Wednesday, October 5, 2016


I sit at a long conference table in a well-lit room resting my feet and my head after swimming my way through the stream of fans entering Senshi-Con 2016 Day 2. A voice rings over a powerful intercom from the events hall below me. A welcoming narrative explaining scheduled events at the day’s start. But it is not this voice that draws my attention. I instead listen to the back and forth conversations with the few volunteers that are seated at the table eating donuts, putting on makeup, and preparing their bodies for the onslaught of the day.

I can only guess at their exact ages, but in their tone and their vernacular, I know they are young. Throughout each conversation, I hear three words spoken over and over like a parrot repeating curse words school children have taught them when the shop owner is distracted. Unlike the bird, these volunteers know the words they speak and they put a particular power behind their use. The words die, love, and f^%& sung in a continuous chorus dancing across the table to mine ears giving a greater understand of the events taking place around me.

You would think the meaning of these words to be just as you would find in a dictionary, but my readers, these words mean nothing because words are wind. When the Senshi-Con volunteers speak these words, they speak them with fervor and passion the likes of which most Con-goer never sees, or even understands. These words are the notes of the song of fandom. Fandom such as this is the veins of Senshi-Con. The attendees who stand in lines waiting to get in are blood cells passing back and forth through its heart. Senshi-Con’s heart beats for two days never missing a one because the veins made up of volunteers and various staff keep oxygen flowing freely with ease.

Now, dear readers, you may think I am making these simple molehills into mountains, but truly, these officials and volunteers are worth praise. Ordinary folks with love for the genre take time off work, cut hours of their days, and stay awake at night preparing the wonder of Senshi-Con. The love sets them apart from others that I have engaged with at larger conventions. These people love what they do because they are fans. The look on their faces after engaging with guests says it all. One volunteer nearly swooned with emotion due to a mere glimpse of one of the guests walking the hallways. They are not paid to make like they love what they are a part of, they are doing it because they love it. Even as their bodies strain to keep going, they stand and check badges. Hours without food or water they hurry to make sure an event start on time. They toil over the rigors of cosplay because their small role in a show could be what keeps fans returning year after year to Senshi-Con.

I have ranted enough for now, so let us move on to the meat of the matter. After sitting during different points in the con, I came to know a few of these volunteers and staff. I talked with them about their work or just listened as the expunged their emotions about the event as a whole. Senshi-Con has been running each year for the last eleven years. This is am important note because some of the staff and volunteers have been returning year after year to further the growth of the convention. These folks are well known and spoken highly of because their efforts built Senshi-Con from its humble beginnings to the massive undertaking it has become. But not to exclude the new faces in old places, each volunteer or staff I interacted with glowed with the inner light of fandom. Standing at a door or peace bonding costume weapons, these patrons of fandom do all they can for those in attendance.

But moreover than anything else please be reminded these folks are as human as you or I. Frequently I observed volunteers and staff exclaiming of their hunger or thirst. Not that they overlooked these items, but they put the needs of the Con well above the needs of their bodies. The smiling face of a volunteer who could for a brief moment stop and eat real food was like seeing true love for the very first time. Simple needs for extraordinary people met when they could meet them. A bit of candy left on a table. A box of donuts old from the morning, but still gobbled down like manna from heaven. A cup of coffee handed in passing because they needed a reason to break out into “hello darkness my old friend.”

The human side of a con is looked over because of how big and loud they can be. Guests who have droves of fans waiting for hours to just stand for a photo would be nothing without the organization and efforts of Senshi Con’s staff and volunteers. Were there issues along the way? Was there a lack of bodies to fill seats or watch doors? Was there a wailing cry for death to free them from their earthly bonds? Yes, yes there was. If you asked any of the people who made Senshi-Con happen, they did it without thinking because the brain knows nothing. This is a matter of the heart, and in the heart is where true wisdom lies. The hearts of the volunteers and staff of Senshi-Con know fandom and that reader is far more important than anything else.  

My opinion is my own, but I say all of this not because they are Zod and should be knelt before. I say this because these are real people who carry the banner of fandom into places clearing they way for others to feel at home. They are the heroes. They are warriors. They are the fabric stitched together to keep huddled masses of nerds and geeks warm. They are worthy of praise, and so I give it. I give them my thanks for allowing me a distinctive look behind the curtain. I tip my cap to the whole lot knowing full well that next year will be worth every drop of blood, sweat, and tears these folks pour into its mold.

Carry on Senshi-Con staff and volunteers! Your efforts are the makings of greatness.

Tell me did you attend Senshi-Con 2016? Did you notice the frantic efforts of the nerds behind the curtain? What did you think overall? Could you do what they do? Does your fandom burn just as bright? Let me know in the comment section below.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Knowledge is Power?

Knowledge is said to be power. What is this power, however? Is it the power to be able to relate to the topic of discussion? Is it the power to stand before those more ignorant than you and show them what they are missing? Is it more powerful to look into eyes filled with sorrow and say it is going to be okay because you have the knowledge of it? 

Each of these questions are ones that I have asked myself in the past twenty-four hours. What I know and what I wish no one else to know are simple integers on a dial right now. What matters is how far I turn the dial to either side of the scale. I feel like this dial could contain every number imaginable, but I know that it only holds two; a zero and a question mark. I understand that a question mark is not a number, but it can be an integer in a calculation. The dial is the important part, not the numbers that are etched into it. Dial I speak of is the dial one turns after a loss of life. I had set this dial twice in my lifetime and hence the reason why my knowledge is power. I know what it means to go from zero to the question mark and back again. I know what it's like to keep the dial at zero. That is the knowledge that I have, and the power I feel is wrong to have. 

However, in the larger image of the puzzle of life each of us, that holds knowledge like this must use it to help others. Recently, my friend lost his son a week after he was born. He sent me a text to let me know his son had died in his arms. He closed his text saying that he would need to talk to me because I was the only person who could understand what he was feeling. After I had read that text, I was in a state of shock because I could both understand what he meant and see the pain he and his wife were coming into. I have experienced this same pain, and it is a piece of knowledge that no one should ever know. The loss of a child is some of the worst pain in the world. I lost both my child and my wife in the same moment. Though my pain was twofold, the understanding I have for it is a single bit of information. I will get to what the information is later, but for now know that it is important. 

I have done lots of healing work thanks to the facilitators and staff at White Raven Center in Anchorage Alaska. For close to nine years I have been going in to dig up the pain of my past so that the energy surrounding it can finally be set free. The healing is powerful, and it comes in waves. Reading the text from my friend I felt that I had a purpose and resolve in helping him and his wife. What I did not know is that several parts of me have never been given voice. These voices crying out in the dark long for the world to hear how much they have been hurting since we lost our child so many years ago. I have processed about my wife, but I guess I have never processed about my child, our child. So, as I sat at work at the end of the day I suddenly was overcome with the feeling of panic. I was standing in the hospital room watching at the doctors told me she was dead. Hearing her mother comment about both of them being dead. Understanding that what she meant. The sudden surge of rage and anger at a power that would do this to me, do this to us, do this to anyone. I lost everything right then, and I left my body for what would be a ten year period of suffering. My dial went from question mark to zero, and I pulled it off the handle resolved to leave it be. 
I left work that day and could not help but start crying with the grief I held inside me. The grief of my loss and the grief for my friend’s loss. 

There is a part of me that is a wolf and has always been a beast beating in my chest. At times of significant loss or pain, that wolf stands on a hill alone and howls into the wind. I howled as I drove home letting that wolf voice his grief to the world around him. That single call into the night to be remembered. That howl of a lone wolf who has lost his pack and now mourns their passing. As I drove, cried, and howled my feeling shifted. I was not howling for my child or myself; I was howling for my friends so that they would be acknowledged and remembered. Their grief is not something they will carry alone, and like this, the world needs to recognize them. I howled louder and deeper. I cried harder and let the tears flood my face. I did not hide my pain or my emotions from the world around me. I only let the wolf howl all the words that I could not say. The pain of never meeting my child. The pain of never being the father I wanted to be. Knowing that in all of the lives I have lived I have never sired children who survived. That the loss of a child is like a slap in the face of humanity. What good are we as the dominant species if we cannot care for our young. I let it all out, and I let it out without holding back. Those parts of me that long to see pups running through the woods alongside their father. Those parts of me that long to watch my son or daughter walk down the aisle. Those parts of me that long for a small voice to say, “Daddy, I love you.” Every one of those parts joined in the howl, and it shook my heart and my car. I let it all out and looked for what space I had made. 

The space I cleared out is now filled with knowledge. The experience that I went through what I did with my wife and child so that I may walk others down their own paths of loss. I had no guide to show me the way back from the dark. I had no light dancing in the wind to keep pace with my steps. I loved my wife out of survival, and when she and our child lied dead on the table, I chose death. My dial went just past zero. My friends right now have their hands on that same dial, and my knowledge hopefully will be the power that gives them a reason to keep it off zero. A question mark may not seem any better than zero, but suck is the making of the lives we live. We never know what is coming. We are only here at this moment, and we can only hold space at this time. 

I needed to write this all out to finish the cycle of pain that I was confined by. We can only do for ourselves those things that are necessary. I needed to feel my pain and realize how much I do want to be a father. I needed to see the pain of what it meant to lose a child I never met. I needed to feel the pain for myself so that I could know it is gone. This is the power of knowledge. Not the knowing, but the understanding of its lack of control over us. My friends will learn this as well, but for now, they can only know the now. I can only give them the space them need and hopefully get the out of the dark on their own.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

What Comes Next

I sat, and I just looked at them as they stared down at me. I could see that they were anxious about what happened next. There were tears in their eyes. Each face was different in their sadness, but each face held a look of understanding.

I was leaving, I was passing, I was dying.

They were so worried about what happened next. Everyone looks at a person who is dying and asks that question. Whether it is out of guilt or remorse or plain curiosity they, ask the question of where are they going? What will happen now?

Well, I knew exactly happened next six minutes after my passing.
 Simply put, what happens when we pass is no different than anything else we have already done; we go and wait in line.

Now, it is much like the DMV before the computers and online check-in. Stuffy old offices where the waiting was as endless as the line you queued into. But here there are no numbers. There is no grand sign calling you to a station. Unfortunately, there is just a vast line and people waiting.

I like regular have forgotten parts of the story, which will help with understanding. I will have to go back a bit.

Let’s make some sense first. 

As a people, we have gotten parts of the end right. I imagine from the beginning we have listened over and over to an endless amount of stories told around campfires. We then pass those stories to the next group around the next campfire. The words get lost or confused or changed as they are passed down the line. Each story is where we go when we die. What happens when we give up the mortal coil, and the Great Spirit takes us

When our bodies’ die, we go here, where ever that version of the campfire story should currently claim here is. Telling it over and over again in a myriad of languages dilutes the message, but not as far as might be expected.

For instance, there is a boatman, and he does ferry souls across a body of water. He is neither cloaked in black or only a skeletal form. He seems to be an ancient man. He always looks tired as if he has either never slept enough or always sleeps too much. His watercraft is more like the tied log raft that Huck and Jim used to navigate the mighty Mississippi. This forlorn creation is much like expected, with enough difference to draw question. Every part of this place is a reflection of the known upon the unknown. Thus it is correct in its fallacy. 

Processing is where the real truth lies. A simple series of desk arranged in rows like a large classroom. Behind each desk is a clerk whose job is to answer questions and provide passage documentation. Think of it as a parent-teacher conference. These clerks explain your progress and what outcome might await you. They hand you forms and point out the important details. When you are done they shake your hand and thank you for your time and efforts.

The act of placing coins on the eyes or in the mouths of the dead is one of the most important details about the death. 

The underworld is a costly affair with the sheer number of new arrivals. The clerk explains plainly that they need these coins to fund each individual transport. Those without coin or currency are shown to a waiting area filled with an ever continuing slurry of people, most of which without coin. They are stuck waiting for charity or luck to pay their fair.

The Pharaoh’s of old had it right in part. You keep whatever is on your person at the time of burial. If you have jewels and gold or something of the like you are out of luck. Only current coin of the realm is allowed for payment. I suggest leaving a five-dollar bill in the pants pocket of your loved one before you close the casket. 
Due to this regulation most everyone is here, or moreover, everyone I would have expected to not be here still remains here.

Friends who had passed recently were toward the back welcoming me with open arms. Relatives who had passed when I was a mere boy were scattered throughout. They looked at me in amazement and commented on how much I had grown. I moved forward in line shaking hands, embraced by hugs, bespeckled with cheek pinches.

Then she was there, like she had never left. Evelyn, the one true love of my life.

I cried when I heard her call my name. She was still here waiting like I now was. I felt a small amount of relief overflowed with remnants of grief. My Evelyn was standing by my side again, waiting.
After I had been told of payment, I opted to stay awhile to seek out more options. I found in my jaunts a vast ocean of history.

Individuals from different eras still awaiting their chance at eternal peace. Conversing with one another in languages too many to count. Nikola Tesla was the first famous person I recognized. He died poor and had been waiting like the rest. He put his inventiveness to work providing light and power to a once dark cavern only lighten by bits of small fires. 

Alexander the Great was still fighting battles and leading armies. It was all done in mock fashion on crudely erected stages of course. His words written by Shakespeare, his actions directed by Brando. His footfalls and follies provide by the Marx brothers and a still spry Charlie Chaplin.

Evelyn and I try to take in, at least, one show a day. Watching the world we once used to breathe paraded out as farce and comedy lightens us of the despair others succumb to.

Despair is a song sung around the clock for some. These lost souls tired of non-life sulk in the darker corners. They pled with the processors for some allowance. They seek the help of any newcomer who may have more coin than needed.

A girl, the age of five, is the most notable I have seen so far. Her hair bright red like fire and face white as snow reminds me of the song about poor unfortunate souls. I try to comfort her, but her lack of understanding feeds her grief.

“Mommy said it would be beautiful,” she cries with hands outstretched pleading for alms.

“I know my dear, my mother said the same.”

I want to tell her it is a mistake, but there is no mistaking the truth of this place.

Sadness is something I am familiar with, and a concept I am reminded of daily as I sit next to Evelyn. My, our family is one of the few left that practice the act of placing coins. I know she had them when she walked into the underworld as I cupped them in her hand before she was laid to rest. There is no reason she should still be here.

I asked her what had happened to her coins once. She explained a tale of a bride lost her love. A woman who had died the day she was wed in a car accident. Her husband had arrived before her and happened to have some change in the pockets of his tuxedo. The foolish boy had gone on ahead without a thought of his bride. The woman was so lost and heartbroken she could barely speak the bulk of her tale. Evelyn, being the kindest woman I have ever known, reached out her hand and gingerly gave the woman her coins. The woman, awe shocked by the action cried harder. Evelyn picked the bride up and walked her to the processing desks. She watched as the bride entered the ferry, and waved her on to her final happiness.

My wife, the hopeless romantic. My wife, a woman who won every agreement by saying, “because I love you.”

How could I ever argue with something like that?

At this point, I no longer question the great mystery that is death. There are far too many oddities of the underworld that need no explanations.

Evelyn managed to muster up a board for checkers. I play those willing to sit and pass the time with one or both of us. Our most common opponent is a young soldier by the name of Duncan Spindle.
He fell during the siege of Burgundy in the Great War. He still wears his uniform, which like most soldiers of his time held little room for money. Duncan is a good player and is more than willing to listen to stories of an old man who was born before he had passed.
Each time he sits down to play I reach into my pocket and feel the two silver coins my sons had placed there. The two coins are heavier than all the steel in the Rockefeller age. Two coins that could unravel the mysteries of everything. Two coins that could see me on my way. Two coins that would kill me all over to spend.

As I reach into my pocket, I can feel Evelyn’s eyes upon me. She knows I have them though I have never told her. She knows everything I have every done and will ever do.

She is my wife, and that is her job. She is superb at it.

Duncan reminds me that it is my move. Without a thought, I pull the coins from my pocket and place them on the board. Duncan looks at me in wonder. His face is puzzled by my action, but more so by his understanding of it. He reaches out and picks up the coins and holds them carefully in his hand. He smiles at me. I return his with one of my own.

“Your tour of duty is over my boy, time to go home,” I say with a salute.

Duncan rises and returns my salute. Tears are at the corners of his eyes. I reach out and wipe them away as if there were those of my own children.

Evelyn rushes over raining kisses on him as her final good-byes. I give him a firm handshake, which becomes a hug. We both watch him skip down the rows to the processing office. 

I feel better than I have in a long time. I fell like it all makes sense. 

This is what came next. This is what was always to come next. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Process

The everything sits in front of me 
It lingers right before me 
It sings and dance around me 
And I just want it to be gone

Something more than trapped
Something more than held 
Something less than hurt
Something less than loved
And as I end it will never be gone

So many battles to break me 
So many deaths to revive me 
So little time to save me
So little hope to give me up 
And it wants me, and I am already gone

No more pain and I give me freedom
No more horror to make me smile 
No more fire to make me cold
No more loss to fill me up 
And what I want never has existed 

Now I am unlearning of the known
Now I am free to be scared 
Now I am proud of my folly 
Now I am happy in my home 
And all I want is already here 
And all that I am is all that I am 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Folding Paper

The paper is flat, clean, and perfect.

It is early, and the phone is ringing.
“Hello, who is this?”
“It’s me, she was in an accident, get here, get here quickly.”
It is late, and my ears are ringing.

The paper folds in half once.

 Black, cold, speed pounding against my windshield.
Lights, red and blue flashing behind me, blinding me.
“Son, you know how fast you were going?”
“No, I don’t care, she is dying, she needs me, have to get there.”
He walks away, he returns, he says to follow him.
Lights, red and blue flashing before me, guiding me.

The paper folds in half again.

I stop, I breathe, I open the door, everything is hot.
“Hello, please tell me where she is.”
“Down the hall, be quick, time is short.”
“Son, stop! You can’t go in. You have to wait.”
“NO! You said get here, you said get here quick.”
“I know, she is not responding. We need to talk about it.”
I stop, I breathe again, I look at her, everything goes cold.

The paper folds in half again, not as cleanly as before.

I am still, my thoughts are frozen, my eyes are dry, I want to know.
“Sit down, we need to talk. She would want this.”
“No, she would want me, she would want us, she would want anything else.”
“Son, she wouldn’t, she didn’t, and she can’t”
“But I got here, I got here for her, I got here in time.”
“No son, you didn’t, you couldn’t, and you shouldn’t.”
I am shaking, my head hurts, I can’t see, I don’t want to know.

The paper folds in half again, forced more than allowed.

It smells clean, everything is white, she is too quiet.
“You have a few minutes, then we will commence.”
I hold her hand, touch her face, I am drained of everything I am.
“It is time, they will both be in a batter place.”
“Both, what do you mean both?”
“She didn’t, she was, she should have told you.”
It smells like sulfur, everything goes red, the world is too loud.

The paper folds in half again, a rip spreads from the center.

I wake up, the room is dark, I am bound.
“Son, you can leave now, be careful you look broken.”
I only hear broken, I feel nothing, I am nothing.
“You did this, by not doing this, it is your fault.”
“I know, I understand, I am sorry.”
I fall asleep, the world is dark, I bind myself.

The paper folds in half for the last time.

Fold it enough and paper will be thicker than then the visible universe.

When it rips, so does everything it contains.