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

Friday, October 15, 2021

Cricket Frog Story

 About three weeks ago, my cricket frog disappeared.

Quarter for scale.

No idea where he went. I tore apart the whole terrarium looking for him but he'd vanished. The thing is, cricket frogs are very tiny (hence the name), and since the environment is semi-aquatic and filled with bugs, I figured he had died and been broken down/consumed. It was very sudden and it really bummed me out. It was one of many tiny things lately that has really disproportionately affected my mood.

Every little thing has been getting me down lately because of two very big things.  The first is that Andrew got a lucrative offer from a company in San Franciso, so we'll be moving out of Los Angeles before the end of the year.  Moves are very stressful to me, and I hate moving.  We've lived in our current home for almost a decade and I'll miss the familiarity of my surroundings.  I love Los Angeles; it's my adopted hometown.  And although San Francisco isn't far, it's just far enough to really get me outside of my comfort zone.

The other major thing is that Seamus is dying.  At sixteen and a half, Seamus is old and demented enough to become a United States president.  I can't think of any way to take him with us; the move would be cruel.  He's already a bundle of anxiety, and the move could very well kill him.  He has panic attacks every night, frequent accidents in the house (which has never happened before), and trouble getting into the bed and even on the couch.  It's time to say good-bye but I don't know how to do that.  He's my best friend and moving to a new place without him is terrifying to me.  We're putting off the inevitable for as long as we can and trying to enjoy the very short time we have left with him, but it's coming.

The anxiety is paralyzing.  When the cricket frog disappeared, I didn't even bother cleaning out the terrarium. Just left it on my desk with all the plants still in it. It felt like a metaphor for my mood: a smelly, stagnant, uninhibited swamp.

Yesterday was another rough day. It was supposed to be Cal's first day of daycare, but due to a series of miscommunications, I drove to three separate locations and he was 2 hours late. By the time I finally dropped him off and came home, I had only 45 minutes to myself.

Having the energy to do anything can be so hard sometimes. (Example: cleaning out the terrarium.) But I was determined not to let myself get mired in self-pity, and so, with an immense push of willpower, I spent those 45 minutes cleaning the bathroom.

(If you've experienced depression then you know how hard it can be to start a big task, let alone complete it.)

Afterwards I didn't feel better. But at least the bathroom was clean.

As I was putting away the cleaning supplies, I moved the shower curtain, and... PLOP.

Out fell the missing cricket frog, right into the bath tub.

Apparently he has been slumming it in the bathroom for 3 weeks, undetected. How he escaped in the first place is unknown. How he made it to the bathroom and avoided getting rinsed down a drain or eaten by the cat is also a mystery.

But he's safely back home now.

...sometimes the universe throws you a bone right when you need it.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

LARPing: Brightest and Darkest Days

 Well, blog, you might have noticed a lapse of a couple of months in updates.  I opted to take a hiatus for August and September because of personal issues.  Namely, the crushing weight of grief that comes from losing friends and family.  

In my last update I see that I mentioned my hope that my friend would actually get vaccinated to protect herself.  Now that the vaccine is FDA approved she of course hasn't.  

I've run out of a sympathy, having just lost another family member recently due to Covid, and I don't think I can actually do anything to change her mind.  This saddens me.

I have been trying to focus less on that relationship, though, and more on building new, positive ones.

To that end I have immersed myself into two awesome new areas of interest.

The first is with Christmas performers. I love Christmas and have a natural elf-like quality. Combine that with an deep, instinctual desire to do whatever older men in white beards tell me, and it was inevitable I'd end up at a Christmas Con, or, more specifically, a Christmas Performers' Workshop, put on by Santa True, the same Santa I interviewed last December.

(A plurality of Santas is typically referred to as a "jolly" of Santas.)

There's a lot of emphasis on storytelling. This was an "advanced" workshop so it's assumed that the Santas there know the fundamentals. For advanced workshops, there's a focus on the performing aspect.

"Chair time" usually only involves 4 questions: What's your name, how old are you, have you been good, and what would you like for Christmas.

Home visits and corporate events are another plate of tamales. You're expected to be able to tell stories (memorizing and being able to act out "The Night Before Christmas" is only the tip of the iceberg), answer deep lore questions (Santa is canonically 1,751 years old; he was born in Myra, which is modern-day Turkey; Mrs. Claus was introduced in 1843; every reindeer has a backstory), dance with 35-50 pounds of Santa gear for the entirety of "All I Want For Christmas Is You." (This is the #1 intro song played at corporate events.)

There are facial and physical exercises. A lifted-cheek smile is called a Kringle, for example, and you literally do sets of Kringles to flex your facial muscles. Santa's movements are centered in the belly and there's a deliberate way of walking that Santas are expected to have. Even when stationary Santa is expected to have certain dynamic movements that keep him "interesting" (i.e., combing his beard, checking his pocket watch).

For photos and recorded phone videos (what we call "elfies"), there's a billion tricks to posing (and getting kids to pose).

The workshop involves a lot of storytelling, miming, singing, dancing, cracking dad jokes, and learning to interact with a variety of people: adults, kids, Mrs. Claus, elves, et cetera.

If you want to see an amazing Santa who embodies the Jolly Old Elf, check out this video of Santa being interrogated by ex-CIA folks. It's fun and you get a sense for how deeply the character can be explored.  I had a great time at the two-day workshop and it really got me in the spirit of the season!

The parking lot was overwhelmingly red cars. You can take the Santa out of Christmas but you can't take the Christmas out of Santa!

The second LARP experience I've delved into is a Vampire: The Masquerade LARP. I found this group because, back in 2019, they used to come by the Dragon and Meeple.  Wearing everything from fake fangs and scaley makeup to ballgowns and Adidas track suits, they were a fascinating bunch and I loved to serve them.  I wanted to join their game but of course, I was always working on the nights they were there.

Then the pandemic hit and the D&M closed down.  The LARP moved onto Discord and was played online for nearly two years.  That was sufficient time for me to join the group and create my character:

Name: James "Jimmy" Donahue
Nicknames: Jimmy, Dapper, "Slippin' Jimmy"
Clan: Ventrue
Eyes: One
Hair: Lustrous
Embraced: 1943.  He'll tell anyone who asks that his sire was begat by Vincent Day, making him a direct "descendant" of Mithras, and that he also boasts a connection to Ebles le Croisé.  Quite an impressive lineage, though no one's ever met his direct sire and no one seems to have ever actually known them.

A neonate with a flair of fashion, Jimmy is the friendliest Crusader you'll ever meet.  A WWII vet, he's still adjusting to immortality and the 21st century, but of one thing he's sure: loyalty is a purer currency than either money or blood.


The in-person games have been incredibly fun and, more importantly, I've found a group of people with the same interests as me in performance, cosplay, and world-building.  They are so supportive and friendly; my "clan" really does feel like a family and I've made some fast, close friends.  Daniel (aka Papa Niko) in particular has really become a close friend in real life, not just in the underworld of darkness.

Sometimes you find friends in the most unexpected places.  Although the pandemic has altered some friendships and created some distance between me and others (both literally and figuratively), it's also opened some doors to new experiences and given me some surprising opportunities to meet new people.  I guess that's the silver lining.  No great change can occur without there being a little silver of positive opportunity, if you;re willing to go looking for it.