Day Trippin’

I am broke. Brokety broke broke.

With that all consuming brokeness in mind, the kind a fine mix only cost of living and minimum wage can bring, I think you can understand why I haven’t been anywhere on vacation in a while. Couple years, in fact. I watch my friends take off everywhere from Florida to Monaco, and I loathe the ever loving crap out of them. You know, in an affectionate way.

Thankfully, I’m not alone in this. The other denizens of my household are just as broke, for varying reasons. So every so often, when the daily grind is wearing our brains down to itty bitty nubs, we put our heads together and come up with day trips.

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It might not be Monaco, but it works. A road trip for just a few hours brings us anywhere in the area, most recently to Newport, Rhode Island. That’s a bit over two hours give or take, especially if you’re the kind who’s prone to having to turn back fifteen minutes in to get forgotten things like cellphones and cameras, and an ATM stop that no one thought to do sooner. Little things, really.

With the radio and Stephen King short story audio books to accompany us (I Know What You Need and The Moving Finger, if you’re interested), the trip felt fairly short. Once we were in Newport, we had to hunt down a place for lunch. Parking there is, by the way, deadly. If you haven’t been, go there preparing for War. Yes, it does warrant a capital ‘W’. No, I’m not kidding.

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Benjamin’s turned out to be the only place we could all agree on after some strolling through the area, mostly because my waifish friend subsists on the strangest of strange diets (bread, cheese, potatoes, tomatoes, and peanut butter are her primary food groups), and apparently not many places there serve french fries. Or anything that wouldn’t send her from the restaurant screaming, for that matter.

After an exceptional round of stuffed clams, followed shortly by an even more exceptionalNewport8 seafood mac and cheese (big chunks of lobster, oh my good crippity Christ it was wonderful), we were off again. Wandering around the area, in and out of candy and gift shops, picking through and being amused by all manner of random. I still have Non-Buyer’s Remorse from that Indian silk scarf that was ocean colored, shiny, and just so very soft. But I digress.

Then we were off to the Mansion District, throwing ourselves into a vast wasteland of opulence and a few houses that looked like they’d been uprooted from the Shire and Super Sized. I still wish I’d asked to stop and take a picture of those, but I was too busy staring in dumb wonder. I’m sure many come to the area and take the tours for a reason, but just driving through, I couldn’t understand it. The size, the necessity, any of it. Presumably I’m not meant to.

Except for the Hobbit holes. I got that. I just want to know how they got them there. Is Gandalf a contracto– I’m drifting.

Newport5The good part came after that. Straight through all those big eye sores was beach country. We stopped in random spots that looked good to take pictures, soak in the scenery, and just breathe.

Here, my friends, we come to the crux of the thing. It’s taken me the first twenty five years of my life to even begin to learn how to mellow. These little trips do worlds to nudge me further down that line. I got to take my camera out and take a bucketload of pictures. I didn’t even lose it when I figured out that somehow, some way, I hadn’t checked to make sure my memory card was in the camera when packing up, and the first thirty shots were thereby lost to the ether. I mourned briefly, laughed it off, and moved on. I knew there’d be more moments to take more pictures, and there were.

NicoleNewport1I even got to throw some subjects (my friends) in the mix, which I don’t normally get to do. You can see a pile of those here, including some of my aforementioned waifish friend. In between my snapping shots and their carefully making their way through the rocks, we’d all sit and watch the waves. It was peace, and not remotely the kind you get from sitting on the couch at home.

On our way back, we passed a sizable park where families were camped out on the grass with their kids, just flying kites. Who the hell does that these days? I thought it was fantastic. We stopped for another slew of pictures, chatted with awesome elderly hippie KitesNewport1running the ‘Kite Store’ trailer that was set up with a giant dog kite less than four feet away. Poor thing couldn’t catch enough wind, the way it was drooping you’d think it had down syndrome. The kids still looked thrilled, and few parents seemed harried, if any. It was just a perfect summer day, and the outside world seemed to be taking a walk for a while.

After that, tired but happy, we were through. The Mangler took us through the ride home, where our dogs were positively hyperventilating with joy to see us, and back to the real world. I’m more than ready to do it again, and I highly recommend it to you. You can fit a lot into a day trip, even if it’s just a lot of relaxing. So break open a new tab on your browser, fire up the almighty Lord Google, and try typing in ‘Best of “apply state/region/etc here”‘. See what happens. If it’s a few hours away, and you’re just sitting in front of your computer sliding down the social media rabbit hole, what’ve you got to lose?

Hey, I’ll Take It

I’ve hit a creative slump. I know, given that this blog’s been a ghost town after a few posts, that must be shocking. But still.

Life’s been a holding pattern, with everything that’ll move me forward being roughly six to eight months down the line; returning to school, getting a car, and so on. That can transfer nicely inside your head if you let it. Unfortunately, I have. I’ve been dusting off a few old ideas for scripts that never quite left my head, and tried my best to get them sparking again. The last attempt ended with two scenes completed, and two and a half hours dicking around on Spotify.

Don’t even get me started on my poor neglected camera, sitting all alone in its bag with the shiny new lens (Rokinon 85mm) I spent a ridiculous amount of money on.

Honestly, I should’ve been happy something came out. But I was far too involved in being royally pissed off that I wasn’t spraining fingers from trying to type at lightspeed, in an effort to keep up with the words free flowing from my brain. You know, my usual.

Recently, I’ve learned to take what I can get. I have both the WordPress and Celtx apps on my phone, and I’ve taken to hiding out in the cooler to quickly scribble down lines between carts at work. Half my last post was completed through this grace(ish) under fire method, and three scenes have been added onto a script. Evernote’s housing all my ideas when they come, whenever that may be. Even if it means an awkward moment where I throw up a hand at the person I’m talking to, whip my phone out, and give the customary “Sorrywaitasecondshutupplease.” while I swipe out words like the wind.

And the ideas are coming, slowly but surely. I seem to be clawing my way out of the hole of angst and woe I’ve dug for myself line by line. My recent bid to end all that self loathing I’ve been harboring is kind of helping things along. Kind of. Sort of. We’ll see.

So, I’ll adapt. If it means scraping out my stories bit by bit in coolers, restaurants, bathrooms, on the street, whatever, I’ll work it out.

What’s that quote? “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Yeah, that. All of that.

But I’ll take it.

And hey, if you have any thoughts on how to crack open your brain and let all the thoughts flow over a page, I’ll take that too.

What The Militant Baker Did For Me

I’m not a morning person, not even a little. Not even a teensy smidge of a fraction of a little. So it’s safe to say I don’t leave myself primping time every morning before work. I don’t wear make up, it’s fine. But I do my hair, try to clean up, make myself look acceptable. And every morning I’d come downstairs, fix my part, adjust my bangs, look in the mirror and think…

“It’ll do.”

Ouch. But it’s how I’ve spent most of my life thinking. Never a “Hell yes.” or even a “Not bad.”, just resignation and moving on. I can’t pinpoint the moment I decided to give in to that self image of an obese homely spinster in the making, one that I forced myself to return to every morning like I deserved it. But it felt like it’s always been that way, and that’s just how it has to be.

Then I was wasting time on Facebook, scrolling my way through a million things I was barely seeing. (Ah, modern life.) Right when I was ready to give up and move along, I stumbled across this little article.

It was… An experience. Oddly enough, everything on there from one to fourteen had never occurred to me. Ever. Skinny girls can’t have rolls, right? And that whole thing about fat girls and hot guys… That’s an urban legend. Clearly. One designed by someone extra super devious somewhere to keep the rest of us hoping. Right?

By the end, I found myself close to tears. I’m not a crier. I don’t respect it, I never have. But every item hit one right after the other, every article linked within only adding weight to their swing, and at long last, something clicked.

I pushed back from my desk and went to the full length mirror in my room. No curve went unstudied, no roll unpoked or prodded at. Slowly but surely, I could see it. Great hair color, even if it doesn’t always style perfect. Almond hazel eyes. Full lips. Small enough waist, curves even if they aren’t always where they should be, proportionate thighs… And let’s not forget the rack. That’s not a half bad rack, if I do say so myself.

Seriously, you guys. I’m actually kind of cute.

I’ve been told this before. My mother always tells me I’m beautiful. My family and friends compliment my hair, or my sense of style, or all of the above. But for some reason, if only because it was such a balls to the wall piece from a fellow fat chick (and so was every link in there), it sank in. And it’s reverberating. I feel just that much more confident, that much prettier, and I’m starting to think someone actually could love me even if I can’t drop fifty pounds. I don’t need to settle, and I’m not going to.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a magical transformation. I still wish my thighs were smaller, or my feet weren’t huge (my waifish friend considers anything above a size nine, which is her size by the by, to be ‘man feet’), or my hands were smaller, or my hair would stop frizzing so very much. I still want to drop a few pounds (not fifty), but now it feels more like it’s for me, and not for the rest of the world. Fuck them.

Hell, I might even go swimsuit shopping for the first time in years.

But I know I’m not completely there, and that’s okay. A click vibrates, makes ripples, and that rippling means change.

So from one fat chick to another, Jes Baker, I thank you. You made the impossible possible. I won’t forget it.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Doctor

“Okay, but really, you have to watch this.”

“Sure, I’ll get to it.”

“But watch it, though.”

“Sure, yeah. It’s on the list.”

“Sara. Watch it.”

That’s just a snippet of one of many coercion ridden conversations I had with my dear friend A. She was a fan of constantly peer pressuring me into watching new shows, weedling away at me until I caved and watched the first episode of whatever she pointed me towards.Then I blinked, and found myself three seasons in with a hopeless addiction. Not to mention offered a heaping helping of smug satisfaction, but that’s beside the point here.

Doctor Who was, obviously, no exception. I started on the first series of the reboot after some seismic levels of cajoling, with Christopher Eccelston’s Ninth Doctor. Anyone who’s seen pretty much anything the guy’s done knows why this was exciting. However, if you’re reading this and thinking not much more past “Hey, that guy’s got a funny last name…”, please take a moment and click on that funny name, and watch just about anything he’s been in. I recommend starting with Shallow Grave, but that’s just me.

I don’t think I had a clue what I was watching until I was slapped with the end of the series, The Parting of the Ways. Only after that did I look back dazedly and go “I kind of love this guy.”

I was Rose Tyler, and every other companion before or since. Going along for the ride for reasons that can’t be explained, only to find myself getting outrageously emotionally invested in a Madman with a Blue Box. Then just as quickly as I’d gone head over heels for this funny guy with big ears, a bigger grin, and a sharp tongue… He was gone.

Enter David Tennant, post regeneration. It’s amazing what first strikes you as a ploy for TV Executives to keep stringing a show along from here to Eternity sets in so quickly. You start off with a compulsive sense of mistrust and aggravation; a surity that this Doctor will never match up to the Doctor prior. Then there’s the tentative stage, one that you move through pretty swiftly in the face of Ten’s charm and infectuous energy.

Couple that with the rudeness (while still lamentably not ginger), and the sudden shifts into darkness and angst, and you can see the shades of The Doctor past that help you make the connection and bear the loss. This isn’t the same Doctor, but he’s still The Doctor. Of course he is. How could he not be?

It was this process that made my progressive induction into the fandom (or becoming a ‘Whovian’, as it’s more entertainingly labeled) all the more weird. I was raised on science fiction, sure, but that wasn’t where I was leaning. In fact around that time it was pretty much anything else, with Supernatural leading the pack. But here I was, seeing a whole new universe through Rose Tyler’s eyes, plowing through entire series and wondering just how shameful it’d be to pick up my own sonic screwdriver.

(Just so you know, not shameful at all. I have one that works as a flashlight, it’s fantastic, and when I use it I absolutely make sweepy scan-y dramatic motions. I defy anyone to hold one in their hand and not do the same.)

By the time I was finished, so was David Tennant. I know a lot of people scoff and snark at his exit, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve wanted to reach in and drag someone out for a hug more. Matt Smith, the youngest Doctor to date and what felt like the most random choice that could possibly be made, was next on the docket. This was the first time I got to be nervous about this particular Oncoming Storm. He was young, funny looking, and just didn’t inspire confidence.

The process struck again, but this time I was fully invested in it and forced to undergo the slow and steady progression once a week: Aggravation, mistrust, nervousness, tentative amusement, steadily growing affection…

Hello Sweetie.

If I wasn’t hooked before, that was the end of it. Following Eleven through his stint, regrowing that attachment for a new/old face, going on each adventure weekly, I was done for. There’re too many elements to it all aside from sci-fi to not find something to connect with; fantasy, romance, comedy, tragedy, horror, and thensome, in tons of forms.

Now Matt Smith’s just about done, the truly brilliant Peter Capaldi is on the way, and I’m just in time for the fiftieth anniversary. I’m watching An Adventure in Space and Time, Mark Gatiss’s rendition of how the whole thing began. Soon I’ll be watching the fiftieth anniversary special with fish fingers and custard (Well, in a manner of speaking…), and Monday I’ll be off to Boston to see it again in a theater chock full of fans just like me. My TV’s hardly left BBC America all week, and I’ve worn a different Who shirt all week thanks to the power of TeeFury and others like it.

Those are just small pieces of ways I’ve found to celebrate this strange fandom that makes you feel like you’re connected to something that’s universal. Finally, I understand what the hell’s going on with folks of the Trek and Wars persuasion.

I’ve been fascinated by the Ood, seriously disturbed by the Cybermen, discovered I can say without hesitation who my Doctor is (Ten), and what my favorite episode is (Blink), nevermind my favorite companion (Donna). When the Pandorica opened, I left my room in a daze and needed a hug. And every once a while I find myself looking to the skies and wondering, if I glanced at the right moment, I might catch a blue police box whizzing by.

Crazy notion, of course. But still. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

With or without that box, the spirit of the whole thing’s worth taking out with you into the world. We could all stand to be a little more Doctor-y. Any and all of them will suffice. Come on now, allons-y! Just take your pick, open the door to the adventure that lies ahead, grab that hand that tells you it’s all going to be alright, and get ready to run.

Oh, and of course…

GERONIMO!

What Fresh Hell is This?

There are few stranger planes of existence than the world of online dating.

Knowing what this is now about, if you feel the title is now a bit dramatic, I assure you it’s not. So there.

First, a few semi embarrassing statements to help set the stage for this little affair: I could be classified as what’s known as a ‘Late Bloomer’. I’ve had many strange and varied experiences, but enough little ‘rites of passage’ seem to’ve passed me by to raise eyebrows. One of them is dating. Until recently, this never seemed like that big a deal. Suddenly though, and it could have something to do with being halfway to thirty… It is.

So in the spirit of not dying a spinster, I threw up a profile on Let’s Date, the Suicide Girls’s dating app. I called it a social experiment; it’d be fascinating to see if I got any responses at all. You create a card with enough statements to define yourself to the rest of the world (somehow), and people decide whether or not they’re into that. If they like you, they hit a button, and you’re told someone likes you. Eventually, if you come across their card and decide you like them and happen to hit the button as well, you’re told you’re a match and a date is (usually) set.

My very first match? A cute yet quirky girl (I’m Bisexual, by the by.), who shared enough interests with me to get me interested. It all seemed perfectly harmless… Until I happened to scroll down and catch her Twitter page.

Turns out she’s a Financial Dominatrix.

I won’t say her name on here, that’d be unkind. But after reading through her feed, where men of all kinds begged for her attention in some pretty scary/hysterical ways, and going through her website where there was more of the same… I chickened out. It’s not that I would never, but… Not right now.

Not too long after that, after some equally strange interactions, I pulled myself off the app. Thinking for some strange reason that a new spot would be better, I then threw up a profile on OKCupid. Again, I operated under the giggle worthy ploy of it being a ‘social experiment’.

When the messages actually started coming though, I didn’t have a clue what to do with them.

One guy told me I was a tease. Nothing else. Another guy said I was cute and all, sure, but we had some fo-real sexual disconnects. This, of course, came without me actually answering any sex based personality questions. Girls were either very close to their mothers, or too cool to talk to the likes of me. I tried not to read too much into that. Or any of it, for that matter.

More and more, I found that it was both harder than just going out in public to a bar (Who the hell are you dealing with? Is that picture even real? Craigslist Killer, anyone?), and a hell of a lot easier (If you don’t like them, just stop talking. They can’t follow you. At least… As far as you know.), but still confusing. Really, really confusing.

This did, however, lead me to my first date. I messaged back and forth with a guy for a a while, he seemed reasonably intelligent and made me laugh. This is, by the way, the easiest possible way to win points with me. Make me giggle, you’ve got your foot in the door.

W and I set up a dinner date and met up at six o’ clock sharp. I showed up early and waited inside, compulsively fixing my hair, checking my face (even though it wasn’t made up) in the mirror, wondering if there were any adjustments I could make that would somehow help this process I knew absolutely nothing about. You know, the girly stuff you say you’ll never do until you’re suddenly doing it. You sad bitch.

Suddenly, a tall skinny guy in glasses walks right by me. I smile and say hello, he says hi back, and continues on into the restaurant. It took a few seconds before he realized he’d just passed his own date, and for that date to realize she’d just been stupid enough to look her date in the eye and not recognize him.

After being thoroughly embarassed, we went to get a table. Cut to awkward talk finally melting into a fair amount of good conversation and laughs. He was nice to talk to, and I’m hoping I was too. But he had one failing, and it was the strangest I’ve ever experienced; He had no problems. He’d never experienced stress. Nothing bothered him, and he was perfectly content with his life.

Ouch.

Still, it was a good time. And after exchanging numbers, off we went to our separate domiciles. If he hadn’t dropped contact for two weeks and then popped up again wanting to get together, it might’ve worked out. Thankfully though, working with a nice little cross section of males meant I had multiple opinions on hand to explain these things to me so I didn’t think I was getting worked up and woman-y.

He’s not contacting you within the first week? He doesn’t give a crap. He’s texting a few weeks later? He’s bored.

Bye bye, W.

So, diving back into the pool once again. There’s a small pile of new prospects that might pan out well, might turn out to be just friends, or might turn into nothing at all. But I have noticed just how stupid that bit of stigma that’s latched onto online dating actually is. In spite of the few differences, it’s all exactly the same; the awkwardness, the potential for axe murder, the creepy, the gag worthy, the laughs, the fuzzies, all of it.

Which means sometimes you can’t help but dwell on why that cute girl gave you a one sentence burn and completely blew you off. Or knowing that very pretty guy was never going to message you back, but being unable to help trying in the first place.

But hey, it’s the internet. No big thing, right?

… Right?

Oh God, what hellish existence hath I wrought?

Five Things I Learned From Shooting My First DSLR/Horror(ish) Video Ever Ever

I would’ve done this a while ago, but I didn’t realize there was a post in this until now. Call it obliviousness to excess, call it being very silly indeed (and if you do, say it in a Monty Python-esque kind of way), whatever.

First, the specs; I have a Canon Rebel EOS t3i, 18MP with a 18-55 mm lens. (I know, I know, but there’s a process to getting the next one. It’s special process called ‘Waiting for Taxmas’.)  To edit, I have my trusty iPad (known as iSherlock, by the by), with all the graces iMovie can bring.

Now the situation: I’ve been on Vimeo for a while now, watching and admiring the work of others with only the slightest shades of bitterness. They had the resources, I didn’t. Until I could get the money, I’d have to appreciate and draw what I could from them.

Until now!

Now that I have my own little piece of shiny (not up to date, I’ll grant you, but still solid and mine), I’ve been taking pictures and putting them up on DeviantArt, and looking for the inspiration to cut together some new little videos someone might actually be interested in aside from me. Naturally I want to be happy with what I do first, but it’s always nice to have that little extra piece of satisfaction when someone else gets interested.

And then I found it. Vimeo has Weekend Challenges, where they post an idea and let creative types floating around the site run with it. The Halloween challenge was, essentially, to create something spooky in under a minute. I decided to go as simplistic as possible; I’d film a walk up the street in my neighborhood, and through the power of selective editing and sound effects, make it scary. Thanks to the power of freesound.org , I got everything I needed for sound effects.

Now let’s find out what I learned on this little venture…

1. Handheld, no matter how ‘natural’, is still steadier than you think. Numbnuts.

My thought, undisputed in it’s genius, was to play with going handheld. I wanted the viewer to be able to feel like they were looking through the walker’s eyes. I held the camera at eye level and did the walk with not too firm a grip to try for the natural bounce that comes with walking. Wherever my head turned, the camera would turn. Whenever I looked down or up, so would the camera. All this made perfect sense at the time…

I think you can see where this is going.

Upon viewing the finished product, it looked like my poor Walker Girl (she’s a girl because she was me, and I’m a girl) contracted some sort of palsy and/or randomized failure of neck muscles. Either that, or she’d developed a severe case of Fish Eye. Wibbly wobbly doesn’t even begin to describe it. Safe to say that alone made the footage entirely unusable. But hey, now I know.

2. Make sure everything you’re using has the capacity to actually do what you think it does.

I first used iMovie when I was still going to school in Boston. It’s Apple’s easier, lighter answer to Final Cut, and I recommend it if you’re not doing anything too involved with what you’re shooting. Even if you are, entire movies have been cut on it, so I still wouldn’t discount it. After getting my iPad, when I discovered the app for just five bucks, I jumped on it. But aside from messing with a few videos I made on the iPad itself, I’d never gotten to use it much. So, naturally, I didn’t have a clue that doing this on an iPad, and doing it on a Mac, aren’t exactly the same thing.

First off, the camera exports its footage as a .MOV file. The iPad won’t take them. It just won’t. After converting it to .MP4, which the iPad likes so much better, After uploading, I realized it sent the footage direct to the videos section, and that wouldn’t export to iMovie. At all. So after some obsessive Googling, because I refused to be beaten (thank you very much), I found Dropbox. One of those Cloud knockoffs, essentially. I had to load the file to Dropbox, then download it to the iPad through the corresponding app. To say that this took an age in which even Lazarus would’ve gotten bored enough to find a way to die for good is not even an approximation. But I did it. The best part? I exported the finished product into an e-mail for a friend, a copy of which I sent to myself. The file… Was an .MOV file.

3. Even if some of the best things happen off camera, horror does seem to require a few visual elements to provoke an emotional response. Duh.

I’ve written scary things, but I’ve never shot them. Safe to say that in spite of the absolutely great sounds I found (frightened breathing, a beautiful inhuman snarl, and a particularly perfect scream , just to name a few), there was nothing to imply any need to be scared. The idea was that Walker Girl would be stalked by some beastly monster, and after being startled a few times as it got closer, would be finally taken down.

Upon looking over what I did, I could see the camera didn’t move quick enough during the startled shots, and it was just way too bright. Sure, part of the challenge was to try and make it creepy anyway, but oh God was it so unfortunately bright. You just couldn’t buy it. At all.

4. Rhythm is everything.

Another idea I had was to make little jumps in time during the walk to make it pre emptively disorienting before you even heard that first growl. Let’s just say it didn’t work. You couldn’t tell the little jump cuts had been made somehow. I’m still working that one out. At any rate, I tried for a rhythm of threes, one jump every three seconds. After all, I only had so much time.

Looking at it now, it should’ve been something a bit smoother. Maybe a 4-3-4 kind of thing. At any rate, something to think about next time.

5. No matter how obviously doomed it is, finish the project.

This one is the most important of all, I’d have to say. Doing these small little training wheel exercises before I attempt anything bigger, given just how green I am, is a big deal. I knew the second I saw the footage that this wasn’t going to work. I still spent the hours it took to transfer the video, find everything I needed, and cut it down to the best possible finished product I could. That way, I can sit back after and figure out what I did wrong, and what I’ll do better next time.

Said finished product is absolutely not going on the internet. I showed it to a few of my roommates, they were as amused as I was, and I’m comfortable with that. I can congratulate myself on the sound effects at the very least; I love everything I found, and I think I layered it in well. The ambient sounds, footsteps, growling, frightened breathing… I even layered in her breathing so there’d be a change when my poor girl started freaking out.

At any rate, awful as it turned out, it was fun. Botching it means I’m just going to have to try again sometime. I’m looking forward to it.

I Want to Believe

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with all things Goosebump-y; the books and shows, Are You Afraid of the Dark, all those horrendous teenage slasher flicks you’re ashamed to admit you loved ten years later, stuff like that. Somehow, I was never afraid. Even when I moved on to Stephen King and his ilk, probably way too young (but that’s not the point here), I loved every inch of it, but barely got the thrills and chills over those ghoulies, ghosties, and long leggedy beasties that those who truly believe those things can exist get.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy them, don’t get me wrong. I loved them, and still do, even though I’ve moved on to being a bigger fan of thrillers, and the kind of stories that exemplify the monsters in all of us. (Although there’s a wealth of those to be found in horror too, even those shamefully silly slashers.) I just get my fun not from the fear of the monster coming out of the closet, but from watching those fangs, claws, fur, and scales fly.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. But being what I assume to be desensitized, or maybe too involved in the creation of stories to just live them, it means I don’t think I’m truly appreciating being faced with the real thing.

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Take yesterday, for example. I spent my birthday in Salem, Massachusetts, Land of the Witchiest Witches. Given the time of year, the place was absolutely rife with the theatrically freaky. You couldn’t round a corner without running into a witch hat, cloaks, living skeletons, demons, and your occasional pirate wench. And that’s just to name a few. Tourists milled in and out of shops and museums, town cryers dressed era appropriately lead a mix of zombified, over interested, and somewhere in between tourists through the streets and cemeteries pre armed with scripted stories of the Salem of yore.

And I couldn’t stop laughing.

It was probably rude. I could appreciate the place, rife with history and that spooky feeling (partially because of just how many scammers there afoot in all their various forms), but there was some of it that was simply too hysterical for words. Like how you had to duck and cover at any given moment to get away from the millions of signs for psychics offering readings for twenty bucks or more. Honestly, half that, maybe even quarter that, and I’ll give you a try. At that price, however, I’ll be expecting something back. Like maybe a cookie.

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Then there was the free Psychic and Witchcraft Expo at the Salem Visitors Center that took itself far too seriously. I snapped a picture of the front entrance, and was automatically admonished by the girl at the front desk booking readings to “please, don’t take pictures of the psychics.” You can see her, and an equally gothic blonde woman, glaring at me on the right. I wasn’t even aware they were in the photo, to be perfectly honest with you. I was just concerned with getting as much as I could in the frame. The price you pay for art, apparently.

Either way, I made sure to steer clear of the psychics table altogether. Most of them actually looked relatively normal, which in my opinion made them all the more believable. It was the guy rolling his top hatted head and staring off blankly into space that had me fighting off the giggles. I veered off with friends to the side, to check out various stones (which are everywhere in those shops; varying in size, shape, texture, color, and ability to induce varying forms of ultimate power for everywhere from two to three hundred plus dollars), skulls, charms, and even a shrunken head. What did look interesting was undercut by people like the woman selling magnetic bracelets that was shouting to anyone in a ten mile radius about how they’d essentially make cancer bounce off you.

After that, and turning away from items I was examining to find a tall skinny guy in a vest looming and staring bug eyed at me to make sure I didn’t steal anything… I waited outside for my friends.

Confession: When I was thirteen, having long since been struck by a complete and utter disinterest in Catholicism, I considered Wicca. Of course, I considered in with the absolute disregard for realism that anyone my age would. I had a ‘secret Wicca box’ where I squirreled away information from the internet, a spellbook, and various herbs I’d filched from the cabinet for spell based purposes. I was following suit behind my friends (all of us having covered the pre requisite of seeing The Craft), and lost interest around the time they did, but I still believe it’s a perfectly good religion if it speaks to you, the same way any other is. There is a small part of me that wonders if I’d done it right, or better, if I could’ve pulled off something. But shhh.

In between my arrival and this expo, I had a great time. We bobbed and weaved in and out of all sorts of shops. Apparently Salem is a Steampunk haven (go figure), and one of my friends and I have vowed to come back and and start building outfits for events in increments, because that stuff costs. We also had lunch at Flying Saucer Pizza Company, where I had Loki pizza (let that sink in for a moment. Loki. Pizza.), read a comic on my placemat, and viewed all kinds of SciFi memorabilia all over the walls.

One of the best parts of the whole thing was walking into what was, I swear, the American answer to Ollivander’s. Any Harry Potter fan anywhere has dreamed of that moment; walking in to find racks of handmade wands at the ready, any of which might call to you and prove that yes, you are a wizard, Har– er, whatever your name is.

Unfortunately, Wynott’s Wands (the actual name of the place), didn’t hold anything that called out to me. Better luck next time, maybe? They did, however, have bottles of Butter(scotch) Beer at the ready, and that stuff was out of this world good. There was nothing about that stuff that wasn’t worth the three dollars. I still have the bottle.

While I was in that dimly lit place, I got more caught up in the experience than I really did anywhere else I hit that day. That could’ve just been geeky fandom talking, but that’s besides the point. Part of me did want one of those wands to fly off the shelf and smack me in the nose. After all, it’d kick off a whole new adventure, and what better place for something like that to happen than Salem?

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While killing our last hour, we walked through a cemetery. I don’t know which, but since there are certainly plenty to choose from, it probably doesn’t matter. Reading the tombstones, you’re struck again by that sense of history, that power the whole area exudes. But here’s where you find the people that built it. You have to wonder, if any of them are still floating around, how they feel about the tourists strolling over their graves, schmucks like me snapping pictures of their tombstones, and all of them eyeballing the inscriptions that’re supposed to sum up their lives. Honestly, I can’t say I’d be too psyched (hee) about it. But that’s just me. And that’s only if there’s life after death. Who’s to say?

Confession Two: When I was younger, and still in Girl Scouts (yes, really), we stayed at what I’m fairly sure was some kind of lodge up in New Hampshire for the night. For some reason, this lodge had a chapel, where most of us were supposed to stay. Except some of us couldn’t. As soon as I entered, I felt a force pushing down on my head. A dull ache spawned in the back of my skull, and a sense that I needed to get out of there. Now. I wasn’t the only one, there was a small group of us  (though I think some just wanted to go along because it was freaky and super cool), and we had to sleep in a separate room for the night. I’ve had some small experiences like it, but nothing that’s matched that feeling since. If there was something in there, it was not pleased with the intrusion.

So what’s the point of all this rambling? My time in Salem, laughable as some of it was, reminded me how much I want to believe in the strange and unexplained. It’s what keeps me watching those plethora of paranormal shows (though some I flat out can’t stand), has me willing to be a guinea pig for my friend’s newfound love of tarot, and makes me able to love all those stories I did when I was a kid. Even if the realistic skeptic within scoffs, I’ll probably always still get drawn back in. I’ll always be the Scully of the situation who’s thisclose to crossing the line, but wobbles and leans back to pull her Mulder(s), in this case my friends, back from the brink. I’m comfortable there, even if it means I can’t always get as far into these things as I like. I’ll go home and write something strange to make up for it after.

But at the same time, maybe I’ll try leaning a bit further forward  in the future, see what new experiences I can get out of it. You can’t be too skeptical all the time, that’s just boring. Especially on days like today.

Happy Halloween, folks.