Thursday, August 29, 2013

OW! My Aura!

I'm coming to the end of an almost 2 month long "Vacation" in my great home State of Maine, Now that I'm out of the military I can finally be my bad self. No more looming paranoia about Duty-Roster Call-Ins at 0400, no more standing at Parade-Rest for shit-heads who otherwise aren't fit to shovel shit from one pile into another, I'm completely free to enjoy my life for it's good times and challenges now. I've been staying with family here in Raymond for the majority of the time I've been in Maine, but earlier this week I had a chance to hang out with the only friend I have left from my days at Maine College of Art. Her name is Rosie and she's an entire package of fire-crackers tossed into a can of gasoline, she's the kind of person who'll tell you what she's thinking regardless of whether or not you want to hear it.

Fun Fact: Medicinal Marijuana is legal in Maine, just, eh... puttin' that out there for you *cough*

So, just like the good-ol-days, we spent a day chillaxing in Freeport (yes, home of the L.L. Bean Store, the second most visited tourist attraction in the State) walking up and down the streets just talking shit about yuppies and wandering into random shops looking for interesting items. Should you ever find yourself in Freeport, I highly recommend the British Imports shop right across the road from L.L. Bean but I should warn you that for some fucked up reason they don't have any FLAKE Bars (Really, WTF guys?)

However, just like the good-ol-days, Rosie wanted to pop into her all-time-favorite shop for a minute. Telling her I didn't believe in faeries anymore wasn't hard, most Wiccans don't get upset with Atheists over that stuff because they know what it's like to have some shit slung in their direction: I just kept it simple, that after everything that went down in Iraq I am DONE with religion. Period.

Anyway, back to my friend's favorite shop... 

With the exception of some of my previous experiences, if you've seen ONE New-Age boutique you've pretty much seen them all: Ironically overpriced Buddha statues, nag champa incense (which I rather like, actually) a glass case full of various polished stones and unusual jewelry, maybe some of those Tibetan Prayer Flags that people out here seem to like so much, just a compendium of items that anyone with any loosely formed idea of meditation or auras might find "Ooh! Shiny!"

Back in the day I could have easily destroyed half a paycheck in a place like this, so much temptation! Rosie is still an avid Wiccan, she was actually one of the first people to introduce me to the idea over 11 years ago before "Z" hijacked my spiritual practices. I didn't see the harm, really, I just fell out of it after that long because after surviving a War Zone it seemed stupid to keep living a lie. I don't get terribly many chances to hang out with Rosie, I figured why not? Now I can look at things like this objectively and it's not like I'm not allowed inside the shop itself.

New-Agers LOVE Angels! And who could blame then? Stories of Angelic figures predate Christianity by thousands of years, and who wouldn't want an invisible super-being protecting them from harm 24/7 that they can talk to and interact with?

There's an entire corner of this place with piles upon piles of anything Angelic on every shelf, and they all look fucking identical: White robed with shiny wings, and almost all of them have blonde hair. If Angels DO exist, I wonder what they think of things like War? THAT is humanity at it's absolute worst and it's not even anything new, we've been looking for ways to kill each-other En Masse since the dawn of time and all the while they've supposedly been watching us go at it. I don't know about you, but the thought of it actually creeps me out a little. I was brought up as a child to believe in my Guardian Angel, that everybody on Earth had one that protected them wherever they went: I guess my Angel either didn't like me all that much after a while, or there's no such thing as Angels.

Which brings me to another item regarding prevalent (though not necessarily uniform) New-Age belief: Spirit guides. Animal totems, Ancestor worship, dead relatives telling you what to do, etc... Really? First of all, even if the dead COULD speak to the living I'm not too keen on the idea of taking advice from deceased family members, mostly because in the case of some of MY family many of them are dead due to NOT heeding the advice of the living (mainly by doctors, but hey...) Invisible animals aren't anything new, either: I suppose that anyone who's an animal lover wouldn't mind having a few spiritual friends that take on the guises of their favorite animals: Wolves, deer, cats, eagles, even rabbits and mice.

When was the last time you talked to anyone who bragged about having a Velociraptor as a Spirit Guide? Or a Trilobite, or an Archaeopteryx, or a Woolly Mammoth? They WERE real animals that are now VERY DEAD, why don't they get to have a say in our lives just the same?

I have a favorite animal: The Octopus. Those things are not only wicked cool animals, they're extremely intelligent and DEADLY AS FUCK! If I were to pick ONE ANIMAL that I'd live to have follow me goddamn everywhere, it'd be a Giant Pacific Octopus (and yes, they have been known to survive on land for several hours) but just because I really REALLY want one, that I'm capable of imagining one at my side offering me practical financial advice, doesn't mean it's real. And for the record, I'm not AT ALL into tentacle porn, Cephalopods in general really are just awesome creatures that deserve our appreciation and respect.

I've lost interest in the figurines and statues in this place, I move on the the part of the shop where the books are because that's where Rosie is. I consider myself an avid reader, although I don't really get to sit down and read as often as I would really like to, but I gander at the shelves and notice that nearly all of "the Classics" are here: Scott Cunningham, Silver RavenWolf (Yes, that's her name, but she seems happy with it) Doreen Valiente, among a few other popular Pagan authors as well. No matter what your beliefs, many people who write books like these will pretty much tell you do "do what feels right to you, even if it's not by the book."

If THAT'S the case, what's the real problem with people like Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey? Their own practices surely "felt right" to THEM, even if some of them confused and down-right creeped-out the rest of us, by THAT reasoning who are we to say they were wrong?

I happen across one book with a pink cover, the title alluded to practices for recovering from a bad break-up. Rosie and I both smirk at this thing and set it back down on the shelf: Though far more expensive than this little book, a bottle of Tequila and a good hard cry with a horny stranger will accomplish the same thing. On the shelf immediately next to this are rows of pristine journals that look hand-made: I used to collect these things like Pokemon and fill them with "Spells" that I'd either copied from other books or made-up on my own.

Wicca really is the epitome of making it up as you go along, but to a point they're at least willing to admit this: The general idea is that as long as you're not actively seeking to harm anyone, do whatever floats your boat. It's very rare that you HEAR ABOUT Wiccans and Pagans actively discriminating against the LGBT crowd (although rare, I promise you it DOES HAPPEN) and I think this is the reason why they tend to get along with most Atheists so well. Most Wiccans aren't proselytizers and the very nature of that faith doesn't mesh well with the idea of "winning converts" at all. If a friend decided to take up Wicca, most Wiccans would offer advice from time to time but that's about it. 

Despite my internalized ramblings and criticism, even a few memory-replays while in the shop, I DID buy myself something: An $11 pair of earrings made out of recycled plywood, I'm not joking.

What can I say, I saw them and knew deep down that I really wanted them (must have been A Sign, LOL!) and they were made locally, or so the card said.

I took them to the counter and I paid cash, the clerk looked like Penn Jillette with braided pigtails but was otherwise very friendly and courteous to me. It's not like I put my bright red "SNARKY & BITTER ATHEIST" hat on before going inside, and I doubt these are the kinds of people that really care what I think but genuinely appreciate their customers. And why wouldn't they? I doubt they think they're selling people snake-oil, many of them honestly believe it themselves and I'm fine with that: They have every right to believe whatever they like.

Just as I have every right to reflect on my experiences and criticize their beliefs to no end.

Rosy and I concluded our visit and went out for coffee, I put my recycled plywood earrings on as soon as I walked out of the store.

It was a good day indeed ^_^

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Story of Z (The End)

Maybe it's just me, but when someone tells me they're going to do something then it's perfectly reasonable of me to expect them to do it. I had a decent job that I really enjoyed, occasionally I could find some male company for a night or more (keeping it, however...) and I had every reason to enjoy my frequent visits to Z's shop on Congress Street. Even despite not getting back one dime for all of the books or the gas-money, even despite snap-back answers to seemingly innocuous questions during classes and Circle meetings, through all of the doubt and skepticism tightening inside my brain like vines, I still attended regular rituals and meetings like clockwork. With increasing tension between myself and family at home I began looking for a serious way out, a few of Z's students had managed to find a place between the three of them very recently so I figured that finding a place should be easy if I had a potential roommate.

Z didn't seem all that enthused at first, I think he may have been growing suspicious of me having doubts at this point. This frightened me, toward the end of my time among those people I felt like I was walking across a very thin wire: The wrong answer, the wrong question, hanging out with or talking to the wrong person (including a long-time friend that, despite not abusing substances or owing any serious debts, was somehow a poisonous influence and "draining my energy like a leech" please...) was all it would have taken for that wire to snap right out from under me, but that I needed to continue to function within the Circle's expectations in order to have a meaningful life.

The really great thing about working at a book-store with such a sweet employee discount: Access to a wealth of information about the very cause I thought I had pledged my life to.

Sure, Z sold books at his shop too but getting new ones took him fucking forever: He told me once that he had the same distributors that Borders used, considering how frequently Borders had new products that needed shelving, yet again I became doubtful. If the sources were truly the same, why were Z's access to those resources always so limited? 

Eventually it dawned on me that not only was something not quite right about how Z ran his Circle and dictated instruction to the other students, but the super-exclusive nature of the entire shop itself: Crafted items that no other Circle/Coven had known of or what to do with, extremely specific products (oils, incenses and other things pre-made within such parameters that were unique to the Circle's own rituals, other things I'd never seen or read of other Covens adopting into regular practice...) The fact that the items for sale in the shop only had known use for members of the Circle, occasionally people would wander inside and pick up a few things because they were curious about them but beyond that WE were almost always the only people buying anything, THAT should have been a huge indicator that maybe the direction these people were headed wasn't somewhere I wanted to be.

Not only had Z been laying a very rigid frame-work of how he thought we should practice our rituals and spells, but he made damn sure that HE was the only resource for "real magick" that we could utilize.

"Everyone else is doing it wrong, if you want to do it right you do it through me" to paraphrase the later lessons that I can recall. Between September of 2001 to Spring of 2003 the Circle had expanded from about 5 or 6 of us to a pretty steady 10, sometimes more. Sometimes we'd see new students, they didn't usually last very long and when they left we'd never see them again: Z's explanation was usually that some people can't handle this kind of thing, and for people who are new to Wicca or anything New Age this might have been true. However I still can't figure out why an "experienced Witch" in her late 30s who'd been doing this almost all of her adult life would only stick around for maybe two meetings and then run away like her ass was on fire.

Our social circles were eventually limited to only each-other, if I managed to meet a guy I usually felt guilty about having contact with someone outside the Circle and eventually I was encouraged (by Z himself, often during member meetings) to end whatever was going on. 

Z ordered me to break all ties with my own best friend because he was gay: Hanging out with gay men was a sure-fire way to drain my "Magickal Energy" dry. Oh, cruel irony...

Not the money, not the books, not the belittling in front of other members or my suspicions about where Z wanted to take us as a group, he managed to serve up my own pain against me: Singling people out because of who they love, choice or not, was the very reason I ditched Christianity for whatever he was selling to me and my wounded mind. I am NOT going to play this game again, I am not a bigot and I will not associate with them if I can help it. Damn near every book I had read up until that point said absolutely nothing about Wiccan ideals (or even the Rede itself) conflicting with adult consensual sex WHATSOEVER, so either some of Z's own prejudices were managing to slip through into his teachings or he was fighting some kind of insecurity that he didn't want to face.

I met a new boyfriend (who turned out to be a psychopath, but THAT's another blog series) left the group for good and never looked back.

For years I continued with rituals and spells on my own terms, but I never really trusted ANY spiritual guide all that much after having run with Z's Circle for so long and seen such blind obedience. I guess I wanted so badly to believe in such things that I almost sacrificed my sense of self just to be a part of it. Kool-Aid is Kool-Aid no matter what flavor on the package: You can either pour out the cup or taste the hint of almonds far too late.

I flipped ALL RELIGION the Bird while deployed to Iraq, I've seen quite enough of what horrors vindicated people are capable of committing. 

Z's operation might still be in business SOMEWHERE in Southern Maine, it looks like his last location in Westbrook didn't pan out: I drove past the old building last week, it's empty and looking for someone to lease it out. I have no idea what he's doing now and I don't want to talk to him, but our very last conversation was a very angry exchange via MySpace (long before that site went full-retard.)

Not long before moving out of Maine, I put together a small bag of all the stuff he ever gave me. Oils, potions, "Holy Water" and a little white rock that was supposed to protect me from evil. I left everything on the lawn and walked away: I was simply returning defective merchandise.

Fuck right off, dude.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Story of Z (Part 3)

Atheists often use a term called "Cognitive Dissonance" to describe a specific concept: Essentially, it's an accurate description of KNOWING that something is, or has a distinct and clear possibility of being, complete and total bullshit but going along with it anyway for whatever reason the believer sees fit. This is often applied to lay-believers who "have to believe in SOMETHING" but may be wrestling with some doubt in the back of their minds, sometimes feelings of cognitive dissonance can escalate into full-blown emotional turmoil: This is especially true for people coming from more "devout" situations, countries and families because they may honestly believe that having a shred of doubt at all will damn them forever or even get them killed. 

Cognitive Dissonance is also the title of a frikkin' sweet podcast: Glory Hole!

About a year into joining Z's Circle and trying to find my place in the Universe (as well as with the others in the Circle, who never seemed all that talkative) It was easy to develop an obsession with all aspects of the Occult, and working at a bookstore full time it was even easier yet to accumulate a massive collection of books on the subject and build my own library. Z had his own curriculum that he taught from, there were two books in particular that he insisted were the absolute best way to do magick by: "Earth Power" by Scott Cunningham and "Psychic Self Defense" by Dion Fortune, and you'll notice many modern occultists and neo-pagans insist on adding the letter K to the word "magic" because they want to distinguish their rituals from slight-of-hand and stage tricks. 

I was convinced, by an incident I couldn't explain (at the time) in the old Holbrook Dormitory, that I was constantly surrounded by malevolent spirits and ghosts: Although I should point out that long after I had quit M.E.C.A. and returned home to Raymond, I found legit historical records (via the Maine Historical Society's archive building on Congress Street) strongly suggesting that a settlement of the Abenaki Tribe was violently wiped out not far from where I currently live over 200 years ago. Some people still believe in ghosts, especially in the New England area, and if they WERE REAL I can't imagine any lot of un-rested souls with any better reason to hang around and show the living how pissed off they are than murdered Native Americans.  

I am no longer among those people, but at the time this was all the convincing Z and I needed: I'd be pissed if this were MY ancestral home that white people were building a Banana Republic on, therefore ghosts exist.

He trained a small group of us, three including myself, how to investigate and vanquish spiritual "baddies" who were bothering humans: I began to doubt the legitimacy of Exorcism as a concept pretty early on, but I guess I justified it in my mind because I not only thought this shit was REAL but that it was possible for ghosts and entities to actually hurt people (and not just in the commonly said "feeding on your aura/energy stuff" that many New-Agers often discuss) Let's say for a moment that ghosts WERE real, that the dead could actually communicate with the living and could play charades with human beings, what if one ghost had a legitimate concern or urgent issue that they needed resolved? Like if that dead person was a murder victim and wanted their killer found, but started pestering the current occupants of their house for help because, well, a murderer could still be at large! Lighting up a big bowl of Myrrh in every room of the house and telling them to Go Fuck Yourself hardly seems helpful or beneficial to ANYONE, not the spirit in need nor the current home-owner.

After a trip to some middle-aged lady's house between the three of us, doing pretty much what I loosely described above, that was when some cosmic shit started to hit a really big fan that so happened to be pointed directly at me: Some weeks later we found out this lady had been to SEVERAL "Psychics" in the area requesting the exact same services, we got the impression that she just wanted to be told what she wanted to hear about some incurable problem and that some cosmic force had it out for her and no one could help, boo-hoo. Maybe if you'd vacuum your floor every so often, lady, and clean all those boxes of worthless shit out of your house you'd probably feel a little better about yourself and your life might come together.

This was going down in very early 2003, the drive to and from this woman's house was icy and dangerous: At one point on I-95 my entire wind-shield iced up and I had to pull over to scrape that shit off just so I could see the road. The other two in my crew took that as a sign from the spirit world that they were trying to stop us from doing this, I figured that this was a NORMAL FEBRUARY NIGHT IN MAINE! Z gave me $5 for gas, I don't think the other two offered me one red cent. Thanks, assholes. I think it was at THAT MOMENT that I began to quietly acknowledge that maybe I was wasting my time and resources with these people. I had already ordered several "reimbursable" books that I never got a dime for, now this. 

It's quite one thing to believe in invisible forces and that you can interact with them, not only that but that if you're a member of a spiritual community that actively wants to do this then that you should form some kind of agreement with each-other about about inter-member conduct: That night I honestly felt like I was just being used.

And it STILL wasn't enough for me to leave! I just couldn't accept that a Circle that I had devoted time and resources to would only see me as a means to an end, even almost ten years later this is difficult, at times even painful for me, to wrap my head around: Okay, fuck it, these people really pissed me off! But maybe I was just having a bad night, or maybe malevolent spirits were dicking around with my mind as revenge for the "eviction notice" I participated in serving upon them, or any other excuse I could imagine to explain away my doubts.

I simply COULD NOT BELIEVE, and that's honestly the most accurate term I can think to to express the sentiment, that some weird stranger playing a flute on 9-11 in the middle of downtown Portland Maine, the very same dude that I had managed to befriend and even offered me shelter from the proverbial shit storm that my hipster-classmates sent my way, only thought of me as little more than a resource for the security of his operations. Why the fuck would someone do something like that? Why would a friendship fostered over for over two years be a sham?

Or maybe I'm just taking a small slight (and approximately $1000 worth of donations and books) a little too personally...

Part 4 will be the final installation of this tale.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Story of Z (Part 2)

I only lasted one school year at Maine College or Art, one wouldn't think of a yuppie art school as a haven for bullies but THAT was ultimately what drove me away. And with a little convincing from my new friends, like Z, committing academic suicide and ultimately leaving the school for good wasn't hard at all. After everything I'd been subjected to and not even getting decent grades out of it, arriving at the eventual conclusion "Maybe this just isn't for me after-all" seemed the only logical end to the madness. 

If I'm really going to quit M.E.C.A. and turn over a new leaf, may as well start right now: I was borderline bankrupting myself over mostly useless knowledge that would never land me a real job at the current rate things were going. Sure you could teach people the right way to stretch a canvas so that it won't break apart, how to make sure the canvas is primed properly so that the enzymes in the paint won't eat a hole in it after 50 years, but how the fuck is there a right or wrong way to express ideas and/or feelings onto said canvas? That's just nonsense, but I was spending hard-earned Student Loan money on it just the same.

It saddens me that art is no longer about talent these days, it's about projecting the ideas of a Status-Quo from one direction or another.

There was a fundamental difference in Z's temperament between his different classes that he offered, even when just talking to daytime customers in his shop. He sold dried herbs and some oils, mostly trinkets and services though. Compared to other New Age shops most people have probably been to throughout the United States (or the UK, the two countries where Wicca is most widely practiced) Z's shop had a pretty sparse but very specialized selection of spiritually oriented goods. At the time you could go anywhere in Portland and go look for witchy-stuff, there were two other stores operating at that time with much more selection, neither of which Z had anything particularly remarkable to say about.

He had several repeat customers, mostly fellow students of his from his classes. There were one or two that even worked for him during daytime hours; One was a daughter of his from a previous marriage, the other was a tall girl with rather plain features. He said he had two wives, something which struck me as extremely out of place at the time, but since neither of them seemed at odds with each other I guess I didn't see any harm being done there. To most people this might have sent up a few red flags, but then again I am NOT most people and I didn't feel I had any reason to object or question this.

A recent bout of questioning MY OWN sexuality, to include orientation, made me feel like I wasn't in a position to criticize other adults who didn't seem (at the time) to be harming anyone.

I wasn't sure I was a lesbian, I do enjoy sex with men but with women as well. At that point in time I didn't have terribly many opportunities to experiment, what with having very few to almost no prospects for relationships due to my classmates acting like cunts. Z made it abundantly clear right off the bat what HIS position was regarding LGBT issues: Only straight people could perform rites and rituals effectively, this was due to gay sex (between males or females) negating the natural course of energy and something about the parasitic nature of gay relationships.

Don't get pissed off YET, I'm not finished.

He said that since gays and lesbians can't procreate naturally, one partner tends to feed off the others' energies and that's why we would see one as the "Butch" and the other as the "Bitch." This didn't make a lick of sense to me at the time, rather than try to publicly discuss this with him (which was rarely met well, he could be quite persuasive of his opinions. After'all, we were just students seeking out a self-described Master) I was brand-spanking new to Wicca at that point, I honestly thought that this was how a Coven was supposed to work.

Finding work after M.E.C.A. was a pain in the proverbial dick, I burned every black candle I could get my hands on trying to chase away any bad juju that may have been trying to keep me from finding gainful employment. After four unsuccessful interviews, I enlisted Z's help int he matter. I don't recall exactly what was done, but a few days later I stopped in to say hello and he told me I'd pretty much walk-in-and-take my next job interview with raving success: It was at a comic book shop and I actually failed the interview horribly, so no dice.

My NEXT interview after that, however, was at the Borders Bookstore in the Maine Mall complex and I got hired almost on-the-spot. Surely that's the one he was actually talking about, yes?

I loved that job, the first job I ever had that despite having to work retail I actually truly loved doing. I loved to read, and as luck would have it my supervisors put me in charge of the Spirituality and Religion section: ALL OF IT, including Christianity. Meh, a job is a job, right? Considering that this was divinely provided for me since Z must have done the right spell with the right candles and oils and such, and I was in the right mindset at the right phase of the moon... Look, you're either seething through your teeth or laughing your balls off at all of this and that's fine. I think at this point either reaction is perfectly reasonable to this wad of rubbish, but understand that I had been through the first of many difficult patches in my young-adult life and I really honestly thought that this was a good thing for me.

And sure as Climate Change fellow students would come to the store to ask me about finding books, Z would even ask me to put in an order or two for stuff he needed from time to time, which I paid for. Not to worry, though, he said he'd reimburse me every penny (and for the record no he didn't, but I wasn't going to press the matter with him because running a business in Portland was literally quite a taxing matter) 

So Z had a few opinions and practices I didn't always agree with 100%, that's the same with ANY religion though, right? 

Part 3, coming soon.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Story of Z (Part 1)

Welcome to late-summer of 2001, Portland Maine. This is my first week of college at Maine College of Art, my first time living out of my parents' shadows and I'm completely alone out here. I'm one of only a few native Mainers in the Freshman Class, almost everyone in here is from a different State or another country. 3D Design class just started about 15 minutes ago, then some stoner-chick runs into the room yelling about New York City being on fire: We laugh, at first. She grabs three people to come with her to the Mr Bagel across the road from the Porteous Building, and there it is on the TV, BOTH of the World Trade Center towers are burning.

THAT was such a serious "Oh-Shit" moment, I didn't think it was real. It had to be either a sick joke or a mistake, I ran back into the Porteous Building, grabbed my stuff from the classroom and stormed out: At least half of my family, including my Father, are from New York City and the surrounding areas (Brooklyn, Manhattan, etc...) 

I'm walking quickly back to the Holbrook Dormitory, I walk right past some dude I've never seen before: He's just standing there playing a long bamboo flute.

I get it, people are panicking left and right, I pass two other students who are in tears: Maybe someone was just trying to do something to distract people from the violence on TV, or maybe this was just something this guy did for fun from time to time: Just stand outside and play his flute, side-walk musicians are nothing new in Portland (although these days they are entirely too rare.) 

I don't think there were any classes the following day, the Dean decided to hold a student forum to talk about what just happened to the world, The morning of September 12th amounted to little more than a bunch of hipsters arguing with each-other. There was talk of war, activism, charities and disaster relief. One or two students who came here from New York had tried to get home to their families, I was still waiting to hear back about two of my cousins (I found out later that day they were in Brooklyn and they were unharmed.) 

I walked out halfway through the ordeal: From where I was sitting, this "Student Forum" was quickly becoming an Ad-Hominem driven farce and I wanted no part of it.

I just wanted to quietly kill some time alone, so I wandered from shop to shop on Congress Street just looking at stuff. One shop was selling the kind of hats worn by little old ladies, another only sold varying types of Irish imported goods. I came across the same strange dude standing in the same strange spot only this time it looked like he was talking to two women standing on either side of him, he made eye contact with me and I gave a friendly nod: I don't know this guy, but I see no reason to be impolite.

This continued for weeks, once regular class schedules resumed: I'd walk past his little shop and say hi, most of the time he'd say hi back to me. As time passed, it became ever clearer to me that my leather-clad metal head self was not welcome among certain circles (the vegan-nazi hipster types that M.E.C.A. is still known for catering to.) At least three or four times a week I'd come back to my dorm-room to find PeTA pamphlets, and on some occasions flyers, jammed under my door. At least EVERY night of the week, my spoiled cunt of a roommate would bring groups of her party-buddies over late at night while I was busy either trying to study or just trying to sleep: Despite the fact that our first day of Freshman Orientation we both signed a mutual roommate agreement indicating we'd each give the other a "courtesy notice" of 24 hours before having company over.  

This is the very same chick that accused me of stealing and using HER kitchen-wares without any evidence to back it up, despite the fact that I had just purchased brand new ones for myself the week prior AND kept the recepit: LOL!

Some manner of non-academic escape was, as with anyone in similar circumstances I suppose, absolutely inevitable. All my class-mates ever seemed to want to do was either go drink or go off to concerts of bands I'd never heard of before: I guess obnoxious hipsters were being obnoxious hipsters long before obnoxious hipster memes on the internet made the world known regarding obnoxious hipsters. This strange dude on Congress Street, who had a name but called himself "Z" for short, offered a pay-by-donation Tae-Bo style workout class after class hours: Perfect! I show up twice a week and pay whatever I can afford to, sans OBNOXIOUS FUCKING HIPSTERS!

Things worked out great for about a month and a half of this, eventually I was coming back to my room to find more and more of my stuff occasionally being vandalized. At first I didn't say anything to the M.E.C.A. staff because I didn't think they would help me: Then one fine evening it literally took a screaming fit before people finally got the message that I was getting sick of this, a BRAND NEW message-board that I put on my door was been completely filled to capacity with not-so-clever dick-drawings ALL OVER AND THROUGH IT.

Meanwhile nobody in the dorm says or does anything to the chick who flips out on drugs, breaks into peoples' rooms and destroys THEIR property (and for some really weird reason mine was the only room NOT broken into.) so I guess that made it okay in their eyes.

I wanted to quit and go home, but something was compelling me to stay. I was worn down to the point that I could barely keep awake during class, I avoided damn near everyone until it was time for my OTHER classes, but even then my participation was just-for-show. After enough harassment from my dorm-mates, I just had almost no energy left and I think Z noticed.

He told me that with some new ideas and a change in attitude I could realize my full potential, whatever that meant. Around this time I had struggled enough with Christianity to give it the boot all together and pick up something else, it just seemed obvious to me at the time.

After all, Z not only led the workout class but also a small Wiccan Circle.

All this simply could NOT have been a coincidence, could it?

Stay tuned for the next installment of the series...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fuck Talladega

I have a few conservative-minded friends, I actually like friendly conversation with people I don't always agree with. That having been said, I caught a glimpse of a letter-to-the-editor on my Facebook feed this afternoon from one of them. The person who's feed this came from was someone I served with in my unit while I was deployed (but had nothing to do with this...

Granted, it's a bit more creative than most neo-con drivel I come across, but it's still ignorant and inaccurate as fuck.

I'm going to read out this whole letter and take it apart bit-by-awful-bit as best I can, starting hardest face-palm first:

"I voted Democratic because I love the fact that I can now marry whatever I want. I now want to marry my Labrador."

This guy couldn't even come up with an original argument against marriage equality, then again no neo-con worth piss really did. No, you can't marry anything you want: PEOPLE have rights, THINGS are not PEOPLE and therefore do not have rights. SOME RIGHTS are extended to household animals like cats and dogs, but marriage is not one of them. If equal respect and liberty in the eyes of the law (for adult humans) is still a hard concept for you to grasp, I have a fun little comic book for you to read.

"I voted Democratic because I believe oil companies' profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene but the Government taxing the same gallon of gas at 15% isn't."

15% taxation on ONE GALLON OF GAS is an awful lot of fucking money! I'm bothered to bloody vomit by unnecessarily high taxes (trust me, I live in Maine) but THAT FIGURE doesn't sound quite right. I can't speak for other parts of the US, but here in Maine (as of today) prices are actually dropping pretty steadily. Considering that Maine is currently so poverty stricken that it's eating itself to survive, that's pretty good even though perhaps it really COULD BE worse in other places. But if the gas tax was truly THAT HIGH throughout the whole country, I'd wager we'd be planning a manned Mars mission with that kind of money. Any gasoline experts out there please feel free to enlighten me in case I'm wrong.

"I voted Democratic because I believe the Government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would."

Taxes are a necessary evil, I'm afraid. Perhaps if more Americans would take the time to learn how to file those 1040s CORRECTLY (H&R Block is a huge waste of money, BTW) you just might surprise yourself: Tax rules and regulations change from year to year, and State to State of course, but with some simple research you'll quickly discover all kinds of ways to save on your taxes. I'm a firm believer in not paying a cent more than I absolutely have to, I don't even save receipts for a damn thing. Take a day to chat with a CPA or a lawyer (if they'll grant you a consultation for free, many of them will if it's just to answer a few questions) 

If it MUST BE DONE, you may as well learn how to DO IT RIGHT.

"I voted Democratic because Freedom of Speech is fine as long as I agree with what is said & nobody else is offended by it."

Anyone who knows me AT ALL knows I don't rightly give a flying-lizard-clit if something I say so happens to offend anyone, most of the time I just blurt shit out without thinking about it. I am not, nor shall I ever intentionally be, an advocate for censorship: I despise it in all of it's many forms, there is no logical reason why there should NOT BE cursing on Radio or TV. If you don't want your kids to watch it, tell them to go read a fucking book.

If you want to spew out religiously inspired hate speech, I won't stop you: THAT IS your given right as an American. But like Hell I'm going to let you enact any of your bigoted or misogynistic opinions into laws that affect real human beings.
"I voted Democratic because I'm way too irresponsible to own a gun and I know that my local police are all I need to protect me from murderers and thieves."
Fuck no, I hate cops. Okay, I don't HATE cops but I have no reason to trust them at all! With the exception of a family-friend of ours, my experiences talking to police have rarely ever ended well: I've even been pulled over by a cop with an obvious boner, you bet your ass I got out of THAT ticket!

And as for guns, I'm glad to be a tofu-eating "fag-enabling" American Liberal and I personally own more fire-power than my small-town police-force probably does. While about 70% of Republicans own guns, just over 30% of Democrats do, and those are just the two major parties in the United States. And yes, I have used one of my guns for reasons other than weekend target-practice: Just ask the mother-fucker who tried to get into my apartment back in January.
"I voted Democratic because I believe that people who can't tell us if it will rain on Friday can tell us that the polar ice caps will melt away in 10 years if I don't start driving a Prius."

The local weather-man IS NOT a scientist, Professor. How many more educated, experienced and otherwise knowledgeable people is it going to take before you get it through your thick skull that human beings are in fact fucking up how this planet is supposed to work

"I voted Democratic because I'm not concerned about millions of babies being aborted so long as we keep all death row inmate alive."

And you're SO CONCERNED that you'll volunteer to take in and raise all of those unwanted, unplanned, non-consented-to, unhealthy and in some cases even terminally ill babies by your damn self? Until you are, male or female, you're a damn hypocrite. Besides, wasn't the Death Penalty YOUR idea? Even though the United States has recently concluded that they have no idea how many innocent people have already been executed?

I hate resorting to Ad Hominem, but this is for you: Fuck your face, you slimy inbred hick.

"I voted Democratic because I think illegal aliens have a right to free healthcare, education and Social Security benefits, and we should take away the Social Security from those who paid into it."

I would gladly support ANY MEASURE that guarantees people the above mentioned benefits, citizens and immigrants alike: You say you oppose them now but if YOU need them your ass will go crawling through that clinic door like a hungry orphan, just like my fellow Mainers who protested the local Wal-Mart when they first moved here (half of them shop and even work there now.) If I were in half as bad shape as some of these folks crossing our borders, I'd be damn grateful for SOME kind of help.

And as for Social Security, you do realize that it pays jack-and-or-shit considering that seniors are living over twice as long as they did back in the day when it was first implemented: Still, I'd NEVER want to take it away from anyone who has earned it, you have me confused for whatever redneck idiot YOU voted for.

"I voted Democratic because I believe that businesses should not be allowed to make profits for themselves. They need to break even and give the rest away to the government for redistribution as the Democrats see fit."

And here we see the author clearly knows nothing about how most American businesses actually operate. After getting out of the Marines, my Dad tried several start-from-nothing businesses on his own. He finally has one that has managed to survive for almost 17 years, yet still paying down debts from previous failures. That's life and that's business for you. Even if you ARE making money you're still taking huge risks as to whether or not you get to keep any of it in the long term, be it because of taxes or changes in any given market. Knowing this, it doesn't make any rational sense to blame lack of profit on any one thing.

Dad is also a dyed-in-the-wool Republican business owner who still pays all necessary and legal taxes. He also HONESTLY WANTS to be able to provide health-care to all of his employees, but in Maine it's damn near impossible right now.

"I voted Democratic because I believe Liberal judges need to rewrite the Constitution every few days to suit some fringe kooks who would never get their agendas past the voters"

Like the Constitutional amendment that would have permanently disallowed marriage equality for all Americans? Or how about initiatives taken to re-introduce religious doctrine into public tax-paid schools and hospitals? That was all them dirty hippies' fault, eh? No, I don't think so. I think that one line in of itself shows the depth of the author's delusion best of all.
"I voted Democratic because I think that it's better to pay billions for their oil to people who hate us but not drill our own because it might upset some endangered beetle, spotted owl, gopher or fish."
Speaking of the world of business: Oil and resources, like any other market, faces some changes in the near future that they will either adapt to and survive or stay at their current rate of destruction and perish. I'm not thrilled about paying for it either, but it was REPUBLICANS who approved the Iraq War in the first place, a war I served and barely survived myself. Dick Cheney said he'd do it all over again if he could, which is fine by me as long as I get to drag that fat, saggy fuck-stain along with me so he can see first-hand the lives he's responsible for destroying and ending.
If you want THAT kind of change, vote with your wallet as well as your ballot.
"I voted Democratic because my head is so firmly misplaced toward the south end of my body; it's unlikely that I'll ever have another point of view."

Really? All this passion in your rambling and THAT is the best you could come up with? You don't even have the cojones to tell me, in your own words, that you think I have my head so far up my own ass that I can read a newspaper from between my teeth? And furthermore, that's not even a reason: You added that whole extra bit just to be a jerk. Well, with THAT bullet-point you are correct, sir. You are, in fact, a fucking jerk. You're such a jerk you didn't bother expending the extra effort to come up with an original insult.

Don't get me wrong, if I COULD position my own head in such a way that I would be able to lick my own pussy then I'm pretty sure that's all I'd do for a good long time. But come on, dude! For all that despair and anger you finish off with such disappointment. 

Well done, James W Anderson of some place known only as Talladega. Ricky-Bobby would be so proud.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Acting Another Age

I now have bright parrot-green glowing finger and toe nails, within 24 hours I will be dying my hair a dark rosy-pink. The grey hairs on my head are sprouting left-and-right with the ferocity of dandelions in a summer lawn, I may as well face the fact that my ass is in fact getting old: I'm a ripe and juicy 32 years of age, I found my first grey pube a month ago. I just got out of the Army a week or so ago so it's not like I have anyone to answer to, the way I see it I might as well fight aging the best way I know: By all out rebelling against it.

I'm wearing a bright orange paisley dress that barely holds my tits up, I'm also contemplating my 4th tattoo.

I'm not afraid of getting old, I know it will happen eventually. But all of this seems a little too soon for me. I'm currently unemployed and looking forward to being a 32 year old Freshman in college, I don't have a smart-phone because I can't afford one and I never really bought that "Keeping Up With the Jones's" nonsense. Every time I go for a run my knees sound like a freshly prepared bowl of Rice Krispies, I'm so old I actually know more about how to file taxes than the average H & R Block guy.

Realizing you've aged is a really strange feeling. Little changes here and there, sure, then one day I look in the mirror to more bumps, scars and craters in my skin. I'm just not ready to trade in my Tampax for Depends, those things are expensive! I guess what I find the most disturbing about getting older is that I am not where I thought I'd be by now. THAT sucks: I can dye over grey hair, get a boob-job if I felt it necessary, liposuction  etc... There's just no un-doing certain decisions.

I'm looking forward to turning into a relentless Cougar, however.

If I could take what I know NOW and transfer that wisdom into my 16 year old self, I'd be ruling the planet in a leather corset-dress and a horde of my very own bitches. I guess that's why atheism suits me so well: I know I can't actually do that, I only have this one life to live so I have to make the best of it now and face rewards and consequences in real-time instead of some fictional ether-realm.

The biggest waste of a person's time really is religion, I spent my entire teenage life as a Bible-Thumping homophobe and wasted about 11 years plus who knows how many thousands of dollars with Wicca and New-Age meditation circles and ghost-hunting clubs. I am NEVER getting any of that back, not the time nor resources expended on badly formed ideas with no tangible benefit other than putting up a veneer of "enlightenment" to impress people.

It was one more excuse to be odd, but now I don't need it. I'm too old for faerie stories now, and to me it just seems downright silly that there are people actually combing fields and forests for live faeries in 2013.

Ghost Hunters are still on national syndicated television: Oh grow up already!

I'm hoping that within my lifetime, now that we live in an Information Age (where ignorance is largely a choice) I'll see fewer and fewer crystal-cleaving cults or ghost-hunting frauds polluting peoples' minds the way they jumble-fucked mine as a youth. But I think I'll actually end up WEARING Depends before I ever see it disappear entirely.

My tattoos will look like shit by then, but I won't care. Who in their right mind is going to chide a little old lady for painting her nails Martian-Jizz Green or dying her hair pink?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Justice vs Retribution

It would seem that one of my posts is quite popular in comparison to others made in the past, thank you all for that. I'd like to take a brief moment to thank Twitter users Alan Lewis of Florida and the host of The Herd Mentality Podcast, Adam Reakes of Sydney Australia, and also I'd like to thank this guy for not just simple re-tweets and mentions but for really lighting the motivational fires under their own asses and helping to put my cause out there. 

If you have no idea what the fuck I'm talking about, you need to see THIS.

Thanks again to the previously mentioned folks on Twitter, but thank all of you reading my blog just for hearing me out. I realize the issue of rape in the US military is a dark and muddy subject, with quite literally too many victims to count, and my story is just one among those but there IS something that distinguishes my situation from the woeful tales of the many that made it back alive: THAT should be crystal clear if you've read my post and watched the clip of me telling my story.

I want to thank YOU, reader, for your support and understanding. If you're reading this now then just THAT means a world of difference to me, that means I have a chance to get my message to the American public: Not only is harassing or raping your fellow Soldiers disgusting, not only does that manner of behavior have no place in the modern American military OR ANYWHERE, but to purposely allow such conditions to exist (especially as "punishment" for Soldiers who screw up) will have severe and life-long consequences reaching far beyond the Uniform.

And if any of you I served with down-range are just now reading this, if this isn't making you angry or afraid then you're in for a very unpleasant surprise indeed.

The United States Army got their pound of flesh from me and then some, now I'm going to serve up my former squad-mates and leaders and hold them accountable in any way I reasonably and legally can. 

As for anyone else who knows my story, all I ask of you is to share it: Tweet it, Post it and/or send it to your friends. ESPECIALLY if they're in the military themselves, it's high time the Department of Defense acknowledges just how ingrained the issue really is: Soldiers are harassing and trying to rape one another as a means of punishment for UCMJ violations and that shit has to stop NOW.

Thank you for reading and sharing, and if you're not subscribed to The Herd Mentality you are seriously missing out!

Friday, August 9, 2013

New Non-Skeletons (NSFW)

Yet another haul from the nethers of the household basement, let's have another viewing of crappy old artwork, yes? I just keep finding more and more strange stuff, if you've been observing my last few blog posts you already know what this is all about. If you have no idea what's going on, please click here: This is looking like it's going to be an ongoing project, but basically I'm salvaging old artwork I did many years ago and some of it comes from some very "interesting" periods of my life. 

So let's get on with the freak-show, yes? 

While it doesn't look terribly special, I'm actually rather glad this thing survived.

In my last post I found 4 samples of a series of which most didn't survive due to mold and moisture, now that number is up to 5 thanks to this little bastard: It may not look remarkable on my screen, but I think the strongest thing this painting has going for it is the subtle contrasts. Red melting into gray, fields of black with thin white highlighting, it may look half-assed to an untrained eye but for something that took less than an hour I'm kind of impressed with it. 

Moving right along...

When I was a teen, the one thing I read more fervently than the Bible was CIRCUS Magazine.

I have no idea if CIRCUS is even still in circulation, I do hope it is (if for nothing other than late 90's nostalgia) but I used to stuff my lunch-money in my purse and save it for buying the latest issue, then eat a big meal as soon as I got home from school. My church-mates weren't really happy with me about it back then, they thought that harder music brought about the "dark feelings" that, according to their beliefs, increased one's vulnerability to demonic possession: Which, also according to their beliefs, wasn't supposed to be able to happen if you were "Truly Saved" so I thought of myself as being immune.

Seriously, it's just fucking music. 

After leaving Christianity and running face-first into New-Age ideas, I developed this odd little mish-mash of Buddhism and Wicca, leaning pretty heavy toward the Wiccan side of things.

According to most Wiccan beliefs (it's a VERY BROAD BRUSH indeed because there's no institutional figure-head, Wicca is the epitome of "making it up as you go along") there are Light and Dark sides of everything, they want to avoid the dark side like the plague but most Wiccans would generally agree that the "Light" is the right way to go. Many will tell you that "Real Wiccans don't walk on the Dark Side" but I don't need to point out the No True Scotsman Fallacy and it's intricacies to you lot.

The figure in the sketch above is Kwannon, the Japanese version of the rather popular Quan Yin: According to myth, she (and sometimes a he) is the ideal embodiment of compassion and mercy. With this drawing, which I had intended to render into a full-sized painting, I was toying with the idea of what Kwannon's "Dark Side" might look like. How would she carry herself? Would she have a weapon (I went with a Samurai Sword, you can see she's about to whip it out) and what kind of mood would she have?

I've seen Circles and Covens tear themselves to bits arguing about concepts like these, but as far as artwork is concerned I just thought it'd be a little harmless fun as well as a potentially kick-ass art project. Funny thing about being an atheist and looking at religious artwork is just trying to appreciate how much effort the artist put into trying to create something genuinely special, this is doubly strange when YOU are the artist re-discovering an old piece of unfinished work.

And speaking of which...

I'm not a fan of Bible Stories, most of them creep me the fuck out. But the tale of Judith and Holofernes is a favorite of mine, at least as far as works of art are concerned.

What you see here are two snapshots for an intended master-work, my own rendering of the ageless classic: Judith. The first version of this theme that I ever saw was the first one painted by Gustav Klimt, I fell head over heels for his work from there on out. After my cousin showed me a massive book full of his paintings, I knew right then and there that I had a fire in my mind that there was no stopping as long as I had a brush in my hands. 

And yes, you'll notice that I modeled the sword after the energy swords from HALO. Unfortunately, by the time I actually got around to starting the painting itself I was in the middle of a pretty nasty break-up and had to set the project on the back-burner indefinitely. I found the panel, it's mostly intact, but so far I think I prefer the sketch to the as-of-yet unfinished painting...

I fucked it up SOMEWHERE, but moving right along...

Ah, here we go!

I think I made this one with the specific purpose of offending people for no real reason other than that I could, is it working?

I experimented with all manner of fetish art for a brief period of time, here we have a hooker squatting and lactating all over a Bible on the floor. But for some reason I'm more impressed with the image of the octopus int he upper-left, I swear the fucker is getting off on this bizarre little shindig. 

Fucking perverted octopus!

Ah, I did this picture in between High School semesters. I think this was not long after the first time I ever had sex (with a dude, that is.)

What? Not everyone gives up their virginity to the opposite sex, what's it to you? The chick I slept with turned out to be a bit vapid, I guess I wasn't happy with the idea of just being Ms Wednesday: I was very misled about sex and relationships as a youth, I mistook possessiveness for faithfulness and that wound up scaring away A LOT of potential partners. I blame THAT MESS on semi-dysfunctional Catholic upbringing being hijacked by dogmatic Evangelical brain-fuckery. 

Surely there must be at least a few semi-tasteful pieces, right?

Ah yes, meet my ex: Daniel. I needed (shit, STILL need) as much practice as possible drawing the male figure and he was all too happy to help.

Finding male art models on the internet isn't as easy as you'd think, especially if you're a female artist. The few models I HAVE worked with were usually people close to me, which saved me money and most of my friends actually found fun. As soon as I can get situated again I should really re-open a workable studio.

That's all I've got this time, I'll keep digging for more "treasures" and post them.

More Non-Skeletons (NSFW)

I found more bad art from my youth in the basement today, here it is. If you saw my last blog post, I've been undertaking a wee bit of a salvage/restoration project with several boxes of artwork that I had done over the course of approximately a decade. The earliest pieces that I have go back to 1998 and the most recent date I've thus far been able to track is late 2008. A LOT of old stuff was ruined by mold and improper storage over the years, but most of that was crap anyway.

Well, as promised, here's some more visual self-humiliation...

This one goes back to 2000, the year I graduated High School. 

THIS was around the time I was not only having some serious cognitive dissonance between Christianity and my own doubts, but trying to get a sense of how to formulate opinions on (then) current events. Originally, the giant clock-eyed monster was supposed to be urinating on little Elian Gonzales beneath him, but my mom was getting really freaked out that I was painting so much work bearing a rather ... well, prominent feature. I guess I never really got around to properly finishing it, but I think there's some pretty decent (though heavily dogmatized) symbolism in here... 

1) I've never trusted cops, still don't. I have issues with "authority figures" to begin with, so I'm attributing this to youthful rebellion. 2) Yes, that's a nuclear church. Interpret that however you like, but I think at the time I had an obsession with the apocalypse. 3) I blame drugs for this thing.

I guess if you really honestly think that your god is about to end it's creation and everything in it, to include YOU regardless of how faithful you are to it's cause, it kinda sparks a fucked up fire in your brain: Dude, I'm on your side! If you love me so much then why do you want to destroy everything you made for me? 

I gave Jesus the boot within a year after this painting. Moving on...

Yes, these were originally part of a series I was putting together. Out of 12 originals, THESE are the only ones that survived repeated flooding in my parents' basement.

Christian obsession with government "persecution and corruption" is nothing new, as you can see by the date on these (2000) and STILL just as asinine as it was back in those days. Of course our government has cracks and stains from corruption and scandal, show me ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT that doesn't! But I was 19, I thought I knew it all because my Pastors and Bible Studies were telling me so... I kinda found out the hard way not long later that the world was a very different place than what I had been told.

Ooh, I hope you're ready for this ... 

Yes, that is exactly what it looks like: Hermaphrodite Corsetry/Bondage, acrylic on canvas-board. 

I'd like to remind you, dear reader, that at NO POINT in this blog did I make any claim to sanity or normalcy: Normal is for bitches, and if art never crosses any lines then it has no purpose. That having been said, this one surprised even me: I don't even remember painting it. I think I was still living in Portland (The REAL Portland, not that fake one over in Oregon.) 

I don't expect people to like my work, regardless of the subject matter. Finding these things and documenting them has been a bit of a shock even for me, this is actually a tad embarrassing for me personally. Each piece I find is a bit like a bad drinking story, feelings of "I can't believe I thought that was a good idea" flood my mind every time I look at them. But at the same time I can only really be honest with myself, even greats like Salvador Dali made some pretty bad art in the days their youth (his earliest works were actually incredibly boring compared to later melting clocks and burning giraffes.) 

And yes, as I FIND more I will be happy to POST more: Some of this stuff is actually really good, at least I think so.

More to come in the future, folks.