Thursday, December 23, 2021

Moving onward and upward

It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks as we've moved the family (three humans, a dog, a cat, three lizards, a frog, and 18 houseplants) from Los Angeles to San Francisco.  Or, more accurately, Oakland, birthplace of vice president Kamala Harris and the Black Panthers.



When things kicked into gear everything started happening rapidly.  This was, in part, a conscious choice; after Seamus passed we needed to distract ourselves.

We started by driving up to look at apartments.  We viewed three, after which time we determined that the other three on the list weren't worth checking out and we knew which one we wanted.  It's a little on the pricier side but it's in a good neighbor that's within walking distance from a lot of areas of interest, including the Grand Lake movie theater, Lake Merritt, and Morcom Rose Garden.

Morcom Rose Garden.

Grand Lake Theater, now showing Spider-Man: Nightmare Alley.


Merritt Lake.


A tiny maple grove in the Merritt Garden bonsai garden.

Along the way we stopped by Pea Soup Anderson's, a roadside attraction featuring a huge windmill and even huger portions of pea soup, as well as BravoLand, a surprisingly sprawling and well-kept "old west" town.  Not authentic or anything, but exactly the kind of thing you want out of a roadside attraction, especially when your roadtrip includes a 6-pound dog and a 2-year-old child.

Pea Soup Anderson's


After signing off on the lease, we had to get to the business of packing.  I found this immensely stressful.  Probably not as stressful as the cat, Mabel, who was placed into a carrier called "Whiskey City," where she proceeded to cry in distress for the entire six-hour U-Haul drive north.  We packed in the span of maybe three days, placed everything in the truck in one, and made the whole pilgrimage in a day.  It was like ripping off a Band-Aid.  Our landlady cried when we left.

Packing up.

Actual image of me handling the move like a well-adjusted adult.
The van. 

Don't worry, Domingo the lizard rode in the cab with me. 
Unlike Mabel she wasn't a huge pussy about it.
Yes, that was a cat pun.

Bye, house.
End of a chapter.
Once we got to the new place we had to go about the arduous process of unpacking everything and finding a place for it.  
Start of a chapter.
We had opted to get rid of a lot of our old furniture, which was worn from years of dogs and baby.  If there's one advantage to moving, it's that you get to do a bit of redecorating.  We found an amazing used furniture place called Uhuru Furniture near us (which is also a non-profit!) and scored the best couch ever.

And it came with a matching ottoman!  And it was like $130!

Lots of IKEA trips.

"This IKEA trip is gonna cost us, you guys."

Andrew's mother came to "help" us.  Because that's what you want when you move into a new place: houseguests.  Andrew's mother's version of help was mostly to vaguely hover around in the afternoons.  In terms of actual unpacking she did nothing.  The dog took her on a lot of walks to get her out of her hair while we built bookshelves.
Day one.

Not bad, if I do say so myself.
Moving in was less stressful but has been far more of an extended process than moving out.  Within the first week we'd gotten the lion's share of the boxes unpacked, string lights up on the balcony, and wall art arranged, but the sense of "home" is still elusive.  Especially at night there's a weird liminal quality to living here.  It's more than a hotel but it's not quite "home" yet, either. 

Did you know the word "uncanny" in German is unheimlich, which literally means "un-home-like?"

It's fair to say that I can't expect a place I've been in for three weeks to feel as comforting as a place I'd occupied for 9 or 10 years.  That takes time.  But there's a lot of things to like about the new place.  It's a fresh start and we needed it.  Calvin now has his own room.  Our floorspace has doubled and instead of a rusted-out gas oven we have a fancy-pants convection, which is really good at burning all the food I try to make with it.

So much room!

Building new foundations.
I've already found a few new haunts, like the kava bar and East Bay Vivarium.  I've been getting my 10,000 steps a day in during my explorations, which is good for my physical and probably mental health, I guess.  Since we moved in we've been experiencing torrential rain, which is not good for my left knee nor for any of my carefully selected drought-resistance houseplants, half of which have had to be dragged inside.  But there's pockets of sunshine here and there, and I'm trying to keep a positive attitude about all this.

I miss my friends and I feel a little directionless, a feeling that does not, apparently, apply to toddlers whatsoever.  Calvin is having the time of his life with all these big changes and I'm trying to catch his sense of adventure and child-like wonder for myself.  Mostly I feel disconnected, and tired.  But hey, who's to say I wouldn't feel that in Los Angeles?  It's not like 2020 or 2021 pulled any punches.  Maybe 2022 will be better.

Moving forward!

New directions!

Maybe this won't suck?

Sunday, December 5, 2021

What Is Grief, If Not Love Persevering?

I've always said that the reason Iron Man 1 is the best movie of all time is because of its core message: that broken hearts can heal.

It's been a very rough month for me as the move from Los Angeles to San Francisco looms ever-closer.  We have less than 48 hours remaining in this home, which we've been in almost ten years.  

That being said, part of me looks forward to it, because this house feels all wrong without Seamus in it.  We had to say good-bye to him on November 29th, and since then, everything has been wrong.  Normally I can explain my feelings but for this experience, words fail me.  Seamus was my best friend, my ride-or-die guy.  He was there for my graduation and my cross-country move and my wedding and the birth of my son.  He's just always been there.  A small piece of my soul in a scruffy, smelly, ill-mannered terror of a terrier.

Earliest photo of Seamus, circa 2008.

He passed away in my arms; it was very quiet and peaceful.  He was about sixteen years old.

Unable to process it fully, I cried a whole bunch and have spent my time distracting myself by packing for the move and going to Comic Cons.  I was already committed to the conventions, as tickets had been purchased.  I thought it would be good for me to get out of the house.  Marvel has always been a comforting franchise to me, as well as an escapist fantasy, so I figured it would probably be best to get out there and deal with something a little less traumatic than the death of my dog.  You know, like Thanos trying to genocide half the universe with his magic rocks.  Small-scale stuff that my brain could comprehend.  Y'know?

I attended San Diego Comic Con Special Edition on a press pass and had a great time.

✨  p r o f e s s i o n a l  ✨

You can read my coverage here.  With photos!

On the other hand, L.A. Comic Con was kind of a bust.  The convention center was literally so cold that it was almost intolerable.  Jack and I stubbornly hung out for about two hours before deciding it was a bust and leaving.  

The signage was complicated and we couldn't find anything (including the vendor hall), there was no printed out program, and the whole thing seemed slapped together in a very lackluster way.  We attended one panel in full that had a heckler and a terrible sound system, and peeked in on two more poorly-attended panels, leaving due to the subzero temperature.

The only redeeming feature was stumbling upon the cosplay photoshoot by complete accident and meeting a really cool Hawkeye.

I'm the one on the right.

Now that the Con is over I'm left in my partially packed home and feeling the absence of Seamus harder than ever.

WandaVision summed it up best:

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Content Dump: Reviews and Ponderings on the MCU, MLP, and Squid Game

Content dump time!  In addition to taking a hiatus from my blog, I also took a hiatus from writing (at least publicly).  But I'm back at the 'zine and so here are some of my musings on various fandoms.  Check out the links!

The Squid Game Challenge We Should Have Seen. An idea I had for an alternative ending for Squid Game.  I loved Squid Game but I also really enjoy talking about ways I would have written a series differently.  This article was fun to write and it really got me out of my creative slump.  I'm quite proud of it.

A discussion of Marvel's What If...? and how it ties in to the "Nexus Events" of Marvel's Loki.  Not my best work.

A review of My Little Pony: The Next Generation It's brightly colored but otherwise bland.  Still, I saw it twice and enjoyed it.  But that might just be a consequence of nostalgia; after all, I was born in the '80s.

Ranking the Eternals.  I loved this movie and saw it twice, too, in theaters.  Absolutely recommend.  Andrew also wrote a review for it, here.

Thoughts on the Matrix: Resurrections Trailer.  

Tune in later for news on San Diego Comic Con, Los Angeles Comic Con, and the big move to San Francisco! 

I'm trying to look on the bright side of things!
It might be a fine place to have a nervous breakdown!

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Houseguests: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

November has been a very challenging month for me.  It's, at least in part, my own fault for over-scheduling myself.  Now that things have calmed down a bit I'm getting back into the swing of writing.  The only major plans ahead for me are Comic Con San Diego (this weekend) and Comic Con Los Angeles (the weekend after that).  But the hardest parts are behind me.  

Me before an event.
Me after an event.

So what happened?

Well, first of all, much of November was dedicated to putting together Puppypalooza, a huge human dog show that benefits the ASPCA.  The planning for this was, and I don't say this lightly, bigger than it was even for my wedding.  The event went off without a hitch and we easily raised over $1,000 for charity, but the stress leading up to it was extreme.

On top of that, we had three houseguests in rapid succession.

First, Andrew's mother and sister both visited at the beginning of the month.  It was a nice visit; certainly a little tense because Andrew's family hasn't historically liked me much, but I think things are softening up a little thanks in part to Calvin's wonderfully personable presence.

At the beach with Grandma.

The next visit was my little sister, Kellen.  I met Kellen in 2004 through the Big Brothers, Big Sister program, and I've missed her very much since moving to Los Angeles.  Andrew and I flew her out for a five-day mini vacation to Los Angeles.  It was fun but definitely a lot of work to try to fit in all the things we wanted to do in such a short time.  Doing it with the 2-year-old meant doing it on "hard mode."

Isn't Kellen's hair cool?!  Also, that mask was given to just by Papa Niko.  That's the symbol for clan Ventrue.  Kellen joined in for a Vampire: The Masquerade LARP!
Kickin' it downtown at Cole's, home of the speakeasy Varnish.
Checking out the touristy stuff: the Hollywood Stars and the Chinese Theater.
We ended on a high note at Beetlehouse.
We totally split the fishbowl, which I've always wanted to try.  It matched Kellen's hair!  Haha.
 Seeing Seamus, 10 years later.

And then there was Andrew's friend.

For the sake of privacy I won't give their name or many details.  You'll find out why in a second:

Recently, we found out that this childhood best friend of his was living in a homeless shelter. We asked them if they would like to come crash on our couch, as our home seemed like a more stable place for them than a shelter. They agreed and came, and within a day, I realized we'd made a grievous error.

Their behavior was absolutely erratic.  They were completely lacking in self-awareness and spent most of their time sitting on the couch staring blankly into space.  They left out pill bottles, cigarette packs, and food all over the place.  (Not great when you have a toddler and a dementia-riddled dog.)  It was pretty much immediately apparent to me that they were either abusing drugs or had some sort of physiological issue.  I contacted their ex to figure out what was happening, and it was then that we discovered that they are a diagnosed schizophrenic going through an episode right now, hence the homelessness.

They have obviously suffered some kind of trauma BUT it's almost impossible to figure out what happened because so many of their stories were part of their delusions. (They went into vivid detail about various assaults but some of those stories were so fantastical that it's unlikely that it happened as they remembered, which isn't to say that it didn't, only that it was clearly put through some kind of manic filter.) (Oh, and they did this at dinner, when I had a guest over.  It was fairly embarrassing, although my guest, Kieran, is one of the kindest and most understanding people in the entire world.  Kieran really managed to roll with the delusions without any hint of discomfort and I was deeply grateful to them for their understanding.)

Andrew's friend was absolutely obsessed with topics of sex and gender (due to a past sexual assault). Combine that with a media diet that revolves madly around these topics, and guess what? They had decided they were trans. Mind you, this person is in their 30s and is, in every way imaginable, acting, presenting, and living as a heterosexual woman, and has never before expressed any trans ideas. 

They got very obsessed with me and pretty much fixated on me, and kept cornering me to talk about how badly they needed HRT, how they wanted to be a "faggot" like me (yes, those were their words), how "validating" being a man was to them. It was (and I say this without exaggeration) a little bit traumatizing.

One of the consequences of all this is that it is hard for them to get into homeless programs because they "identify" as a man and don't want to go to women's shelters, but aren't safe at all in men's spaces, especially because they look and present as female, and act hypersexual.

They were with us for less than 24 hours before I told them they had to leave, and we put them on a bus back to the shelter, because the truth is, their unpredictable behavior made them unsafe and it was clear they needed WAY more intervention than just a couch to crash on.  It was deeply uncomfortable to inform them that they had to leave and I felt like a monster as I drove them, sobbing, to the bus station to see them on their way.

It's worth noting that I believe that if someone wants a body modification for any reason, I think they should be able to get it, and that I don't want gender-affirming surgery or treatment to be prohibitively difficult to get... but only if the person getting it is in a good place when they're getting it and are able to reasonably consider the long-term ramifications. This is why tattoo artists won't tattoo drunk people.

Oh, speaking of which, I finally got my back tattoo fixed!  You don't need to know what it looked like before.  Only that it looked kind of bad and now it doesn't: 

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Happy Halloween!

 Today was Halloween and it was Calvin's first time trick-or-treating.  He went as a bee and Andrew went as a beekeeper.

I went as Hawkeye because, like Hawkeye, I was completely unprepared for our mission and also felt like utter shit.  That's because Calvin started daycare three mornings a week and, within only four sessions, became a bioweapon and hit me with the worst cold of my life.

Stuffy nose aside we had a nice walk around the block and Calvin made out like a bandit.  Much like a real bee, he was very adapt at collecting sugar.  (A note on this: granulated white sugar is the most like nectar so, if you're planning to feed bees, this should be your go-to.)

Calvin comes from a long line of beekeepers; my maternal grandfather was a beekeeper, himself.  My mom would have carried on the tradition but unfortunately my brother is allergic to bees.

Anyways, Andrew made the costume himself and wrote up an Instructable, so that now, if you have need to create a tiny bee costume, you can!

Lucan Gillespie Takes Tea With a Honey Bee, by Tim Walker