may be easier for a lesbian couple, it still isn't "easy")

That said, it is pretty inevitable that the Radical Right is going to have collective apoplexy. I imagine that this quote will be especially problematic:

said Lea Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for the vice president. The baby is due in late spring.

"The vice president and Mrs. Cheney are looking forward with eager anticipation to the arrival of their sixth granddaughter," McBride said.

Say what you will about Dick Cheney, and I'll freely say that I think he is one of the most immoral and scary bastards ever to walk the halls of power, but he has to know that this is going to get the Right going. I am going to give him the benefit of doubt and say that he is just more interested in his daughter and forthcoming 6th grandchild.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Uncle Sam Says “You’re not really here!”

Last year I changed my legal name. Fireheart and Summerwind were going to change theirs too, but that’s another story. Now before you groan in horror, I should point out that I only changed my last name. I refuse to expect the bank teller to call me “Wintersong” and it probably wouldn’t be the best thing for my business either.

The actual process of changing my name was relatively simple. I contact the village where I was born, sent a check a copy of my driver’s license, and I request for a copy of my birth certificate. I then took my birth certificate to the probate court office, filled out a form, paid a modest fee, and after a brief meeting with the judge it was done. It takes longer to get an appetizer at the Olive Garden. The probate office keeps the birth certificate and gave me an official document showing the legal change of name. When I filled out this form I was asked if Vermont should ask New York (my state of birth) to change my birth certificate. The judge told me the process was a pain in the ass and for sentimental reasons I wanted my birth certificate to have my birth name on it. For any official business a copy of my birth certificate and the name change form would be fine.

Now however, there is a bit of a problem. At some point in the move from NH to VT the second copy of my birth certificate that I had ordered at the same time as the one the probate court kept, went missing. This would not concern me except for the fact that New Hampshire will not issue a driver’s license without either a birth certificate or passport.

I contacted the village where I was born and sent them a copy of my license and the judge’s order changing my name along with a check and request for a new copy of my birth certificate. They refused. A few hours and a number of aggravating phone calls later and here are the facts:

1. The state of New York now requires that the person requesting a birth certificate either have the same name as is on said certificate OR present a marriage license showing a change of name. A judge order showing change of name is no longer accepted.

2. According the person I spoke to in Albany, I am not the person whose name is on the birth certificate. He was in fact quite nasty about it, going so far as to yell at me that I had to get it through my head that I am not that person and as far as New York is concerned that person no longer exists and therefore cannot request his birth certificate.

3. It will take 6-9 months to get my birth records changed. However New York requires certain steps are taken in the changing of a name that Vermont does not. Specifically I can’t provide proof of publication as Vermont does not perform publication as part of the process anymore. I was told that without proof of publication there is an excellent chance that after 6-9 months New York State will deny my request for change of birth records.

4. The probate court in Vermont might be willing to give me back the birth certificate that they took when my name was changed. Unfortunately, that copy had my mother and father’s names and social security numbers on it. Since for some reason that information can not be in the records, the secretary removed the information with an exacto knife. New Hampshire will not recognize the document as it has been altered.

5. New Hampshire will not grant me any sort of temporary license until this is sorted out and if I don’t get my driver’s license transferred over soon they are going to order my auto insurance policy terminated.

6. NONE of this would be happening if I had a marriage license. The state has totally different standards and procedures for someone who changed their name as a consequence of a legal marriage. I assume that this stems from the fact that most people wouldn’t want their birth records to reflect a last name they got from their spouse.

Fortunately, it turns out that my mother has the very first copy of my birth certificate and she is willing to lend it to me for 24hours to get this immediate shit settled. The state of New Hampshire will accept the old birth certificate along with the judge’s order for getting my license. But obviously this just postpones the situation. For instance I would really like to get a passport. And it is just a good idea to be able to access one’s birth records.

None of this makes me feel safer. I was told by several different officials that a few years ago this would not have been a problem. My driver’s license and social security card (both of which reflect the name change) along with an original certified copy of the judge’s order would have been perfectly adequate to get a copy of my birth certificate with the old name on it. However, Homeland Security regulations have changed the way they do business.

This actually makes me feel less safe. I have inadvertently discovered a way to help someone “disappear.” As far as New York is concerned, to a significant legal extent I don’t exist. The state does not acknowledge any connection between me and the person who had my name until just over a year ago. I can think of some ways that could be useful to someone who wanted to vanish into legal obscurity, currently the last of my needs.

Not in a good way

Here’s today’s metaphor for today: If I am going to get ass-fucked by some old guy I’ve never met before, I shouldn’t need to beg him to use a bit of lube. What could I be writing about? It could only be the delightful process of shopping for a car. Rather than the fun and exciting experience I always imagined it would be when I was a kid, car shopping doesn’t suck quite as hard as breaking a vertebra.

I had a car I loved dearly. She was a 2004 Mazda 3-series 5-door sports wagon. She was incredibly fun, quite practical, and one of the most attractive automobile models on the road. Her name was Aubrey, named for the character in Something Positive. Aubrey had less than five miles on her odometer the day I drove her off the lot, full of excitement and joy. There turned out to be only one glaring problem with my beautiful girl; Mazda can’t seem to build a reliable automobile. In confirmation of that thought, the service manager of the dealership where I bought her recently pointed out to me that with 66k on her I should expect I’d be having some pretty serious mechanical problems. I am pretty confident that the sales dept would prefer he not say shit like that.

Now it is important to note that I made a big mistake when I bought her. The Mazda-3 had only been out for about six months in the U.S. that day I drove her off the lot. The expected reliability for the Mazda-3 was quite good, as was the expected safety rating. As it turns out, the 3 did not do nearly as well as expected in the side impact crash tests, and at least Aubrey turned out to be plagued with mechanical difficulties, which is more common in a brand new model. It began to look like a better and better idea to send my beautiful Aubrey off to a new home and get a car that isn’t going to spend so much time in the shop at what is considered to be a low number of miles for a car bought in the last few years.

Enter the rough ass-fucking! I made the decision that if I was going to be trading in my Mazda-3 it would have to be for a car which met our needs at least as well if not better. That meant it had to be a wagon or truck, fit three of us plus a dog pretty comfortably, get reasonable fuel economy, have an excellent and proven reliability and safety record, be at least vaguely interesting to drive, and preferably do better than Aubrey in the snow. Also, as we were likely to only clear about 2k after paying off my loan on the Mazda and my folks were kicking in 3k; I wanted to be able to buy it without owing any more on the new car than I do on Aubrey (about $7600). Only one vehicle met those requirements, the Subaru Forester. Two days of intensive internet research later and Fireheart and I were ready to go drive some cars.

Let me describe this process. It all started before we walked out the door of our house with the selection of appearance. I am wearing white Dockers pants, a patterned golf shirt I got from my 65 year old father, and on my left wrist I wore a solid gold Hamilton watch I inherited. That’s right, for a day I was magical transformed into a wealthy and preppy looking young business owner. Only the small tattoo on my wrist and the slightly oversized earring in my right ear betrayed me as being a bit off from my projected image. I hate this shit almost as much as Fire hates dressing fem; she even put on ordinary red nail polish. I did not bring Summer as I knew I would have an easier time if I was perceived as a normal married heterosexual. If you think this is all over the top you have never gone into a dealership to buy a car.

We had already contacted the dealerships we were going to visit to confirm that the car we were interested in was available so we had a salesperson expecting us already. Before we get to drive the car there is paperwork to fill out. This I understand, as if I was to wreck their car they want to have some confirmation that I have, you know, a license and such. We discovered that the 2003 and later Foresters were quite nice, and that I couldn’t stand the thought of owning one of the 2002 or earlier ones. This was not a status symbol issue or anything, the car was completely redesigned in that time and the driving experience and ride were totally different. The only ’03 design or later the first dealership had was an ’05 with far to few miles and far to high an asking price. However, I was willing to go along with the salesperson, who we had told in no uncertain terms that this car was out of our price range, when he started pressing me to run the paperwork for the ’05 Forester. There was a slim chance that they would offer me a good enough price on the Mazda to make it viable.

Price on the Mazda, which brings us to the first really crappy thing (other than attitude) which happened at every dealership I visited. I’d already researched the dealer trade-in value on my car and knew that I could expect between $9k and $10k. I also had to tell the salesperson what I still owed on the car before they would give me a trade in price. When the salesperson came back with the offer it was about $50 higher than what I stilled owed the bank. When I asked about why the offer was so much lower than blue book value the salesman hemmed and hawed a bit but when we got up to leave he ran off and came back with an offer of just slightly less than I expected to get but only if “I could commit right now.”

The one condition on my parents helping us out with the 3k cash down on the new car was that they wanted to be a part of the process. This meant I was not going to commit to anything without consulting them. I had made this clear to our salesperson at each dealership and at each dealership they tried to force a commitment out of me. Usually they gave me a song and dance about putting down a deposit on the car I wanted.

The problem with this whole approach is twofold. First off I know that screwing me is an option on the table after the shell game around my trade-in value. This does not make me inclined to trust or to commitment. Secondly, I am not one to give in when pressured. Certainly I don’t give a shit about the salesman enough to fall for the hurt and betrayed routine. That was usually the direction they went as soon as it became clear that they were not getting a sale right then. As I now drive a Subaru Forester, clearly I was not just wasting their time because I had nothing better to do, but that is the attitude they most often took.

I did eventually find a car for the right price with the features I wanted (mostly safety features) at a place that was willing to give me a decent trade in value. The buying process was another nightmare, but this one marked by incompetence rather than deceit. I sat and read every single document I was handed in exacting detail, even when assured it didn’t say anything different than the salesman had already told me. I found so many errors, some very serious, that the paperwork had to be sent back five times to be redrawn. I was there for over five and a half hours. Once I had agreed to purchase the car, I was suddenly much less important than a prospective customer. Then the dealership had to send someone up to my house the next day to deliver documents without which it was illegal for me to be driving.

I know that lately I have been bitching about life shit more than I prefer to in BS. The issue here though is not really a personal one for me. Unlike the previous post about me physical therapist, there was nothing personal here whatsoever. My problem with the car buying experience is specifically that this was not personal. I felt dirty, depressed, and vulnerable after visiting each dealership and that is what the industry aims for. Everything about the car buying process is designed to make one feel like a supplicant.

As Fireheart said, the experience is designed to make you feel like you are or should be begging the salesperson to let you buy a car from them. With that in mind I was able to avoid some of the tactics that seemed designed to that end. For instance, at every dealership we went to the chairs for customers were noticeably lower than the chair the salesperson sat in. I kept expecting someone to come over to me with a paper smock that ties in the back like you have to change into at some doctor’s offices.

Another comment of Fireheart’s sums up the entire experience. She said “You know, every time I am on my way to a car dealership I tell myself that my memories of how smarmy and sleazy car dealers are has been embellished by my imagination and that the reality can’t really suck that hard. Then it invariably does.”

Monday, November 20, 2006

More than just a difference of opinion

I had an eye opening and pretty distressing conversation this past Wednesday which has been bothering ever since in many ways. A direct consequence of this conversation is that it is 1:30am Monday and I am still up. This is because I just finished watching a hilarious one hour comedy routine by Alec Mapa which I downloaded from iTunes. Mapa is a cute Filipino gay comedian who had a special a few months ago on the gay cable channel Logo. Now that Logo shows are available on iTunes I can indulge these sorts of desires. The reason I am doing this before the ass crack of dawn is that I need to feel good about being queer, something that has been surprisingly challenging for me in the last few days.

If you have been reading B.S. for long or you know me well at all (and let’s be honest, how many people fall into the first category but not the second?) then you know that I have serious neck issues. Since the last ordeal of my initial shamanic cycle however, I have been being pushed pretty hard to do a number of things, including getting in better shape. Witness that today Fireheart and I traveled back to WMNF to scout out areas to take people camping (with more success than last time). As part of this process, the doctor from the pain clinic strongly encouraged me to pursue physical therapy to rebuild muscle strength in a controlled and supervised manner.

The town where I live has a physical therapy facility a short distance from my house. It looks more than a little bit sketchy from the outside; it is in a large converted house along with a Laundromat and a liquor store. I decided to go inside a few weeks ago and check it out though. Inside the facility is surprisingly nice and the primary therapist and her staff seemed competent in what they do. Also, while my overall medical situation is complex, rebuilding muscle strength isn’t exactly rocket science when it comes to physical therapy.

There was only one problem as I saw it. The therapist really digs herself some Jesus. I suppose it would be more accurate to say that she really digs herself some God, lots of literature about faith and support from God as part of wellness and “messages” from God on the wall. You’ve seen the sorts of things that I mean: “This is God; I’ll be handling your life today, so just relax and let me do the driving.” I wish I was making that up.

However, I am really not someone to criticize someone having faith as a central part of their life. As a business owner I would hope that potential clients not hold my paganism against me if the subject came up. Of course my spirituality isn’t a part of my life that is obvious to my clients, but then I can see that physical therapy is a field where whatever it takes to give folks a feeling of support is useful. I decided to give the physical therapist a shot. Plus, having to go three times a week it is nice being able to get there in less than ten minutes.

I have almost nothing to complain about (other than her not being at all comfortable with my tics) with regards to her competence or demeanor. However, Wednesday we got into a conversation, after my treatment I should note, regarding beliefs. I should note here that part of my spooky shtick as a shaman is to make people look outside of their mental box. Because of that, it is also essential that I force myself to do the same thing. However, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a mental box quite like this one.

We had a very civil conversation. We each agreed that there were areas that we could agree on (some surprising) and areas where we simply didn’t agree. The civility of it was part of the problem for me. I keep feeling like some sort of traitor, or like I am ashamed of my life (which I am not). I look back on our conversation and I keep wondering what message I sent by remaining so calm and reasonable. I know that getting angry; blowing up, or leaping across the counter and tearing out her tongue would only have weakened my position, and that of folks like me who she might encounter in the future.

There were two areas of strong disagreement between us. The first was public religious expression. She strongly believes that the Supreme Court has overstepped themselves with the separation of church and state, big shock there. She is in favor of such things as Christian prayers in public schools (officially that is, we’re talking over the intercom or at assemblies, not bible clubs) on the grounds that it is protected by freedom of speech. She doesn’t believe that non-Christians should have to participate, but they can’t tell a Christian school official or group that they can’t. This is what I was talking about in the post on September, 15th where I said that this is the sort of thing that leads to society breaking down. I had a friend in college who went to a high school in Brooklyn that had just about 10,000 students in it. How many religions and sects were represented in that school? How much of the school day would be taken up if each one got even five minutes each morning to say a prayer over the intercom?

On the other hand, she sees nothing wrong with pagan students wearing pentacles to school. I told her about this debate around the woman trying to get a pentacle for her soldier husband’s grave and the VA fighting her. The therapist thought that that was completely unreasonable on the part of the Veterans Administration.

Predictably the other area of complete disagreement was on the matter of GLBT people (or “homosexuals” she wouldn’t call us anything else). Here is where I was completely blown away. All the hateful crazy sounding shit you hear the evangelical pundits talking about on TV (in between getting blow jobs and meth from gay hookers apparently), she fully and honestly believes. What’s more, she is of the strong opinion that her right to say so is protected by the freedom of religion and speech in any circumstances. While this is a point I agree with as a rule, she takes it to what I feel is an unreasonable extent.

For instant, she is opposed to inclusion of sexual orientation or expression in public school anti-discrimination rules. From her way of thinking, telling her children that they can’t call a gay student a “fag” or tell them any time they want that the student it “evil” or “disgusting” is a violation of her children’s freedom of religious expression.

There were many things in our conversation that made me ill. The most egregious though is this: she firmly believes that “homosexuals” only adopt or have children as a means to “perpetuate the lifestyle.” I tried to press her on the point that adoption and rearing children is an expensive and challenging process. While she agrees that that is the case, she believes that we are willing to accept that as a way to “breed” more queers. Obviously she won’t concede that gays can rear healthy children. Although she acknowledges that there is little evidence those children of GLBT people are more likely to be queer themselves, she points out that they are “more tolerant of the lifestyle.” A point I had to concede. However, the problem is that from her way of thinking this is proof that those children are damaged, which I of course do not agree to. Just conceding that children of gays tend to be more tolerant of gays (not always, my niece hates lesbians because her mom is one) made me feel sick. Not because I don’t think it is true, but because we disagree on such a fundamental point as whether that indicates irreparable mental damage.

Her argument against gay marriage is of course the “save the children” one. She feels that a child can’t grow up healthy without exposure to the opposite sex from said child’s parent(s). I guess that she believes that gays hate the opposite sex and don’t associate with them. I did manage to get her to agree that if gay adoption is banned on the grounds that a child needs both a mother and a father than adoption by single people should also be forbidden.

I could go on with this recounting, but I won’t. You don’t want to hear it and I don’t want to go over it again. Although I have to throw out there that she believes that gays have only been around since the late fifties.

What amazed me was how crappy I felt about myself afterward. I don’t agree with most of her positions, but just agreeing with the points of commonality we had made me feel dirty inside. It realize it sounds crazy, but I honestly wasn’t comfortable being around someone who had such hatred for who I am without a weapon close at hand. Not that I think for a moment that I am in physical danger from this woman, who is very sweet and caring if you are just interacting with her. But this way of thinking just seems so fucking dangerous to people like me.

In the face of such conviction, I have repeatedly found myself feeling bad about being queer. It is totally irrational and I know that. But at the same time, she is just so sure and so completely unable to change that I keep catching myself feeling guilty for something that isn’t true. It just seems so mother fucking hopeless when there can be such a complete and total failure of exchange of ideas. I know that gays don’t have a secret plan to destroy the fabric of society for the purpose of having violent sodomy with underage school boys in the rotunda of the capitol building free of consequences. At the same time, she knows that gays are a protected class of contagious mental defectives just chomping a the bit to contaminate her children with the idea that “homosexuality” is ok so her kids will turn away from Jesus and take up drugs and ass fucking.

I know what the Boss Lady says, namely that our society is cruising for some bad shit. As I think I have mentioned, most of her preparations for us are aimed at have plans for the event of “civil unrest.” I also know that I am paranoid to some extent. I was raised in a Jewish in the 1980’s and 90’s. Mine was just about the last generation who had an opportunity to interact with many WWII holocaust survivors. The most critical point drilled into my head as a young boy and then a young man was this: never ever believe that it “can’t happen here.” It always can. That point was closely followed by: Don’t wait to get out when shit starts to really go bad. Thousands of years of repeated attempts at extermination have instilled a healthy awareness among many Jews that their neighbors can turn on them in a heartbeat if they are told to by the right person in the right way. It is a lesson that both the pagan and GLBT demographics might want to take to heart.

My final point on that note, when I explained about the bastard neighbor of ours who shot up Summerwind’s little Toyota when we lived in Vermont she said “well, you have to expect things like that to happen sometimes.” Maybe that sentiment merely reflected a cynicism about the twists of fate. But from context I feel she was being pretty clear that while the response was perhaps over the top, we had to acknowledge that people weren’t always going to respond well to the presence of “people like us.” The problem from where I sit is that I feel some compulsion to agree with her.

Now the debate is whether I continue to see her for physical therapy. Thus far her personal beliefs have not intruded in my treatment. However, I feel uncomfortable knowing how she feels about me and mine, even if it is never addressed again. I am going to physical therapy today and I’ll see how I feel, but I’d love people’s input on that question.

(final note, I apologize if this post is a bit rambling, I had to take morphine tonight but I really wanted to get this post done)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Camping Out (without the bent wrist or showtunes)

Since the last ordeal and the conclusion of shaman sickness (although not of ordeals, I’m already getting info on the next four) the Lady, and of course Var too, has started seriously pushing me in several directions. Some of these are making me realize how much longer the shaman sickness ran than I had thought. I think that the real start of all this can be traced to me breaking my neck. For fear that they might answer I have elected not to ask the Bosses if my injury was in part their doing or if they merely took advantage. Given that the break in my neck was a direct result of surprising, I imagine that the worsening of my tics would have played a role in the initiation of shaman sickness no matter what.

This bring us to tonight’s topic, camping. Not in the “ShowtunesShaman” sense of the word though. Rather I refer to going outdoors and hiking and sleeping and the like. Being outside, especially in the woods or by/on the sea is incredibly important to those of us in the Clan of the Sacred Lands. I won’t go into too many details, but I will say that it is essential to our spooky. Prior to my injury there were a good number of physical activities that were central to our magic and spirituality. The change in our magical focus after my injury was probably essential to my becoming a shaman and now that am not as single mindedly fixated on surviving the process, She is pushing us all to find a balance between what we are now and what we were. This is necessary for us to fill the role She needs of us, as well as for Fire and Summer to develop the ways they need to.

Hiking in the woods was the most frequent of those outdoor activities. Regular walks in the woods were central to our way of life. By our I primarily mean Fireheart and I, as Summer came along after I was injured, his experiences were somewhat less intense in that way. In addition to hiking, Fire and I were also quite interested in backpacking. That is: hiking through the woods, stopping for the night to camp, and then hiking on further. Our best trip wasn’t quite a typical backpacking trip, but we spent a week out on the Appalachian Trail where it passes through Massachusetts camped out in a lean-to and doing day hikes. This isn’t really allowed, but since it was Dec 30 to Jan 4 no one really cared.

Now it is looking like we may be doing a not inconsiderable bit of backpacking this winter. We already have several plans coming together and the Lady has made it clear that this is to be a priority. Some of that is certainly because She wants us to have our gear and skills together in case the need arises to be away from civilization for a bit. We are not planning or expecting anything, but there are growing indications that what is politely called “civil unrest” is a circumstance that many of us would do well to have plans in the event of.

This brings us to my problem. We live in a state which makes a great deal of money off of outdoors tourism. The northern part of New Hampshire is made up largely of White MountainNational Forest, which runs into several large forests in Maine. We can drive just over an hour north and enter into a largely unbroken stretch of forest land covering multiple states and larger than some countries in area. Not to mention that Vermont to the west is mostly forest land as well, as is much of upstate New York to the west of that. Aside from WMNF to our north, there are several state forests closer to us. The second most hiked mountain in the world is five towns to our south. One would think that I would have no difficulty finding areas where one can camp.

I know this because I did think so. Unfortunately it is not true. Many forest areas only permit camping at designated shelters on certain trails, which is not a problem if you can only find out which ones. Some forests allow camping unless otherwise noted; believe it or not this has not proved to be better for me. The issue is this: how does one find out where one can hike and camp on trails or at trailside shelters. Most of the readily available hiking books profile day hikes, since that is a much larger market. And the internet, ha!

I don’t know if this is new or not. Around 2000, the last time I was seriously backpacking to any degree I was not nearly as internet savvy as I am now (which still isn’t all that much). I could find news and pictures of men’s genitals pretty readily and that was mostly what I did. When one searches camping today one finds information on campgrounds. This is very different. Campgrounds are places where one drives and pitches a tent, or more often apparently, lives in the vehicle which got you there.

What we do at Cauldron Farm for multi-day events is camping in the campground sort of way. It sure isn’t anything like what I am looking for info on. Even searching for “backpacking” somehow led me repeatedly to either private or state-run campgrounds. The reason is simple, money. There isn’t much money to be had from backpackers. Although at White Mountain National Forest, many of the trailside shelters are not cheap (a caretaker collects the money), if there is a charge they are often quite nice shelters; and there is usually the option to go past a certain distance away and find a spot to pitch a tent.

Unlike some folks I am not going to make a value judgment on people taking RV’s to or renting cabins at campsites. I figure that there isn’t a lot of point in spending a whole day in an RV or cabin and since these are mostly families, at some point this means kids are getting some fresh air and maybe some exercise. In a perfect universe they are also learning some appreciation of nature.

I freely admit that both hiking and backpacking are strange hobbies. “I know! Let’s go walk really far. Let’s do it over often difficult terrain. And to cap it off, let’s do it with fifty or so pounds of crap on our back so we can stay out and do it some more without having to go stay in a Motel6 or something else with a bed or toilet.” In further fairness, I should say that I really like the trailside shelters that have nearby outhouses or compost toilets. I’ll probably try to stay near those sorts for as many trips this year as possible, especially given that it’ll be winter.

Just don’t tell me about your “camping trip” that involved staying in constant reach of a gas stove, shower, and satellite TV. I’m not even really interested in the idea of staying in a tent at a campsite, but it is a lot closer to what I am interested in than a cabin or RV. My way isn’t necessarily better, just different and I’d like it to be recognized as such. If nothing else, it would make it a lot easier to find info about places to go from the internet.

And no, I refuse to believe that being interested in being near something with a seat and a roof for doing my business when the wind chill is below 0 degrees Fahrenheit is the start of a slippery slope down to watching “Project Runway” from an RV at a “campsite.”

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sorry all I had no idea that would happen

So fuck. Blogger had been getting more and more obnoxious about wanting us all to switch to the new Blogger Beta, which I finally did. Unfortunately it appears that when it happened some sort of really stupid glitch sent the whole damn blog over again to people who get it fed on LiveJournal. I guess it is better that it happen now, since eventually everyone will have to switch to Beta and at least BarkingShaman isn't very old.

Really really sorry. Hope I haven't screwed anyone up.

Wintersong Tashlin

To bend a rule…

I haven’t had a BS post in longer than I like, and this isn’t going to be much of a makeup. Things have been spiraling out of control in my life pretty badly these last few weeks, which is why I haven’t posted much. I made a pretty hard and fast rule that I wasn’t going to use BarkingShaman to bitch about my life and I intend to stick to that. However, since this is my blog I’ll just say that the foremost issue right now is that my family’s financial situation has really started to become pretty dire. At our current rate we may have to stop living together with one year. Part of that is because the move to New Hampshire upset our delicately balanced finances and more importantly undid a year of work building up my company, which is now largely without clients (means your special rocks might be ready sooner G). The reason we moved is largely private, but I will say that it didn’t have much to do with the spooky, but wasn’t exactly all of our idea either. Nor, unfortunately was the alternative acceptable.

More on topic for BS I will say that in the past few weeks my Tourette has become much more significant, as has the Lady’s active role in our lives. Also, I haven’t slept more than four or five hours in a night in several weeks (not counting times I’ve used medication, comas don’t count). Yep, like that’s a marvelous combination for trying to get your mundane life together. Tomorrow I’ll have a real BarkingShaman post for you.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ummm, crap

So I just noticed some spelling errors in the description of my blog at the top of the page. This is embarrassing and has been fixed. I also have been going back and re-editing some of my previous post (most recently "springtime for Hitler and Night Rider" and "apparently I'm a neo-Nazi racist skin head") for flow and in rare cases for spelling errors. To be perfectly honest, I am often writing these things at hours when everyone else in my house and probably my town are asleep. I will make an effort to have fewer juvenile errors in the future. Thanks for reading anyway.

-Wintersong Tashlin

Monday, November 06, 2006

It’s Springtime for Hitler and Night Rider?

I sat down at my computer this evening to write a commentary on a point raised in a recent issue of The Advocate, the national GLBT news magazine. Although I canceled my subscription a while back, I recently spent some hard earned money on a copy that had an article in it I wanted to read. I was going to have some things to say about that article. However, I lost the magazine and had to go read the article online (which, if I had known you could do I never would have spent my money on an otherwise crappy magazine). My commentary will have to wait a few days though.

The Advocate’s website has a section of recent news of interest to the gay community and a headline there drove all other thoughts from my head.

Hasselhoff to play gay in Las Vegas run of The Producers (now I’m a link, Winter finally read the rest of the Blogger Help files)

How can you resist that? I feel the urge to buy plane tickets welling up inside of me. It should be noted that I was a huge “Knight Rider” fan when I was a kid. Recently through the magic of iTunes I have been able to download episodes of the classic show to my computer, where I have come to the conclusion that “Knight Rider” may not have been the worst TV show in history but surely can give “The Flying Nun” a run for its money. It takes “Knight Rider” to really bring home what quality broadcasting was represented by “The A Team.”

And frankly a significant percentage of “Knight Rider’s” suck can be heaped on the acting talents of one David Hasselhoff. Almost all of the remainder can be laid at the feet of the hair, makeup, and wardrobe departments (writing, what writing?). Michael Knight surely was one of the only male action(y) leads in TV history to sport a hair style which fabulously blended that of Farrah Fawcett and Garth Brooks. Today I watched an episode on my computer in which Michael Knight is at one point shown wearing a tight (oh, so tight) shirt that was probably supposed to be red but instead showed up more like a rich fuchsia. He had on tight brown pants, a black leather jacket, a belt with a buckle that would do an ancient Roman soldier proud, and bright red boots (with significant heel). I have a welding mask with poorer coverage than the character’s aviator sunglasses.

I realize that some of this can be attributed to the post-disco hangover represented by the early 1980’s, but only some. All in all, this was one fabulously horrible show. The “Green Acres” if you will of early 80’s action television.

I know that Mr. Hasselhoff’s next endeavor, “Baywatch” was a big hit, but that is only a testament to the man’s ability to pick a show. Young boys watched “Knight Rider” for the cool car, and later went on to be “Baywatch” fans again for reasons owing nothing to David Hasselhoff’s talents. Obviously, I was not in the latter group. Later he went on to be a pretty successful singer in Europe, although I have only seen footage of him performing at the fall of the Berlin Wall. I first saw that on an episode of VH1's I love the 80's, and if you choose to follow the youtube link provided, make sure you watch long enough to get to his jacket lighting up. Or if you are smart you will cut your internet connection with your teeth first.

Maybe I am not doing the man justice, but I just can’t imagine him in the role of Roger DeBris, who sings the song “keep it gay” that I alluded to in my last post. On the other hand I can picture KITT in my head at this very moment belting out “Sunrise, Sunset” in the next revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” so maybe my imagination is not the most trustworthy.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It is often said that being a spirit worker isn’t a job per say, rather it is a consuming way of existence. As I sit here at my desk belting out the “adolescence” montage from the hit Broadway classic “A Chorus Line” like the little queen that I was as a child, I can not fail but wonder what relevance show tunes could have for a shaman.

So much of who I am can be traced or connected to my spirit work. My relationship is an arranged marriage, arranged by the gods. The Lady strongly encouraged us to go study design at college and to start our company. My having Tourette Syndrome has been exploited by the Bosses for their own purposes, as was my neck injury (which they may have had a hand in causing). Being both queer and a bit gender fucky are in many ways central to my shamanism. My TV and movie tastes often have elements that are relevant to my spirit work. I was originally gods taught to shoot a gun and drive a stick shift for gods’ sake. And as for being on the ordeal path? I will just say that there are so many crossovers between my sex toy bag and my ordeal kit that I have largely given up trying to keep them separate.

But come on, show tunes? Is it possible that there are parts of my life which remain disconnected from my spirit work? I will pause now in my post to let my friends who are spirit workers in their own right snort derisively. Done? Ok, I’ll wait…

If we take it as something of a given that little escapes the clutches of this path, than what use could show tunes have in my spirit work? There are three possibilities that quickly come to mind.

The first is that like take out pizza and CSI, show tunes serve the essential purpose of providing an escape from all the heavy spooky shit. As my friend R (more than) once said “Most gods and spirits aren’t interested in watching really bad gay porn vids.” I strongly believe that we all need elements in our lives which are unconnected, or failing that, loosely connected to our spiritual lives. This is no different than a criminal prosecutor sitting and watching Disney movie marathons to escape their consuming job. If this is the case, I suppose that listening to show tunes beats shooting a great deal of heroin. Occam’s Razor certainly would indicate that this is the mostly likely explanation.

Of course, if I solely used Occam’s Razor in my approach to my life I would be begging the doctors for Thorazine rather than believe that I speak to the gods.

I have two alternative theories. One is that my fondness for show tunes is a natural extension of my fabulous queerdom, the spiritual useful of which I am well aware. If this is the case then yes, there is a connection, but it is one who’s meaning I need not further explore.

I have another thought though. What if there is a spiritual role in my life to be filled by my fondness for the Great White Way and its music? We talk a good deal in Tashlin about modern interpretations of ancient practices. Just as my friend E’s gods have her writing pornography, is there an element of the traditional bard to be found in Broadway musicals? I have in fact been struggling lately with the fact that I need to be writing a song to describe my recently completed ordeal cycle. I think perhaps I will look to show tunes as part of my search for inspiration. Beyond that though, are the accoutrements of being a gay man in today’s society a part of being an ergi shaman in a tradition as focused on bridging the past and today as Tashin’s? Certainly, in the instances of spirit workers for whom being third gendered is important to their spirituality, there are interests or practices that are both about being third gendered and about the spooky shit.

Like so many aspects of intense spirituality these are interesting questions, whose answers may turn out to be an important or useful sign post on one’s path. Alternatively, the answers to these questions may have no productive contribution to one’s existence.

Regardless, everyone join me:

“Turn Turn Kick Turn, Turn Turn Kick Turn, One Two Three Kick Turn!”
(from the song "keep it gay" in the Broadway prodcution of "The Producers" not that you were wondering)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

And now for something (mostly) different

Since my last post (putting the "bark" back in barking shaman) was pretty personal, heavy and deep(ish), I thought I’d post an essay I wrote a while back to lighten the mood a bit. It is quite long, and while it contains a lot of background stuff, there is nothing in it terribly current or urgent the way the last post was. It is a bit of fun though. I remembered it as being more lighthearted than it is, but oh well. It beats writing about any of the current world events I was going to write about tonight that I could be bringing everyone down by discussing.

A New Set of “Friends”

So I should start off by making something clear. As far as I am concerned, I largely consider myself to be a gay man. I came out to my folks at thirteen and to the rest of the world soon after. Yes, that's right, I was one of those young gay teens who comes so far out of the closet even other gay people don't want to been seen around them. Unfortunately, in addition to swishing when I walked, keeping my wrist bent and saying "girl" a lot, I was also a three hundred(at times up to 325) pound myopic teen who at inconvenient times barked like a dog and yelled swears like, well like someone with Tourette Syndrome. It should also be noted that when you are an insecure fat barking kid, anytime is an inconvenient time. Needless to say, I didn't date much. Ok, let’s be fair, I didn’t date at all.

The one thing socially I was quite good at was making friends with members of the opposite sex. This was in large part because interactions with my own gender were overshadowed by my libido and the fact that the average teenage male is not comfortable around a big flaming queen, especially one who uncontrollably yells out shit about “Flying Penis Man.” On the other hand, in my teenage years I was able to brake in many young women who I am confident went on to be excellent hags to some very grateful fags.

Soon after arriving at Hampshire College in western MA I met a young woman by the name of Nicole. When I say soon I should clarify that to be, within the first three hours of arriving at Hampshire. Although we were rather put off by each other at first meeting, we came to bond over the course of the next five days as we both came to the realization that going on a whitewater kayaking trip for our college orientation was a really bad idea. In the interest of being truthful I need to point out that our reasons were totally different. For Nicole the problem was that she was highly rated in the use of a whitewater canoe and kayaking is different enough from canoeing to make staying upright very awkward. I on the other hand was rather uncoordinated at this time and still rather large. The only boat big enough to accommodate my, by then diminishing but still considerable bulk was designed for experienced kayakers interested in doing tricks (primarily it was designed for going over waterfalls) and was hence not well suited to just going in a straight line with the rider upright. To this day I have never been in a kayak again and cringe at the very sight of them.

Somehow, having bonded over our mutual hatred of kayaks and a shared fascination with the way that you can make light come out your nose if you put a good powerful flashlight in your mouth, Nicole and I became friends. Over the course of the next several months we developed a good, if somewhat antagonistic friendship. And somewhere along the line, we started having sex.

I should note that all along we were both very clear that my preference is for my own kind so to speak. Fortunately for us both, so is hers, so that gave us something in common. She he had been known to bat for the women's team to when the mood struck, but as a rule, like me, she preferred men in the bedroom. Ours was an informal arrangement. We were friends. We fucked. It was pretty simple.

Eventually however, the Boss Lady decided that we should to try (and had better fucking succeed in) being together in a more serious sense. There was just that minor problem, that although I enjoyed sex with her because I cared about her deeply, and I had discovered that hetero sex can feel pretty good too, my compass still very clearly pointed dick-ward. What we decided we really wanted was a three person relationship with another man who was closer to being a true bisexual. Although I should state more clearly that over the course of the next several years I became progressively more and more bisexual myself. Today I am more like 60/40 in favor of guys. Again, I suspect that the Lady had a lot to do with that, but I am happy so who cares?

Over the next three years we ran through a large number of possibilities in our quest for a “third” which failed to pan out for one reason or another. As I have noted before, I am a rather diverse person, as is Fireheart, the name she had taken by this point (as I had taken Wintersong). Finding someone who was comfortable with all our different aspects was not an easy task. While this was years before I would begin the awful transition to being a shaman, the Lady, Var, and the goals of Clan Tashlin were all major parts of our life by this point. This did not make this process easier.

When we first met Evan, I was pretty sure that he was the kind of person we were looking for. That said, after having become friendly with him, and I were pretty sure that Evan was someone who could make a good friend, but pretty clearly was not worth the trouble of pursuing romantically.

For starters, while Evan considered himself to be "bisexual" but had never been "with" a member of the same sex. One thing which college taught me very quickly and painfully is that to quote a former classmate "Just because a guy says that he is bi does not give you the right to hit on him." The individual who had said this went on to explain that although he was "bisexual" he would never have sex or go out with a guy because that would be both "weird" and a bit "disgusting." More than once I heard this argument. There were addition factors with Evan, but the bi thing seemed the most immediate.

Over time however, we began to see some evidence that perhaps our feelings of attraction for him were somewhat reciprocated. He commented to us early on in our friendship that he had always really liked the idea of being a part of a multi-person relationship. Also several of our friends noticed that when a group of us would go to the local goth club to dance, he would spend a great deal of time watching Fire or I, although if one of us tried to catch his eye he would look quickly away. As someone who had been unable to date throughout high school because of the above mentioned issues, I found this somewhat juvenile courting strangely compelling and fulfilling. Having been home schooled for almost his entire life and living well over two thirds of his life in foreign countries, Evan's social skills when it came to dating were only slightly better than mine.

Eventually things did get going between the three of us, and although it has been difficult at times we are generally happy with our offbeat relationship. Not that this has always been the case. The Lady’s timely, and possibly unfortunate interventions have kept Evan (now Summerwind) in the relationship even when he has seriously thought about or tried to leave it.

This does however bring us around to the subject of Friends. Not friends as in people you go out dinners with at odd hours of the night. Rather I am referring to Friends, the prime time television show which is (thank all that is good in the universe) no longer on the air.

Evan commented to me about a year ago that I, with Fire's help, ruined Friends for him for all time. You see, while in fact Summer seems about 80% of the time to be an actual bisexual person, interested in both innies and outies, prior to college he had never had any exposure whatsoever to gay culture (or cock sucking for that matter). For the first year or so of our relationship as he worked to becoming accustomed to being in a relationship with a man as well as with a woman, he had periods of real discomfort around "gay culture." When I subscribed to the Advocate, he expressed total indifference bordering on discomfort. Now we have to argue over who gets first crack at the bi-weekly magazine. At least we did before we both agreed a few weeks ago to let our subscription lapse because it had turned into a piece of shit, but that is another posting altogether.

Personally I found this discomfort and his parents' shock at his coming out rather strange. This was after all a handsome, soft-spoken young man who knows more show tunes than I do. When Fire and I would joke with friends that we had gotten a toaster because of Summer; (for those of you who don't know, that is a reference to Ellen DeGeneris' coming out episode) people would often assume that it was for Fire that he was going outside his comfort zone not for me. All that said, it did not change the facts about the gaps in his queer education. Gaps that Fire and I initially delighted in filling in.

And somewhere in the process of indoctrinating him into the “homosexual (or bisexual I suppose) lifestyle, so to speak, he lost the ability to find the show Friends funny. He explains this by saying that the humor of "Friends" is very straight. I can not confirm or deny this. Neither Fire nor I ever found the show to be funny, but we were both awfully queer from a young age. It was Fire's mother for instance who suggested to her thirteen year old daughter that if she wanted to start dating she might start with girls because "it's easier." I am not saying that a parent's suggestion or orientation can make someone gay. But you can see that with that perspective one can have queer sensibility regardless of orientation. For the record, Fire's mother is in a long term heterosexual relationship and while Fire herself is attracted to both men and women, she totally disagrees with her mother's assessment and finds women to be rather hard to understand. Because, she would want me to point out “women are fucking crazy.”

The question I have been asking myself of late is this, is Summer correct? Did we, by action or association ruin his ability to enjoy this show, and one would assume other "straight" humor? There is no question in anyone's mind that our relationship among the three of us has changed us all in considerable ways. I like to think that whenever we could we did not consciously choose to change each other. I would rather believe this process to be a natural extension of maturing and developing in ourselves and as part of our unique family. Ok, let’s be honest and admit that that is a nice way of saying that the Lady has turned our heads inside out at her discretion. That said, the thought keeps me up at night sometimes. Ok, the shooting pain in my neck keeps me up at night, but this is something that I tend to think about on such nights. I love my two partners deeply, but I worry that some day one or both of them may wake up, look about, and say "you know what, I've changed, and now I'm moving on." Actually, this has happened several times with Summer and it has been unbelievably awful. However, the Lady has other ideas and at these times tends to remind us all that ours is essentially an arranged marriage and she has final say.

Although Summer claims not to be bothered in the least that his broadened horizons have left him without a fondness for Friends, I can't help but think that something fundamental has clearly shifted in his experience of the world. He attributes that shift in large part to Fire and I, and I can not help but think that he is correct. Intellectually I understand that in sharing your life with someone or more than one, you accept that they will influence you. However when I see it in a clear example, I can't help feeling an instinctive revulsion at the idea of having that kind of impact on another human being, especially one I care about. And to be honest, I can't help feeling a bit disturbed at the idea that they almost certainly are having the same sort of effect on me.