Friday, November 27, 2009

If I may wax religious for a moment...

I am deeply and abidingly grateful for all the manifest blessings in my life.

First off is my beautiful daughter Altagracia, to whom I owe at least a portion of my newfound salvation. By merely existing in a state of unconditional love, you have built me up from a bitter, vicious and petty scumfuck praying for the world to end, to the enlightened scumfuck I am today. I have seen universal beauty and truth in your unwavering, determined blue eyes as they contemplate the world around you, exquisite divine purpose in your tiny hands as they hold onto mine, and simple, untainted joy in your giggle. You are more than my beloved daughter; you are my redemption, and to you I owe whatever sad case I can make at the throne of Heaven to admit me despite my flaws, weaknesses, delusions, perversions, sicknesses and buried hatreds. Watching you grow tall in the light of God's grace is my keenest pleasure, and the one for which I will fight most dearly.

The second blessing is Amanda, my wife in spirit if not in bastardized legality. While our daughter is the salvation of my soul, you are the salvation of my heart & mind-my eternal steadfast companion in a life marked mostly by my spectacular fuckups. Your simple devotion and unwavering love for me buttressed me against all those dark years of bitter, galling failure, giving me strength when I just couldn't hack it any more. You have accepted the whole of me, every last depraved centimetre, and without you even the most modest of my achievements would still be frustrated pipe dreams. I am thankful that you know when to prick me and when to coddle me, when to nip my schemes in the bud and when to smile and nod. You have seen me crash and burn a thousand times, but never lost faith in me, and in doing so restored my faith in myself.

I am thankful for my friends-the best goddamn bunch of stoned D&D nerd militiamen that ever rolled a twenty sider, hit a bong or racked the bolt of an AK. I am thankful that I have never found a situation so dire that I could not get a place to crash, a friendly ear, a long term and possibly unpaid loan, a cigarette, a job referral, and a steady supply of drugs. I am proud and thankful for the trials we have endured together, the strength and support we have drawn from each other in times when eating involved digging in dumpsters and other, less savory activities. I have seen some ugly times, but by the grace of God and the circle of unbreaking loyalty among you freaks, I have never had to face any of them alone.

In addition, I am deeply thankful for my job. Not many people with GED's and no practical job training have a job these days, particularly a job that is stable and secure which they are good at. I am thankful for all those years in bland telemarketing hell, hating my job and myself and everyone I worked with, because it gave me the experience to be hired on at the job I am doing. I see the Pink Collar dying all around me, and every day I am thankful that I can draw a paycheck to support this beautiful family I have given me. I am grateful I get paid enough that Amanda can stay home with Gracie. I am grateful that the people I work with aren't choads. I am grateful the job is easy enough I can get away with blogging at work. In short, I am grateful for the means to do what I must do in this world.

Finally I am grateful for my family. This time of year, I find myself thinking of my grandfather often-God rest his troubled soul. Though you are gone, I cannot help but feel blessed that I had you as my guiding figure in this life. I am grateful that you taught me the many lessons you did, and I am grateful that I have the opportunity not to repeat your mistakes. I find when I am digging deep in myself for the strength to get up and go on, it is always the strength of your spirit I feel urging me on, always your hand I feel on my shoulder shaking me out of my stupor\slumber\self pity party so I can get on with the business at hand. Gracie is my soul, Amanda my heart and mind, but you have always embodied my strength.

God has given me my fair ration of shit, I think, although I know that there are those worse off than me-and believe me, I am thankful not to be those poor fucks. But I have had more than my fair share of blessings, by any man's reckoning, and these five columns which hold up my life are only the beginning of them, not the end. So in the end, I can only render my thanks and praise unto you, YHVH, who has given me more happiness and an easier road than I deserve. I hope I can make myself worthy of it in time.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Freaky Indiana - A Pleasant Ramble

So I'm doing some research for our new avatar WoD campaign (if you don't understand the terminology then you might want to stop now, as everything I'm saying after this will only make less sense) and as such I am looking up haunted places here in Bloomington where the campaign will be set. I must say, it is quite interesting to see the local folklore splattered around the internet.

I'm a devoted Alvin Schwartz reader; his folklore collections of grisly ghost stories amused me on one level as a morbid kid, and in later years I enjoyed the same stories as an aspiring social scientist. Most folklore horror stories are cheap cautionary tales, paradoxically relying on the tittilation of the forbidden to keep the listener interested enough to scare them away from the forbidden. So to me the Ghost stories that have the most credence are the ones that don't fit an easy moral answer i.e. 'Don't Commit Suicide Or You Will Walk The Earth Forever Freaking People Out.' But there are a lot of ghost stories around the state and they are going to provide some rich fodder for my campaign.

Anyway, I thought I'd share a few of the more interesting ghost stories with You, my Nonexistent reader, and expound on them, both for campaign purposes and sheer academic curiosity. I also thought I'd add a few of the tales that circled through the state in my youth, the ones I heard by word of mouth but that have never been posted to the internet. Then I'll add a small bit of personal lore from one of my own freaky experiences here.

The first is the Stepp Cemetary where all manner of weird sightings have occured. The ghostly hauntings are interesting in and of themselves, but what I found most fascinating is the bit about the cemetary's foundings and it's connections with a cult of "Crabbites" that worshipped in a way that involved snake handling and sex orgies. Now there's an organized religion I can get behind! In any case, it sounds like a bunch of Deep Ones to me. Try as I might I cannot find references to the Crabbites in any quasi legitimate news media or police report. But this one is just begging for a WoD conversion-a cult of perverted "Deliverance" style fomori practicing secret Crabbite rituals to raise a Shoggoth to earth-now that sounds like fun.

The Read dorm haunting is a rather classic ghost story, of a girl's scream being heard on the anniversary on her suicide. This one goes around the undergrads a lot; I heard at least three different iterations of it while I was in college. I've found no official record of this girl's suicide and neither has Alvin Schwartz; still the story lingers, possibly because it is fun to tell and it freaks out naive freshmen. This one might not be campaign worthy but I can still use it for flavor or a wild red herring chase, since it is a very popular tale.

IU Career Center is another classic example of a morality tale-gruesome Dr. Frankenstein performs illegal abortions in what used to be a medical building and now screaming women and children can be heard in the building after dark. Again, no official record-but if I had a random guy performing illegal D&C ops on frightened slutty sophomores in my basement, I'd probably bury the records as well. Unfortunately for the legend I also have no record of a medical facility existing on the spot. The thing that gives this great WoD potential however is the existence of an aborted fetus umbral monster-a great challenge for spiritually enabled PC's and a great source of disturbing imagery.

There are two Freak tales that I didn't find on the intrawebz anywhere, both of which I heard growing up. The first is local to lovely Lodi, Indiana and the second is a tale about Salem, Indiana about a site I've never visited.

The Swell (local terminology for a swamp) is near Lodi, Indiana, and is, quite charitably, a smelly, muddy, dead tree dotted eyesore overflowing with moss and trash carp. The Swell Monster, quite predictably, is said to dwell within. My grandpa first told me the story as it was told to him; that is, some kids went swimming in the malodorous swamp water and one of them was sucked under and bitten by a naked guy with a deer's head. Why anyone would want to go swimming in that reeking pesthole I will never know, but there you have it. I also heard some kids I didn't know talking about how the Swell Monster would get the youngest one, as they swam in a large creek nearby. This sounds like a shifter enemy du jour to me, and at some point we will probably visit scenic Lodi and have the PC's deal with this weird, silly looking monster once and for all.

In addition, there is the Salem story about The Vampire Cage. I heard this story off a weird body piercer I used to know, and have heard it from another guy since. Supposedly, there is this rusty cage off in an abandoned playground near Salem, IN. Otherwise unremarkable, it is supposed to have a curious property-if you get inside it after midnight, it will remain shut until dawn no matter what you do. The local kids go there to get drunk and dare one another to get inside. This just screams 'Lost Magick Talisman' to me and sounds like a pretty efficient way to get rid of vampires to boot-they are stuck there till dawn where they roast alive. Good times. I'm not sure how I can really make a story out of this, but it definitely doesn't sound like the usual 'Murderer gets what he deserves at last' morality tale.

My final bit is a personal one, and is easy to discredit. The location: Chelsea, IN, a postage stamp by anyone's standards. My fascination with abandoned houses leads me and Jake to visit one way out in the boonies at night while tripping balls. We had previously been to this location several times with other friends during the daylight. Interestingly enough, the layout seemed slightly different each time-interior doors in the wrong places, discovering outbuildings that we hadn't seen before and would have had to walk through to get to the house, and an overall bad feeling whenever inside. Now I know what you're thinking-two freaky rpg gamers with a head full of acid have a 'paranormal' experience and off this weird runs to the interwebz with the story. But that night we went there, got inside, and absolutely nothing makes sense. The two story house suddenly had four flights of stairs, and there were no exterior doors at all once we shut the front door behind us. We found rooms filled with wrestling magazines and at least a dozen expended shotgun shells that we had never found before or since. There was an occasional but very loud chitinous giggle in several rooms. We were stuck in that motherfucking house for almost six hours and completely unable to find a way out. Yeah, I understand-head full of acid, our judgement was impaired, couldn't possibly happen, etc. But I haven't been back to that place since. I don't really plan on using that experience in gaming-I don't want to revisit that place, even in fantasy. The deed for the house is registered to an out of state new york trust. At one point, we seriously considered going back to burn the place down.

That's really all I've got, although stretched properly that could be campaign fodder for at least nine or ten good sessions. But don't let that fool you, we are really a placid and nonthreatening state. Just watch out for those fucking Crabbites.