Marjorie of the Living Dead

The property management firm where I used to work was originally owned by a lovely woman with a crippling bipolar disorder. When she was medicated, everything was sunshine and gumdrops, and the office ran like a damn machine. However, she’d occasionally up and take herself off her meds, and suddenly it was every manager for themselves in a post-apocalyptic war zone, which would last until she realized that maybe things might go a little more smoothly if she got the mania under control and stopped screaming so much.

This is a fairly common occurrence for those of us living with neurodiversity. We take our medications as prescribed, and we feel better — so much better, in fact, that after awhile we decide we don’t need the medication anymore. We’re cured! And everything’s great! That is, until the anxiety and/or panic and/or depression and/or delusions kick back into high gear, at which point it’s almost impossible to coax us back to our treatments, because there’s nothing wrong with us, goddamnit; everyone else is the problem.

I ran out of my own medication a couple of weeks ago, which, on paper, is not a big deal. Wellbutrin builds up in the system, so the pill I’m supposed to take daily is really just topping off the tank: If I miss a dose here or there, I’m still okay. And I felt okay, so I made a mental note to refill the scrip and went about my day. And then I forgot about it. And several days later, I was like, “Hmm, still okay,” so I didn’t worry about it, and then it was time to pack up and head to Austin, and I was all, “But I’m definitely still okay, so I’ll just grab the refill once I’m back in town.” And then I forgot all about it again, while deep in the recesses of my psyche, reports of mysterious infections began to spread.

My friend Sarah says that zombie movies are all about how society responds to challenges and responsibilities. Back in our day, zombies were shamblers — one zombie was not too hard to dispatch, but a horde of zombies lumbering down the street would inevitably overwhelm you, no matter how many of them you were able to shoot in the head. When I’m on medication for my panic disorder, the zombies are easy to out-maneuver. When I’m off my meds, though, I’m suddenly up against the modern, wind-sprinting zombies. Panic starts in the body before it reaches the brain, so by the time I realize the zombies are after me, it’s too late. They move too quickly to gun down. They’re stronger than I am. There’s nothing to do but give up and let them devour me.

The attacks started a few days ago, and I was physically and emotionally exhausted from them by the time I made it home yesterday afternoon. For me, bad panic is always followed by depression, so I took some Advil PM and curled up in bed before sunset to sleep through the worst of it. Ben always checks in on his own way home from work, and Mike and Jessie usually say goodnight, and I could hear the notifications as their messages arrived. I wanted to talk to all of them, to let them know that I wasn’t doing well and needed reassurance, to ask them to remind me that depression lies, but I couldn’t reach out. There were too many zombies between me and the phone.

I refilled my prescription this morning. It’ll take another week or so for me to be fully back to what passes for normal, but in the meantime, the zombies are already shrugging their shoulders and shuffling away. And maybe this time, I’ll remember what happens when I don’t take the proper steps to manage my mental illness.

Maybe this time, I’ll feel like a less of a monster myself.

Filthy Lucre

Customer: “I’d like a bottle of Max Impact, please.”

Me: “Sure! That’ll be $24.89.”

Customer: [counting out ones] “Heh. It’s my stripper money.”

[I chuckle. He hands me a wad of cash.]

Customer: “No, really. I’m a stripper. This all came out of my g-string.”

Me: “…”

Customer: “The ladies at the bank openly judge me whenever I make a deposit. And oh, hey, look! Someone tipped me a two-dollar bill.”

You know, I have not led a sheltered life, and I have many wonderful friends who make their livings in and around the sex industry, but still… I really don’t need to know when I’m handling sweaty junk-money. Not even when it’s in unusual denominations.

My novelty hand sanitizer is getting such a workout tonight, you guys.

Keeping the Weird in “Keep Austin Weird.” You’re welcome, Austin.

Dear Holiday Inn Express Housekeeping Staff,

Look, I’m not going to hedge here. I stole the Do Not Disturb sign, and I apologize for that. But in my defense, it’s just laminate paper. I’m sure you have piles and piles of replacements. Besides, most Do Not Disturb signs simply say, “Do Not Disturb.” They’re not witty or droll at all. Yours, however, says, “Hang on! I’m Busy,” which conveys a lighthearted sense of flustered urgency, making it the ideal signal flag to wave at my customers when six of them try to check out at once.

With that awkwardness out of the way, and your generous forgiveness accepted, let me just say that our room was spotless and comfortable — you clearly take pride in your work, and it shows. The walls of the hotel itself are a little thin, though, and while I own that this is a only a minor design flaw and almost certainly not your fault, it does explain why you heard what you did. Should it please you, I’d like to offer some clarification on that incident, because I’d really prefer you not assume I’m not a horrible, horrible person over one innocuous, misheard exclamation.

Our IML brother Scotty had come to the Hill Country to officiate a wedding, so Ben (an upstanding and religious young man like myself) and I decided to drive down to see him. We chose your hotel as our accommodations, which? No regrets. We will both be recommending you to family and friends. Anyway, we were packing up after two days of assuredly not-ungodly activities, and I was telling him about the “Baby It’s Cold Outside” parody that’s all about boundaries and consent, and he mentioned how funny it would be to write our own version involving a BDSM relationship.

So when he softly crooned, “I really can’t stay…” I understandably responded by screaming, “ON YOUR FUCKING KNEES, PIG.” But what you couldn’t see was the mortification on Ben’s face as he jabbed his finger frantically in the direction of the hallway and mouthed, “Oh, my God, the housekeepers are out there,” which probably would’ve helped you view the matter in a much more relatable context.

It’s also quite important to maintain Ben’s innocence in this whole affair. As additional evidence, please find below a conversation we had earlier in the morning.

Me: “Would you like coffee?”

Ben: “Sure.”

Me: “Great! I’ll make some.”

Ben: “Hey, Thomas?”

Me: “Yes?

Ben: “Why is the shower running?”

Me: “…”

Ben: [gently, as if to a toddler who wants to know why his goldfish is sleeping on its side] “Were you going to take a shower, but then got distracted by making coffee?”

Me: “… Yes.”

Ben: [carefully removing the k-pods from my hands] “I think I’ll make some coffee. Why don’t you go take a shower?”

See? Ben is a goddamned saint, whereas I was born with a tragic disorder that leaves me incapable of controlling my impulses or using an inside voice. But I do my best to get by. I’m kind of a saint too, when you think about it, especially when given the opportunity to let my guard down in a judgement-free environment such as your fine establishment.

Which reminds me! I picked up a couple of souvenirs when we visited the Museum of the Weird, including the following gimcrack:

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The ceramic No Face butt plug pin in the background is another momento but sadly not relevant to the story.

It’s not much, but I’m going to have a few bottles sent over as an expression of gratitude, and also so that we can have our own little inside joke, because God only knows what you thought was going on in Room 516, am I right? Ha ha! Again, thank you for your prompt service and attention to detail. I’m not even going to mention the poop someone may or may not have completely unintentionally gotten on that one washcloth, because a) we both know you deal with way worse on a daily basis, and b) it’s not like I have a norovirus or anything — Ben and I just partook a bit too mightily of your fair city’s rich, fiberless cuisine, and there was a situation, and I handled it to the best of my ability.

Your discretion is greatly appreciated as well. I’ll get extra sanitizer in the mail to you ASAP.

I Knew My Background in Graphic Design Would Pay Off Eventually

Ben: “How’s your night going?”

Me: “HA HA HA YES WE SHOULD DEFINITELY HAVE TESTERS FOR THE DOUBLE SCORPIO AND I HAVE CERTAINLY NOT HEARD THAT SAME LINE 75 GODDAMNED TIMES THIS WEEK HA HA HAAAA…”

Ben: “…”

Me: “I may have a resentment.”

In an attempt to give me something constructive to focus on, Ben suggested I make a small, tactful sign for the register, which would hopefully circumvent any trite attempts at humor and/or wearisome questions. Inspired, I put pen to cardstock, and a few minutes later, I had an array of informative options ready to go:

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I feel back in control of my life already.

PS: Ben’s concept for a sign was, “One in 10 Double Scorpio bottles contains an actual scorpion. Please understand our refusal to open them in the store.” This is why he’s the idea guy.

Repeat Business

[The always dapper Ty and his equally fanciable husband Michael have stopped by to say hello, and we’re having a lovely exchange on the dos and don’ts of impact play, when a visibly dissatisfied customer flounces in and interrupts.]

Customer: “I have a complaint.”

Me: “Yes?”

Customer: “I bought some poppers here last week…”

Me: “Solvents.”

Customer: “… and they were not good at all.”

Me: “Which solvents were they?”

Customer: [pointing to the Double Scorpio fridge behind the counter] “Those. The red poppers.”

Me: “Solvents.”

Customer: “They didn’t work. My butthole stayed tight.”

Me: “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Customer: “So which poppers are better?”

Me: “Solvents.”

Customer: “AARGH. Whatever you call them.”

Me: “We call them solvents.”

Customer: “So which… solvents… are better?”

Me: “Try the Amsterdam.”

Customer: “Fine. I’ll come back next week and get those.”

[He flounces out.]

Ty: “…”

Michael: “…”

Me: “I DO NOT MAKE THIS SHIT UP.”

I’m running late to this semi-formal event, but you know what? Fuck it. I’m going to control the earth with my yodels.

Our regularly-scheduled Facets of Leather broadcast was preempted by LUEY Weekend, so Robert and I took to the airwaves this past weekend instead. We didn’t have much in the way of relevant topics, so we brought in Melinda D., founder of Houston Sober Leather, and goaded her into telling us stories about the shit she got up to before she quit drinking.

The lady puts me to shame, you guys. I mean, before I got sober, I occasionally woke up in a cheap motel room with not a lot of clues as to how I got there, but mainly I just stayed home and passed out on the sofa.

Anywho, somewhere around two in the morning, Melinda got on Facebook and found pictures of our superfan Orin, declared herself bi-curious, and demanded his undying affection. Unfortunately for her designs, Robert had totally already called dibs, and what followed was something between a bidding war and a far-left episode of The Bachelor. I’m not sure who actually came out on top (so to speak), but Orin memed the whole thing, which is as good of a participation award as any.

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We also drifted into conversations about lesbian pirates and the ghosts in New Orleans who stiff taxi drivers on cab fares, and at one point we had an animated discussion about Eurovision, which included me waxing emotional on who I thought should’ve won back in 2017. I’ve included their official video below, because no matter what, there will always be room in my heart for stompy boots, daytime ball gowns, and Transylvanian street yodeling.

May there always be room in yours as well.

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:

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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?”

Fuck.

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.

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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).

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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.