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The World Behind The Mirror

This is the post excerpt.

Well hello there and welcome. This part of the fun-time-adventure party is my blog where you’ll find all manner of jibber-jabber, podcast episodes, and such. I post new stories from time to time and have been known to wax philosophical-like. So hey, read on for all the wonderful weirdness.

I Chose Flint

I chose Flint.

I was a late bloomer, as they like to say, but really I was just scared to death about moving out of my parent’s house. Moving out made me an adult in full and I wasn’t sure I was ready for that.

I am still not sure.

I moved out at 27 when I finally realized that yeah, I was ready to be an adult and needed the privacy and space to BE one. I decided to move on a Wednesday. I looked at one apartment in a small town about a half an hour away from where I grew up and I was moving in that Sunday.

It was time to grow up.

I spent five years in that small town, living in an apartment I could afford and which afforded me the luxury of privacy. It was a trashy complex, no doubt. I caught the guy across the hall from me chasing his girlfriend around in the middle of the night, drunk and throwing bottles at her. Scared me to pieces. Enough that I grabbed a knife and wondered if I needed to intervene. I called the cops instead.

There was the mother of several kids that would use a shopping cart to transport her groceries back to the apartment then abandon it in the yard of the complex. She was also great at letting her daughter run off and then stepping out to yell MARIIIIIIIIIAH at the top of her lungs.

It was really trashy.

I was lucky to get out before anything bad happened to me.

At leasy physically.

Ah, but a young guy out dating for the first time in his life finds a lot of emotional potholes along the way.

I was in Flint visiting a friend and heading to check out a large football field here in Flint where Malcolm X once spoke as well as John Kennedy as he ran for President. As we made our way to the field we were stopped by a local guy that I knew from his management of an all-ages alcohol free rock club. I had known the guy casually since I first started hanging out in Downtown Flint at age 20, when I would frequent the Capitol Theater. I was around 31 at this point though and still figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. Many of my friends lived in and around Flint, and the arts group I was a part of called Flint home. I was always there it seemed liked for one event or another. The guy I know stopped his truck and pulled up to us and asked me where I was living these days. I told him and he started laughing.

That was when he hit me with the punchline – he had an apartment coming open in the same building where the friend I was with lived. I should move in.

My initial feeling was to laugh it off.

I HAD a place.

But I didn’t love that first place. My relationship with the neighbors who I had called the cops on (PS – said cops carted him away to jail for a bit that morning) was icy and I had caught the fella espousing some loud tough guy talk regarding me so it was probably best to get while I could.

It took a couple months for the apartment to finally come open, the tenant dragging his feet despite not being up on rent. I rented it having just seen it once. I was made lots of promises of work that’d be done, of new carpet, and paint, and a washer and drier that took four years to get, and an outlet for the bathroom – which awkwardly had no ceiling.

Few of those things came to pass but it didn’t matter.

I had found a new home.

I was finally in Flint.

When I moved into the place the front door was boarded over and you entered from the back of the place.

Didn’t matter.

Flint was still a ghost town at the time but there were signs of life. I worked and kicked around the Downtown scene and there was a bunch of us that were starting to do things – music shows, art shows, festivals. A lot of that sprung from the arts group I was in but that group inspired others and suddenly there were a bunch of weirdos populating the downtown after work hours. Suddenly we were filling the bars until late. Suddenly the monthly art walk was about more than just three art venues.

Downtown was a blank canvas waiting to be painted.

We painted it.

Wild and loud and free.

Right and wrong.

I helped start a writer’s group and feel deeper into love for writing than I already was.

I met new people.

I dated.

I went out.

I explored.

I found myself as Flint found itself anew.

My friend who I shared much of my life with and I programmed a horror film festival at a mutual acquaintance’s high def television store. Those two years were two of the initial seeds that lead to what we would later create.

As our group brought in new people to the area the all-ages club re-opened and helped breathe new life into the local music scene. Then there was the opening of an alternative gallery which was courted from the West Coast and brought to Flint to open. This was when we knew things were changing. This ushered in an era of alternative art, of fashion as art, film as art, and on and on. It inspired and challenged all of us. The space didn’t last long but its legacy is part of the revival of Flint’s Downtown. It poured gasoline onto the fire we had been creating.

The arts group expanded to a point where a lot of the original members began branching out to spread their wings to see what they could do on their own and I was one of those. I had done all I could with the group and needed a change.

So I changed.

My apartment was my home base.

I wrote, wrote, wrote.

I began to paint.

I had friends over for nights of movies or ridiculousness on the roof.

My apartment was a loft style with lots of open space where the bedroom was part of the living room. There were no windows but there were stairs to the roof. It was weird, especially when I got a job downtown where I worked around no windows as well, but it was home.

I met my future wife in Flint when I was part of the local film festival for a year.

We met through a mutual friend over candy and booze.

I started to put together what I called Punk Rock Rummage Sales with friends at a local bar, inspired by the similar shows another friend did who had, it turned out, been inspired by our arts group to start her shows.

I helped put together author events.

I helped create a seismic shift in the art scene here when a few of us got together and put on alternative art shows in the building some of us lived in. Guerilla Art shows we called them because they were not at a gallery and were meant to be fun and free and open to all. Our art shows opened the door to others to invade the monthly art walks and suddenly what had been a stodgy event became more carefree and fun.

Suddenly people of all ages came out.

I discovered self-publishing and started putting new books out.

I painted more and more.

I collaborated with artists and other authors and photographers on art projects.

I worked, lived, loved, and played in Flint.

I met someone through a job that inspired me to want to help people.

I grew up, as much as I ever will.

I sat on the roof of the building where I lived and talked about the Zombie Apocalypse with friends for hours and hours at night under the stars.

In 2011 I started a horror convention with friends with the goal of bringing something like that to the city. Over the years we had conventions, art shows, music shows, movies under the stars, fundraisers, book and author events, mixers, and a film festival. We evolved as we needed and we have survived.

I found my friends in Flint.

I found myself in Flint.
I found my life in Flint.

It wasn’t a perfect city but it was ours.

I lived in a building right in the middle of Downtown so when the streets closed down for the huge classic car show, or the motorcycle show, or the road race, I was in the middle of it.

I’d work next door at the screen-printing place, sweating and tired but loving the atmosphere of tens of thousands of people in our city, having fun.

It was during one of the rummage sales that I heard about a house for sale from a friend.
It was for sale through their family member.

I should check it out.

It was a seed of the future, planted by my future wife who found out about the house first and asked our friend to tell me.

We still live in that little house.

Our home.

In Flint.

This new home is where I have written thirteen books.

Where I have made two short films.

Where I have painted and photographed.

Where I podcast with friends and by myself.

Where I have a life.

Where I love and am loved.

In Flint.

 

I found Flint at the dawn of its new rebirth, it’s re-awakening.

I found it just as I was finding myself.

I found Flint full of like-minded people who wanted to change the world and themselves.

People passionate about the arts and the city.

I found Flint full of love that broke and healed my heart.

I found Flint bursting with passion and life from artists and creators and event planners who wanted to be a part of reviving a great city once more.

I made some of the greatest friends of my life in Flint, lost some amazing friends, became loved and hated, and found that the world is bigger than the small town I grew up in.

I found myself in Flint.

In the end though, I didn’t choose Flint.

Flint chose me.

…c…

The Wonders Of The World

It’s been a very dark and enlightening life, these past seven months. Since losing my job last year I have struggled to keep my head up. There’s a point where you are applying for so many jobs that you never hear from that you wonder if any of it matters at all.

I kept at it but then when the interviews lead to nothing things only get more frustrating.

It’s as if all the other jobs you have had, work you have done, and skills and knowledge you accrued are meaningless unless you fit a narrow mold of what a workplace wants. Then you start to see what some of these places want and it’s crazy.

Work places are expecting you to come in with years of experience and a willingness to accept entry level pay. Or they want you to fill several roles that can be full time jobs on their own. Or they want you to be a web site designer or graphic designer as well as doing administrative work, as if those aren’t specialized professional skills that are careers on their own.

As difficult as it is to find work, I can’t help but feel as if these places don’t know what they want or need. They are not looking to help someone become what they need but want to hire their dream employee. And that’s cool. That’s their right, I can’t help but feel as if they are setting themselves and their process up for failure. We never really know which worker is gonna be the perfect addition to a dynamic team just as we don’t know which job is going to challenge and fulfill us. It’s a complicated bit of chemistry to make it all work. The goal for everyone involved should be to find a good fit that becomes a great fit. It should be to find something that, with time, will become ideal.

But there’s a divide between worker and work place when we want more out of the worker than we will give them in return. When we want the work place to act as a person and not a business. When communication is a one way conduit and not a two way system. There are too many shadows in the process of hiring and finding work and now that we’ve accepted that a Gig Economy is the norm, it only complicates things.

Unless that side hustle is a great passion of yours, no one wants to work more than one job. The more jobs you are working then the less you are focusing on any one job. You’re always hustling. Always looking. Never settled. That’s no way to build a business or a life.

The sad thing, and this is a wider focus here, is that the pursuit of wealth, at any cost, is little more than building a house on a base of sand. We are selling the future, we are piecemeal selling the land of America, and we are selling out our workers for a handful of people to get rich and keep getting rich. It creates a system where you will always have companies inflating then collapsing while the boards escape with golden parachutes and the workers rush to find something fast that can pay for their insurance.

It’s a scary scenario, top to bottom, and the Imma Get Mine mentality of greed above people is only setting the future up to be a very dark place indeed.

What we can do is keep working on ourselves and working together to make things better. The more people who care ABOUT people that can get into power then the better things can get for businesses and the better chance businesses have success. It’s not about growing so large as to becom ubiquitous but growing so strong as to be a pillar of the community and beyond.

Things can change.

We just have to do it ourselves.

c

The Big Con

I think over the years I have been writing in this blog that it’s clear enough that I love conventions. As far as I can figure, Fangoria’s WEEKEND OF HORRORS was my first (and second), with the Motor City Comic Conventions coming after and by then I was hooked. I loved conventions, the WEEKEND more than anything, because it did two things – it brought together all of these misfits that were into the fringe pop culture stuff (horror), and it let us meet the people who inspired and impassioned us. At their best, conventions are a place where dreams and passions come together. At their best they are a place for people to find that they are not alone in their weirdness, in their hobby, and that they can find the best friends they have ever known. At their best, cons give us opportunities to show off our talents, sell our wares, and become the next generation’s inspirations.

At their worst, conventions become an example of the shortened form of the name – a con. High vendor fees, high autograph and photo fees, high entry fees, high parking fees, lines, congestion, fees to enter this or that or those. The convention becomes a vampire, feeding on the fans ruthlessly. We are starting to see this more and more as cons have turned from fan gatherings to businesses with employees, CEOs, boards, and on and on. Too many voices, too many hands, and too much cost.

Having been to a few bigger shows, I am not going to damn them all because it’s only at these bigger shows that you see the bigger named guests. It’s only at the bigger shows that you get the wide variety of art, craft, comic, movie, and book. It’s only at these big shows that you find some of the cooler and weirder art and geek goodie. The thing though is that there are just too many huge shows. Everyone seems to want to have the huge show to bring in more money. Those shows have become their own worst enemies. They put a big show on to get bigger guests, which means more crowds, which means more money. But the thing is that there is always more, more, more. More guests, bigger guests, bigger space, bigger displays and the more you add the more you have to charge. It’s a beast that demands to be fed and is never full.

Which is not to say that I don’t love big shows. I do, but I think that in the push for these huge shows we are forgetting that it’s the smaller shows that keep fandom going. It’s the shows that get friends together and let people interact. The smaller shows let fans speak with people working in industries they may be interested in. The smaller shows showcase the foundational people that make the genres we love, the people that get left behind and forgotten. Sure, it’s boss to meet that guy in that thing that’s done other things and did OUR thing too but isn’t it better to show someone that actually cares about the genre you love some love of their own? Smaller shows let us get closer to the creators of our dreams and nightmares and there’s something special about that.

Ideally we’d have a mix of larger shows with smaller shows as the foundation. Now, saying that, that’s what I WISH but that’s not reality. Even as a fan I look for the bigger shows more than the smaller ones but part of that is that there aren’t that many small shows anymore. Small shows need funding that isn’t always there. Small shows need people who are willing to put the work in to make them happen and brother, that’s asking a lot of anyone. And let’s face it, as popular as comics and genre works are now they are still on the outer rim of the norm and as such will never be full embraced by the masses. Bigger shows the now the entry point for most folks now so that smaller shows serve to reinforce the fandom and inspire the casual fans.

We are forgetting, far too easily, that conventions were created for fans and as opportunities for fans to celebrate that fandom. Money is an integral part of these shows – they cost money put them on and it costs money to get autographs, pics, art, or what have you. There’s way to do all of it though that makes fans fee less like human ATMs and more like a part of something bigger. Those shows are out there, inclusive shows that serve the fans first, but they are getting harder and harder to find.

For the same of fandom, I hope those shows start taking over the discussion more and that the fans start to embrace the smaller shows for the good of us all.

…c…