"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

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

Erinyes



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

Analemma


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:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Analemma_fishburn.tif
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

Journeys

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

Widdershins

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.

Sunwise



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.


Fun With Chalk

Last week, we had a chalk bomb battle. It was epic. We all won.
When it was over, we couldn't resist the chance to get a bit arty.
Even the household ghosts got into the act.
I swear, one day when I have my dream house, it will be just these colors. I won't even care if the neighbors complain. We'll just sic the ghosts on 'em.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Secret Box

We all have one, I bet, those of us who are attached to material things. A container filled with objects that are meaningful, if not valuable.

Mine is an old cigar box that I blagged off a tobacconist. It's decorated with mosaic tile, which most everyone agrees is not a success. Well, no matter. It's all right if no one likes it but me. It's my secret box, after all.

The kids sometimes look at it in fascinated bewilderment. What is this, they ask, unable to perceive meaning in the contents. What are these pebbles and scraps of paper? All these scribbled notes? Why do you have a receipt dated August of 2002? Just for some incense and a china cup? Fortune cookie fortunes? Broken jewelry and Mercury dimes? Why would you keep these things?

To which I reply, well, that's the point of a secret box, innit? It's none of your beeswax, You don't have to explain. That's the rule.

The secrets of the box remain, more or less, secret. Anyway, explanations would only disappoint. It would hardly mean anything to them that (for example) the day of the incense and china cup, the sun glinting on the Summer air made me so transcendently happy that I wanted to remember. Of course it would lack meaning to anyone else. These things are only the property of the experiencer, however sacred or mundane.

One day, they'll understand. By that time, I'm sure, they will have their own secret boxes.

Conversations With Strangers

In town one day, an elderly man came up and said, "If you fall, I cannot catch you, but if you fall, the OM can catch you."

It took a little while, but I finally understand what he meant.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Next Footfall


This was a phrase I read on a political blog. There were rumors of scandal, government corruption of the worst kind. The writer wondered if a certain detail might be the next footfall.

Probably she'd meant to say shoe drop, but never mind, the idea is intriguing one

Imagine a political scandal walking, approaching like a detective or a ghost in an echoing hall.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Findings

Almost literally. It would have been a better play on words had this been a random pile of clasps, pins, rings, bezels and wires scattered on the ground, but alas.

I have no explanation for this odd little heap of rhinestones.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Candy, Hearts and Gloom

Another cold and overcast Valentine's Day, though this one had the distinction of starting with a crashing thunderstorm at 5 A.M. 

Yesterday, the weather was excellent. Cloudy, yes, but warm and breezy. Wind chimes ringing. Fallen leaves swirling. Mountain laurel blooms making the air smell like grape pixie sticks.  Perfection!

Not today, alas. As ever on February 14, Jack Frost, or at least Jack Crappy Weather, makes his return.

No matter, at least we have candy and hearts to break up the gloom.
Happy Valentine's Day, y'all.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

"I've got to go, there's someone at the door..."


One of those unexpected lucky finds. I'd been poking around, looking for that infamous, nightmare fuel-injected Someone's At The Door ad for American Gothic. Instead, I came across this marvelous little gem.

No nightmare fuel, only intrigue.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Ghoulies, Ghosties And Long-Leggedy Beasties

What, you say, it's the wrong time of year for ghosts? Nonsense. It's always time. And it's always time for a few spooky gifs.











It might be February, but the wind is murmuring eerily in the eaves, and I don't feel as if I'm quite alone here...

Gaslight



Downtown, where the gas company used to be, the lamps are still burning. The ones I mentioned here. The gas company moved out years ago, so the light illuminates little these days but an empty  lot and the occasional passerby. Still, the lamps stay lit. 

Around the corner at the Protestant church, the much fancier gas lamps shine a warm glow on parishioners leaving basement recitals and potluck suppers, but this gas lamp - my gas lamp - soldiers bravely on alone.

There is something inexpressibly beautiful about a single light in the darkness.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Riverside Park


Riverside Park in Victoria, Texas is not exactly an inviting place, so when I came across this little anecdote over at Ghosts Of America, I felt a little chill down my spine:

"My friend Brianna was at Riverside Park with her cousin Mary by the kayaking trail on the Guadalupe River. They were away from their family whom were in the parking lot above. Brianna, who was not a strong believer in the supernatural, was down on the bank looking for animals on the other side.

Mary stayed on the cliff, she was very scared. All of a sudden there was a loud screaming coming from down the Riverbank. Brianna quickly looked to see what was wrong, it was a young woman who looked no older than Brianna who was 16.


She appeared to be drowning, so Brianna decided to go help but when she got there the woman was gone. There was no sign of anyone but the word RUN spelled in the sand."

Sounds just like the kind of tales we used to whisper in the girls' bathroom at school. And knowing Riverside park, it's not so hard to believe.

Whenever we spent time there, I always had the urge to keep looking over my shoulder. At the same time, I was always afraid of what I might see.

It's that kind of place.


photo source: pinterest

Divination By Cake

For our New Year's feast, inspired by this post over at Patheos, we made these delicious rune cakes. Soul cakes, really, with runes etched on.
We all chose one without looking, with the understanding that if we didn't like our choice, we could try again. As it happened though, we all picked a lucky rune first time around.

Tyr came out a little burnt, but since that's a bit war-like for my taste, it wasn't too much of a problem. Happily, I ended up with Wunjo instead.