Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Lunch break hijinks

Following a trip to ye olde Chinese Buffet (which, I might add, was out of cheese pizza) and a health-conscious light cigarette, I meandered towards the lobby doors of the office building where I work. A few feet behind me was a woman pushing an older lady in a wheelchair. My instinctive reaction was to hold the door open for her, on account of I'm a reasonably nice guy. However, as I reached for the door handle, the woman pushing the wheelchair called out, "Hold the doo-or! Hold the doo-or!" in this ultra-chipper, sing-song voice. Then she let fly with a fake-hearty laugh. The implied message, of course, was "Look at the incredible burden I have. Don't worry, I'm muddling through somehow, but I need you to notice and acknowledge all the sacrifices I make in the name of humanity."

Passive aggression is never in season, but I waited for her, because there wasn't a logistical way of letting the wheelchair through and then slamming the door in her face. As we all moved towards the elevator, a well-dressed businesswoman looked up at us, suddenly wide-eyed. The doors slid open, and she threw herself into the elevator, jabbing the "Door Open" button and yelling, "I've got the door! I've got the door!" It was like the Rapture was upon us, and the only place the avenging angels weren't going to look for condemned souls was between floors. Again, an implied message: "Oh, dear Lord, that poor, poor woman! I must help in some way, so that the Powers That Be will smile favorably upon me, and will never, ever allow me to end up in the same situation. Also, this totally makes up for me sticking Mom in that nursing home and never calling."

White people are weird.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Godspeed, cabrito

"Mr. Roberts" opened this past Friday, to rave reviews and a standing ovation. I even made people cry during the final scene. Lordy, but I love doing that. Better than heroin that is.

Granted, there were a few foul-ups here and there, and I'm going to have to get pretty stern with the guy who's job it is to spray me down with shaving cream backstage when my character blows up a laundry room (it's a quality versus quantity situation), but overall, I couldn't ask for more. Especially considering the disarray the show was in during the final week of rehearsals: the set wasn't finished, we were missing about half of our props, and one of the leads didn't know his lines... so the director fired him. Two days before we opened.

Our director, a talented actor in his own right, jumped into the vacant role and managed to get off book within 48 hours. It changed the whole dynamic, and it inspired the cast to pitch in and drag the show back together. It was one of the most bonding theatrical experiences I've ever gone through. If I'm ever on a plane with these guys and we crash in the Andes and have to eat the dead to survive, I'd totally share my scavenged bodies with them.

On a somber note, the goat escaped.

See, there's one particular scene in the play that calls for a goat. The goat is led onstage, a couple of jokes are made at the goat's expense, and then the goat is led away. End scene. Our stage manager made contact with a local livestock farm, who said they'd be happy to provide us with an old nanny show goat--one used to crowds of people, being handled, etc. What was delivered to us, though, was a young male kid who spent rehearsals screaming like a banshee and biting people (apparently, the show goat was too busy popping pills in her trailer to make it to the set). So the scene was cut, and the goat went to live in the director's backyard, to be returned to the farm at the end of the week.

A couple of nights ago, the goat somehow managed to break out and fled into the night, never to be heard from again. Animal Control has been notified and is currently scouring the neighborhood, but knowing how this goat reacts to humans in general, I'm betting he takes a few officers with him when he goes down.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Nothing but the best for our corpses

There's been a white hearse parked outside of my office since 6:30 this morning. The driver is moseying around the courtyard by the front doors, occasionally glancing at his watch. I keep picturing him as one of those chauffeurs you see at the airport, looking professional but bored, and holding up a little cardboard sign that reads "You."

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Count the italics, win prizes

As previously mentioned, I'm in a play right now at a local community theatre. I'm actually one of the leads--I play the lecherous ne'er-do-well, which I wish I could say was a stretch. As it is, the director's an old college roommate of mine, who mentioned that he cast me because the character reminded him of when we lived together.

Reputations are sometimes hard to scrub off.

As a lark, I've started categorizing the actors I'm working with, and I've been able to identify three distinct groups. The first group, the one I fall into, is comprised of people with zero to moderate theatrical training, who occasionally feel like performing in a public venue. We may not be Academy Award material, but we have a lot of fun. The downside is that we're easily distracted by outside influences, and our careers tend to take precedence over our stagework. ("How am I supposed to focus on my character arc when the quarterly reports are due? My God, man, the quarterly reports...")

The second group is made up of people who have devoted their lives to the Stage. The best thing about them is that they freakin' commit. Need them off-book by tomorrow? They were off-book the day before yesterday. Need somebody to stay an extra 14 hours after rehearsal to finish the set? No problem--they'll spend the night in the theatre. Some of them are pretty talented as well, and they're almost always high-energy, so overall they're enjoyable to work with. The only thing I've noticed that's sort of off-kilter is their habit of emphasizing theatrical terms when they speak, which I think stems from deeply internalized acting lessons: "Now, when I move from center stage to upstage right, should I deliver that soliloquy in a stage whisper, or should I really project from my diaphram?"

Finally, there are my personal favorite community theatre denziens, the Aging Divas with Negligable Acting Ability. These winners are absolutely convinced that they're God's Gift to the Theatre, but will turn around and deliver their lines in a brain-freezing monotone, broken up by excruciating pauses where they try to remember their blocking. We've got one in this show, and he's making me very, very crazy, to the point where I start twitching everytime he opens his mouth (kind of distracting in scenes where we have to interact). As our director put it to me in a private conversation which I probably shouldn't be posting on the Internet: "I've never met anyone who's every theatrical instinct is so wrong."

I shouldn't complain, though. Really, the show's coming along nicely, and the star has this natural, softspoken style that he's using to create an endearing, believable character. He's quite handsome, too, and he's all into holistic health and hemp-based textiles, and no, I am not completely infatuated with him, nor have I ever fantasized about him striking yoga poses in my living room while I do the Dance of the Seven Veils to Barry White's Greatest Hits, so stop looking at me like that.

(ed. note: What does all this have to do with the state of NeoPaganism in the world today? Well, let me tell you, not a damn thing. Unless, of course, you take into account that theatre evolved out of ancient ritual performance, in which case this has everything in the world to do with NeoPaganism. This is quite possibly the Most Pagan Post Ever Written.)

Monday, June 13, 2005

Dunkin' Donuts? I'm there!

The city of Salem, MA has invited Witches from all over to drop in on June 15 for the dedication of a bronze statue of Samantha Stephens, the main character from TV's "Bewitched." Here's a snippet from the press release:

"We want the world to know that the positive image of a Witch (albeit fictional) that Samantha casts is a welcome contrast to the negative (and also fictional) image of the Witch that the trials branded us with here in 1692... If we get enough real confirmations, we will provide coffee from Dunkin' Donuts!

"We want it to be known that Witches love our TV soul sister Samantha! So, the look is witchy black, taller boots, pointy hats... flowing capes, and magical finery. We want to show the world that Witches are alive and well in Salem, Massachusetts and around the world!"

Hoo-kay. First off, let's ignore the fact that this dedication closely coincides with the opening of the new "Bewitched" movie (marketing strategy, anyone?). Also, let's zip on past the fact that the particular brand of slapstick witchcraft presented in a 1960's sitcom in no way represents Wicca or NeoPaganism, nor was it ever meant to. For the sake of time and space, let's just zero in on the glaring truth that Samantha is one of the least appropriate "role models" on the entire show, especially in terms of what this statue dedication is supposed to accomplish.

Really, who is a better embodiment of "Witch Pride"? Samantha, who spends at least 30 minutes a week trying to hide her true nature from her neighbors, or Endora and Uncle Arthur, who are happy with who and what they are, and don't give a rat's ass what anyone thinks? I vote for big, sequined statues of Agnes Moorhead and Paul Lynde, not a housewife with identity issues.

Besides, on a fundamental level, "Bewitched" wasn't even about witchcraft. It was loosely based on the movie "Bell, Book and Candle," which was based on the stageplay of the same name--and in the play, witchcraft was a thinly-veiled metaphor for the gay scene in New York during the 1940's. If you've ever read the script or seen the show, it's, like, painfully obvious: all these bohemian types congregating in bars and going on about their artistic temperaments. And when you consider that a huge chunk of the "Bewitched" cast was gay and fairly open about it... well, it certainly makes "Queer as Folk" seem less ground-breaking, don't it?

Which reminds me: I'm going to miss the Houston GLBT Pride Parade this year, on account of I got cast in a play that opens that weekend. But the way I see it, there's hardly a better way to celebrate Gay Pride than by performing on the public stage.

The fact that the show takes place aboard a naval ship is just gravy.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Reclaiming the word "reclaiming"

Pagans are a lot like Labradors. One or two are fun to be around, but with 20 or more, your chances of getting knocked down and slobbered on increase exponentially. Therefore, I tend to avoid local Pagan get-togethers, although I subscribe to bucket loads of Houston-area Pagan listservs. Just because I don't want to go doesn't mean I don't want to know what I missed.

A woman recently popped up on one of these listservs, announcing herself as a Satanic witch ("Hail Lucifer" and such). This caused quite a commotion. As one member wrote, "Isn't this the kind of stereotype we're trying to fight?"

It always surprises me when people think the words Wicca and witch are mutually exclusive; like every practitioner of some occult discipline or other is Wiccan, whether they want to be or not. I was shocked when I read some Amazon.com reviews of books by Paul Huson and Ana Riva: "Don't buy this book! It says it's about witchcraft, but it's not Wiccan at all!" Apparently, it doesn't matter that Huson comes from a Scottish family tradition and makes a distinction between his own practices and those of Wicca, or that Riva's brujeria is a blend of indigenous Central American tradition and Catholicism, similar to Voudon or Santeria. Their books don't read like Scott Cunningham's, so they're automatically suspect.

Gag.

A number of pop-Wicca authors have made a big fuss about redefining the word witch to mean "strong, powerful woman" as opposed to... um, well, "witch." The problem with that, of course, is that it's hard to reclaim a word that people are already using for self-identification. For every womynist who calls herself a witch out of political outrage and rails against the Patriarchy, there's a shriveled old lady in a backwoods shack collecting toadstools and overseeing the local birthings.

As for our little Satanic witch friend, everyone seems to have gotten over her, although why she would want to pal around with a bunch of treehugging Goddess-worshippers is beyond me. Maybe she's one of those "I don't really worship Satan, I'm just selfish" Satanists, or perhaps she's a standard-issue shockmonger a la Anton LaVey. Honestly, I'm fine with her as long as she's not into the whole Temple of Set thing, because I hear those guys are pretty intense. If you ever meet someone from the Temple of Set, seriously, don't drink the Kool-Aid.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Total and terrifying relaxation

I got cupped the other night. While that may sound initiatory and/or kind of dirty, cupping is actually an ancient Chinese healing technique. Small leather patches are placed along the back, with little pieces of alcohol-soaked cotton sitting on top of them. The pieces of cotton are set on fire, and then glass cups are placed over them. The resulting heat and partial vacuum create local congestions and blood stasis. Or, in layman's terms, big wads of your flesh are sucked up into the cups.

Surprisingly, it doesn't hurt. I think it was supposed to, though--one of my friends was trying to hold my hands and comfort me by saying things like, "It will all be over soon," "you're doing a great job," etc. But really, it just feels like a massage where the masseuse squeezes your shoulders and doesn't let go. However, once the cups are removed, you're left with these 3-inch-wide circular hickies all down your back, which I thought was kind of funny at first, up until I realized how much they look like the marks left by giant squid tentacles.

I should mention that I have an irrational yet deeply internalized fear of giant squid.

Logically, I know that I will almost never be in a situation where a giant squid will be able to get me, but that doesn't stop me from freaking out about it. I've had panic attacks after watching giant squid-themed horror movies. The Houston Museum of Natural History has a life-sized replica of a giant squid looming over a staircase, and I screamed like a white woman when I blithely turned a corner and smacked into it. Despite my vegetarian diet, I've been known to devour large plates of calamari, since that way I can eat the squid before the squid can eat me.

And now, whenever I step out of the shower and catch my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I think, "Boy, it sure does looks like a giant squid did a number on my back. I'm very lucky to have survived." Then the shuddering starts.

But yeah, cupping was fun. In the future, though, I think I'll stick with massage therapy that doesn't involve disfigurement or traumatic flashbacks. It just seems healthier that way.

Monday, June 06, 2005

"This award... so much bigger... than me..."

The reviews are in, and it's a smash hit! Check out these "Lover of Strife" accolades:

"...a wonderful persona." --This girl I know

"Very witty." --This guy I know

"You're the Pagan Dave Barry!" --This other girl I know

"What's the point of having a blog, anyway?" --My boyfriend

Evn has a scare!

I was playing around on the Internet last night when suddenly, and with a disheartening click, my computer shut down. My first thought was that there had been a power outtage, up until I realized that all of the lights were still on. Discarding that idea, I moved on to the next most logical assumption: I must have destroyed the computer with the power of my mind. Again.

Let me say right now that I am not one of those people who're convinced they're living in the X-Files. I'm all set to believe in alien abductions and demonic possessions and life-shattering curses thrown by covens of evil witches, with the caveat that those who have experienced such things do not sit next to me on buses.

That said, I kill computers.

A couple of years back, Jack and I were arguing over something having to do with the computer (I don't remember exactly what brought the whole thing on, but I'm sure I was totally in the right). The argument ended with me yelling, "Well, I'm never using the computer ever again, so there!" Satisfied that my point had been driven home in a way that was not at all reminiscent of a five-year-old's temper tantrum, I stomped off to bed. The next day found Jack at Best Buy picking up a new hard drive to replace the one that had mysteriously fried overnight.

I wrote this off as certainly not my fault, but reconsidered when several other computers terminally crashed in my presence, including my friend Sarah's laptop, which was unharmed, offline and unplugged when I got to her house one afternoon, but somehow managed to suffer fatal power surge-related damages while I was sitting next to it.

After several conversations with various occultists who know from these things, I learned that these computer malfunctions were resulting from misdirected energy. For example, when arguing with Jack, I was directing my anger at the computer instead of him, so the computer took the brunt of my emotions. It was a simple thing to start saying things like, "Jack, I am very upset right now, and I'd like to discuss some things and work them out," as opposed to "Aaargh, I hate the freaking computer and all the misery it has brought into my life! Stupid, stupid computer!"

I decided to talk to Jack about this, figuring that if I was being completely superstitious and/or irrational, he'd smack some sense into me. Instead, he stared at me for a bit, then said, "That's why I don't like it when you point at me." Feeling validated, if not slightly concerned that my ever-loving life partner thinks of me as a loaded weapon with a broken safety, I worked to have a better mindframe when messing with the computer. The number of replacement hard drives we were buying decreased dramatically, and Jack and I stopped being so passive-agressive with each other.

And then last night, the computer turned itself off.

Being the technophile of the house, Jack immediately crawled under the desk with a flashlight to check the wiring while I sat on the bed chanting, "I swear I didn't do it." After a couple of seconds of poking around, Jack popped back up and announced that one of our cats had stepped on the switch of the power strip, shutting off the computer. So then I felt better.

I did briefly entertain the notion that maybe I had psychically contacted the cat, telepathically bidding her to turn off the computer for me. But then I realized that my cats don't do what I want even when I'm screaming at them. If I established some kind of psychic rapport with my cats, it would just prove that they see me as the big, stupid cat who can reach the can opener.

Get thee behind me, Teenagers

Call me authoritarian, but I sincerely believe that any NeoPagan younger than 21 should be placed under round-the-clock supervision by a crack team of child psychologists, drill sargeants and High Priestesses, with tranquilizers and bitchslaps applied as necessary.

Now, before anyone lets fly with the angry e-mails chock-full of invectives and Silver RavenWolf quotes, let me just say that yes, I was once a NeoPagan younger than 21, and yes, I was none too terribly bright about it. I wrote longwinded, surly letters to my college newspaper about the history of Halloween and the discrimination I believed I was being subjected to by evil, hatemongering Christians. I wore a Celtic-style pentacle the size of a dinner plate. At one point, I think I was even saying "Goddess bless you" whenever anyone sneezed.

To sum up, I was very, very annoying. But in my defense, I don't recall being anywhere near as annoying as the teenaged NeoPagans currently infesting my sphere of existence. (And please note, that's my sphere of existence: the ones in your neck o' the woods might be lovely. If so, buy them a round of cherry phosphates, on me, and tell them I said cracklin' good job.)

I'm not normally so angsty about the Teen Pagan set ("Um, yes you are."--Everyone), but a good buddy of mine had a run-in with one of the little varmits. He was having a conversation with several of his friends about various aspects of ritual work, and the subject of altar placement came up. He asserted, "It really doesn't matter where you put your altar, as long as you have a valid reason for it."

At that point, one of our local teeny-boppers piped up. "Well, I don't make excuses to my Gods. I put the altar in the East because my religion says so."

There's a rational, logical part of me that says with some direction and a reputable reading list, this kid could turn out fine. With a little luck, he'll go on to never make inane, insulting comments like that ever again, especially to people who've been practicing "his religion" longer than he's been alive. Unfortunately, that part of me just got shanked by the part of me that growls at neighborhood dogs. I realize that I'm well on my way to becoming that scary old man at the end of the block with an overgrown lawn and boarded-up windows, and you know what? I made peace with that a long time ago. If it repels the children who can't tell the difference between Dungeons & Dragons and spirituality, then by all means, bring it on.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Chickens taste of babies

Over the last couple of weeks, I've started collecting Pagan and witchcraft-themed movies. I've already amassed quite a pile of them: everything from films like "Bell, Book and Candle" to B-rated cult classics like "Lair of the White Worm" to absolute schlock like "Halloween III." My latest find is the Jim Henson production "The Witches," starring Anjelica Huston. I was curled up on the couch watching this particular epic while Jack was in the kitchen whipping up soy-flour onion rings and low-carb fried chicken. Jack poked his head in just as the Grandma character was warning her grandson all about the dangers of witches.

Grandma: "Real witches hate children."

Jack (glancing in my direction): "Well, I know that's true."

It's nice to have a partner who accepts both my belief system and the fact that I'd rather have scabies than kids. He's a keeper, that one is.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Get to know me! ME!!!

So, "Evnissyen." What the hell kind of stupid name is that?

Evnissyen is what's commonly called a "public" name. Lots of NeoPagans have them. Basically, it's the name you go by when you're in a Pagan-oriented setting, like a festival or a campout, although some NeoPagans use theirs on a daily basis (which makes for far more interesting job interviews).

Then Evnissyen's not your real name.

Actually, it is. It's a lot more real than whatever name shows up on my paychecks.

Huh. So you go around making people call you Evnissyen?

I usually go by Evn (pronounced "Evan," not "Ev-nuh"), which in general saves a lot of time and confusion:

"Hi, I'm Morrigan!"

"Morgan, is it?"

"No, Morrigan. She was an ancient Celtic war deity, and a Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess!"

"Um, okay. Nice to meet you, Morgan."

There are a number of NeoPagans out there who revel in these kinds of situations, and bully for them. Personally, though, I'd rather be able to introduce myself without having to give crash courses in Welsh mythology.

What's the significance of your middle name? Is the wren your personal totem? A spirit guide of some sort?

It's just a family name on my dad's side.

Oh. That's not very interesting at all, then.

Not really, no. Anything else?

I think we're all done here. Thank you for your concise, insightful answers. You're a credit to the Pagan community.

Yeah, I know.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Am I... normal?

Individualism is innate. We're not a collective intelligence; we're not bees, we're not Borg. Free will and all that. Western culture tends to celebrate a contradictory brand of individualism, i.e. "I want to be different, just like you," but on a literal level, we are just a big ol' mess of separate and unique entities.

Normality, on the other hand, is contextual. For example, if I were to show up at work wearing nothing but a sarong and stompy combat boots, I would get some odd looks, and possibly a stern talking to about the office dress code. "Why is he dressed like that?" my co-workers would e-mail to one another. "It's just not normal." Now, were I to show up at a Radical Faerie campout wearing khaki slacks and a smart button-down shirt, I'd get some odd looks, and possibly a stern talking to about not being in touch with my anima. "Why is he dressed like that?" the Faeries would whisper to one another while putting the finishing touches on their hag-drag for the No Talent Show. "It's just not normal."

See? It's all relative. If, for instance, you're not familiar with the harmonic stylings of Kelly Clarkson, it doesn't mean you're a societal outcast. It means your musical tastes lie elsewhere. And there are gaggles and gaggles of other people out there who don't watch reality TV, and as such are also not aware of her rise to fame and subsequent album. Or does she have more than one now? I haven't really been paying attention.

Regardless, I don't have multiple heads, or superpowers, or even a third nipple. I am, for all practical purposes, normal. And yes, Virginia, so are you.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Vampire-a-Go-Go! No, really. Go.

I met a vampire the other day. It was kind of a revealing snapshot of my life: a random stranger tells me he's a vampire, and I say "Ah!" like it's a pleasant surprise, then continue with what I'm doing. There was probably a point where I would have at least pretended to be freaked out, if only for his sake. As it was, though, he didn't even fall into the top 5 weirdest people I'd run into that week.

Apparently, this guy was a Very Special vampire. He claimed he was a positive-energy vampire, which according to the Vampire Church (I don't know, either) only turns up once a century or so. I wasn't really sure what to say to that. "Congratulations!" or "Way to go!" seemed too enthusiastic, so I just nodded, like I totally understood. At the same time, I was thinking how the conversation was reminding me of those people who go through past-life regressions and announce that they were once Cleopatra.

We ended up chatting for awhile. Or more specifically, he chatted and followed me around while I tried to get away from him, and then he asked me if I could give him a ride home. With that, I realized "Oh, he's that kind of vampire." See, there very well may be beings out there who draw sustenance, even pleasure, from feeding off the energy fields of humans--personally, I have not met any, but that doesn't mean they can't exist. I mean, I haven't met the president, but he's certainly real, no matter how hard I pretend he's not.

What I have met are people who look for any kind of in and then latch on, sucking up as much attention and affection as they can. They rarely have cash on them (but they're good for it, promise), and they almost always need a ride somewhere. Their personal relationships are fraught with drama, as they try to contribute as little as possible while whining to high heaven that their needs are not being met.

Never, ever, ever go camping with them.

Now, are these people actually sucking anything out of me, other than my will to live? Probably not. But they are leading highly parasitic existences, and as such, I would call them vampires. Actually, I think the technical term is "self-serving, manipulative little assholes," but that's just terribly unromantic-sounding. Besides, no one's ever going to market a role-playing game called "Self-Serving, Manipulative Little Assholes: The Awakening." A gay porno, maybe, but not an RPG.