Halloween

Halloween has always been special to me.

A night of dreams and horror coming together in a twilight dance for both young and old alike. It’s a night where we honor our pagan traditions and celebrate how those have evolved with us. There is a beauty to parents joining their children out in the neighborhoods, among their neighbors, sharing words and candy, laugther and juvenile scares. We have many holidays throughout the calendar year but there is something about Halloween that it different, that it is about the young hearts that beat within us all and the young people of our communities. A time for kids to be kids, to spread their creative wings, and to take back the night from the terrors of adults.

The streets line with cherry eyes and the giggling howls of children. Somewhere in the darkness families are sharing their own traditions, pulling memories from the night like guts from a pumpkin. Terrors and monsters roam the shadows and stories of near-misses with the dead will be shared between school children on November first. They will be the ones that got away, though the ghosts and goblins will know their names and be waiting for them next year.

The corruption of the day comes from adults. Not the pranks and the meanness natural to the young as they find their voices, no, it is the adults that force themselves on the night. The adults that can’t let the night be what it is, a playful celebration of darkness. Adults that act dangerously, foolishly, hatefully, and become the real monsters roaming the gloom. The adults that pull at the night like it were made of taffy, trying to take it for themselves alone when it is a night for the young, and those young at heart. It’s the adults that add the rules, and that have not added to the night but have taken from it – creating side events, limiting where and how and when kids and go out, and refusing to give out candy at all. Adults not giving candy out at all is what aggravates me the most since most of us benefited from Halloween as kids but now turn our lights off to the kids of today. Yeah, there are a million reasons why that could be but there’s also the obvious – that adults are too caught up in themselves to take part, in kids or the community. It’s what the nation has become, unfortunately. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that there are trunk or treat evens but those are meant as much to usurp the power of the night as much as they are to participate in it.

I have so many memories of Halloween, so much warmth associated with this night. This year though, this year I have chosen to sit it out. With everything going on this year it makes sense to let one pass by, something I haven’t really done in ages. It seems better to spend the evening in rumination and introspection rather than to force it.

I have had my dance in the graveyard of the jack-o-lanterns and for now, I am OK to sit this round out.

…c…

Flint Fright FilmFest 2018

When we started things in 2011 with a horror convention I don’t think any of us would have imagined where we’d be in 2018. Most groups that work on conventions either make it or don’t, and let’s be honest, most don’t make it. I don’t know if it’s strictly financial as much as it is about why they got into things. Which is not to say that there’s something blessed about being in it for the fun of it, for the fans, and not the money. There are plenty of shows that are about the money and which are successful, so it’s not just that. I think, for us, the passion to do the shows though has been what has gotten us through the hard times. It helped us see the road as it was and not as we wanted it to be. And it helped us to evolve what we did instead of just folding.

For us, we were hyper-aware of a need to face the reality of our situation. The thing for us was to do the events, to do low cost horror events for this area and when we simply ran out of money and resources to adequately do coventions in the way that made sense for us we looked within ourselves and why we were doing things and we pivoted. We wanted and still want to do conventions but we can’t, so if we can’t and still want to do these events what are we going to do?

We moved on.

We did our Monster Marketplace, a sort of mini-con and film festival and from there were switched over to a film festival. It was a natural fit for us. We had already been showing movies since our first convention and had already gotten movies from around the world in the past so we were pretty confident that we could do it again. We’d also put on the bigger shows so this would be manageable. Finally, with the help of the website Film Freeway that served as as way to promote the show and bring in the films. I tell you what, just like with self publishing, film festival work – on either side of the camera – has gotten worlds easier. When I was involved in a film festival in 2005 they used the site Without A Box, which was similar, but it was much more involved and not nearly as streamlined – the wonders of evolving technology, eh?

Last year we had to figure out how to get through nearly 1200 movie submissions, our notion of free submissions backfiring on us, but this year, with a two dollar fee to submit, the entries were just under 300 and much more manageable and honestly, just as good. We got some fantastic stuff submitted. Having made a couple shorts myself now and having submitted them to festivals, I know how rare it is to get your film accepted (none yet for me, alas) and how special that can be. Sure, there are films that get entered into tons of festivals but those are the outliers and not the norm. We know what we are, a small festival with awards and prize money that may not wow but we work to put on the best show we can and we choose the films that we think best represent what we want the show to be.

We reject a lot of films but never without understanding that we are rejecting something people worked very hard on and were passionate about. All we can do is to be true to what we’re trying to put together and hope for the best. This year we added a couple of twists to things, adding some filmmaker panels and vending to the show in the hopes that it might add something to the day. The panels and vending didn’t go over as well as we had hoped though that was due more to the attendance than anything else. That’s still the thing that confounds me. Flint is a city desperate for things to do and for events, especially that are low cost, but we are still not getting through to people.

So frustrating.

It was a good show though.

And heck, I sold a few things as well, so that’s always a bonus.

Our panels were fantastic. I love that we were able to give some people who have skill, talent, and stories to tell a chance to tell those stories. I love that we tried to bring vending in to give attendees more to do and people a chance to sell their wares and promote what they do.

I love that we got to highlight some local and regional films along with the worldwide ones.

I love the relationships and friendships that form at these shows.

We had a couple of issues, which are to be expected with any show, but we oevercame them and made as good a show as we could. More than anything I am happy that we were able to show nearly forty movies from around the world – and from our own area, so people could see what is out there. Short gain – it’s great to get a good scare and the more voices telling those stories the better. The long term gain – by listening to voices we don’t usually hear, even if they are ‘just’ telling horror stories, we start to learn to hear about the rest of the world. If we don’t hear one another, we’ll never learn that it’s only by all of us working together that the world gets better.

The hardest part of the day, for me, was the awards because the memorial awards are hard. They always will be for me. But they mean the most to me. I love all of the awards but those are personal and it’s great to be able to honor people we loved and able to reward movies that deserve recognition.

Ours is a small show, compared to so many out there, but it’s one built with passion and love and I hope that the folks that come out appreciate that and why we do what we do.

We never look past the event we’re working on so for now, the world is open. There’s an event on the calendar for April but truly, the world is open.

We’ll see what happens next.

Whatever it is.

…c…

The Difference A Week Makes

A week ago right now I was about to go to lunch at my job. I knew what was coming, that I was going to be fired, but I still had to go through the motions of the day.

So that meant lunch.

I had an inkling that I was going to be let go weeks before it happened.

The temperature of the water changed drastically at the place and so I started getting my stuff out of there and taking it home. It certainly made it easier to leave in the end. I can’t imagine having to box things up or watching as someone else did.

A week ago I came back from lunch and wait, wait, waited for the meeting that’d end my time there. It came fifteen minutes earlier than it was scheduled for but it came mostly as I guessed it would.

At that point the atmosphere was all ice and cold.

I was an ex-employee who just hadn’t gotten word yet.

There were so many things about it all that bother me but I think what bothers me most was that you can do two things when you have people working beneath you – you can be a boss or a leader.

You can tell people what to do or you can help make sure they are successful in doing it.

Businesses invest in you once they hire you, as you invest in them.
It’s a partnership that both sides benefit from and which both sides need. There is no point in hiring someone who you don’t believe in and no point in working someplace that you can’t believe in.

There’s a dehumanization that has happened in this country and the world, where people are numbers, are place holders. I get the notion of it, in that, if you take everything to heart you can’t survive in business but here’s the thing, it SHOULD hurt to fire someone. It SHOULD affect you. You are taking someone’s safety, livelihood, and pushing them out to sea without a preserver. Sometimes those people are just the wrong people for the job, or are intentionally doing things incorrectly, or maybe they just hit a rough patch and should be thrown a line.

We never know until we ask.

It’s been a long, weird week. I adapt well but this has still been hard. Suddenly so many people you used to see every day are gone from your life. So many connections you had are lost. Your routine is gone. Your future is changed. My days of retirement fantasies and all that are gone.

This is a hard reboot.

But life has them.

Bumps in the road and such.

But the road is still there.

I am still here.

It’s just been a heck of a week but after weeks of sleepless nights and high anxiety I am happier to be through the fire than still in it.

…c…

Do-Over

Starting over is never easy, and rarely sought after but it’s a reality of the world. Starting over at forty-four was not what I was hoping to do at this point in my life. Not to say that I ever had some grand plan for things.

I tend to build with the blocks  from where they fall, making it work instead of obsessing over why it doesn’t.

Sometimes it is what it is.

In all my years I can’t say I have been fired. I was let go when a place I worked for was closing and I had a lady I did yard work for as a kid decide she didn’t need me any longer but never had I been fired.

It was weird.

It is weird.

I am not going to dive into it other than to say how weird it is and how similar to a romantic break up it was. How the friendship, the connection, and that bond dissolves before your eyes and then it is what it is.

I haven’t been unemployed for a long time. I have been working since I was fifteen and have faced times when I was out of work or was barely working but had never been let go like this. I am still reeling from it because it’s hard to process, like a break up, and hard to come to terms with how A lead to D, even when I know that the path was there, was clear enough for me to clear out my stuff before the act because I could read the way the road was being layed out before me.

But it still stings.

I haven’t been outta work in a while.

A lot is the same – just a little different.

You still register with the unemployment agency. I still had to go into MichWorks to register and to put my information into the system. It was fast, it was easy, and the system seems to have evolved since the last time I went in. I can register online every two weeks instead of calling a phone number.

The feeling of shame is still there, of having to turn to unemployment when I should still have a job.

The fear of What Next. That remains.

What Next?

As I look for a path forward, for signs in the sky and for a trail in the wilds.

But there’s a tomorrow. And a hundred tomorrows after that.

There’s a future with hope and a new beginning.

Things are just a little overcast right now but the sun remains.

I just need to keep moving forward until it re-emerges.

…c…

 

Letting It Go

It’s a heck of a thing to be able to walk away from the last word.

To close your mouth, push your tongue against the backs of your teeth, and to set your jaw firmly. Harder still when you feel, as most of us do from time to time, you have been wronged.

I HAVE BEEN WRONGED!

You want to scream it to the world, to call out those who have done you ill and to burn the earth around them and then salt it so nothing can grow for them again. The righteousness of the perceived transgression pushes to take hold of you and to pry open your mouth and let out all of the things you are compelled to say.

You have to say them

You have to drain the poison from your mind lest it slither into your heart and poison that.

The thing is…that poison, like the pain, is yours. While it’s for you to figure how to dispel it, it’s also yours to live with.

But why?

Why live with poison when it feels best to share it and to poison another?

To speak to the fact and not around it – there is a righteousness in pain and in being done wrong. Perception is always dependent upon who you ask, the person done wrong will tell a different tale than the person who was on the other side and the truth often lies in the gray emptiness between. Once you spread that poison, once you tell someone else the blackness that is in your heart you become as much of a villain as the person you feel did you wrong.

You will never be as eloquent, as intelligent, or as thoughtful as you imagine you will be once you open your mouth.

You’ll be singing a song of pain for someone who won’t hear it.

And finally, once you aim your angst and upset in the direction of someone else, whomever they are, you lose any claim to righteousness, you’re just another villain in a play filled with them.

No one wants to be fired, broken up with, ignored, cheated, or just simply done wrong and having to, no, CHOOSING, to swallow the feelings that come with something like that is a hard, hard road. But swallowing it down is the only way forward. Finding an outlet for it is the key. Finding a grave to bury it in, or a house to burn down around it, figuratively speaking. Or, if you are able, to find a place to bury it and a way to turn it into a forest to shade you in coming years.

But once you let it out, once you fail to let it go, you are suddenly as much a part of the problem as whatever it was that caused you to feel wronged.

And there’s the rub, as they say – the only way to move forward is to move slowly, deliberately, dragging that baggage behind you, until you can find the right way to process it and move on. Moving on doesn’t come with dragging someone down to where you are though when you are at your lowest. Getting over it, whatever it is, doesn’t come by digging down but by finding a way up. Some how. Some way.

The only way through is up.

So get climbing.

…c…

A Punk Rock Rummage Sale

For me, I never started out wanting to do events. Not in any sort of way. Shoot, go back to my life before I moved to downtown Flint and I would never have thought once about putting an event together. No, for me it was work, the freedom of my own place, and writing. I had done the ‘zine thing for a bit but I wanted nothing more than to write for a living. I lead the life of a guy who had just found out that the world was bigger than his parent’s house. When I moved into Flint it was a whole world shift.

My group of friends expanded.

My ambitions expanded.

My dreams got bigger.

It wasn’t Flint but the people that I met there, that I got to be around constantly, and the atmosphere of collaboration and friendship. I had had friends in the past, of course, but these were such different people, from far different backgrounds and with much different passions. We were a melting pot of creativity and it inspired me to want to do more than just be a spectator but to be involved and invested, in the myself, in the people around me, and in the city. That was when I started writing even more. Painting. Taking photos. I was surrounded by artists and became more artistic because of it.

Because of all of that I started to do shows, first connected to the group I was friends with and then beyond them, inspired by the conventions I would do to support my book and chapbooks. A friend in Detroit was doing funky events that she called Bar Bazaars (I think that was her spelling, it’s been years so I forget for sure). They were set up in a performance space with a bar and featured artists selling their stuff as music or bands would play. The shows could be either big or small, with a band or not, but were always fun. I remember doing several of them and wishing that something similar was near Flint.

That prompted a friend and I to start talking and from that we thought…What If?

What if WE did something like that in Flint?

We went to our friend to ask her opinion and for her blessing and the three of us spitballed how we could do it.

Flint doesn’t have the same sorts of venues that Detroit does but I approached a local bar that was dead on most Saturdays and I proposed our idea – a rummage sale on a Saturday night with bands playing.

They went for it.

No charge to us.

If we had bands play then we had to pay them but we could split door. We started having bands and that was fantastic but it got hard having to coordinate a show of vendors and bands, the bands not always sticking to a sort of schedule. The bands were fun though, and added an electricity to the events, which we called Punk Rock Rummage Sales, that were never quite there without them. People still came though, but it was different. We did one show where we did a day and night. We pared down the vendors. We honed what we did. We started a relationship with the occasional DJ at the bar and he became the sound of the show.

We were a Punk Rock Rummage Sale.

A, not THE.

There’s a lot of them around, something I didn’t realize when we started.

I called it that for the sheer fun of the alliteration and also because it WAS a ‘punk rock’ rummage sale. People came with art, with craft, with movies, books, music, toys, with everything and anything and it was a true rummage sale but it was in a bar. The DJ would play punk music and it all jelled. We were the punk rock rummage sale.

At first we did a couple a year but as I started doing other things and started having to put the rummage sales together by myself I would only do them once a year. I loved doing them but they were always another thing I would have to focus on when I should be focusing on my writing or just something else. I wavered between wanting to stop doing them and pushing onward.

I loved them too much to quit and people really dug them.

It was something for folks to do.

When the bar changed owners the mindset there changed.

We did a couple shows after the change and they liked having us but suddenly they didn’t need help on a Saturday night. They were pulling people in now and preferred to have a DJ or bands and not us there.

Flint is a hard place to book an event. Not many venues that are open to the ideas of events, especially something that needs space and doesn’t just give back. I tried to contact another bar to take the show on the road but they never bothered to respond. That’s something common to Flint too, though I bet it’s common a lot of places but it doesn’t make it any less aggravating.

I turned to a last-ditch effort, a local lunch place that we had done some events in before. They were open to the idea and we moved the show. The attendance went down, even during at ‘Art Walk’, the city’s monthly art night. The feeling was still there, the music, while now curated and not DJed, was still there, and the friends were still there. And that was it, in the end. The friends. The PRRS, at its heart, was about the friends. That was why I always tended to favor people I knew as vendors. People I trusted. If we could all make a few extra bucks and bring some business to an existing Flint business then that was awesome in my book because we got to spend the evening hanging out and being goofs all night. When I found out that the venue we had tabbed was going to change hands I saw the writing on the proverbial wall.

It was time to pull down the tents and to shut down the circus.

I could keep hunting down venues.

I could keep stressing about where next.

When next.

Who next.

Or I could let it go and let someone else do something like it another day.

The last one has come and gone.

It was filled with friends and familiar faces. Filled with music and laughter. It was the same but different. It was an animal that changed its stripes from show to show but whose face you always knew, our little Punk Rock Rummage Sale. This last one was another one with a smaller crowd but it was a crowd of friends and supporters and in the end,  we went out as we began – surrounded by the people we cared about and who cared about us and what we were doing.

It was a hell of a run.

Nine years of doing these weird little shows and bringing a little strangeness to the city.

I think it’s safe to say that I am about as far from punk rock as it can get but I think we did OK, by and by.

All night people were asking me if I’d miss doing the rummage sales once they were gone and it’s really too early to say.

It’s weird because it is a huge part of my past few years that is now in the past.

What comes next I can’t say but they were fun and it was better to bow when it was our choice and before it was someone else’s.

…c…