Coney Island, June 3, 2017 – Scenes from Dreams of the Boardwalk

A few weeks ago, I was visiting Coney Island on a lovely spring day, and I got some great pictures of locations that happen to be important in Dreams of the Boardwalk. I’ve set them up on their own page in the Media Archive. Check it out!

Guardian Angel

A little over two weeks ago, I wore this pin to the Women’s March on New York.

It wasn’t just a fancier variation on the iconic safety pin, though it was also that.

When I went to the Women’s March, I was worried there might be trouble: police crackdowns, counter protesters, provocateurs…who knows?  So I wore this pin for…luck isn’t the right word.  Not nearly strong enough.  This pin is the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to magic.

I bought this pin back in college when my then-girlfriend passed out for no reason we could discover while we were walking across one of the lawns.  I gave it to her to watch over her in my stead while she was in the hospital being examined.  Nothing was found, and she never had the problem again.

Some time later, we loaned the angel to a girl in our dorm whose brother back in Romania had been in a car accident, and all she could do was worry and weep.  We gave her the angel and told her that it was good luck.  A few days later, she gave it back, no longer worried and weeping.  Her brother would be all right.

Some time after that, a girl from our dorm was raped at a frat party.  We loaned her the pin, and…she slept a little better.  She said it felt like we were watching over her and it kept some of the nightmares away.  Sometimes even magic can only do so much.

There have been others.  And it always seemed to work.  So when I say that pin is magic, I mean that it’s a ward.  It’s protection.  And if this angel is a guardian angel, as it seems to be, then it seems to watch over women.

It worked again on the day of the March, though of course we were never in actual danger that I know of.  There are logical explanations for all of the other good things that happened, too.  I’m still going to wear this pin to every future protest I attend.  May the angel protect the women around me; their enemy is in power.

The Minor Annoyance That Destroys Other People’s Lives

I got a bit of a shock when I opened the mail yesterday: I was being charged a little over $1,000 for some tests that my doctor had ordered during my yearly physical a few weeks ago.

I didn’t panic.  For one thing, I knew it had to be a mistake.  I’ve never been charged for tests associated with my yearly physical before.  For another, well, if it turned out that my insurance coverage really had changed that much when I the company re-negotiated this year, I could cover it.

Fortunately, that turned out to not be the case.  I made a few phone calls, and it turned out that the doctor’s office had made an ever-so-tiny mistake with the billing.  A box not checked, a form not filed, something like that.  The insurance company got in touch, the situation got resolved, and no more thousand dollar bill.

It was an enormous relief, but in my relief, I got to thinking: what about the people who don’t know how to navigate the system, even to the rudimentary degree I did?  What about people who aren’t taken seriously, or who can’t speak the language well enough to make their problem understood?  Why, they’d be stuck with the thousand dollar bill.  This is how the poor get poorer.

And of course, that’s leaving out the people who don’t have insurance at all.  Chances are good that they wouldn’t have gone to the doctor in the first place.  That’s how the poor get dead.

I’m Back

Hey, all.  Sorry for the long radio silence.  Part of it was for personal reasons: while I was incommunicado, Red Molly and I got married and went on our honeymoon.  If you ever have the opportunity to vacation at Sandals Montego Bay, I highly recommend it.  The ocean is like bathwater, and the food and drinks are delicious.  There are dozens of activities, but you can just as easily do nothing.  Watch out for the incidentals, though – you might not believe your eyes when you look at the form for their laundry service, but it really does cost a couple bucks per garment.

Anyway, now that I’m back, I need to announce some changes.  You see, I’ve spent a great deal of this year trying to work out what the balance should be between this site and my old blog.  Most of the time, I’ve been actively trying to leave Dreams of the Shining Horizon behind.  But now that dynamic’s going to change a little.

You see, I was recently invited to become a contributor at My Trending Stories, a site that aims to “give the power back to the creatives”.  This looks like a big opportunity to get wider exposure, and it’s my writing at Dreams that got it for me.

On a more pragmatic level, Dreams continues to have more followers and pageviews than this site, despite all my neglect.

So here’s what’s going to happen going forward: Dreams of the Shining Horizon is going to be my “premiere theatre”.  Reviews, articles, first drafts of fiction…all of that will appear there first (with that in mind, it seems like the place could use a bit of renovating.  Anyway…).  My Trending Stories will be the “second-run theatre” or “syndication”, if you will.  They explicitly stated in their invitation that I could use reprints from my blog, so that’s what I’m going to do.  Finally, my this site will be my archive and my bookstore.  The blog will be for announcing new releases, and there will be pages containing my reviews, writing theory essays, and other things I think should be saved permanently.

Glad to be back – hope y’all are still with me.

Coney Island: Opening The Beach

Coney Island Greeting Card

I had an experience I didn’t expect this weekend.

It was a bright, sunny summer day, and my fiancee was going record shopping with some friends to commemorate the closing of several well-beloved old record stores.  As you can probably guess from the banner, I decided to go to Coney Island instead.

When I got there, I saw people in colorful costumes and makeup, and I started to get worried.  Then I saw the police barriers set up, and I was dismayed to realize I was right: I had arrived on the day of the Mermaid Parade.

For those who are unfamiliar (and who didn’t follow that link), the Mermaid Parade is New York City’s Mardi Gras, a celebration of the beginning of summer at Coney Island, a tradition that goes back to 1983.

I’d been to the Mermaid Parade before, once on purpose and once by accident, and resolved to never go again.  Way too crowded for an introvert like myself to enjoy.  But after this weekend, I may need to make it a yearly thing.

While I would still want to avoid the parade route itself, Coney Island that day was filled with the strange and beautiful creatures of New York, with their makeup, their colored hair, and their costumes.  See here, here, here and (for this year’s event) here to see what I’m talking about, but be careful – those links are very NSFW.  It is legal for women to go topless in public in New York, and the Mermaid Parade is one of the few times you’ll see any significant number of women actually exercise that right.  Seriously, so many bare breasts in those links, you guys.

One of the Strange Beautiful Creatures you don’t see in those pictures is the Snake Guy, who was walking the boardwalk with his pet boa constrictors wrapped around his shoulders.  I didn’t pet them, but others did.

I was out on the Steeplechase Pier getting ready to leave – more specifically, to head to the Violent Femmes concert in Prospect Park where I spent the evening with my fiancee and some friends – when I noticed a bit of commotion down on the beach.

I looked down, and who should I see but Dick Zigun himself, founder of the Mermaid Parade and unofficial mayor of Coney Island:

Dick Zigun

That’s when I realized I was present for the annual Opening of the Beach!  This is the ceremony that marks the traditional beginning of summer at Coney Island.

I don’t know if this happens every year, but this year they had a houngan perform a blessing: there was drumming and chanting and shaking of an asson gourd rattle; rum was sprayed all around, and a tall, strong fellow placed a basket of fruit on his head and walked out into the water until the fruit floated out of the basket, which I believe is an offering to Agwe, the loa of the Sea.

I’ve written many times and in many places of the spiritual connection I feel to the waters, to Coney Island in particular.  To see someone else, even from a distance, even from a tradition I don’t understand very well, recognize and honor that holiness was a powerful and moving experience.

So I think I’ll go again next year.  Avoid the worst of the crowds as best I can, mingle with the strange beautiful creatures, and take a more active part in blessing the waters that have so blessed me.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday in June.

Sights of New York: Green-Wood Cemetery

Green-Wood Cemetery 6-11-2016

My fiancee and I were in the neighborhood this past Saturday, and we happened to stop by Green-Wood Cemetery.  That gatehouse you see up above caught our attention.  It was beautiful and peaceful – everything a cemetery should be, instead of everything that horror writers like myself always turn them into.  We’re planning to go back sometime, to get more and better pictures.  And I’m almost certain to set a future story there.

(Still and all, we might have been better off if we hadn’t watch all four Phantasm flicks before we went to visit this place…)

Coney Island Images – June 4, 2016

Hello, all.

My fiancee’ and I visited Coney Island this past weekend, and when she started taking pictures, it occurred to me that this might be a good way to start my long-planned media page.  Since I talk so much about Coney Island in Dreams of the Boardwalk and my other works (both fiction and non), I thought it might be a good idea to share the sights of Coney Island with all of you.  Just a few today, but I think they’re good ones – check ’em out here!

 

Coming This Week

Hey, all.

I know it’s been a while since I delivered any new fiction.  That’s not because I haven’t been working on any.  Quite the opposite!  This week, you get to see what I’ve been working on all this time.

So join me on Thursday for the first chapter of Dreams of the Boardwalk, a fantasy set in the strange and glittering wonderland that is Coney Island.

And yes, when this story is completed, it will be part of Shining Towers, Shadowed Tunnels.

For the Fans

I wasn’t originally planning to post tomorrow’s next story.  It was the last of the “Guardian Cats” stories to be completed, and I’m still not sure that it’s up to the same standard of quality as the others.

But I’ve received such a strong positive reaction to the Guardian Cats series – plus some straightforward requests – that I’ve decided to go ahead and publish that final story (though who knows?  If I keep getting a reaction like the one I’m getting, maybe it won’t be the final Guardian Cats story).  It’s a sad tale, but it honors a cat I knew personally.

Come back tomorrow for Kodama’s Courage.