Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mill Avenue Nights, December 15th 2007

It was cold.

I took the bus.

These two sentences do not actually have a causal relationship; they just accurately frame the beginning of this Saturday’s Mill Ave visit. I am not complaining—not loudly at least—but I think that I could see my breath. The chill in the air, I’m afraid, meant that I didn’t have much of a chance to use my pen and paper to scrawl down notes so I am working primarily from my own diligent memory.

After wandering the length and breadth of my beloved Ave, I finally settled around the drum circle where a girl (whose name escapes me) was selling tie-dye shirts. “Shirts make good Christmas presents; good presents make good friends!”

After spending some time with them, I made my way down to see Lawrence at the Graffiti Shop and to meet the author of the SociallyACCEPTABLE magazine. I had picked one up at Graffiti the weekend before and read it from front to back. The entire format is highly independent press, and they were offering advertising, so I figured, what the hell.

I ended up walking him down to where the drum circle usually takes place in order to show him where it happens.

Drum circle felt extremely sparse tonight. In fact, it was extremely sparse. I didn’t see half of the people that I normally see. I did hand out a great deal of booklets, and left three at Graffiti, I also have prints of Merry Vexing Christmas to hand out, which is only proper.

This finally brings us, of course, to the street preachers.

Today I lacked Kazz. Which means that I got to stand around and observe them in their “natural” element with little disturbance – oddly, Emanuel also didn’t show. Well, perhaps this is not that odd as he’s a college student at ASU and this is the dreaded Finals week, or, for those far more lucky: time to run away, run away home. (Like the ladybug.) Instead! Tonight the arrival of two new interesting parties caught my attention. People with bullhorn!

Yes, only one bullhorn, but two people.

Which proved to be fairly interesting because the preachers use a loudspeaker and a microphone and a bullhorn provides more than enough volume to counteract the “he who speaks the loudest is correct” atmosphere that crowd address produces. The real fun didn’t actually start until the preachers finally left for the evening (about 11p.m., which is boring because it leaves me with a few hours of no entertainment… No, I’m exaggerating. I usually just go back to the drum circle and sit next to one of my friends and listen to stories at that point.)

Tonight, however, the two young men with the bullhorn remained and decided to make up their own impromptu street preacher routine. Which included interesting statements. “The Church is not for you. Go somewhere else.” “God loves women, especially lesbians.” Among other equally amusing one liners directed at passersby and generally mocking the entire purpose of standing on a street corner with a bullhorn.

The drum circle, despite being sparse, did have some interesting characters. The number of rail jumpers has increased dramatically over the past few weeks, so I’ve been listening to people discuss what trains to catch, where, and how. Fingers pointed, limbs gesticulating. You can take a train headed east out of the train jungle over there and it’ll take you to Tucson and then eventually to San Francisco! I have received some promises from stories from street rats I have yet to know well.

Also, news of Helena, who is a sprightly lass that I met last winter—rather young, but extremely cute—who listened raptly with a charismatic smile (and I’d hoped to see her again this winter.) She was a little social butterfly and, as far as I could see, an excellent influence on everyone. I suppose that I enjoy her presence in no small part because she liked me. There is always something to be said about how much simple admiration can change an impression. (“Yeah, she really talked about you a lot.”) This all makes the news about her a little bit more dreadful.

Apparently, she’s ended up in a mental institution. Way back in either Alabama or Kentucky. That’s ominous news, she didn’t seem crazy to me…and being someone who spends a great deal of time on Mill, with a little experience of psychology, crazy is a little bit obvious. Of course, she is a street rat of indeterminate age…and I had my suspicions.

Sad. I need more perky, good listeners with interesting stories to talk to.

Next week I may not be able to make it out to Mill on Saturday. If I’m lucky, I’ll be there on Friday.

As always, keep an eye out for Vexations booklets in The Graffiti Shop!

And, well, when I’m on Mill all eyes on me. And stories, more stories.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I just came up with another tagline for Vexations, tell me what you think:

Burning rubber where angels fear to tread.

And a poem:

Through the dry desert, across the painted sky; / Past the Mogollon forest, and under Coyote's watchful eye; / to Grandmother Spider's house we go!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mill Avenue Nights, Saturday December 8th 2007

I am becoming cheerful of Emanuel’s company on Saturday’s when Kazz and he wait out their time amongst the street preachers. He’s intelligent, charming, and reflects a humor that I’ve seen lost on many people in my life. I think that I am extremely glad that Kazz met him. Of course, this extends the circle of atheists that I keep in my midst, so I think that this will create no shortfall of adventure in discussion on religion.

This Saturday, once again, felt cold to my bones, but it wasn’t as terrible as could have been expected—rain was forecast, a rain that did not crash down on us as we stood among the crowds of Mill. Sadly, we also arrived extremely late, which cut severely into my ability to peck out my usual haunts and check on the welfare of my charges…

The drum circle populated lightly and none of the usual haunts shook out many people to see, however, I did come bearing gifts: the preview release of Vexations Volume 6: Writing on the Wall (artwork visible after link).

I did get a couple booklets handed out, including one for Lawrence at the Graffiti Shop, because he’s special to me. Although, in retrospect, I probably should have remembered to sign it for him.

Interesting measures: I have come into possession of the response-tract to Kazz’s GOD LOVES SLAVERY tract. I have added it to my folder of tracts from Mill Ave, and I am going to include a timeline so that I can track this dialogue. To further that same dialogue, Kazz has produced another tract which develops the history of Christmas and its reflections in the Christian Bible. This time, he printed it in full, blazing color with a green Christmas tree on the front, and other colorful elements.

I wonder what the reply to that shall bring.

The street preachers seem a bit strained by our presence, I’ve noticed. They have started to speak out against Kazz’s tracts—telling people directly that they shouldn’t read his writing, “he’s a devil, [Emanuel,] you wouldn’t listen to a lying devil would you?” and such things as “throw that away, it’s not the truth.” To be pointed, this was all David speaking these words. When I was showing off Vexations and the Seasons works he refused to look at them—all the better, I fear that they would insult his sensibilities, which is why I don’t often offer my work to the preachers. They’re not exactly my audience.

Tension mounts, but I have my notepad and my camera.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mill Avenue Nights, Saturday December 1st 2007

Tonight’s little narrative will start with our arrival at the Ave, which was slowed up slightly by discovering that people had noticed our little hidey-hole of a parking structure (no, I’m not telling where.) Kazz was forced to drive his brick-red SUV up an extra level to find a space—which caused some amusement when we returned at 2a.m., the place was mostly empty, and the vehicle wasn’t to be seen in our usual parking space.

The rainfall earlier in the day left a wet scrim of puddles and moisture on the sidewalks and buildings, but the best part about tonight was the closure of Mill Ave to motor traffic. It isn’t every day that a person can safely visit the circle of bricks in the middle of 5th and Mill without being run down by a drunkenly driven bimbo-box. Today the shells of white tarp form the tents from the Art Fair. Which, I am told my the news, would not turtle itself due to the thunderstorm that rolled through that weekend.

The cold is into the mid 50s and just chilly enough to make my fingers ache as I clutch my Witch Hunter Robin messenger bag, the volumes sliding through numb fingers as I proffer them to attractive passersby.

Drum Circle

It took it a while to actually start up, to the point where the drum circle really only barely found its jive by the time we vacated the park in order avoid the baleful eye of the TPD and others. As always, it reformed out in front of the post office with the “No Loitering” sign sighing and drinking coffee bought from Starbucks across the street.

At one point during the evening Remy and a gaggle of other Mill rats stumbled past a warning on his lips, “A friend of mine – in with the cops – came and warned me that they were going to sweep through there, so be careful and don’t attract attention. Not that you usually do.”

So, of course, Kazz, Emanuel, and I went down to drum circle so that I could report on the cops “sweeping through” and catching people who attracted attention. We waited almost an hour (up until midnight exodus) and were met with a disappointing anticlimax. No cops. No sweep. Nothing so much as a peep of activity for my pen to eviscerate.

The Demographics of a Football Game Night

ASU vs. UofA? I don’t know. Football really doesn’t spin my wheels, but the people who crowd to these games do. So, after the finale of spattered fireworks lit up our eyes and deafened our ears, the Sun Devil stadium’s vomitoriums sluiced forth their spillage of humanity onto the shores of Mill Ave.

Mostly college age folks and some in their thirties take task to the Ave and wander past cheering together. Motley bunches of brightly plumed costumes (the maroon and gold prominent on sweaters) cheering and jeering their favorite team names. A fight even broke out near the preachers—the police intervened and it ended without much incident. Later on we saw a pack of TEAM leading an irate woman away from the area of Tempe City Hall (the upside-down pyramid.)

Street Preachers

An event that almost every social anthropologist watches for happened tonight with the street preachers—I discovered a cultural dialogue happening! This story starts during the previous Saturday (one that I neglected to properly blog.)

Kazz decided to take his atheist mores and approach the people talking to the street preachers with better and more defensible tracts than he did before. After poring over numerous documents he developed a quote-by-quote rendering of the King James Version Bible that directly supported the premise – and gloating title of the tract – “GOD LOVES SLAVERY.”

Once again, I let this develop on its own. Kazz and Emanuel passed out these tracts to passersby and even the preachers (one of whom, David, I believe, commented, “I want to read these lies for myself.”) This night he approached me with questions such as, “You didn’t read those did you? They’re perverting the Truth.” I have some qualms about this sort of attitude that I’ll get into later, now onto the dialogue.

One of the preachers—whose name I do not know—printed up some triple-length-fold-overhand tracts with a cute little ASCII cross and some equally ASCII art Jesus fish stating: “The Bible does condemn slavery.” In one week, these were written, produced, and printed in response to Kazz’s tracts! They are a new work. They attempt to speak to the direct KJV quotes from Kazz’s SLAVERY tracts. However, they also seem to ramble off into weird directions such as talking about Muslim slavery and then finally stagger into dark territory with the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

To document this dialogue fully I will have to get copies of both of these tracts and get them scanned in (and, I hope, permission to post them.) The real warp and weft of communities and cliques is visible where they rub up against each other, this is a brilliant example of one of those evanescent events. My next mission will be to talk to the originator of the counter-tract and get his take on the production of his reply and why he decided to go that route.

As I promised, my thoughts on “perverting the Truth.” Yes, Truth with a capital ‘T’. Why? Because when one of these people says the word they mean absolute, incontrovertible veracity in a supernatural sense Truth. And, of course, he’s referring to the dogmatic Christian Bible and the direct quotes from KJV that Kazz reflected in his SLAVERY tract. I looked at his straight and said,

“My people don’t hold up your Bible as a credible source. So, no, I don’t believe those quoted scriptures. Yes, I did read it. And, doesn’t it make you feel a little bit queasy that you have a supposed Truth that can be ‘perverted’ by directly quoting it?” This brings me distinctly, in fact, to one of my favorite dogmatic cop-outs that is designed to cover this exact eventuality (someone else using the Bible to disagree with you.

“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”

This quote is scintillating in its sheer insidiousness; easily comparing a detractor, who, quoting directly from the same holy book as they, to the personification of all evil—that Adversary of YHVH (or more properly humanity, being that Satan is supposedly prosecuting counsel in a celestial court...) But, in all its elegance it reflects a thunderously worrisome fact: not only can the devil quote it for his own purpose, people can too! It’s one thing when a supernatural power, quintessential to the very inner-workings of morality can warp the Truth into verisimilitude (being that it’s a supernatural Truth after all) but it’s totally another when the mundane, feeble mortals who toil beneath the benevolent gaze of the Lord can do exactly the same thing.

What kind of a moral authority is this that can be so easily turned against itself without even the supernatural leverage of a super-being?

I don’t quite know the answer but it concerns me greatly. The best way to knock down this behavior, of course, still remains critically examining even this holy book, not as the Truth, but as an ancillary tradition that reflects the history of the Christian people. And by this day and age it’s an ancient history. One that updates poorly to contemporary values because when treated as a Truth (including the reprehensible commands and laws from the Old Testament) practitioners are barred from modifying—and sometimes rationally thinking about—how this affects their daily lives and the lives of others.

“Don’t stop thinking.” Kazz’s tracts end. They may be dark criticism of extremely bad attitudes promulgated by ancient bigotry enshrined forever in a holy book, but the conclusion is still the important seed to take away. It’s not his job to give you something better; it’s your job not to do or facilitate evil.

Think about it is sound advice.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Hello Cory: Fan fiction and remix culture

I don't even know how to preface this...


So, I decided to get over being timid and send in my story, Hello Cory, to Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing and he put a link to it up on his blog.

Then, today I get in from going out to Mill, and check to see if anyone has commented -- and it seems that someone has made an mp3 of it!

I am really tired and wiped out from my Mill visitation and I normally don't post this late, but my thanks goes out to Paul Parkinson for adapting the story for audio...

(Suddenly I wish that I had edited it better.)

More power to Creative Commons.

So happy.

Goodnight folks. Adieu and have wonderful dreams.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Vex Harrow in Twilight and Thorns, Dec 1st 2007

Upcoming horror anthology, Twilight and Thorns published by Circle Dark Publishing will contain a Vexations story starring Vex Harrow and her taxi! Full news story over at the Mill Avenue Vexations news blog.

The cover, you can see immediately to the right, was just released yesterday and the full anthology will be published in e-book format this upcoming Saturday, the 1st of December. Since most of my fans have access to computers, I hope that they will take a moment of their day to look over the stories available in this anthology and possibly purchase.

"Step On It" by Kyt Dotson, starring Vex Harrow, is only available in the Twilight and Thorns anthology.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hello Cory aka I get strange at 2a.m.

Introducing Hello Cory by Kyt Dotson. Thou can find the full text over at Vexations.

Here's a small snip of the text:

That’s when I saw him. An uncanny wind kicked up, blowing dust and desert debris across the road and caught his crimson cape with an almost-superhero snapshot pose as he leaned into the gale.

He saw me, waved, and managed a shrill cab-call whistle. Having turned to face me, I could see that aside from the dashing red cape, he also wore a pair of blue goggles. Even if I had considered passing him up, the sheer novelty of his costume compelled me to pull to a stop only a few car lengths past.

The radio, which had been playing something guttural and death-metal on my drive out of AJ, abruptly switched to a piano ditty that reminded me of a Prohibition era Speakeasy riddled with the pops and cracks of static. The door opened and entered my newest fare—goggles pushed up onto his broad forehead, now nestled in his close-cut hair and red cape yanked in as he closed the door against the night.

“I couldn’t help but notice,” he said, “that you have an EFF sticker on the back of your cab.”

Link, via Mill Avenue Vexations

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I've spent the better part of a week and a half reading this book: Taxi! A Social History of the New York Cabdriver. For the most part, this is a title that delivers. It's a long, well researched, jaunt across the eras from the original cabbies of New York emergence in 1907 to the contemporary industry of 2006.

Overall the chapters are extremely dry. This is a history book, it makes no pretenses of being anything else. And there is the odd gross grammar error and edit glitch to smirk at here and there. I did enjoy mostly the anecdotes peppered throughout the text. However, they are too spare to really make it light reading. For those looking for a comprehensive look at the evolution of this industry in New York, this is probably the book. The beginning few chapters cover decade spans each, attempting to convey the brimming emotions and zeitgeist prevalent to the era.

Both industry/union strikes and the legislation that lead to certain elements of the modern day career are developed. The slang and the attitudes of both cabbies and the public are discussed. And some of my favorite parts of the text involve the popular portrayals of cabdrivers in movies. I will probably try to purchase some of these films and TV shows to draw more ideas for Vexations.

The image of the cover is a link to the book at I suggest anyone who has any interest in these interesting people who prowl the city streets, providing that last link in transit to many millions of people a year, get it and read it.

I gravitated to this book because of Ms. Vex Harrow's taxi driving experiences. I already read Mean Streets, but that didn't give me a lot of comprehension of the history of a whole. While New York City isn't much like Phoenix – or so I gather – it is another large city and some of its problems will be reflected here. Her taxi isn't supposed to be just some paper-mâché backdrop, it’s her lifeline, and my best method for bringing the audience into Phoenix.

I have a lot of experience riding in cabs, but not driving them. It is, therefore, necessary for me to bridge those gaps.

Who is more free on the streets than a taxi cab driver? Catching fares from various areas and conveying them to and fro with a veteran ease. They are blurry birds, acute in their apprehension of the motion of traffic and the layout of the city. If there is a heartbeat driving those arteries, they’d know it. It’s the perfect place for someone like Vex to gaze at the motions of the city around her—it gives me the perfect chance to move the world through the backseat of her cab and deliver their hearts, minds, and lifelines to the audience through her senses.

And it gives me numerous, less-than-contrived, entrances to the otherworldly wonders that Phoenix possesses.

And everyone is invited.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mill Avenue Nights, Saturday November 17th

Tonight, tonight… Things went a little differently. Our first order of business—with Kazz at the helm of the red SUV he and his lovely kaywng drive—we bopped on down to my favorite drag after making a brief stop off to collect another companion in these escapades: Omni. The thought was, at least on Kazz’s part, that if Omni didn’t awaken by 9p.m. and we did not arrive to collect him in person, he would be standing us up again as he did the last two times.

That ended up working out extremely well and sadly doesn’t make a good story especially during a bleary-eyed morning after hitting the Ave.

Kazz has been showing his atheist streak and has been agitating for some anti-tracts to be able to pass out to combat the tracts that the preachers pass out. Talk about the development of an ever more complex immune-system metaphor. So, in plying my own efforts, I tried to hunt down some cultural criticism that pokes directly at the arguments they use and the pamphlets that they themselves print. It was difficult to find anything on short notice but I did grab some things and we printed out some forty of them. However, I didn’t find the discussing in them altogether socially compelling (you could read it here) and while Kazz agreed he carried them anyway.

However, he inevitably balked at handing any of them out.

Jeremiah and Todd

The real fun arrived because a very familiar face joined the preachers: Jeremiah. He usually comes with an easel and a series of laminated posters proclaiming the same wrong, tired arguments year after year. One of my favorite is still the poster proclaiming how Kent Hovind is offering $250,000 for someone who can provide empirical evidence supporting the theory of evolution. The argument goes that, in spite of mounting evidence supporting the scientific theory, nobody has yet been able to claim the money. Thus: evolution is obviously wrong. Else someone would be two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars richer. Right? Well, if that logic follows, then I’d like to point out that Cory Doctorow, et al. are offering one million dollars to anyone who can provide empirical evidence that Jesus is not the son of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (the deity of Pastafarianism.) In spite of this gigantic amount of money dangling tantalizingly, nobody has stepped forward to claim it. Thus: Jesus must obviously be the son of the Flying Spaghetti monster. (Which I figure most people who want to wield the previous challenge would say is preposterous.)

Why exactly the street preachers feel that entering into the ID vs. evolution debate actually does their positions on other things any actual credit, I’m not sure. Jeremiah could at least use a more honest approach.

Never fear! Todd is here! Shortly after Jeremiah took to the stand (and I got my moment to actually greet him), Todd materialized from the Mill Ave crowds. Todd is another highly charged atheist fellow who lends his bellowing lungs and encompassing arm motions to take over Jeremiah’s forum. In fact, when first noticing that Jeremiah had returned to the Ave, people wondered aloud how far behind Todd could be.

Once all that got into full swing, I left the preachers, Todd, and Kazz to their own devices. Since I don’t really hit Mill to be a mouthpiece for either philosophy. I’m down here to hand out Vexations, observe the culture, and actually get to meet people. While the abrasion against the arterial flow of the Ave is a good place for this—they provide a narrowing of the stream that slows down traffic and puts likely people within my range of observation—places like the drum circle, the various spray painters, and other entertainers make equally good fishing spots.


Out of the various characters that I made acquaintance with that night, I saw a face I haven’t seen in a while: Dawn.

She’s an old Mill rat who used to sell hand-made hemp necklaces out of the brick planter near to the Urban Outfitters (where the preachers set up.) I like her because she has a calm, hippy chick chic comportment and embodies a nature I’d like to see more of on the Ave. She brought me harrowing news of greater harassment from the police towards people who sell their wares (such as hers) on the Ave. Over the summer of my absence, she had been threatened with arrest if she continued. I am hoping to gather more stories from her about this behavior (dates, times) and compare notes with other activists to see what the City has been up to. Other interesting things of note is that the City has gone out of its way to make it more difficult for people to actually be on the Ave by removing places to sit and those very planters that I was referring to above.


The night culminated in a walk through the Hayden’s Ferry Lakeside multipurpose projects…or whatever they’re called. It’s that region of condominiums and office buildings immediately abutting the fake lake. It may not have the same draw as Mill for people, but we discovered a constant clutter of individuals moving in and out. Some on foot, some on bikes, and the odd police car prowling the dark without headlight crunching in the gravel.

The Saga of the Lost Cell Phone

One particular event played itself out in that we discovered a cell phone, fallen in the gutter, with some jewelry out near Monti’s. Kazz plucked it up as we went along while we tried to determine exactly what to do with it (it’s not like the Ave exactly has a Lost & Found.)

So, I suggested that he check the address book, perhaps it would garner some clues on how to contact the person. While he was doing this the phone began to ring and he answered, it seemed the people who had dropped it realized that it was missing. I heard Kazz talking on it and noticed a pair of people—a boy and a girl—racing quickly down the sidewalk across the street, one of them had a cell phone in hand.

“Where are you at?” Kazz asks.

“I think, I found them,” I said. “They’re right across the street. Tell them that I’m holding my cane up. Everyone turn back, they’re over by Monti’s.”

“Hey, maybe now you can go and have your moment!” Kazz said, dripping sarcasm. He’s trying to make a joke about a comment about Michael Monti once being quoted as saying that nobody had told him, “I had a personally changing moment leaning against your adobe wall.”

Well, it wasn’t exactly that moving, but we returned an important personal item to a young lady leaning against that adobe wall. I’m not going to pretend it was anything more than good citizenship, I’m just glad it worked out so well. The prospect of actually calling entries in someone else’s cell phone is a little daunting. What do you say to “Dad” when you call him? “I found your son/daughter’s cell phone and I’m trying to return it.” Talk about a little awkward.

Between Todd, Jeremiah, the street preachers, seeing some fans of Vexations, and the saga of the cell phone, this Saturday turned out to be a good day indeed.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Special Edition Volume 5 Booklets In

We have just gotten in a small supply of full color Mill Avenue Vexations Volume 5: Drum Circle booklets. There is a very limited supply, and these are essentially special editions in that I am going to sell them to interested parties for a notable sum ($10 which is certainly more than I sell normal booklets.) This is primarily so that I can recoup some of the cost for printing usual volumes, since 90% of the cost will go to future booklet printing runs anyway (whereas part of the price might just get me soda or something.)

Must feed book habit!

Also, I notice that I totally neglected to announce the release of Volume 5 on this blog. How dreadful of me. Although, I have a feeling that most readers of this blog already know about it (from regularly visiting the Vexations News blog, hint hint) but I shouldn’t leave the wholesome few who keep this on their lists.

So. Even though the very-next-announcement will probably be about Volume 6… Mill Avenue Vexations Volume 5: Drum Circle by Kyt Dotson has been released to print, to PDF e-book, and to the web! Featuring our rising star taxicab driver, Vex Harrow, and all manner of misfortune due to hit the metropolitan area of Tempe and Phoenix. This volume also loudly features the Mill Ave drum circle (in one chapter) in order to give readers a clear view of the geography and the social makeup of the setting.

Liberal sprinkling of poetic license reserved by the author.

The extremely lovely cover featured is by Nicole Cardiff, and this isn’t the first time Vexations has had artwork by her (she also did the cover for The Byzantium Outcast.) With new, and beautiful, chapter illustrations by Alan Gallo.

Keep a look out for Vexations Volume 6 and the Seasons collectable cards.


Not the Daily Show, the Writers' Strike

Most people who know me, know that I'm a writer. Everyone else probably also knows that there's a writers' strike going down in Hollywood and that a number of prime time TV shows are enmeshed in this kerfuffle that have shoved them directly into reruns.

I found this wonderful video via an article on Boing Boing.

I may not be the type of writer these people are (I'm a novelist, not a screenwriter) but anyone who works for money can empahtize with this plight. Especially anyone who works in an evolving industry, or scrapes up against one.

All told, the video is hilarious, and I am so glad that the Daily Show's host John Stewart promised to help his writers out even as they strike.

So, watch, laugh, and read up on this strike. if you enjoy the witty banter and dramatic lines of the entertainment industry, this may as well matter to you, because the behavior of these entertainment moguls to their content producers is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Vexations Website Downtime

Yesterday, sometime around 9a.m. a power outage hit the house in Michigan that houses the Mill Avenue Vexations web server. As a result, it remained offline for most of the day (we're all hard working folk who spend a great deal of our lives away from home.)

Suffice it to say, once people trickled back again we were able to get her back online again. The sound of hard drives spinning up cheerfully serenading my friends as they reset their clocks from the flashing 12:00.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mill Avenue Nights: Saturday, November 10th

It seems that the street preachers have suffered a winnowing in my absence. Their numbers have reduced, a bleakness waxes their expressions and tints their voices as they shout to passersby. I am told, though, that some have broken away to spend time at the Arizona State Fair – a place that I no longer patron insomuch as visit in my childhood memories.

I'd like to bring up this moment that I'm extremely amusing bringing Kazz with me on my Mill rounds, since – unlike me – he is a recalcitrant atheist. And by this I mean, he coughs into his hand and shrugs and the next thing you know he's into it with one of the preacher's about some point of deception. I like to examine the preachers as an interesting examination of predatory memes clawing and scratching and fighting for headspace. While I cannot dismiss the fears of people, like Kazz, who see these people as the scout-drones of dangerous memes corrupting otherwise free-willed individuals, I do somewhat dismiss the memes themselves on the grounds that they don’t have much to do with me as a person (nor the people who spread them.) Also unlike me, these people’s memes are Kazz’s enemy because of the nature of their ideas; whereas with me it is a cultural vendetta that causes me to ignore their advances and avoid discussion.

The great eyeless masses don’t need this messiah to rescue them from these particular saviors – but it doesn’t mean they’re not entertaining to listen to.

It’s just a virus, after all. Particularly insidious, yes, but years of evolution and psychic development have allowed the wet wiring of both individuals and their social synergies to develop extremely effective immune systems.

One particularly welcome element to the Ave was in the form of George, a light-on-his-feet young man who I would suspect is going to ASU. According to him, he came to town stranded and went off in every direction but Mill initially. Kazz and I found him arguing with one of the preachers about some point of fact that I didn't quite catch. The way that his face lit up when I mentioned Erisianism simply made my day. I hope to see him again. I gave him a copy of Vexations Volume 5.

The nights are getting colder! So, whatever that long, dark road brings us beneath the taciturn glow of Mill Ave’s lamps, and the blinking of those cranes building the Centerpointe Condominiums above…

"...your eyes are telling stories that I can't neglect."

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Mill Avenue Vexations Vol 3 Reviewed on Goth E-zine

In what I think is a rather excellent trend, Gothic Angst web zine has been reviewing their way through Mill Avenue Vexations -- the latest news on this subject, the review of Vol 3, is now available to peruse on the Vexations blog.

This volume things start getting rolling with deaths happening in the original crew, Vex starting to home in on the problems at hand, and the world essentially doing its darned best to go to hell in a handbasket...

The literary reviewer, H. M. Garber of goth e-zine Gothic Angst, has published a review of Volume Three from Mill Avenue Vexations. People should dash on over there and check it out.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mill Avenue Nights: Saturday, October 20th 2007

It was my first night on Mill since I came back to Arizona and things went pretty well. Vexations Volume 5: Drum Circle is now in print (but not on the web yet) so I hit the Ave to get some of the physical booklets passed out to people who might want them.

Kazz and I first crashed the party that is Mill about 8p.m. and discovered a wispy dearth of everything Mill related: the preachers hadn’t appeared, the street rats were sparse, and pretty much even the crowds were wan and insubstantial. So, instead of waiting around like a pair of loons honking on a street corner, we ambled about looking for some dinner.

Up and down the drag we took ourselves. There are a number of different eating establishments on the Ave, and so we headed for Quiznos; however, we quickly discovered that they’d closed up for the night (at 8p.m. – our arrival time.) So we veered away from that edge of Mill (that’s a little ways from Monti’s, by the by) and winged our way back towards Centerpointe and ended up in UNO’s Pizzeria. Where I offered a book to our waitress, it’s Volume Five, which puts her ahead of everyone else, but if she likes it, hopefully she’ll come back.

After dinner things picked up a little.

Some street preachers appeared, at least one whom I recall from last year, and friendly rats started to gather about the drum circle area.

Kazz got himself an argument with one of the more vocal preachers—whose name escapes me to this day—and I let them have at it. I’ve long ago given up really discussing Christianity with this person in particular because his discussions have no substance. He’s worthwhile as a person to spend time with, but we have cross-purposes on the Ave, I suppose, so we only speak in passing.

Also among the group was Emanuel, a tall black man with a deep voice which I recall being one of the more fervent and powerful debaters. I rather liked listening to him discussing things with passersby. He appears to have had a crisis of faith and given up the Born Again attitude for a book on Atheism. I even gave him a Vexations volume—I am a little timid about offering them to the street preachers because I am not kind to them in the novels, primarily because they’re a nuisance on the Ave and I have some opinions about their presence. I’m not going to pretend that I’m not too happy about how abrasive they are, but I figure that there’s no need to strain our relationship by biting off their nose to spite their face.

As for other important people, at drum circle proper I ran across Amish—with his guitar and calm demeanor—and even Osiris! He’s outdone himself and bought a cane exactly like mine (the City Stick crafted by Cold Steel.)

Finally, Kazz and I dropped by the Graffiti Shop and chatted a little with Lawrence—the most awesome man in the entire Universe—I signed a book for him and passed it over. He even mentioned that he knew some amateur filmmakers from a nearby university who are thinking of making a film about a blind girl who has a psychometric ability: when she goes about her day and touches objects sometimes they

stay with her, and when she sleeps she sees/experiences the lifeline of that object in her dreams. I think that I would be extremely happy to help script a story involving that. (Vex herself can use psychometry and did so in The Legend of Sleepy Phoenix.)

That’s all that I can report for today, it’s been a good weekend, Mill looks good.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Gothic Angst Webzine Reviews Vexations Volume 2

Mill Avenue Vexations Volume 2 (yes, they're moving up the ranks) has gotten a review on a goth webzine. Blogged also today on the Vexations blog.

Still loving it. She's been trucking through, although I'm late in reporting it -- this is the volume where Nathan shows up and some portents are revealed as the plot begins to move in that creepy direction that show spell disaster for Phoenix.

The literary reviewer, H. M. Garber of goth e-zine Gothic Angst, has published a review of Volume Two from Mill Avenue Vexations. People should trot on over there and check it out.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Knight Investigator Badges

For future reference, I think I've found a pretty solid place to do Knight Investigator badges if I ever want them:

It would end up costing around $500 for a couple of them, but it might be worth it just for the total amusement. I would end up having to ask them if they can turn the 7-point stars so that they are point-up when they do the stamp and imprinting, but the silver ones are close enough to pass cursory muster.

So... who wants to be a detective?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Mill Avenue Vexations Vol 1 Reviewed on Goth E-zine

Mill Avenue Vexations Volume 1 has gotten a review on a goth webzine. Blogged also today on the Vexations blog.

I must say, also, the review was rather a scintillating one. I think I like these guys.

The literary reviewer, H. M. Garber of goth e-zine Gothic Angst, has published a review of Volume One from Mill Avenue Vexations. People should trot on over there and check it out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More Video Game Reviews

So, I haven't actually written up my review of Jade Empire yet. It's been an oddly busy summer. However, I have gotten four other video games that I'm preparing reviews for, and they would be: XIII: Thirteen, Pariah, Bad Mojo, and Darkfall.

XIII: Thirteen

Thirteen by Ubisoft is an interesting little escape from the usual photorealistic first-person shooter types out there by presenting everything in a much more comic book cell-shaded style. The opening sequence to each of the chapters looks exactly like panels being produced out of a comic book, and internal events snap into view with a similar effect.

With voice acting by everyone’s beloved David Duchovny (who played Fox Mulder on the X-Files) we picked up this title less because I know the comic it is set from and more because I don’t mind his voice...

Read the rest of this review at Vox ex Machia »


Pariah is an all around mediocre first person shooter that just cannot stand up under the weight of its own ego. The graphical complexity of many of the environments was certainly beautifully painted, the puzzles seemed interesting enough, and the foes—while not that bright—did perish with satisfying cries of pain; but it seemed to lack that spark that makes a video game worth playing. It is a straightforward nothing-special-here first person shooter and nothing more.

Read the rest of this review at Vox ex Machina »

Hopefully I can muster the time to hit those others that I wanted, but this is what I have at the moment. My next set of news will probably encompass my work on Vexations more than it does Vox Ex Machina but I figured that it was a good time to introduce that to this slice-of-life blog as well...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Slow Times Near Detroit. Fear, Loathing, and Video Games

Living out in Michigan makes for some very slow days. I don't quite get out as much as I do in the mean, sun-baked streets of Phoenix. Also, I might mention, I really don't get near Detroit much more than once a month.

So, what I've gotten myself up to has mostly been video games. Lots of video games. Recently I bought myself Prey and F.E.A.R.

Prey, an uncanny, scary, atmospheric FPS involving a juxtaposition of aliens and Native Americans. The game starts out presenting our hero, Tommy, a jaded and disillusioned Cherokee boy (young man really) trying to break free of the Reservation. It's steeped in every pop culture Native American cliché that I could think of, and then some. Suddenly, aliens attack. They start sucking up cars, people, the bar he works in, into this weirdly convoluted ship that is traversed via a bizarre network of space-warping portals.

The best parts about this game happen to be some of the humor. Once and a while, wandering about, you come across a panel on the wall that is currently receiving radio from Earth—and it happens to be Art Bell. Callers continually call in about various strange happenings, lights, and other events involved with the alien attack and he does his best not to believe them.

The biggest problem I had with Prey is that it was amazingly short. The death mechanic is interesting—when you die you are thrust into the alternate world of your ancestors where you fight the dishonored dead—of course, this makes short work of dying over and over because you come back, whilst your foes do not. It doesn't have enough replay value to go back in with a more difficult setting.

The best things about this are the weird varieties of puzzles that present themselves from the space-warping qualities of the ship. Sadly, the game just does not go far enough with those puzzles. The most intriguing part was a labyrinth of wall-walking-gravity-conveyors, but it didn't end up lasting that long.

High point? Discovering that the aliens were apparently the doom of the Anasazi causing them to totally vanish so long ago (not that we haven't seen me using this sort of a plot in Vexations or anything.) I laughed, I cried, I kicked alien butt in the name of my ancestors.

F.E.A.R. This game fell down mostly on story. While the creepy little girl effect really got me, and I loved having bullet-time to take out my enemies in this FPS shooter it really wasn't doing such a good job of keeping my attention. What drove me forward wasn’t the interesting new foes, but the next time I met Mr. I-Eat-Dead-Bodies or the scary little girl who light fires and threw stuff at me.

Otherwise it was a generic FPS with horror elements. Things that I did like involved how the bad guys would jump for cover, or leap over objects to get at me. They'd throw grenades when I was hiding and scream in horror when I appeared. I'm told by everyone that they're telepathically controlled clones, but they seemed pretty well socialized for clones.

There isn't much in the way of tactics, or problem solving that I had to do. The enemies are loud—well, most of them are—talking to each other in their outside voices on the radio whenever I'm getting near. I don't need to walk like a cat, these guys were made to be snuck up on.

I think that they could have done a lot more work with the NPCs (or at least more NPCs in general who weren't specters walking in my vision) and had them be more interactive. Maybe some escort or protection scenarios. As a horror it did a pretty good job with the ethereal ghosts that fell into dirty ashes every time I got a good look at them, and the dead bodies falling out of ceiling tiles, but sadly eventually it just got tired. I stopped jumping at noises about half-way-through. I think it was because I realized nothing was coming to get me anymore, at least nothing that wasn't going to bark, “AREA SEEMS CLEAR!” on its radio before it came up on me.

Today, I got Jade Empire.

Let's see how this goes.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mill Avenue Vexations showcased on The Ungodly Hour again!

The wonderful rE/dOx and LadyDev have showcased Mill Avenue Vexations, our lovely detective/cabdriver Vex Harrow, and awesome author Kyt Dotson on The Ungodly Hour once again! You can get the mp3 audio here. Listen up everybody, and after you’re done: go visit The Ungodly Hour. You can find the showcase and their music by finding the March 30th, 2007 show.

Read more about it on Vex's news blog.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Citizen Prime - Phoenix's Very Own Superhero

Well, Vex over at the Mill Avenue Vexations blog beat me to this one, but apparently there is a superhero who sometimes patrols the Ave. His name is Citizen Prime and when he hits the mean streets in his beautiful costume (costing him almost $4k) with his cell phone and a hearty dose of extroversion.

I discovered him because I found an article at AzCentral.

On a Tuesday night in April, I followed Prime on a shift. As part of a recent effort to interact with the community more often, he spent a couple hours in the late evening strolling Mill Avenue in Tempe, mingling with the crowds.

He has a Myspace page and even a full blown webpage—still under construction, but I’m sure it’ll be awesome.

I for one, find it heartening that he treads softly places where I so solidly place my own soul.

The Ave.

Thursday, April 26, 2007 -- Gentrification Makes Neighborhood Bloggers Louder

Via Boing Boing, I discovered this neat service,

The project manager, Stephen Berlin Johnson had this to say about the research from the goings on:

Since we've been tracking local blog posts by neighborhood for six months now, we figured it was about time we figured out exactly what the US's bloggiest neighborhoods were, given that this is the question every sensible person has been trying to find an answer to for years now.

What's interesting about the list we compiled is that it turns out placebloggers tend to thrive in gentrifying communities -- half of our nabes in the top ten were in the middle of some form of gentrification. makes sense, but it wasn't something we went into the project expecting to find.

I suppose that as myself, I am not surprised. My neighborhood of choice is Mill Avenue, and Mill is suffering from a very powerful case of gentrification. It's like a disease that wracks a body—the immune system rushes to the aid, but discovers no enemies to fight, just strange, new growth. A cancer. And so some of the elements, in this case the citizenry, fall to squinting into the sun and going through the motions.

With things that are familiar vanishing under the treads of bulldozers people begin with the light touches: they start talking about what it used to be like—how they wish it still was.

Today Vex on Mill Avenue Vexations brought up a lot of this stuff, observations of the old, the execrations into the new.

It's like Walt Richardson said, "There's a lot of changes, down on Mill Avenue." Oh, but those times are done changing.

For good or bad.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Great White North

Once again, I have returned to Michigan and, although on my arrival the weather notwithstanding, it is actually extremely green here and not white. The beginning of April seemed to haven’t quite released itself form the clutches of the Snow Queen and I have some interesting photographs of flurries and a very light wannabe blizzard caught in an MPEG. Unfortunately, these things will be remaining on my hard drive for the time being.

The not-so-humble of Ann Arbor is brimming with activity these days, enough that it was next to impossible to find a parking space this last Sunday to go to Borders and buy a bunch of books to read. In doing so I picked up a series of totally random titles from the shelves along with a few that I actually want to read—such as titles by William Gibson that I haven’t gotten into yet and sadly the next in The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind (yes, it’s crack.)

It’s taken me almost two weeks now to totally settle in and recover from the airplane trip and the dramatic change in climate. My fingers are eternally cold now; a distinct and strange change from living in Arizona. Although, truth be told, since it was winter in Phoenix the temperature has changed little between there and here at the moment.

I look forward to this summer because it means I’ll have a lot more time to spend working on Vexations. Expect at least six new novelettes coming out. Covers are already in commission and things are looking up.

More news later.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mill Ave Lewts

It's not every day that I get to report something so interesting, but recently my writing netted me something wonderful. One of the shopkeeps on Mill Avenue, Lawrence Owenby, gave me a necklace for writing Vexations.

He is the proprietor of The Graffiti Shop, does glass-blowing, and is a general all around scoundrel and awesome person. If there is anything about the Ave that I love the most, it's him.

This necklace nicely exemplifies the simplicity of his presence and additions to the Ave. Being a glass blower he creates lots of different items from large (smoking bowls) to the small (much like the above necklace.) I bought my first pentacle from him a long time ago, about the time I lived on the Ave as a MIll rat.

I gave it to Ms. Vex Harrow, of course, since she suggested that she could make a rather powerful talisman out of it. I figure that she'll probably have something to say about this gift herself.

I don't receive gifts for my work in the community very often, and I didn't quite expect one from Lawrence's quarter--I give him the books because I think of him as one of the important fixtures that makes the place what it is. He's a welcome part of my life and experience down there. The Graffiti Shop is an element that I would like to see prosper and continue to bring good things.

Go. Hunt. Visit the Graffiti Shop. Visit Mill.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mill Avenue Wiki Map

Since I am currently waiting to get my camera back from where I accidentally let it lie (my friend's house.) I thought that I'd share this interesting little link with everyone that reads this blog.

It's a Wiki Map of the Mill Avenue District.

I even added the Mill Avenue drum circle to it.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Mill Avenue Vexations Home Sweet Home has been released to print!

This one is a tribute to artists, particularly those who have done work for me in the past. It is a story that will probably someday become one of the comic book versions of Vexations.

It will be available over the next few Saturdays at drum circle and the Graffiti Shop on Mill Avenue. Possibly at other locations as more places take the booklets in small numbers.

Remember, supplies of these are limited and it is not available on in the web store yet, so get out and get one soon.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Mill Avenue, Reinvent Thyself

One could easily liken a city to a person, with a childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Phoenix and her metro cities have always fascinated me for this reason. This city—as I have previously posted—is constantly attempting to re-invent itself. Tearing down the old, building up the new, and sometimes even demolishing the new to bring up the newer and newest-fangled bleeding edge of urban domination.

Mill Avenue is no exception to this. It is a center of community, commerce, and conversation that suckles most directly off of the youth and the college, which is why an article posted over at Exurban League caught my attention.

If you want 6th Street, you've got to get rid of the bland corporate storefronts and blander post-retro buildings and get back to Tempe's roots. Bring back the fun of starting an evening out by filling up at Restaurant Mexico then going over to Wong's to listen to Dead Hot and then up to Edcel's for Walt Richardson & The Morning Star Band and capping it off by a 2am breakfast at Stan's Metro Deli and all the other things that brought Mill Avenue back from the brink of irrelevance. People used to line up out the door at The Coffee Plantation on a Friday or Saturday night: When's the last time anything was that popular on Mill?

The Ave has always kept my interest because there were things to do and places to be. The Graffiti Shop, Coffee Plantation, the deep thud of a band playing at Long Wongs—while these places are older than they are new, they were not Abercrombie & Fitch, or the newest reincarnation of some stupid sunglasses store limed with faux stone and too-bright windows in the dimness of the twilight. I know that I am one who advocates the drum circle before all else, but Mill is also the buildings and the stores that have been proudly lifting their chins and smiling at the passersby.

Now, condominiums are going up around Mill, they’re building them at the waterfront of the fake lake, they’re lurking just beyond the grand glow of the Ave, and looming with dire intent. These people who haven’t even visited Mill except for through the tempered glass of their limousines, and through the slats of office windows, are making decisions about changing Mill into a tourist paradise. Their concept of cool is imported from Scottsdale, trying to attract teenyboppers with money. To leech gross out of high-rent storefronts that are all glitz and glam that have no staying power and no substance. No soul.

That's it for now. News from the street level. It’s Saturday, and soon another Mill Avenue Night.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

^&%$@ Thee!

Yeah, and a %@#! Saint Harlequin's Day to thee too.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The March of Authority

According to an article that I just found laying around on the police are hitting the bricks again along my favorite haunt, Mill Avenue. The article starts out extremely well, in my vision, issuing notes about extremely useful things that having officers on foot patrol does for the population. Anyone who has watched police officers ride past on their bicycles, noses in the air.

This is not a bad thing.

The police are our civilian warders, although many place themselves and act like a sort of paramilitary and literally look down on the civilians whom they are dutybound to protect this is a sociological problem that is created by the cliques of the profession and I might mention is felt rather palpably by a great deal of people who live on the Ave. The more people lend to disconnect them from the goings-on of the street the worse this behavior can only become. Bringing them back into the fold should help build a bit more tolerance on both sides.

For the most part police officers on patrol and denizens of the street don't scrape against one another--transients, Mill rats, tourists, college students, none of these groups have any reason to tangle with the police. But, when people come together there are always those times when friction becomes fire. These times are when it is best that our warders are aware of and sensitive to all the cultural innuendo that drenches the Ave and don't end up inflicting more injury when they attempt to help out.

So, I say to people. See a police officer walking the beat on our red bricks and say, "Hello." Make sure that they know they're welcome. Get to know them. They may be in uniforms, they may have guns, but they're people just like we are.

If the Ave is going to be a worthwhile place for all of us we must embrace all comers -- especially our civil protectors.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Vexations Volume 4: Portents - Released to Print!

Mill Avenue Vexations Volume 4: Portents by Kyt Dotson has officially been released to print, e-book, and HTML! It is right now available for pre-order in our online store (copies will become available very soon as they are being printed right now.)

As per usual, a run of one-hundred is on the presses right now that will be released for free on Mill Avenue and the surroundings, while a small set will be held aside for people who are out of state who would like to support this project. Don’t miss out on owning one of our collectible booklets, Vexations is a piece of Tempe history and is slowly becoming a mantelpiece of readers on the Ave.

Also, if you happen to like the cover art go to the artist’s thread in our forums and give her some props! Her name is Marlon Teunissen and she did a stunningly good job.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Mill Avenue Nights: Feb 3rd 2007

This post is going to be a short one, seeing as how an entire week has gone by since my excursion.

The most notable thing that I can report on from the 6th is that I met the Mural Mice. What is a mural mouse? you're probably wondering. Well, they are a pair of extremely interesting people who came down to my beautiful Ave from Prescott, Arizona. They are called mural mice because they paint murals and have recently been part of some projects in that region of the state.

The most amusing and striking thing about them had to be their lovely hats, which looked like brown berets with mouse ears attached.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mill Avenue Nights: Jan 20th 2007

The past two Saturdays have been less noteworthy than most because of something extreme and strange to the Arizonan physique: extreme cold. Last Saturday wreathed upon all who entered the street a bone-chilling cold that sunk chiseled ice claws into the skin and just did-not-let-go until it had sucked every last iota of warm out of the body. This weekend, far less so, but the cold still created a lessening of those who were willing to brave the midnight of the Ave.

Also, it would seem, that the Mill Street Preachers have a “retreat” to Las Vegas where they vanish from our sight and appear in a far, far more neon and noise filled realm for a time. I couldn’t say exactly how they are faring out there – as I doubt their money for trivia scheme works so well – but I suspect that I can prize some stories out of them whense they return to our presence and ears. Although the break is welcome enough.

This weekend, Nutmeg decided to come out to join us for a short time and numerous others of Drum Circle fare also arrived to compete at the scene. The tribal drums rumbling in the background made for a staccato thunder and underlaid the cold with the warmth of cordial conversation and good company. Rob and Ashley came to see us, bringing with them a troupe of comers. Amish brought about his new dog and brought messages about his designs on the next Estrella War, and even some idle thoughts about garb.

This night, like others, bent short under the stars and I found myself returning home earlier than I would have usually had. Although, of late, midnight is later than I usually remain in the midst of drums and conversation.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Mill Avenue Nights: Jan 6th 2007

I actually didn’t manage to visit the drum circle tonight, I don’t know what exactly ensorcelled me not to go into that region—but I suppose it was the new and glittering distractions that were brought out to the region where the street preachers stand. Several interesting things happened tonight: I received a CD on Halloween containing a sermon by a pastor at a local church, Christa stood up on the soap-box for her first time and tried to execute the Good Person Test, and I passed out two copies of Have a Merry Vexing Christmas (one to a nice young lady, and one to one of the new preachers who didn’t know me for who I was.)

Christa and the Soapbox

Christa is a sleepy-eyed brunette with a Swedish look—I often expect to see her in pigtails—who tends to wear sweaters and some sort of drab outfit. She is soft-spoken and a bit more laid back than most of the group who come to Mill, sometimes she seems to me to be a little out of place. When she took the soap-box she didn’t have the same force as the rest when they use that bully pulpit and managed not to angle many from the shoals of people rippling past. What can I say, it was truly a tough crowd; even after she started offering five dollars it took a while for her to hook her first bite.

Two bites, no bait. She didn’t manage to give away the five bill for reasons unknown to me. The first one simply ran away because she couldn’t get into the Good Person Test (probably outside of her headspace anyway, it is a bait-and-switch) and the second she simply didn’t give the money to. Why is beyond me, and I didn’t ask. I only caught the tail end of that conversation of her trying to make sure with her peers it was okay she didn’t give the money away because the man taking the test wasn’t sincere.

That particular bite I expected to actually receive the money, he was a rather clever fellow. When she hit the question where it is asked “Have you ever stolen anything?” He grabbed the money and hoofed it all the way to the street, but then, pretending a change of heart, turned around and returned it while prostrating himself and smiling jovially. That kind of jocularity I find extremely amusing—it’s too bad that she didn’t find him cunning enough to win the money. Though I think the flirtation is really the reward he was seeking.

Another prime, and noteworthy, anecdote about her stay on the soapbox (and this is not something that I’m going to opine on myself) is that a homeless fellow came over for the Good Person Test, only to turn himself away because he had taken the Ten Commandments Test at some point (that’s where they ask people to name all Ten Commandments in a number of minutes for $20. Apparently, next-to-nobody has passed that one. I can pass that. Catholic upbringing and mnemonic training, I guess.) While Christa stood on the soapbox an excellently dressed man—20’s style coat and tie surmounted by a gangster hat—stalked over and pointed out to her that while she was offering that five-bill to the public, the homeless fellow was sitting nearby. The 20’s man seemed perplexed when she basically ignored him. It wasn’t part of the gig.

Street Preachers I Have Met

The first new appearing street preacher approached me to compliment my garb, telling me that I looked good in Goth. “You pull it off really well, you know. Other people, they look kind of trashy or like they’re trying too hard. You have a subdued, well carried look. It’s a very good job,” he said. I thanked him and he spilled out into asking me about what I did. I replied that I am a writer and an amateur social anthropologist and that my golden-edged book is not a Bible, it’s lined paper for me to write observations. He reflected on how young I looked and how he’s seen me out there quite a bit (my attention must be waning because I’ve never seen him before.) He asked about the state of Mill and I told him about some of the new developments, the corporatization, Tempe Government’s assaults on the homeless and Mill rat community, and other sundry facts—most of which I think were lost into him because he didn’t reply to any of it.

I should really have known better: the first time you talk to one of these people they are not talking to you; they are talking to a mirror.

Eventually he gave up after realizing that I have witnessed most of what they had to say over the years already and he had very little to tell me that I would have already been keen to. I believe his name was Chad.

The second man to approach me did so in a very similar fashion. He had shoulder length brown hair, bluish eyes, and a open and friendly demeanor; I think I recall that he wore some sort of a painters cap or something similar. He opened up the conversation by asking me what I thought of what they were doing, I minimized my answer with my most common reply, “Just observing. I find it amusing.” And he opined that he hoped that I would find it more than amusing and queried as to my take on religion—what mine was—to which I replied: Celtic. And after a few questions were shot back-and-forth I ran into the impasse I generally run into (the part where I realize I’m a mirror and not a person) where I couldn’t get across how the Celtic gods are people who actually walk around in everyday life and we can meet on the street; that, no, an everyday man or woman cannot just claim to be the Morrigan (I know what the Morrigan looks like, I’ve met her once—it was a chilling experience.)

Meanwhile, he went on about his faith in the general way telling me how it filled a hole in his life. (Please excuse me here if I don’t go into detail, this spiel is so common to witnessing preachers that it’s not worth repeating.) He eventually tried to pull the line, “You understand, Christanity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.” To which my most common reply is, “Well, you’re just redefining relationship to mean religion, aren’t you? I don’t know a single religion that isn’t a relationship with the divine in some form or another.” I got really close to pulling out my “Relationship with the Goddess” line, but he quickly caught wind that I didn’t really want to talk religion and instead told me that he would, “Pray that God would touch my heart and stir my feelings—and open my eyes to the truth.”

I didn’t quite feel mean enough to tell him that I hoped someday he would speak to me like I was a person instead of a cog.

Halloween, a Sermon on a CD

This part is why this post is so late. While I stood listening to an exchange between a few ruffian kids (including that nice girl I gave the booklet to) and the Jamaican looking preacher fellow, another one of the street preachers, who I associate strangely with Father Mulcahy from M*A*S*H, approached me to give me a CD. “Do you have a computer? Something that can play CDs?” he asked, “It’s a sermon by our pastor about Halloween—it includes some history too.” After I affirmed that indeed, I do have a computer that can play CDs he gave it to me and I secreted it on my person.

The first glaring error, and it’s a doozy, there is no Celtic “god of the Underworld” named Samhain—this is the Celtic/Irish name of the holiday upon which Halloween now rests (and also the Irish word for ‘November’). To the literal this name means “Summer’s End”—“sam” + “fuin”—and there are no Celtic gods with this appellation in any legends or pantheon known. Where this particular belief sprung from is unknown to me, but from my research it was a mistake made by eighteenth century Church scholars who set the misinformation to paper. It doesn’t take much research in primary and secondary source material to discover that this belief is simply incorrect.

The sermon goes on to expound more about the history of Halloween, most of which includes some real scholarly facts. That Halloween wasn’t big in the United States until the massive Irish immigrations and that it didn’t really take much of a hold until rather recently. That it is a festival rooted in the pagan beliefs of the Celtic culture. Even that Halloween is actually a day put on top of another one worshiped by the old Irish by the Catholic Church in order to help them convert the native people of the Celtic and Gaelic lands.

The sermonizer then goes on to totally distort and misrepresent the holiday using weasel words such as “wicked” to describe the spirit of the festivities and the nature of the celebration. It is correct that it is believed that the veil between this world and the Otherworld thin on Samhain Eve, that this ‘tween time is brings to moment when the spirits of the Otherworld and our dead can reach back to us, and we can reach to them. Yes, some of them are wicked and not nice, but foremost they are not evil nor condemned—the Otherworld is not remotely similar to the Christian Hell (which I suspect he was trying to get at in that part of the speech). Like there are malevolent people, there are malevolent and mischievous spirits, and they get to come back too. I think that we are all aware that it is not a good practice to demonize an entire people (in this case the spirits) based on the acts of the few. Some lessons are just hard learned.

He goes on to recollect that witches and demons appear in the costuming—totally ignoring the fact that the European vision of the witch isn’t even a standard element of the original Samhain holiday. Using this to segue into quotations from the bible that tell the people who move into Israel “not to partake of the beliefs of their neighbors, not to become like them,” speaking prohibitions against witchcraft, divination, and other supernatural beliefs. Which, I see as perfectly fine. If this religion wants to keep its core and not melt away by assimilating too many others, they are welcome to do that.

What I am at odds with is the propagandist vilification of another culture through bad scholarship and distortions of their beliefs.

Yes. Halloween is a very pagan holiday, it is not distinctly Christian in of its own, and like many of the Christian holidays it is a day that was “Christianized” in order to assist in the assimilation of the native peoples of the region. If modern Christian congregations want to get themselves back to basics and avoid things that are not inherently theirs they can do so without doing insult to the cultures that they are trying to push away from.

The man who did this sermon is quite intelligent, even witty. “The devil has tricked us with his treats.” That was a lovely and clever line. Christians might as well distance themselves from things that really aren’t originally theirs—although, I must say, they’d be giving up an awful lot that they’ve gotten very used to being part of Western culture.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Mill Avenue Nights: Dec 30th

Both Christmas weekend and now New Years weekend have displayed an amazing dearth of Mill goers, especially evident in our local proselytes; the drum circle has not suffered as greatly from this winnowing as there were still at least three drums this NYE weekend and they rumbled on.

We hit the Ave about 9:30p.m. with my friends Omni and Rico. Omni decided to bring Rico on a leash with a leather collar, which commentary went that nobody even looked twice at someone drawing a bright-orange afroed boy about with a metal chain leash—welcome to Mill! I’m sure that stranger things have been seen roaming the streets now that Drum Circle is exiled from our usual place at 12a.m. because of newly enforced park regulations.

I got enough time to sit around and speak with the usual goers and find out how their lives are going. The Ave isn’t usually so calm on the outside of a Saturday night, so it gave a little time to sit down and actually hold some discussions with various folk. Without the usual lively forum produced by the preachers there wasn’t much reason to hang around the corner, so I spent most of my time around the drum circle itself.

There, I passed out almost half of the copies of Have a Merry Vexing Christmas that I had on hand and enjoyed myself with people that I know there.

Later, we trotted off to Zia Records, a place that I haven’t visited in a long time. It’s just off of Mill near University. I bought myself a copy of Memoirs of a Geisha.

Adding to the ghostly lack of people on the Ave were barricades being set up for the next day’s festivities. The New Years Eve block party apparently was going to block off a large portion of the Ave itself, with large metal archways with a logo proclaiming “Insight!” (The next day I would return to the Ave for the block party and discover a lot of the street rats already inside—we are nothing if not resourceful for getting into or already being inside of these events when Mill gets shut down. Tickets were $20.) Some tents had already been set up, a huge white pinnacled tent rose up on the spot where Long Wong’s used to sit, selling ASU and various NYE Tempe paraphernalia. I was not interested.


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