Tuesday, October 31, 2006

ShowtunesShaman.blogspot.com?

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.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Putting the “bark” back in Barking Shaman

Last weekend I did my first divinatory reading for compensation. The client was referred by a friend and seemed awfully satisfied by the responses. Not happy, mind you, but satisfied. I have found that the news I bring people in readings is often not what they would like to hear. Asking to have a reading done can be code for “So there is this thing I know I need to do (or not do) and I really don’t want to so please tell me I’m wrong.”

Divination is one of the things that the Boss Lady is pretty insistent that I be doing for other people. I was honored recently in fact to be contacted by another spirit worker who needed a reading done in a hurry with regards to a pretty urgent situation they are dealing with. It was the first time I had done serious divination without the subject a reading present (or even anywhere vaguely near) and they were apparently satisfied with the quality of the information I delivered.

Readings are something I am *supposed* to be doing. They are a part of who I am now that I am doing this whole shaman shtick. In keeping with that theme, the way I was compensated for my first officially compensated reading was in six boxes (300rounds) of 9mm FMJ ammunition. Money for food would probably have been more useful but not as appropriate, especially since compensation for shaman work should although doesn’t have to, contribute to the betterment of either Clan Tashlin or the Tashlin family (and yes there is a clear difference).

This leads us into today’s subject, identity. I mentioned in an earlier post that I have been having some troubles since the conclusion of my last ordeal ritual with regards to knowing what exactly I should be doing. Lately I have been having something of an identity issue also. This is unusually acute at the moment since I haven’t shaved my head or cut my beard in just under two weeks. I had waist length hair before the whole ordeal cycle started and since undergoing it I have had to keep my head shaved. Right now I am not doing so because I am filling the role of Hades in the Asphodel Samhain ritual and Hades has facial hair. I am strongly discouraged from cutting either my beard or head but not doing both.

My hair cut (or lack thereof) is only a part of my issues though. The blog is called Notes from a Barking Shaman, and I have failed to address the whole “barking” thing in anything more than a roundabout way. This is because for the past several years my Tourette has actually been a pretty big issue for me. For reference, it should be strongly noted that the symptoms of my TS were very severe when I was younger and in truth are still pretty significant. For a significant portion of my time living with TS I coped well with the symptoms. It helped that I had a supportive family (the people I lived with at least) and a supportive religious community. At that time I was still active in the Jewish community, although my personal faith was already strongly moving towards paganism.

In recent years though, I have found myself coping more and more poorly with my TS when it comes to social situations. Thanks in no small part to my extensive work with meditation, self-hypnosis, and later magic, I have an unusual degree of ability to temporarily suppress my most visible symptoms, and namely my vocal (usually barking) tics. This is not always a good thing however. Tic suppression causes fatigue, extreme mental and emotional stress, much worsened tics later, and in my case, pretty severe physical damage. The physical damage is a consequence of the relatively harmless vocal tics being suppressed in such a way that much more painful and damaging physical tics occur far more frequently. When I broke the spinal process of my C-7 vertebra it was a direct consequence of overuse of tic suppression. While the risks of suppression are unusual in my case, they are certainly not unheard of. I have personally know one individual and heard of others who have seizure disorders as well as Tourette and for whom suppression can directly and adversely effect said seizure conditions.

Why then would I be willing to take such risks? I have a hard time answering the question myself. I use to tell myself that it had to do with standing out in public. Barking or yelling out obscenities (actually pretty rare in someone with TS but a kind of tic I have copped with on and off for a long time) is certainly socially stigmatizing. However, I am a shaman. We generally stand out in public. Being visible and visibly different plays an important role in the kind of work we do. For one thing, it helps people who need our services find us. For another, the kind of shamanic path that I am on can make me unhealthy to be around for many folk, especially those who are trying to avoid some heavy karmic stuff. There is after all a reason that the shaman is typically found living on the very edge of the village.

To give you an idea of what I mean about visibility: I have a runic tattoo on my wrist that is a bind rune meaning “shaman”, which I am forbidden to lie about if asked. I always have two small token knives hanging from my belt loops to represent that I work with the tools of life and of death. Again, this draws questions, and again I may not lie. The same goes for if people ask why I shaved my head, or why I keep it so. Not to mention the whole publicly offering readings or running workshops at public gatherings like NH pagan pride.

The truth is that I am not entirely sure why I have such a hard time letting go of suppressing even though it causes me spiritual, emotional, relationship, and physical harm. Not to mention that the Lady and Var both made their feelings on the matter known many years ago, including counteracting an effective spell which had greatly lessened the Tourette’s impact on me. I am learning that I am extremely good at coming up with internally consistent reasons why I should suppress right now while telling myself that this is some special case but that I’ll not continue to suppress in other situations. You do not live to get to where I am in my spiritual life without having to develop the self honesty to recognize your own bullshit. And I do.

I know what I should be doing. I even have a pretty fair role model, myself several years ago. I am unsure why I continue to have such internal issues. Oh, I have a list of plausible and truthful reasons. I am just not sure that any of them are any more or less relevant than not wanting to stand out in a crowd.

What I do know is that there is some seriously heavy shit coming down the way in the next months and years. It would be ridiculous for me to come through an incredibly suck-y, painful and fulfilling ordeal cycle to be rendered useless by a mental issue I had licked when I was fourteen years old. I’ve got too damn much else to do and too many other people who rely on me to wallow in that crap.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Follow up on "Paying Attention"

I realize that this is the third post in a row to include the word "Nazi" so I'll be taking a break from this theme for a bit. I wanted to address concern which has been expressed both to me personally and in the media over the past several years. The concern is about using comparisons of current events/public figures and events in Nazi era Germany or Nazi politicians or leaders.

In my 10/13/06 post "Maybe It’s Not Just About Paying Attention" I compared minority communities in the US today keeping their heads down and hoping that other groups would be targets of intolerance rather than them to similar behavior patterns in Germany of the late 1930's.

Since this is a hot button issue for many, I wanted to post a link to an excellent webpage that compares Nazi rhetoric about Jews with modern ultra-right-wing rhetoric about gays (all with source references). It is a page worth taking a look at. Not because it makes the “right-wing hardliners are Nazis at heart” argument, but rather because intolerance and persecution can have many forms of expression and Nazi Germany provides a case study on how rhetoric that (when it comes to gays today) is accepted by many, foreshadowed unprecedented horrors just 66 years ago.

Apparently I'm a Neo-Nazi Racist Skin Head

I just got off of a rather tense phone call with a representative of the Southern Poverty Law Center. I should note that I have a huge amount of respect for the work that this organization does. For any who don’t know, the SPL Center is a non-profit that tracks hate groups in the United States.

The reason for my tense phone call was that I was on their website and came across this page: http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?pid=1185 It is a listing of neo-Nazi and other hate group symbols and tattoos. On the first page is a tattoo of Norse runes on a scroll. Later pages include images of Thor’s hammer and Fenris.

Let’s be honest a moment. These images came off of racist and neo-Nazi folk. The SPL can tell you where each picture came from. Modern Heathenry has a large contingent of supremacists. Racism is a part of modern Heathen traditions. Look at traditions of only allowing people with connections to the right bloodlines hold leadership roles in some communities. The gentleman I spoke to had had a similar conversation with a woman who sent him a book on Asatru, which ended up having an entire chapter on preserving the purity of the Tribe.

I don’t agree with his assertion that the majority of Heathens are racist or white supremacists. But it is fair to say that a very large number of neo-Nazis are in some way Heathens. More importantly, this gentleman did not really understand the distinction between Heathenry and the rest of modern paganism. It is his honest belief, backed up by research, that greater than half of modern pagans are racist or white supremacists.

The phenomena of non-racists or even worse, non-Heathens getting runic tattoos had never been brought to his attention. When he tried to explain that someone could have neo-Nazi sentiments but not share them with others I had to bring up my queer and trans friends (not by any names) who it is safe to say aren’t neo-Nazis but have runes marked on their bodies.

As things in the world continue to grow more and more concerning, it is shocking and horrifying to me to find that even an organization devoted to protecting minorities would be against us. It never once crossed my mind that to some my shaman marks would mean that I was a neo-Nazi. I believe more and more that as things break down in our world, we cannot assume even for a moment that someone or group will support us. When even the Southern Poverty Law Center believes us to be evil, we can take nothing for granted.

I have never heard the issue of how to separate ourselves in the minds of others from the neo-Nazis discussed in my community. Personally I think this stems from the fact that most of us would never imagine being associated with such filth. This is a conversation that needs to be had across the board in the pagan and Heathen worlds. It blows my mind to think that the SPL Center could look at a group like Asphodel for example, and declare it to be a white-supremacist organization. If they looked at the leaders in the community though, they would almost certainly identify at least Raven and myself as neo-Nazis if they were basing their judgments on our body modifications.

Don’t let the absurdity of that thought make it any less horrible in your minds.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Maybe It’s Not Just About Paying Attention

For the past several years I’ve been having an odd reaction to news about pending anti-gay civil rights legislation. Usually the situation goes something like this: Some piece of legislation is pending, for instance Arizona is currently debating a constitutional amendment to “ban gay marriage, civil unions and void domestic partner benefits for both gay and non-gay unmarried couples.”

A lot of people have come out against this proposal. The police and fire unions are worried about recruiting, as are universities. Apparently DP benefits are a big draw for potential employees. The Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans is strongly against the legislation as well. Many seniors in relationships choose not to marry in order to keep social security and deceased partners’ pension checks coming. They need the kind of protections this amendment would eliminate in order to maintain hospital visitation and medical decision-making rights. I doubt the AARA cares in the slightest about medical decision making or visitation rights for gay folk but this hits in their backyard. If the amendment could single out same sex couples only, I imagine many of AARA’s members would be all for it in fact.

The 365gay.com article where I read all this notes at the end that the state populace seems equally divided on the matter of the amendment.

My initial response? “good, I hope the fucking amendment passes.”

Now this has nothing to do with poly based anger at being excluded from gay marriage in the first place. Rather, it seems that people don’t care about taking rights away from others but get real protective when you start gunning for them. Frankly it tickles me pink to know that if/when Arizona passes this amendment (and no state has failed to yet once it had reached this legislative stage) a large number of seniors will be in the same boat as the queers. I feel the same way when I read stories of highly respected professors leaving their collegiate posts, as happened in Louisville Kentucky after the state eliminated DP benefits for state employees including those at state funded universities. You want you kid taught by the best? Don’t take away those folks’ health insurance by voting for bigoted legislation.

The same goes for liberal young ladies who couldn’t be bothered to vote but are now facing the prospect of loosing abortion access if the President’s choices for the Supreme Court have their way. Yet people don’t learn. There is a growing movement, to which it seems that the President and the people who got him into office are tied, which wants to cut down on access to traditional contraceptives. Witness that extensive scientific studies that show Abstinence Only education doesn’t cut down significantly on teen sex but may cut down on teen safe sex have had no impact whatsoever on the current political administration.

With every passing bill I am coming convinced that my outlook maybe isn’t going to work. Every time a new anti-gay or anti-civil liberties or pro-torture bill is passed I think that this one is going to be it. This time people will sit up and say “what the fuck are you doing?” Obviously plenty of people are already doing that, but it just doesn’t ever seem to reach a strong enough tipping point. It is like the government is an angry and hungry bear. Various groups seem to think that if they keep their heads down and don’t draw its attention it will be too occupied attacking someone else to notice them slip away. How many retired seniors in Arizona cared about protecting gay marriage or civil unions or DP benefits before? I don’t know the answer but I bet the number is less than those who do now it is their rights in jeopardy.

This is not how it is supposed to work. Being part of society shouldn’t be about hoping someone else gets fucked instead of you. Sure didn’t work for a lot of minorities in Nazi Germany. There was little or no outcry from the Jews when the Nazi started forced sterilization of the disabled for instance. Jewish doctors were quoted as among those who strongly believed in eugenics for gods’ sake.

Our society is simply too divided. My Lady and Var would both say that it has something to do with being a country whose population will be reaching 300million within the month. They probably are at least partially right. I have no idea what the solution might be. Some scholars say that the United States will fracture into four or five smaller countries before the end of the century. Maybe that would help things, maybe not.

I feel like I somehow need to put forth some sort of constructive idea before I can finish this essay but it just is not coming. The only thing I can think of is that we as individuals need to be more mindful of our views towards others. It would be healthier for me to hope that Arizonaand the seniors rather than hope that they do and it teaches some poor retirees some sort of object lesson about being a minority. The silver lining here is the idea that we are not so different, what effects one group can effect another that at first glance to be completely dissimilar. votes not to amend their constitution for the sake of the queers

I’m going to try hard to work from this perspective. Just so long as no old guy calls me “faggot.”

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Binging on Normality

Sorry for the delay in posting. Things have been a bit crazy lately. It’s late here and I don’t intend to make a long post. I would just go to bed, but I have a confession to make. I did something bad this evening. I engaged in behavior which many folk would consider inappropriate for someone in my position. What is worse is that I went down this dark and stormy road with company. Yes, I led another innocent (ha!) soul into sin.

That’s right, on the way home from Cauldron Farm this evening Fire and I stopped at McDonalds. Before you can finish gasping in horror I should add that we also stopped at a gas station and got a package of Twinkies. I hadn’t had McDonalds or any other fast food in over two years and it had been far longer since I had a Twinkie (although in fairness I could only eat one bite of Twinkie, yuck).

I have been eating way too much junk food since my ordeal cycle was almost finished and certainly too much in the weeks since Keeper’s Crossing and the final ordeal in the cycle. I have also been staying up till stupid hours of the morning watching downloaded TV shows on iTunes or reading trashy books I’ve read dozen’s of times before.

It isn’t that I don’t have serious spooky work to be doing. Not to mention that I have work to make up for my company. The issue is that I just need time to come down from the strain of the intense foo from the last year. Fire says that for spirit workers and magicians like us eating junk food is like being bulimic. We binge on this crap which our bodies can’t really handle and most importantly neither can our spirit or astral bodies. We know our systems are going to purge it out and probably in an extremely unpleasant fashion.

Sometimes though, one just wants to feel like everyone else. Do something very mundane and rooted in American society. Sitting here popping mini tootsie pops and Fun Dip while watching Aaron Sorkin’s new show (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, fucking awesome) at 1am it is surprisingly easy to forget the whole shaman thing.

Given the way that the world seems to be going nutty in a real big hurry I don’t suppose that shoving my head in the sand is an OK plan. Still, a week of serious crap food culminating in McDonalds at 11pm is a big part of taking at least a partial vacation from the strange course my life has taken. I appreciate that the Lady has been willing to cut me some slack in this. Still, eight years of knowingly serving Her, I think I have a good idea of how far I can push it. She has made it real clear that now that the first ordeal cycle is over it is time I get down to some real work. I doubt there’ll be much McDonalds in my system for the foreseeable future…

Wouldn’t want to let this unopened pack of Fun Dip go to waste though.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The most reliable name in news is...

With money having been tight lately we had to cancel most of our cable account. We would have canceled cable TV entirely but it is actually cheaper to have cable internet if you also have basic (22 channels of nothing) cable TV. Since we don’t have any worthwhile channels on our television I have been downloading programs on iTunes. Of course I have now exceeded the cost of having more complete cable TV so we have to rethink that little plan. The only things I have been regularly purchasing from iTunes were The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Project Runway. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is what I want to address this evening.

There have been many references in the media to the fact that the majority of people in my age bracket (18-34 or some similar random grouping) get their news from Jon Stewart, who is obviously a comedian not a reporter. This statistic has been held up as some sort of proof that my generation doesn’t give a shit about the world. To respond to that critique I’d like to list off the guests who have appeared on The Daily Show in the downloads I haven’t cleared out of my computer yet:

Maggie Gyllenhaal (actress)
Senator Gary Hart
Norm McDonald (comedian)
Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the RNC
(former) President Bill Clinton
Ben Affleck (actor)
Johnny Knoxville (actor/comedian)
CC Goldwater, granddaughter of and documentary producer of Barry Goldwater
Pat Buchanan (right wing nut job)
General Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan
Al Franken (comedian and pundit)
Former NJ Governor Jim McGreevey
Senator Trent Lott
Dennis Miller (comedian and pundit)
Ian Bremmer, author of “The J Curve” recently featured in The Economist

While there is admittedly some fluff there (Johnny Knoxville for instance) I don’t think you can scoff at some of the other names on that list in terms of importance in the US or even the world. I’ll grant you that these interviews are short and don’t tend to delve very deep into issues, although the Buchanan interview for instance was very interesting and scary, of course. While The Daily Show’s opening monologues and middle segments are deliberately more humorous than the interviews, the issues addressed are often quite serious and relevant. Jon Stewart was probably the only TV personality with a wide audience who could point out publicly that in the midst of the Mark Foley scandal Fox News showed his title as Mark Foley D-FL when in fact the man is a six term Republican congressman.

I am not sure what it says about society that a nightly comedy show is more free and willing to talk about serious issues than traditionally respected news outlets and programs. I could go on a rant about advertising, partisanship, and censorship, but others have done it better than I could or I am interested in doing. I will say that before someone criticizes my generation for getting our info from Comedy Central they need to ask themselves this question “What did Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf say when asked ‘Where is Osama Bin Laden’ on national television?” I know the answer because Jon Stewart asked the question. It may have been asked over Jasmine Tea and Twinkys, but he asked it.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Sculptured Pouch Underwear??

In light of my somewhat depressing post of earlier today I’ve decided to post something pretty mindless.

And all that bring us to (drum roll) Sculptured Pouch Underwear! While Fireheart and I were in Concord trying vainly to get some business at the DMV done we decided to go to WalMart to try to get Fire some new work clothes. It was in this bastion of taste and brain damage that I stumbled across Jockey brand Sculptured Pouch Underwear. In fairness, this is also a store that carries a line of clothing called Fashion Scrubs.




Hopefully I didn’t screw the pooch (or pouch) and you can see a picture of JSPU. It is just what it sounds like, underwear with a semi-rigid bulging front for men who wish they were well endowed enough to need such a thing. Now, I like to think that I am not a prude, but there was something disturbing about packaging like this being placed in the full view of children. This unique design enhancement is available in a wide range of styles for men of all tastes.

I am trying to decide what the development meeting looked like where this product was pitched. I am imagining that one really well hung man came up with the idea and no one else had the balls so to speak to point out that the market was probably limited. I don’t own this particular product but from what I could see, and I wasn’t about to go squeezing any packages standing there in WalyWorld, it doesn’t seem that there is enough rigidity to present much of a bulge under ones clothing unless one has the endowments to fill the pouch. This product is designed for men with big bits and men who want to simplify the process of stuffing their underwear with balled up socks. How big a market can this possibly be?

This was one of the only times I had ever been into one of these WalMart SuperCenters and I can tell you it was a truly bizarre experience. As I was standing in the clothing department while Fireheart looked for clothing she could bear to wear in a size that fit her and trying not to marvel at the aforementioned pouch underwear, my eyes kept sliding away to watch the other shoppers going about their business. Not because they were so interesting in and of themselves. Rather, I just couldn’t get over looking at underwear or Fashion Scrubs (real things, look ‘em up online) while fifteen feet away people were shopping for fruit. I don’t mean that gay guys were cruising each other. I mean that the produce section was next to the clothing section. This is a store where you can buy car tires, a shotgun, fabric by the yard, an entertainment center, a pineapple, sculptured underwear, and then get money out from the bank to pay to get your hair and nails done, buy new eye glasses and have portrait photos taken. All without ever leaving the store.

Standing in a WalMart SuperCenter you can easily see why people say bad things about WalMart’s ethics and effect on an area. The place is huge and overwhelming. Many of the items sold in the store are low quality and/or made in places with truly questionable work practices. If WalMart is Satan then the US economy has encouraged us all to sell our mortal souls. Would we love to never go there again? Fuck yes! Unfortunately, with what Summer, Fire and I make, we simply have to do some of our shopping there. Students at Hampshire used to bitch and moan and tell us all never to go there. Of course, it was at Hampshire that I saw a student get out of a brand new BMW with the bumper sticker “I’d rather be smashing imperialism” so go figure.

There are those in and out of the spirit work and pagan communities who say that WalMart is a sign of the rot eating at our society and they may have a point. I think that they miss the bigger picture though. In a world that includes Jockey brand Sculpted Pouch Underwear, don’t we have bigger worries than suppercenters or worldwide terrorism.

Besides, if you bark in a store the size of some town centers people are less likely to notice.

Loosing it (and not in the weight sort of way)

I went bat-shit crazy on Summer today over the phone. He was supposed to take care of picking some things up where we used to live and also pay some bills. He didn’t do either. That said, I totally lost it, and not in a terribly justifiable way. We are under a great deal of strain right now, much of it financial. For instance we have to get Summer a new piece of shit car to replace the current piece of shit car he is driving. Since he used to have a good reliable car which was shot to pieces by the homophobe who used to be our neighbor, this makes us all a bit bitter. The fact that his folks wouldn’t help us out afterwards makes Fire and I a lot bitter. His current car is a death trap. It was a death trap when it was first built 15 years ago. He has a 120mi commute every day. The car he is replacing it with was at least a great car when it was new 12 years ago, but now has 200,000mi on it.

None of this is really a good excuse for being an asshole though. Summer is almost certainly under at least as much strain as Fire or I am. I am not sure why my temper is so short in the last few days. I know that being sick and having poison ivy is part of it, but mostly it is just me.

Until last weekend I had a really good idea of what I was doing with my life. I was just making it through these ordeals and shaman sickness. Now though, I feel rather adrift. This is not a feeling I am comfortable with. The only thing worse than not being up to a job is the feeling of being trained, skilled and ready to go and then not having a clear job to do. It isn’t like there isn’t spooky work I could be doing. It is just that I feel like I don’t know how to prioritize all the little things and that there isn’t a clear JOB that needs doing. I am also getting the really strong feeling that I need to be working on ways to make the spooky thing pay. Great fun.

Anyway, that is just me today. I’ll have a constructive/interesting/funny post later today or tonight.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Oh, Oh, OOOHHH! The Healing Purple Pill

So I was planning on waiting a while before posting this particular gem. However, it turns out that Fireheart promised some folks at KC that it’d soon be up. This just means I will have to go back to actually writing new stuff sooner than I had planned. So with some revisions here it is:

Oh, Oh, OOOHHH! The Healing Purple Pill

How's this for an add campaign you are not likely to see any time soon: Our add opens with a man in his late 20's facing the camera. He has that look on his face that people get in TV adds. I am sure you know the face I am talking about. The “I am about to disclose highly personal information which I wouldn't tell my mother but I'll tell the national TV audience.” This face is then followed by a slightly melancholy description of their struggle with genital herpes/hemorrhoids/menstrual cramps/or the circumstances which lead to the purchase of adult diapers.

This is in fact an appropriate way to begin our hypothetical advertisement, as I wrote this essay originally while sitting at my mother's kitchen table. Like most of my essays, I suspect this is not something she probably should read.

So, back to our serious young man in the TV add. After a brief pause so that our hypothetical audience can take in the fact that this is a serious young man, he begins to speak.

“Acid reflux disease can cause discomfort or even pain. It also can wear away at the lining of your esophagus. What many people don't realize is that acid reflux disease can cause pain for those we love as well.” He is really looking serious now. “I never realized how badly acid reflux disease was wearing away at my relationship as well as my insides.” At this point we could have another attractive man walk into the frame and put his arm around the speaker's shoulders. This second man should probably be more masculine looking as well.

Our speaker continues “With acid reflux I was always in pain. Especially” his eyes flit downward “down there. After spending so much time in the bathroom, I didn't have the strength for our usually activities” a coy glance at young man number two.

At this point the speaker's eyes light up and looking straight at the camera he says cheerfully “Now, thanks to the ‘healing purple pill’™, my boyfriend can make love to me as long as he wants. Now we just have to make up for lost time.”

Ok, so I probably won't make it in the cutthroat world of advertising. Still, here is a way to get to the, um heart of the gay community. We queers have digestive problems too, but for us it is not just about getting to eat the food that we want.

Many of you know that I have a broken bone in my neck (the C-7 spinal process broke off as consequence of some of my tics). After I left college I had to seek out a new primary care doctor. The guy I found was friendly and understood some of my issues, but he did not get the Tourette and he did not get the neck thing. Now I realize I should have left to find someone else but I didn't. As my neck pain got worse he perscribed 2000mg of ibuprofen a day.

I come from a family with a history of digestive problems including the afore mentioned acid reflux (adding the word “disease” in adds seems to make the product sell better, but I think it's stupid). With the ibuprofen and a nasty set of stomach tics I had stomach acid problems pretty fucking bad. When I complained to the doctor he informed me that I had to choose between my neck and my stomach. Since I couldn't do the job I was in with my neck fucked up, I choose the stomach. I should have chosen door three: a new doctor.

Fast forward six months and my partner Summer and I were having the problem also mentioned in our little hypothetical add. So yes, a certain little purple pill saved our sex life (at the time, other factors have since intervened). I'd be happy to tell AstraZeneca all about it but, like my mother, I don't think they are terribly interested in this particular aspect of their product’s “healing” benefits.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Undercover :-)

Since I am really and truly fried from my recent ordeals I am going to intermittently post older but relevant writings which led me to start this thing in the first place. I tell this particular story often but this is my blog and I'm damn well going to tell it again here. I think it's good for a laugh and rather than require the thought needed to write a new post, it just required some editing. Enjoy.

Undercover

It's always interesting to see what element or elements of my life people relate to, or are repulsed by. The plus side of being me is that I almost always can find some area of commonality with people I meet in the course of a day. The down side is that there is pretty much always something that the same person would not be ok with.

An illustration: One of the non-central but significant things about me is that I am a gun owner. This wasn't always the case but an event last year convinced me and my family to "arm-up" as a friend calls it. Although I purchased my first gun in response to this little incident, I have discovered two interesting facts about myself. One is that I really enjoy shooting. The other is that when I keep in practice I am quite good at it.

In order to stay good at it I feel it is important to practice my shooting on a regular basis, not to mention that I find it quite relaxing. I know that sounds pretty absurd if you haven't tried it, but it is true, at least for me.

When this story took place, we lived in Veromont and shot at the local National Guard Armory range because it had a partial roof and we live in the frozen north. My partners and I find it somewhat ironic that the we used to shoot pretty much weekly at the Guard range, when in fact many of the guard probably didn’t, but of course we are all banned from military service because queers don't belong in combat. I couldn't serve anyway with the barking like a dog thing and the broken neck thing, but that's not the point is it?

Last fall my partners Summer and Fire and I went to the guard range on a Sunday morning. We brought Dani with us, a young woman who was trying to experience the guardian and warrior archetype and whose mentor asked me to take her out to the range. The disaster which was Dani with a gun will have to wait for another time. It was what was sure to be one of the last warm days of the year and I had chosen to wear my black Utilikilt, which for those of you who don't know is a modern kilt made by a great company in Seattle Washington.

Just as we were packing to leave, a gentleman drove up in an older Ford F-150 pickup. Now I know this is stereotyping. But when an older dude in plaid drives up to a shooting range in a beaten on pickup my sphincter just tightens up. The fact is that where we were living in Southern Vermont the rednecks well outnumber the artsy queers. This time it seems my stereotyping was spot on.

Seeing that I was carrying two pretty significant pistols (we were loading the cars to leave) he immediately struck up a conversation with me. If you are going to own a gun, you have to get used to random people approaching you and complaining about the "evils of liberalism." Since we live near Massachusetts, this sometimes takes the form of bitching about "the People's Republic or Massachusetts" as many good-old-boys both in Vermont and in New Hampshire where we now live call it.

Now I grew up in Mass, and while I strongly disagree with the degree of restrictions they place on gun ownership, which hasn't seemed to make places, like the shit-sucking city I grew up in any safer, I agree with most everything else there. Aside of course for the cost of living and doing business which is how my partners and I found our way to Vermont. That said it is not generally a good idea to let folks know you feel this way. Especially when you are pretty much guaranteed the folk in question has at least one gun, accidents can happen.

So I took the coward’s way out. I smiled a bit distantly, busied myself with getting everything back into the car, grunted distantly in the appropriate places and prayed to my gods and anyone else’s who would listen that he did not notice the bumper stickers on my partner Fire's car (One is an anti-circumcision sticker, the other reads “last time we mixed politics and religion people got burned at the stake). Once Fire and Summer had driven off I shut the rear hatch of my wagon and almost leapt in. As I wished the gentleman a nice day of shooting, he hesitated a moment before leaning close to my open window. In a low conspiratorial voice he said:

"Say, are you folks like one of those undercover narcotics units?"

When you have Tourette Syndrome and have barked like a dog for the last 13 years you get used to people asking strange or unexpected questions. On the other hand, there are some questions that you never in a million years think someone will ask. This was high on that second list. Clearly this was the only way to make sense of what he was seeing. Four twenty-something’s in somewhat hip clothing (we were heading down to Northampton MA so Dani could get a tattoo in a few hours), but with guns.

Since we clearly looked like the young, liberal kids he so dislikes, but had guns and could make conversation with him, we couldn't be what we seemed. Clearly I was not the only one here engaged in stereotyping. I should note that in truth, I was the only one who could make conversation. Dani was fumming in a gods-be-praised, silent fashion, and Fire and Summer drove off as soon as their car was loaded.

The only hypothesis that fit the evidence for this individual was that our outward appearance was some sort of disguise. I probably could have taken this opportunity to do some sort of education or horizon broadening. It is distantly possible that I could have explained who we are and he and I could have had a useful dialog which would have left us both richer people for the experience. I didn't.

Another lesson that Tourette teaches you is that you have to pick your battles and this failed to meet my standards of worth-it. More significantly though, in the back of my head from the moment he asked his question was Erny Hudson in the film Ghostbusters saying "Ray, when someone asks you 'are you a god,' you say Yes!" Since impersonating an officer of the law is a crime, I leaned in closer and said equally conspiratorially.

"Of course not.

As Robert Heinlein said: “Sometimes the best way to lie is to tell the truth in a manner which will not be believed.”

KC and #4

So before I even got a chance to write about the 3rd ordeal in more detail than “It sucked, I lived” I had to complete the fourth one. The 4th took place as part of Keeper’s Crossing, which is for any who don’t know, a tiny international gathering of spirit workers, shamans and god spouses that is held at Cauldron Farm once a year. The last ordeal needed to be held in the presence of my community, and while I enjoy being a part of Asphodel, the gang at KC is more clearly a community of my peers.

This ordeal was administered by Lydia Helasdottir who was out from Europe for the weekend. I am not going to go into any great detail here, at least not right now. I will say that the ordeal involved being hoisted up off the ground on flesh hooks through my back while members of my community watched and/or assisted in the process of my being essentially ritually consumed while I hung screaming. Yeah, fun.

That said, I do feel better now in some ways than I have since the serious shaman sickness started just about one year ago. I don’t know if it is fair to say that I am done with shaman sickness or not. I do know that I have cleared an incredible set of hurdles and that now I suspect I will really have to get to work.

Keeper’s Crossing is a pretty darn private event and I will not be relating much about it here out on the internet. I will say on that score that it was another incredible experience, as it was last time, and it was wonderful to renew friendships and make new ones. Boy that makes it sound even more like “shaman camp” as one participant described it.

Now I get the fun of figuring out where to go from here with my spooky life. I do know that I am going to be administering ordeals for people and I need to get the tools together for putting hooks in people for pulling for starters. I also know that I am going to need to figure out about doing readings for strangers instead of just for friends and friends of friends. The Lady has made it pretty plain that Tashlin is going to be becoming more of a public entity in the next while and that is going to really take some getting used to.

Plus we are now officially back in the market for one or more full time students if not apprentices. If any of you all know anyone you think need to talk to us or to me, whether about readings or teaching stuff, have them drop me a line. eltashlin@gmail.com