I wrote a poem that made me cry.

Here it is.

Yellowstone

To most people its just a destination

something to mark off of their bucket list or sight seeing itinerary.

To me and that select group

it’s a second home.

There are nights where I wish I could walk out the door

and be surrounded by trees

Hear the quiet rumble of the grand loop as I walk down the maintenance road

and then follow the trail to the employee fire ring.

I used to lay on my back on the smokers table

and watch the night sky float by me.

I spent two summers there

but the first will always stick with me the longest.

That second one has some parts of my past I am still coming to terms with.

Have you ever stood not 10 feet away from a bison?

Or smelled the sulfur in the air on the road to Lake?

Have you hiked into the back country

and found a quiet lake to sit beside and read?

There is something in the air there

that’s magical and pure

and real.

I long for that simple life

and feel the call of it in my bones.

Someday I’ll be back.

Someday I will show my child the trails I walked

the sights I saw

that waterfall tumbling down the rocks in its gray-blue-green glory.

I only hope that in their own way

they understand the quiet way I gaze across the canyon

remembering that summer so, so long ago

when Zac, Moe, Trace, Brett and I

stood on the overlook

and couldn’t speak.

Not Too Bad Around Here

Here I am, sitting here at the computer listening to a podcast while drinking my now cold coffee and wondering what the hell I have done to end up in a place like this.

To be fair, I am pretty content.

I am excited about running my own business, even if I am just getting started and can’t afford to own my domain just yet so I can post stuff to sell (working on it – slowly).

Beth has a job working for a friend’s massage business, and that’s helping keep our heads above the water. This also means we can afford things like toilet paper, and underwear and gas.

After a long and intense situation with Income Support, we have our food stamps and insurance, which means we can eat, and we can afford medication (at least for now until Cheeto Head possibly screws it all up).

My sister came to visit two weeks ago and we had a grand old time – we even filmed some YouTube videos for her channel and mine, which I am in the process of working on.

I decided to be a masochist, and on top of blogging and YouTube decided to try my hand at podcasts, which I have loving dubbed “The Bitter English Major”. It’s going to be about books and writing and everything that goes with it. I need to invest in a nicer microphone, but that should be up and running soon. Once I try not to explode.

And I have a new book in the works. A themed poetry collection. I hope people like it.

On the other hand, I have been really struggling with depression, anxiety and dysphoria recently. Beth and I have had a few rough patches, though its nothing we haven’t been able to work through.

Also I have been having trouble with joint pain. Yesterday it was so bad I spent most of the day on the couch, unable to do much but watch TV and sleep. I am going to be contacting my new doctor this week to see if I can get in for a follow-up and maybe find out what’s wrong with me. At the moment the Ibuprofen is wearing off and I feel kinda awful.

But I’m still trucking along. As my buddy Cameron says, “If I’m bitchin’ I’m breathing.”

Thanks for reading today y’all. I appreciate it. If you like what you see, drop a comment, and if you’re so inclined, drop me a donation. You’ll notice I got a new button, and it’s awesome.

The Commercialization of Pride, and How to Combat It

This month is LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, inspired by the Stonewall Riots on June 29th that started the fight for queer civil rights.

In Albuquerque, there is a lot of stuff to do in these first few weeks – however, the major Pride Fest/Parade is a commercialized mess sponsored by T Mobile and the like. I’m not knocking it for the performing aspect – I have several friends who are performing and I am super proud of them.

But it makes me feel awkward that pride, which started as drag queens and trans women of color throwing rocks at cops, has become so… monetized?

It’s something I’ve struggled with for most of my adult queer life. On the one hand, I love Pride. Never have I felt more normal and accepted among a group of oftentimes strangers who are united by one thing: we’re all different.

On the other, I get annoyed when in order to ‘celebrate’ I have to pay $50+ to go to a parade or even a performance of a favorite queen. All these rainbow this and rainbow that, and there’s a part of me that gets so angry by the use of the struggle of queer people for profit.

However, I figured out a way to reconcile this.

I am a performer at a local bar that has been, simply put, a home away from home since January. As such, the bar has a bunch of events connected to Pride that I have been attending and encouraging people to attend, because of one specific thing: they are a local establishment.

The money raised from the few events that they charge for goes back to the community, or to the bar for improvements to make it a better place for the Albuquerque LGBTQIA+ community. The performers are more often than not allowed to keep their tips, or put them toward whatever cause they like/need to.

My point of this whole post that if you, like me, are uncomfortable with the idea of commercializing pride, but still want to celebrate, go local. Hit up your local gay bars, community centers, etc, and see what the locals have going on. Spend your money, if you’re going to, on local events that give back or support the local community. Support your local events that are free, because sometimes it costs for events to be free.

And most of all, remember those who came before us, who fought for our rights to be able to celebrate and continue the fight (because it ain’t over yet).

Happy Pride everyone.

Ghostly Encounter: La Llorona

Hi guys. This is the introduction to a series I’m hoping to continue called “Ghostly Encounter”. Whether you believe or not, I hope you find this series enjoyable.

Growing up where I have, you can’t help but run into the paranormal or supernatural. My childhood was littered with ghost stories, light and dark energy, and warnings from my neighbors and friends that El Cucui or La Llorona would get me if I didn’t behave.

The first story I am sharing is that of La Llorona, the weeping woman.

For a little background, the story of that is a woman who murdered her children in a fit of jealous rage against her philandering husband. Realizing what she had done a moment too late, she ran up and down the riverbank trying to save them while they drowned, and died of a broken heart. She was not buried on hallowed ground, according to one version of the story. Her ghost haunts up and down the river bank. calling out, “Ayyyyy Mis Hijos? Donde esta Mis Hijos?” Abuelas and mothers alike tell their children to this day that if they don’t come inside before dark, La Llorona would mistake them for one of her dead children and take them with her forever.

I grew up in the southern part of New Mexico, in a city nestled right beside the banks of the Rio Grande. I grew up hearing stories about La Llorona both from my friends and those around the city.

One night in high school, we decided to drive out to the river where she was rumored to appear. Being young and bored after play rehearsal, this sounded like a fantastic (read: awful) idea.

My friend parked the car at the edge of the park along the riverbed. It was a cool night in March, so we kept the window’s only slightly cracked. Her parking lights gave us a vague beam of light that we scanned the edge of, hoping for a glance of something.

We sat in the car for about an hour, both of us quiet and tense. I kept thinking what I would do if I saw Her. Would I use my (very ancient now) cell phone to snap a low resolution picture? Would I freeze up?

…Would she mistake me for one of her children and drag me with her to Hell, or under the murky depths of the river (which to me, with a fear of drowning sounded like a worse fate than Hell)?

Finally my companion broke the silence. “Come on. Let’s go home – she’s not real.”

I sighed. “All right.”

Her hand moved for the ignition when suddenly, I spotted something walking down the river towards us. I grabbed her hand and pointed, hissing “look!” through gritted teeth.

We both watched, frozen in uncertainty as the figure made it’s way towards us. Maybe it was a homeless person, or a drifter. Those were a fairly common occurrence in that part of town.

The figure got closer, and closer, and I could make out that it was a woman, in a long, flowing dress that hung in tatters around her frame. My mouth went dry, and my friend squeezed my hand harder as we both stared in fascination and terror.

I saw the eyes next. Pale and cold, they looked beseechingly into my own as the figure raised it’s arms and opened it’s mouth to speak.

I screamed.

My friend yanked her hand away, turned the ignition and gave the wheel a hard jerk to the left, spraying dirt and gravel behind us and repeating curse words over and over as she sped up the hill onto the highway and hit the pavement of the road with a bounce.

I cowered in the front seat, covering my eyes and praying Hail Mary over and over, hoping to God and whatever was listening that She wasn’t following us somehow.

It was probably only 10 minutes, but it felt like forever when we finally pulled into a lit gas station parking lot. She turned off the gas and slumped back into her seat. “What was that?”

“I don’t know,” I manage, uncovering my eyes and taking a deep breath.

We stared ahead at the gray cement wall, attempting to recover. After another moment, she turned the car on, glanced over at me one more time, and then drove us home in total silence.

The Dogs in My Life

This article originally started as part of a separate project. I was inspired to move it to here and to update it. Please enjoy. WARNING: YOU MAY NEED TISSUES.

Our first dog was a dachshund named Strudel. She was my mom’s dog, so she was already very old when we were born. My first memory of her is her huffing as she walked down the hallway to my mother’s bedroom. I would follow her in there and lay next to her bed to watch her sleep (which she probably only allowed because she knew I was curious). I recall also how bad her breath smelled, probably because she was so old.

After she died, I wanted a dog so badly. We would ask our mother and father if we could get a new dog, but they would usually tell us that right then, we couldn’t. I imagine there was probably more at play behind the scenes than I knew, but I choose to remain ignorant regarding that.

Then, one Easter, I contracted bronchitis. My chest hurt so I couldn’t really do much. I recall that we tried an outing, and after the first hour I hurt so bad I started crying. So suffice to say, I was a rather un-happy six-year-old (which is also why I still have problems with my chest, and probably didn’t help my asthma later on).

Easter morning, I was curled up on our couch, tired, grumpy and uncomfortable. Mom told us that the Easter Bunny had brought us something special and that my father had gone to fetch it. I wasn’t interested mostly because of how sick and miserable I was.

Then the door to the garage from the kitchen opened, and our father walked in cradling something to his chest. It was our new puppy, Jamoka Almond Fudge (yeah, Mom named her). He set her down on the floor, and Alyssa and Gabriella immediately ran over to see her. I couldn’t get up, but I asked Mom anxiously if the new puppy could sit with me on the couch. Mom brought her over, and I scooped her up to hold her.

To this day, sitting here, I can still recall how soft her fur was, and that her breath was the typical puppy breath, warm and wet on my nose. She had hetero-chromia so one eye was green (sometimes blue) and the other was brown. Both of those eyes stared up into mine, and she immediately got comfortable in my arms and went to sleep. Mom still has a picture somewhere of the both of us sound asleep that Easter on the couch.

Jamoka remained a constant in our lives for the next several years – the move to Cruces, the divorce, the move to the new house, high school, friends coming over, etc. All through it she was the most loyal and loving dog I have ever had in my life. She traveled all over the country with us when she could, and in her old age loved to sit on Alyssa’s lap in the car enjoying the air conditioning or heater. She would often sleep in our bedroom, and when she couldn’t hop up on my bed anymore would sleep on the floor on a special blanket.

When she was about 11, we inherited another dog – a Bichon Frisee/Maltese mix by the name of Danny Boy. He had belonged to our former neighbor, and his daughter could not take care of the dog after his death. He attached himself to Alyssa, but from that moment on he and Jamoka were inseparable. I like to think he kept her young.

Then in December 2009, Jamoka gave us all quite a scare. She had contracted diabetes by this point, which meant she got daily insulin injections and was on a certain diet. This also meant 4am bathroom breaks outside, rain or shine. That night, she wasn’t breathing or eating very well, and we all feared the worst. The next morning, she was fine. I often think she knew Mom needed one more Christmas with her.

February 2010. One morning, Jamoka woke up and was disoriented. She kept running into things and wasn’t eating or drinking. As I took her outside to try and coax her to go to the restroom, Mom was on the phone with the vet weighing options. I remember hearing her breath hitch and the sobs start. I knew what that meant.

My poor old girl was standing in the yard she called her home, unsure of what was going on. Tears in my eyes, I knelt down and hugged her, crying into her soft fur. For a moment, she came back to herself and licked my face, telling me it would be all right. I cried, and cried, and cried.

That night, I had a tutoring session with my best friend. I was sitting on the floor of our friend’s dorm room, trying to make idle chatter. I knew the deed had already been done, and that Boo-Boo (yeah, I came up with that nickname) was gone. I casually mentioned to Tamera that Mom could at least get more sleep now without having to let Jamoka outside at 4am.

And then it hit me.

I bawled in her and my friend’s arms for an hour – reliving every memory that I could of her. I cried until I was so exhausted I started hiccupping.

Danny Boy was confused and solemn for the next few days. He knew Jamoka was gone, and knew we were all sad. In time, we all healed, and Danny reveled in being the top dog of the house.

April 2013. I had moved out by this point and was dating Mysti. It was a month before my first summer in Yellowstone, and Danny Boy had been feeling sick. My phone rang, and I reached over to answer it, my voice rough from sleep. It was Gabs on the other end. Danny Boy had passed on sometime in the night, curled up on his favorite pillow near the fireplace. Mom was taking his body to the vet’s to have it cremated, and she was wondering if I would come over later just to make sure everyone was ok. I agreed and hung up.

“Stupid dog,” I bawled, hanging on to Mysti with everything I had. “Stupid, stupid dog, always eating stuff he wasn’t supposed to and stuff!”

Wishbone and Luna were a blessing in disguise, and probably kept my mom from sinking into a deeper depression. I adore them, and I know that though I’m not one of their people, they still consider me family.

Which then leads me to Barrington. Six years to the day Jamoka died, Beth told me we could finally go adopt a dog who would become my emotional support animal. I was ecstatic, and eagerly awaited the end of my shift so we could go to the shelter a few blocks from our house.

Three other families had seen him that day. and no one wanted him. There was another family after us who wanted to see him, but we had seen his picture on the adoption website and wanted to meet him.

He came in the door, wary of the two of use for a moment. And then, he picked up his ball (which we still have; it’s his favorite) and dropped it into my lap. We knew in that instant he was ours.

And now, we have Vanya. She’s a sweet puppy who just needs to work on being socialized, but has already proven to be a sweet and lovable pup.

It’s probably a cliche to say dog’s are man’s best friend, but, given the experiences I’ve had in my life regarding these wonderful creatures, I couldn’t agree more.

So Here Goes.

As I am writing this post, the front door of our house is open to the screen door. The animals (our two cats and one dog) are sleeping on the floor where it’s the coolest. Beth is watching videos on her phone, and I am staring at an empty blog post.

I’ve done blogs before. Hell, I even had one a few months ago – but I didn’t like the direction it was going, so I deleted it. I tried to focus on my SCA blog, but I know that people really loved what I had to say – facebook comments from friends and relatives saying “hey, what happened to your blog? I loved reading it.”

And then, spending long hours in a car for security shifts, I got back into watching my favorite YouTubers, Simon and Martina from Eat Your Kimchi. Through them I found Rachel and Jun, and then Grace and Ryousuke (I’ll put links to their channels at the end of this post). Their adventures in Japan and Korea got me thinking.

So I don’t live in a foreign country. I’m not funded by YouTube itself, or by Odigo, or have a successful freelance career.

But.

I live in one of the largest cities in New Mexico. I live in a state that many people still assume is actually a foreign country.  I live in the middle of the International District of the city, about 5 minutes away from Nob Hill, and driving distance to a zoo, aquarium, countless museums, restaurants, and exciting things.

I’m in the Society for Creative Anachronism, I LARP, I write, I sew, I make art, I have an amazing future wife, I’m getting married, and I have the cutest animals in the world.

I can definitely make a Youtube channel and blog worth watching and reading. I have my own story to tell, and I’m going to tell it.

Grace and Ryousuke: https://www.youtube.com/user/TexaninTokyo

Rachel and Jun: https://www.youtube.com/user/MyHusbandisJapanese

Simon and Martina: https://www.youtube.com/user/simonandmartina