Dead Man’s Party

This is my blog’s first Halloween!¬†dead mans party 2

I mostly grew up in 1980s suburban America, which means a)loads of trick-or-treating and b)weird candy scares. Seriously, when I was a kid the local police would offer to x-ray our candy every Halloween, looking for razor blades and needles that never appeared. My parents never actually bothered to x-ray our candy (they would gladly risk our lives to avoid waiting in line on Halloween), but they did feel up every piece of candy we trick-or-treated. Not one razor blade or needle, and obviously no poison–I have four siblings and every one of us is still alive. As an adult, I suspect they were really just looking to steal a few of their favorite flavors from us. I do the same thing, but I’m honest/mean enough to just grab my “mom tax” without making excuses.

Just kidding. My kids are really nice, so they’re usually more than willing to kick me a piece or two from their haul.

dead mans party 1

As a grown-ass adult, I live in the Rocky mountains, in a basically suburban neighborhood, so every year we get a hundred to a hundred fifty trick-or-treaters. I’m a witch every year, as an excuse to sit on my porch in full goth regalia, munching candy. We get a lot of tiny kids, so I try not to make it too scary.

We have a dozen or so skeletons we put out every year–a human skeleton, some crocodile heads, and various other skeletal creatures–and every year I aim for a theme of some sort. I’m not super artistic, but I try. Last year was bayou themed, and this year I’m hosting a “Dead Man’s Party.” The kids helped. I’m very pleased.

 

I’m not sure how popular Oingo Boingo* was worldwide (they’re mostly famous for the “Weird Science” song), but I grew up with “Dead Man’s Party” in my head every Halloween. This year, we’re making it a reality. We bought party hats and kazoos for our skeletons, and come Halloween we’ll blow up balloons and spray some sparkles onto our spiderwebs. By then I’ll have a couple spotlights set up and ready to turn on. Those and our strings of purple lights will keep the party going all night long. The local toddlers will be terrified and excited.

*You may not know Oingo Boingo, but you probably know Danny Elfman from the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack, among others.

Life in the Slow Lane

I’ve been taking time to relax, put my feet up, and work on my shawl. It’s working up really quickly and fits Bane’s “things with wings” theme, so I’m hoping to get it finished in time to post for the craft-along. The original pattern is sparkly butterflies, but in black they look more like moths. I’ll do my best to finish it up and get some nice pictures by month’s end.

To keep me company as I crochet, I’ve been watching Slow TV on Netflix. I worked my way through their “sheep to sweater” world record attempt and it was very pleasant to watch and crochet to, plus I learned a bit about Norway and its knitting history. I especially liked the bit about feminist “hen knitting,” which seems like such a grandmother to pussy hats and saucy cross stitching that are so big right now.

My kids have gotten into the Slow TV, too. They get way too into TV and YouTube sometimes, and this time instead of just taking their devices away I had them watch nature documentaries. That went really well, actually. The kids got really into them.

When I put on Slow TV, though, they got really annoyed. What was this boring crap?

By the end they’d all grabbed yarn from my stash and were crocheting chains like champs. Yes, they tried to knit but couldn’t get it, so they switched to crochet. I’m not prejudiced, I like them both. ūüėČ I’m just thrilled they want to do something quiet and useful for a change. Enough boring TV and they might even learn to turn those chains around and start a second row.

Haunted Hospital

Once upon a time I worked at a mental hospital. It’s pretty much all modern and properly hospital-like now, but when I was there it was in the middle of transforming. There were several buildings arranged around a long, straight driveway. The buildings on the left of the driveway were big and modern and reasonably nice. The buildings on the right looked like an old-timey asylum stereotype. I mostly worked in one of the righthand buildings. The haunted one.

hospital hyde
This one.

I worked days so I never saw anything spooky, but friends on the night shift saw a few things. Mostly in the basement, where the big, empty cafeteria and weird storage cages were. Maybe it was ghosts, maybe it was fatigue and imagination, but if ghosts are real I’m sure that building hosted a few. My favorite story, though, is from after they tore it down. I was working in one of the new, nice buildings and a friend called me over. “Watch this,” she said, and dialed the phone. She called the old building, the one that didn’t exist anymore, and the phone just rang and rang. I guess the ghosts were too busy to answer their ghost phone.

The haunted building may be gone, but there’s still a real “castle” there, way up on the hill behind the main buildings. It’s an outdoor theater built during the Great Depression by one of those New Deal programs, and the hospital used to do a spook alley up there every Halloween. Apparently, it was the only mental hospital spook alley in the country, but I never got to be part of it. They quit doing it just a year or two before I got there. It started in the early 1970s and was incredibly popular, but also became controversial as people worried it might stigmatize mental illness and the hospital’s clients. I see the point, but a lot of the clients I met talked about it fondly and wished they could bring it back.

Since it’s a real hospital that still has residents, Utah State Hospital isn’t listed much on haunting sites. It has a small museum and the castle holds events, but they don’t want people showing up and exploring on their own. It’s a beautiful little place with a fascinating history that most people will never get to explore firsthand.


In all seriousness, it was a pretty cool place to work. It was (and still is) for people who need longer term psychiatric care, so you’d work with the same clients for weeks or months (and years, in some cases) and really get to know some cool people you might not normally meet. I don’t want to compromise anyone’s privacy so I’ll only mention one guy–Pete died quite a while back and I know he wouldn’t mind a shout out. He was pretty well known around Salt Lake City for walking around in a Lucifer costume, with his hair slicked up into devil’s horns. I never saw the outfit, but he had the horns when I knew him–they’d get taller or shorter according to how well he was feeling. I kind of hope he haunts something–he’d be a great ghost to meet. He got a really nice obituary when he died: you can read it here.

 

 

Room 1408

Hi, I’m still alive. First I was traveling, then I was hosting family, and now I’m finally getting back to my normal routine. My travels weren’t very spooky, but I did stay in a c1408movieursed hotel room for three nights.

Ever seen the movie 1408? I did, years ago. It’s based on a Stephen King story about a haunted hotel room. It was an okay movie, as I recall. Anyhow, my son and I went to Detroit for a tournament and stayed at the MGM Grand, in room 1408. Something about the number rang a bell, but I didn’t connect it until the morning we left. Now, I’m not saying I believe in curses, but a number of stange things did happen . . . our key refused to work, someone tried to break into our room at midnight (they were given room 1403, according to the desk, but their card clearly said 1408), they checked us out a day early and almost threw all our stuff away, and the staff was very unfriendly about most of this. It’s almost as if they knew the room was cursed and were trying to warn us off.

Or maybe they’re just bad at their jobs. Either way, I’m playing it safe and avoiding that hotel forever.

And now that I’ve either properly spooked you or made you sad about bad hotel service, I’ll give you a couple pictures of my and the same son visiting family in Baltimore. I look fat and sweaty and I didn’t even bother with makeup in that heat but my hair is a wonderful Nuclear Red, so that’s nice. Now that I’m back, I really need to redo my color and maybe bother to look nice once in a while, but all I’ve really done so far is clean house and start a new crochet project. I’ll try to be more interesting next time. Maybe.

 

Band Camp

ikeaI’ve been caught up in life stuff. We all have it; I don’t have to explain, right? I’ve been figuring things out, getting things done, and Band Camp has been getting me through.

I actually have a friend who produces on Band Camp. She’s a great person, but her music is a bit bright and folksy for my taste. (Still, if bright and folksy is your thing, give it a listen!)

Me, I’ve always run towards metal and alternative, but lately I’m all about dark cabaret and dark ambient. If you’re not Evelyn Evelyn, Kim Boekbinder*¬†Atrium Carceri, or Kammarheit, lately I’ve not much use for you.

I’m no expert in either genre, but dark cabaret cheers me up as much as anything can, and dark ambient is the bleak soundtrack to every soul-sucking thing I have to get done. Everything is more exciting with something like these in the background. And sometimes that’s what you get–a cool soundtrack to your boring, frustrating life.

Hope everyone’s life is going well. And if it’s not, I hope you at least have a good soundtrack to your troubles. Catch you soon.

*Kim Boekbinder came out of Vermillion Lies, which was more or less dark cabaret, but she’s more than that. As most of us are.

Day 28: An Outfit I’m Ashamed Of?

throwback4
high school

I can’t think of one outfit I’m ashamed of or embarrassed by. I guess some people look back at old photos with a “what was I thinking?!!?!” attitude and some goth and alternative types are a bit embarrassed by their more “normal” pictures, but I don’t feel that way at all.

I, like most people, was really insecure about my looks when I was younger. I worried a lot that I wasn’t thin enough, not cool enough, didn’t fit in, didn’t stand out, whatever. I grew up before digital cameras so I don’t have a ton of pictures of those days, but when I look back now I wonder what I was so insecure about. I would still wear some of those outfits.

Since I don’t have any shame shots to post, I thought I’d show you

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college–I’m in the middle

what I looked like before I got so old and fat. Again, I came up before digital cameras, so these are pictures of actual photos I keep in a box in my basement. Apologies for the quality; these were the best I could do.

throwback1
I look like a hippie in this one. See my gothy looking friend? She’s all conservative and boring now. So sad.
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I kind of miss that jacket. And the hat. And my old Docs.

Plan Your Epitaph Day

headstone
publicdomainpictures.net

There are actually two international Plan Your Epitaph days, so if this one has caught you unprepared you’ll have another chance on November 2. It’s never too early to plan for your inevitable demise.

Goths have a reputation for being “obsessed with death” but in my experience we’re really not. It’s more that non-goths are so obsessed with avoiding death that they get weird the moment you bring it up. Even goths can be more interested in abstract death and dying than our own plans for the future, but it pays to be prepared.

If I didn’t believe that before, it became all too clear a few Aprils ago when a good friend died in surgery. She, like so many people, didn’t have much of a plan and would not have approved of all the decisions made in her name. Since then, every April my thoughts turn both to her and to my own future affairs.

To that end, Mr. Robot and I have bought life insurance and written wills. We’ve discussed organ donation (hell yes) and what point we want each other to stop live-saving measures. And we’ve made basic plans for our funerals and remains. I plan to be cremated and, if I die too long before Mr. Robot, to have my ashes put in a tasteful urn (red and black preferred) and prominently placed in the living room. Mr. Robot is hoping for a green burial–one where they plant a tree over your grave–and I’d like my ashes spread and buried with him. Our kids like the idea that we’d be “in the tree,” continuing the cycling and recycling of life.

This plan doesn’t really need an epitaph, but I wouldn’t mind a tasteful plaque near our tree. I’d quite like this quote from the Mahabharata:

What is the greatest wonder? Death strikes every day, yet we live as if we were immortal.

May you live long, die well, and leave timeless last words. In the meantime, perhaps these epitaphs will entertain and inspire you.

Day 24: My Favorite Shoes

Since the next challenge is shoes I love but never wear, I’m taking “favorite” to mean the shoes I wear the most. I mentioned that I wear cushiony house shoes for my plantar fasciitis . . . I bought these shoes specifically for that.house shoes 1

They’re not much to look at but they’re soft and quick to slip on and off so I wear them pretty much every day at home. These Skechers have seen my feet through some hard times. I’d like to pretend I don’t wear them outside but sometimes I totally do. Especially when I’m tired or in a hurry.

So there you have it. I promise the next day’s shoes will be much cuter.

house shoes 2

Day 16: Someone Wearing Matching Clothes

This one was hard. All my friends and I are suburban housewives, and we pretty much dress like it. A couple have fantasy colors in their hair, and a couple wear the occasional stompy combat boot, but that’s about it.

Now I’m super sad because I just realized I’m by far the edgiest person in my circle of friends and I’m really not that edgy. For a long time I toned it way down to fit in and “be responsible,” but it just wasn’t me. Now that I’m ramping the black up to the level that makes me happy I stick out like a sore thumb (with black nailpolish on it). I don’t get shit from anyone, but no one’s jumping to dress like me either. Still, I’ve got something for you. I had to reach back a ways for these– they’re both about 4 years old–but they sort of fit the challenge.

The one on the left was my friend’s idea–the second lady from the left, with the necklace and the sunglasses on her head, wanted us all to wear “little black dresses” and come to her house for a party. It’s probably obvious, but I’m the one with the curly hair and the leopard print boobs.

The one on the right was my son’s idea. My kids are not goth in the slightest (I should write about that one of these days) but my boy is very into “scary” fantasy stuff like the Lord of the Rings. He decided that those were his “hobbit shorts” and insisted that I wear my “hobbit shorts” too so we could match. He looks like an adorable punk toddler here. I love it.

The Poe Toaster

Edgar_Allan_Poe_daguerreotype_crop
E. A. Poe, public domain via Wikipedia

Edgar Allan Poe is sort of the quintessential goth author. Not only did he write dark, romantic poetry and horror that holds up even today, but he also had a dark and tragic life and mysterious death. Talk about the whole gothic package.  Of course, some of his dark reputation is total slander, and some of his works have not worn well. (He may be the grandfather of sci fi, but his child has grown way beyond him.) But his writing style and his sheer inventiveness have left their mark not just on goths the world over, but on more general literary history as well.

I’ve read (more than) my fair share of Poe, but growing up it never occurred to me to carry him around for “goth points” or anything like that. I partly grew up about 20 minutes outside of Baltimore, a city so into Poe that we named our football team the Ravens. And dressed them in purple and black uniforms, because spooky. Where I grew up, it was weird if you didn’t read Poe for fun at least on Halloween.

Edgar Allan Poe isn’t really from Baltimore, but he died and was buried there so the city claims the hell out of him. He’s kind of got two headstones¬†actually, both in the same churchyard. Poe’s grave was originally unmarked and not well tended, and eventually that sadness was kind of overcorrected–there’s a proper headstone at his grave and also a rather large monument stone at the corner of the churchyard.

poetoaster
Poe Toaster, from Life Magazine. I think. 

The corner memorial¬†was partly paid for by schoolchildren collecting pennies, and people still throw pennies in memory. But the more famous tradition is the Poe Toaster, who used to visit the grave on Poe’s birthday every year, toasting him with cognac and leaving three roses and the cognac’s remains in salute to the author. The original Toaster remains a mystery, and he (or his son–the tradition lasted a good 75 years) quit coming in 2010, but the Maryland Historical Society has recently started a sort of annual Poe Toaster reenactment.

I’ve been to Poe’s grave exactly once, ages ago, when my sister was sick in the hospital across the street. Appropriately sad circumstances for paying Poe a visit. My sister still lives near there and I’m planning to visit in June, so it might be time to once again pay my respects.

EdgarAllanPoeGrave
Public Domain, Andrew Horne via Wikipedia