Brothers in Arms

“You have to look at the card for a few seconds before you see that the animals that pull the chariot have neither reins nor bridles. It’s the Captain James T. Kirk card, the card of leaping before looking, of burned bridges and uncovered asses. The card of thinking you know what’s going on when you don’t. As a message for the reader, it was ambiguous.”

Rosemary Edghill

If almost anyone in my social network sent me a text that said, “Holy shit! I just hit myself in the face!” I’d respond with something like, “Oh no! Are you hurt? How did this happen?” However, when I receive the same message from my Misfits brother Tony, I’m like, “Good job, but you really don’t need to tell me every time you masturbate.”

It was Tony who talked me into joining the Misfits in the first place, and over the course of our friendship, we’ve coerced each other into any number of misadventures: For example, I forced him to go on a meditative labyrinth walk, and in return, he tricked me into qualifying for IML (which is probably worth a story of its own sometime). He currently lives in San Francisco with his husband, but he’s coming to visit over his Easter break, and in anticipation of our reunion, I’ve been reminiscing about our many escapades, the majority of which left lasting impressions on both of us.

My favorite, though, left permanent scars.

It all went down a couple of years ago, when Tony launched himself on a mission to come up with a concept for his next tattoo. After a few days of research, he emailed me to show off the design he’d selected to have etched on his bicep:

Innocuous AF, yo.

“Isn’t it amazing?!” he wrote. “It’s simple, clean and meaningful. Perfect”

His glee is always infectious, but something about the rune he’d picked was niggling at me. The runes themselves are decidedly not my forte, as I tend to shy away from anything occult I can’t pronounce, but seeing as how I have the entire Internet at my disposal, I poked around and quickly found a name and description.

Thurisaz. “Thorn.” Conflict, destruction, violent aggression, raping and pillaging, generalized stabbiness, and male sexuality. Or, as Tony saw it, conflict, destruction, violent aggression, raping and pillaging, generalized stabbiness and MALE SEXUALITY (-ALITY -Ality -ality…).

In an attempt to distract him with metaphysics until I could figure out a nice way to throw rocks at his joy, I was all, “Hey, that reminds me of the geomantic figure Rubeus.” To which Tony responded, “Brother! You should get that as a tattoo when I get mine!” While I appreciated the invitation, I was about as likely to get a tattoo of Rubeus as I was to have the word “republican” branded on my forehead. What I was likely to do was have a controlled meltdown over his identification with Thurisaz, but only because I fundamentally disagreed with his interpretation, and I’m never, ever wrong about anything.

Call it a pet peeve or control issues or what have you, but I lose my damn mind when negative connotations are removed from divinatory archetypes. A friend of mine once purchased a Celtic-esque Tarot deck, in which the Devil card had been replaced with “The Green Man.” There was no Devil in Paganism, the deck’s creator explained in the little white book, so there was no need for such a card in the Tarot. The Green Man — symbolizing nature’s bounty and gentle, paternal guidance — was ever so much more appropriate. One wonders how the Green Man relates to the obsessions and addictions foretold by the Devil, but one sincerely hopes it translates as, “You, alright?! I learned it by watching you!

Symbols have meanings, and those meanings have power, yet while we accept that ignoring symbolic warnings in the “real” world results in consequence (as anyone who’s run a red light in front of a cop can attest), we’ll toss out any portent with an “ick” factor when attempting to scry or divine. We won’t rework the meanings of standardized cultural motifs — which would be appropriation at best (“Why would you think I’m gay? This is the Pink Triangle of Imaginary Dietary Restriciton Awareness.”) and dangerous/idiotic at worst (“You guys are Crips? Neat! I’m a Scorpio, which is why I’m wearing this fetching red bandana.”) — but the logic that keeps us from doing so is nowhere to be found when we decide that the Tower means “invest in immoveables.”

Tony is fascinated by the supernatural but has only cursory knowledge of it, which made it difficult to loudly condemn his dtermination to stamp what I saw as the runic equivalent of a “Kick Me” sign on himself. Fortunately, he saved me the trouble by unwittingly pointing out what a dickhead I can be about these things.

Shortly after his first message, Tony wrote back to express some newfound reservations. He’d been tooling around online, looking for good Thurisaz pics to show his tattoo artist, when he came across some explanations of the rune that were less than glowy.

“I want it to be the right symbol for me, but there are a lot of really dark meanings here,” he said, his disappointment palpable even in sans-serif font. “What do you think? Should I get it?”


Tony may be a big, burly conglomeration of brotein, but he’s also, without a doubt, the most affable person I’ve ever known. He has no enemies — everyone is a friend until they prove otherwise, and if they do so, he wishes them the best and moves on without grudge or resentment. He is trusting and honest, and he trusts me to always be honest with him.

So I responded to his question as honestly as I could:

“I think it’s awesome that you see the good in everything.”

In the end, Tony got his Thurisaz, and I agreed to get a stylized Puer, which represents male sexuality in all its expessions (the phallus, the sword, the plow… the ink-filled needle) while being far less incindiary than Rubeus. Additionally, it’s the first of the geomantic forms in their proper order and signifies the beginning of the astrological year, making it the ideal start to an armband featuring all 16 figures.

Much like the Chariot, Puer speaks of jumping to conclusions; of shooting first, asking questions later, and setting aside collected wisdom in favor of immaturity; of losing your shit over your best friend’s choice of body art without stopping to consider how capable he is of making his own decisions, or getting a tattoo on the spur of the moment, because hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

And you know what? It totally was.


Lord of the Boiler Plate

Customer: “Hey there! Can I try on this cock ring?”

Me: “Sure. The dressing room is right behind those curtains.”

Customer: “… Oh. I was… um, I was just joking.”

Me: [smiling sadly] “Yeah. I know.”

For my fellow retail workers who have led cleaner lives, “Can I try on this cock ring?” is the leather and fetishwear equivalent of “No price tag? Then it must be free!” The linguistics may differ, but the shared experience of surviving a ceaseless barrage of hackneyed jokes is almost initiatory.

Having said that, I really don’t know if there’s anything in mainstream sales comparable to “Aren’t you going to make sure this cock ring fits me properly?” But if there is, I’ll bet you anything that golf pants are involved.

Erin… seriously, just go, bragh.

The Misfits tended bar at Ripcord this past Saturday, and since it was the night before St. Patrick’s Day, we wore kilts, with the vague understanding that said garments may or may not have originated in Ireland. I felt kind of guilty for lumping anything remotely Gaelic into a one-dimensional bartending theme, but then again, my heritage is Irish and Scottish, so at least my own ass was covered (so to speak).

Feeling Celtic, idk might Brexit later.

The evening was in full swing, with R-rated shenanigans beginning to sprout up all over, when John (our vice president) tracked me down on the patio and pulled me aside.

“There’s this guy who wants to buy all of our jello shots,” he said. “And I’m not sure what to tell him.”

So let me quickly explain the jello shots. Misfits bartending is fundraising more than anything else — we make jello shots and sell them for $2 apiece, and the money we collect goes towards putting on GLUE Weekend, which in turn brings in a giant wad of cash that we donate to our beneficiary. However, while selling all of our shots at once would result in a nice chunk of change, it would prevent us from making any tips for the rest of our shift, which would mean a financial hit that I wasn’t willing to take.

I headed over to the outside bar, where I found Keith engaged in a battle of raised eyebrows with the customer in question, who was dolled up in tailored jeans and high-end eyewear.

“What can I get you?” I asked.

“I want to buy all of your jello shots,” he replied.

“We have 48 shots left,” Keith murmured. “So it would be $96.”

“So what deal can I get?” the customer asked.

“Well, the shots are $2 each,” I said. “I’d be happy to sell them all to you, but I want to make sure everyone who’s interested gets a chance to have one first.”

“I’m saying I’ll by all of them.” he repeated unnecessarily. “You’re saying $2 each, but what deal can I get for the whole batch?”

“Um… this is for charity,” Keith said.

“I’m not going to cut a deal,” I said in my best attempt at an I’m-in-charge-and-you-should-probably-think-about-fearing-me voice. “And I’m not going to sell all of them at once. But I’ll sell you 20 now, and if you come back in 45 minutes, I’ll sell you whatever’s left.”

“So what deal can I get on 20 shots?” he asked.

“You can have 20 shots for $40 dollars,” I replied.

“So what will the discount be?”

“You’ll get 20 shots for $40.”

“So no discount?”

“No discount.”

“But I’m buying 20 shots.”

“Yes, for $40.”

I don’t know if he was trying to impress a date or show off for his friends or what, but I refused to budge, and after several more wearying rounds of 20/40, he relented and begrudgingly paid $40. And as soon as he did so, the members of ONYX Lone Star wandered over and were like, “Ooh, jello shots!” and bought every last one of them, at which time I swore fealty to their road captain.

Karmic retribution aside, the ONYX guys deserved a couple of drinks, since a straight girl had pounced on them earlier and all but demanded information about their organization. She was fascinated by their run pins, and she kept telling them how she was really, really into leather, and how she was a really, really big deal back in the Portland leather community, and I really, really wanted to ask her to explain the spiritual and historical significance of the faux-indigenous weaving on the back of her denim vest. But every time I opened my mouth, John would start singing Voices Carry at me, so I finally just gave up and accepted that ONYX could handle the situation without my help.

It is worth noting, though, that she neither bought a single jello shot nor complimented any of the Misfits on our kilts. I’m definitely adding stinginess and Hibernophobia to my list of reasons to keep quietly resenting her.

American Horror Story: Day Drinkers

The Forge’s main store recently received a restorative coat of paint. While certainly not to everyone’s taste, I appreciate spending my afternoon in a building that could pass for a satanic temple and/or murder house.

It would be best not to ask what we keep under the porch.

Although a customer just walked in and looked around in confusion and was like, “Oh. I… thought this was a bar.” So, y’know, I guess we pass for a speakeasy too. I’m cool with that.

It Was Loopholes I Wanted, Now I’m Living Without

Me watching the first episode of The Order: “This is pretty schlocky, but there’s nothing else holding my interest right now.”

Me halfway through Season 1: “None of these alleged college students have gone to class in weeks.”

Me watching the second-to-last episode: “I like how nobody has figured out that they’d have fewer problems if they’d stop giving Very Important Responsibilities to that freshman with the personality disorder.”

Me watching the last five minutes of the season finale: “Oh, good. It’s almost over. Now I can… wait. What is she… Don’t do… NO NO NO DON’T DO THAT… OH MY GOD, HOW COULD YOU DO THAT?! WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?!?!”

Me the rest of the evening: [curled up in the fetal position, softly singing “It Must Have Been Love” while a single tear runs down my cheek]

Party Flavors

[A group of five preppies bustle into the store and crowd around the counter.]

Preppy 1: “Do you sell gum?”

Me: “I’m sorry, but we don’t.”

Preppy 1: [clearly disillusioned] “Oh. Okay.”

Me: “I do have some mints, though. Would you like a mint?”

Preppy 1: “Ooh, I would!”

[I hand him my tin of mini Altoids, taking one for myself first.]

Preppy 1: “Thank you!”

Preppy 2: “May I have a mint too?”

Me: “Sure.”

Customer 2: “Thanks!”

[The other three preppies ask if they can also have mints. I nod affirmatively, and they pass the tin around until everyone has imbibed of the winter-fresh goodness. And then…]

Preppy 1: “Wait. Are these just mints?”

[Preppies 2-5 glance over at him, then turn and look at me with mild concern.]


[They freeze.]

Me: “Kidding! I kid. They’re just mints.”

Preppies 1-5: “…”

Me: “Sláinte?”

I feel like this might be one of those times when I think I’m funnier than I actually am. But hey, at least they learned an important lesson about accepting candy from strangers. And also about the social necessity of disposable toothbrushes.

Cat Hair Triggers

[So Ben sent me this meme a few days ago...

ForgeXM… and the following conversation ensued.]


Me: “That’s Forge. He was Storm’s first love interest in the X-Men comics. He’s a Native-American sorcerer with the mutant power to invent anything. He built a mutant neutralizer for the government that took away Storm’s powers for most of the 80s, but they reconciled while they were trapped in another dimension, and she got her powers back. They were an item for awhile after that, but they eventually broke up, and she married Black Panther. I think he ended up with Mystique, maybe?”

Ben: “Um… okay, that was a lot.”

Me: “I kind of wish I didn’t know all that.”

Ben: “Nah, it’s cool. I love it when you do nerd-to-Ben translation.”

Me: “Well, I promise I will never force you to listen to my diatribe on everything wrong with the first three X-Men movies. This is my solemn vow.”

Ben: “Nope. Now I want to hear it.”

Me: “You really don’t…”

[twenty minutes later]


Ben: “…”

Me: “And then, of course, Halle Berry got cast as Catwoman. Don’t even get me started on Catwoman.”

Ben: “Yeah, I heard it wasn’t ver-”


Ben: “Welp, didn’t see that one coming.”

[twenty minutes later]

Me: “… And so she takes down the patriarchal cosmetics corporation, all while kicking ass in open-toed, chunky-heeled shoes…”

Ben: “Whoa, wait a minute. Stop right there.”

Me: “…?”


And then he went off on this long rant about current trends in fashionable footwear. Man. if I’d known he was going to get so testy, I wouldn’t have even brought it up.

That’ll do, Louis Braille. That’ll do.

Customer 1: “Oh, hey! They’ve got Nasty Pig hats.”

Customer 2: “That is not Nasty Pig.”

Customer 1: “Um… yes, it is. See the pig snout on the front of the cap? Nasty Pig.”

Customer 2: “Nope. Not Nasty Pig.”

Customer 1: “This is literally the Nasty Pig logo. And it says Nasty Pig on the brim.”

Customer 2: “Nasty Pig is only sold in gay stores.”

Customer 1: “But… but this is a gay store. We’re in a gay bar.”

Customer 2: “THIS ISN’T NASTY PIG. This is…” [he grabs a hat and looks at the elastic band inside] “Flexfit. This is Flexfit. They don’t sell Nasty Pig here.”

Okay. Flexfit is a custom headwear wholesaler — they make hats, and then companies like Nasty Pig add their logos and sell them as their own. I do, however, appreciate the image of a factory full of adorable sweatshop orphans working their dainty little fingers to the bone to handcraft artisan Nasty Pig textiles. And they say the gays can’t parent.

Anyway, Customer 2 got distracted by a shelf of Burlyshirts, and, recognizing the brand this time, immediately bought a couple of tees. I look forward to him angrily returning them next week, after he finally looks at the tags and realizes he was swindled into purchasing Next Level Apparel.

Not So Fresh

[Carlisle and I are getting ready to order some Mexican food and debating the merits of soft versus crunchy tacos, when a customer shuffles in and starts pawing through a display of leather baubles.]

Me: “Hello! What can I help you with this evening?”

Customer: [holding up a collar] “I’m looking for something like this, except… solid. With a buckle. Y’know, to go around my arm? Like an arm… belt?”

Me: “An armband? Sure, let me show you some options.”

Customer: “I’m going to LUEY, so I want to get a bunch of leather.”

Me: “And I’d be happy to help you with that.”

Customer: “So let me ask you something. Since you’re, like, an expert.”

Me: “Okay.”

Customer: “How does douching work?”

Me: “…”

Customer: [waiting patiently]

Me: “Um… well… if… if you’re going to invite guests through the back door, you’re going to want to sweep the porch, right?”

Customer: “I guess?”

Me: “So right over here we have a bidet system that you can install in your shower, which is going to give you the most… uh… thorough… clean.”

Customer: “Huh.”

Me: “But we’ve also got these reusable, handheld irrigators that will get the job done.”

Customer: “How do they get the job done?”

Me: “Oy. Okay. So… you remove the nozzle, and fill the bulb up with warm water. And then you screw the nozzle back in, and after it’s… um, inserted, you squeeze the bulb and then… uh… release.”

Customer: “Oh. But what about the ones you can get at the grocery store?”

Me: “The… grocery store?”

Customer: “I’ve been using Summer’s Eve.”

[Somewhere out in the bar, a turntable needle scratches across vinyl.]

Me: “…”

Carlisle: “…”

Customer: “…”

Me: “…”

Carlisle: “…”

Customer: “…?”

Me: “Oh. Oh, dude. No.”

Customer: “I shouldn’t use Summer’s Eve?”

Me: “Please, please don’t. Summer’s Eve is not formulated for… um, where you’re putting it.”

Customer: “What should I use instead?”

Me: “Look for a product called Fleet.”

Customer: “What’s a Fleet?”

Me: “Fleet makes disposable enemas.”

Customer: “Disposable… enemas?”

Me: [crying a little] “They have lubricated tips.”

Customer: “Oh! Okay, great! Thank you!”

And then he left, and I spent the rest of my shift wondering why the phrase “lubricated tips” turned out to be the key to enlightenment. And also if he was more of a Lavender Chamomile or Cucumber Lily man.

In other news, I will never eat a crunchy taco again.