Sunday, August 4, 2019

Lughnasadh: Celebrating Gaelic Flare with the Silver Moon Coven

In the heart of good ole Southern Arkansas,
you're bound to see a long-standing Protestant presence 
of Christian identity, 
with churches practically on every corner in every town, 
big, small, or somewhere in between!

"Praise the Lord!"
"May God have mercy on yer soul."
"Let us pray..."

But to some -- that don't apply!

On August 3rd, 2019, I traveled with my brother to meet up with an Arkansas-based Pagan group called the Silver Moon Coven!

The Silver Moon Coven is currently based out of El Dorado. 

That night's gathering was for  Lughnasadh -- a Gaelic festivity celebrating the start of the harvest season!

Just about every member brung along food: 
a green bean casserole,
fried green maters an' squash,
some regular baked potatoes,
a stew-like pot of okra and sausage meat,
and corn on the cob!

And drinks were just as various:
yer Bud Light beers,
some Jack liquor,
a specially made lemonade,
and family-friendly coke.

Here, Brittany Stanton, the leader of the coven, demonstrates for us on how to brew us up ourselves some Sumac tea! One glass of that over ice cubes makes for a refreshing treat when you're outside under all this humid heat.

The night of celebration included some free-spirited, freestyle strummin' on the guitar and ukulele, partaking in a simple candle ritual in which members thanked the gods for whatever they were thankful for, followed by sticking their pins into the holy candlelight, telling stories, jokes, and reflections on their lives, and, of course, eating all that grub piled on the dinner table! 

For the most part, folks like these and their groups
in South Arkansas,
remain in the sharp minority.
Their religious and spiritual beliefs, widely dismissed.
Their gatherings and culture, kept to the back rows.

Yet I am proud as all get out to have 
been given such a privilege to
partake in their world, as the humid
Southern summer evening neared to a midnight's close.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Taking Down Peter and the Starcatcher

Just a day after this year's midterms, I set out 
to help bring down everything I'd helped put up to begin with.

Well, that is, after my new boss (or "overseer" as I like to say) ordered all the used-up little mermaids on one of these metal carts ya roll around on the floor to here, there, and wherever, to be sorted out and stacked up all on top of each other, "boobies" an' all.  "Stacks on racks!"

You heard it right. 

And while I coulda took some pics... well... showin' off their flimsy little cardboard "curves" with some styrofoam cereal bowls for "bosoms" woulda been a waste o' not only my time, but also yer creepy ole peeper back there, starin' at this blog screen with those firecrackers o' eyes. 
Sorry, Bill.



Our first stop was by
El Dorado's Boys & Girls Club.

(In the Photo) Ms. Colleen Means, SAAC Associate
Gray skies, a chain-link fence, and hangin' 9 feet off the ground, all held together with four neat little handy-dandy zip ties.

Just A Nother 
Hammer-Knife Day

A few cuts, some blows o' the wind, an' rolled-up poster later, and we were headed off again.  This time, to the flags.



With the wintertime temperatures finally settin' in... the El Dorado streets simply seemed to sigh on in existence... fewer cars than normal passin' us on by. Darker than white, yet lighter than black. I sensed some major community apathy among us, regular folks just tryin' to get by in life. Little inspiration to make any greatness happen. Someone needs to fill Wendy's former spot.



Next stop? Risinger Tire. 

I soon realized that that hammer served no purpose, that the grassy ground was still wet from recent rain, and we'd be able to uplift those poles smooth as butter.


Colleen an' I had a tough time getting out one o' the poles that'd had its adhesive smeared across the top, an' not so easy to grab and get it undone.



From BancorpSouth, another 
stood flowing by Ken's. 

At which 
point the
boss then
turned the
cam back
on me... 

(Turns out 
we both
like photography!)



Also who sponsored,
First United Methodist Church.

Props to them for lettin' us wave our promotional material on their grounds, for some sense o' culture around town.



Time went on -- and we then
hit Murphy-Pitard Jewelers' destination.

Many thanks to them as well!



And the final? PJ's indeed!

Hot coffee, cold coffee, TVs, plentiful wines, diverse customers, wannabe talents, and sure to shoot some good memories to make.



It wasn't long till our recollection had gotten complete. And opened and closed the doors for the last time, until we got back to the Arts Center.

This equipment needed some drying till tomorrow; that 
was our last assignment for that day.

And, from what I've been told just last Friday,
allegedly Shakespeare's ideas are inbound
to our little town, though I shouldn't spoil it
to any of my viewers just like that...
Stay tuned! And come to El Dorado sometime
on your way through in Arkansas if you've 
yet to do so already! There's even a new hotel
being built by MacDonald's.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Before You Hang Out, Watch Out for 5 Red Flags Like These

An old friend of mine recently came down to town.

And, my, his latest story caught me by surprise.

[Before we sat down to talk, he asked me to hide his face.]

We'll call him Devin.

Devin's a good man. Known him for years. But, goodness gracious, did he wind up in trouble (or at least he could've). A shady "friend", late-night hours, and to top it all off... grand "theft-ish" auto.

Turns out, I'd realized my poor fella, though, could've avoided it all. If only he'd seen those practical railroad lights called red flags before he went and hung out with that so-called friend.



And, May You Ask, Just What Were
Those Red Flags He Ended Up Missin'?

"I was up late one night until 2 in the morning."

"I couldn't sleep."

"I was surfing the web because I'm the guy that still says 'surfing the web' in 2018."

.   .   .

"When I got a message on Facebook from a mutual acquaintance of mine whose name was Dean."

"Now I've hung out with Dean a few times. Dean was pretty 'out there'... but so were my friends that introduced me to him."


"Anyway... I get a message..."

Dean: hey man
Me: What's up bro?
Dean: nm man. Wanna hang out?
Me: Yeah dude, we should totally hang out
Dean: i gotta ride bro, tell me where u at and I'll come get u.
Me: Oh. You mean hang out rn?
Dean: duh

There's yer 1st red flag right there.

Right off the bat, Dean, who hadn't even been called a friend yet, asked to hang out at a time when most folks should be in bed asleepin'. (Unless you're like an overnight security guard.)

Like my buddy, Devin, YOU should ask yourself,

"Can I trust to go out with
 mutual acquaintance
or a friend
at 2 in the morning?"

YOU should also ask yourself,

"What was the last hangout with him like?"

The point bein' that a mutual acquaintance... is very different from an actual someone you can call friend.
(We can trust more with them.)

"I had to hesitate on this."

"It was also just out of my comfort zone to hang out with Dean at 2 in the morning."

There's yer 2nd red flag.


Out of Your Comfort Zone

Feelings of Uncertainty

I feel sorta like this second flag is a reinforcement of the first.

When under extreme stress... the human predisposition is a "fight-or-flight" response.


when that stress is rather mild -- where you just need to weigh each option and resume --

it's more like an "align-or-decline".

(Same idea, just on a much lower frequency of struggle.)

Are you gonna align yourself to the situation... or will you decline participation altogether?

Devin decided to align. He mentioned, understandably, that, "I didn't always have people hitting me up to hang out."

"I went outside and walked over to this college about 5 minutes from where I live. I waited for about 10-15 minutes...

when a bus pulled up into the parking lot."

Here we are, at a 3rd red flag.

Devin'd said durin' the interview that he would've more than likely woken up his parents if he'd left his house.

Though I ain't sure which is scarier: whether or not he DID wake 'em up... or the fact that this "mutual acquaintance" of his literally just Magic School Bus'd it into a college's parkin' lot in the dead of night, and is sure enough gonna make the wheels on that bus go round and round, round and round as if everything's all just fine an' dandy! Y'know, because a car's overrated?

Like Devin, YOU should ask yourself the following.

"Why's my friend, acquaintance, etc. pullin' up in a freakin' BUS?"

"Who all else is on that thing?"


"Is that bus even HIS?"

"I watched as Dean hopped out of the bus and walked over to talk to him."

By this point, I'm thinkin' this is like something you'd see happen in The Golden Girls... or Full House... or, heck, just Calion.

Devin said he tried to greet 'im: "Hey Dean! How's it going man?"

Said he ignored him. Was lookin' all around the bus, as if he'd hit something.

Dean bein' Dean, as Devin put it, had asked him, "Hey does that look f***ed up?"
(Pardon my French.)

"I don't think much of it. I get in the bus with Dean. Never once thinking it might be weird..."

"We drive a little ways when I see in the mirror that there are two people sitting off in the very back. A black kid no older than 19 and a white girl beside him. Both of them were just sitting there perfectly still."

With a 4th red flag, things are now scary.

The bus appearance was already bizarre enough.

Now there's strangers on there?!

This is actually one of the few instances where I'd be callin' it a "stranger danger" situation.

And while it wouldn't be an excuse to start panickin', I'd be wonderin' several things.

"Are they dangerous?"

"Are they armed?"

"Why are THEY here?"

"Does Dean even know 'em?"

You have to stop for a moment an' consider just who you're ridin' with. If you don't even know someone taggin' along, especially without a friend's (or, in this case, a mutual acquaintance's) introduction or summary before initial contact, then you're gonna find your trust level with somebody lower a tad -- even if you don't feel as though anything's different.
(And trust is EVERYTHING.)

"I called back to the two in the back and said 'Hey! What's up guys?' They smiled awkwardly back. I think the girl might've waved back and said hey, but they guy barely moved a muscle."

"I looked ahead...

and Dean looked over to me."

"So I gotta tell you something man. Just don't freak out..."

From bad to worse, and worse to worser
yer 5th red flag.

This is the classic example of a betrayal statement, as I'd like to call it.

Ya know, a statement where its message makes most listeners do the exact opposite of what they're supposed to do?
(A betrayal consequence.)

Saying that you "gotta tell somethin'" but to "don't freak out" to somebody is a oftentimes a self-fulfilling prophecy!

It's in movies... video games... TV shows...

It's present in everyday situations.

You see, we human bein's are a-wonderous folk! (The teachers in your school who try to "stop gossiping" are some futile hypocrites.)
(EVERYONE does it. Pretty much natural to our biosocial programming.)

And so what naturally happens?


Feelings of Uncertainty
(In other words, the beginning of freaking out.)

Devin, my poor buddy, almost cheated that.

"I started to figure he was going to tell me he was high. Nothing too abnormal."

"I kind of stole this bus."



So What Happened to Them All?

"...I didn't want to freak out. He said not to, but I was pretty paranoid."

"In a matter of about 15 minutes I had found myself in a stolen bus with a guy who was high. No clue as to where I was headed in the middle of the night."

Long story short,

MacDonald's got the weirdest customers on the weirdest kinda vehicle,

the white girl... well, let's just say, was able to get some tasty African treats from that black boy,

Dean got the bus stuck in some parkin' lot,

and a policeman just so happened to pull up in front of 'em, spotlights for days.

"...I walked till I found the nearest road
and walked about 6 miles home.

As the sun was just starting to come up I
laid in bed and fell asleep."

"It wasn't the last time I walked all
the way home from a stupid situation,
but it was the last time I ever 'hung out'
with someone who hit me up at 2
in the morning."

"Don't know what happened to all of them,
but as far as I know Dean is
miraculously doing just fine."


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

(Some) Art Projects Begin with Talking

After a long and hot Thursday afternoon, my brother, Matt, and I rinsed off, climbed into our old red 90s Explorer, and drove on down to the PJ's here in El Dorado. Along the way, we couldn't help but poke some fun at the spokesman on one of the Gospel radio stations.

"Your time is running out, your time is running out!"

Such a nice, warm thing to think about as I went on down the empty sidewalk.

Not long after, in came our good friend, Kelsey. It was around 7:42. Somehow, that sun out there from all the rectangular winders kept up a-shinin'!

We soon got introduced to her new project. Horror, to be exact. Makeup, modelin', usin' good cameras like the ones you'd see in paparrazi's hands. Matt an' me both were already on board!

"I wanna go see the new Unfriended movie," she mentioned.

That following Monday, she and I rendezvoused over at Goodwill, where our rambly rundown began.

I still recalled all the times I spent as a young kid, runnin' up an' down this aisle, wandering left an' right, over towards those slanted bookshelves full to the ends with donated Bibles and so many different kinds of "For Dummies" books.
Sometimes I wondered, with the "For Dummies",
was the previous owner too smart... or too dumb?

Honestly, their inventory seems the only thing that's changed since then. Same ole stale smell, same kinda folks who walk in, most of 'em keepin' to themselves.

At least all their glasses'd remind ya of an art exhibit! Kelsey an' I both in our heads knew we couldn't afford all that and have meaning for 'em at the same time!

One week later, my other good friend, James, had returned to our small, standoffish little town. Durin' this time, he an' I along with Kelsey an' Matt all grouped up on a rainy mornin' out at the local La Villa. Everyone but me was hungry.

(Left) Chicken Ranchero Special w/o Veggies, (Bottom) Shrimp Quesadilla, (Right) Vegetarian Chimichanga
(Kelsey, who'd been to the dentist) "I'm gonna, like, need some water to wash this down."
(Matt) "What's a vegetarian chicken?"
(James) "...Tofu..."

     Nothin' like flouride complaints an' a mispronunciation of "chimichanga" to start this day off.

Now as August rears its head around the corner -- after just half a month's time -- I can hardly believe Fall's already comin' up.

High-schoolers... college kids -- I can feel ya on how it feels pickin' up those textbooks again.

Buyin' all those rulers, pencils, protractors, erasers an' markers, and racing down a few days before the first day of school to Walmart, Aéropostale, Foot Locker (or wherever else you go), and grabbin' Nikes, earrings, Cardi B t-shirts, and skinny jeans so you'll be both ready and fashionable.

For me, this is just one of my old ordinary textbooks.

But for you,

it probably is the bane of your existence.

But there's something important that you have to keep remembering.

Soon, this

is gonna feel like this.

Unless you're that one kid in class who always reads through your book... always pays full attention... or just has that amazingly photographic memory... chapters and their pictures are gonna feel blurry over time. 
It's just a fact of life, 
for most people our ages. 

When you think of something to draw, paint, sculpt, or whatever, does it normally "just come" to you? 

I mean, faster than you can type "omg" on your phone.

We soon got introduced 
to her new project.

Kelsey had specifically told Matt an' I, 
"The idea, it just came to me!"

The first time we'd gone to the coffee place and heard about it.

(Google Search Image)
Whether you're a businesslike person (like these guys), or just an everyday student in school who wants to pass and move on from your class, 
but still likes to make art 
-- the formula's the same.

Some art projects begin with

Great artists such as  Michelangelo, Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, and Georgia O'Keeffe

didn't really spend their lives trying to look up
an' so on, so forth.

Their careers went forward because they talked with a friend or two, a parent, or anyone else they could seriously trust. 

And it probably was never about this.

Do you feel this tired right now at your desk?

Sleep is important, bud.

Because while Matt, Kelsey, James and me were discussing what cameras to use, what theme this new project will have, and who all to get to participate... I've been surrounding myself with

Food ✅

Shopping ✅

A Comfortable Setting ✅

And of Course

(Left) Matt, (Center) Kelsey, (Right) James

Their Supportive Company ✅ 

If You Like or Love Art...

Or If You're Just Bored This Summer...

Take That First Step

Making art is not JUST about taking classes and passing grades! You need meaningful relationships, too. I encourage you, especially if you're still in high school -- today -- to reach out to someone.

Do you have any old friend? Was there (or is there) a certain someone in homeroom that just can't seem to leave you alone, but you've wondered about hangin' out? Are you textin' your best friend all the time but just sorta "chillin'" over the phone?

Reach out. Think about it today.
Mention it outta the blue.


Also, Our Project is Still Underway!

Things to Look Forward with Us Are:

- A Collection of Character Bios -
(Featuring "Kurt Miller", an Assassinated Republican Congressman from Texas,
and the Disease-Stricken "Charlotte Thompson" from Arkansas!)
- Death Pictures -
(Horror Fans -- You're All Gonna Love It!)
- Some Scenery Shots Inside the El Dorado Area -