Thursday, September 30, 2010

Um, Off the Grid?

Took time off work yesterday to bike down to the Utility Billing center to pay the water bill. Of course, the people behind the counter, particularly B. were very friendly and kind, a direct contrast to the people at the water department I talked to on the phone. When B finally asked for the 726 dollars, I set 726 one dollar bills on the counter. She looked at them and smiled. "That's going to be fun for me," she said, "But that's OK."

I had already told her about my problems with the water department. I told her I wasn't trying to be a jerk, I was just making a statement, that I was hoping the person taking the money would be a jerk like the people on the phone, not a sweetheart. I said I was glad she was a sweetheart. She smiled again, put the money in the bill counter and said, "I've had people pay with pennies." On the way out. both B. and the other person behind the Plexiglas, a gentle middle-aged man, thanked me for not bringing in 726 dollars in change.

I didn't prick each bill with a drop of blood either, like I thought I would. It seemed too tedious, too time consuming, and too angry. There is so much else to do that is more productive, more positive, more affirming. I'm all for revolutionary symbolism, but I don't really want to draw blood, mine or anyone else's. There's more than enough of that - the bloodletting, not the revolutionary symbolism. And as I've said before, bloody revolution is just that: bloody.

Good people, in that municipal office. Every time I grow disgusted with Government, I'm confronted by good people in Government who remind me, not all who exist inside the Institution are corrupted by it. There are good people in the Corporate world as well, even if many in that world are corrupted, as so many in Government are, in a similar but different way.

I've been wondering about good and bad, ever since I wrote about the prevalence of bad people in Government. What really do I mean by "bad people"? Is that statement even defensible? There is an idea in America that to be successful is to be good. There is another, in contrast, that to be poor and disadvantaged is to be good. Or, that to be successful is to be bad; to be poor is to be bad.

In my experience, people who are successful are no more or less likely to be good or bad than someone who is poor, and vice-versa. Basically, the system in which we are all raised - the entrenched hierarchy, the servile worship of money and technology, the near total disconnection from the rhythms of the Earth, the glorification of violence, the ubiquity of poisons, the sickness in the food, the unbalanced and unholy worship of a God with almost no counterbalancing respect and devotion to the Sacred Feminine - twists us all in unhealthy ways.

If we talk at all in America about health, it is almost always in reference to the economy. But guess what? The economy as it is established is leading us directly into ecological, systemic collapse.

We act well or we don't. The more we act badly, the more bad we become. The more we act well, the more well we become. What is it to act well, or not? Well, if an action is healthy for oneself, for one's family, friends, community and the Earth, that is good. If an action is unhealthy for any of these, it is unhealthy. Right now, on this planet Earth, the balance of actions has tipped far to the side of unhealthy, and there is not one of us exempt from that responsibility, no matter how poor or how affluent one is.

There are no hard rules about this. It can't be translated in Excel format. The so-called Holy books won't help much (has any major religion done a thing to prevent the ecological fix we are in, seven billion Homo sapien sapien and counting? Other than periodically contributing to the death of mass numbers of us?).

You are the best judge of what is healthy, in your heart.

So - after next Monday I will no longer be technically off the grid, with municipal water in my house. But if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know, I'm "off the grid" in just about every way, as a state of mind. I try. It seems there are a few people interested. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What To Do About Product Loss

Already this week we have found two empty costume packages. One was stuffed under a couch in the ladies Boodoir, the other hanging empty on the shelf. No doubt there are more. I think we suffer less loss than the average retail store, in part because the energy of this place, from the music to the layout to the staff, is distinctly non-corporate. I recently walked the full downward spiral of that retail consumer vortex, the Mall of America. Our store has more character than any store there; we don't have to answer to a corporate elite unconnected to the reality on the floor.

Most people recognize the difference, if only on a subconscious level. Most people enjoy the place, most are respectful. There are others who don't care about anything but the fulfillment of their desire, for whom theft is justified in any case - except, probably, when it happens to them. The theft of anything on the floor is like a violation, a deep affront to all we stand for, to all we are trying to do here. Stealing from this store is stealing from staff bonuses.

It gives me a sick feeling, finding that something has been stolen from us, which taints my view of people generally. A reminder how important behavior is, how important is a sense of community. Every act of selfishness contributes to the rot of the greater culture. For generations now, economists have been telling us greed is good. Selfishness drives innovation and economic growth, which will raise standards of living globally, which will contribute to the betterment of society generally, which keeps us all from walking on all fours, dragging our knuckles, picking flies off each others backs, etcetera.

Selfishness and Greed lead in one direction only, which is to say, it is the destruction of all that is sacred. How can I really blame the people who steal from us, when theft of the resources of the Earth is foundational to modern economics? We are all models of behavior for each other, and the behavior modeled by so many leaders of Corporations, leaders of Finance, leaders of Government is, get what you can for yourself, however you can, whenever you can, regardless of the effect on anything but yourself.

That, and there was a guy here this weekend spitting sunflower seeds on the floor. This is called boorishness, which I take less as an affront to me and the staff, as an unconscious reaction to the culture as a whole. A guy just walked in as I write this, reeking of booze. I thought he had cerebral palsy, at first glance. He asked for Marcus, then Marcelle. I told him there was no one by either name working here. He said, "We'll see about that," and stumbled into the store. I cut him off at the pet costumes and told him he had to leave. He didn't put up a fight. He's outside now, leaning on a guard rail. He can barely stand on his own. He doesn't look homeless. He's roughly the same age I am.

A growing discontent out there. Pundits everywhere with an opinion, most of them saying, in one form or another, if we just generate more wealth the problem will be solved. Wrong. The problem is so much deeper, so much more foundational. Hierarchy, the Will to Rule, Every Man for Himself, the death of community, indifference to the health of the Earth and all its creatures.

"What can I do?" Undo what has been done to you. Be caring, gentle, humble, generous and kind. Be Fierce. Look to your origins, to the beginning of the Universe. Offer yourself up to the Earth, in service. Allow that you are much more powerful than you think you are. Give yourself permission to follow what you know to be healthy for you, no matter what culture has to say about it. Heal yourself and you will heal the world.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I'm home, for the first time this week. I arrived home last night at about ten, after another enjoyable experience at Patrick's Cabaret. Stayed up until midnight working on the House Playlist for Monster Halloween, adding songs I collected from the Central Hennepin County Library, more African beats with an emphasis on Mali, Middle Eastern etcetera and a bit of Latin jazz.

As soon as I laid down to bed I heard the sound of metal on metal, outside the back door. I walked into the kitchen and looked out the window. There was a man, kneeling next to the back step, sorting through my garden tools. I opened the door and he took off running. Smartly, he didn't try to take a tool with him, or I would have run him down.

Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor. In America, mostly, we have the rich and poor stealing from the poor to keep for themselves. This is called free-market economics and the ethic of Every Man For Himself. It is the ideal, even as it is immoral and reprehensible. I expect a lot more of it, as our Empire continues a long, downward slide into social disintegration. I'm sure we Americans are in no way ready for that. Ready or not, it's coming.

If he wanted my damn shovel, I would have borrowed it to him. And shown him how to use it. Established a relationship. Maybe help him connect to the rhythms of the Earth.

Reconnecting to the rhythms of the Earth is essential in this new Age, as existential dilemmas pile up, as a consequence of our species disconnection. Here in America, there is a movement afoot, an attempt to awaken. It is a movement toward sustainability, or the long-term viability of the social organism we call culture, in the face of very real, impending energy constraints. An attempt to otherwise prevent us from slipping into another kind of dark age.

In the sustainability movement, which is to say, those people who are aware the Age of Oil is coming to an end and are trying to prepare for it, there seem to be three camps. One, which I will attribute to Alex Steffen at, has a deep and abiding faith that technology will save us from this debacle, with minimum impact to our standard of living. The second, which I will attribute to Rob Hopkins and the Transition Town movement,, and the belief that community organization will prepare us for the unthinkable. The third approach is that of skills, as they manifest in the individual, which I will attribute to John Michael Greer, at

Lately, Alex Steffen has been taking swipes at Rob Hopkins, Rob Hopkins at John Michael Greer, and John Michael Greer at Rob Hopkins and Alex Steffen. Such is the tendency of movements, as leaders gain followers and fight for turf, for influence. Ironically, they are all right, insofar as they are trying to prepare for the reality that in the next few decades, everything we understand as normality is going to be undone, and we will be faced with energy shortages we have no first-hand reference for. Steffen is thinking on the Macro-social level, Hopkins on the local-social, and Greer at the Micro-Individual. All levels are essential, if we are to resurrect this grand experiment that was to be America; and a few other levels/perspectives besides.

Basically, the sustainability movement is trying to introduce into social consciousness the laws of ecology, which we have entirely ignored for most of the last few thousand years, which has led to 7 billion extant Homo sapien sapien, wars at every corner, collapsing ecosystems, the weakening of the individual and the collapse of community. I would like to add to the conversation a reverence for the Earth, a kind of cosmic consciousness that considers the whole of the Universe to be sacred, which is to say, every last thing is sacred, including humans, even if we have lost our way, acting badly much of the time, stealing shovels, issuing municipal citations unnecessarily and manipulating global financial markets, without any regard for the consequences except insofar as they seem to benefit ourselves in the short term.

What I'm suggesting is, the sustainability movement, the whole species in fact, is doomed, if we do not resurrect in ourselves a reverence, for ourselves, in relationship to the spiral nature of things, from galaxies to gardens to DNA. That we are as much children of our parents as we are children of the Earth and children of the Sun, should be a foundational premise from which all decisions arise, a prism through which we view the world and each other. Everyone is a unique, astonishing and utterly beautiful manifestation of the Spirit, a divine being, a child of the Earth, a child of the Sun, Homo sapien sapien, sacred. Even when we are acting badly, even when we are disconnected, even as we establish hierarchies that allow for the wholly unnatural aggrandizement of certain individuals above all others, a social structure that allows all of us to plunder the Earth out of all proportion to necessity.

Interestingly, this condemnation order from the city brings me right back to where I was. I had given up on the idea of making this house and this land a model of sustainability, a model of right relationship to the rhythms of the Earth. I was ready to give it up and wander the world with my stave, swords and deer horns. Maybe I still will. But maybe I'll build a cistern or two to hold about ten thousand gallons of water, so whoever lives in this house does not have to pay the City or anyone else a dollar, for the right to water, the most abundant substance on Earth. I would like to finish that project while I am still paying on the $3100 bill for a stop box I never needed. That three thousand dollars could have been spent to get this house off city water. Which seems a far more viable long-term, sustainable solution than a vast underground water distribution system prone to constant failure and cost-prohibitive prepare, in an economy that is weak and will grow weaker, even as the infrastructure, from water lines to roads to the electrical power grid, continually degrades.

And as far as the whole sustainability movement is concerned, in respect to the energy constraints of the next several decades, I'm inclined to think community is viable only if every individual in the community has useful knowledge and skills - namely, how to build, fix and grow things. And the maturity to recognize the coming Age as a time of healing.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Green Man

Late night at Monster Halloween, dancing, testing the green makeup, wondering about painting myself green, applying latex horns, and dancing at the opening party, trying to shake the feeling left by the condemnation order and all I am required to do to get myself out from under it. Wondering about Government and the war between it and Finance, which I have stepped into the middle of. Minneapolis municipal government stands to benefit if I walk away from the house. Thousands of dollars in fees applied to the taxes, which the bank will have to pay in the event of foreclosure. As the man in City Inspections told me, "we'll get our money one way or another."

Tea Party folk would like to starve Government. Of course, that is naive, as starving Government would only allow free-Market fundamentalists to increase the rapidity at which we are destroying ecosystems, to which we owe our existence as a species. I am inclined to starve both Government and Finance, for the sake of the Earth and species. Which seems to me a particularly American kind of sentiment, at its base a wariness of men who would rule; but certainly not a sentiment in common practice.

If it were me alone I would laugh at the stupidity of this arrangement and let the Government bleed the Bank. Except my father is involved, and the healing I have brought to this land will come undone, as evidenced by what City contractors did to my wildflower planting on the boulevard.

So, I will ask one of the partners to cover me, early next week, while I ride my bike downtown and hand over 762 bloody American dollars to Government, about half of which will pay for water I did not use. I think I'll actually get 762 dollar bills, draw some blood and apply a pin-pricks worth to each. Only, don't tell them; they'll declare it a bio-hazard and charge me with domestic terrorism, send me to jail with the rapists and murderers.

Didn't even realize it was the Equinox. It hasn't felt like a very sacred time. Though it is and I only forget.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Condemnation Update

I have a long list of things to do here in service to Monster Halloween. Instead, the entire morning has been devoted to a series of conversations with city employees about what needs to be done to turn the municipal water back on in my house, to avoid a condemnation order. I am terrified of that order. I am afraid it is a juggernaut that, once rolling, cannot be stopped, which will roll right over me. I want to do what needs to be done to stop it. All I want is to have a reasonable conversation, about the "Estimated" water charges for water I have not been using, and to arrange a payment plan so I do not have to pay a large sum up front.

Most of these conversations, with inspectors and the mayor's office, were calm and reasonable. It is the conversations I have had with people at the city water department, the only department that really matters in this circumstance, that have left me with a feeling of sadness, bitterness and frustration. These are the words I will use to describe some of the city employees I have had conversations with: condescending, arrogant, obtuse, unfriendly, unintelligent. One woman openly mocked me. I hung up on her. That's when I called the mayor's office, and was referred to a woman who is the only one in the city water department who has been pleasant to me. She offered me a slightly better deal - about $60 less up front - but not really a better deal, because she called me back and said her "higher ups" overruled her, that there would be no deal. I told her that I felt the city water department was holding the condemnation order over my head like a bludgeon. She said, "yep, they'll do that."

I have heard these "higher ups" referred to as "Supervisors," and "Bosses." They are otherwise nameless. They will not talk to me. The unpleasant people I have dealt with talk to them while I am on hold, then come back and say there will be no negotiating, there will be no discussion, basically, that I am not worthy of the bosses time, even to give me the message that there will be no negotiating, themselves. It has the essence of cabal, rule by fiat. Civil servant is not a phrase that applies to this energy. More like: I'm in this for myself, I don't care about service, I'm going to retire at fifty with a fat pension. I don't know if that is actually the case, but that's what it feels like.

So, I get to take time off work to go downtown to the city treasury department and pay $726 to have my municipal water restored. Plus, arrange to pay for a new meter, and $3000 for the new stop box. Then take more time off to meet the people who will inspect the meter, and then more time off for the people who will change it out. Even if the house was fully off-the-grid, with ten thousand gallons of water in cisterns and no need for city water, I would still have to pay. I would still have to take time off I cannot afford to take off.

It has been my own negligence that has brought this difficulty upon me. It is also an excellent example of all that has gone wrong in the growth of government. Government existing of and for itself. And the prevalence in government of genuinely bad people, who wield a power they do not deserve, in jobs they believe they cannot lose.

Oh yeah



All that we hold dear is passing. Do not cling. Embrace; and let go.

So High

Franti's "So High", at 2:31 in the am. Leading into "Soko Yhinka", Ali Farka Toure.

Three hours with one of the partners, a long discussion involving the price of pumpkins and gourds, a treasure map, staff hours, and the opening party. What more can we men do for this shrine to the Goddess, this shrine to all things Feminine? A post-it for "Black Heart", my toy gun sculpture. Amy Daws and a bid system for her paintings. Christian and Katrina on signage; and maybe with me, on the treasure map. Another woman, who has captured my attention. Back to Franti: Sound System, Pirate Radio, a Sword. Toure' again: Soya. A schedule to write, a long list - and oh yeah, the water bill. A long drive through the rain. What a drain...

Steady drums and a whistling beat from Rhythm of the Chakras. More wine? Ahh, Rokia Traore, "Tchwa". A sacred harvest at my side; a stem, a back bone like no other I have ever encountered. Dance, and the green man consort to the Goddess. Orangutan and rush hour traffic. KARE 11? "Walk With Me", Alice de Michele, which reminds me to add "Chinook Blues" to my favs. Rasputina, twice, More Toure'.

Nizar Lalani, Mujane Mugambe, live. What a beautiful thing, this existence.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Gift

If the issue I'm having with the city is not enough, I bike. Yesterday morning I was nearly run over by a city school bus on the way to work. I had the right-of-way, but the driver rolled the bus through the stop sign and punched the accelerator. I was carrying a heavy pack, the brakes were wet. Had I been moving faster I 'd be under the care of the Health Care Industry.

The driver looked out the window, waved, and smiled. This, the morning after my bike ride to the mega-mall. Biking through the city can be both infuriating and dispiriting, when you realize that you have just biked a mile(s) one way, but you now have to bike back the way you came, because the people who designed this urban environ never walk or bike anywhere. A bike commute should be a requirement for all urban planners.

I've been feeling a bit like the whole world is against me, which is not a good feeling. Nor is it accurate. The guy on the phone from the city yesterday, when I asked him what would happen if I walk away from the house, said, "We'll get our money one way or another." He did not say it as a gangster, but as a municipal functionary who did not know what he was saying. All of the city workers I have talked to are like that, messengers for a system that has caught me in a downward spiral, as indifferent to the affect on me as the system is itself. It would be easy to say this is the work of a devil, or some other energy actively working against me. Really, it is just the massive, inhuman, institutional machine, grinding away, consuming blindly, destroying everything it touches. Which we are mostly helpless to affect as individuals. Which we could alter fundamentally if we did so as a community.

It's the political season. But really, the vote is almost meaningless. The vote that really counts, is the dollar. Which we exersize nearly every day. About 70% of the economy is consumer spending. That is immense power, latent.

Anyway, I digress. I set my toy gun statue on the floor of Monster Halloween yesterday morning. I was half expecting to get fired, which wasn't going to happen, but that was the mood I was in. Both owners came into the store and didn't see it, though they both walked past it. Finally, I pointed it out, to the partner who originally didn't want me to buy the guns. He looked at it awhile and said, "I love it!"

Which was an immense relief. Which gave me my confidence back. To know I am supported is a profound gift. A great blessing.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I called the city this morning about the condemnation order pending on my house. The city will condemn my house unless I turn the water back on. That will require I pay about $872, charges for water I have not been using, and to fix the meter. Once turned on, I will have to pay the $3100 I am being charged for the replacement of the stop box on the boulevard. If I do not agree to pay to have the water turned back on, the order will be set, I will be charged all of the above plus a $6550 vacant house fee, plus city inspectors will inspect the house and order me to update whatever they say I need to update. Thus, I am looking at paying between $4,000 and and $20,000 dollars for the right to live in my house.

No question, I have brought all of this upon myself. Four and a half years ago, I talked my father into helping me buy this house. The housing bubble was full on, and we paid what proved to be the absolute peak price for this small one bedroom. About twelve minutes after signed the papers, the market started to collapse. Considering the market, I knew the house wasn't likely to go up in price, but I had convinced myself that the price would not go down. I didn't know about the shenanigans at the sky-god Financial level. Now the house is worth about 20-30% less than it was when we bought it.

I walked away from the house in Autumn, 2008. I fell in love with a woman, followed her out west, then moving in with her and her two children in Wisconsin. My father continued to pay for the house, though he did not need to, and I did not ask it of him. That woman sent me away this spring, and I moved back into the house on June 02. As I was living off the grid, I ignored all letters from the city. Now I find myself in the midst of a perfectly amoral, institutional bind, a kind of mechanistic, obtuse, passive, unstoppable, governmentalized state of extortion. I am inclined to walk away from the house and let the Bank and City duke it out. See if they can do better with the house and land than I have. If the damage the city did to the wildflowers on my boulevard is evidence, in the replacement of the stop box, they will destroy it.

I wanted to turn this small piece of land into a bird and butterfly sanctuary, which it has become. Sixty-plus species of wildflowers and native shrubs, another 40 species of veggies, it is an island of habitat in a sea of sod, tar and concrete. I had hoped to turn the house into a model of urban, environmentally responsible design, a passive-solar, off-the-grid marvel. But alas, time has run out, the funding is not there, and I am not inclined to bow to extortion to keep it.

I biked to the mega-mall this weekend, to watch the movie Devil. Who knew the devil could be so dull? He has lost his power, the devil, because he does not actually exist. There are only men, creating institutions to support the power they seek, and the devils to distract from the behavior of such institutions and men. That there is no devil does not mean there is no sacred masculine. There is sacred feminine as well. Which any of us may model, just as so many model the behavior associated with the devil. In obvious ways, and in passive support of the machine, institutions. Extorting fees, as if it's all just a matter of order, code, rule and law.

It is appropriate, I suppose, that I should be condemned, as I have grown so disgusted with our culture and nearly all it has come to be. It seems I have nothing left to do but let go, and go full-on renegade.

So, I'm about to unveil my toy gun sculpture, on the floor of Monster Halloween. Nothing left to do but let go. Let go.

Friday, September 17, 2010

As I was leaving my house this morning, a city inspector parked his municipal vehicle next to my boulevard. He turned around, pulled into my driveway, pulled back out and parked across the street. I walked over to the vehicle, the inspectopr stepped out, and before I could say anything he said, "Is there something I can help you with." A defensive tactic, learned no doubt from countless encounters with indignant contractors and homeowners.

"Did someone complain about my yard?" I asked. Because someone already has, yesterday, on the phone. One of my neighbors called me to ask if he could get into my garage, where I have been storing his snowblower. He then asked, on behalf of the neighborhood (he said), if I would make my house a little more presentable. At issue: the weeds growing two feet out of the cracks in the side walk, the dogwood extending over the front step obscuring the front door, etc. The inspector didn't answer my question, he only said the black cap berry vines drooping over the sidewalk were unacceptable. And, if I don't turn my water back on in the next week, the city is going to condemn my house.

A chilly night last night. A bit smelly too, my house and myself in it. It's not so bad, really. Nothing a little fresh water and a few hours cleaning wouldn't resolve. The simple fact is, without fresh water, hygeine is a problem. I'm faced with that now, with my clothes especially. It's no easy thing to keep clothes clean when you don't own a vehicle, and you don't have abundant supplies of fresh water. I may be faced with washing my clothes in the utility sink at Monster Halloween. That, or pay significant dollars to a launderer who picks up and delivers.

The cold got me thinking about the winter. I can't live in the house without ample fresh water. The city is now pressing the issue, making it difficult. I recently discovered, they've been charging me for "estimated" water use, though I haven't been using any city water. That, and they replaced the stop box on the boulevard, which they didn't need to do, which they are going to charge me $1500-$3500 dollars for. And the meter is busted. It froze last winter. I'm sure they'll charge me several hundred if not thousands for it. It all seems like a Minnesota-esque, passive-aggressive attempt by city governance to take control of the property. I'm half inclined to let them, except I suspect they would tear down the house, build a cheap four-square monstrosity, and fill it with a host of economically disadvantaged. I am aware of at least one such example. The head of that family, a man, has a habit of shouting across the fence, swearing at the neighbors. I don't want to do that to my neighbors, even if they don't appreciate the wild/domesticated ethos I've been cultivating here.

I think the yard is beautiful. It is, but it is also a wild sanctuary in a place where people who have been taught to fear the wild live. For them, I suppose it's a symbol of the breakdown of civilization. I see it as the other way around - the hyper cultivation of the yard as symbol of disconnection, indifference to the health of the Earth and the denial of our origins - which will lead to the collapse of civilization.

The inspector was aggressively defensive until I looked him in the eye and he realized that whatever my situation, I'm not trying to be a jerk. He told me I have a few days to resolve the black cap vine issue, and I'll have to contact the water department about my water issues. A few thousand dollars to turn the water back on, in a house that won't sell, which has an interest-only mortgage set to mature in May 2011, with a 2 percent rate increase, every six months.

Do I give the house and land to the city? To the Bank? They are both making it exceptionally difficult to justify keeping it. Do I fight to keep it? Why?

On a different note, I spoke with the CEO. He didn't want to hear it at first, but when I told him the Point of Sale system alone will prevent him from expanding in the United States, he heard that. He said he would call back, but he hasn't. I think I'll call him again and let him know in even more explicit language how joylessly I am looking ahead to the checkout process at crunch time.

And as far as going on a date this weekend, well, I'm on a bike.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Clashing Cultures

Forty minutes past midnight and I just clocked out. Opened the doors today for the first staff member at 9:21. Went to bed last night at about 3am. I was up with one of the owners, talking business, trying on masks. The first hour this morning was not pleasant. I was hung-over, as well as sleep deprived. A mountain of boxes full of merch behind the desk. I had to get out of the building for breakfast, coffee and personal hygiene supplies. When I returned the UPS man had already brought ten of twelve boxes through the door. A Grand Opening to plan, latex to order for the zombie pub crawl, time sheets to be fulfilled; masks scattered all over the back desk, an artist about to deliver a bronze sculpture for the shrine to the Goddess; 202.86 hours logged in the last two week time-period. I made a list to settle my restless mind, relaxed, set about the list, and executed all without much trouble. But for the system.

The system is the program we use to track merchandise, and who is selling it. I am no programmer. If I were, and I set about creating a Point of Sale (POS) system to be as inefficient as possible, I could not match the system we use. It is designed by the Canadians we contract with for the right to be part of the Monster Halloween franchise.

I was at Northern Brewers this past weekend buying supplies for wine making. I had three items. The teller scanned them, took my cash, and gave me the change in about 18 seconds. I felt a surge of jealousy. Depending on circumstances, the process at our store can take up to three minutes or more.

This must be acceptable to Canadians, as we have been informed that no one on staff in all of Canada, where all the other Monster Halloween stores are located, has ever complained. This, of course, is why Canada is no Empire. That Canadian staff are not driven mad by this POS system, as we are, is either a sign that Canadians are exceptionally passive generally, or they simply don't mind taking ten steps when only one is required. Scan the item; set the scanner down; grasp the mouse; move the cursor to the search button; click; select from options; move the cursor to the empty box next to the proper item; click; type 1; grasp the mouse; move the cursor to the Add-to-Cart box; click; move the cursor to the cart and reduce the quantity from two to one because the system already entered it into the cart, which it doesn't always do, and adding to the Cart made two items when there is only one. Pick up another item, but not before you click on the item box, so the cursor is in the proper place - but not yet, if there is a percentage reduction in the cost of the first Cart item, which involves another six or eight or twelve steps to resolve, depending on whether or not I screw up the process somehow because I'm so pissed off.

Absolute madness. Every single step increases the potential for user error exponentially, because the customers awareness that this process is taking an unusually long time is contributing to the self consciousness of the staff member at the till. I am imagining the day when the line at every register is ten people deep. I think I'll mix lavender oil in with the fog machine juice, to keep the hostility from boiling up and overflowing.

As manager of this establishment, I'll have to explain to the CEO that if he intends on expanding in America, this POS system alone will prevent it. He is not inclined to hear such critique, I am told. But I have a responsibility to my staff to tell him the truth. That call will take place tomorrow. In fact, I'm going to call him until he answers. This system is going to cost us money, as well as contribute to staff dissatisfaction. We could buy a better POS system off the shelf.

Brant Kingman delivered a sculpture of a winged goddess. He will install it tomorrow. I tried to book Dessa for our Grand Opening, but her booking agents won't respond to my business emails. I'm looking for someone less, um, famous, preferably a band with a drum kit and horns. Fire dancers and drummers, an inflatable bouncy thing for the kids, a percentage of proceeds to a cause, maybe an autism foundation. I found some impressive latex horns today. Maybe I'll get one of the staff to apply them, paint myself green and dance with my deer horns. I'd love to find a giant steel cauldron to build a fire in without melting the asphalt.

As for personal hygiene, my clothes need washing. So do I. Bought some patchouli soap today. Some very expensive under arm deodorant. Only one of the owners has complained, but then, I am manager, and I wouldn't expect any of the minions to point out, to me, that I stink. More so, now that I'm consuming less than healthily. That may not make it any more difficult to find a date for this weekend, but it may make it less enjoyable for her if I do.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Back in the Fishbowl.

Late night, sitting behind the desk at Monster Halloween - Minnesota, off the clock, listening to Ali Farka Toure's Savane. Some albums simply resonate. Toure, no longer with us, was a blues man from Mali, Africa, inspired by John Lee Hooker. When he first heard JLH, Toure said, "This is not American, this is African." Savane is genius, the work of an older man in full possession of himself. I think I will never grow tired of listening to this album. Several songs are in the House rotation. I would like to place them all, but I'm aware that much of the music I play is a stretch for people to listen to. Staff seem to be growing more comfortable with it. It was playing today, when I returned from my 36 hours outside.

On my sacred harvest I met three young men picking high bush cranberry. One of the men, Nathaniel, said he had been kicked out of Minneapolis parks several times for picking berries. Something about damaging the flora. All the more reason to pick them, I said. I mentioned the statue of the jackbooted aristocrat in bronze, across from us, and the obtuse, almost incomprehensible translation on the back of the base, a slander of the Sacred Feminine. Nice to see three strong young men picking berries. I'm not sure any of them give a damn about Halloween, but I invited them to the store anyway.

I opened a savings account this morning. My banker, Lori, was limping, because she got hit by a car while riding her motorcycle. Evidently, she ended up under the car. She's not sure how. She is also 57 years old, she rides horses, and she has a license to conceal and carry. I told her my story about the repeating firearm monster I'm building. She loves guns but she agreed, toy guns should not be made. We also pondered: why do squirrels not get out of the way of motorcycles or bicycles? We have both ridden over one.

The savings account was not really a savings account, but something less than, not even worthy of mention on their website. It is for those of us who have, for whatever reason, fallen into financial disfavor. The account entitles the Credit Union to 5% of all payroll checks cashed (personal checks are not accepted). That, or the check is deposited and the money is held for seven days. I am in this purgatory because US Bank filed a judgment against me, because I would not pay the $788 dollars in fees they charged against my $80 worth of overdrafts. Lori once worked at US Bank, but quit because she was berated and written-up by a manager, for helping a Somali woman open a checking account. It was the finest, most pleasurable meeting with a banker I have ever had.

I met with Brant Kingman. He has an impressive studio. He will be coming by this Wednesday, with a bronze winged goddess in the tradition of Nike, some fine fabric from the old Guthrie Theatre, live plants and hopefully, a bushel of phragmitees, a tall slender water grass with a fluffy white seed head. For the shrine to the Goddess, in the Boodoir.

I made wine with my niece. She picked the grapes with me, and did the stomping. Three gallons. I was expecting twelve. I'm inclined to think someone stole most of what was growing on my sister's fence, though her neighbor Robert, a good man, does not agree. I'm sure there was much more there, only a month ago. Bad medicine, that, if someone did steal my grapes. "Dark magic come back three times." Stolen or not, I'll have half the wine I made last year. That is what I get for wasting two gallons of last year's supply.

Sitting in my off-the-grid house night after night, after the woman I dedicated myself to told me to go away, I kept sampling, out of the 6.5 gallon, glass carboy, into a quart mason jar. Too much oxygen in the carboy and the wine went bad. A sadness. I'll never know how the wine would have matured.

Sweet berries this year. A nice balance of rain and sun. Not necessarily good for wine grapes. How the wine will taste I won't know for months, but it will have a high alcohol content.

I asked my niece to help, though she is only seven. I want her to have a sense of the rhythms of the Earth. In October I'll bring her to my house and we'll dig potatoes.

The woman I mentioned brought me the orange afro yesterday. I brought it in tonight, to the staff meeting. Donned it and danced around the store. I love that wig. Though tonight, I felt a sense of hostility, mixed in with the joy. Joy, because I love that wig and the confidence I have wearing it. Hostility, because I spent time with her and that was not very joyous.

I told a member of the staff, several days ago, about a man I know who goes into an emotional funk until Thursday, if the professional football team he worships loses on Sunday. I told her that I don't mourn that long for the loss of a relationship. What a lot of bullshit that turned out to be.

A new week, here at Monster Halloween - Minnesota. Much to be done. Booking talent, hiring new staff, addressing issues with the current staff, refining the store, finishing the Boodoir, building the monster. On less hours. Maybe a full weekend off this coming weekend.

I think I would like to go on a date. Which may be the first time in 37 years I have uttered that statement. We'll see.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Out of the Fishbowl

I took a look at my work history, on our automated system, which only goes back to August 24. As it turns out, I haven't had a day off since at least that date. That ends today. I'll be relieved by one of the owners at noon today, and I don't have to be back until 7pm, tomorrow, for a staff meeting, which I might skip. We'll see. Working 15 hour a day for three straight weeks, outside responsibilities pile up. I'm sure I don't have time to take care of them all.

It's time to make wine. The Frontenac grapes I planted on my sisters fence six years ago are in their second year of full production. Last year's wine is ready to be bottled. There is a sacred harvest to gather. I need to get over to Brant Kingman's studio to see the Goddess installation he is working on for the ladies Boodoir. An Australian musician friend of mine is playing at Patrick's Cabaret tonight. I have to open a bank account with the check I received two weeks ago. My yard is a jungle, full of ripe fruits and veggies. Wash clothes? Meet with the potential buyers of my house? This list is far from complete. I'll be happy if I fulfill half of the responsibilities I have listed.

I need the time off. Two nights ago I intended to go to bed early, having had four hours of sleep each of the previous two nights. Instead, I had a few beers and pulled all the toy Uzi, AK-47 and M-16 guns off the shelf and built a monster on the show floor (I was up until 4am). A hideous creature, but too top heavy, and weak in the knees and ankles. I used spare telephone cord to tie the guns together, a mistake, because it wouldn't hold tightly. The monster collapsed. His lower half is still together, hidden in a back room. The hips are a problem. Turns out, it's no easy thing to make a pelvis out of plastic Uzi. I'll approach the monster again some evening next week, with the right materials. The damn thing will cost me two days labor, in materials; I hope at least it will generate some buzz for the store.

I could have approached the monster last night, but again, I don't have the right materials, and after cashing out the tills, I basically collapsed. Eight hours of sleep for the first time since...I don't know. Mid August? I would never live like this, except that I know this gig will end. I'm drawing on my reserves, I suppose, and it will only get crazier around here. If I don't take care of myself, I'm going to crash before the Halloween rush. I'm not going to crash. 282 hours on-the-clock since Aug 24, a 14.84 hour average, and I'm only a little foggy in the head. As long as I stay away from processed fast-food, and get a good night's sleep every third night, I'll be fine.

And my orange afro wig will be returned to me tonight. The last time I had it on, I was dancing in front of a thousand people. I've been dancing here, at night, and on the floor during operating hours, in my bright green Sgt. Pepper's jacket and burgundy valour top hat. The orange afro is something different altogether. The Jedi outfit is a great excuse to carry my swords (walking down the street during rush hour, ordering food at Tao Natural Foods), the Legolas outfit will be cool if I find, or make (I'm going to do that when?), an attractive long bow and arrows. But the orange afro? That's going to be so much fun.

It's a gorgeous Fall Sunday, and I'm about to be loosed into it, at noon. What a blessing.

This whole life, really.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Retail Fishbowl

What's going on in the world right now? I won't have many detailed answers for you. Sixteen hour wordays: opening the store, closing the store, continuing to work after-hours on the infrastructure. Met last night with a local sculptor, Brant Kingman, from whom I have commissioned an installation for our shrine to the Goddess, in the ladie's Boodoir. I hope to hang the artwork of a local painter, Amy Daws. Interviewing potential additions to the staff. I'm trying to book the local Hip-Hop phenom Dessa, for our Grand Opening, but her booking agent has not returned my email (I only sent it yesterday morning.) Fire dancers, drummers, magicians, a guy who eats light bulbs. All while managing the staff, scheduling, making sure the place is clean, the product properly merchandised.

One of the owners just stepped in to tell me it's time to take some time off. Sunday afternoon and all of Monday, likely.

I want to build a monster out of the toy guns in the building. We have a variety, most resembling antiquated guns, as accessories for western, pirate or 20's gangster wear. We also have uzi's, AK-47's and M-16's. The toy uzi is a water gun, the others have a repeating-action sound when the trigger is pulled. I'm growing tired of hearing it. Especially as young boys are most often the ones firing it. I've had too many toy guns pointed at me by pre-pubescent boys to count. Not here, but in my lifetime. Boys who grow up romanticizing war, until they are in one.

Is there not enough violence in the world?

I'm holding it together well, I think. I just keep reminding myself, in those rare times I grow distracted, frustrated, negative - It's a short gig. There will be plenty of time for a life outside work, when my service here is complete, at the end of November. Who can say what will come then; I don't have time to think about it. I don't care, either. I am here, now. A little tired, here, now.

Tired, but there is nowhere else I'd rather be.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Gummi Bears

Monster Halloween-Minnesota has gone through quite a transformation. When we first gained access to the building August 13, we found a giant pile of garbage in the middle of the main floor swarming with fruit flies, left by the previous tenant, an explosives distributor. That pile was followed by a giant pile of merch delivered from Florida by train. The boxes were mangled, filled to overflowing with random halloween paraphenalia, occasional Christmas and bits of Easter. A fun pile to dig through, but exhausting.

That, and another 75 boxes of new merch. Most of it now on the shelves, which we built ourselves using steel A frames Hollywood Video left behind. We opened the doors Saturday, making more money in two days than the owners did the first ten days at their previous location, last Halloween. Which is to say, we made just about enough to pay two days worth of liabilities. Not great, but encouraging, as we have done no advertising and it is seven weeks until halloween. People seem to enjoy the store. Staff seem to be having fun.

Another thing left behind by Hollywood Video - three boxes of thirty count, 3.5 oz packages of Gummi Bears. The date on the exterior of the cardboard box is 02/27/07, which means the bears were likely manufactured in 2006. They are like rubberized High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). And they are a drug.

I haven't eaten much HFCS the last few years. The boxes sat untouched, under the counter, the first week. After a week, working 15 hours a day and sometimes forgetting to eat, I opened a package. I tried to avoid them therafter, without much success, opening one sometimes when my stomach reminded me I hadn't eaten in awhile, and I was too busy to go out, in search of something edible; and when I needed a little pick-me-up.

Others have taken to opening the packages. Yesterday, I opened one, walked away, came back several minutes later and the bears were gone. I opened another package, walked away, returned a few minutes later and the bears were gone. Staff are popping them like pills. Which they are, these HFCS Gummi Bears, a legal drug not any less addictive than nicoteen or alcohol, and equally destructive. More so, really, when you consider the treatment of the land where corn is grown. So very lucrative, for the food production and "Health Care" industries and their investors; so very detrimental to people and the Earth.

A drug we feed our kids, regularly. How difficult it is to break an addiction begun at about age three. A family member of mine bribes another family member for her love, with HFCS candy/drugs. I have objected, to no avail. That young child, the bribed, avoided candy assiduously, on her own, the first four years of her life. She now craves it, daily, repeatedly.

"What, you are sad, feeling bad, feeling out-of-sorts? Here, have some candy. I want you to like me. I want you to stop crying/throwing a tantrum/freaking out."

Meanwhile, we continue to pop gummi bears like pills. I found myself bouncing around the store recently, jittery and moving way too fast, having just popped 3.5 ounces of rubberized HFCS, into an empty stomach. I speculated one day during a lull, to staff, what are we going to do when the gummi bears run out? Everybody laughed. Most, including myself, continue to pop HFCS Gummi Bears like pills. We probably will, until they run out.

That said, though I am exhausted, this is surely the most fun I've had at any job. And it has only begun. The next step? The Boodoir. The beating heart, or womb, of what we are building here. A shrine, to the Goddess. Ladies...

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Two posts ago I said I would write something more on the social pyramid. I could say Nando got in the way, but the truth is I've been putting it off. I was ready to write it several nights ago. By the time I had an opportunity it was two am, I had a few beers and a glass or two of wine in me, and I decided to put it off. I should have just written it. I was thinking more clearly about it then. I'll try, as I sit here behind the counter at Monster Halloween - Minnesota, looking at a parking lot owned by Masons, directing the work of of three impressive young women and another man.

At some point in the evolution of Homo sapien, about 5000 years ago, we began to be ruled by "strong men". Prior to that time, men and women lived together in equal partnership, the health of community rather than the desire of individuals held as the tempost, the community practicing hunting, gathering, and small scale agriculture and husbandry. Grains and the ability to store them led to increased populations, cultures worshiping a Goddess, a God, or both. Those cultures worshiping a Goddess primarily, tended toward peaceful relations and reverence for the Earth. Those cultures worshiping a God tended toward the elevation of men generally, at the expense of all else, and only a few men over the many. These "strong" men used violence to control the resources of the community, to plunder the resources of other communities, to accumulate as much wealth and power as they were able. As men continue to do.

We believe all we have, the High Technology, the fancy buildings, the big cars, the Empire that is America, all of Science, is due primarily to men. Because the literature of the past 3000 years is almost wholly the work of men, we assume we would all still be swinging from the proverbial trees if not for the work of men. Yes, men are industrious. Men are brilliant. As are women.

In fact, it is my belief the work of women primarily, led to the neolithic revolution, the growth of agriculture and the expansion of the population. How deeply have women been betrayed? 5000 thousand years of servitude? Men sanctified this betrayal even in the holy books. Nearly all major religions hold women as less than, upholding a violent male deity before whom we are all to bow. Just as we are to bow before the "strong men" of the world.

If one is to look clearly at the issue, we can rightly argue that our progress as a species has been inhibited by the rule of men. There is no reason to believe whatever, that we have evolved because we are ruled by men who maintain power with the threat of violence. Go ahead, give men credit for High Technology. Give men too the credit for seven billion Homo sapien sapien, a majority of whom are illiterate, undernurished and poverty sticken. Give men credit for the mass extinction of species, the overall sickness of our species, and the ill heal of the Earth.

Had we evolved in deep reverence for the Earth and all its creatures, men and women living together in partnership, I suspect we would have a significantly greater understanding of the Universe than we do, with a considerally smaller, healthier and happier population. The Earth would be profoundly more healthy than it is.

As it is, we continue to be ruled by men, a few of whom sit atop a social pyramid, the resources of the Earth plundered to support their status, the whole system, from religion to industry to technology designed to support men who will do what they will do, without regard for anything but their own interests. Here in America, because our standard of living is so high, we say OK to that rule without much question. We tell ourselves this is ok because our Way will lift the whole of humanity out of the dregs. We do not want to look at the reality that most of humanity is in the dregs because there are cultures like ours that exist largely to gratify desire, sitting atop a world wide social pyramid.

It in now 3:35 am, and I am editing, listening to Franti's "So High." He has somehow drifted into the nether reaches of my Itunes, with Nama Mala, the Guyoto Tibetans, "Tangoes for Marshall", and "Rhythm of the Chakras." My Itunes have been playing since 10 am yesterday, when one of my young valkyrie asked me to change the soundtrack, from a local commercial station. One of the owners left half an hour ago. Things are coming together here. Doors will be open, tentatively today, shortly after I wake up and caffinate.

Time to go to bed. Here's that Skinny White Chick with "Valkyrie Daughter". Haven't heard this one in awhile. A good one, Bard.