Monday, November 21, 2016

I have faith in nights.

I've fallen a little bit behind on my writing, largely due to the fact that I live in a very liberal part of the US, and the Presidential election has created a bit of a panic. 

Regardless of what your personal political opinion may be, you probably know people who are feeling scared and threatened right now. The gothic community has long been a safe space for people of all genders and orientations, admittedly we aren't as racially diverse as we could be - but with each passing year I see more goths of color being welcomed to the scene, and it warms the icy dungeon of my heart. 

The gothic scene has always been a haven for people who don't fit in with mainstream culture. We take pleasure in things that most people might consider morbid or scary. That sets us apart, but it also brings us together.  Despite the arguments, schisms, and "gother than thou" attitudes, we are basically just a crowd of black wearing weirdos who somehow managed to find other black-clad weirdos to dance with.

The next few years may be hard for many of the people we know and love. I'm not much of an activist, but I try to do as much good in the world as I can, and I hope that my fellow goths follow suit. Gothic Charm School has provided a great resource for those in America who can afford to donate to good causes.

For those who aren't ready to take a side, or who have chosen a different path, or are living in another part of the world, I would ask that you do your best to be kind. The well-being of your friends and family are more important than your politics. Your humanity is more important than your opinion. This applies to every one, people you know are suffering right now. People you love are losing sleep and living in fear. 

Maybe you can't change the world, but if you can reach out to someone and make their day a little easier, or their night a bit more restful, this is the time to do it.  This poem by Rilke always inspires me when I'm feeling a little bit lost. 

You Darkness - Rainer Maria Rilke

You, darkness, that I come from
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone
and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything-
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! -
powers and people-

and it is possible a great presence is moving near me.

I have faith in nights.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Convention attendance for the slightly decrepit.

I attended my first science fiction convention in 1982, it was in Tulsa, Oklahoma – and it should come as no surprise that there weren’t many goths in attendance. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the crossover between geek culture and goth culture is huge. Many of us have been attending cons both recreationally and professionally for decades.  I have spent more than my share of time trudging through crowded hallways, waiting in line my three-second celebrity meet and greet, or minding a booth in the dealers’ room. Now that I am not quite as energetic as I used to be I’ve come up with some sure-fire ways to make convention attendance more comfortable and manageable.

Get a room:
Unless the convention is being held within 10 miles of your home rent a hotel room.  Having a room is essential for the more mature convention goer. There will come a time, especially at larger conventions, when you are going to need a place to collect your thoughts – and possibly talk yourself out of murdering that jackass in who is using the Iron Man costume as an excuse to act like a womanizing asshole. Your hotel room isn’t just a place to sleep, it is your personal escape pod. Make plans to leave the convention floor for an hour or so each day – go to your room, and decompress. It makes a world of difference. This is especially helpful if you use a mobility scooter or wheelchair.

Make a plan:
Planning your day at the convention is really important when you get older, and don't have the stamina to stay on your feet for a solid ten to twelve hours. In order to manage my time,  my anxiety, and my fear of missing something cool, I always take the time to read though the convention guidebook before I do anything.   

Many conventions are making their schedules available on-line before the convention starts, take advantage of this. Decide what panels you want to attend and schedule your time accordingly. Be sure to include some downtime in your room, and a lunch break. 

Grabbing a candy bar and eating it on your way to the next panel is not a lunch break, no matter how much you want it to be. A lunch break means sitting down for at least 15 minutes, and consuming some kind of food that is at least marginally healthy.

Wear Comfortable Shoes:
Let the teens and twenty year olds wear the skyscraper heels, those of us who are a little more mature can get away with something more sensible. I’ve recently begun modifying flat shoes by adding painted or sculptural details, so there is no reason that sensible shoes have to be boring.

Essential Supplies for the Convention Floor.
An essential part of convention attendance is having the right supplies when you go onto the convention floor. Whether you are enjoying the con as a pro or an attendee you should always have a bottle of water (refill it throughout the day), any medication you might need, emergency snacks, and whatever personal items you like to carry.  I always do some stretches and take an Aleve before I leave for the convention. 

Advice for merchants and booth monkeys:
When you are working in a booth, prepare a special box in advance. I have a tackle box that contains water, snacks, pens, sharpies, a notebook, a calculator, duct tape, safety pins, aspirin, business cards and a chocolate bar. With this box you can pretty much handle any booth emergency. 

If you are going to be standing behind your table all day, invest in floor padding. You can use a roll up yoga mat, or those EVA foam puzzle pieces. Either way your feet and back will thank you at the end of the week-end

Most importantly, don't forget to have fun. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Welcome to Old Age!

“Welcome to old age!” That’s what the postcard in my mailbox should have said. Instead it said “Congratulations! Here is your new A.A.R.P card”.  It was the morning of my 50’th birthday, I was still in my bathrobe, and suddenly I was officially old.  I wondered if the obligatory mom jeans and pastel cardigan would arrive by mail, or if I was expected to go out and buy them myself.  I resigned myself to the inevitable, and then I did what I have always done when I’m feeling down, I opened my closet and pulled out my favorite dress.

My favorite dress is long and black with fluttery bell sleeves, I like to wear it over a crinoline or two with a waist cincher over it. I’m not sure if women my age are meant to dress like fat Morticia Addams, but once I put the dress on I knew immediately who I am. The gift that the gothic lifestyle has given me is the gift of identity.

 I was always a spooky kid, growing up in the 1970’s I gravitated toward the dark and theatrical. Most of my childhood was spent wearing the clothes that my parents bought me at K-Mart. Jeans, t-shirts, sneakers and a denim jacket were my daily uniform, but Halloween was my salvation. Later, when I was old enough to choose my own clothes, I would save my allowance for months just to spend it all at the day-after Halloween sales stocking up on cheap fishnet stockings and black nail polish.  I would have killed to have been a mall goth, but we didn’t have a mall. We had a K-Mart.

I didn’t even know goth was a thing until the 1990’s.  Until then I was just a weird girl who played too much Dungeons and Dragons and liked to decorate her room with dead things. When I moved to Seattle in the early 90’s my love of roleplaying games and my love of the macabre crashed headlong into White Wolf’s Vampire the Masquerade. I joined the Camarilla LARP organization as soon as I heard about it. My membership number was 23, and my life has never been the same. I met hundreds of people via the Camarilla, many of whom are still like family to me.  The Cam also introduced me to the gothic subculture, and suddenly I wasn’t the only person in the room who loved skulls, believed in ghosts, and had a closet full of improbable outfits.

Over the years I’ve seen many people leave the scene, some were just kids trying on different identities, some became disillusioned by the constant social one-upsmanship, and some just drifted into other lives. I guess you could say that I left the scene too – I seldom go to clubs any more, but I do still love dressing the part, and I still go to conventions and the occasional concert. I surprise myself daily with the realization that at the age of 51 I still wear tiaras and waist cinchers as daywear.

I always expected that one day I would wake up as a normal fully functional adult. The day my AARP card arrived in the mail was the day that I finally accepted the fact that while I might be functional and adult, I would never be normal – but then again, I never wanted to be.