Monday, September 7, 2020

On Shakespeare


I did it. 

Two years ago, I made a goal that by my 35th birthday, I will have read, watched, or participated in all 37 of Shakespeare's plays.

I turn 35 tomorrow, and I finished the 37th play today.

I have some thoughts on Shakespeare in general to share, but first, a quick tour through the plays at a glance! (A handful of these have some disputed authorship, or shared authorship, but this list is the one that came up most often when I was researching the Shakespeare canon.)

Antony and Cleopatra
Read with some friends at the "Sigh Away Sundays" club in 2018
SUMMARY: Classic story of obsessive love, with a classic death by asp bite for our heroine.

Coriolanus
Watched the 2011 film
SUMMARY: OMG so much war, with one badass mama tries to convince her son to stop doing so much war.

Hamlet
Watched lots of films and productions, read lots of times
SUMMARY: Hamlet can't decide whether or not to kill his uncle (or himself?).

Julius Caesar
Read during undergrad at BYU-Idaho
SUMMARY: Ancient Greek story of ambition and betrayal.

King Lear
Read during undergrad at BYU-Idaho
SUMMARY: Which of the three daughters loves their father, the king? Who knows, he'll go mad.

Macbeth
Watched a handful of productions, played a Witch in a production at BYU-Idaho in 2009
SUMMARY: Witches and ambition and battles and Scotland!

Othello
Read in high school, played Bianca in a production in Salt Lake City in 2018
SUMMARY: Racism and rumors cause PROBLEMS.

Romeo and Juliet
Read lots and lots, seen a few productions
SUMMARY: Young teenagers from feuding families fall "in love" and everything goes terribly.

Timon of Athens
Watched the 2017 Stratford Festival production online
SUMMARY: Money can't buy you friendship.

Titus Andronicus
Watched the 2017 Royal Shakespeare Company production online
SUMMARY: Romans (and Goths) are bloody and cut off hands and heads in revenge.

All's Well That Ends Well
Watched the 2013 Shakespeare By The Sea production
SUMMARY: The ole bedroom bait-and-switch will cure marital displeasure.

As You Like It
Watched the 2017 Shakespeare's Globe production online
SUMMARY: Rosalind dresses as a boy and falls in love with Orlando the poet in the forest.

Comedy of Errors
Played a servant in a production at BYU-Idaho in 2004
SUMMARY: Twins cause hilarity and chaos.

Cymbeline
Watched the 2016 Royal Shakespeare Company production online
SUMMARY: War, mistaken identities, wagers on virtue.

Love's Labour's Lost
Watched the 2014 Royal Shakespeare Company production online
SUMMARY: Studying is more important than women. Right? RIGHT?!

Measure for Measure
Read during undergrad at BYU-Idaho
SUMMARY: Corruption vs purity, morality and mercy in Venice! Starring Angelo the creepy lecherous priest!

Merry Wives of Windsor
Watched the RSC 2018 production online
SUMMARY: Falstaff tries to seduce two different women, but together they outsmart him multiple times.

Merchant of Venice
Read during undergrad at BYU-Idaho
SUMMARY: Antonio owes Shylock a pound of flesh.

Midsummer Night's Dream
Played Mustardseed in a production at South Medford High School, watched
SUMMARY: Fairies and lovers and actors in the woods!

Much Ado about Nothing
Watched the film in high school
SUMMARY: Benedick and Beatrice are secretly IN LOVE, and rumors both cause problems and solve them.

Winter's Tale
Watched the Shakespeare By The Sea 2018 production
SUMMARY: A king freaks out over the virtue of his wife, and Hermione is a living statue.

Two Gentlemen of Verona
Watched the 2014 Royal Shakespeare Company production online
SUMMARY: Male friendship rivalry in romantic Italy.

Twelfth Night
Watched the 1996 film
SUMMARY: Twins cause romance and hilarity.

Troilus and Cressida
Watched the 2018 Royal Shakespeare Company production online (post-apocalyptic!)
SUMMARY: Greeks and Trojans (Helen and Achilles and all them) freak out about war and lechery.

The Tempest
Watched a production in high school, played Caliban and designed sound for a children's production at BYU-Idaho, played Gonzalo in a production at BYU-Idaho
SUMMARY: Prospero is magical and rules an island. His former betrayers show up and things happen.

Taming of the Shrew
Watched multiple productions and films
SUMMARY: Petruchio "tames" the headstrong Kate and marries her so that her younger sister can get married.

Pericles
Watched the 1984 BBC film
SUMMARY: Pericles guesses a riddle about incest and then goes on a lot of adventures that involve shipwrecks.

Henry IV, Part I
Watched the 2014 Royal Shakespeare Company production online
SUMMARY: Hal is Prince of Wales but mostly wants to hang with Falstaff.

Henry IV, Part II
Watched the 2014 Royal Shakespeare Company production online
SUMMARY: More of Hal hanging with Falstaff, and more of Falstaff and his gang in general.

Henry V
Watched the 2014 Royal Shakespeare Company production online
SUMMARY: Hal is now officially royal and beats France in a battle on St Crispin's Day, even though the odds are against him.

Henry VI, Part I
Watched the 2013 Globe Theatre production, performed on the battlefield of Barnet in the rain
SUMMARY: Joan of Arc fights for France, and people wear red and white roses to show their varying allegiances.

Henry VI, Part II
Watched the 2013 Globe Theatre production, performed on the battlefield of Barnet
SUMMARY: Women and commoners all seek to take over.

Henry VI, Part III
Watched the 2013 Globe Theatre production, performed on the battlefield of Barnet
SUMMARY: Bloody revenge and we meet Richard III.

Henry VIII
Watched the 1979 BBC film adaptation.
SUMMARY: Everything was the corrupt Catholic Church's fault and Queen Elizabeth and her dad are actually awesome.

King John
Watched the 2015 Stratford Festival production online
SUMMARY: France vs. England, starring a witty bastard

Richard II
Watched the 2013 Royal Shakespeare Company production online (starring David Tennant as Richard)
SUMMARY: Spending money on Irish wars leads to the rebellion of nobles, especially when they think the king is weak.

Richard III
Watched the 1995 film
SUMMARY: Tyrant with back problems.

BONUS: Two Noble Kinsmen
Watched a production by Grassroots Shakespeare Company in Salt Lake City, 2018
SUMMARY: Brothers in jail fall in love with the same woman.

And here’s what I’ve learned:


Shakespeare is AMAZING.

I know that his talent as a writer gets talked about so much that it’s a cliché, but really, truly, his writing is incredible. The language, the wit, the character development. Dude could freaking WRITE. Gimme those dirty puns and those inspiring speeches and that quick banter and those rambling soliloquies. I am here for all of it. Shakespeare activates this part of my heart and soul and brain that nothing else can, and I don’t know how to describe it except to say that it’s bliss and satisfaction and delight.

I am a big fan of the Royal Shakespeare Company

I watched a good portion of these plays on DigitalTheatre.com, where the Royal Shakespeare Company has made recordings available for a small fee. And it was WORTH it. I watched a few other productions online, from Shakespeare By The Sea and The Stratford Festival and The Globe and the BBC, but by far, my favorite productions were always the RSC’s. The costumes and lights and sets and ACTING and concepts and just all of it. (The exception was the ending of the RSC’s Love’s Labors Lost, which I thought was not well justified or developed.)

There are some common themes in Shakespeare’s plays

I think because I was consuming Shakespeare so frequently, especially during the last year or so, I began to see come common themes. The most notable of which is this: When men freak out about the “chastity” of the women they love because they listen only to other men about it, all hell breaks loose. In fact it’s a major plot point in at least 7 of Shakespeare’s plays: Othello, Cymbeline, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Much Ado About Nothing*, The Winter’s Tale, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Troilus and Cressida.

I know that misunderstandings about sex are good for high-stakes theatre, both comedic and dramatic, and it’s something that would resonate with Elizabethan audiences. But I also like to think that Shakespeare was trying to tell us something.

Other notable themes include gender-f*ckery/queerness, the dangers of ambition, duality/opposites, appearances vs. reality, and revenge.

The histories are actually pretty awesome

I’ve always struggled getting into the histories. I haven’t even really tried that hard because I was like “royalty is boring” but it turns out I was mostly wrong. I am especially a huge fan of the Henry V story (Henry IV, Part 1; Henry IV, Part 2; and Henry V). The RSC produced all three plays with the same cast and concept, and I fell in love with our boy Harry and Falstaff is delightful, and that St Crispin’s Day speech really did make me cry.

I could spend the rest of my life studying, reading, watching, performing, and talking about Shakespeare and still make new discoveries

That’s part of why Shakespeare has lasted so long. His texts are so rich with meaning and so layered, and there are so many possible interpretations of his work and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.



I’m almost tempted to re-do this entire challenge every ten years or so. In the meantime,

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended—
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.

(exits, pursued by a bear)









* The word “nothing” in the title of “Much Ado About Nothing” has a triple meaning. 1. Regular definition, AKA absence of something. 2. The word “nothing” has an Elizabethan pronunciation of “noting,” as in “noticing.” 3. IT’S ALSO A SLANG EUPHEMISM FOR VAGINA. This play is literally called “A Whole Lot of Freaking Out Over Rumors/Noticing/Pussy.”

Monday, August 24, 2020

Breathe


“I need another short breather,” I say. 
 
Patrick stops a few steps ahead of me. “No worries,” he says. “We’re in no rush.” 

We’re standing in the shade, halfway through the first ¼ mile of this hike, which has a 600-foot elevation gain. I lean forward and put my hands on my knees as my lungs struggle to gulp enough air. 

“Don’t let me forget my inhaler ever again,” I say. 

 I’ve only had my inhaler for a few months, so I never remember to bring it anywhere. I got it after I realized that my lungs were consistently tight after going on walks in spring. My lungs often felt tight in spring in general. But this time, my lungs felt tight in early spring when I was going on daily walks in an effort to stave off the madness of quarantine. (The albuterol prescription also helped alleviate my anxiety about having COVID-19. If the inhaler helped, it meant I was negative for the disease?) 

“Okay,” I say, once my lungs stop burning. “I’m ready.” We walk slowly, setting a deliberate pace. I glance around at the aspens, the rocks, the wildflowers. I take a sip of water. My head has begun to ache. Not enough oxygen. Not enough hydration. 

I put one foot in front of the other. I’ll probably be a little sore tomorrow. If I had marched yesterday, I would be sore today too. But yesterday, we stayed in the car, honking the horn, blasting Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” participating in a drive-by protest of police brutality. 

I wish there was a phrase other than “drive-by.” 

My muscles and bones and lungs and heart carry me up the mountain. They’re carrying a lot for me nowadays. 

How it felt to dance in the blinding heat, a few hundred of us in the streets, dance-dancing for the revolution, blocks away from the District Attorney’s office. How it felt to lay on the hot pavement in front of the governor’s mansion, face-down, gravel pressing into my knees, for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. The burn in my feet and knees as we walked up the long hill to the Capitol building. I forgot my inhaler that day, too. 

Patrick and I pace ourselves, a slow and steady climb to the lake. When we get there, the light glints off the water, and the grass is wet and cool at its edges. The sky is blue blue blue, the leaves on the aspens twirling in the breeze. 

It feels good to be outside. I temporarily took Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter off my phone yesterday. I’ve recently found myself caught in an endless cycle of bad mental health, which I try to alleviate with social media, but social media makes it worse. So I’m doing a “fast” for a few days, even though I’m always judgmental when other people do that. Just have some f***ing self-control, I always think. Or, If you think social media sucks that much, I think you just have crappy friends

But I also apparently lack self-control. And it’s not that social media sucks, or that I have crappy friends. It’s that I mostly have passionate, empathetic, and compassionate friends who are constantly fighting for justice and equity and it’s beautiful and also somehow exhausting, and then I have a few friends who keep doing theatre and having social gatherings without masks and it is NOT beautiful and it is definitely exhausting. (The pandemic is not over, my friends. You are endangering everyone around you and prolonging hardship for yourself and your entire community, my friends.) 

And I’m exhausted by strangers stopping me to discuss how “not all police are bad” because they see the sign on my car. I’m exhausted by people telling me that Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization. I’m exhausted by editing my resume for every remote job posting that I find on ZipRecruiter. I’m exhausted by not being able to breathe when I walk up a mountain. I’m exhausted by calling the DA’s office every day to ask that the life sentence charges be dropped against protestors. I’m exhausted by the steady and relentless heat of this corner of the planet, and by the wildfires that blur the skies for days on end, and by my dwindling savings account. 

So I’m taking a break. I’m taking a break, knowing that my whiteness is part of what allows me to take a break. But I'll be back to do the good work eventually. I just need a few moments. 

A few moments to just breathe.

Monday, June 29, 2020

For the Strength Of Youth I Wish I'd Had


Growing up in the LDS Church, I had a small booklet that guided me through my teenage years. "The Strength of Youth" helped me define my standards in every aspect of my life, with more detail added in subsequent editions. 

But my views have changed quite a bit since those days. I'm grateful for the guidance this book gave me, but they also led me to be judgmental, both of myself and others. They perpetuated harmful ideas about race, class, gender, and "worthiness." In my adult years, there have been times when I wish I'd had some different version of these standards--something to give me guidance without making things so black and white. I know teenage brains don't always handle nuance as well, but I'm pretty sure most of them can do better than we give them credit for. 

So I decided to write my own version of "For the Strength of Youth." The kind I wish I'd had, and the kind I wish was available to youth today. Many of you may be scandalized that I'm taking something written by Church leaders and re-writing it, and I understand if your feelings are hurt by that. But it was just such a convenient format to encapsulate these ideas. 

Some of the language has remained, some has been adjusted. I've tried to keep the same general tone, for simplicity. 

You can read the full current "For the Strength of Youth" standards from the LDS Church here, but here are the sections: 

Agency and Accountability 
Dating 
Dress and Appearance
Education (changed to "Education and Learning")
Entertainment and Media 
Family (removed) 
Friends (changed to "Compassion and Empathy")
Gratitude (removed) 
Honesty & Integrity (removed) 
Language (IMPORTANT NOTE: SPECIFIC OFFENSIVE WORDS ARE WRITTEN IN THIS SECTION TO GIVE TEENAGERS THE KNOWLEDGE THEY NEED) 
Music and Dancing (removed) 
Physical and Emotional Health 
Repentance (removed) 
Sabbath Day Observance (removed) 
Service (removed) 
Sexual Purity (changed to "Sexuality and Gender")
Tithes and Offerings (removed) 
Work and Self-Reliance (changed to "Financial Responsibility")
ADDED: Good Citizenship
Go Forward with Faith (changed to "Go Forward with Hope and Courage"


Agency and Accountability
Freedom of thought, speech, and action is one of the most precious aspects of being a human being. Do not let others coerce you into thinking, feeling, or being anything other than what you wish. Develop and use critical thinking skills.

Note that while you are free to choose your course of action, you are not always free to choose the consequences. Sometimes your words or actions may hurt others. When that happens, acknowledge their pain, offer an apology, and make restitution.

Do not infringe upon the right of others to think, speak, and act as they wish. If you disagree with them, speak out rather than silencing others.

Dating
A date is a planned activity that allows people to get to know each other. In cultures where dating is acceptable, it can help you learn and practice social skills, develop friendships, have fun, and eventually find a romantic companion if you wish.

Be kind and courteous when you ask for, accept, or decline a date. Never coerce anyone into a date. This is especially important for young men. Rejection is often painful, but “no” does not mean “try harder.” Learn to respect another person’s desires, especially those of young women. Young women, do not feel obligated to say yes to anything that makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. You may decline any dates, dances, and/or conversations that you wish to.

Be honest in your interactions with others, and do not play “hard to get.” This only reinforces the false idea that “no” means “try harder.”

Remember that dates don’t have to be expensive or elaborate. Find ways to enjoy time together in situations that are safe, both physically and emotionally.

Dress and Appearance
Your body is a powerful tool to help you accomplish things during your life on earth.

Some may have you think that the way you dress affects the thoughts and feelings of those around you, and that you are responsible for helping them maintain "pure thoughts" by keeping certain parts of your body covered. This is not true. You cannot control the thoughts and feelings of those around you. Furthermore, if the way someone is dressed affects your thoughts and feelings, those thoughts and feelings are your own responsibility. This is true regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In many cultures, a great deal of emphasis is placed on appearance, whether it be weight, skin tone, height, or other features. But your body’s primary function is not to be looked at. Rather, your body’s primary function is to experience life on earth. Celebrate the positive things your body can do, instead of what others may think of how it looks.

Avoid making disparaging remarks about appearance, whether your own or someone else’s. If others make disparaging remarks about your own appearance, try to have patience and compassion and remember that their opinion does not change your inherent worth.

Education and Learning
Education is an empowering force to better prepare you for greater service in the world. It will help you better provide for yourself, your family, and those in need. But more importantly, it will help you be wise and thoughtful in your every day life.

If you are able to obtain a formal education, make college a goal. If college is not a good fit or an attainable option, strive to find ways to educate yourself on your own. Seek out as many different perspectives as you can, and study even those you disagree with.

Maintain an enthusiasm for learning throughout your life. Find joy in continuing to learn and in expanding your interests. 

Do not worry too much about whether or not your formal education will help you be “successful” or “rich.” Be mindful of what your life may look like in various careers, but pursue the things that ignite your passion.  

Entertainment and Media
We live in a marvelous time of media—video games, television, film, theatre, dance, music, books, magazines, social media, podcasts, websites, and more. There is much that will help you gain greater empathy and understanding, and/or that will allow you a respite from your troubles.

Use wise judgement in choosing what media you consume. Pay attention to the messages surrounding sexuality, violence, culture, and the human experience. When there is violence, how do the characters experience the consequences? When there is sexuality, how does it inform the characters or plot? How does the media you consume break or perpetuate harmful stereotypes? It takes practice to learn how to answer these questions, but if you are uncertain, talk it out with others. If you feel that your empathy is lessened because of the media you are consuming, shift your use.

When using social media, be compassionate to others, even when you disagree with them. Never say anything on the internet that you wouldn’t be willing to say in person.

You may have been told to avoid pornography at all costs, and that viewing it is addictive. This is not necessarily true, but be aware that pornography is not an accurate representation of human sexuality.

Think of a high speed car chase in a movie. Because you have likely ridden in or driven a car, you know that the car chase you’re witnessing onscreen is the high-adrenaline version of driving. Pornography is like that high speed car chase. It may normalize things that are violent or unrealistic. If you are curious about sexuality, ask a trusted adult for resources.

Also be aware that there is a great deal of abuse within the pornography industry. Be as ethical as you can be in your choices of what to consume. 

Compassion and Empathy
In order to participate in society, you must learn to practice compassion for those around you. Work to be patient, to give others the benefit of the doubt, and to nurture empathy within yourself. These things will help you have more meaningful connections and help you be an influence for good in the world.

These traits are also deeply important in your relationships with friends and family. This does not mean that you need to remain in situations that are harmful, or allow others to take advantage of you. Boundaries allow you to show compassion for yourself and others equally. 

Language
How you communicate should reflect who you are as a person. Use your words to uplift, encourage, articulate, and question. Do not use your words to bully, insult, demean, harass, or threaten others, whether in person or in writing. Even in teasing, sometimes using unkind words can have painful effects.

Never use words that are sexist, racist, homophobic, or ableist, or that perpetuate discrimination of any kind. For the purposes of education, examples of these kinds of words include: nigger (if you are not Black), wetback, chink, lame, fag/faggot, retard/retarded, kike, gay (when used to describe something disliked).

If someone asks you to refrain from using certain words around them, respect their request. Always use the correct names and pronouns for those around you. 

Physical and Emotional Health
Caring for your body will help you enjoy a fulfilling life.

Eat nutritious food, exercise regularly, and get regular sleep. Others may attempt to convince you that if you are above a certain weight, you are unhealthy. But know that weight is only one very small part of overall health, and that you are valuable and worthy and can be healthy no matter what your shape, size, or weight.

In your teenage years, it’s important to be sparing and mindful in your use of alcohol, cannabis, and other drugs. You may be curious, but these substances can having lasting effects on brain development. It’s best to wait until you are older to consume or experiment with these things. (Do not ever “huff” glue or other household chemicals, as these practices can cause immediate death, even if you’ve never tried this practice before.)

Your brain and nervous system are also important parts of your body, and should also receive care. Yoga, mindfulness, and cognitive-behavioral therapy can all help you maintain a healthy nervous system and process your emotions. You can learn these things from classes, apps, books, or YouTube channels. 

Seek professional help for prolonged/consistent feelings of sadness or anxiety, distressing thoughts, and/or unresolved trauma.

You deserve wholeness and wellness, in both body and mind.

Sexuality and Gender
Sexuality is an important part of being human. Sexual dreams, arousal, and masturbation are some of the ways that humans experience sexuality before they share their sexuality with another person, and they continue throughout one's lifetime. 

How, where, when, why, and with whom you share your sexuality with others is completely up to you. However, in all sexual experiences with others, make sure you have the “three C’s”: Consent, Communication, and Contraception.

Consent is agreement to participate in any sexual activity and/or intimate touch. Consent must be given freely and enthusiastically, and can be withdrawn at any time. It may feel awkward to ask permission or check in, but it is absolutely vital, especially if you aren’t as practiced at reading body language or other social cues. Never do anything violent (such as slapping or choking) as part of your sexuality until and unless you have learned about proper consent and after-care.

Communication also takes practice, but being clear about expectations, desires, triggers, preferences, and more will help you to have meaningful experiences. You are allowed to communicate if you do or don’t like something, and you are allowed to ask for something you want.

Unless you are trying to become pregnant, make sure you use contraception to protect against unwanted pregnancies and infections. Condoms are often the cheapest and most effective options if there is a penis involved. Clinics like Planned Parenthood often have free resources with detailed information about contraception, and often carry free condoms.

Know that there is nothing you could do or have done to you that would make you “dirty,” “shameful,” or unworthy in any way. Women are often made to feel that their worth is dependent on how they experience or share their sexuality. To you young women: You are not a bad girl, or a good girl. You are simply a girl.

If you have experienced sexual assault, violence, or harassment (anything that happened without your consent), there is help for you. Reach out to a trusted adult, close friend, or hotline.

Sexual orientation is who you are most attracted to. You may be gay/lesbian (attracted to your own gender), straight (attracted to the binary opposite gender), bisexual (attracted to both binary genders), pansexual (attracted to people regardless of their gender), asexual (not attracted to anyone), or still figuring it out. People can even change throughout their lifetimes! None of these are superior or more normal than any other. 

Gender identity has to do with your own gender. Many people are “cisgender,” which means that they identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, based on their genitals. Many others are “transgender,” meaning that they identify more closely with the opposite gender from the one they were assigned, or that they identify with both or neither. How you dress or speak or look can sometimes show the world things about your gender, but they don’t have to.

Regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity, you are valued and loved. You have much to contribute to the world. Find connections with friends and loved ones who celebrate and respect you no matter what.

If you have more questions about sexuality, check out the following resources:

Financial Responsibility
No matter what your financial circumstances, be honest and diligent in your financial activities. Find a good budgeting system that works for you, and practice saving if possible. If you have extra money that you do not need for yourself or don't wish to save, consider how you could use those funds to improve the lives of those around you, whether through donations to non-profits, gifts to friends, or supporting small local businesses.

Try to spend your money ethically when possible. You can “vote with your dollar” to show support for companies who prioritize fairness, equity, and sustainability.

Good Citizenship
If you live in a country where you are able to vote, register and use this powerful tool to be an influence for good in your community. Take time to be informed about the issues, both local and global, and find ways that you can contribute to the growth of humanity. Work for equity and fair treatment of all people.

Make an effort to live sustainably. You have a responsibility to help take care of this planet, and to use its resources wisely. Research and implement small steps to make a difference.

Go Forward with Hope and Courage
Each generation has an opportunity to learn from the previous generation, and then to go out and make the world better. Sometimes this is easy, and other times, it may be very challenging. But you are equipped with unique talents and interests, strengths and abilities, and you can be confident that you have something beautiful to contribute to the world.

Monday, June 15, 2020

You can't choose your race, but you can choose your class


Welcome to the campaign!*

We're playing a long-term game of Dungeons and Dragons here, and if you're new, there are a few things you should know. 

First, we have to function as though there's no Dungeon Master. (Or if there is, we don’t know who they are, but that gets into a whole ‘nother thing, so.) We’re all just going for it with the information we have. 

Second of all, we’re a big group of adventurers with different priorities, but in general, we’re fighting for social justice. We often come together to work on a specific campaign or battle. (For example, right now, in June of 2020, a big group of us is focusing on racial justice.) 

Third of all, unlike real DnD, you don’t have to stick with one class if you don’t want to. You can choose a different class each day, or overlap which class you’re a part of at any given moment. 

Okay! Ready to join? Here are the classes you can choose from: 

Fighters
Probably the largest and most visible class. These are the folks who march, carry signs, attend rallies, who are vocal on social media. 

Barbarians 
Warriors whose rage fuels them to (often violent) action. Throwers of bricks, topplers of statues, and painters of graffiti. They primarily fight for causes by disrupting the economy. These folks are definitely valuable to any cause, although some argue that too many on your team can become a liability. 

Monks and Paladins 
These folks focus on the spiritual and emotional aspects of the fight. These are the psychologists, the writers, the podcasters, and the friends reminding you that it’s okay to take a break. They provide a good balance for the fighters and barbarians. 

Bards 
The artists who use their art to critique the social order and provide hope for those fighting for change. Singers and songwriters, painters and other visual artists, theatre companies, TV and filmmakers, and creative writers. 

Clerics and Druids 
The healers and suppliers. They support the fighters during rallies and protests by providing medical care, food and water, transportation, and protection. This can sometimes be a dangerous job, but their involvement makes a huge difference at large protests. They’re the ones with first aid kits and bottles of water.

Rangers 
These folks are fighting on the fringes, having tough conversations with friends, family members, and acquaintances. Rather than participating directly in rallies and protests, they work to challenge the status quo wherever they are. This work isn’t as visible, but it’s deeply meaningful, and crucial to any social justice movement. 

Rogues 
The folks who use subversive tactics to fight against “enemies” of the movement. The internet group Anonymous is the perfect example. Standard tactics include things like hacking social media hashtags (like when KPop fans started using #WhiteLivesMatter to flood social media with KPop instead of white supremacy), crashing websites, sending memes to surveillance apps/sites to drown out any actual surveillance, and doing otherwise generally “legal” activity to stop immoral activity. 

Casters and Support Casters: Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards 
These folks take direct action through donating, calling representatives, showing up at government meetings, voting, drafting letters, etc. These folks do the work “on the ground” even when there isn’t a protest or news story. Consistent ongoing work is key here, and it’s often most effective when you prepare a specific spell to utilize. 

Monday, June 1, 2020

Take a breath

No blog today. Beckah and I are both exhausted. 

Hug the people you love. See you in two weeks. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Short Imagined Monologue: Coronavirus edition


Listen, man. I get it. I suck or whatever. But at the same time, you gotta admire how f***ing powerful I am. Right? Like, I’m basically invisible to the naked eye and I am still pwning you all so hard right now.

Sure, you’ve got your “strong economy” and your “healthcare systems” and your “toilet paper.” But one particle of me, between 0.06 and 1.4 microns big, and BOOM. Unemployment up to 14%! Refrigerated trucks being used as temporary morgues! You’re wiping your butts with rags made from old t-shirts!

I did that. Me. All on my own.

Okay, well, I guess TECHNICALLY y’all helped. All that coughing and sneezing and breathing on each other. Skipping the handwashing. You’re disgusting animals, all of you. And I love it.

I especially love when y’all disregard all the recommendations that are supposed to protect you and your loved ones. Please, keep gathering in large crowds to protest the government “taking away your freedoms.” Please don’t wear a mask in public. Please stand way too close to each other in line. You are the true MVPs of my campaign to f*** up humanity.

But I simply can’t go any further without acknowledging the folks in power who made me so powerful. I’d like to thank my boy, P Trump, and his gang for basically disbanding Global Health Security two years ago. Y’all really opened the door for me. Hell, you f***ing rolled out a red carpet. (I don’t really get how that Cheeto-d*ck perv is your PRESIDENT, but whatever.) Make America sick again, libtards!

Hm? What’s that? You miss sitting in restaurants? You want to get a haircut? You still want your “really good friend” to come over because you can’t survive two weeks without getting laid, even though y’all are “just casual”? Tough titties, all you cool cats and kittens. You can’t have any of that. Because of me.

Because of me, the line to get into Home Depot winds around a city block. Because of me, aisles in grocery stores have “one way” signs. (Shout out to all my peeps who blatantly ignore those signs, btw.) Because of me, there’s caution tape fluttering in the breeze around every public play structure. Because of me, everyone who works in live entertainment is f***ing out of a job for the foreseeable future.

Ha. The future. As if you could make any plans beyond tomorrow’s to-do list. I know some of y’all are counting down the days to when things are “back to normal,” but f**k you. This is your new normal, b*tch.

See, I’m forcing you to face the delusion you’ve been carrying all this time—that you ever had control over your life in the first place. Your bank account, your career, your shopping trips, your travel plans, your daily routine are all subject to the whims of fate. Or in this case, the whims of a badass coronavirus like yours truly.

It’s like in Jurassic Park. So many of you are John Hammond, sitting in a room and eating melting ice cream and saying things like “When we have control again.” But you should be Ellie Sattler, yelling across the table “You never had control! That’s the illusion! I was overwhelmed by the power of this place. But I made a mistake, too. I didn’t have enough respect for that power and it’s out now. The only thing that matters now are the people we love.”

I’m the power she’s talking about. And I’m out now.

Granted, you guys have tests. Although it kinda makes me happy that it’s soooooo uncomfortable for your fragile little bodies. Raise your hand if you want to have your brains scraped out of your head through your nose to check to see if I’m hanging out in your cavities! That’s what you gotta do to get to me, dude. You’ve got to go somewhere and have your brain scraped out of your head through your nose, and then wait 2-10 days for someone to call you to tell you whether or not you have to stay alone in your room for two full weeks.

And also, granted, you do have masks and social distancing practices and medical teams working around the clock and coordinated efforts to control me in these “unprecedented times.” And okay, FINE, so you’ve made strides in recovery and treatment and containment or whatever.

But I’m just trying to survive, you know? And if I have to kill a few healthy cells in your fragile special little snowflake respiratory systems to stay alive, then so be it. I’m not so different from you, you motherf***er who refuses to wear a mask. We’re both just trying to live our damn lives. Who gives a damn about anyone else.

Monday, May 4, 2020

COVID-19 blah blah blah, for posterity

Here’s what it was like. Here’s what I will remember.

I spend early January to mid-March dismissing everyone’s fears, before actually doing the research and realizing that this is serious. Not necessarily because of the mortality rate, but because our healthcare systems will not able to handle the load, and that will lead to a loss of life on a terrifying scale.

Early on, grocery stores are chaos. They’re quickly cleaned out of hand sanitizer, bottled water, and toilet paper. When I go grocery shopping, I can’t find eggs, flour, baking powder, vegetable oil, or frozen lasagna. A lot of other things are almost gone—butter, cereal, sour cream (for some reason?), canned veggies, fruit, beans, meat. With toilet paper being so hard to come by, I decide to take a “greener” route and learn how to use and launder “the family cloth.” I get into the habit of ordering my groceries online for curbside pickup. We all wear masks when we're out in public. (AT LEAST WE'RE SUPPOSED TO.) When we do go into grocery stores, the lines all have markers six feet apart, and the aisles are all one-way only.

Schools close for “two weeks,” which quickly becomes “until the end of the school year” as the governor publishes a “shelter in place” directive until the end of April.

Early on a Wednesday morning in mid-March, we’re awoken by a 5.7 earthquake in Utah. My roommates and I feel dozens of aftershocks, and spend the whole day sitting in the living room together, for comfort.

America collectively loses its mind over a Netflix documentary series called "Tiger King," which has everything from polygamy to arson to murder-for-hire, because in the hours we're watching that, we're not thinking about the pandemic.

K goes to Boise to be with her parents for a few days, although things are so uncertain when she leaves town that we say goodbye accompanied by “See you in a few days! Or a few months…?” She stays there for four weeks.

A and I have “reading parties” in the living room most nights. We trade book recommendations back and forth and read the same things at different times. There’s one memorable night when we get high and watch “A Goofy Movie.” At one point, early in the movie, A struggles to reach the remote to pause the movie and say to me, very seriously, “This is important. I need to tell you this. All of the teenagers in this movie are dogs.”

When K comes back into town, our reading parties turn into “reading, stitching, video gaming, writing, puzzling” parties. We spend one week watching films based on/thematically related to novels written in the 1800s. All of our home improvement projects are put on hold, since we can’t go to Home Depot for supplies. I work from home roughly 4 hours a week, and spend the rest of my time cycling through the same half dozen activities.

I complete jigsaw puzzles on an app on my iPad. I journal. I read. I watch TV. I listen to podcasts. I stitch. I write. I do some work for Royter Snow. I do chores. I go on so many walks that I grow bored with my neighborhood and drive out to other neighborhoods to walk there. I come to enjoy the solitude of the days when A is at work and K is out of town, although I joke to A that I understand why housewives in the 1960s rebelled because this is “boring as f***.” Lock-down has turned me into the housewife that my Mormon upbringing has trained me to be. When K does return from Boise, it takes me a few days to adjust to someone else being there during the day.

My sleep schedule, despite my best efforts, reverts to its preferred pattern of 1:30 am – 10:30 am. I take a lot of naps early on, dealing with the stress of it all. Time has ceased to matter or make sense anyway. I rarely have a strong sense of what day of the week it is, and the passage of time is impossible to measure. At any given moment, it feels like we’ve been under lock-down for at least three months.

On a morning in early April, I awake longing for the pillowy soft sweetness of a freshly made donut, and lament that it’s out of reach for who knows how long. I attempt to make beignets to satisfy this craving, which is only sort of successful. I do learn an excellent apple dumplings recipe a little while later.

After a while, I find myself applying COVID-19 social distancing rules to the characters in books I’m reading. Sometimes the characters will be having a big gathering, and I’ll think, “No! You can’t do that!” before realizing that it’s not real.

Around mid-April, my dreams start to get strange and vivid. I mention it to A and she tells me that multiple people have mentioned the same thing. Later that day, National Geographic publishes an article about how the pandemic is causing widespread vivid dreams—both because of the lack of new stimulus to process, and because of our anxiety about a virus that’s essentially invisible to us.

Beckah and I begin a tradition of watching bad Netflix movies together once a week, via Skype and a Google Chrome extension called “Netflix Party.” By far the best one is “Iron Sky 2: The Coming Race,” the sequel to “Iron Sky,” a Finnish-German-Australian-comic-science fiction-action film. Major elements of the film include a reptilian Sarah Palin, a cult of Apple lovers called “Jobsists,” a hollow earth, a moon-Führer, and Hitler riding a T-rex. At one point, Beckah and I get really hung up on one particular plot point regarding how a compass would work in the middle of a hollow earth before remembering that no part of the movie made any sense.

My cousin starts a movie watching group and we meet weekly on Zoom. I do a lot of Zoom/virtual meetings. We all do. Patrick and I are stuck in separate homes, and connect through Skype a few times a week, and I long for his arms around me so much I can hardly stand it.

I learn how to play Risk on my iPad, and decide that I’m a Risk prodigy, winning 51 out of 56 games by the beginning of May, at all levels of difficulty, against both bots and humans.

I deal with my anxiety about the current situation by small-scale compulsive internet shopping, purchasing new sheets, new cookware, fridge organization sets, and a dozen other things I probably don’t need, but will definitely use.

Most of the time nowadays, I’m okay with our “new normal.” I feel guilty about the times when I’m not…when I wake up in the morning and fill with dread at the realization of being stuck at home for who knows how long. But we’re all taking it one day at a time.

At the time of this writing, from January on, I’ve played 56 games of Risk, completed 31 jigsaw puzzles, and read 9 books. I could look up how many stitches I’ve completed and how many hours of podcasts I’ve listened to, and all of the television and movies I’ve watched, but the answer doesn’t interest me enough to do the work required.

That’s what it’s like right now.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Newcastle, California

I’ve been thinking a lot about my late Grandma Jo’s house lately. I have only snippets of memories of the place, but something about it has been floating to the surface a lot lately. And recently, it has become deeply important for me to find it.

I follow a winding path through the internet, from FamilySearch to burial records, until I narrow my search down to one small town outside of Sacramento, California that “feels” right.

I’m fairly certain the house was on a hill. I remember my cousin Hillary falling down the gravel driveway. I know there’s some kind of large body of water within walking distance. There was a summer when I found “fool’s gold” in the mud on the shore and was certain I’d struck it rich. There are lots of trees and blackberry bushes—or at least there were in the early 90s.

I search “Josephine Avellino Newcastle California,” and instantly, an address pops up. 520 Mandarin Hill Road. I look at the satellite image on Google maps. Lots of trees. A long winding dirt road. A nearby reservoir. I think this is it. There’s no Google Street view available, but…I think this is it.


It’s hard to verify. I only have one picture from the house, of all of us cousins on the back deck, which doesn’t provide much “corroborating evidence” for this 520 Mandarin Hill Road house being Grandma Jo’s.

I check Zillow and Realtor.com and half a dozen other realtor websites, hoping for pictures. They all say the same thing. “Single family home built in 1973. Approximately 2,584 square feet, 4 beds, 2.5 baths. 5.7 acre lot. Last sold in June of 2000.” None of the sites have any pictures.

The problem is that I know how unreliable memory can be. I have a distinct picture in my head of the color of the exterior paint, of the garage on the right side of the front door, of the layout inside. But I have no way to check the reliability of these memories. And for some reason, I want to see it. I want to remember the house as it was.

I doubt I could find any old internet listings for the home from June of 2000. The internet was barely a thing in 2000. But I keep thinking about my old backyard on Rio Street in Medford, how it was one of my favorite places in the whole world, and now it’s gone. There’s a whole additional house built on the lot where I spent my teenage years gardening and reading and swimming and eating. I don’t want to lose Grandma Jo’s house, too.

My memories are fading, and if I don’t see pictures, if I don’t draw it, if I don’t write it, it will be gone forever. In this time when so many things feel uncertain, I need this to be certain. I need to know that my grandmother lived in a house on Mandarin Hill Road, because I know that I loved that place dearly.

Maybe I’ll have to write it.

The one picture I have is of warm red wood planks. A railing and a bench. To the left, a gazebo with a hot tub. There was a thermometer with birds on it hanging from the side of the gazebo. Trees and trees and trees all around. One growing right through the deck. There was a large field of grass down further left, with rhythmic sprinklers watering throughout the day. The sound still makes me think of Grandma Jo’s.


There were blackberry bushes all along the left side of the road near the house. In the summer, we’d go out and pick buckets full. Grandma Jo would put them into bowls and pour heavy cream over them, and we’d eat them with a spoon.

There was a two-car garage on the right side of the house, which I don’t have any memory of every going into. The house was painted with a weathered grayish green…the color of homes near the coast. The interior was decorated in this antique Victorian style, with late 1980s sensibilities. There was a cabinet full of antique dolls. Needlepoint samplers and lace doilies everywhere.

The living room was wide and comfortable. Overstuffed couches and armchairs, and lamps on end tables. I think the carpet was thick brown shag. A large sliding glass door led to the deck, where that picture of us cousins was taken.

The kitchen was a territory where children were in the way, and I don’t have strong memories of it. Light wood cabinets, maybe? White patterned linoleum?

The dining room is giving me some trouble, too. It was either through the kitchen, on the farthest left side of the house, or it was through the living room. Both feel equally accurate in my fading memories. I remember the continued theme of Victorian décor. Finely decorated china on the table, which was covered with a white tablecloth.

And I remember the food I ate there. Breakfasts like American gods. Breakfasts I still dream of and attempt to find at diners and restaurants around the world. Thick, buttered slices of toast. Plates of bacon. Orange juice and waffles.

There are two bedrooms and one bathroom down the hallway, off the living room. The bedrooms are forbidden territory. I don’t know if I ever even saw inside of them. The bathroom was small but available for use by guests. There was a soft pink toilet seat cover.

There’s a narrow staircase near the front door. If you walk up it, dead ahead is one of the bedrooms. (I think.) Right next to it is the upstairs bathroom, and at a 45 degree angle to that is the other bedroom—the one Beckah and I stayed in when we visited. And alongside the staircase, with a wooden railing protecting us from falling, a large landing. Right above the front door, there was a window seat. My memory is that books lined the walls, but I’m not completely certain—I may have just filled that in with my own description of a fantasy room.

This “room” was a perfect playroom for all of the cousins. Out of the way of the adults, but still within eyesight and earshot. We kids could peer through or over the railing (depending on our heights) into the living room below, spying on our parents. (What DID adults do when they weren’t taking care of us?) We played games up there for hours. A crowd favorite was “animals,” which didn’t seem to have any rules, in that way that children’s games often don’t. It mainly consisted of just…pretending to be animals. There was a rule about no two people being the same animal, so there was often some fighting over who got to be certain creatures. For some reason, “flying squirrel” was the most coveted species.

Maybe I’m drawn to memories of this house because as I imagine my own dream house, it looks a lot like Grandma Jo’s. In the trees, with wild blackberries all around. Enough room for the entire extended family to stay. A deck and an upstairs landing with a window seat. Rooms crowded with things that mean something.

Of all the things I love now, so many of them can be traced back to those summer visits to Grandma Jo’s. Outdoor decks and big sumptuous breakfasts and big family gatherings.

Maybe that’s how Grandma Jo’s house stays alive. Through more of those things.

(That said, if any Whittakers or Fortuners have pictures of Grandma Jo's house, and/or can verify that it was on Mandarin Road, let me know.) 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Grave Concerns, Part 1

An attempt to write a darkly comedic short story that feels almost like a farce, based on where my mind wandered once during a real funeral, while my psyche attempted to reject thoughts of my own mortality. 

*

Dead people creep me out.

In a fascinated kind of way. Like a car wreck? You don’t want to look but you can’t help it? Like that.

I’ve only seen two dead bodies in my life. My grandmother, and now, my husband’s great grandmother. Both times, it gave me the heebie jeebies.

I mean, the whole thing is weird. Do you have any idea what morticians do to the human body to get it ready for a “viewing”? I won’t go into the details, but there are a lot of chemicals involved with names like “Lyf-Lik Tint” and “Flextone” and semi-surgical procedures that give me a stomachache to think about. They do all sorts of crazy stuff to the body to make it look like it’s still alive.** Which is weird.

Anyway, I was thinking about all of this at the funeral of my husband’s great grandmother. Everyone was in the viewing room, but I was sort of milling around the hallway outside, along with my 15-year-old sister-in-law Lula. We weren’t really milling around with one another, so I’m not sure if she shared my repulsion at the idea of looking at a 5-day-old body pumped full of formaldehyde, but that’s what my problem was. That, and all of this grief that I didn’t particularly feel a part of.

My 11-year-old sister-in-law Audrey came out of the viewing room. She walked over to me and said, “Hey. They did a great job. Grandma looks great.”

Which terrified me. Not necessarily because my husband’s great grandmother’s dead body looked great, but because my 11-year-old sister-in-law said so. And it was the way she said it. Like she was an adult talking about centerpieces at a wedding reception. Like we were discussing a dress that’s been re-tailored. Like she was aware of the embalming process.

But I didn’t want to offend anyone with my treatises on the flaws of Western Culture burials, so I took Audrey’s hand and we walked into the room.

There she was. “Great Grandma Wynn.” She didn’t look like a person at all, really. She had eyes (closed), a mouth (painted a loud red), and hands (folded neatly on her chest). She had all of the other defining features of a human being. But something was so off that it made me shiver.

Maybe I’m just struggling to confront my own mortality, I thought to myself. My intellectualism is just masking my own fear of death.

Well, fine then, I thought. I’ll just confront my mortality. Just gonna walk right up to that corpse there and say hi. She’s just…a dead body. Won’t kill me. Death is not contagious. In this case.

I waited until everyone else was talking in small groups and the coffin was temporarily abandoned. Then I walked over and stared into her face.

When she was alive, I had met her once. She was in a rest home then, only a few months ago. She kept getting confused…not sure who any of us were. But she told us about going to nursing school at Stanford, about seeing The Jazz Singer in theatres, about paying her roommate to share her clothes. I remember thinking how small she was that day. She seemed to flatten and spread into the bed like fabric, and if you picked her up, you would have had to fold her in half to keep her from slipping to the floor.

She looked fuller in death than she did in life. Her cheeks were plump and rosy. Her hair was shiny and perfect. Her hands looked strong and able, with two gold rings on one hand.

I leaned in to look at the rings further. It’s a little morbid, but I started wondering if they put the rings on before or after the embalming. People tend to think of embalming as an external process, but it’s very much internal. You’ve got to drain everything out and replace it with something more lasting. (Thanks, ancient Egypt!) I wondered if they only made the parts that showed look life-like. It would make sense, financially. I mean, why waste embalming fluid on the feet if they’re never shown? I’m sure that stuff isn’t cheap.

What if they really only embalmed the parts that showed? I mean, what if the palms of her hands weren’t…treated? Just the tops?

I have a curious mind. I am a believer in the scientific process, in testing hypotheses. Even if I don’t think through them completely. Because right then, I did something a little crazy. I gingerly lifted Grandma Wynn’s hand to look underneath it.

I’m not sure why I did it, but the next moment it ceased to matter, because I found myself holding Grandma Wynn’s index finger.

And nothing else.

Her cold and waxy finger was no longer attached at the knuckle, but was now separated from her hand entirely. I was holding a dead woman’s disembodied finger.

I glanced around quickly. Everyone was still deep in conversation. No one had noticed. Oh my God. OH MY GOD.

Could I lay the finger back on the body, making it look like nothing had happened? I glanced down at Grandma Wynn’s hands. It was pretty obvious that she was missing a finger. I wished briefly that it was a thumb I was holding, or some other finger that was less noticeable. Something that could just look like it was tucked under.

Tucked under! I could tuck her de-fingered hand underneath the other one! Just switch them! Put the finger underneath! I reached into the coffin.

“Did you ever get to meet her?”

I jumped. My husband’s aunt was standing at my side. In my panic, I stuffed the finger and my own hand into my pocket.

“Once,” I said. Don’t look at her hands, don’t look at her hands, don’t look at her hands! I silently begged. “She seemed like a really special woman.”

Aunt Ann nodded. “She was. She had a great sense of humor. She—”

“Brothers and sisters,” a voice said.

Ann smiled at me and held out her hand. “I’ll talk to you later,” she whispered. “It’s great to see you.” I looked at her hand, extended, waiting for me to shake it, or squeeze it, or something.

Except the hand that should be shaking hers was curled around a dead woman’s finger in my pocket.

I removed my hand. For a moment, I had the urge to wipe it off on my shirt or something first. But that would have been a little too suspicious. Aunt Ann shook my hand and turned to listen to the funeral home director.

“Brothers and sisters, now that each of you have had a chance to say your good-byes, we’ll be closing the casket and moving it out to the chapel where services will be held. Would the pall-bearers please step forward to assist in closing the casket.”

And then, in the next few moments, I watched as the casket was closed. And sealed. While the cold and waxy finger of the deceased sat in my pocket.


* * * * * TO BE CONTINUED * * * * *


*I got this image from an Amazon.com listing for a casket. This is entirely true.

**When my mom was in high school, they showed a video presentation on embalming. But it was considered too graphic to show teenagers, so instead they showed it in NEGATIVE. So like, 800 times more terrifying. (This is also entirely true.)

Monday, March 9, 2020

A Handful of Potential Topics

Time for my bi-weekly 750 words of writing practice. It’s good to have a writing habit. Even if you have no idea what to write about.

In my defense, I HAVE been writing.

It’s just that I’ve been writing OTHER things. Which are either not complete or not for public eyes. I could probably put the finishing touches on that draft of an essay about lying, or the one about how to help when someone is in crisis, or the one about the lessons I’ve learned from love or whatever. It’s just that...

Schitt’s Creek is so good and it just feels like watching eighteen episodes is the right thing for me to be doing tonight?

I don’t know. Maybe I could write something about dog-sitting, about the strange intimacy of living in someone else’s house for a few days. I’m at a new client’s house tonight, with their cuddly chihuahua, their energetic golden lab, and their extremely mercurial cat. (I’m allergic to the cat, but there are meds for that. I’m more concerned about the fact that an hour ago, the cat climbed affectionately onto my computer keyboard and did that cute thing that cats do when they bump their head against something all nuzzly-like, and then ten minutes later, clawed at my ankles and hissed angrily when I walked by it on my way to the kitchen. The owners warned me that the cat was a bit mean, but this unpredictability is alarming.)

Or maybe I could write something about intimacy direction. About how I’m passionate about the strange and fulfilling task of blocking everything from kissing to simulated sex acts onstage in ways that honor actor boundaries. But I’ve already been writing about it endlessly the last few weeks, in everything from resumes and website content to guest blog posts. Is this sounding too much like a shameless plug? Probably. It’s a bit of a shameless plug.

(Yes, Netflix, I’m still watching Schitt’s Creek. You don’t need to automatically pause to ask me that. Again.)

I could write about BYU and the Honor Code, but I’m so tired. I don’t have anything in me to say about it anymore. I hope people already know my stance on this. I hope I’ve spoken enough about this that people know I will stand with my queer brothers and sisters and siblings.

I could write about coronavirus? Maybe? I don’t have much to say except DON’T PANIC. Wash your hands. Be careful if you’re immunocompromised, elderly, or pregnant/nursing. But I promise you don’t need all this bottled water and toilet paper. Why is it bottled water and toilet paper? Hand sanitizer I kind of understand. (Although it should be noted that it should have 60% alcohol in order to be effective against things like coronavirus.) All of this apocalyptic panic IS making me realize that I don’t have good emergency preparedness, but I refuse to address that now. It will only fuel the hysteria.

I could tell the “harrowing” tale of my wrist surgery? Except it isn’t actually harrowing. “I had wrist surgery.” That’s the whole tale. My De Quervain’s tenosynovitis should be completely resolved within 6-8 weeks. The end.

(The cat just came downstairs and is staring at me. I’m feeling deeply uncertain about this…I welcome snuggles, if that’s what is going to happen. And black cats are so cute! I just have no idea if this cat is about to attempt to eat my face, and I’d like to avoid that if at all possible. Okay, the cat is wandering away now.)

A muse in the corner just whispered that I should write about the election, but I DEFINITELY do not have the energy for that. I barely have the energy to experience it. Your suggestion is respectfully declined, muse. Maybe I have some ideas listed in a note on my phone somewhere…

“Documentaries That Changed My Life.” That’s a good one. I used to do way more documentary recommendations on this blog. But my deadline is in two and a half hours and I’m pretty sure I don’t have enough time or energy to go through my huge list of favorite documentaries and write up stuff about each one tonight. I mean, maybe I do, I just don’t want to, because Schitt’s Creek is really good and I have to keep an eye on this volatile cat.

I suppose I could write about how I don’t know what to write about. Or write very briefly and vaguely about a handful of potential blog topics and call it good.

Monday, February 24, 2020

The Crypt, Part II

Part 2 of the tale of Dominique and Tricia, and their attempt to release the spirit of Dominique's sister Sarah, before being interrupted by a terrifying creature called The Carrier. Read Part 1 here.


Then a growl echoed through the empty chapel. Tricia leapt through the air and knocked into the Carrier, pushing it away from Dominique. Dominique had just enough time to scramble backwards and stand up before the Carrier turned towards her again. It swiped at her again with its chain, and she ducked as the chain shattered the wood of the pew in front of her.

Suddenly it let out a long shriek. Tricia had leapt onto its back and was about to sink her teeth into its shoulder when the Carrier’s chain knocked her onto the cold stone floor, where she lay, not moving.

Dominique glanced around quickly. With her dagger in pieces on the floor, she had no weapon, and she couldn’t imagine fighting the Carrier off with her bare hands. As if it had heard her thoughts, the Carrier looked up at her again and began to advance, its chain swinging.

Dominique thought fast and turned to dash up the steps of the platform where the priest’s body lay. That conversation she had with Tricia about not eating people seemed like it happened ages ago. The Carrier swung its chain again, but she was out of its reach. She grabbed the crucifix off a nearby table and got into a fighting stance.

I’m getting too old for this, Dominique thought, as she used the crucifix to block another swing of the Carrier’s chain. Maybe she could have kept this up 20 years ago, when she was Tricia’s age, but fighting off dark creatures in a church at midnight was not how she had envisioned spending her retirement.

The Carrier swung again and again, the sound of rattling chains reverberated off the chapel walls. Dominique blocked every blow, but the Carrier was advancing. She was having to take a step backwards every time the chains came near.

All at once, her foot met with something and she slipped and pitched backwards. It was the vial of holy water Tricia had filled. As it rolled away, Dominique looked up just in time to see the Carrier’s chain whip towards her. She closed her eyes and threw her arm up to protect her face, and the metal wrapped around her wrist once, then twice.

But…it didn’t hurt. Dominique expected a bone-shattering pain, a cold grip, but the metal felt warm against her skin. She opened her eyes and looked at the links wrapped around her arm. They didn’t bite into her flesh. She was so surprised that she reached up with her other hand to touch the metal. It was as soft as a flower petal. It was like a vine had grown around her arm, with the appearance of a rusted metal chain.

A small cry made Dominique look up. The Carrier was gone. And in its place, holding the other end of the chain, about fifteen feet away, was Sarah.

Dominique was too shocked to do anything for a moment. She simply sat, staring up at the sister she had come to release. It couldn’t be Sarah. Could it?

“Sarah,” she said. “Is that you?”

Sarah didn’t answer. Instead she looked up at the ceiling and let out a mournful wail. But it wasn’t a human sound. Her keening seemed to multiply in the room around them, and it went on and on and on. Dominique stood, the chain still tight around her arm, and took one cautious step forward.

“Sarah?” she said again. “Sarah, it’s me! Sarah, are you okay?”

Sarah tilted her head forward and looked at Dominique. The two stared at one another for a moment, and then suddenly, Sarah’s face contorted in fury. She yanked on the chain she was holding and Dominique stumbled forward. Suddenly, it was no longer the caress of a vine on Dominique’s arm, but the cold shock of metal. Whatever magic had made it feel harmless before had dissipated.

“Sarah!” Dominique cried out. She tried to brace herself but Sarah yanked on the chain again, closing the distance between the two of them once more. Sarah’s mouth opened and she began shriek. Another yank of the chain, with a strength so far beyond human, Dominique couldn’t fight it.

“I’m sorry!” Dominique yelled. “I’m sorry!”

But her voice was drowned out by Sarah’s angry cries. Dominique didn’t know what would happen when she reached Sarah, but she knew she wouldn’t survive it. She was only five feet away now. Three feet. Sarah’s screams were deafening. Dominique closed her eyes and tensed against the pull of the chain, when suddenly she felt it go slack.

She opened her eyes to see Tricia on Sarah’s back, biting and snarling. Sarah’s cries of anger turned to cries of fear as she struggled to fight the beast behind her. The two stumbled down the steps and into the aisle below.

“Tricia!” Dominique yelled. But Tricia was relentless, and a moment later, Sarah went limp and collapsed onto the stone floor. Dominique ran and knelt beside her. Sarah was staring wild-eyed at the ceiling above her, her breathing labored.

Dominique fought back tears. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "Sarah, I'm sorry." She was about to reach down and touch her face when the sound of a thousand rattling chains filled the church. There was a mournful cry, and a shadowy figure slowly rose from where Sarah lay. Dominique recognized the shape of a Carrier. It circled above them for a moment, keening, and then disappeared. Tricia, still panting from her fight, watched the ceiling with a frown.

Dominique looked back down at Sarah. Her labored breathing had stopped. But her wild eyes had closed, and her lips were formed into a soft smile.

“Sarah?” Dominique said quietly. She reached down to touch Sarah’s face once more, but before she could, Sarah’s form disappeared, and Dominique and Tricia were left alone on the floor of the old church.

Dominique looked up. Tricia had resumed her human form. She stood and smiled. Dominique smiled back. And they strode out into the sunrise.