When I Grow Up…

Hello, Internet.

It has been some time since my last post.  Indeed, it has been some time since any post was offered from the Bad Karma Ink site.  That is no fault of anyone or anything except the normal everyday rigors of reality.  The real world, the one beyond the website, full of real life things such as jobs, bills and family life is to blame for my absence.   An absence I mean to rectify.

Normally, I would be speaking in a musical sense here.   After all, my blog is entitled Harmonic Vicissitude and was based on the idea of musical variations.  However, harmonic vicissitude can also be a term for finding balance through changing phases in life and it is this definition that I am working with today.   Also, Bad Karma Ink celebrates the art of story telling.   So, rather than talk about music, allow me to tell you a story.  It is just as good of a way to get back into the swing of things as any.

And we will start with a question.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

The answer for me always changed the older I became.

The first answer, the oldest one that I can remember for that particular question, is probably one that most boys give.   I wanted to be just like my father.  I wanted to be strong like him.   I wanted to be able to do the same things he could do, be that fixing cars or building or whatever.  I looked up to him as a role model….not just because he was my father, but because he was larger than life.   He fought fires and melted steel.  He would smell of sweat, grease and hard work.   His fingernails would always have a dark ring of grime that the soap would never quite clean up.  He was hard when he had to be and loving always.   I knew this.  Even at a young age, I knew this.   I may not have understood completely at the time, but I believe that I still knew.  It made perfect sense.   I wanted the same qualities that I saw in my father.

Of course, things change.    Things always change.  As I grew, so did my wishes.  In middle school, I wanted to write comics.   My friend Mark Taylor was a terrific artist and it seemed a perfect fit.  In high school, I wanted to be in a band.  I couldn’t play guitar and didn’t know how to play the drums, but it didn’t matter.  I was a pretty decent singer, so I figured I could pull it off.   I played trombone, but that wouldn’t fly so well in a rock band.   I, however, could play piano a bit, and with a MIDI keyboard I knew I could create music that  I wanted, even with the little piano skill I had.   I was always told I had musical talents, and so I thought that would see me through.  In college, I discovered I had a knack for writing, and so my interests shifted towards that.

However, one thing that I didn’t have was a terribly long attention span.  It is apparent now, as I looked back, but then, I never thought of it as such.   I always blamed outside sources.   “Real life got in the way” is what I would say, just as I did in the beginning of this post, but in actuality it was simply a matter of losing interest.   I always did what I felt was the ‘responsible’ thing to do, putting aside my interests to do what was expected of me.   I sacrificed playing up to my strengths, using the creativity that was a part of me, to do what I had to do.  I would indulge a little when I had time to do what I wanted, such as write for this blog, but when it came down to freeing up time to do what was deemed necessary, the ‘hobbies’ went…including writing for myself.

Then, I had my son.   And, at first, it was a similar issue.   I did what I had to and cut out what I could so I could take care of my family.  But, then I realized something.

I became my father.

My childhood wish was true.  All the good qualities I saw in my father have made it into my own personality.   The sense of duty was there.   The strength, as well, though it was not the physical side that I saw so easily when I was young.   No, the strength of character was there, the internal determination that was always there.  The desire to do what is right was there.  The love that I have for my family…I understood now exactly how similar I was to my father, and I was grateful for the lesson.

It made me realize that I am still growing up, and that I can still be anything I want to be.

So, now, when I grow up, I want to be a storyteller.  I want to write.   I want to explore the creativity that is within me.   I want be silly.  I want to dress up in matching costumes with my son for Halloween or for any occasion.  I want to sing.  I want to create music.  I want to draw.  I want to build sand castles with working drawbridges and moats.  I want to make my mark in this world.

But, most of all, I want to be the best father I can possibly be for Donovan.   I want him to be whatever he wants to be and help him do whatever he wants to do.   Regardless of whatever else I do, I know that my greatest challenge and my greatest joy will be him.

Thank you for letting me indulge in this little side trip.   I promise that I will write more, and that future offerings will be a bit more light-hearted.

See ya around, Internet.

Brotherhood of the Hand: Worldfest Quicky

Hadn’t heard from Chris today, but considering I got a drunken “I love you, bro” text last night it may be a while. Anyways, here is the award winning script for Brotherhood of the Hand. Guess I have to finish off the novel now…

Original Poetry: A Poet’s Dream II by J.C. Gagliano

A Poet’s Dream II

The warmth of the fire lit my desire
To stay out longer that night
Little did I know that the devil would bestow
Unto me a night full of fright

I happened an upward glance and saw demons dance
Up in the midnight sky
They begged me to follow, but much to their sorrow
I offered a negative reply

The moon turned to blood, my emotions flood
Throughout my mind, body, and soul
The devil did smile, and all the whole while
His evil deeds took their toll

Life or death, suffocation or breath
It didn’t matter anymore
Creatures of the night that once gave fright
Were no longer fictitious lore

Blood hung from each fang, they were hungry again
And I was their next meal
I begged for an end, either they did not comprehend
Or they did not approve my appeal

Presently I awoke, my sheets sweat soaked
However; I was safe in my bed
I looked out the window, there hung a black widow
And the moon appeared to be red

Brotherhood of the Hand: Chapter 16

16

After I got up off the floor, I asked Kat to go get us some beer and I went back to work with guys, taking the back seat so that I didn’t have to hear anyone else bitch about it.  We were more or less done when Carl came back with Lisette in tow.

As much as I didn’t want to, I felt the need to apologize.  I had every right not to though.  After all, I seem to have been doing all the hard fucking work with this job, while Carl got to stand around and bitch and try boss us around.

And we still didn’t know about Lisette.  All of my fucking intel about her could be written with a thick magic marker on the back of a fucking playing card (I’ll leave it up to you which card I was thinking of).
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baD kARmA INk wants YOU!

That’s right, we want you:  Your thoughts, your feelings, and, most importantly, your content.  If you’d like to submit anything, art, fiction, reviews, poetry, music, whatever, just drop us a line at slushpile@badkarmaink.com and we’ll happily take a look.

Brotherhood of the Hand: Chapter 15

15

That night found Kat and I driving around in her Dad’s old pickup, wandering about looking for the perfect car.  Kat seemed more excited about it than I was.  That anarchistic streak of hers runs fucking deep.

Anyways, we cruised around town, looking for likely candidates, of which there were plenty.  The problem was finding one where we felt the surroundings where safe enough to get away with it.

We eventually settled on one on a street near my place.  It was a cul-de-sac, so there wasn’t any through traffic and there wasn’t much in the name of street lights.  Perfect conditions if you ask me.

The car was a 78 or 79 Malibu.  While scoping it out, I “lost” my pack of smokes out the window and “had to go back for them”.  Thankfully they actually bounced under the front of the car, so when I retrieved them I could check out the engine.

“How’s it look?” Kat asked when I got back in the truck.

“Pretty good.  It’s got a 350 in it, a little greasy around the oil pan but not too bad.  It looks like it’s in decent shape.”

“What about an alarm?”

“I didn’t see one of those blinking lights.  Sides, who’d put an alarm on that?”

“Good point.  When do you want to hit it?”

“Round two or three.  There shouldn’t be a lot of folks up at that point.”

“Well, it’s eleven now.”  She switched to southern belle. “Whatever shall we do till then?”

“My place is about three blocks from here.”

She looked dubious.

“I have air conditioning.”

“I knew I kept you around for a reason.”
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A Low Key Gathering: or, How Not Fitting In Made Me Fit Right In

The Low Key Gathering at House on the Rock was a fabulous time.

I arrived Friday afternoon, ready for fun. It had been a long week of mid-terms at college, and everyone but myself had been sick at my house for the previous two weeks. I felt empty, and used up. I was ready for a weekend…any weekend.

Other American Gods were gathering already, taking in the new visitor center. The new gods held little power over the whole complex, and people, myself included, gazed in consternation at their cell phones, wondering why they couldn’t seem to get a message to anyone, anywhere.

Through the magic ritual of waving my phone around like a spastic Harry Potter impersonator while murmuring pleas to the higher powers of 3G, I was eventually able to check into Foursquare. Thus knowing I was in the vicinity my compatriots located me, and we made small talk while waiting for all to begin.

As we talked, darkness began to fall. When the shadows had just begun to lengthen, I checked to ensure the tent doors (for a tent was where Neil would be speaking) had not yet been opened. We continued talking, and walked out perhaps 45 minutes later to find that more than one hundred people had arrived and formed a line to enter the tent, all under the cover of darkness. Or they simply teleported in from wherever they were. There’s no knowing, but they were suddenly there, and all ahead of us.

Once the doors were opened and we all filed in, it made no difference. The seats were excellent, and the great mass of us made small talk while we sat. As is my habit, I jumped into any conversation I happened to overhear a snippet of which interested me. In this manner I happened to meet Chuck Lawton of Wired’s Geekdad, which was a pleasure. Not only did Chuck deal with my eavesdropping and conversational intrusions with aplomb, he agreed that my decision to have my Kindle signed was “cool.” As I had been agonizing over the decision (what if he won’t sign it? what if the sharpie wears right off? what if it breaks next week?) it was nice to hear from someone else that it was a neat idea to have Neil sign all my books in one grand stroke.

Neil did not keep us waiting long, and his arrival was greeted with great cheers and applause.

Then, Neil read to us.

I’ve always loved listening to Neil read his pieces, and have all the albums wherein he does so. This, though, was my first time hearing him read something live. There, next to the House on the Rock, which I knew as an old friend before American Gods was published, Neil wove a spell. The tent we were in wooshed in and out, as if it were drawing in great breaths and holding them, the better to hear him speak. His words, telling again the story of Shadow and Mr. Wednesday making their way from Illinois to the great carousel, rolled and skittered amongst us until they filled the place. Finally, as Shadow stepped on the carousel and his world changed shape, the tent let out its breath, and the world spun wildly around me. I looked about, and realized that as Shadow was seeing the American Gods, so was I, all around me.

The fans of Neil Gaiman are a curious bunch. They cross the boundaries of fandom, coming from all walks. The single thing I think they have in common is a yearning for the other place…the place past this world that we seem to touch on every once in a while. As I sat in that tent, with Neil looking out at us, we all touched it together, just for a moment. We were the gathering of American Gods.

Neil smiled, and we all breathed again, and the applause was thunderous. He had stated that he couldn’t imagine reading anything else, at that place and that time. His decision was certainly right.

Neil then answered some of the questions that had been emailed in. His thoughts on Joseph Campbell were enlightening, and his quote of the night (“Twitter is to blogging like crack cocaine is to a nice glass of red wine.”) regarding his accessibility to fans was phenomenal. Also, he informed us that there’s a super-tentative-maybe-probably-not-but-it-could-happen chance that American Gods will be a television series.

Neil then read us a few more things, including a poem entitled “My Last Landlady” which captured the Hallowe’en vibe quite well. He finished with a reading of a short story about Saint Oran and Saint Columba and the island of Iona, a tale I knew before, but which was beautifully executed.

We filed out of the tent shortly after, many of us headed for another line, as we had tickets to have Neil sign things for us. I was certainly tired, as it was ten o’clock, and I’d been up since five, but I felt refreshed by the nights events. After a quick stop at the loo, I got in the (now enormous) line, and prepared to meet the man. My compatriots were quite a ways ahead of me, as they apparently have bladders of steel, or the ability to weasel through lines like greased ferrets. Mayhaps both.

I must stop here, and inform you that this was not the first time I’d met Neil. I’d seen him once before, in passing, in Madison, when I recognized him on the street, a long time ago (’94? ’95? I’d have to check my journals to be sure.) I awkwardly greeted him by mispronouncing his last name. He seemed genuinely surprised, gave me a quick handshake, and went off to wherever he was headed. I had no idea that he was living in the Midwest then, and still imagined him as a London writer. I hadn’t seen much of America yet, and in some ways his visions of American places had colored mine, as well. In some ways, they still do, making places I only visit on occasion just a bit brighter than they might otherwise be.

After two hours in line, during which I got to know some delightful Illini in line ahead of me and torture them with my attempts at humor, I arrived at Neil. I greeted him with a “Hullo, Neil,” and he smiled and said “Hello” back. Although obviously tired, he was definitely not weary, and was kind enough to let me stumblingly inform him that “Your dreams sometimes let my dreams speak to me more clearly. Thank you for sharing your dreams with us, Neil,” while he signed my Kindle. He then smiled warmly, and looked into my eyes, and shook my hand. I always feel like a blazing idiot when I meet famous people, but Neil made me feel unselfconscious about it. Thank you, Mr. Gaiman.

The next day, I awoke to find myself feeling old. I know I AM old in some ways, but at age thirty-three should I feel hung over just for staying up till two AM? I prepared myself for the day with Angry Bull Testicle Juice and pastry, and headed off to the House on the Rock once more.

Arriving at 10:30, I figured I would make the second panel with Patrick Rothfuss quite easily. However, 15 minutes later, I found that I had neglected to actually read my welcome packet thoroughly, because those panels were taking place at the House on the Rock Resort. Being a Spring Green resident for the last four years, I knew this was down Highway C, near the American Players Theater. Being a Spring Green resident of humble means and a current college student, I didn’t know exactly where, as I can’t afford either. So, I set off to find it.

I arrived a few minutes late, to find that Patrick Rothfuss is a guy I would absolutely love to sit down and have a few drinks with and talk about damned near anything. The panel was a delight, and I sincerely hope that Neil’s WebGoblin can get them up somewhere for everyone who wasn’t there or able to see them streaming live. A few (loose) quotes from the panelists:

“When communications change, the story changes. When the story changes, mythology changes.”

“In ancient times, there was no one true story. With the rise of the internet, we can have open source Gods back.”

“We don’t love our Gods for how we feel about them. We love them for how they make us feel about ourselves.”

“You used to count bodies on your altar. Now you count pageviews.”

Good stuff! All the panels were fabulous during the day, but this one stood out for me. It was very dynamic. I wish I hadn’t missed the first few minutes.

After that panel I again met up with my compatriots, and we moved from panel to panel. We saw people speak on the nature of fear, and the mythological melting pot of the Midwest. I asked a few questions that may have possibly even made me sound like I wasn’t the quintessential idiot. We had lunch, and we talked about the ideas these panels had gently freed in our heads and left rolling around. We even saw a panel on teaching using the works of Gaiman! I know I would certainly take such a class.

The day wore on, and I felt more and more tired. My sense of alienation was rising. I felt like I didn’t belong at something this great. I didn’t have a costume planned, because I didn’t have the time or energy while focusing on school to get something together beforehand. Also, I secretly hate dressing up, because it draws attention to me. Put me in a room with more than 10 people and I mostly want to hide in a corner. However, one of my compatriots had pushed at me enough that I attempted to throw something together when I headed home for a quick dinner.

So it was that I found myself in a large green robe a few hours later, a small work hammer in my hand and a glowing blue mason jar tied to my waist with a rope belt. Twenty minutes of digging around the house had made me Goibhniu, Celtic craft god and lord of the forge. He always appears in drawings dressed in green, and is known to brew the draught of immortality from the rays of the moon. If it weren’t for the fact that I naturally look like an idiot, it might even have been an okay costume.

I arrived to find the costume contest beginning, with the line of participants stretching far into the night. Not wanting too many people to have to see me, I ducked in the side door to watch the proceedings.

Sadly, no stage was erected for the participants of the contest. With half the tent taken over by the slow moving line, and many of the contestants unable to sit down, the costume contest was a few hours of attempting to see what everyone was talking about. I did get to see all the contestants and their wondrous costumes, usually a few minutes after they were introduced, as they left the holding area and moved past me. I was a bit tired, and restless, and not really feeling very much like going to a party by the time the contest was ending. I also felt rather self conscious in my costume attempt.

So it was that I moved with everyone else to the Welcome Center, where drinks were had, and mingling transpired. My compatriots took off into the night, mischief on their minds. I grabbed an excellent manhattan, and headed into the House on the Rock.

The House is possibly the strangest place for a party to happen, ever. I’ve been there many times, but had never seen it like this. The mystery of the place is incredible after dark. Shadows move and sway as you walk throughout, and colors and lights take on an otherworldly clarity, as if they’ve become hyper-real. Laughing couples rushed past while others slow danced in the corner, swaying in time to the slightly off key strains of the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies while unmanned instruments moved behind them. I think that night may have been the closest I’ve ever come to how my grandmother used to describe Underhill. Still, in the midst of all this wonder, I felt apart.

Perhaps it wouldn’t have been so, if I hadn’t been alone. I don’t know. My wife was at home, and another dear friend couldn’t make it but desperately wanted to be there with me. I looked at everyone having a grand time, and knew that I didn’t belong there that night. I was trying too hard.

A beautiful young woman who obviously had imbibed too much already fell into me, and I held her up. We chatted for a few minutes, and she invited me back to her room. The desperation in her eyes seemed wild, and I felt as if she could somehow sense that I was the outsider, and wished to take me away from there. I politely turned her down, taking care to be gentle, and maneuvered her to a party of nearby revelers who were taking in the show of a street magician. I watched as the delight reentered her eyes, and knew she was back in the dream.

I wandered on.

I headed into the carousel room just in time to see Neil climb aboard. I was a ways off, as the crowd was large, but I watched him go around, the look of joy so naked on his face that I nearly cried. I waved as he took pictures of the crowd, and cheered as some of the other contest winners climbed aboard. For a moment, it was as if the joy of the whole thing was too much. Then the eyes of the mannequin angels above gazed down on me, and the weariness set in once more.

I left the carousel room, headed outside, thinking that perhaps just a bit of air would do me good. I wandered up the walkway to one of the unlit alcoves that show the tremendous view of the hillside leading down from the rock during the day, and found my jar of glowing immortality juice illuminating another couple who wished a “quiet moment.” I quickly looked away.

“Sorry. I took a wrong turn.”

“Oh. Were you looking for the exit?”

“No, no. I know where I’m headed.”

That was when I knew that the exit was where I needed to go. The party just wasn’t in me that night. I turned, and walked up the ramps to the parking lot. I looked back over my shoulder as I neared the car, and I smiled.

Although it wasn’t what I expected, it was a night I won’t forget. I might not have felt like I did, but I’d fit in as well as anyone. I will never forget the weekend where I was an American God.

A Low Key Gathering: Pat’s Take

As Tony stated, I was at attendance for the American Gods shindig at the House on the Rock with Ben and my girlfriend Joanna. He also stated that I was going to write up my take on the whole event.

Unfortunately, I have no idea where to start.

I mean, I could start with our arrival, the milling around awaiting the opening of the bar or the tent where Neil was to make his appearance or the cast of characters in attendance. Or maybe I could start with the air of anticipation and amazement that oozed from the crowd.

Ah, I know, I’ll start at the beginning.

I picked up American Gods more or less at random. I was probably just looking for something to read and chose it because it was written by Neil Gaiman, and, really, you can’t go wrong there.  Little did I know…

If you haven’t read it, you totally need to, especially since I’m going to drop some minor spoilers.

The book posits that the gods of the old world moved to the U.S. with the immigrants that once worshiped them, but as the belief fades, so does their power. Weakened, they are more reliant on places of power, places like the House on the Rock.

The scene in American Gods concerning the House wasn’t long, but it did play an important role. As such, Gaiman gave it the proper respect with a wonderful descritption of the House and the highlights of the fantastic collection of Alex Jordan.

Had I not seen the signs, I would not have believed it was a real place. After all, who would believe that the world largest carousel is in a backwater town in Wisconsin? Who would believe a madman built a 3 story whale diorama?

Well, the description, as seemingly impossible as it was, stuck with me. After all, I knew it was a real place and maybe, just maybe, it was as fantastic as it sounded.

Finally, years after finishing the book and purposely leaving it in Texas for my family to read, I got the opportunity to go to the House on the Rock, and let me tell you, Neil Gaiman’s description could not do it justice. The scope, the enormity, the complexity, the madness, it… It just can’t be put into words. Many have tried and few ever manage to convey the magic that is Alex Jordan’s madnness, but American Gods probably is the closest.

I love the place.  Hell, I’ve been there 3 times this year, and I have to tell you, it really is magical. That’s the only way to describe it: magical.  One of those trips was this summer with my family and the look of amazement on their faces was inspiring.

I saw that look on the faces of hundreds of people this past weekend.

Yes there was a reading/Q&A, yes there was autographs to be had, and yes there were many a talk and panel only interesting to myth and/or literary dorks like ourselves, but none of that could compare to Saturday night.

Imagine, if you will, a dark, strange, magical place of twisting corridors full of huge brass objects, vast collections of dolls, sculptures, miniatures, old clockwork curiosities, and self playing musical set pieces. Now, add in hundreds of like minded people that either love the House on the Rock or the dark literary rock star that is Neil Gaiman, all in costume, from a 15 foot tall Statue of Liberty to dozens of characters in the book, wandering from room to room, bar to bar, talking, eating, drinking, enjoying, and generally having a good time.

In a word, it was simply AWESOME.

A Low Key Gathering: An Outsider’s Insider View

There was a disturbance of the peace this Halloween weekend.  A peaceful disturbance, if there is such a thing.

People from all parts of the country flocked to the small town of Spring Green for two days of mystery, wonder and magic.  A thousand people, to be precise.

Every available room at every motel booked.   The parking lots of these motels filled with cars bearing out-of-state license plates…Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York.  Cars that were still cooling from the dozens of hours of driving.

What could have been the siren’s call to all these people?

Well, it might have something to do with one of the thousand.   You see, one visitor in particular wrote a book featuring a landmark that happens to be within 10 minutes of Spring Green.  A place that just so happens to be exactly 9 miles away from the front door of my apartment in the normally quiet little town.

That visitor is Neil Gaiman.  The book is American Gods.  The landmark is the House on the Rock.

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State of the Blog: 10/26/10

Ladies and gents, as you can see the bkI blog is up and running, barely. I have never had a db go this bad on me ever before, and it was a pain to fix, but we’re finally back up and running.

Unfortunately we’re not at 100%, so expect to see tweaks and changes as time goes by.

Now, the important stuff: Content is already coming down the feed with more to come, specifically we’ll catch-up with Brotherhood of the Hand and bkI will be at The House on the Rock this Halloweekend to celebrate Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, not to mention write up the cool things that are happening, take pics, watch Joanna try to seduce Neil, etc.

Stay Tuned!