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09.24.01 10:20 p.m.

The tree of life knows that, whatever happens, the warm music spinning around it will never stop. However much death may come, however much blood may flow, the music will dance with men and women as long as the air breaths them and the land plows and loves them.

 -Eduardo Galeano  

This Entry Features: Emily is wonderful. Sex crimes. Zimbardo. The Boys. Dislike of Pagans. Music by Burle Ives. Xen equating Paganism and psychology (he does not!). Apples. Virginity. Table dancing. Themes by Nabokov. Poop. Bright red hands. Toad weasels.

Over the weekend, Emily informed me about sororities and frats in frightening detail. No, as you may have guessed, I am not a member of these sort of organizations and somewhat fail to understand their purpose in this age, especially as I go to one of the reputed "party schools" of the state. Perhaps if I were in an area where no other social life could blossom without the Miracle-Gro of forced interaction (as was the case for Emily when she went to Trenton), I could understand joining a frat. However, it would unfailingly have been the fraternity that boasts the most male virginity and least alcoholism. So, clearly, I am not the frat sort.
Here, however, is when I henceforth consider all frats and sororities enemy organizations until proven otherwise. Emily informed me of hazing. I was not so naive as to think it did not occur, I was shocked to learn the extent of it. At her prior school, the AT's, a sorority, would force the young pledges to be the slave to their brother frat for a day, during which these girls were pretty much gang raped all day. How in a civilized society can people even vaguely fathom undergoing this or perpetuating it? I have studied social psychology, and here I am thinking of Zimbardo's Prison Study and the Milgram's Study (faux electroshock research that saw how far a person would go when told by a superior to do so), I know that you can make people do insane and illogical acts with the proper sort of pressure. Why, however, would someone submit to being brutally, cruelly, and continually violated to spend time with people who don't actually like you? As Emily put it, "I wouldn't want to call anyone who wanted to torture me 'sister.'" After Emily got into her sorority (which was damn near a 4H club) with hazing that involved listening to an opera and not eating salad, her roommate (who submitted to a fascist, though not criminal, sorority) as her if they had "rebuilt her." Emily screamed back, "I was never broken down! You are fucking brainwashed!" See, Emily is fairly structurally sound.
Anyway, all Greek organizations are suspect and all frat jerks are rapists until proven otherwise in my world. As always, frequent exceptions are to be made on an individual basis.
People do seem to section themselves off from the rest of the world. Mini-sororities and frats, if you will. Last year, Katie spent a great deal of time at "The Boys" house. They were, in the opinion of some, pseudo-intellectual snobs and generally jerks. I do exclude some of the house's occupants from this broad sweep of the brush, but it is not wholly inaccurate. Katie certainly saw this household as a little club to which she belonged. I often wonder whether part of the club's initiation wasn't a loss of the innocence and love for the world that kept us together and her away from the desire to escape reality. So, yeah, didn't like them.
There were other initiation that she underwent in a torturously hazardous way, which actually (in my opinion) parted her from them, one by one. Then this tree house dissolved into hatred, as all bad things must, and broke apart. Had they only been made to fellate one another while being sodomized with a broomstick as good frats do, none of this would have ever happened. Or it would have been very, very funny.

Stupid Pagans versus Intelligent Beings
Friday, Emily and I held a meeting of the Mid-Hudson Pagan Network to discuss the World Trade Center disaster. To our joy, especially given that numerous purposely contrary members harangued the concept endlessly, the meeting was wonderful. Only five members, plus Emily and me, attended. However, I think that fostered an intimate and free discussion of how we felt about the tragedy. While we certainly did not all agree, the debate and discussion was civilized, candid, and very much welcomed. I needed to get these things out, things that I have told you earlier, to a live audience. The company was wonderful and it encourages me that meetings can and should be held on a regular basis.
Secretly, or not so much given that I am rather publicly announcing the matter, Emily and I have a growing distaste for a great deal of Pagans (though I think that it is fair to insert the name of almost any group by which people define themselves, if you wish to make this more applicable for yourself) we have encountered. They are dizzy, vapid, gleefully ignorant, and dogmatic. I do not wish to be associated with people who proclaim themselves Grand High PooBah of the Universal Silver Wolf Raven Coven that they report goes back to the Mesozoic Era, but have no idea who the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was or how to define "a circle" (in the religious sense). In short, people who can't even talk the talk let alone walk the walk. If one honestly honors one's path and wishes to be respected by those one chooses as peers, a basic knowledge of it is expected. I cannot, nor would I desire to, proclaim myself a student of psychology and then get offended when Freud is discussed. Moreover, I would not defend my ignorance by saying I was a natural psychologist because my mother was one as was my mother's mother. I would get laughed at and heartily and deservedly dismissed. Yet this is done wholesale in Paganism.
Perhaps the path is too free. But no. I carry no sturdy dogma, and yet I know a great deal on specific subjects. I have practiced for years and studied for more than a decade (yes, I am aware that if one does the math that makes me ten. Ten year olds study history, math, grammar, literature, and the like. Very basic theory and theology isn't a stretch). I did go through my brief teenage idiocy phase which incorporated a little bit of my grasping at the straws of organizing others to worship with me with less than stellar results (they being teenagers as well). Yet, at nearly twenty-one, I am greeted with adults twice or thrice my age that maul me for pointing out basic points that I learned very early. It seems that psychoemotional maturity and respect for oneself and one's path is often enough neglected in Paganism in favor of a bombastic lifestyle that fizzles out quickly.
I have discovered, with the help of my group, only a handful of Pagans that I can say I honestly respect and have faith in. Otherwise, I am disheartened.
Examples? You greedy, greedy readers. Fine. But I hope you choke on it!
On Thursday, I attended a meetings of New Paltz's Pagan Student Union. While still a student of Dutchess, I was around for the creation of this club. In the beginning, nearly twenty people would attend, not all of whom I respected but all of whom I had an interest in as people. They earned student association funding and became high profile at the college. I was frankly impressed, as I noted the bureaucracy that strangled Dutchess's PURE into a piffling turn-out.
Over the first semester, evidently, head game and power trips were had by no fewer than five people. And the club suffered. They were no longer seen as a reputable club by the college and their SA funding was pulled.
When I visited last fall, very few people were there and the club had been moved to a slightly smaller room. A lot of pointless bullshit and sexual meandering was had, but I still considered this a club that I would attend infrequently.
Thursdays meeting consisted of people single entendring to one another for forty-five minutes before anything truly of note occurred. One of the more annoying members gestured to me during a speech involving how PSU was an S&M club and stated that I could be her whipping boy. I verbally cut her to shreds and cauterized the wound with vitriol. I was not having it.
When finally anything even vaguely related to the club was introduced, one of the more outspoken members vetoed it as not being the point (hitting on everyone and no one?). Another member, bless her heart, cut into him and reminded him that that was exactly the point. He shirked away, chagrinned. However vindicated civilized people could have felt at that moment, the assembly quickly degenerated once more and the club trickled out after one girl (who did not hold any office) left to attend a drunken frat party when she would be table dancing. Do we all see the problem here?
I believe, and would be willing to stake money on my assertion, that a bloody lot of college Pagans are in it to rebel/be popular/be fashionable/get unholy powers of darkness (hey I am still waiting for mine!) and will likely outgrow it. I see non-PSU Pagans on campus. Most dressed like normal human beings (read as: as Paganism is a philosophical/religious path, it does not have a set wardrobe, a fact which would shock some I know). I want to give them tiny posters, like the recruiting frat jerks do, and tell them that PSU exists and its current form must be destroyed. Dissimilar Pagan views would do the group good.

Malus: the badly translated fruit
Yesterday, Emily and I went apple picking. It is a yearly custom with my family, one to which I confess I am increasingly fond. I guess I am getting nostalgic in my old age.
We annually go to a nearby orchard and farmer's market whose name escapes me. It is quite rural in appearance, a good thousand feet from the rapidly encroaching apartment complex blob that ingested our prior orchard.
The apple picking itself only took about half an hour, mostly owing to the fact that Emily and I were frolicking about and playing with milkweed pods. We two are frolicsome. It is surprisingly soothing to pet milkweed spores, like expensive doll hair. I pondered to M that I would like a milkweed sweater. She doubted one could make a durable fabric of it. Genetic researchers with spiders, I am looking your way!
As some of you know, apple picking has a particularly weighty meaning to me. Mythical, almost. I shall give you an example, though not from my own life, of the apple orchard power. My dear friend of mine lost her maidenhood after an enchantingly romantic picnic just after sunset in the very orchard I was then picking apples. Mythic.
Emily was thoroughly enthused to be a part of this familial excursion. Her family never much celebrated holidays and as such she had not even carved a pumpkin since she was six. Luddites, I tell you. She used to participate and receive gifts during Hanukkah. However, a principled lass, she refused the gifts when she abandon the religion of her parents. As such, she finds herself in the atheist's lamentable position of having no holiday traditions, save for those my largely atheistic (save my father and me) family can provide her.
We don't mind. Great pumpkin and whatnot. Thanksgiving popcorn on a card table. Inflatable cartoon characters. Davoo Doray. Island of Misfit Toys. These things are necessary to the healthy upbringing of a 21 year old.

Love Affairs and Psychology Professors
Last night Emily and I hung out with
Dave, my former psychology teacher from Dutchess who probably is a goodly reason that I am considering getting a Master's in psych. He and I had been trying to get together for coffee or the like for months, and this marked the first time anything came to fruition. We decided to meet at the Moonlight Cafe in New Paltz, mainly because David suggested New Paltz and I had been meaning to patronize the Middle Eastern proprietors as a show of good faith to them. (Many people are still being myopic pricks toward all those of Middle Eastern descent.)
Emily and I arrived early, which was likely salutary because I was rather anxious and it gave me a chance to calm down for a few minutes. Browsing a head shop across the street was the task chosen to relieve my anxiety, with a surprising degree of success.
The conversation flowed well once Dave arrived, though he had far less hair than I remembered. Far less.
I admit it was a little bit weird, owing to the fact that he and Emily & I are at different stages in our respective lives. Still, it was largely very enjoyable. He counseled me as to the life of a community college teacher, which was oddly refreshing. No sugar-coating, just the truth that it could likely suck and likely be as wonderful as being a public high school teacher.
We spoke a great deal of politics, the World Trade Center, and the like, to the surprise of absolutely no one. Dave had spoken of nothing but the WTC in class for the three days after it and had actually let his classes just watch the footage of it when it happened. None of my teachers deigned it a worthy topic of conversation. Bloody hell, not like it was history or anything.
Dave also lamented the less than pleasant state of his romantic life. I shall retell it as best and with as much respect for his privacy as I can muster. The one he loves, who loves him in return, cannot be with him because her parents think he is too old for her. They have a very close relationship, but they cannot be a couple at this stage. They speak constantly on the phone, and at Dutchess. If any man had cause to lament, it is certainly Dave. He cannot move forward to another because he truly does love this lass and has for quite a while. And backward? Here there be dragons. I will keep you updated, as I am.

Philosophy As It Pertains to Feces
Last Wednesday, about to be done for the night at Emily's apartment, I was discussing whether I had a cohesive philosophy that got me through the difficult times that life so oft presents us with. Just then, I realized that an unpleasant odor was emanating from beneath my boot on the other side of the room. Barefoot, I exited M's room to clean my befouled shoe on the grass. I was in no way irked or stressed. This happens and now I must do what I can to fix it, though I was not the cause. As I searched the grass for sticks or a good patch of grass, I stepped in a decidedly unpleasant pile of squishiness. Not a moment did I fret. I would clean my foot and shoe as best I could on the grass then I would enlist the bathroom sink for the rest. No problem, no need for worry. I was calm and collected, not really cursing my luck as I suppose some would.
A few minutes later, I was clean, happy, and cuddled next to my lady love. I pronounced to her that I evidently did have an effective personal philosophy.

Rachel in the Diamond with Moo Cows
Saturday night, in an attempt to get Emily undergarments and still be social, Zack, she, and I went to the mall. It should be noted that all day Emily had been sighing for a carnival. Therefore, the fact that one existed in the mall parking lot should come as no great surprise to me. Still it did.
Quickly our plans changed from merely shopping to a carnie adventure. These things happen. Emily and I attended to some brief business in one mall while Zack strolled over to the other mall to purloin his new friend Rachel.
M and I quickly finished the business at hand (in the "I am not making a sexual reference" way) and went to find Zack and Rachel in the other mall. As we parked, Emily informed me through clenched teeth that we were next to the car of one of the primary anathemas in our lives. Not a combating sort usually, I informed Emily that I would kill him brutally if he so much as looked our way while we were in the mall. To wit, I did a quick energy working to tap into a more primal center of my self (read as: "I got charged up to protect and destroy, if the need be." Read that as: "I was going to kick ass"). It got me really irritable and anxious, but the effects we felt. While walking through the mall, I lost my balance for a moment and informed Emily that it had taken effect. I asked her to look at my hands a short time later, which were bright red with white spots. She remarked that I evidently had very good control of the blood vessels in my hand.
Do not worry, dear reader, I came to no conflict. We discovered Rachel and Zack just as they discovered us and we beat a hasty retreat out of the mall, for I wished to tarry no longer in this state. We went to the carnival, which was rather lame. I almost bitched out a lying, cheating carnie who prevented me from having the monkey toy I desired. When I next go to a carnival, I am going to write out a contract for the carnie to sign backing up the wild claims he makes. That'll fuck with them. I got a cow out of the deal, though, which we used as a football for a few minutes.
From here, we wrecked predictable havoc in a nearby diner and retired to some Jay and Silent Bob cartoons in Rachel's house while playing with a ferret than Emily and I were both allergic to.
Such is life.

Soon in Xenology: Xen trying to get new jobs. Xen actually getting lunch with Kate. A new character. Mission envelops. A new web server.

last watched: A Knight's Tale
reading: Mythology, Edith Hamilton
listening: "Guttermouth" from Cheap and Evil Girl by Bree Sharp
wanting: monetarily more. Otherwise, I am good.
interesting thought: there is a message in everything.
moment of zen: seeing Emily with leaves in her hair and appreciating a new level.
someday I must: Forgive myself for not achieving an ideal I didn't know existed.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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