Me, Too

16 10 2017

Endemic refers to the constant presence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area. Hyperendemic refers to persistent, high levels of disease occurrence. Next is epidemic, which, if you google it, you’ll find that refers to an increase of a thing – disease, condition, etc. -and that it’s actually not a fixed percentage.  And a pandemic is an epidemic that has reached several countries or continents.

Semantics really.  And I guess whether you want to call sexual harassment and assault an endemic (because it’s consistently happened to a certain percentage of people) or a hyperendemic, (because the percentage of people affected is considered persistent and high level) or an epidemic (because you believe it wasn’t so prevalent 50 years ago, and we are just now hitting an all time high within our population), or a pandemic (because, hey, this shit happens to a high percentage of the population on every fucking continent), it matters not a whit to me… so long as we can agree that there’s a problem.  And after hearing several friends who have responded in total shock of seeing their feeds explode with “Me, too”, well, that just illustrates that neat little bullet point statistics don’t always do much to combat an issue.

How many of you can rattle off that 1 in every 3 or 4 women has been assaulted, or that 1 in 6 is likely to have been raped? But like every other problem in the universe, if it hasn’t happened anecdotally (that is, to ourselves or someone we know) then unfortunately human nature helps us to diminish it, or worse, to dismiss it all together.

I spent a 24 hour period attempting to track my Facebook friends (all 1260-something of them) who responded “Me, too” as a way to shine a light onto how prevalent the problem is, especially with the media showering us all with yet another powerful man being investigated for his years of assaults against women.   There were 164 of them in 24 hours.  Lemme say that again for the people in the back.  In a 24 hour period on Facebook, I watched 164 people I actually know come forward and say that they have been sexually assaulted or harassed in their lifetime. That’s 13% of my Facebook friends, and if 13% of the people I personally know doesn’t sound like enough, let me put that a different way.  The US population is 325,000,000. 13% of the US population is roughly 42 million people. Or 5.5 million more people than the entire population of Canada. In the USA alone, we have sexually assaulted the equivalent of the entire population of Canada and then some.

1262 Facebook friends.  24 hours. 164 people echoing “Me, too.” 144 women, 2 people who don’t fit into a gender binary, and 18 men.  Each and every one of them someone I have met.  Me. My mom. Her friends. My entire inner circle of female friends.  Friends with doctorate level degrees. Friends with no degree at all.  And that number does not include at least a few people who didn’t post “Me, too”, with whom I am close enough to personally to know  that they had a front row seat to this shit.  But they didn’t speak up (and it is absolutely not in their job description to do so), so I left them out of my count. However, they raise an important point: the “missing” folks show that not only is this issue still underreported as a whole, but that elements of society still view it as the victim’s job to speak out, and then, often dismisses them (or worse) when they do speak up. THINK ABOUT THAT FOR A MINUTE. WE CAN’T COUNT EVERYBODY YET BECAUSE THERE IS STILL SUCH A FUCKING STIGMA OF FEAR AND SOCIETAL RETRIBUTION ABOUT IT THAT NOT EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT IT… EVEN NOW.

So where do we go from here?  Honestly, I have no idea.  I know this much to be true:  Not everyone survives it.  And those who do walk away with dents and scratches and hurts that go deep into your brain and make you wonder about who you are, and if you “deserved” it.  Because that’s the dark side of human ego (unless you’re a sociopath) – that the shadow puppet nightmares that peek out of the shadowy corners of our brains are typically created by real monsters and assholes and traumatic experiences from things that actually go bump in the night.

I can tell you this though… there is a pattern.  Every person whose name I came across had a “tell”.  And that “tell” is that they (all 164 names) are interesting people, many of them strong, many of them unerringly magnetic to others. Why? Dunno. But my hunch is that whatever cracks that shit leaves in you acts like a beacon, because surviving it means that your flame still burns, and it draws others in like moths to a flame.  So, my dear flames, talk to the moths you gather.  Find amongst you the other “Me, too’s” in this world, by shining your light onto this issue, again, and again, and again, until everyone can crawl out from the corners and talk about it.  #TeamHuman means ALL OF US.

Secondly, a guy named Darwin had a theory about “survival of the fittest.” You (and the “you” here is directed towards monstrous people who require the axis of power tilted their way, because that’s what rape and assault are they are assertions of power…) do you want rape and assault to be the normative pandemic of our time?  Go ahead.  Keep those stats high, because what you are doing is making a fucking army of strong people who’ve survived to burn brighter than we ever did before. Survival of the fucking fittest, and we are legion.

 

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The Fairie-y Files: Fly Your Flag High

13 09 2017

For those of you who tune in on my personal Facebook page, the news that I had to replace a tatty flag that got eaten by some relative of Mickey Mouse during the off season isn’t news.  And over on eBay, the choice of flags is definitely limited in scope, so since I have drawn rainbows since I could hold a crayon and use EveryColorOfTheRainbow wherever I could meant that the rainbow flag was a good visual for my booth personally with regard to my art.  It also describes a portion of the weirdo, eclectic tribe that calls me “friend”, and hearing stories of what they’ve faced just to exist? I knew it was absolutely the right call.  I also knew it was also going to turn a few heads.

So because I don’t run the booth much of the time, and the booth contains another artist’s work in addition to my own, I talked to both my head minion there and the artist about my flag purchase.  We decided as a trio that even though it may result in ugly words or deeds being thrown our way (my nightmare scenario has broken glass from some asshat showering the floor), we decided that representation in this case mattered more than what might happen.

The loveliest story of the week happened because of our decision.

The booth is a rectangle with a long side cut off (the whole of which is our entrance), and at one end, there is a checkout stand area that feels more intimate than the open booth.  I was standing behind the checkout stand when these two 60-something dudes in sunglasses and both with salt-and-pepper hair walk casually up.

Very quietly, one leaned in and said, “We like your flag.”

I smiled and leaned towards them, “Have you seen my work? ALL THE COLORS! But it wasn’t a solo decision.  There’s another artist’s work here too, and she and the gent who run it for me agreed with me that it was worth the risk of possibly having some intolerant hater smash all the glass to bits. So there we are.”

The man who spoke gave me a half smile that he knew exactly how the world hates on people who are different, and said very quietly, “Thank you for your bravery.”

I replied, “A good friend of mine, well, she dates girls you see, so the choice was inevitable, really.”

At this point the second man leaned in, tipped his head towards the first man and said shyly, “We got married two years ago.”

It is possible to have tears well your eyes with sadness at two people who cannot just shout to the world that they are married, and joy at their happiness in each other.

I smiled, and replied while wiping my eyes, “Then clearly, I am not the brave one here. I hung up a flag. You live it everyday… Oh, congratulations!! May I give you both a hug? That’s fabulous!”

And I do. And we hug our joy and our grief into each other.  And they go on their way…

And I go back to selling my art, makeup slightly awry, but lightened in spirit.

#TeamHuman





The Faire-y Files: Please Don’t Hump My Leg

29 08 2017

This isn’t a happy one guys, so if your intent is feel-good, snarf-coffee-out-of-your-nose endeavor, your journey will likely end in fail.  My day job (for those new to the ranks) includes tales from my job as a full time glass artist who sells her work at Renaissance Faires in multiple states.  

I don’t make shit from my job up.  And although I’m hesitant to describe this particular “Faire-y Tale” in detail, I think we as a society have a real problem with consent, bodily autonomy, and believing people when they say “the actions of this or that person really freaked me out.” I am lucky in my tribe of people, that they not only took me seriously when I said, “Hey… so this happened and I’m still grossed out… can I get your thoughts?”  And their reply to a man was, “What. The. Fuck.” In fact, all 4 men in my tribe that I told had that reaction and that (their collective reaction) plus the fact that I’m still thinking about it two days later probably indicates that it is A Thing. 


My writing about it is not only for cathartic purposes, but in the hopes that this in of itself is a teaching moment not just for the person who did it (although whether he will read it or not I have no idea) but for people who may be on “the fence” about what constitutes acceptable behavior between two individuals.
I don’t like feeling socially forced into giving people hugs.  It’s something my mom can attest to (Hi Mom). But it’s an accepted way of how a person (especially when one works at Faires) is greeted by people that one hasn’t seen in a year.  I’m not thrilled by it, but it’s part of the shit sandwich I’ve decided to eat as my meal ticket in this lifetime.

I granted a hug to a requesting (older white male) party, he made some comment (I couldn’t even tell you what it was, probably something about looking nice, since that’s the usual run-of-the-mill-compliment I get at Faire) and then proceeded to thrust his pelvis against my leg three or four times. Jokingly. Of course. Because leg humping is always acceptable followed by the siren song of “I was just kidding” when I called him out on it.

I stepped back, and said, “Hey.  See this line I just drew?  You just totally crossed it.”

“I was just kidding.”

“Not funny. Because halfway attractive women don’t already face tons of unsolicited comments and actions, or things done to them or aimed at them without their consent on a daily basis.”

“Geez. Ok… I’m sorry.”

And then he cuts his eyes to my booth helper (my age, female) for her reaction.

“Not okay.” she says.

“I’ll probably never get a hug again.” (And I have no idea at this point whether his tone was sincere or still “joking” because I was in fight or flight mode and I had picked the former.  I’m not a stupid college kid anymore, when the latter was the default. SJW? You bet your fucking panties I am, and I will take it as a freaking compliment if it means one more person never gets thrown into a situation where they must decide “fight or flight” because their bodily autonomy is suddenly run over by somebody else’s “joke”.

Arms crossed, voice sounding like a frozen tundra that leaves no person alive, “No. You won’t get a hug again. Ever.”

My body, my effing rules, pal.  I hope the day comes when I can just relay funny shit on here, and not repeatedly climb on my soapbox, beating my SJW drum in the hopes of waking one more convert to the tribe of “Consent.” Unfortunately, that day isn’t today.





The Faire-y Files: Borrowed Buggies

3 07 2017

If I ever get around to actually publishing a book or something, a lot of my material comes to me straight out of the mouths of… well… my customers, the world around me, um, frankly EVERYONE. I find lots of what people say strange and hilarious (maybe that’s just the way my artist’s brain takes in the world around me.) But I feel like the bar is higher for this particular blog post because:  (1) last month my BFF and I were doing our usual “running my booth together thing” at the TN Faire. We were told by several people this year, “Hey, no kiddin’ – we stop here every year because you two are the funniest act at this Faire.” Considering there are stage acts at that show (and every other Ren Faire in the world) who specialize in humor? Ya. Bar feels high. (2) There is now a published author who reads my blog.  EEEEEK. (Hi Laura.) (3) I haven’t blogged a Faire-y Tale story in a year and I feel rusty.  It’s hard to explain the absurdity of my world, and my weird job to people who go to my day job for their “day-cations“.  So “once more into the breach” and all that happy greeting card crap, right? (4) Someone informed me that one of my blog articles cost them a keyboard because of sprayed coffee while laughing… I mean, I don’t want to be a record holding keyboard mangler, but that compliment alone was… intense. Maybe the world views me just as funny as I view it.

I was driving home from Faire late one Sunday night about six years ago, in a borrowed car that I was trying to purchase. The seller was being a bit slow with paperwork, and although I didn’t like the idea of borrowing a car for interstate travel before I owned it, it was one of those things that was really unavoidable that weekend in particular.  I also had my mutt, Guinness with me.

Guinness

He’s part Wookie, part Ewok, and basically my funny little sidekick with genius comedic timing.  At the time, he didn’t have a seatbelt.  He had a 6 gallon milk crate that I inherited at a garage sale, and Ren-gineered into his car seat. (“Ren-gineered” being a term that means a Rennie made it with materials that have no right being used in the manner they are, and that said Rennie probably got all of their engineering experience from having dated an engineer at one time. And yet, often the constructed object in question generally works fine.)

This day (which shall now live in infamy forever) is the reason Guinness now has a doggie seatbelt (visible in the photo above) that clips into the back of his harness. Well, that, and I don’t want him hitting a windshield at mumblety-thump mph if I get in a wreck.

I drove home that night in my garb, because Faire ran late, and it was about a 4-5 hour drive home. I had to stop for gas on the way, and, as per my usual, stuck my cell phone into the top of my corset out of habit.  (Many thanks to David Vail for the amazing photo below.)

As I was pumping my gas, Guinness leapt over onto the driver’s seat to scope out why we’ve stopped.  And stepped firmly on the auto-lock button.  Now, to recap: Borrowed car, so title, registration, etc are all not in my name.  Spare key with the owner, about 3 hours/200 miles away. No AAA.  And the gas station was closing in 45 minutes (it’s was a Sunday night in the middle-of-nowhere).

I said a string of Very Naughty Words and asked the gas station attendant if perhaps, they had a slim-jim door unlocker thinger behind the counter. He did not.  I received inept help from a lovely passerby with a coat hanger and mansplaining tendencies. After he left, I now had scratches on the door of the borrowed car.  With no other options I could think of, and with it getting later by the minute, I called 911.

“Hi, I am super sorry to be calling.  I understand that my emergency is low priority, but my dog just locked himself in my car at a gas station, and I’m 200 miles from home.  Is there an officer in the area not busy doing real police work tonight that could pop my lock?” (Now, I don’t recommend this course of action.  Seriously, if I had had ANY OTHER OPTION… I wouldn’t have called them.  But apparently a “live animal in a locked car” is an actual – if Very Low Level – emergency.)

92 minutes later, Officer Friendly (O.F.) shows up.  I try really really hard not to judge people on appearances, but to say this gent probably could’ve attended Woodstock as a late-blooming college student, with a physique that would make it impossible to chase down anyone on foot (even me, and I’m lucky to run a 10 minute mile at my best) would be visually accurate. And I’ve already mentioned how my brain works – I filter a high proportion of what I say… typically. But when you stir in exhaustion from a busy work weekend dealing with hundreds if not thousands of people, a long drive made longer by my own damn stupidity, and concern for my dog?… The force required for holding back snarky comments delivered a la Wednesday Addams deadpan with a smoky jazz lounge singer’s voice was EPIC.

O.F.: Examining my outfit from top to bottom, pausing long enough at my cleavage to be inappropriate, despite the fact that said cleavage is reasonably but decently displayed because ELIZABETHAN CORSET. “Your dog lock himself in the car, huh?”

Me: Yes, sirDude, dispatch had to have told you that.  And you can see my freaking idiot dog bouncing up and down in the driver’s seat in anticipation of meeting someone new.

O.F.: May I see your license ma’am?

Me: It’s in my wallet, sir, (points to purse, sitting Very Evidently on middle seat, inside locked vehicle.) 

O.F.: Where were you headed tonight?

Me: sigh. Didn’t dispatch ALSO tell you this? Home, sir.  Akron area. Ohio. I still have about 2.5 hours of driving ahead of me.  (hint hint… can we get this show on the road already, please?)

O.F.: Well, lemme get my fjdskalfdsg. (unintelligible, yet probably proper name for slim-jim door unlocker thingy aka the SJDUT.)

He walks back to the car with his SJDUT.  Pauses at the sight of Guinness, who has started licking the freaking window in abject joy that the new person is almost within reach of meeting.

O.F.: Is he friendly? 

Me: Yes, sir. He’s 21 lbs on his best day sir, I think even you could probably take him… have you really met a quantity of mean dogs who lick and paw at windows with their tails wagging at a rate of “supersonic” when they spot you?

O.F.: Pausing, with the SJDUT in hand. You know you should grab your keys when you stop for gas.

Me: thank you, Captain Obvious. Yes sir.  I’m in the process of buying this car from a friend, sir.  I’ve never driven one with auto-locks before but I guarantee I will remember that in future sir.  

O.F.: You know the SJDUT may damage the door, right? 

Me: Yes, sir, but since the spare is with the friend in question, that leaves me with no choice.

He works on the door for a minute, pauses, and asks, “Where’s the friend live?”

Me: Sigh. Ohio, Sir, as the license plate will confirm.  And so you’re aware, the registration will of course match her name, not mine.  But I have my insurance card in my wallet if you need that for your notes, sir.  Please just open the dang door.

He jimmies the door, Guinness greets him with more kisses than the Pope’s ring has seen in a decade.

O.F.: He’s sure a friendly little thing, isn’t he.

Me: Yes, sir. Thank you sir.  Guinness, kennel.  (“Kennel” being the command that means “Get your ass into your milk crate on the passenger seat because you’re overdoing the greeting.”)

O.F.: Well behaved little dog too.

Me: Thank you sir.  Grabbing my keys from the ignition, and pulling out my license. Did you need the registration too, sir? I’ll need to grab that from the glove box. 

O.F.: Yes ma’am.

Me: leaning over Guinness to grab the registration and receiving a barrage of kisses myself. Here, sir.

Eons pass, wars are won, and novels are written while he examines my license and my friend’s registration Very Carefully before handing both back.

O.F.: … no actual words come forth, but he seems to be… waiting for something.  

Me: looking at the time on my cell phone which I’ve plucked out of my corset while O.F. was examining my paperwork, and realize I’ve been stuck at this gas station for nearly 2 hours. Thank you very much for unlocking my car, sir. Am I free to go sir? I’ve got a goodly bit of driving left tonight. 

O.F.: He makes another visual appraisal of me, this time pausing at my cleavage long enough that even Guinness takes notice that Time Has Stopped again.  Just one more question before you go ma’am…  – are you Amish?

Me: Closes eyes, takes deep breath. For the hairy love of Oedipus. Amish people don’t drive cars, SIR. Mennonites drive cars, and I hope for the safety and well-being of the local Amish community here, you are not dispatched any time that actual knowledge of said community is required.  At minimum, you’ll be on their prayer list.  And I don’t want them to think that you are representative of our “English ways” No, sir.  I work at a medieval theme park. 17th century? Queen Elizabeth? These are my work clothes.  

O.F.: …. blank stare wherein it’s clear he’s never heard of either the 17th century or Queen Elizabeth, although the stare breaks long enough for him to do another – although this time blessedly quick – visual sweep of my garb. Drive safely ma’am. He gestures in a way that makes it clear I’m free to go.

The End… but in the way of Disney movies, here’s the Easter egg scene:

So I’m retelling this over breakfast at the KY Ren Faire to much laughter, and get to the “Are you Amish” punchline, and T (a tall, voluptuous, and brassy lady who very much speaks her mind) pipes up, “You TOTALLY should have struck a pose and told him you work in Amish porn.” So I lower my voice from “smoky” to “come hither”, cock my eyebrows at the breakfast table crowd and say, “I work in Amish porn…” The table explodes in laughter over and over, with mass giggles and people holding their stomachs from laughing too hard, and then, because “the more you know…”

Fierce googling ensues to discover whether or not Amish porn exists…





On Being an Empath

5 06 2017

Being an empath means calling someone because a little voice told you to pick up the phone and reach out, and when the person answers in tears on the other end, listening to whatever shitbomb the universe has handed them that day, and never once questioning why you walked away from cooking breakfast to make a phone call that seemed suddenly urgent.

Being an empath means that the tug at your belly button telling you to GET ON THE ROAD because you JUST WANT TO GET HOME feels “normal-ish but with weirdly urgent overtones” until you pass a girl being dragged out of a smashed car on the highway and realize after you’re home and safe that the tug at your tummy and perhaps the reason you got a burger to go instead of sitting and eating may have been the girl on the side of the road, and not so much the wish to be driving home.

Being an empath means that you freak out for no reason suddenly envisioning yourself in a car wreck, only to have someone dear to you call, interrupt your panicked vision, and tell you that they’ve just been in a car wreck, and could you please come pick them up because the car is totaled.

Being an empath means that after the shock wears off, and the tears have dried, you find yourself wondering why you picked the red skirt to wear today. Was it chance or did you know that a random stranger’s blood would be drying on the hem by nightfall?

Being an empath means that “processing” the inexplicable is a no man’s land oscillating between disbelief at the sheer number of coincidences resulting in your well timed appearance in the exact place where you’re needed, and acceptance that “that’s just how this weird quirk called empathy works”…  and that logic, the most honed and well loved tool in your personal toolbox has no place here.

Being an empath means that you’re up too late, wishing the girl in the wreck you stopped at tonight had been coherent enough to tell you her last name, so that you could check on her tomorrow, and knowing already that it will be months before she can hold her toddler again.

Being an empath means feeling it in your core when the world is hurting, and having no ability to fix it beyond accepting the job at hand, knowing that it’s a mindfuck of a job, and doing it anyway.

Being an empath means being tired beyond belief, but too hyped to sleep, and so vomiting words onto the internet seems like a temporary balm, because you know that the job will never be done, the universe will keep putting you in places you’re needed, but that tonight’s chapter of “empathy in action” was shitty and took a toll.

Being an empath sucks. But it’s part of me, and I don’t know any other me to be.





I’ll raise you a Vintage Fridge and Some Canned Goat

25 05 2017

An artist friend of mine died unexpectedly last week.  (I’m sorry Theddy, this is the best I can do in terms of a eulogy, and likely only to be read my my 15 or so faithful followers. But I wanted to tell your story, even if the audience is limited.)


Theddy was made for a world that doesn’t yet exist.  He talked loudly, and could read my face like a book, so he’d often use words that would make me turn red and try to disappear inside the nearest wall (and I can throw down the word “fuck” with the best of them.) He often wore ridiculously resplendent clothing, or t-shirts that you couldn’t believe someone had actually had the balls to make, and he made weird and fabulous art that not everyone understood or liked.  He was truly incomparable (and I know what that word means)… But the best part about him (and many of the other full time artists I know) are their weird and irreverent stories about how they perceive life, and how life perceives them back.

Everyone feels at some point or another that they really don’t fit into the fabric of normalcy. But what if not fitting is a weird sort of gift, bestowed upon those in whom the fairies believe? Be it gods, (I mean, “God-touched” used to be an expression for those that didn’t quite fit, and if I’ve ever met a collective of humans that fit that description, artists would certainly be amongst them…) be it the laws of attraction, or be it just that you entertain the Muses in their ethereal plane, the admission price to such a whimsical place is socially high. But oh, the stories.

The weird, the sublime, the stories that start with, “so there I was…” and all you, the listener can do is to hold on with all your might and suspend your disbelief. Artists don’t just create art, we create experiences. And our stories form a unique body of work, that, even more than our art, is ephemeral and fleeting.

Theddy factors into my story, and I into his.  He’s part of why I’m here, making art, and why I’m going to tell you a story about a vintage fridge and some canned goat.

A few weeks before he died, he mentioned that one of his favorite pieces was still the blue lantern I made, several years back when I was less than an amateur pebblestar (pebblestar being the prerequisite for becoming a rockstar, and a phrase my friend Marrus, also an amazing artist, coined.)

I don’t know how often other artists are approached to “trade” but, it’s a regular occurrence around my place. If you’ve been to my house, you probably know that unless the trade involves a rare book on weird subject matter, funny socks, or food, I’m unlikely to say, “sure.” I formed the habit of really only trading for base level Maslow’s hierarchy stuff, and after a lot of years of “nope”, there’s not a lot in life I covet enough to trade for.

Theddy’s offer to trade came at a time when he knew our cupboards were pretty lean looking, and some church group or whatnot that donated a ton of food to a local food bank that he was a recipient of, so everyone on that food bank’s list got a few extra bags that year. It was all filled with chili and canned vegetables that gave him digestive trouble. And then someone else had gifted him with canned goat or something. Which he just was NOT going to eat. So we traded: his goat and chili and crappy canned veggies for a lantern.

It got us through the winter. I don’t know what the lantern brought him other than “pretty”, but seeing as how he mentioned it every time he saw me, and we thanked him for the food that kept our cupboards looking respectable and our tummies full… It was a trade made in heaven, as we both thought that we had gotten the better end of the deal.

That same winter, I acquired a vintage fridge. This dude down the street had opened a “vintage” shop that was 90% garage-sale junk with only a few standout pieces. He wanted a stained glass sign for his business. I wanted his 1950’s era fridge. We had one (circa 1970’s) in our apartment, but I was spending 10-12 hours a day, 5 days a week at my studio, and while a fridge wasn’t strictly necessary, it felt like a decision that bumped me up a notch in Mr Maslow’s chart of self-sufficiency. So we traded.

It was an incredible feeling, trading my (often perceived by society as useless much of the time) art for actual tangible items that made me able to feel like I was providing in the most visceral way possible for myself and my little family at the time. Canned goat and a fridge to put the leftovers in.

There has never been any trade so powerful as those two trades. And yeah, I’m thinking about both a lot today, because today I nicked a wire in my ancient fridge going through the motions of defrosting it. It’s ok. I learned what the wire is for. I had several people express concern for my methodology (chisel and hammer to knock the ice off.) I had someone send me a link on where to recycle it.


But ya see, that fridge and I have been through a lot together. Two years ago, while defrosting it, I fumbled the heat gun i was using, and the damn thing nearly left a scar worthy of it’s own story on my face. (Hence the acrobatics with a hammer and chisel.) And I keep it (the fridge, not the heat gun or the scar) because while I no longer have Theddy’s cans of goat and chili in my cupboard, it’s a reminder that I don’t have to keep up with the Jones’, a reminder to stay quirky, (I mean, who else trades stained glass for a 1950’s fridge) and be true to my skills and myself and my art. I may have killed it with my badly aimed chisel today, but if so, it’s just proof to me that my fridge’s destiny and my friend Theddy were tied up in some epic story that I only ever caught snippets of.

I hope whomever inherits Theddy’s lantern hears this story, and takes up his torch, both literally and figuratively. The world needs more tale-tellers, light-bearers, illuminators, artists and quirky-as-fuck folk, if only to remind people that it is possible to trade art for useful and interesting things like vintage fridges and canned goat.

Blessed are the god-touched, for they have the best tales. And on that note, remind me to tell you about the time a cop saw me in my Ren Faire garb and inquired if I was Amish…





Car Buying While Driving a Vagina Model

30 03 2017

Sigh.  I’m one of the most introverted people most people ever meet.  I’m also an INTJ which occurs statistically in less than 3% of women, and means that not only will I typically kick your ass in a game of strategy (if you can get me to sit still long enough to play), but that I will also go into any situation that involves dealing professionally with other humans wearing protective gear – like makeup and nice clothes – and armed with spreadsheets and paperwork.

In other words, the “compliment” that pops up the most often is that I’m “intimidating”.

Buying a vehicle isn’t something I do often (thank goodness) but it’s seemingly so fraught with stereotypical interactions that I walk in loaded for metaphorical bear.  In other words, the car dealer thinks about me long after the papers are signed.  Which is tricky, because I’m trying to be a person who doesn’t generally behave like an asshole.

But I drive a vagina model of human being and, in the world of car buying – wherein every car salesperson I’ve ever dealt with has been a white dude, with 80% of that group being older white dudes… well, let’s just say that collectively, their generalized behavior makes it tough to walk the line between being heard quickly and efficiently, thereby getting what I want… or behaving like a jerk.

The first hurdle I have to cross is the internet hurdle.  That’s easy, I generally know what model I’m looking for, I have a price range in mind, I’ve double checked that it’s not a crap car over on Consumer Reports, I’ve run my own credit, Googled the current interest rates, looked at the Carfax, and made an annotated list of questions for each vehicle I’m looking at.  And then the fun begins.  I actually have to call people, an action that uses up all of my people-ing spoons for the day, because I begin to interact with people who are desperately trying to make commission by selling me something.

I have a voice that sounds a little like Kathleen Turner, except not quite as deep, and I drive a full sized pickup truck, often with a trailer in tow. The truck makes hauling my glass crap around the country easier.  I mean, who really wants a bunch of art glass nestled quaintly next to them in their SUV while driving down the road?  That seems like a decision best left to potential Darwin award winners.  So when I call in my Kathleen Turner-esque voice about the “2014 full sized Make Model pickup truck you’ve got sitting on your lot”, it’s rare to not have a moment of… silence.  I jump into that silence and say, “I have a list of 4 questions about the truck. Does it have an 8 foot bed?”

“Was it used for snowplowing? If the answer is yes, I’m not interested.”

“Why is it still on your lot at this price? Is there something wrong with it?”  (This is a reverse psychology question because it culls the really neurotic ones. The ones who don’t take life too seriously usually laugh at this point, and calmly answer my question. And the calmer they are in answering this question, the easier they’ll be to deal with in person.  I’m empathic and being around neurotic people is like having someone constantly needle you with static electricity.)

And then the last question, “Does it have a tow package installed on it?”

There’s always a moment of silence here too.  Followed by either an “I’m not sure, let me go check” or a “yes”.  (It’s never “no” because they want to sell me the car, and I’ve not indicated which is preferable: Is a tow package a positive or a negative?)

When they get back on the line with their answer, then I ask about the particulars. (Or if my particulars can be installed.)

“I’m looking for a Class 3 or Class 4 frame mounted hitch with a 4-pin wiring harness.” Rarely do I get a simple affirmative or “We can install that for you.” Instead, this is the Moment Where Every Freaking Stereotype Plays Out.  They ask: “What are you planning to haul with it?”

It’s hard not to imagine that this question has some bearing on the fact that I drive a vagina model of human being.  Maybe I’m overreacting.  Maybe everyone gets asked this question.  I definitely need a sample size bigger than 5, but for now, anecdotal evidence suggests that boys who buy trucks don’t get asked this question.

So I channel my inner Wednesday Addams, because I love serving up deadpan as an alternative to getting pissed off about everyday sexism.

“I’m driving a 10 ft. cargo trailer with a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) of just under 3000 lbs, and I have another 800-1000 lbs of cargo in it.  It doesn’t have a braking system on it, hence the 4-pin. According to your website, I should be well within the tolerances for the ____________ (make, model) I’m looking at.”

After this point, if we aren’t talking shop like two dudes over a beer, I thank them and hang up.

So, having just gone through the truck buying process this week, everything flowed as expected and within normal tolerances until I sat down and tried to negotiate a cap for said truck.  Getting a cap on a pickup before I walk out of the dealership is one of two hills I’m willing to die on. (The other hill being a way to hook up my phone to the radio.) Why? I can’t do long drives without GPS and audiobooks. Luckily this truck came with a radio friendly connector thingy, so logically, I started girding my loins for “the battle of the truck cap.”

Why is this even a thing? Well, the best place to find a used cap is on Craigslist.  And assuming I find one at all for my make and model, I then have no idea if it’s going to actually fit my truck or not until I get there, and we try it on the truck, because I swear, older caps settle a little and never quite fit a second truck like they did the first truck they were put on.  And they’re heavy as hell. (I haul glass for a living, and run half marathons for fun, so consider the context of that statement.)

It occurred to me after the salesman and his manager said, “No way, a cap is way too much money to include in the price we are advertising” that maybe I had no idea of what a new truck cap goes for.  I got up to leave, thanked them for their time, and informed them I was going to look at the second vehicle on my list, “which I believe comes with a cap.”

“Wait! Wait” Both of them said in unison.  The manager then cut in with, “We’d really like to sell you this truck.  What’ll it take?”

A cap. Obviously. Or were you distracted by the voice that sounds like I should be working a call center talking dirty to strange men? Sigh.

So they offered me “dealer pricing” on the cap, and I said, “I’ll at least look”, because truthfully, none of the trucks I was looking at came with caps, (HA!) so I would need that information regardless of where I ended up buying the truck.  And to be able to walk into dealership #2 quoting dealer pricing for caps, and with a vehicle I’m already seriously thinking about at dealership #1 would likely help me really negotiate…

The salesman began by showing me a list of Very Nice Truck Caps, with the manager popping in and out to “help”.  Every single cap was well out of my league if I was going to stay on budget with this truck.  I asked, “Isn’t there anything cheaper? It doesn’t have to be fancy. I need it to keep my stuff dry, I need it to be a regular cap height, like you can not-quite-stand-up-in-it when loading and unloading, and I need it to be cheaper than even the ‘dealer pricing’ of $1600.”

I reiterated these 3 points several times over the next 45 minutes, with zero effect until the salesman explained that “there is just nothing out there with blah blah blah lifts blah blah lighting blah blah…for less than $1600…blah blah blah” (Okay, so I wasn’t doing such a great job listening by this point either.  We had been there nearly 2 hours, 1 of which was trying to negotiate on what sort of cap could be found for less than $1000, and how much of it I could get them to pay for.) I held up a hand in the universal “wait a sec” gesture, and asked, “Lifts? Lights? No.” I then ticked off the points (again!) on my fingers.

“I need a truck cap that is (tap) cheap, (tap) dry, and (tap) tall.  I do NOT need lift assists or any fancy lighting in it.  In fact, I’m perfectly happy if you call a used place and buy one there for me. If they have a used one in glittery purple with flaming skulls all over it in the back of the lot for a wickedly good price, so much the better.  BUY THAT ONE.”

Both the salesman and his manager actually stopped in their tracks. And the manager made eye contact for the first time since I started listing my 3 points. He pulled a face that was fraught with confusion and incomprehension. “Skulls?!? Why?”

I replied in my best Wednesday Addams voice with a perfectly arched eyebrow, “It certainly would make it easier to find in a parking lot with all those white and black pickups at Faire sites, now wouldn’t it? And it’s likely to be priced accordingly. Who the hell wants flaming skulls on their pickup? Other than an artist?”

They found me one.  (Sans skulls, and in some wretchedly boring color.) They will drive my truck there and have the cap installed for me.  And they are paying for half of it, plus the install.  So lest they forget the lady who drives both a vagina and a pickup, when I stood up to go I asked, “Now do you see why I tried to walk out when you said you couldn’t work on a cap for me?”

Nods all around.

In the meantime, Imma gonna go research how exactly one paints flaming skulls on their pickup truck cap.