Boston Protest March, May 31st

I marched in Boston on Sunday.

I left after standing at the State House for a little while, before the police went into the crowd. Before I left, the crowd was loud but peaceful—as they had been for the entire march.

I had been heartened by the people around me on the march. People were more considerate of each other than a typical Boston crowd, with lots of attention paid to those around them and none of those pockets of oblivious assholes that so often crop up. While social distancing was basically impossible, I think I saw fewer than ten people without masks.

For perspective, that was ten in this crowd:

If I felt so positive about it, why did I leave?

I spoke mid-march with someone who was helping to organize the crowd, keeping it on the route. They noted the profound lack of police managing the boundaries of the route. That was an accurate assessment, as far as I could tell—the march was almost entirely self-managed. I saw only one cluster of cops off to the side along the whole march (2.4 miles from 2343 Washington Street in Roxbury to the State House on the Commons, at a slow pace over one and a half hours). I’m not sure why the police felt they shouldn’t be present along the route. That was a change from what I’ve seen before. The person managing the crowd speculated that the police were all waiting at the State House, and they worried about what that might imply about the police’s plans.

That resonated with my existing fears. It was also prescient.

I know enough people who’ve been hurt by police while peacefully protesting.

I have at least one family member who’s been hurt by police before. They were protesting peacefully. I trust and believe them when they say this; they’ve done martial arts most of their life and are trained in deescalation and crisis management. We’ve worked security together at large festivals. They were backing away from the police and not offering resistance, but the police attacked them anyway.

I’ve watched police attack other people in front of me, outside of protests, when those people were doing nothing more than being loud. I’ve heard stories of other close friends being pepper sprayed or tear gassed without offering any resistance to police officers.

That had weighed heavily on me while I planned to go to Sunday’s march. Because of that, I’d never intended to stay long enough to be around large numbers of police. Even before hearing that crowd-shepherding person’s speculation, I was hyper-aware of what might happen to me if I stayed.

I’m frustrated that this might be seen as a feature by those who support more violent policing, and by those who don’t support protests (or don’t support protests except when a certain President supports them, as was the case with various armed white protestors this April).

But what it comes down to, really, is that I don’t trust the police.

I don’t trust police to deescalate a situation. I don’t trust police to engage peacefully with anyone they don’t like or empathize with. I don’t believe that they’ll avoid hurting people who don’t offer any resistance. I especially don’t trust police to engage peacefully with crowds. Honestly—and I say this as someone with all the benefits of being seen as a white man—I don’t trust police to empathize with anyone who isn’t visibly and vocally supporting them.

On top of that, I don’t trust most people to believe or support peaceful protestors who’ve been hurt by the police. I believe that those hurt will be blamed, instead of the police. As best as I can see, there’s little accountability to that motto “to serve and protect.”

I’m sad about all of that.

Consider, just for a moment, the standards we hold protestors to when we judge whether or not they’re behaving acceptably. Now, what behavior will we permit or excuse among police officers? Police aren’t punished when they use disproportionate force to subdue people, or when they react to provocations. But if protestors are attacked, we gasp and complain when they respond with anything other than nonviolent forbearance. And we accept that people who’ve done nothing wrong, whose very rights to speech and assembly are enshrined in our Constitution, suffer when the police use indiscriminate force to control people.

When one person in a large crowd throws something, the whole crowd is suspect and a legitimate target. When one officer kills someone, they’re “just one bad apple.” Never mind the fact that the idiom about bad apples says that one bad apple spoils the bunch.

I think I’m only not angry about this all the time because I’ve nearly given up on the police being better. That in itself is sad and stupid; I’ve been on security teams that were better, and I know Community Safety Officers more dedicated to (and who do a better job of) serving and protecting their communities. I know it’s possible to have people do similar work that supports and grows the public trust instead of corroding it.

I fear the impact these protests will have, both through violent policing and through Covid-19’s spread, especially in communities of color. Mattias talks eloquently about both of these things in his thread that starts here:

I can only conclude is that it’s vital for these protests to continue. I don’t see another way to make things change.

Mining my boarding school experience for Cesium Deep

This one is going to be a little more personal. Also a little more disjointed.

I went to a mixed boarding / day school for high school. I was there as a boarder.

My time in my dorm was both great and awful. It’s part of where I’m drawing inspiration for the story I’m writing about Cesium Deep.

When I say that my time in my dorm was great, I mean that I met and made friends with some awesome people. I came to love living in a community, and felt close to some of my dorm mates in a way that is hard to explain. Some of those friendships existed because we were teens who were able to live in the same space and share our passions and interests in ways that I hadn’t really thought possible before boarding school. Sometimes, living in a dorm was a hell of a lot of fun.

But some of those friendships existed because we survived the awfulness together.

I don’t think it’s surprising that no one else from my dorm came to our 10th reunion.

When I say that my time in my dorm was awful, I mean that Continue reading

Good deaths at LARP camp

I’ve been busy teaching children to die well with make-believe swords. More importantly, I’ve been busy showing them that “winning” a sword fight doesn’t make you the most interesting or coolest character in the scene. Relatedly, I died a lot.

Near the end of our adventure game, shortly after I had led the campers in an oath to continue my mission (defending the land from dragons), I died to the big bad. It was a scripted death. It was also, if I may toot my own horn, a good one. I was lucky enough to have not one but several people come and pay their respects afterwards. I think a few of our campers have realized that they can have a good time and make good scenes with each other, improvising a good scene rather than struggling to win.

I’ll be very pleased if that sticks.

Death, Mourning, and a LARP

It feels funny to say this, but… death has been a big part of my life.

Not in any ground-shaking, crushing way, but as something slow and omnipresent and always visible. I suspect my mom’s work with the elderly and in hospice influenced that. I learned that people react oddly to their own incipient death, and that they have many ways of coping with the loss of those they love.

I lost several pets before any family I knew died. Those experiences weren’t at all the same, but in some way the one helped me with the other. Now, most of my grandparents’ generation is dead. I’ve lost friends younger than me, a cousin, others. I was so choked up with an unwillingness to process grief that I took years to say goodbye after my first grandpa died. Saying goodbye to my friends hasn’t really been easier, except insofar as I know that mourning them is a cycle I will revisit many times.

This is something that I’ve thought about more in the past few years. Coco really drove it home for me. I knew after watching that movie that I wanted to create something that would help others learn how they could mourn, learn how they could remember even as they let go.

I’ll tell you more about this when I’m not racing a deadline, but I’m working on a LARP that I think might do some of this. I want to give my players a chance to experience grieving for others, and being grieved for, in its entirety. I want that to be a healthy experience, one that allows for connection and catharsis. And I want my players to have fun. I hope it works.

More details soon.

A Mental Health Day for Henry

This morning, for the first time in a long time, I paid attention to how I was feeling and decided that what I really needed to do was take a mental health day. I haven’t written anything for my creative projects today, and I’ve decided to be okay with that. That’s mostly working. I took time to socialize with a friend I haven’t hung out with for too long, and that was great. This isn’t to say that I haven’t written anything; I had a course evaluation that I was supposed to fill out last month which I finally took care of (to the tune of 1822 words, no less). And I’m writing this, here. But I’m taking a break from trying to outline interactive fiction (which is a frustrating pain in the ass), and focusing instead on giving myself a break of sorts. And that’s been pretty good.

I’ve thought, for some time, that I must have struggled with depression at some scale for a good portion of my adult life. I’ve never discussed this at length with a professional, so I’m not sure how to judge it. I think college is the first time that I can recognize what I now believe were depressive episodes. I haven’t previously given myself space to call it depression because I always figured that other people must have it worse; claiming that I suffered from depression (to any extent) seemed like it was presumptuous, claiming attention for myself that I didn’t deserve and taking it from people who *obviously* deserved it more, people who weren’t poseurs like me. After all, I was basically managing to cope, and other people seemed like they had it worse.

But that is dumb. I still don’t think I suffer as much from this as others (including a number of my friends) do, and I still don’t want to be a distraction. But I’ve abandoned my implicit assumption that this has to be a zero-sum game. Admitting that I have trouble sometimes doesn’t mean that other people who are dealing with depression (or other mental health issues) can’t get what they need. And, providing I’m not a greedy loud jerk about it, talking about it might help other people rather than suck the oxygen out of the room.

I am fortunate to have friends who talk about their own experiences with depression, and the feelings and experiences they associate with their own depressive episodes. Without them, I would not have learned to recognize my own experiences as something that merited my attention, nor would I have recognized that I could do things to head off my feelings of depression and avoid making my life worse. Listening to them talk about the ways they deal with their own feelings has helped me. It’s proof that mental health doesn’t have to be a competition (which I suppose should be obvious, despite past-Henry’s unconscious assumption).

I’m especially fortunate to have these friends because, when I recognized those twinges this morning, the habitual narrative that I’ve learned so well, I finally had the thought that maybe I should take care of myself. I’ve had a much better day because of it.

I hope I remember this for the future. I hope I can share this with others in a way that helps them too.

Cider Lentils with Friends and Root Vegetables

This is not a story, game, or story game. I suppose that means it’s a little off topic for this blog. But I’ve been busy and anxious and etc., so today I took some time to make a meal with some of my friends and I feel much better for it. In case you want to make that recipe yourselves, I’ve thrown it together here for you. It was largely improvised, so my recipe is a little informal. Also judgey about people who don’t like real cider.

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb green lentils
  • 1 double handful red lentils
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 parsnips
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 4-ish cloves garlic
  • 1 gallon cider
  • salt
  • sage
  • thyme
  • cayenne
  • olive oil
Notes:
This goes well with grilled garlic & herb sausage (I used turkey, but w/e).
My friend also made a real tasty dijon-shallot-honey-olive oil salad dressing for a mixed greens & endive salad which went well with this.
You should occasionally pull out bits and taste them during the cooking process. My preferred lentil end state is pre-disintegration (not mushy), with some body and firmness still noticeable. Not crispy & crunchy like dry lentils, but you should know that there are individual tiny lentils in your mouth while eating. If that isn’t how you like lentils, you do you. I’m sure you can cook this until it matches your desired consistency. Or actually measure how much liquid you put in or something.
Oh, and I’m a Vermonter. I like cider. If for some reason you don’t like cider (northeastern unfiltered good brown stuff, not mislabeled apple juice)… I can’t help you. But if you’re unfortunate enough to not appreciate the goodness of real cider, you can probably substitute inferior replacements and be satisfied.
Directions:
  • drink some cider, there’s a whole gallon for a reason
  • wash lentils
  • dice onion into square chunks
  • mince garlic into moderately fine bits
  • coin carrots & parsnips (carrots needed first) into roughly even thin slices
  • heat some olive oil in a pan
  • add diced onion and begin sauteeing
  • you probably need more cider in your cup now
  • add garlic soon after, once onion has that early glassy look
  • add carrot coins (some may need to be halved as well, if they’re thickish)
  • cook these for a few minutes until the carrots have warmed up, possibly adding more oil if you like
  • add parsnips and cook until warmed up, again adding more oil if you like
  • pour in cider to cover, this is also an excellent time to drink more cider
  • add lentils and more cider to cover again, more or less generous depending on how soupy you want the end result to be
  • simmer that delicious soup! stir gently, and check occasionally for lentil/parsnip/carrot consistency
  • once the cider has heated but before you’ve let it cook much, spice to taste:
  • add some sage
  • add a good deal more thyme
  • add a dash of cayenne (a tiny bit goes a long way)
  • who doesn’t love salt: be generous, mix, and taste test… then repeat
  • once your desired lentil/carrot/parsnip consistency has been reached, turn off the heat, let sit for a minute or so, and serve!
  • maybe have some more cider at multiple steps along the way

Reunions!

Fun fact. I graduated from college five years after I graduated from high school. This means that all those big 5, 10, etc year reunion things fall on the same calendar year for me. This is a bit awkward, as you might imagine, when it comes to planning.

When I’m also recovering from mono during the same stretch of time that all of those reunions are happening… well. My apologies for continuing to be slow with my posts, but I’m seeing folks I haven’t seen in years and having a very good time doing so. And when I’m not doing that, I’m sleeping.

Do not fret, I’m still here. I’m simply busy. I’ll be back with you soon.

You’re Listening to Fever 103, WFVR

The go to spot for all your disassociated ramblings, muscle aches, and profound desires to just get the hell back into bed if only you hadn’t sweated through all your sheets.

Yes, that was my temp this morning. I’ve cooled considerably since then, but I expect it will continue to be an adventure. I’ll resume the regular schedule some time soon, I swear.

You know, something about this made up radio station tickles my fancy. Maybe I’ll play around with it.

Going back to Lloyd Alexander

I’d forgotten just how much I enjoyed Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three and the rest of the Prydain series when I was younger.  I think I also missed a lot of the gendered subtexts (many of which are pretty overt) when I was reading Alexander’s work the first time through.  Or rather, I didn’t pay much attention to them even though they were right up in my face.  Rereading Lloyd Alexander has been a bit strange.

I’m afraid I don’t have anything more deep for you.  I have to go back to work, reading more Lloyd Alexander and Colonial and Post-Colonial theory, and writing about both of them (though not at the same time).

Though actually, on that note, there’s an excellent quote for you from Chidi Okonkwo’s piece “Casualties of Freedom” that sums up 20th century foreign policy pretty well:

“The role of the West in Third World poverty and instability has been that of pirates who, having plundered and sunk a merchant ship take up positions along the shore and shoot any survivors trying to swim to safety.”

Slushpiles and Rejection Letters

My day today has been rather full.  After reading homework in the library, I had the privilege of spending three hours going through a slushpile for someone I know (for the uninformed, a “slushpile” is what you call the vertiginous heaps of unsolicited submissions received by agents and publishing houses).

It was enlightening, and somehow encouraging and discouraging at the same time.  It puts me in mind of the internal rejection notes from Houghton Mifflin Company that I read while doing research last spring; I found reading committee notes on why HMCo shouldn’t print Poul Anderson, Philip K Dick, or even George Selden’s The Cricket in Times Square.  That’s two iconic mid-1900s sci-fi authors and the 1961 Newbery Honor recipient, all rejected with pithy and sometimes caustic internal notes exchanged between the various submissions readers.

It was enlightening because I found myself rejecting anything that didn’t closely match the guidelines I’d been given, even things that I thought might have been perfectly decent books.  There were no hard feelings, the submission simply wasn’t *exactly* what I was looking for.  It was encouraging, because a number of them weren’t very good and I’d like to think that I could do a better job than that.  And it was discouraging, because in order to submit something and get an editor you need a finished manuscript, and finishing a manuscript that would be accepted is much easier with an editor.

Basically, you could do it if they’d let you, but they won’t let you until you do it.

It’s a mess.

So, it’s time for me to figure out how to finish my work.  Again.

And if your work has been rejected by people, don’t give up.  Submit again and again and again.  Everywhere you can.  Maybe you should tweak things, but do keep trying.