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What I Owe

6 Jan

Sixth grade was a rough year for lots of people, and I’m not an exception. Nobody realized it at the time, but looking back I recognize the signs of my anxiety disorder–overwhelming dread, obsessive counting, forgetfulness, crippling inability to focus or make decisions, the total destruction of my fingertips. I still deal with this, but as an adult I understand what’s going on, and as a child I was just panicky and stressed all the time. It doesn’t help that I wasn’t just not popular–I was unpopular, in that I was the subject of active, organized, widespread teasing and bullying. That wasn’t new, but I was getting older, and I was starting to care more. That’s not to say there weren’t bright spots, because there were. I distinctly remember three: band, the couple of friends I had at school, and Robin McKinley.

Robin McKinley came into my life because my 10-year-old morality was sketchy at best: I picked up The Hero and the Crown from the shelf that my social studies teacher reserved for her homeroom students’ library books. I don’t know if I intended to give it back, but I do know that I never did, and the guy who had checked it out had to pay for it. I’m not sorry. He was a jerk. Anyway, I read that book over and over and over, until I could recite passages (I still can). I would finish it only to start again immediately, and I carried it with me everywhere like a talisman against evil. Or crushing lonliness. My memories of 6th grade can only be categorized in two ways: Being Miserable, or Reading The Hero and the Crown. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say this book saved my life. Over the last two decades I have returned to it, and her other books, more times than I can count, in times of joy as well as sorrow, and each time I’ve read one of her books I’ve found all the perspective, validation, inspiration, entertainment, hope, comfort, and motherfucking great storytelling I could want.

Her partner of 23 years, Peter Dickinson, recently passed away. She was silent on social media for several months before reporting his second stroke; the next time we heard from her was today, when she posted the eulogy she delivered at his memorial service. It is heartfelt and well-crafted.

I’ve never met Robin McKinley, but she has been with me through some of the most difficult periods of my life, beginning in sixth grade and extending into my early 30s (so far). Her books shaped the woman and writer I am in too many ways to name. I owe her an unpayable debt, and I adore her. She is going through the unimaginable and I have nothing to offer her except empty words from a person she has never met.

She didn’t write her books for me, but they were a gift to me anyway. I’m going to go buy some more of Peter’s books, and I’m going to plant a tree for him, and for her, and I’m going to keep crying. And then I’m going to work on my novel, ok, because sometimes all you can do is take the gift someone gave you and try to give a gift to someone else.

Sailing for adventure on the big blue wet thing: Movie Pirates

19 Sep

Arr, mateys! The 10th annual International Talk Like A Pirate Day be here! Grab yer cutlass and WTF I am not going to keep doing this.

I kind of love pirates. A few years ago, you may recall, pirates got SUPER DUPER popular when this one movie came out and apparently made a lot of people really rich and famous? I’m not good with numbers. Anyway, for a long time you couldn’t turn around without bumping into some dude who was wearing an eyepatch and babbling about your booty. I had a minor fit of hipster pique and stopped doing the pirate thing for a while, but since Steampunk has pretty much replaced piracy as the Everpresent Pop Culture Item Of The Moment, I’ve come back to the fold. So. In a transparent quest for page views, let’s look at pictures of movie pirates!

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May all your Christmasses be glittery

25 Dec

When I was in middle school and high school, we went to a church that put on an outdoor Live Nativity pageant every year. It was a big damn deal. Probably a third of the church members were involved, whether performing or making costumes or narrating or wrangling the five dozen kids and sheep and donkeys. The costumes, props, and set pieces took up the entire attic of the enormous Victorian house that was the parsonage once upon a time. The pageant ran two or three days, multiple shows of about an hour and a half, and afterwards there was an enormous party at the TGI Fridays one of the members owned. For a kid who loved theatre, Christmas, and TGI Fridays, it was the single most awesome way to get into the Christmas Spirit.

It also involved an ass-ton of glitter, which is why I liked it.

I spent the vast majority of my years in the Live Nativity as an angel in the Heavenly Host that announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds watching their flocks by night. The angel group, mostly made up of little girls, was led/choreographed/rehearsed/wrangled by the Head Angel, widely considered (by me, which is the only opinion I am concerned with) to be the Archangel Gabriel. It was also one of the choicest of all the roles for teenage girls, right up there with Mary and a dancing girl in Herod’s court. As Mary was usually played, for reasons unknown, by a much tinier girl than me (I’m 6′ tall and broad of both chest and shoulder), and did not get to wear any glitter at all, and the dancing girls also wore no glitter, and also were only in one brief scene, I felt my choice to stick it out until I got to be the Head Angel was the correct one.

Not only did the Head Angel get to be the star of the announcement scene, which was easily the most spectacular bit of the entire spectacular extravaganza, but she also got to stand on top of the stable (or behind the baby Jesus if she so wished, but I usually sent the little angels down to do that because it was just so fucking precious) for the entire end, looking fantastically pretty and covered head-to-toe in sparkles while the narrator joyfully intoned from Isaiah over the loudspeakers and everyone gazed reverently at Baby Jesus, by which I mean they gazed reverently at the Head Angel, because for fuck’s sake, how could they not? Her costume was made of lamé and tinsel, and had elastic fucking sequin trim. And the glitter. I must have used a pound of that shit at every performance.

I tell this story for two reasons. One, it’s Christmas Day, the gifts are all opened, the kitties are asleep, and I’ve got nothing to do but watch Die Hard and try to decide if I have the energy to get up for more cookies. Second, I want to provide some context for what you’re about to see.

The Radically Tacky Christmas Wreath of Comfort and JoyTM is a work in progress. I’ve had it for a couple of years now. It was pretty horrible to begin with, a red and green concoction of cheap shiny plastic that I got at God knows where, but then I started adding shit to it. Gold tinsel. Plastic icicles. A hideous and slightly stinky faux-velvet ribbon. And this year, candy-cane colored straws and a sleigh-shaped ornament, because that’s what I had to hand. Next year I’m thinking googly eyes and a nativity scene made of Legos.

So in the spirit of Christmas, which for me will always mean as much tacky, sparkly, glittery shit as I can squeeze into my house and onto my person, I present this creation, which may be the masterpiece I spend most of my life perfecting, a la The Lord of the Rings or Once Upon a Time In America or perhaps even Monet’s Water Lilies.

I hope your day is full of sparkles and joy.

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