Category: Experiences


21 Recipes, Infinite WTF

So, let’s start with one fun fact: 21 recipes. 6 of those do NOT have gelatin(e) in them. 6. And that’s including the EXTREMELY QUESTIONABLE final recipe whose original text is lost in the bowels of the intertubes, which I am counting as “does not contain gelatin(e)” because I cannot prove that it does, and I hesitate to level such a serious accusation as containing gelatin(e) without ROCK SOLID PROOF. So my first question is: how much gelatin(e) is one person supposed to eat in a day? Because, frankly, this seems a little excessive.

Secondly: the list of ingredients that one is expected to mix with, blend with, mold with, arrange with, layer with, and/or garnish with gelatin(e) is even more suspect than the ubiquitous gelatin(e) itself. VERY SUSPECT INDEED. Not to be trifled with. But if you want to suet with it, by all means… In any event, here are some highlights:

Uhhh… What? (Bronze Medal of WTF, automatic admission to the next round of competition): These unexpected ingredients were listed 3 times each, proving plucky in their determination to pair with such a surprising bedfellow as gelatin(e).

  • Cream
  • Pepper
  • Pimiento
  • Stuffed olives
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Sugar (notable in its achievement of being listed ONLY 3 times in the entire list)
  • Green pepper (as distinct from “pepper,” above, which is presumably dried, ground black pepper powder)

No, Really, What? (Silver Medal of WTF, desktop printed Certificate of Achievement, automatic admission to the next round of competition): These dedicated contenders stayed the course and shone through to a place of ignominious distinction, being listed 5 times each.

  • Vinegar (I’m not making this up)
  • Onion (we’re just getting started)
  • Celery (wait for it, seriously, it’s about to get weird)

You’re Just Fucking With Me Now (Gold Medal of WTF, lifetime supply of WTF-brand car wax and 30 lbs untreated feedstock, automatic admission to the next round of competition): They’re here. They’re there. They’re everywhere. They’re in everything. They’re never gonna give you up, gelatin(e). They’re the most commonly listed components in this stunning and memorable list of recipes.

  • Lemon juice (8)
  • Salt (9)
  • MAYONNAISE (10 YES YOU HEARD ME 10 FUCKING TIMES WHAT IN THE SWEET SHITFRIED TURKEY SAMMICH IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE HOW MUCH MAYONNAISE DO YOU REALLY NEED IN YOUR FUCKING JELLO SERIOUSLY THERE WAS ONE RECIPE WHERE IT WAS LISTED 3 SEPARATE TIMES AND NOW I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO FORGET THAT “JELLIED MAYONNAISE” IS A FUCKING THING DAMN YOU ALL)

(DIS)Honorable Mentions (Congratulatory Post-it written in crayon, lifetime supply of air, lifetime supply of I’m Judging You For This): Though most of these are listed once, or at most twice (oh thank sweet fuck there is mercy in the universe), they are notable for their sheer audacity and nerve at bellying up to the bar with gelatin(e). Mad props to them for being fierce and unafraid to horrify my (hypothetical) palate.

  • Tomato juice/sauce
  • “Seafood salad” (Please don’t explain this.  Just don’t.  I don’t want to know.)
  • Lard
  • Canned cherries (stoned) (Yes, that’s really what it says, and I’m actually a little sad I only saw this one once)
  • Cabbage
  • Bologna (When it tells you to hollow out the center of a bologna loaf and fill it with salty gelatin(e) slurry, just run. Just fucking run.)
  • Bananas (Okay, yeah… if this hadn’t appeared in the same recipe with FUCKING MAYONNAISE I wouldn’t give a shit.)
  • Boiled ham
  • Lobster meat
  • Shrimp
  • Canned tuna
  • Cooked mashed peas
  • Shredded “ATORA” (“The Good Beef Suet!” …I give up.)
  • Liverwurst (Yes, you read that right, liverwurst. As in, “Liver Sausage Pineapple”. They made a goddamn fake pineapple out of liverwurst and gelatin(e). I swear to you I am not making this up.)

 

LAST MINUTE ADDITION:

I found the mystery dish! It’s called Salmon-Avocado Mold (how apt) and it’s got a plethora of charming features! It’s got:

  • Gelatin(e)!
  • Mayonnaise!
  • Canned Salmon!
  • Olives!
  • And So Much More!

For fuck’s sake. I may never cook again. So, final tally:

  • Recipes: 21
  • Gelatin(e): 16
  • Mayonnaise: 11
  • Questionable “meat products”: 5
  • Fucks now given: -7
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Trigger.

They’re things I haven’t exposed myself to in months, maybe a year or more.  They hurt, every time.  It’s a cleaner wound now than it was, but just because the cut is cleaner doesn’t mean it doesn’t bleed.  But still.  It is, as I heard myself saying “The best art I have ever been ashamed to inspire.”  That’s probably overstating the case, because none of it is really about me.  I’m a bit player, a walk-on, walk-off, walk-on who affected outcomes at the time but was not a first cause of anything really much.

But do I know that?  I don’t know.  I’ll take that humility, that I am only the littlest finger of a muse, over being the muse entire for things that make the air around them cringe and bleed and sway.  Because she cut out my heart, and what if that’s something that only I have the blame for?

Everything is about a lot of other things.  These things are, at least a little bit, about me.  And as any good art does, they bring back sense memories and evoke a shadow-summoned grin at the remembrance of things that would never have happened, if I had been a little smarter, a little faster, a little better prepared to defend the things that mattered.

 

Transgress.

My brain is leaving me, a piece at a time.  I know it is.  I will not miss it as it goes, because I won’t remember what it is I’m missing.  Things just… fade, and don’t come back, until I can find a trigger to bring them to the surface.  The silver thread that ran through my life, birth to present, is gone, and will never be back.  It won’t kill me, but it is making me very different.  I live, not for the memories I will create, but for the experiences I can have in the present, because the memories may not ever be there.  It’s a roll of the dice.  And it’s a transgression to tell you this, because it shows weakness, and fear.  I am weak, and I am afraid, and I wish very much that I could have lost a leg, or an arm, or anything else.  But it will be what it must, and I accommodate.  I will not be frightened of the loss.  I am only frightened of hurting others by not being able to find the memories that mean to much to them.  I am frightened of the mayfly creature I may become.

So I tell stories, now more than ever before.  Story after story, to entertain and to leave behind a memory of me when my memory of my own life fades.  I tell them to anyone who will listen, who wants to hear, who will have a moment’s joy and beauty out of the things I have done with my life.  I do not want the things I have been, the things I have done, to die with my memory of them.

There was a woman, married to a man.  “Everyone involved deserved better out of me than they got.”  It’s the thing I say about that time, and it is still true.  Triggers fire bullets, and bullets ricochet.  Trigger a strong enough emotion, a strong enough physiological response, and you’ll remember the story.  If you can remember the story, you can tell it, at least as much as you can remember.

“It’s about falling asleep on someone’s breast when you’re too paranoid to sleep with anyone, and not knowing you’re asleep.  It’s about mourning armor that has spikes on the inside and on the outside.  It’s about her cutting my heart out of my chest, and sewing the space together with barbed wire.  It’s about having some piece of your heard sawed out and sewn over, so it won’t get burnt up with the rest of you.”

 

Transcribe.

These things are painful to remember, and beautiful, and irreplaceable.  I would not trade them for anything.  I gather them, frame by frame, and make a sparkling mirror mobile to help me remember the good, and how not to cut myself on the bad.  I would not wish forgetting on anyone.

And I will find out what happens in Split City before it becomes a memory lost in dust and dark places on the scans.

I will never forget love.  Even in the myriad forms it takes, as much as it stretches and deforms and makes a place inside you that begs to be filled and strikes out with venom and blades at the slightest touch, I will never forget love.  It is never quite what it seems, and it always seems both a little better and a little worse than it really is.

Companion

The power of the companion is this: they walk beside you, for a little while.  It is an immense and awe-inspiring power, and one that is hard both to quantify and to notice, except in its absence.  Companions are the people who understand, even in pieces, the pitfalls and joys in the path you are traveling.  They have turned their ankles on the same rocks, and seen the same vistas of wonder and grace.  They empathize, in the most intimate possible sense, with your experience.

Companions are the company you keep.  Companions are the strong hand in the dark.  Companions are the laugh that harmonizes with yours.  Companions are the reason to keep to the path, or the landmark to indicate where the path doesn’t fit anymore, or both.  Companions are the descant to the melody of your life.

Cherish your companions, because they are all irreplaceable.  Tell them they are beautiful, because they bring out the beauty in your self, and let you see it from the outside.  Do not fear the love of companions, given or received, because it is living art.  Do not mourn overlong when they pass away from your path, because the beauty and love and art is impossible to steal, impossible to lose in any permanent way.

Companionship is one of the greatest gifts of being a thinking, social, empathic creature.  Companions are angels and demons in a human skin, flexible and fallible and fixed and fickle, just as you are.  Their lessons are indelible, and their faults are lessons too.  Learn what they have to teach, hear what they have to say, learn their song and add the parts of it that fit to your own.  Create and engage with them, taste the colors of their hearts.  The beauty you will gain from them, and they from you, is worth every risk.

And remember, in all of that, that you are a companion, too.  Companionship is your gift to offer, to anyone who resonates with it.  Do not forget the power of the companion, in yourself as much as anyone else.

Last words

(Author’s note: y’all know I’m not a verse kind of person, but this challenge spoke to me, so I will speak back to it.)

 

Last words

razor keys
revolving keys

You wrapped my fingers
around them
tight, so tight

Keeper of shadows
the last shadows
of words
ever spoken

I will keep the faith
I will keep the faith
I will keep the faith

by blood and bone
and pain and shadow

I will keep the faith

I will hide the shadows
your words cast

and protect the light
your life has left

you are missed
your faith is kept

Some time ago, The Fabulous Lorraine posted a thought about being on fire.  For that, I owe her all the mangoes she can eat, ever.  Let me give you just a taste of what the poem she quotes is like:

Lo, blessed are our ears for they have heard;
Yea, blessed are our eyes for they have seen:
Let thunder break on man and beast and bird
And the lightning. It is something to have been.

 

It is, truly, something to have been.  Without it, there would be no knowing what beauty is.  So we try things, and hurt ourselves in the trying, sometimes.  We fuck up.  We do what seems right at the time.  We do what seems fun.  Whatever.  And then, we hurt.

So how does it reflect on an author, when that author is willing to hurt, to injure, to maim, to torture, to kill a character? Or to make up whole new things worse than death, just to do to them?

I will do terrible, awful things to the people I write or write about.  I am a bad person.  I feel no remorse for forcing them to live through things that no sane human being would survive.

It is something to have been.

Who am I, to deny them freedom?  Freedom of choice comes with freedom of consequence.  You can’t have one without the other.  It doesn’t work.

Put it another way: these are the things they must experience, to become the people they will end up being.  Stealing their pain, their anguish, their hurt is only denying them a part of life that is true, and instructive, and necessary to form a child into… something very else.

So I will not cringe from doing genuinely awful things, to characters and readers alike.  I realized that, the day I knew I had written someone that all of us know, that all of us like, someone who had the potential to be everything and to make the world, if not entirely right, at least a vastly better place.  He had the right, the responsibility, the privilege to live and to take pleasure both in living and in making the world a better place to be.

Naturally, then, just as he realized what he might become, I murdered him.

I say it that way because it is my writing.  It is my hand holding both the quill and the sword, and I refuse to shy away from being responsible for the genuinely terrible things I’ve done.

But if I hadn’t murdered him, nothing would be the same.  He needed to die, both for himself and for everyone around him.  So at least it wasn’t a truly pointless death.

I don’t mourn him, because he still lives in my head, where time is whatever I want it to be.  Even if that weren’t the case, I’d still have murdered him.  It was a painful task, one that needed doing.

Truly, it is something to have been.  To deny my characters the right to fuck up, to get hurt, to be strange, to learn by mistakes – to me, that denies them the right to be people, and not puppets.

One more quote, then I will stop:

The puppet thinks
it’s not so much
what they make me do
as their hands
inside me
that hurts.

Charles De Lint

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt (common attribution – if someone has factual backup for a better one, I’d love to know)

Here’s the thing.  We’ve already stuck ourselves in a ghetto – look at how we all congregate to the kink-friendly, open sites, and many of us put a sharp delineation between kink life and real life.

Well, fuck that.

I am kinky, and queer, and a raging cunt, and probably one of the simultaneously funniest and most offensive/abrasive/irritating people you will ever meet.  I am myself, with no apologies for the content of my character, unless it’s something that I am trying to uphold and failing to achieve.

Remember, there is a difference between judging someone’s activities, and their person.  A first hand example, that will speak to many of you in the Florida area and other places:

I knew a girl.  She was a lovely girl, quite bright, and determined.  The thing holding her back was her addiction.  She got hooked on some very nasty shit, very early in life, and it became both a physical and psychological crutch.  There came a day when she needed to dose, badly.  She told me so, and asked me if I wanted to leave.  We were in a conversation, and sharing parts of ourselves that don’t see a lot of light.

What are you, crazy AND addicted? I asked.  (our relationship made this a joke, not an attack.)

No, she says, I just don’t know if you want to see me do this.  I don’t know what you’ll think of me afterward.

Let’s get this straight, says I.  You’re an addict, and you must have an external chemical dump in order to keep your brain in order.  Well, welcome to the club.  I’m a crazy motherfucker, and if I don’t keep my meds on schedule it can go bad in a hurry.  Just because you take your meds differently than I do, because you get them a different way, doesn’t make you less than me.  It doesn’t mean I don’t want to know you.  I already know you – seeing you going through your daily routine isn’t going to affect me any more than watching you brush your teeth.   It’s part of the ritual that gets you by.”

And as she got spoon and tab and needle ready, I told her the very short version of my own wrestle with that particular demon, which goes on to this day.

So I watched her shoot up, and she was afraid, even after, that I would think differently of her, or not want to be her friend/confidante.  “Listen,” I told her, putting all the sternness in my voice I could manage,” You were my friend before, and you’re my friend now.  If you tried to shoot me up, it’d be different, because you know I don’t want that.  But you’re a grownup, same as me, and I have no right to judge what you do with your own body, your own mind, your own life.  You know, rationally, that it’s not the best decision for you right now.  But it’s not my decision.

“All I can do is give you the best, most unbiased information I have, and hope that next time, maybe the consequences will be enough to help you make a healthier decision.  If and when you ask me for help, then I have right to try to convince you to do the right thing for yourself, and the people who still love you, unconditionally – those people you can ask to help, who see the junk and still can’t stop loving the girl underneath, even though they may have tried, time and again.  Until then, it flat fuckin behooves me to keep my nose here where it belongs, and my trap shut about things that are quite certainly not my damn business.  And anyone who wants to flap their gums about it learns the very first time not to do it around me.  End of story.”

And she laughed, and finished her process, and I watched over her while she cried with pain and relief,  vulnerable.  So agreeable, so malleable, so obedient while the drug coursed through her, carrying her on its broad white back to places I couldn’t and wouldn’t go with her, not anymore.

There are some things you just do for people you care about.  No cops, no hospitals, no sentencing them to incarceration in a system with too few staff, too many inmates, and no time to try and help, just to keep the arrest record looking right, and the comfortable people’s happiness level just above the place where she might be able to apply for a real job, with real hours and steady pay.  And, no need to look over her shoulder every time a car slowed on her block.  And I wrote her a letter.

“You may or may not read this, but I can hope.  Following is a list of little shit, baby steps that helped me try to climb a little way out of where you are.  You’re unhappy with where you are – the first thing, the only important thing to remember is that you, and the people you love, deserve the best of you.  The worst is inside that needle, and we both know how bad it is and how good it feels.  This is my contact info.  When you’re ready to try one of the other roads, let me know.  I will always be here for you.  I love you, little sister, and all I want is to show you what I’ve learned, without having to go through it all the hard way. I love BOTH the person you are, and the magnificent star you may become.  No matter what happens, you are loved.”

I do things that a lot of you find bewildering, unpredictable, or downright offensive.  I’m not sorry.  I don’t ask you to participate with me, where you are not comfortable.  I refuse to feel culpable for your emotional state anymore.  You do not have the privilege to shame me.

So I say this: Be not ashamed of who you are, who you want, who you love.  Be not ashamed of what you want or don’t want, what you don’t know yet whether or not that you want at all, or maybe sometime.  You get what I mean.

Do not give power to the people who would make you less than you are, you beautiful and complex human being.  Do not cut off your arms and legs so that you’ll fit neatly in their comfort boxes.  They aren’t worth it, because somewhere there is a person who wants all of you, intact, so that they can frolic within without about around between and inside the whole person who is you.
And I say this to you, the makers of boxes: please, I beg you.  Stop cutting off the arms and legs and heads and hearts of the people I love, or wish I knew well enough to extend the hand of human love to.  I ask nicely, because you are people like me worthy of civility, and of a chance to change. Be aware, though; I will be here, and I will be watching.

But there’s a plus side to that, too.  You, the makers of boxes, are not evil, any more than I and my loved ones are.  You don’t know any better, because no one has shown you how to love someone who doesn’t fit in a box.

Here’s a dirty little secret: none of us fit in boxes.  You are cutting just as much off yourself as anyone else when you try to regiment the inherently entropic human experience.

Hold out your hand to me, and to us.  We love you, no matter where on the path you start, or which path(s) you choose.  There will be someone to take your hand.  Even if it’s not who you expected to be, not someone you want to partner with, accept the hand.  It leads into a bigger, brighter, more diverse world than you ever imagined.

Come play with us.  We have a fierce joy that we only want to share – no strings attached.  We want you with us, happy and free and fierce and loving.  Come talk with us, play with us, teach us, learn from us.  We will find love in similarities and differences, and together we will create something new from the still-blazing embers and fires of the old.

You are loved.  Every piece of you.  Whether you are a box-maker, a box-dweller, or a box-smasher, you are loved for every fallible inch of yourself.  Do us the favor, the kindness, the lovely joy of showing us who you are, so we can love you more deeply for the complex and fascinating creature that you are – or want to be, or might be, or desperately want not to be, or wish you could be but “know” you can’t.

You are loved.  Deeply, and without hesitation.  Every part of you, every strange fractal vision and equation, becoming more complex the more deeply you explore – all of you is loved.

Welcome home,
– Motley

(Post script and polite request: Please feel free to take any piece or the whole of this and link/like/love/dry-hump/repost with attributing links.  If you’d rather repost outside the walled garden, please do! An almost verbatim copy of the text can be found at my regular blog. https://motleymayhem.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/take=-pride-in-your-complexity If you patronize FL.com, I will be happy to provide a direct link via email or fmail.  Please, if you choose to do any of these things, link back to either here or FL.  If you can, I implore you, tell me what you ignored, what you hate, what you wouldn’t mind seeing more of.  If I don’t get feedback, I have no idea whether I’m doing any good, or just ranting in the dark, alone.)

In the initial impact (and the landing of a significant fear upon one’s person is, indeed, an impact in every possible sense of the word), the symptoms run as follows.

Physical: tightening of the pores and follicles, increased respiration and heartbeat (often following a short but notable pause of said facilities), significant tremors in fine motor control, sometimes loss of some or all aspects of gross motor control.

Mental: chemical dump in the sympathetic nervous system, and a tendency to think in circles with an order of magnitude more profanity and less sense than usual.

Spiritual: variable.

 

Like pretty much everything else significant in life, it’s a bit like being hit by a truck.  Sooner or later, all descriptions and analogies come back to being hit by a truck.  Because, sooner or later, all significant events have an immediate, short-term reaction of complete helplessness followed by frantic action at the fastest available capacity, usually in a stupid direction.  We’re monkeys.  We’re bad at significant.

 

I like trucks.

 

Truly, a funny and fascinating thing, when looked at from the outside.  Watch:

 

The eyes glisten bright, sitting at the bar, ears open and brain doing its best to absorb information beyond the gibbering of memories so old and oft-polished that they have burnished down to a single, hard silver spike of fear.  This is the barrel, this the chamber, this the magazine.  Here are the catches and releases that will move slide and magazine.  These are the mechanics behind the physics – here’s how to project your intent out beyond the range of your arms and legs.

A constant, running commentary of terror, buried and ignored, but insistent on having enough of a voice to “give warning,” whatever that means.  It is a voice that doesn’t understand what is going on: it is reacting to events in the now as if they were the events of the then, and the actors the same as those who flicker around and around on the memory loop of the past.

“You’re getting in the wrong side of the car.  You can let him ride with you if you have to but why does he get to drive because what if you can’t get back to your car then what will you do.  Why is he paying don’t let him pay he’ll expect something.  Stop gaping someone will see that you don’t know what the hell to do.  Figure it out, stop letting him tell you, stop being dependent on him.  Why did you look away he has the weapons and you need to know what he’s doing all the time in case he surprises you so why are you wasting eyeball time reading the walls and the other people.  What is that thing that you are putting your hands on, that is a Bad Thing and we don’t like it and nothing good will come of you touching it, stop putting your hands on it no no stop no stop no no Bad stop!”

And then just one long wail, lost long ago to any kind of reason, just a formless howl of aversion and remembered pain.

So, for the first three squeezes, everything hurts.  It costs, ignoring that kind of voice.  If it didn’t cost people something to ignore it, they’d fail to learn from their past experiences. So it hurts, all the way down to feet planted in entirely the wrong stance for shooting.  After that, the wail is deafened in the controlled explosion of new experience, new ability, fresh tape to spool in place of at least one of the old ones.  Projectile intelligence, self-loaded and thrown into an acceleration of forced evolution and adaptation.

 

Fear is a funny thing.  A bit like fire.  Leave it to run, feed it whatever is handy, and it will eat everything it can before it runs into a boundaries made of things tough enough not to be eaten.  Corral it, control it, compress it, direct it – and throw yourself into the future with it, to see what’s on the other side.

(Much of this is recognizable to me, minimal prismatic action.  It is, essentially, the narrative thread that life “ought” to have, but so often doesn’t.  It’s the story I’m starting to tell myself, in a lot of ways, about who and what I am and what I want and what I am willing to do.  Assume some things have been scrambled, and also that I made up most of the actual events, because many things are easier to process if they are posed as fiction.)

 

Singing for Myself

 

“It’s like being hit by a truck,” I told her, pulling a drag of smoke deep into my lungs and exhaling, feeling melodramatic just putting it that way, even though it was the only simile I could find.  “I mean, that sounds stupid, but it’s true.  It’s just this noise, that doesn’t even process as sound, and then a flash of impact, and then you’re lying there on the ground, trying to move, trying to get up.  And it’s this horrible feeling of helplessness, because there’s something wrong, and you can’t make everything work quite right anymore.

You know, in a minute, it’s going to hurt like nothing else ever has, and the pain is going to be a wave that rolls you under it if you don’t hang on tight.  But you also know that if you could just get UP, make everything MOVE, that you’d be back in control, and that no pain would stop you.  But because there are whole sections of you not answering the call anymore, the pain rolls you under, drags you into it, leaves you washed up on the shoals of your own mind gasping for breath and praying not to get hit with another wave.  But the whole time, even under and inside the pain, the voice in your head is telling you just how MAD you’re going to be, when you can just. Get. UP.”

She had her head cocked on one side at me, smiling a little bit.  She waited for me to hit the end of the picture I was trying to paint for her, and took another drag off her own cigarette.  Slowly, slowly, she nodded.  “I know what you mean,” she said.  And she did.

 

So, here’s the thing about being me: I’m stubborn, and I cannot let something stand once I know it is standing dead in my way, if I have control over it.  The picture I was making was about a song, that hurt in a way I couldn’t even begin to process.  So, like all the other stories I tell myself about myself, this story is about love, and about getting the job done.

 

There was fire in the sky, and I chased it.  I ran gladly to meet it, knowing it had no thought or opinion of me, no thought or opinion at all, but I wanted to meet it, to see it at its strongest and most glorious, to stand in the middle of it and be alive.  So I chased the fire in the sky, and caught up to it, for a little while.

There’s a thing that I can never really decide whether I believe: that everything happens for a reason.  I know that my life is too full of coincidences for them to be just coincidences, but I also know that I’m a pattern-identifying primate working under a load of genetic sample distortion that’s pretty fucking epic.  But one thing in the last couple of weeks definitely happened for a reason, and it makes me happy that it did.

A few days ago, I was engaged in a series of conversations by text message that were surreal, sleep deprived, and quite entertaining about the oddnesses that one encounters in this or that county, as I was driving.  It was between 5 and 10 A.M., and I was on small roads, with almost no one else on them.  One of those conversations was lamenting that I had been all over a particular piece of parkland, hunting for the entrance, and could find everything, apparently, but the main gate.

I found out, last night, why I spent a few hours muttering in frustration to myself.  It was so I could chase fire in the sky, and know where I was going and about how to get there.

Because, see, here’s the thing: if there are roads, then I will drive on them.  Your polite sign about permits makes my problem with authority itch.  I will politely close gates behind me, and I will not damage the terrain I explore.  I will not litter.  I will not start uncontrolled fires.  I am a safe, intelligent person.  And so I have decided I am permitted to drive on your roads, because you have made them fit for my car.

And, frankly, because I care enough to do it and you don’t care enough to stop me.  Not really.  So I win, because I give more of a fuck about whether I do it than you do.

So I saw the storm, in all its rolling, lightning-lit and multi-splendored glory, from below the epicenter, listening to the wave of silence that rolled in before the wave of rain.  I sat on top of my car and laughed to myself, gleefully, watching the sky open up and rain hell down on the forest around me.

And somewhere in all that, I remembered being hit by a truck, and feeling parts of myself go weak and numb, refusing to respond to my commands and calls.  I remembered singing in their kitchen, cooking, happy.  I remembered singing because it meant I was happy, and so they’d know.

And I remembered when the only times I sang were because I was so happy it needed somewhere to go, some way out of me so I wouldn’t have to try to contain my joy at just being fiercely and amazingly alive.

There in the rain, sopping wet in the wind and dark, I sang because I remembered what it was like to overflow with joy, to have my self run over without fear or worry that it would be damaging, somehow, to anyone else.  I found how to sing for myself again, and I sang to the storm because it was sing or explode.

So I wandered because I was lost, but wandering lost would show me the way when I needed it.  And I found the self that overflows again, and is not afraid.  It’s probably just coincidence that I found that particular piece of myself again just in time for Pride weekend, right?

Where do you get your ideas?

It’s a question that I’ve heard at pretty much every writer’s panel I’ve ever been to, ever.  (And, all bullshit aside, I’ve been to a lot of them.  I get a *lot* of writer crushes. Don’t judge me.)  Every time someone who has managed to get together the combination of talent, intelligence, drive, dedication, and circumstance that allows them to become famous (or semi-famous, or somewhat popular, or well-known in their field) comes before an audience that is invited to ask them questions, inevitably that one question comes up.  (Well, okay, I’ve never heard it asked of a non-fiction author, so assume I’m speaking only of fiction authors, here.)

Where do you get your ideas?

And it’s been answered a billion billion different times in a billion billion different ways – everything from angry, sarcastic non-answers to joking, sarcastic non-answers to genuine attempts to explain the answer in metaphor to attempts to explain the answer by example to any number of other things.  All these men, women, and other humans do their best (or their best at the time) to answer that one topologically simple question: where do you get your ideas?

Now, I’m not famous.  I’m not popular, except for a *very* limited definition of the word.  I’m not well-known in my field.  But I do write, and over half what I write is fiction, and most of the things I write end up baffling the reader(s) as to their genesis.  So I am going to engage in that ultimate egomaniacal exercise, answering a question I have not been asked, that no one has cared to ask me.  (Telling me that my brain works in very strange and unpredictable ways doesn’t count as asking even by a very generous standard, I think.)

I think the reason that it’s so hard to answer is this: the answer is different for every idea.  Beyond that, it’s different for every facet and every flavor of every idea, and sometimes it goes on to become different again as the idea grows and morphs and develops ideas of its own about what it should be.  So the concept of it having some brilliant moment of genesis is a little fundamentally flawed .

Most really creative ideas, at least in my experience, are a little like a mad scientist kitchen with fifty different experiments going at once.  Imagine having each different experiment in a separate container, and not making any notes on what goes into any of them – just having confidence that you’ll be able to remember it, or figure it out again, when you get back around to really working on that one.  So you’re working on fifty different experiments at once, throwing a little of this and a little of that into each pot.  And every so often, one of them will explode – either in a cloud of noxious gas, sending you fleeing from the kitchen, or in a brilliant ball of flame and light that makes you go “How in the HELL did I do that, how can I do it again, and now how do I make that work for me so I can put it in something useful?”

Then add in the fact that all of the containers leak, most of the countertops are crooked, none of your measuring implements are quite accurate, and there are gremlins who change around what’s in your ingredient jars while you aren’t looking.  So eventually you can figure out how you got the noxious gas or the beautiful flame, but usually it takes a lot of back-analyzing and chipping off residue from the counter and occasionally licking it to see what’s in it, and then ending up in the hospital because you had the terrible, terrible idea of licking the burnt-on shit that came off your countertop.

So, when you get back out of the hospital, you can sort of remember what you were doing, and then probably recreate something like what you had the first time, but mostly you’re working on memory and instinct, and hoping for a lot of luck.  And asbestos underpants.  That’s what having ideas is like, for me.

Here’s the reason that the question is inherently unanswerable, though: that’s just me.  And that only explains the genesis of about half my ideas, at most.  Don’t get me started on the Bai Ling-turns-into-a-zombie-who’s-really-a-rocker-dyke-who-just-wants-to-be-loved-but-probably-we’re-talking-about-an-accidental-apocalypse-thing-here, which, as of last night, doesn’t actually contain Bai Ling at all anymore.  There is no answer, because the answer is always different.  Even for one idea, there’s no one answer, because there are so many things that go into the synthesizing process of creativity that there is really no point in trying to give a technical explanation of the process.

And, at the same time, it is possible to distill the answer into a couple of pithy phrases, if you really really want to.  Where do writers get our ideas?  Life.  We get them from living.  We get them from tilting our heads funny and asking the wrong questions that turn out to be the right questions.  Where do we get our ideas?  From not being afraid to lick the countertops.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go refinish the kitchen in my brain with an all-new activated-charcoal chic.  It’s the new thing this season for the cerebral experimental gastronomer.

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