I was first introduced to the art of Edward Gorey, as were many of my generation, through the opening credits of Mystery! on PBS:
As a kid, I never watched a full episode of the show — by the time Diana Rigg appeared to announce the detective du jour, I’d already wandered away to play with dolls or plot world domination or whatever 5-year-old me did for fun. Incidentally, in college I spent a three-day weekend watching back-to-back Mystery! reruns, specifically because Sarah and I had gotten cast in a (truly baffling) play called The Business of Murder, and it turned out that the only word I couldn’t say in a British accent was “murder,” which (as the title suggests) I had to utter at least once every page. After listening to 72 hours worth of fictional investigators shouting, “My God! Then the mehr-dehr-ehr must be…” that particular conundrum was resolved.
But I digress.
When I was sixteen, I spent six weeks at a summer program in Ithaca, New York, where, in a
head souvenir shop, I came across a poster of The Gashlycrumb Tinies. It was love at first macabre sight, and soon I was snatching up copies of Gorey’s picture books wherever I could find them. I also ended up with editions of Dracula, Men and Gods and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats illustrated by Gorey, and if I could just find a living room set upholstered with scenes from The Curious Sofa, my life would be complete.
Recently, I started wondering if Gorey ever created his own Tarot deck. I can’t Tarot my way out of a wet paper sack, but because I felt like there should be an Edward Gorey Tarot deck, I decided there was an Edward Gorey Tarot deck (see how my brain works?), and I set myself to scouring the Internet, where I discovered the laminated gem that is the Fantod Pack.
The Fantod Pack (fantod being defined as “a state of worry or nervous anxiety; irritability”) consists of 20 cards, each with a series of calamitous meanings: For instance, the Waltzing Mouse can indicate loss of jewelry, morbid cravings or disorders of the large intestine, while the Bundle portends inadequate drainage, a broken engagement or a train accident. It quickly becomes clear that the deck was never meant for actual divination — instead, it’s designed to give humorously catastrophic readings, and would actually be quite at home among the light-hearted, DIY oracle books Victorian ladies used to leave lying about in their drawing rooms as amusements (of which I own several, because of course I do).
The problem here is that I am me, and as such, if I buy a fortune-telling deck – satirical or not – I am going to use it to tell some motherfucking fortunes. Consulting the instruction booklet, I noticed that each card corresponds to either a month or a day, so that the querent will have a good idea as to when he or she will be struck down by chilblains (as foretold by the Burning Head). Pulling four cards at random, I wrote down the month/day each signified, broke those down to their numerical values, then went binary and marked them as even (two dots) or odd (one dot). I ended up with the following spread:
If we look at that last column, we have the geomantic figure Laetitia, which translates as joy, good health, auspicious beginnings and luck. So not only did we manage legit divination with the Fantod Pack, but we got a favorable reading as well.
I am… thoroughly impressed with us. But also, I’m kind of cringing at myself, since I’m acting all, “Finally, a unique and convenient way to practice geomancy,” like I don’t already have a drawer full of decks and dice and coins and throwsticks, each of which was, at one time, my favorite (and “last one, I promise, not even looking for another”) method of generating the figures. On the other hand, I sometimes go months without reading and get rusty as all hell, so if it takes an extra deck of cards or set of kitten knucklebones or whatever every now and again to get me back into the only form of divination that’s ever worked for me, I’m willing to roll with that.
Oh, speaking of rolling, please know that my older tools don’t just get tossed out when new ones come along — I’m not that much of a capitalist consumer. In fact, my original geomantic dice recently found their way to my office, where they’ve added a lovely decorative touch to an otherwise utilitarian cauldron:
Assuming his ghost isn’t furious with me, I’d like to think Eddie G. would approve.
[A conversation between myself and my buddy Damien.]
Me: “Do you have plans tonight?”
Damien: “I do not. You?”
Me: “Nope. Want to know what I really want to do?”
Damien: “Sounds like someone has a thing for Angelo.”
Me: “I’ve got a thing for Angelo right here.”
Me: “Kidding. I kid. Seriously, though, I want to tag us in a status update on Facebook and be all, ‘Damien said Angelo wouldn’t want to come with us, but I knew he’d show up eventually.’ ISN’T THAT HILARIOUS?!”
Damien: “Yeah… I’m just going to take you to that Amy Winehouse documentary instead.”
Me: “Fair enough, yo. Fair enough.”
A text from one of the Misfits: “Hey, want to go grab dinner?”
My first text back: “Sure. I’ve got to facilitate an HOA meeting at 7:15, but that shouldn’t take longer than an hour.”
An email from the HOA Board president: “I’m looking forward to the meeting tonight! Should I serve wine before or after the food truck arrives? Or should I just tell everyone it’s BYOB?”
My next text back: “It’s going to take longer than an hour.”
ETA: The Board president drank this much vodka and fell down. Amateurs.
My friend Galina is currently on a pilgrimage across Eastern Europe, and in Poland, she was introduced to Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn, a Northern Renaissance painting of the Virgin Mary from Vilnius, Lithuania. Seventeen miracles are attributed to the icon, the most hardcore of which being the time Dawn (I call her Dawn) whacked some Swedish invaders by dropping iron gates on them.
This particular story has taken inappropriate root in my imagination, and now I’m picturing a Marian tea party, where various Apparitions and Black Madonnas have gathered to nosh on cucumber sandwiches and get to know each other a bit. As the scene opens, we find Dawn wrapping up her introduction:
“… so then I was all, “This is my house, Swedes,” and bam! They were ANNIHILATED. Ha! Good times. Anyway, Fátima, what did you do?”
“Well, I appeared to some children…”
“Awesome! Were they invading? Did you drop iron gates on them?”
“Um… no. They were just regular kids. And I, y’know, appeared.”
Some of the Holy Virgins probably have a few resentments to work through. Just sayin’.
In unrelated news, please know how glad I am that Pagans can’t go to Hell.
There’s a leather-and-Levis organization in town called the Misfits, and I’ve always harbored a semi-secret crush on the group as a whole. If the Houston-area gay community were a high school (and sometimes I could swear…), the Misfits would be the varsity football team — they even have stylish leather vests with their logo on the backs in lieu of letterman jackets, and frankly, I think I would look adorable in one.
The Misfits themselves apparently agree: Some of the members have been talking me up to the
quarterback president, who in turn has been reaching out and encouraging me to pledge. Officially, I am flattered by their interest, and I’ve promised to give the matter serious thought. Behind the scenes, however, I’m acting like a teenage girl who just received a care package from Taylor Swift.
Alas, not everyone in my immediate circle is as thrilled by the Misfits’ inclusivity as I am. Cross, who’s normally very supportive of whatever weird shit I get into, was like, “Huh. Well, they do have an event coming up, so they’re definitely going to need some warm bodies to help run the show.” Awesome. But I will deal with him later, since the foil currently demanding my attention is that guy from the sober leather club who went all After-school Special on my panic disorder, and who is the opposite of amused with my Misfit potential.
“This is NOT putting your recovery first,” he yelled, when I inexplicably told him the Misfits were trying to recruit me. “You’re going to hang around in bars with them and get triggered, and then what?”
I tried pointing out that several of the Misfits don’t drink (including my buddy Doc, who, back in the day, took it upon himself to babysit me during benders, and who also kept a running list of everyone I inadvertently insulted and/or offended, so that I could offer formal apologies the morning after). Additionally, I reminded him that I still hadn’t decided if I even wanted to join, but he wasn’t having it.
“You’re really putting yourself in a dangerous situation,” he continued. “And have you even considered how this will affect your anxiety?”
Ah, yes, I thought. My anxiety. Mustn’t forget how deeply concerned he is about that.
And I called the Misfits president to announce my intent to pledge.
I’m going to look so fucking cute in my vest, you guys.
PS: I shared this story with Simon, which led to the following conversation.
Me: “There are people in my life who are never going to be who I want them to be. But if I’m not comfortable with who they really are, I’ve got to wonder why I feel the need to have them in my life at all.”
Simon: “I have seriously been waiting the entire six months we’ve been working together for you to realize this.”
Me: “Dude… we’ve been working together for over a year. We had an anniversary in April.”
Simon: “Oh, I don’t keep track of dates. What’s important is the present, the here and now.”
Me: “Wow. Way to get out of buying me jewelry.”
Simon: “Honey, it’s going to be at least 20 years before you’ll get jewelry out of me.”
Me: “Then on my 20th recovery birthday, I expect a doorknob on my finger.”
Simon: “I’ll be happy to glue an actual doorknob onto a ring for you.”
Me: “You know I would totally wear it if you did that, right?”
Simon: “Just tell everyone I went to Jared.”