Solve for Ex

Douglas: “Should I buy these boots? They’re $60, marked down from $119.”

Me: “Well, you played laser tag this morning, and you thought it was going to cost $20, but it was only $7. So if you buy the boots on top of that, you’ll have saved $73 today, which is basically making money.”

Douglas: “That’s brilliant! Why aren’t you taking my math class for me?”

Me: “Dude, this conversation is exactly why I’m not taking your math class for you.”

Douglas: “Good point.”

Bros Before Mos

A frantic text message to my buddy Angelo:

Hey, I know you’re at work, but this guy I used to date is now engaged to someone he’s known for a month, and Alan’s at Southern Decadence, and Douglas isn’t speaking to me this week, and I literally might die if I don’t laugh about this with somebody.

He called moments later and laughed his ass off along with me, because he’s a brother and a true friend. And then I may or may not have agreed to fly to Chicago with him next May and act as his publicist/handler while he competes for the title of International Mr. Leather. Like you do.

This is… not exactly where I expected sobriety to take me. But I’m cool with it overall.

The Island of Misfit Boys

So the other day I was texting with Douglas about the weather or whatever, when suddenly he was all, “Oh, hey, I was shopping at Black Hawk earlier, and the guy behind the counter said that Angelo said you’re joining the Misfits.”

Jesus. And I thought Pagans could gossip.

Anyway, as of this week, I am officially the newest Misfits pledge. I am not really sure what this will entail, other than guarding the club’s mascot (a stuffed toy Taz covered in run pins), but I figure I can handle anything they throw at me. That’s one of the fringe benefits of life as a recovering alcoholic: Not to one-up anybody, but regardless of what goes down during the pledging process — if there’s any light hazing or good-natured public embarassment involved — I guarantee that I’ve drunkenly embarassed myself in spectacularly worse ways.

Them: “Hey, pledge! You have to wear the Hat of Shame* tonight! Ha!”

Me: “Have I ever told you about the time I got into a lip-synch battle with a drag queen during a LUEY after-party? It started with the Whitney Houston version of ‘I’m Every Woman’ and ended with us grinding to ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears.”

Them: “…”

Me: “Her name was Vanessa. She was very nice. I’ve got the whole thing on video if you’d like to see it.”

Them: “

Me: “So tell me about this hat again?”

Speaking of drunkeness, the next Misfit event is this Saturday, when we’ll be bartending at the local leather pub. After last night’s monthly business meeting, a few of the guys sat me down to go over The Rules:

1. I am to show up no later than 10 pm.

2. If at any point in the evening I feel even slightly triggered, I am to let one of the other Misfits know and then leave immediately, no explanation necessary. This is not a suggestion.

3. I am to keep Taz away from the Bayou City Pups at all costs.

To be honest, the second Rule caught me off-guard. I mean, they know I’m sober and are not weirded out by that, which is great, but I didn’t expect the level of support and understanding they were offering. And this must have read aross my face, because one of the guys was all, “Dude, you’re with the Misfits now. We take care of each other, and we will not let anything happen to you.”

Which totally made me feel like I was in The Warriors (“All right now, for all you boppers out there in the big city, all you street people with an ear for the action, I’ve been asked to relay a request…”). And I can totally live with that.

The Misfits call each other brothers, which I always taken metaphorically. Turns out, they mean it literally. I am not, as I’ve been assuming, simply joining a social club: I am gaining brothers. And I can totally live with that, too.

*I do not know if there’s an actual Hat of Shame, but if there is, I’ll bet I look fabulous in it.

It’s Like Scruples, But With Free Booze

The president of a homeowners’ association just offered to buy me a bottle of wine as a thank-you present for helping him track down a copy of his deed restrictions.

Douglas says I should accept it, then give it to the first homeless person I see and be all, “Save your coins, dude, I got you.”

Which is… a pretty good idea, actually.

Unless getting the homeless drunk counts as enabling?

I feel like this is going to turn out to be one of those days where my sponsor regrets ever having met me.

And The Card Attached Would Say, “Iceberg, Right Ahead”

Alan and I ended up at a punk rock concert the other night, because our sober friend Alix’s boyfriend was playing, but she was feeling a bit triggered and didn’t want to go by herself. So a group of us met at the venue, and we were sitting around chatting before the show, and my friend Sebastian brought up my blog.

“I like your writing,” he said. “But not the stuff about witchcraft: just the stuff about recovery.”

Which prompted Alix to ask, in all sincerity, “Is that your fan base? Witches and alcoholics?”

It’s kind of adorable that she thinks I have a fan base.

In related news, Douglas got all Douglas-y when he realized I don’t write blog posts solely for his personal amusement, so I very thoughtfully made a little something just for him:

heart will go on

Ye Gods but these people are lucky to have me.

Throwing The Book

Douglas wanted to run by Houston’s occult supercenter this afternoon, and being nothing if not a good sport, I tagged along. I am not a big fan of this store — actually, I take that back. The store itself is fine, with a good selection of merchandise at reasonable prices. It’s the employees I can’t stand.

And actually, let me take that back as well — some of the employees are really cool. There’s the one girl who’s hilariously sarcastic and always in a good mood, and there’s the friendly if odd-looking guy on whom Douglas has a harmless if inexplicable crush. The rest of them, though, are my least favorite type of Pagan: Haughty and pretentious and doing their best to project auras of voluminous magical (magickal/majikal/mahzheegahl) power, even when it is excruciatingly clear that they have no idea what they’re talking about.

Of these employees, Lady Crushed Velvet reigns supreme. (I don’t know her real name, but Veles and I have been calling her Lady Crushed Velvet for years, so why stop now?) Draped in the finest yep, you guessed it, Lady Crushed Velvet has mastered a combination of service and condescension, assisting her customers while making sure they understand how grateful they should be that a Mistress of the Ethereal Arts is taking time out of her busy schedule of psychic ascension to ring up their smudge sticks. I once witnessed her berating an underling for heresies unspecified, then turn to a coworker and remark, “And that’s how you talk to a student.” Hopefully, said student was able to drop the class with his transcripts intact.

Lady CV was not in residence today, although her first runner-up was: an older woman serving Been There, Croned That realness. If asked to list her current occupation, she would probably put down “Wisewoman.” Douglas and I were poking around the display cases near the front of the store and checking out the jewelry we really couldn’t afford didn’t need, when a twenty-something young lady hesitantly approached the counter.

“Hi, I’m looking for information on Wicca,” she said.

“Wicca or Witchcraft?” Been There asked, in a tone suggesting they were sitting under a bare light bulb in a cinderblock interrogation room.

I didn’t catch the next part of the conversation, but I guess the girl said Wicca, because I heard Been There say, “Wicca is a religion. You’re looking for Witchcraft.”

“I didn’t realize there was a difference,” said the young woman.

“Oh, there most certainly is,” Been There replied. “Come with me.”

Been There escorted her new protégé over to the book section, while I shot Douglas a look that was all, I am morally obligated to prevent whatever is about to happen, and Douglas shot me a look back that was like, I need you to not be you until after that customer pulls out of the parking lot. So I glared at him all, You’re not my real mom, and he glared back like, I drove us here and will happily abandon you, so I shot him one more look that was all, Touché, and then I waited until he was distracted by a fantasy-film replica sword and scampered across the store.

I caught up with Been There and pretended to browse as she thoughtfully scanned the titles and tapped her lips and went, “Hmmm, let’s see, what should we start you with?” Her stance and demeanor implied that she’d read every book in the store and was mentally comparing them chapter by chapter, but I have worked in retail and could see through her act, it being the same one I used when I worked at a health food store and had not been trained on any of the products we carried.

“Hmmm, let’s see, a gluten-free option,” I would say, facing a rack of whole-wheat pastas. “What’s the right gluten-free option for you?”

Been There eventually made some decisions and pulled a few books from the stacks. “Here’s what I recommend,” she said. “Sit on that bench, right over there, and begin reading these, and find the one you most identify with.”

And she handed the girl three books on Wicca.

Douglas managed to wrestle me out of the store before I started kicking, but if there’s one major downfall to modern Paganism, it’s the emphasis on assumed expertise over the actual learning process. Everyone’s got to be a damn expert on everything right out of the gate, and anyone who dares admit ignorance is immediately dismissed. It hurts me in what’s left of my soul when students feel like they have to apologize for being students, and that happens because people like Been There and Crushed Velvet define “student” as “lesser than.” And that happens because people like Been There and Crushed Velvet are afraid to step out from behind the curtain and admit that they do not know everything, that at best they are students themselves.

And it is okay to be a student. It is even more okay to be willing to learn. And it is the mostest okay to say, “I don’t know, but let’s go find out.”

I say all of this as a horrible hypocrite, since within the Traditions I practice [Ed. Note: It’s also okay to not practice any Traditions], I will often catch myself smiling and nodding instead of asking for clarification. But I am currently besieged blessed with students of my own, and I want them to be excited about what they’re learning, as opposed to beating themselves up for not already knowing it.

I’ll leave you with one last thought, using the Judeo-Christian religious model as an analogy: From an educational standpoint, getting ordained into the Catholic or Anglican priesthood is the equivalent of earning a PhD. Feel free to point this out the next time you encounter a Pagan positioning himself as an authority with no sanction other than willpower.

Feel free to hand him a book on the subject.

You Say “Stalker”; I Say “Devotee”

[A telephone conversation between myself and Douglas.]

Me: “Hey, can you take off September 25? The Bloggess is doing a book signing in Houston that day.”

Douglas: “The who?”

Me: “Remember that video about the art of being furiously happy? The one that started with a Zombie Apocalypse drill?”

Douglas: “Vaguely.”

Me: “That’s the Bloggess. And we need to go meet her.”

Douglas: “We’ll see. September’s a long ways away, and what with work and going back to school and all, I really can’t agree to any commitments that far out.”

Me: “No worries. Even if you can’t get the day off, you’re going to be really sick and will have to call in anyway.”

Douglas: “I see.”

Me: “Or, someone who isn’t me will hit you in the shin with a crowbar. And you can’t go to work if you can’t walk.”

Douglas: “Plus I’ll be in a wheelchair, so they’ll feel sorry for me and let us through first.”

Me: “Exactly. We just need to find you an emotional support animal to complete the illusion.”

Douglas: “Shit. You’re serious.”

Me: “Deadly. So what we’re going to do is show up at the bookstore when it opens, buy copies of the book and get our place numbers, and then go have lunch and see a movie or something. Then we’ll go back to the store for the reading, and when it’s time for the signing, we’ll be first in line. I have thought. This. Through.”

Douglas: “You have thought about this too much.”

Me: “I have thought about this just enough.”

Douglas: “Can’t we wait until closer to the actual date to worry about any of this?”

Me: “No. This has to happen, because I missed the opportunity to hang out with her before she got famous. And you have to go, because you know I’m not mature enough to attend an event like this without supervision.”

Douglas: “Oh, trust. I know.”

Me: “And also I have a gift for her.”

Douglas: “Of course you do.”

Me: “Do you know what a baculum is?”

Douglas: “Do I want to?”

Me: “Okay, see, some animals have a bone in their penis, and that bone is called a baculum.”

Douglas: “…”

Me: “I know, right? So back in 2010 she was on vacation in Miami, and she wrote about visiting a shop that sold raccoon penis bones. I posted a comment about having one…”

Douglas: “You have a raccoon penis bone.”

Me: “Focus, dude. I posted a comment, which she selected as her Comment of the Day, and then she tweeted about it. So I need to give her the penis bone to show my gratitude.”

Douglas: “And you… think she will appreciate that?”

Me: “Of course she will! She collects taxidermy, and people send her weird shit all the time. And I was her Comment of the Day two other times, so it’s only fair that I do something nice for her in return.”

Douglas: “This is a horrible plan, and I strongly recommend that you not give penis bones to anyone you’re obviously stalking.”

Me: “I WILL GIVE HER THAT PENIS BONE IF I HAVE TO THROW IT AT HER WHILE THEY ARE DRAGGING ME FROM THE BUILDING.”

Everyone Else in Marshalls: “…”

It was at this point that Douglas called me insane, which is pretty ironic coming from a guy who thinks that mucus is Nature’s way of preventing alien abductions, whereas all I’m trying to do is hand a piece of racoon genitalia to a bestselling author. Because I respect her talent, Douglas. Some of us clearly have a lot to learn about the Arts.