Thomm Quackenbush, author

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    Xenology: Archipelago of Social Islands

    My therapist - my new one and not the nurse who refills my prescriptions - challenges that I might be afraid to make friends. In part, she said this because she suggested I join a theater troupe and I pronounced too great a commitment of time and effort.

    Instead, she charged me to find people with whom I can write and was not swayed when I said writers are territorial and private. Resentful competition is not a foundation for friendship. She was unconvinced. So I will find a group or I will make one, if just so I can report back that I did and it came to nothing. As a seventeen-year-old, I initiated the Mid-Hudson Pagan Network, a group of over two hundred people, most of whom had a decade on me, some of whom attended monthly meetings at a local Denny's. This lasted for years, before imploding from predictable drama. It is likely I could actually wrangle a few local writers.

    Xenology: The Problem of Cool

    When I was a teenager -- the coolest period in anyone's life -- I went to concerts at least once a month at a club called The Chance. Paul McCartney once said it was one of the clubs he most wanted to play in the States, though I don't see that he ever did.

    In the nineties, I saw awesome bands: GWAR, Collective Soul, the Verve Pipe, Sponge (three times!), Blink-182, Chevelle, Eve 6, Goatwhore, Murphy's Law, Paramore, Puddle of Mudd, Sum 41, and Third Eye Blind. There are undoubtedly many more who slip my mind at the moment, certainly opening acts whom I mostly ignored at the time because I was too eager for the headliner and they were going on too long. Who is cooler than the entitled in our culture? I wish I had a list of all the bands I saw, just to reflect on shows I only hazily remember from the jet engine drone of being directly in front of the speakers, the sore calves from jumping around, the torn shirts from other concert goers, the smell of smoke that clung to my hair for days.

    Xenology: Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose

    Am I capable of freedom?

    It is not a new question, which may be evidence enough that we don't want freedom. We cannot even think of new questions to ask ourselves, instead pretending threadbare wondering is fresh enough.

    I feel oppressed by what I presume to be societal expectations. I feel trapped away from experience I want, blaming a lack of personal wealth and privilege. But, handed an all-expenses paid train/backpacking tour for two through Europe, I might find nervous excuses before accepting. It wouldn't be freedom, not really, but it would be feel less burdensome for a time.

    Xenology: Sweet Sorrow

    It will be the first time we spent the night apart since moving in together over five years ago. Amber quibbles that times she spent all night awake making thousands of denim bracelets while I slept almost don't count, but I don't buy that. We were fewer than twelve feet apart, which is as good as together. She was not an hour and forty minutes away in Delhi, learning the care and treatment of lab mice at RATS Camp. She mopes that she will simply give up on science so as to leave our streak unbroken, but only so I tell her she has to do the painful thing for the chance of the life she deserves.

    Xenology: Immemorial Day

    We are just tucking into our Memorial Day barbecue when my mother tells me how my grandmother was not bothered by the idea of growing old. This acceptance of senescence plainly bemuses my mother, who has dyed her hair longer than I likely realize.

    My father adds, “When she was about ninety, I asked her what that age was like. She said, ‘I feel seventy.’” From his tone, feeling seventy was clearly a great thing to her.

    Xenography: Truth vs. Fame

    Fame an explosion in a Hollywood blockbuster and we writers are the daring heroes. We caused the explosion, either through careful planning or serendipitous accident with accelerants, but we are supposed to stroll away from it as though we are too cool to notice. Anything else and the audience turns against us. They get to be impressed, not us. We need to remain pure, as though we meant all to this and couldn't be more bored by it now.

    See the rest.

    Xenology: Trash Buddy

    We were digging through the donation bins at Bard on Wednesday, May 24th, around 7. We found you on the far edge of Bard, near the Manor building. I was climbing to peek in the dumpster for things that ought to have been donated. I wore a t-shirt with a skull on it and black pants ill-suited to the task (I am certain of this last article because I tore them and was irritated that I had not changed into jeans after work). You were on the other side, opening fortune cookies, reading the fortunes, and tossing the cookies back into the dumpster, because you don't eat the cookies. You read one about finding a new friend, which I thought was a fun coincidence. My wife asked who I was talking to – she may have assumed I was just muttering to myself jovially over a great bit of refuse – and I immediately called you my Trash Buddy. Trying to get a new angle on the bin, I found what I labeled a "grenade full of honey" and showed you. It was unpleasantly sticky and I regretted immediately picking it up. 

    See the rest.

    Xenology: Suicidal Tendencies

    The state of New York and its employees expend impressive resources trying to keep these children alive. I do not mean this in that we feed and clothe them, that we try to give them academic and job skills for when they return to their communities, that we guide them away from substance abuse and explosive anger so that they will not run afoul of a bad day. We do all of these things on a daily basis, as a matter of course, but this is not enough.

    I literally meant that we keep these children alive. They are already emotionally dysregulated or they would not be sentenced to being my student. Removed by the courts from their shaky support systems, on their third year of a six-month sentence, realizing how few escape the cycle of incarceration, they attempt suicide. Unlike suicidal gestures outside juvenile detention, they have to get creative in their despair. They have no access to sharp objects with which to open a vein or drugs on which they could overdose. No doorknob or fixture here allows a cord wrapped around it. Even if they could, my students have no access to ligatures, so much so that they only have Velcro shoes. None of our cleaning chemicals is likely to give more than a stomach ache if ingested, which also means that they don't clean well. When they want to try to end their lives, they find themselves bereft of most options more effective than holding their breath.

    See the rest.

    Xenology: The Huge Heermance


    There were five of these?

    When a party is this needlessly lavish - and when the host makes no introductions or takes no notice or fee - it is hard to believe one isn't crashing, in spirit if not fact.

    I don't understand the farm's motivation for throwing this hog roast for hundreds of strangers. Farms saturate upstate New York. Prior to Amber explaining her obligation to attend this party during her lunch break - the owner bought literally thousands of dollars of flowers from her employer, either for the party or just on a lark - I had not heard of this particular one. I acknowledge that I do not go out of my way to know the names of those who tend my produce, but I do rub shoulders with those who might generously be called "farmer's market people," none of whom breathed a word about Heermance Farms.

    See the rest.

    Xenology: Sea of Weirdness

    I am enmeshed in the realm of the paranormal. While possibly not an expert, I can convincingly fake it around lay people. I spend a portion of every week catching up on the newest stories and theories, wild speculation and grounded, scientific analyses. My wife seduced me into a California honeymoon with promises of a Bigfoot Museum (hilariously disappointing) and the Winchester Mystery House (smaller and less creepy than you might expect). When she wants us to go on a trip, Amber searched for aliens, cryptids, and hauntings, knowing that this will be enough to get me enthusiastic. At each site, I appreciate the kitsch of it, but a part of me is hoping to discover the miraculous through osmosis.

    See the rest.

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Works by Thomm Quackenbush

Anthologies

Find What You Love and Let It Kill You by Thomm Quackenbush
Pagan Standard Times: Essays on the Craft by Thomm Quackenbush
A Creature Was Stirring: A Twisted Christmas Anthology by Thomm Quackenbush
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On B&N
At Double Dragon