"The glacier knocks in the cupboard, The desert sighs in the bed, And the crack in the teacup opens A lane to the land of the dead."

-W.H. Auden

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


I remember - though I'm not really sure why - August 8, 1988. It was said to be a special day. 8-8-88, you see, a magic number of sorts, at least according to the tabloids my mother left strewn around the house.

I'd never thought of eights as particularly lucky though, and perhaps this is why I felt a blankness or  blandness in the day, or maybe emptiness is a better word. As if you are waiting for something to happen, though you're certain it won't and it doesn't, after all.

I remember my room, with its sheer pink curtains that would blow in the breeze, though in my memory that day is still and quiet. I had the curtains, though, and flowered wallpaper, a subscription to Sassy magazine, a set of benders, a stereo, and a subtle but gnawing sense of wrongness.

Nearly 30 years later, this is easy to explain. History has shown us the course things would take. The artifice of the Reagan 80's were about to be over, were already over, really, although we didn't quite know it yet. Only if you already lived on the fringes you would know it, and I was just a schoolgirl and not quite there yet. You know things before you know them, though, the way I knew that 8-8-88 was no magic number. The lives we were told we wanted would not quite work out that way. For those already marginalized, the future would be more of the same and worse.

Looking back, it's hard to say what I thought. My mind was preoccupied.The wrongness was (for me, then) like a faint smell you can't quite trace. The proverbial rat, before the stench of decay becomes unmistakable.

If it was not that day, it was another just like it that I happened to see the cover for Nothing's Shocking. It was a review in one magazine or another. Maybe it was Sassy, maybe it was Rolling Stone. Wherever it was, it intrigued me in a way I find it difficult to describe today. It was not shocking (as the title suggested) but indicative of something that could not be spoken.

Nearly 30 years later, history lets me see it in full - the flaming twins suggesting, in a dream-like way, the darkness that was coming, that weird black pall that hung over the Bush I years like so much riot smoke. By the mid 90's despair and drugs would would have many in their grasp, but by then we had grunge. It was the natural result.

It occurs to me now - and why I think of it this August - this unique image stays with me because it was a symbol of the zeitgeist that was coming to us all.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Ritual Of The Black Snake

I've been so slow about blogging...fatigue again...but I did want to post this before July is entirely over.

On the fourth, we went out to buy fireworks from the stand at the edge of town. We bought a small collection of sparkly whizzy things for the older boys, but I also bought a handful of black snakes. Partly this was so the youngest would have something non-noisy to enjoy, but also because I have fond memories of them myself. They were like 12 for a dollar, anyway.

Early in the evening, about 7 0'clock, I snuck outside to light one by myself. I suppose my inner child wanted a little privacy, the secret glee of creating fire and smoke. I put it down on the driveway, lit the punk stick and lit the black snake. 

As I was kneeling over the flames watching the snake unfurl, the neighbors drove by. So much for privacy. But the looks on their faces was priceless. They clearly thought I must be partaking of a strange and arcane ritual there on the dusty gravel. They looked intrigued and slightly alarmed at the same time. 

But the funny thing was, I had begun to feel the same way myself. It was unexpected, but I swear I suddenly felt a Presence. It was a friendly Presence, but a Presence (disembodied, non-corporeal, possibly holy) nonetheless.

Maybe this kind of thing has happened to you, maybe it hasn't, but in this case, it was special kind of coziness, a tranquility in the evening air. It was what they call the golden hour, so maybe this helped, but the world around me took on a luminescence, and I was sure I was no longer alone. 

After the black snake had burnt itself out, I stuck the end of the punk stick in the gravel and watched it glow. The feeling stayed with me for a while. I thought about the fire deities and elemental spirits throughout many ages and cultures. I wondered if one of them had kindly paid me a visit. 

When it was over, I put out the smoldering stick and went to enjoy the holiday with the rest of the family. It was nice to see them having such fun. But for me, that small moment in the driveway is so far my favorite memory of the Summer. 

A little transcendence will liven up any holiday.

Note: I seriously doubt it was fumes from the firework causing me to hallucinate or anything like that, as we used up the rest of the black snakes without any additional weirdness.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Igneous The Troll's All Night Pottery Shop

This post combines two disparate facts:
1. There is a PS1 game based on the Discworld novels.
2. My brother is living in our carport.

The game is of the point-and-click variety, complicated and frustrating but nice to look at. My husband and I played it all through the summer of 2000.

In it, the city of Ankh-Morpork has been beset by a dragon, and your character, Rincewind, has to deal with it. As is typical, the player gathers items and completes certain tasks before moving on to the next bit. It's clever and funny, and there are many things to do.

Most of the game takes place during the day, but there are sections in which Rincewind has to go out at night. There generally isn't much going on in Ankh-Morpork during these late jaunts. Depending on what part of the game you're on, you can wander into bedrooms or you can try to get into the Broken Drum without getting bounced by the door troll.
There is occasionally a back room or alley that seems promising, but on the whole, nighttime is one of those situations where you have limited options and little guidance. Needless to say, I spent much time wandering around the darkened Ankh-Morpork at a loss.
Eventually, after doing an arcane combination of things, you come upon a little shop on the corner. Inside, a troll is humming away at his pottery wheel. The sign reads "Igneous the troll's all night pottery shop."
 You have to take one of his pots.
He's not necessarily happy to see you, although he won't thump you if you're polite. When you leave, he cheerfully resumes his work. The game continues on at length, but this is the part that really stuck in my mind.

It's probably not too hard to imagine how much the concept of this shop appealed to me. As a person who's most alert in the wee hours and is most creative then, the thought of an all-night pottery shop seems like the best thing ever. When you spend many lonely hours wondering if any other soul is awake, you are glad to spot one of your own. Basically, that troll has my dream-job.

The image has stayed with me all these years. The rest of the game is good fun, of course, but the all-night pottery shop was special. I hadn't thought about it for quite some time though.

What brought it to mind again was disparate fact #2.

Since my brother and his wife split up (no great tragedy, really, they've been off and on again for ages) he's been staying here. It's not because he can't afford his own place, mind you. There's two things you should understand about my brother above all else - he's weird and he's cheap.

He also finds the rest of us annoying, so he's taken to camping out in the carport. Really. He's got a couch and a lamp and his books. In fact, he's out there right now - I could see his 44oz. Big Gulp soda outlined on his side table. Yes, he even has a side table. I'm sure he intends to make hay with his lawyers about how he's been reduced to living in a carport, but make no mistake, he's quite pleased with himself.

Well, the other night, it occurred to me that I should be annoyed with my brother, lurking out there every night when he's perfectly free to come indoors. However, upon thinking about it, I realized I wasn't. Seeing the carport lit up like a beacon, his dim silhouette busy with his iPhone, put me in the mind of something.

Oh yes, it was Igneous the troll.

There's something about the thought of having your own on-site troll that's oddly comforting.

Thinking about getting him a pottery wheel.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Walk In The Woods

It was one of those days, when strange shapes and mysterious figures seemed to lurk at every turn.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Hand of Fate

On the first day of Summer, we went to the park, My youngest reached down into the grass and said, "I found something for you, mommy!" It was a bracelet festooned with lucky charms. We asked around, but it didn't seem to belong to anyone. We decided it must be fate, so I've worn it ever since.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Merry Summer Solstice

No, I'm not doing some pagan hippie dance in the street, just holding the camera overhead in the last sunlight of Spring.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Weaving Spiders, Come Not Here

The other day, I came across the largest spider web I've ever seen in my life. It was at least 2 feet by 2 feet. Thank goodness the spider wasn't in it!

(I tweaked the color and contrast hoping it would show up little better, but it was difficult to see at any rate. It takes up most of the photo.)

Prickly Poppy

The white prickly poppy is a beautiful flower. Its petals look like delicate paper. At dawn and dusk they seem to glow with an inner light.
They are unexpectedly appealing, growing wild in the scrubby landscape.
 But beware, if you try to pick one, you will be thoroughly punished.

You'd be better off trying to pick one of these. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dog Days

It's something I noticed in early May, but have only got around to writing about now. The cicadas, those cheerful (if noisy) green bugs of Summer, began to sing a month early this year.

This is something I pay attention to. Each year, for many years now, I've noted the first whirring drone from the trees. I suppose this is because to me it's the primary sound of Summer. It goes with the blinding sunlight and searing heat, and especially as a youngster, was synonymous in my mind with freedom.
The sound they make is certainly hard to ignore.
Before this year, the earliest I've ever heard them was June 6th, though mid-June is more typical. But early May? Very odd indeed. What could have caused them to sing so early? It seems wrong, as if the normal cycles of things have gone off track.

What's more, the katydids, whose song is a late Summer phenomena for sure, have been buzzing away every night for weeks.

I can't help but wonder if this deviation is normal or if climate change is playing a role.Though sometimes, I half-jokingly think, this is more evidence that the simulation is glitching.

It may be less scary to imagine that our universe is a simulation rather than our world changing in ways we are not prepared to face.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

In The Month of Jupiter

This is part of a dream I wrote about over on the Fortean Times forums, on February 28 of this year
I was laying out tarot cards, but in an unfamiliar pattern. Like this;
It was a reading for events in the "month of Jupiter" (whatever that might be.) In the dream, the placement of the cards was in a very specific order, but in waking life, I wouldn't even be sure how to read this. The individual cards are lost to memory, but the meaning was "a great upheaval, resulting in a greater good."

I wasn't sure what was meant by the month of Jupiter, but suggestions on the forum made it out to be most likely June, or maybe July. The dream did have a hot-weather feel to it, so I'm inclined to agree. Being that it's now June, it seemed a good time to bring it up.

The subject of the dream reading was not personal, but political and world events. The sense was that something being tenuously held together would finally break apart, leaving something better in its place.

This could apply to many things, but it will be interesting (if perhaps unsettling) to see what the month of Jupiter might bring.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Beauty Of Ordinary Things, Part 2

A rainbow of bottles.

Part 1 here.

Release The Kraken

Down at the hobby store, over in the jewelry department, I came across an unusual sight.
It's a fairly large locket, suitable for pictures or mementos. But for whom? I couldn't help but wonder.

Not for a sweetheart, as the giant blank-eyed squid on the front seems a tad unromantic. Not a sailor either, as the squid has clearly just wrecked a ship or is about to, which is frankly asking for trouble. And certainly not in memory of those who have been victims of the squid, as that's just plain insensitive.  Even a fashionable marine biologist hot on the trail of architeuthidae might find the bulky design a bit inconvenient.

After much thought, I've come to the conclusion this locket might only be appropriate for members of some arcane octopus cult.

By the way, the cult must be fairly popular these days, as there were a few octopi to choose from:
Not pictured is the smaller, plainer octopus locket I nearly bought, until my husband convinced me that the blue Minoan-style pendant was more my look. Should the octopus god return unexpectedly, I'll be prepared. 

It was my birthday, though, so I chose a symbol most likely to get me through the next (sure to be harrowing) year...

 A little extra protection never hurts.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Last night I dreamt it was 1987 again. It seemed like such a strange yet blasé thing to dream, but somehow meaningful nevertheless.

Those beads! That dress! I still have the dress, can you imagine? Stashed away in my bottom drawer.

Monday, May 22, 2017


Such gloomy wet weather, such unremitting despair. Allow me to express my feelings with song.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

I'm Not Dead...

Just very, very tired.

Lingering flu and end-of-school activities have taken all my energy, but hopefully will be able to post more by the end of the month.

In the meantime, I, as well as much of America, need a nap.

Monday, April 17, 2017


I don't talk about it much here, as I'd like this blog to be nice or pretty, or interesting at the very least. PTSD is none of these things. Talking about it doesn't help anyway. It only feeds the slavering maw.

But I've had a hell of a week. Oh, nothing happened, not as such, but then nothing really needs to happen. It was just a matter of taking an unexpected detour through a certain neighborhood at a certain time on a humid, drizzling morning. Suddenly I was back there, or rather back then, 23 years disappearing in less than a blink, a nerve twitch in a bloodshot eye.

I think it was the bird song that did it this time. There must be different birds in that neighborhood, some kind that prefer the sprawling dark of the magnolia trees. It had been a long time since I'd heard those birds calling out, in that way, in that weather.

I shuddered three times, full body shudders. That was my warning. I laughed it off, except not really. I told myself to laugh it off, because my flashbacks are stupid and dumb and meaningless. They aren't, of course, but I see it through other people's eyes. Stupid girl, dumb girl. Can't get over it, always grieving. As if it were real grief. What a fool.

This is before time disappeared, like the ocean pulling back before a wave. I never catch it in time, but then, I never think I should. It's something that doesn't come up in support groups - who's to say I don't deserve this? Perhaps these Furies live in my head because the punishment is just?

Given the oft-quoted principle of what you would say to a friend suffering this condition, if this was said to anyone else - and understand, I am a pacifist who abhors violence of any kind - I might feel inclined to punch the one who said it. Such a suggestion is beneath human dignity. It is plain wrong. But the Furies in my head are not so forgiving. The Furies want to kick my ass.

So there I am, woefully young again, on the precipice of losing. I'm about to lose so big that the  damage will spread to those around me, like a prairie fire or a row of dominoes. The man shakes me, calls me names. His cruelty makes me want to disappear. I want this to stop, yet I will have to relive it again and again, years into the future. The Furies aren't only vengeful, they're ironic. Their memory for nasty details is impeccable.

After the flashback, there's nothing to do but continue to exist, through the fatigue, through the brain-fog.  Put on my smiling face, even though it's a miserable fake. Draw a big X on my mental map, and write "here there be monsters." Or Erinyes, to be exact.

Call me a coward, but I have no wish to venture into their territory again. Some things are not worth the price.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


From Wikipedia

"In astronomy, an analemma is a diagram showing the deviation of the Sun from its mean motion in the sky, as viewed from a fixed location on Earth. Due to the Earth's axial tilt and orbital eccentricity, the Sun will not be in the same position in the sky at the same time every day. The north-south component of the analemma is the Sun's declination, and the east-west component is the equation of time. This diagram has the form of a slender figure eight and can often be found on globes of the Earth."

I love the way the pattern is there above us, hidden only by time.

photo attribution:
Afternoon analemma 1998-99 by Jack Fishburn in Murray Hill, New Jersey.
The Bell Laboratories building is in the foreground

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Temenos Tropicalia, Or The Color Of Sacred Space

Last week, my son and I went to lunch at a restaurant with an unusual color scheme. Despite the statues of Buddha and the mandala wall hangings, it had a distinctly tropical flair.
It had been my son's idea to eat there, he had been wanting to come for a while.
After we'd ordered and sat down at the table, he told me why.
He said, I don't understand it,  but for some reason this feels so much like home. As if I came from somewhere that looked just like this. But I can't think of where. Just 'home.'
While there were a few places in Victoria that had bright color schemes, they were few and far between. While it's possible this is what he was remembering, what he wouldn't have known (unless he'd read that post linked above) is that I've had dreams of similarly colored places my entire life. And if anything feels like home to me, I suppose that would be it.

It occurs to me that perhaps sacred space doesn't always need to be a space at all. Maybe it only needs to be a color.

Saturday, April 8, 2017


One night, around 10 o'clock, I went into the shop on the corner. Dale the manager was lost in thought. He had the next three days off, he said, and was heading to the beach. He'd thought about driving down that night, as soon as he closed at 11, but he wasn't sure. Maybe he should just wait until tomorrow.

Outside, the wind was from the West and the sky was full of stars. There was hardly a car on the road. Oh, no, I told him, it's a perfect night for driving. As long as you're awake, you should definitely go tonight.

Dale surveyed the view from the open door. He said, you know, you may be right. I think I will go tonight after all.

Later, after I went to bed, I could imagine Dale driving, winding down from the hills into the coastal plains. Red tail lights disappearing into the starry horizon. I fell asleep comforted by the thought of journeys and the way the landscape never truly sleeps, even in the dark.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


There are different kinds of spirals, though.

Sunwise bringeth, widdershins taketh away.

Take away sorrow, despair, bad dreams at night.
The ravages of loss and time.

Take these things and leave me whole again.


All day I fight against the fear, the hopelessness, the gloom.
Are we in the rabbit hole or out?

One can only wish some light would appear from the grim grey sludge of feeling.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Coffee After Midnight

When  you are able to take a night drive with your beloved, and you have change for a cup of coffee, even the most ordinary symbol can become beautiful.

The M stands for McDonald's but maybe also Mysterious, Mystical, Midnight, More.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Psychogeographic Map, Victoria

Inspired by Uair01's latest post on psychogeographic maps, I decided to make one of my own. Not of the place where I currently live, but the place where I used to live. I haven't been back there in a few years now, so it's made strictly from memory.
Lacking the skill to build a map on my own, I stole one from the internet. Even better, I stole it from the 2003 schedule for the Shiner Comanches sports team, already helpfully marked out with directions to the stadium. Completely meaningless for my purposes here, as I never went to the stadium nor had any feelings about it one way the other. Still, these are the kind of details I find immensely fascinating.

Employing my epic MS paint skills, I denoted each site with a spot of color and a number. There are 20 on this map, and could have been many more, but my eyes could only take so much strain in one night. I decided to stick with the places that have strong, specific memories attached, or have something notably strange about them. Sometimes they are both.

Sites are approximate. More or less.

1. The apartment where my cousin lived, an airy place where her friends blew in and out like the breeze. Years later, after everyone had moved away, we drove past the area where we could see the balcony from the lane. We had the eeriest feeling that we'd turn the corner and see everyone waiting for us as if they had never left.

2. Hall Electric. They sold lamps and fans and things. In the old store, the window display had two lighted fans that looked like pinwheels. Even when the rest of the town was dark and asleep, the pinwheels would spin all night long.

3.The Denny's restaurant where we'd go to study. There was a palm tree near the door where grackles would roost, and a surreal hum from the power lines. This is the place where I met my husband.

4.A traffic light that always took an absurdly long time, even when there were no other cars on the road. This is where I first became aware of the disorienting creepiness that often came upon Victoria at night. As if it became an entirely different place when the sun went down.

5. The Victoria mall. If you park around back, you enter through a dim and echoing hallway. There was a restroom there where the lights would buzz and flicker like something out of a David Lynch film.

6. The former location of the Maranatha used bookstore. We'd raid it every couple of weeks, before it became glutted with romance novels. It had that distinctive smell, like paper and dust. I found my copy of John Keel's Our Haunted Planet there.

7. The place where my husband's ex-wife saw a ghost. Also notable because that bit of road always seemed like an afterthought. It gave me the uncanny feeling that it shouldn't have been there at all.

8. The Cimarron Express, where the cashier was always careful not to give me the ojo. She told me once she sensed I was about to receive an important message, and it turned out to be true. I'd go there for frozen coffees and later, my Sad Cheese Sandwich. One day, I will write about the Sad Cheese Sandwich, but not today, not today

9. A place where we used to live.

10.  One afternoon, while peering out my bedroom window, I was startled to see the silhouettes of Nick and Jeff on top of one of the university buildings. Turns out they'd found a trap door and decided they ought to go through it.

11. The Sonic between Red River and Rio Grande. There were other Sonics in town, of course, but interesting times seemed to revolve around this one. In fact, we'd just come back from there the night of Reynaldo. Which reminds me, I need to write a post about the night of Reynaldo.

12 (a). Base for many of the wanderings chronicled in the early part of this blog. Near the church that doesn't want to be photographed

12 (b). Nearby spot of pink I'd forgotten to number but can't be changing everything now - An intersection bordered by a creepy Victorian mansion, Cap'n Jack's rooming house, the crosswalk light that never gave you enough time to pass, and the Coastal Mart which can be seen coming up on the left at the end of this video:

13. The cash machine that seemed oddly out of place, although it was always there when you needed it. It just had a weird vibe, that cash machine. As if the world had ended and the only things left were you and this ATM.

14. Here the little green dot is having to stand in for several things. One was the basement club where we used to dance. Another is the loft where the band used to play. Something dark in the atmosphere there. Chills right up your spine. Across the street was the murder apartment.* Around the side was the funeral home**. If you were quiet very late at night, there's no telling what you might hear.

This is a wretched photograph of me, but it does give a good view of that corner.
Come to think of it, we took quite a few photos in that spot, and they are all wrong somehow. The landscape looks normal, but the people do not.

15. The very cute but suspiciously cheap house we didn't buy because it was bloody terrifying.

16. The radio station, the first place I came to in Victoria and where I realized I'd come to the place I was meant to be at that time.

17. The shopping center that always felt empty even when it was full. The doves' coos and pigeons' wings made a sound as if the place had been abandoned 30 years.

18.  Resurrection Cemetery (I missed the location by a couple of blocks on this one, sorry.) One evening, I  was waiting at the stoplight when I saw a car full of people unloading flowers at a gravesite. It seemed unusual, seeing a car there so late, but thought perhaps they'd come to pay a last visit after a funeral. Then I turned the corner and in my headlights saw that there was no car, no people...there had not even been any place to park.

19. The original site of Hasting's book and music store. Later, they would build a bigger store across the way, with a coffee shop where we spent many pleasant hours. Still, it's the original location that sticks with me. Perhaps it was because of the high windows in front that let you see miles out into the sky, or the back corner where the off-beat people would gather. I remember standing at the counter there in March, 1996 and having one of those unexpected moments of pure bliss that happen sometimes. If nothing else, that would be worth a marking on the map. The Hasting's franchise went out of business last year, so it's all just memories now.

20. This map is so old, the HEB is still marked in its original spot. The shopping center there had an uncharacteristic good vibe. Everything just felt better in that area. No idea why, but it did. When the store was moved further down the road, the mood became cranky and dour - excellent brick-oven pizza not withstanding. So if we're going to get all New Age-y and ask which place in Victoria was a node of positive energy, I'd point to where HEB is marked on the map. One might say a shopping center is an unlikely shrine, but hey...this is America.


One day it would be neat to mark all of the significant sites, then connect the dots to see if they make a shape. Although knowing Victoria, the shape will turn out to be a drunken redneck.

Note - the piece of music in the video is a hidden track at the end of High Roller by The Crystal Method. IMO, If any piece of music captured the feeling of Victoria  - not the people, but the place itself - that would be it. Set it to play in a loop while reading the post and the feeling comes through quite well. It's the kind of thing I can never manage to convey with words.

Update - I also just realized that the corner you can see behind me in the picture above is the site where the townsfolk hid during the great Comanche raid.. Could this have to do with the spooky feeling that pervades that block?

further notes - Once, I dreamed that the secret name of Halletsville, TX was actually "Bohemavaria". This struck me as so appropriate as to be hysterically funny and that's why it's listed at the top of the map.

Also, having had another look, I see there's too many dots and a couple of number 16's. That's what I get for working until 4AM. You get the idea, anyway.

*Am shocked to realize I haven't mentioned the murder apartment
**or the funeral home, for that matter. And this blog is called Victoria Phantasmagoria. Sheesh.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Things To Do On A Weekend

1. Put on bathing suit in preparation for relaxing spa time.
2. Cover entire body with bentonite clay.
3. Accidentally terrify 6 year-old because he thinks you're one of those green aliens from Star Trek

Ah, objective met. :D

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mountain Laurel

Mountain laurels are one of my favorite trees. Luckily they grow wild in the woods nearby. The air is full of their grape pixie-stix smell. Or grape Kool-Aid, whichever you prefer.
We don't have bluebell woods here, so mountain laurel season might be the closest thing to the same effect. We do have nice wild flowers, but they grow in full sun. It's rare to find such colorful blossoms in the shade.  
There's a fairy-tale sort of feel about them, their luminous color and of course, the scent. It's as if the air itself is purple, like these filters make it seem...
The blooms only last a few weeks, but they are lovely while they last.