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…

 

In Strolls The Boogeyman

I think that this is part of my yearly ritual on the lead up to Halloween. My yearly missive about haunts and haunted houses and the like. I suppose because it’s something I am passionate about and also something I feel knowledgeable enough to speak to.

Anyone that loves Halloween knows about haunted houses, even if you don’t like them, and a lot of folks don’t, people KNOW they exist. Haunts are part of a sort of subculture to Halloween, which is its own subculture of horror. Haunters are part carny, part vaudevillian, and part outpatient. You have to be a little off to put the time and energy into creating and working at something made just to scare the sense out of someone. Saying that though, there is an art to it. Like everything else, you can do it, or you can do it ‘right’. In this case you can either bring passion or you can mail it in.

Continue reading “In Strolls The Boogeyman”

Embracing the Horror

This is one of those topics that I write about from time to time because it ceases to amaze me how utterly stupid and narrow people can be when it comes to the horror genre.

I mean, let’s be straight honest here for a moment, there are biases against EVERY genre, people hate musicals, and dramas, and romances, and comedies, and on and on because people are people and for some reason you can’t just dislike something but have to actively and aggressively hate it these days. It’s the troll mentality of our culture. The mentality that hates grays and insists on living in black or white.

Love.

Hate.

Whatever.

What makes me laugh, consistently laugh, are the directors, and writers (and I am sure other artists say the same mess but I thankfully don’t see it) who go to great pains to insist that their work, whatever it is, isn’t horror. Heavens to Betsy no. It’s a THRILLER. Or GOTHIC. Or SUPERNATURAL. Or whatever. All manner of euphemisms to get around saying something is horrific. And sure, not everything IS horror, and horror isn’t the be-all end-all but it’s the audacity of how hard people will work not to just say that a film is SCARY.

The irony is that it shows how little these people know about horror and how vast the genre is. These creators assume that horror is a man in a mask brutalizing young women. They assume that horror is nudity and gore and loud music. They assume all of the worst of the genre and forget that three are masters that can create  the most devlish art with just sound and shadows or artists that can create a symphony in blood soaked halls. The people that beg off any suggest that their creation could be seen as MERELY horror are also the people who knew darn well what they were doing and should their work be a crossover hit then they’ll say, well, sure, it’s horrific but I wouldn’t say it was HORROR. They’ll lazy embrace the benefits so long as they don’t have to get their hands dirty. Heaven forbid.

These are people who use the genre for their gain but decry it when interviewed.

Much like comedy is more than fart jokes, horror is more than scantily clad co-eds being slaughtered by a maniac. It is lazy to see the most obvious examples of something and to use that as your basis for why your work isn’t like that. If it isn’t then it isn’t. Do your thing. But we tend to know what we’re making and whether what we are making is like something or not or fits into a box. If you get put into a box then you can spend your time fighting your way free or you can push the boundaries of that box outward and find the good works that yours is like. Lean into it.

The more you fight to say your work ISN’T like something then the more time you are spending not talking about why your work even matters. And honestly, most art embraces lots of aspects of humanity in order to be memorable. A comedy can be tragic. A romance can be scary. The best art sees the whole picture and can say more than one thing.

If you work harder to do that, to create work that could fall into many slots, that can speak to more than one person or…you can just spend your time crying about how people think your work is something you don’t like and tick off the hours mopping up that spilt milk.

Shade deployed.

…c…

Who We Stand With And What We Stand For

Fandom is a strange sort of magic. Strangers united under the same umbrella, bound by a love of things that are not always as physical as they are ethereal. Bound by things that the mainstream once deemed as frivolous and wasteful but which found their way into the mainstream. Suddenly the mainstream embraced things they once made laughed at. Suddenly the mainstream was learning about superheroes, and space operas and video game characters. Suddenly the mainstream knew about all sorts of minutia that would make some old school fans’ heads spin.

And maybe it was when it all went mainstream that fandom changed.

Maybe it was when it wasn’t all a secret, a club, a love that was shared by just a few that things started to spin out of control. Maybe it was that now that more eyes were on things, that more people were into things that that world of fandom expanded, that the plates moved and what was once one continent fractured and became many. Suddenly there were more voices and more ideas and more people who wanted to see themselves reflected in these fandoms that they had just discovered. Maybe it was that.

Or maybe it was that the fans just didn’t recognize one another anymore and in that they didn’t recognize themselves.

And here we are, with fandom a prism that of late is showing more of its nastier side than anything else.

And it is nasty.

I suppose it always was.

Any time you get passionate people together you will find a bedrock of meanness and nastiness because people have to be right, even if it’s just for the sake of being right.

Fandom is a vast chocolate bunny with nothing inside.

Well, but that isn’t true.

There’s nothing unless we put something there.

Right?

Right.

We have been watching fandom fall for a good many years now. Watched as the bullies came in. Watched as the molesters came in. Watched as the racists and sexists came in. We watched as they started trying to mold the culture of gaming and comics and sci-fi and other fandoms to their small interests so it better reflected their tiny world.

Too many of us watched and never stopped them.

And you had franchises bend to the will of these trolls. Reshaping things so that all fandoms mattered and that those who had been watching from the sidelines, who had finally started to see themselves reflected in these fandoms were told that they didn’t matter, that they should accept what they got, and if they didn’t like it then they can get the hell out.

Now, ah, now you have perhaps the cherry on the top of it all as San Diego Comic Con, the granddaddy of the comic conventions, changed the game. There’s been a sort of, dare I say ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that the phrase ‘comic con’ was just part of the language of the culture. Con meant convention. A comic con was a comics focused convention. Easy. With so many conventions now though the brand identity that San Diego felt it was owed was suddenly in question. Chicago and New York suddenly had large comic conventions and other ones were popping up as well, both large and small. A word that many attributed to the San Diego show had been taken as the buzzword for all conventions. San Diego wasn’t THE comic con now they were A comic con. Losing the luster of something they felt they had started the convention did what they felt they had to – they claimed ownership of the name ‘comic con’ and thus they betrayed the very fans they claim to serve. They betrayed the very culture they helped to create.

San Diego Comic Con’s need to protect their turf, as they seemed to look at it, slit the throat of decades of fandom.

It is the symbol of the times.

A cynical move done to protect the moment and not the culture.

There’s an aspect of fandom that has always been freewheeling and loose. Based on fans doing it with fans and for fans. Even as the shows got bigger the fans were at the heart of it all. Once the corporations got involved, as they inevitably do, everything changed.

And here we are. We find we have sworn our allegiances to companies and corporations and not to the ideas that impassioned us to begin with. We are more interested in the brand, the license, the tag than we are in one another and in celebrating our fandom. We have lost sight of the stories and films and people that inspired our passion. We have gotten caught up in the nonsense that other fans and companies have created. Here’s a secret – ANYONE can create a fan festiva.

ANYONE.

I know because I did it.

Will it be like Chicago, or New York, or San Diego, or any other big show?

Nope.

And it doesn’t have to be like those.

At all.

It started as a celebration of fans and fandom.

It can be about it again.

We can start celebrating ourselves and our passions again.

We can cheer for one another and for people who realize how impactful fandom is.

We don’t need celebrities or big shows.

We don’t need corporate validation.
We need our inspirations, our passion, and each other.

That’s it.

We have watched as the worst of us have taken over, as the corporations have taken over, and we have let self-appointed tastemakers decide what is good, cool, and worthy.

It’s time we took our fandoms back and took it back to being about dreams and dreamers and the excitement that unites those two factions.

It’s cool if you came for the comics, or the movies, or the costumes, or the stars, or whatever and as long as you celebrate what you love, then awesome. That’s what it’s about and there’s room for you at the table, no matter what the hardcore old schoolers say. If you come with hate or with ulterior motives then friend, that’s fuel that’ll burn out real fast and you’re gonna plummet to the ground like every con and fake and the rest of us will still be here, shining from the joy that only magic can bring, manmade or otherwise.

Fandom is ours and if we let someone take it from us then that’s on us.

That’s on us.

…c…

I Am The Door – a short film

When I made The Last Halloween the plan had been one film and done. I would have scratched that particular itch and would feel good about it.

One and done.

My filmmaking days were really in my youth. When I was a carefree kid improv-ing movies with friends. The older you get the more serious it tends to get and trying to overcome the fact that I haven’t really made movies that weren’t for a goof, and that movies require a great amount of patience and time, I just wasn’t up to it.

And that’s fine.

I have my writing, and other stuff I do, so there’s no real reason to force something that wasn’t natural.

Only, that itch wasn’t completely scratched.

I like LAST HALLOWEEN and, considering it’s from a guy that was figuring everything out still, it’s pretty fun. But the thing is that I am a storyteller at heart and as such some stories aren’t best told with words but with images. And the fact is that I do love to take photographs and filming isn’t a far throw from that. So in the late spring I wrote a screenplay for something I was going to call I AM THE DOOR. It was very simple, very small, and intended to be very short. Sorta how I should have done things the first time. I would need, at most, three actors, and could roll with a small crew and two locations.

I sat on it for a couple months then realized that, hey, if you are going to do something with this then you should probably do something with it. I posted online what I was planning and that I needed an actor, the intention being that I’d play one role and use another filmmaking friend for the other one. I was shocked at how many people wanted to be involved. Not wanting to take away from what I wanted to do, or to waste people’s time, I went with the first person who offered to act in it and another friend who offered to do effects.

Yikes.

It was for real all over again.

I made a plan of attack and we figured out a day to shoot and a place to shoot at. The film called for one special effect that I needed to pull off so I figured the smartest thing to do would be to try to get that shot before getting people together to shoot the film. I put together a plan with how I wanted to do it and set about getting what I needed. The effect worked in theory but not in practice, and trying to shoot it on my own proved unsuccessful. Take two and I had a friends shooting but again it just wasn’t working. I knew what I wanted but getting the angles and the effect to work well was the trouble. We found a modicum of success on a third day and had something I felt I could work with.

Phew.

Next came the shooting day.

When I do this stuff the last thing I want to do is to make people feel as if they are wasting their time. I hate that. We had a slow start on filming day but once we got to the blood the heat and bugs we had been contending with didn’t seem to bother us as much and we really moved fast. It was really a short shoot and it went well, all considered.

Since then I have put together a rough cut of the film and am still tinkering with it to try to make it work. I like where I am going but it still needs some work. I am using some of the unused music we made for the last film in it, so that feels good. Some of that stuff was so good, I am glad it’s being heard.

The story is one of getting what you asked for and the consequences therein.

I never know how to look at something I created but I like it.

I think.

I am really lucky to have some amazing and supporting friends though, I tell you that.

Hmm.

Marilyn and the Werewolf – a book

MARILYN AND THE WEREWOLF

It was my mom that got me into horror movies and all things scary. Whether she knew it or not, her interest in the macabre and the dark drew me to it and set me on the path that lead me to where I am and who I am. My mom was a voracious reader and loved reading the likes of STEPHEN KING, JOHN SAUL, and DEAN KOONTZ to name a few. I think it’s safe to say that she inspired my love of similarly dark fiction. The same can be said for my love of horror films. I still remember watching John Carpenter’s THE THING for the first time and having to sleep on the floor of my parent’s room that night, scared to death of what I had watched. So scared that I woke in the middle of the night to look up at my mother and see her transform into something horrible. I have loved that movie ever since.

Mom was a shy artist. She drew beautifully, could paint, could sew, could decorate, and the last art she had fallen in love with and really pursued was carving fruits and vegetables into shapes. Why she stopped pursuing art I’ll never know. It makes me sad that she did though, because it seemed to give her joy. We tried to encourage her and towards the end of her life she started to try drawing again but wasn’t happy with the results and didn’t pursue it further.

I said it before, in another post, but it’s worth repeating that I am the child of two parents and as such I have both of them in me in different ways. If I step back I can see what I got from both though people don’t usually work that way. We’re a mix of our parents and everyone that has an impact on us. A mix of the good and the bad and there’s places where it’s hard to know which is which and what came from where.

I can see in myself the eyes of my mother.

In my chest I can feel the heart of my mother.

In my ears I can hear the voice of my mother.

But she is still gone.

And there’s no changing that.

At the end I could offer no comfort she could hear. Could offer no solace she could feel. And could not ease the pain that she had to go through to find her peace.

Knowing all of that I didn’t know what to do with this chest of sorrow that I was suddenly saddled with. I had no idea where to put it or what to do with it. This book is the best I could come up with. My small way to say goodbye to boy my mother and to the dog my wife and I had adopted just four months before she died. This book is my way to honor mom and Banshee and a lot of other people who touched my life or the life of someone else I love. This is a book of ghosts, but these are ghosts that just want to tell you a story, not to scare you. And I suppose that is what life is, full of ghosts, speaking to us, whispering into our ears as we sleep and telling us their stories in the hopes that we won’t forget them.

This is my way of keeping mom, and Banshee, and some other people that mean a lot to me.

It’s my hope that in some small way I captured a bit of the light of mom and Banshee and I can pass on something of the magic that made them who they were. This is my way to whisper their names into the ears of everyone who will lend them and I hope that the story finds the people that need it.

MARILYN AND THE WEREWOLF

(Kindle available now, physical book available in a few days)

https://tinyurl.com/y9qkyd24

Marilyn and the Werewolf

 

 

 

Our Lonely Gods

Since the beginning Mankind has looked to the great Other for guidance. It was a Creator, or a Punisher. Or an an all seeing Eye that We have always looked to something else/someone else for guidance.

This is not a dig on religion at all, because the needle of faith, the heat of faith, can guide a life forward in a thoughtful way. This is not me saying There Is No God.

This is me saying – we keep creating gods.

We want gods for everything.

Our own, personal gods that will care only for and about us.

And that’s sorta weird.

 

We have gotten so that we build gods from anything.

Everything.

We build our gods as walls to keep others out and armor to fight others off.

We want our gods to watch out for us, to take care of us, and to love only us.

We want them to forgive without question and judge without measure.

We want our gods that will make us rich.

We want our gods that will get us laid.

We want our gods that will let us win.

We want our gods make our teams win.

We want our gods to make us famous.

We want our gods to shine on us like an undying sun, forever and ever amen.

 

We play the lottery, make bets, and fill the casinos praying god will make us rich.

We pray during sporting events that god will favor our team over another.

We tweet, and video, and capture every moment of our lives in the hope that we’ll go viral or find some strange piece of fame.

 

All of these things we do to our other gods, the lonely gods we speak to only when we want something.

We don’t give them love, or faith, or fealty.

No.

We take.

We beg.

We demand.

These gods without faces that we put together out of found parts and abandoned hopes.

The gods we turn against one another when we don’t get our way.

 

Faith, true faith, is found over time and contemplation. It is found with introspection and patience.

Faith doesn’t build walls to keep one another out.

Faith doesn’t run for the fame or the money.
Faith, true faith, is the foundation we can build lives upon.

It’s not a get rich quick scheme, or a means to punish the people we oppose.

Faith isn’t about making our lives bigger but making our lives more meaningful.

We forget all that though in the drive to be bigger, better, faster, and more.

We have gotten lost in the glitter of fame, thinking that that is the love we need, that the money is the support we need, and that power is the path to happiness.

LIke everything else in life, if you try to cheat the system it won’t feel nearly as authentic.

You will feel like a fraud.

And hey, if being a fraud still makes you rich and you can find your happiness in that wealth then boss.

You do you.

 

We have a new pantheon of gods in our modern world. Similar to how many niche saints we are.

Gods of wealth.

Gods of power.

Gods of fame.

Gods with no names, no faces, no bodies, just some invisible will that we can call upon.

We have taken to looking to others for so much of our lives that now we want these imaginary gods to step in and lift us up.

Where real faith can guide us or encourage us, this fool’s faith simply encourages us to keep still and wait for you to get what you deserve.

Watching other people’s lives via videos and pictures and stories and believing they have it so much better than you because we can’t see the clutter that’s just out of frame.

The mess that exists in everyone’s lives.

 

Oh lord, oh god, oh great and mighty whoever you are, gimme what I want-need-gotta have because I deserve it.

 

Only, we are better than that.

Stronger than that.

We can accomplish so much if we trust in ourselves and our own power

And if faith can guide you then swell.

False gods will do nothing though but distract you and derail you.

The thing about life is we are not made to get all that we desire.

We have to make choices.

Make sacrifices.

That’s what makes the things we DO get, that we EARN and work for, so special and meaningful.

We will have days where we will wonder What If but the fact is that all we can do is forge the best life for ourselves and go from there.

And no faceless god of fortune can make that happen.

You can.

And there’s the rub.

 

…c…

(I write books. Go to the links and check them out).