The Forgotten Lyrics of “Sweet Caroline”

[My friend Mike and I are leaning against the counter and catching up on each other’s lives, when a drunk, maudlin customer slowly wanders in and stares forlornly at the selection of hankies.]

Customer: “Which… one… is… penis?”

Me: “There is not a color that specifically means ‘penis.'”

Customer: “Penis…”

Me: “It’s more about what you’d like to do with the penis.”

Customer: “Penis… touching… penis.”

Mike: “…”

Me: [to Mike] “I know. But we’ll get through this.” [then, to the customer] “A white hanky means you’re looking for masturbation, but there’s not a hanky color that only represents frottage.”

Customer: [visibly disappointed] “… Oh.”

[long pause]

Customer: “I’ll… come… back.”

Mike and I took to the Internet after he left and went through the full list, but yeah, there were no colors for frottage (or docking, or sword-fighting, or friendly fire) to be found. I did come across another site that categorized frottage as a form of safer sex to be filed under black-and-white checkerboard, but we don’t have that design in stock, so I guess it’s a moot point.

I think I’m going to order a bunch of random camouflage patterns and just assign significance as the need arises. Like, “So you want to have an anonymous, bisexual encounter in the bayou while your boyfriend watches? Frog skin. Follow me!” This feels like a good way to reinforce my role as an authority on the subject while contributing to the evolution of my subculture.

PS: Belgian Jigsaw means “sexually aroused by subcultural authorities.” I read that in a book.

Symbiotes, My Lord. Kumbaya.

[Despite the signs all over the damn place that state we can only have two customers in the store at any given time, a group of four people — including a straight woman wearing a purple unicorn horn — try to squeeze in at once.]

Me: “Hey, guys, I can only have two customers in here.”

Straight Woman: [pointing to the man next to her] “Oh, it’s fine. We’re married, so we count as one.”

Me: “That is not how this works.”

Straight Woman: [winning smile]

Me: “Two of you need to get out. Now.”

She huffed a bit at that, but realizing I would not be swayed, the group had a brief conference in the doorway (right next to the sign that says, “Please Don’t Block the Doorway”) and decided to take their business elsewhere.

I probably could’ve been a little nicer to them, but frankly, her unicorn horn was pissing me off ferociously.

That and, y’know, her attempt to use heterosexual privilege to override the rules in a gay bar, because her marriage is ever so much more authoritative than our piddling little sodomite health guidelines.

But mainly just that fucking horn.

I told Ben this story, and he was like, “You should’ve said, ‘You may be one in the eyes of God, but He doesn’t work here.” This is why Ben has a career in Hollywood, while I have a desk job.

Alice Doesn’t Sling Here Anymore

Customer: “I thought Black Hawk Leather closed, but someone just told me it reopened?”

Me: “The owner of Black Hawk retired four years ago. After that store closed, the Montrose Forge opened up in the same space.”

Customer: “So Black Hawk reopened.”

Me: “Black Hawk closed, but a new store opened in the same location. That new store is called the Montrose Forge. This is the Forge’s bar store. Our main store is in the building where Black Hawk used to be.”

Customer: “Let me put it this way. Around the corner from this bar, there is a house. If I were to walk into that [air quotes] ‘house,’ would I find a shop similar to this one?”

Me: “… Yes.”

Customer: “Okay, so like a sex store or something.”

Me: “Sure. Just like that.”

Customer: “Great! I’m going to go check it out.”

And he zipped away before I could give him the main store’s hours of operation.

I am 100% looking forward to his angry online review about the Black Hawk employee who misled him.

That’s So Fucking Raven

A couple of evenings ago, in (yet another) Facebook group, my friend Scarlet decided to answer some questions that had been posted about a particular book. In doing so, Scarlet explained that the author was an initiate of Traditional Wicca, but that the book itself was not about Wicca.

This prompted some unsolicited feedback from a feisty, young Pagan named Raven, who had very strong feelings about Things Wiccan.

Here’s a fun pic of Raven:

6007605393_cb36f06e3c_z

Raven was incensed that anyone would dare discuss Wicca without villainizing it and reported Scarlet’s comments to the moderators. Additionally, because the author’s website mentioned Lillith (three pages in, at the bottom of a long list of workshops and rituals), Raven accused Scarlet of appropriating Jewish culture.

Scarlet is Jewish.

In response, the moderators put Scarlet on mute, meaning that she was unable to post or comment for 24 hours. They also made some noises about “handling how Scarlet’s ethnicity/culture was assumed,” but it’s important to note that they did not mute Raven, nor anyone else involved in the conversation. As Scarlet herself put it, “Let’s silence the Jew and talk over her about how woke we are!”

And that’s what pisses me off about these privileged varmints more than anything else: They have no problem stepping on minorities, so long as their virtue signals shine brighter than everyone else’s. And they have such a mob mentality towards the “rightness” of maligning Wicca, that they fail to realize it was Wiccans fighting for religious freedom in the not-too-distant past that allows them the luxury of being terribly and conveniently oppressed by Wicca in the present.

On the bright side, the wee bairns won’t ever do anything more drastic than complain, since a fear of ill-defined appropriation has replaced the Threefold Law as the preferred rationalization for inaction. “I want to practice Witchcraft, but that might be appropriative, so I’m not going to,” they say with pride, sounding eerily similar to last decade’s insta-witches loudly swearing off spellwork to avoid the fabricated wrath of the Universe. Meanwhile, Traditional Wiccans like Scarlet will continue the business of proactively educating themselves and others, secure in the knowledge that the Ravens of the world have literally no power over them.

But I did find Raven’s physical mailing address (ye Gods but I love the Internet), and I’m sending him an anonymous copy of Gerald Gardner’s Witchcraft Today. I mean, hey, after all, someone has to be the villain. Might as well be Wiccan me.

Any Resemblance to Fictional People is Purely Coincidental

[A telephone conversation with Ben.]

Me: “So yesterday’s blog post was kind of a palate cleanser. I needed to take a break from dealing with stupid people on the Internet. But you know how I mentioned Discordian Witchcraft? I did some googling, and it turns out that no one’s written about it yet, so I’m going to write books about it, and then I’m going to go to conferences and be on panels and dress all in black.”

Ben: “With gray and purple accents?”

Me: “Well, of course. Except I need a Five-Fingered Hand of Eris pendant to complete the look, but I couldn’t find a sterling silver one anywhere, so I guess it doesn’t exist, which sucks, even though I did find a cool magnet.”

Ben: “Okay, I need you to rewind and think about that last sentence.”

Me: “Huh?”

Ben: “‘I need this pendant that doesn’t exist, but I found a magnet.’ That was just… peak Thumper.”

Me: “…”

Ben: “Like, if I was writing you as a character, that is word-for-word something I’d have you say.”

Me: “I mean, can anyone ever really have too many magnets?”

Ben: “Listen, I’ve got a box in the garage next to the kaftans packed to the brim with magnets, and… oh, shit, hang on a second. The timer just went off. I’ve gotta finish activating the THC in this weed butter so that I can get the next batch of jazz cookies in the oven.”

Me: “Wow.”

Ben: “Wow?”

Me: “All of that was just… peak Ben.”

Ben: “… Touché”

Enter Life, Stage Right

In a shadowy alcove on the first floor of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, right around the corner from the dinosaur exhibit, a video kiosk plays a continuously looped short film called Enter Life. Created by cartoonist Faith Hubley, Enter Life explains how four elements – carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen – came together to form simple amino acid chains, which went on to develop into one-celled organisms. As such, these four elements were the building blocks of life on Earth.

The elements in the movie are represented by these darling psychedelic amoeboids, who caper about while announcing their names like submolecular cheerleaders: “Carbon! Hydrogen! Oxygen! Nitrogen!” As the story progresses, the creatures join together in conga lines and locomote through the primordial soup, cheering and singing and devising an acronym for themselves: “Carbon! Hydrogen! Oxygen! Nitrogen! Chon chon chon, chon chon ch-chon! Chon chon chon, chon chon ch-chon!

I saw Enter Life a little over 30 years ago, during an 8th-grade field trip to Washington, D.C., but the Chon Song stuck with me. Late at night, or alone in an elevator, I’ve been known to dance around gleefully, chonning to my heart’s content: “Chon chon chon, chon chon ch-chon! Chon chon chon, chon chon ch-CHON!” [spirit fingers]

The Greek poet/philosopher Empedocles is credited with originating the concept of the Four Elements as objective states of matter: That is, everything in existence can be broken down into the fundamentals of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, which can change, combine or revert to their original forms, based on the effects of two opposing forces, Love and Strife. (I have ideas about combining Empedocledian doctrine with Chaos Magic and Traditional Wicca to create Discordian Witchcraft, but that’s a blog for another time.)

This perception of the Four Elements have permeated philosophical, medical, and psychological thought for centuries, influencing everything from the Hippocratic theory of the Four Humours to the Myers-Briggs Personality Test. Most recently (and by “recently,” I mean the late 1800s), the Four Elements were incorporated into the Western Mystery Tradition, eventually finding their way into modern Paganism. A lot of Pagans now view the Four Elements as metaphorical – Air is the intellect, Water is emotion, etc. – but it’s kind of mindblowing to think that 2500 years ago, a Greek philosopher declared that life was made up of four elements, and then a cartoon produced in the early 1980s declared that yes, he was right.

Some of Hubley’s other animated short films include The Big Bang and Other Creation Myths, which foretells the coming of the New Age; Yes We Can, featuring Gaia the Earth Mother; and Witch Madness, a documentary on the persecution of women throughout history, culminating in the witch-hunts of the Middle Ages. Methinks Ms. Hubley might have something else to tell the class.

A loaf of bread, a jug of organic apple cider vinegar drink, and thou.

In the stage play Bill W. and Dr. Bob, which tells the story of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, Dr. Bob describes his addiction thusly: “I got a demon inside me… a real live evil spirit called John Barleycorn.”

That line always struck me as weighted, but it wasn’t until last night, on the eve of my eighth year of recovery, that I realized why: It’s fitting that I got sober a couple of days before Lammas, the celebration of the First Harvest, because when you think about it, I really did sacrifice John Barleycorn to ensure my own survival. And that was an uncharacteristically good decision on my part.

So here’s to you, JB, you irascible spirit. Thanks for taking one for the team.

Whole Cloth

There’s been a bit of discord in the online LGBTQ+ leather community of late, centered around uniform fetishism. The pressing question is this: Given the current sociopolitical climate, should people still wear police outfits to leather events?

Uniforms have long been a part of leather and kink (as exemplified by everything from Tom of Finland to the Village People), and will probably always remain a part of it, but it was kind of amusing to see all these white men have fits over the idea that it might be in bad taste to dress like law enforcement officers right now. The consensus quickly became that anyone “triggered” by uniforms should, and I quote, “Stay home, walk away, seek therapy,” which tickled me even further, since triggers and fetishes are both intense, psychological and/or emotional reactions to specific stimuli — if one requires therapy, then clearly, so does the other.

I thought about trying to engage some of the louder voices and offer digestible counterpoints, but then I remembered that no one has ever won an argument on the Internet, and that I always have a lot more fun when I’m actively being unhelpful. So instead, I uploaded the following picture with the caption, “Just doing my part to complicate the Great Leather Community Uniform Debate of 2020.”

Collar
I’m also available for handfastings. (Collar by Deviant Leather.)

My goal may have ultimately been to make some heads explode, but this is where this post does a complete one-eighty, because I have not been able to get over how correct that collar looks on me. It’s like the first time I saw myself in leather, or stepped into a Gardnerian circle; like a little voice in the back of my mind is going, “Congratulations! You just found another piece of the person you’re supposed to be.”

So, yeah, in conclusion, I am definitely going to go to seminary based on the fact that I look fetching in clergywear. But I’ve made bigger life decisions using far more superficial criteria, so no one should be too alarmed at this point. Unless one of my loyal Marjorettes has an aversion to the trappings of High Protestantism, in which case I hear you and promise to only wear the collar in social situations where everyone else is dressed like cops.

Technical HiccUUp

Online Worship Leader: “Today, we’re starting with social hour! Unmute your microphones and take this opportunity to check in with one another other.”

Me: [unmutes microphone]

Also Me: [immediately forgets mic is unmuted and belches]

Congregation: “…”

My webcam faces the bay window in my living room, creating a backlit effect, which means that at the moment, the local Unitarians only know me as the mysterious shadow figure with digestive issues. I think I’ll wait until in-person services resume before officially introducing myself.

I started to say, “… before revealing my true face,” but my true face burps a lot, regardless of occasion. So, y’know, they’ve already met the real me. I just need to give them a name to go with the nonsecular gas bubbles.

Dress to Progress

[I am sitting out on the Ripcord patio, playing on my phone, and waiting for my shift to start. I’m wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt with a coordinating Nasty Pig baseball cap, and I look cute as all hell, if I do say so myself. A guy at a table across the way is studying me intently. I assume he is jealous of my hat, and I do not blame him.]

Guy: “Black Lives Matter, huh?”

Me: “Yes, they do.” [I smile politely and go back to my phone.]

Guy: “Interesting.”

[I don’t respond.]

Guy: “Do you know how many white people were killed by cops this year?”

Me: “I would guess quite a few.”

Guy: “Nineteen. AND DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY WHITE PEOPLE WERE KILLED BY COPS LAST YEAR?!”

[As he raises his voice, everyone on the patio turns to stare at us.]

Me: “Yeah, I’m not going to have this conversation.” [I stand up and walk toward the bar.]

Guy: “THEN I WIN.”

I stopped for a moment when he said that to consider how I wanted to react. The urge to wheel around and scream enlightenment at him was strong, but if recovery has taught me anything, it’s that there’s no point trying to argue with someone who’s drunk before sundown. Instead, I just rolled my eyes and headed inside to open the shop.

While I’m kind of proud of myself for not engaging, the interaction forced me to accept an uncomfortable truth about my motivation for wearing the shirt in the first place. I wanted to show solidarity, yes, but on some level, I presumed that my privilege would deflect any negative consequence. And not just my white privilege: I mean, I work late hours at a busy gay bar, and in that environment, the customer is most assuredly not always right. I have the right to refuse service; I have a say in whether surly patrons can stay or get kicked out; I have the solvents, and you want the solvents, so who’s sorry now?

At worst, I figured someone might see the shirt and try to amend it to, “All lives matter,” in which case I would provide some helpful analogies (“If you break your leg and ask me to call 911, would that be the right time for me to mention that all legs matter?”), and then… I don’t know, we would hug and cry it out and sing “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” or something. It never occured to me that it might anger someone to the point of aggression, because my privilege assured me that this couldn’t happen. And that was very fucking Caucasian of me.

Walking away kept the situation from escalating, and there’s nothing I could’ve said that would’ve changed the guy’s mind, but I can’t help thinking what would’ve happened if I’d held my ground and calmly replied with something like, “Wow, it sounds like cops are involved in an awful lot of killing. We should do something about that.” What impact would that have had on the people around us listening in? Would it have changed any of their minds? Am I really as much of an ally as I like to think I am if I’m avoiding confrontations instead of facing them head-on?

I am starting to understand that I have a lot more to learn before I can effectively educate anyone. But I also just found the most adorable “Dismantle White Supremacy” shirt, and I cannot wait to hear that guy’s thoughts on it.