Archive for December, 2014

An Open Letter to Every Female Celebrity Claiming She’s Not a Feminist

December 30, 2014 9 comments

I read a headline today – one is a veritable slew of its ilk – that left me fuming. If I were a cartoon character, smoke would be pouring out of my ears. But this proclamation, as if it were some kind of moral high ground, has been completely in a fit.

“I don’t consider myself a feminist.”

DARLING. Sweetie, perhaps you don’t understand. You see, I don’t think that word means what you think it means. It is not a prompting to burn your bra, eschew all men, and became a man-hating cave troll. Clearly, there’s a gaping chasm between the word and its actual meaning.

As such, let me explain. No, too much. Let me sum up – and I’ll use small words, so you can understand. (Are you catching on to The Princess Bride theme, yet? Good. I’d hate to send the Brute Squad after you.

Feminism means equality – that women and men are equal. It means that you think men and women should be paid the same for doing a given job. It means that women are people and have the same rights as men.

That’s it. Period. It’s not a complicated concept. Feminism is about choices. It’s about making them for yourself, because you have options. If you want to stay home and be a housewife, that’s totally a valid choice. If you want to become an engineer, good for you. Being a feminist means believing that you should have right to make that CHOICE.

So, when a famous woman makes a statement like that? It’s pure ignorance. But what I don’t get is the almost perverse sense of glee that accompanies it. As if you take pride in the fact that you don’t believe that inequality exists — like it is a myth or a child’s fairytale.

Guess what? If I don’t believe in gravity, I’m still not going to fly if I jump off my roof. (Don’t jump off the roof, kids! That’s how limbs get broken.) It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been confronted with the difficulties of being seen as unequal. They still exist, even if they haven’t landed on your head like an anvil. Also, I’d wager that you have encountered them, simply by virtue of the fact that they’re so engrained in our culture that we almost don’t notice anymore.

Yes, I’m a feminist. I believe that I should be paid equally for a job. I believe that it should be my choice to have children or not. I believe that any parent who stays home to raise children is a badass, and I applaud that decision wholeheartedly. Your mileage may vary, darling. Just be careful your closed eyes and open mouth don’t lead you into the Fire Swamp.

I hear it’s full of R.O.U.S. No one wants to build a summer home there, savvy?

secondary drowning: on losing

December 21, 2014 6 comments

My mother never got to see me turn thirty. In 2011, I remember thinking, in the weeks leading up to my best friend’s wedding, that my mom would never get to see me get married – if I ever got married. In an odd way, I was really grateful to Kim for getting married when she did (not that I had any bearing on it), because my mom considered Kim to be like a daughter to her. It meant the world to her, to be there.

But since my mom died, there’s a long, growing list of things she’ll never see. I never meant to start counting them, but at some point, I began. And once begun, those thoughts often volunteer themselves within invitation or provocation.

These realizations appear out of nowhere, more often than not. And I can’t help but think it’s a lot like secondary drowning. You think everything’s fine, and that the danger’s somehow passed. Until you aren’t, until it’s most certainly not. Until you’re crying over something seemingly inconsequential at the most inopportune moment. (I just spent five minutes crying, leaving the tissues across the room. Because somehow, I thought it they were farther away, I’d feel better soon. Proximity has absolutely nothing to do with grief.)

Occasionally, when someone significant happens, I imagine what my mother would say. I can almost hear her voice, see the expression on her face. It’s a patchwork comfort. Sometimes, it helps. Sometimes, not so much. But you do what you can with what you’re got, right?

This year, for a heap of tangible reasons, this holiday season has been more difficult. The sense of loss and absence is more pronounced, more profound. There are days where I’m absolutely fine and the farthest thing from maudlin you can imagine. But last night and today? Not so much. Yesterday, I’ve been on edge in a way that leaves me absolutely fumbling for an antidote. And today, I’ve been trying to pin down what’s different between this year and the two before it. Was there some kind of trigger or switch that accidentally got flipped? Was it something someone said that derailed whatever track my emotional train’s been on?

A little while ago, I realized what’s different. It’s so blindingly obvious that I could almost kick myself for being so out of touch with my own feelings. The honest truth is that I’ve never been good with change. There was a time I’d fight against it wholeheartedly. Now, I’ve learned to accept it with more grace. Because change is necessary. It’s a constant in life. And if you can’t deal with it, your rigidity ends up affecting you in horrid ways. I’ve seen it happen. It’s far from pretty. It’s a ugly kind of prison, fashioned from fear. But that’s another tale for another time.

In the past few months, myriad things have changed. Big things. Back and forth, here and then, and all back again. I’m not going to get into the details. They’re not for public consumption. But those changes have hurt like hell. They have caught me at my weakest, most vulnerable. And there’s really no defense in my arsenal, right now, for things like that. So, there’s a chance that I’m not the best version of me, at the moment. I hate that.

I also know that when I get like this, I tend to disappear a bit. Pull back. Hide. Whatever. Because I’m the person who helps other people, not the one who needs help.

The thing is that my mom’s absence also tends to highlight other absences in my life. To wit, someone I would also reach out to – someone I trust with my life – has been decidedly, curiously absent for months now. By choice. The decision was, I have to assume, deliberate. Again, the details don’t matter. The heart of the matter, though, does. That person who I relied on (and really, I don’t rely on a lot of people) is very much…not here. Reaching out is basically impossible, and the notion might hurt slightly more than the reality. Because I know loss down to my bones, but a purposeful absence is something more sinister. It conjures up all kinds of ghosts, not to mention old doubts.

But I digress. The point is that the person is not here. And I’ve lost that avenue, that solace. That might be that biggest turning point for me this year. It was unexpected. But the impact is deep. Don’t misunderstand: I’m not reducing that person to a human crutch. I’m trying to illustrate the compound nature of missing. It’s harder to deal with one loss, while grappling with another.

Shortly before she died, my mom told me that she was worried about me. That something would happen to hurt me, and that she wouldn’t be here to (as she phrased it) put me back together. Because if there was one thing she was good at, it was a) knowing when something was wrong, b) talking it out, and c) figuring out how to handle it. Not necessarily fixing it, but patching whatever it was with duct tape. Sometimes, duct tape is the best we can manage.

Am I broken? No. Am I okay? Not exactly. Do I wish she was here? You bet your ass that I do. But if there’s one thing she taught me, it’s that you cannot rely on other people to fix your problems. And that, occasionally, there isn’t a solution. There’s just the way things are. And you deal with it.

Tomorrow, darlings, will be better. This I know. Because, even for a lapsed Catholic and a terrible heathen, I sure have a hell of a lot of faith. Just not the kind that comes with communion wafters and zombie jesus. I’ll gladly take the wine, though.

Categories: Uncategorized

between the lines

December 19, 2014 Leave a comment

*title taken from Sara Bareilles’ “Between the Lines”

            I’m horribly bad with remembering dates. I live in total fear of forgetting someone’s birthday. Or anniversary. So far, I’ve avoided such a calamity, but you know…day ain’t over yet, so to speak. I’m very reliant on the calendar app on my phone. Before that, it was a paper calendar, back in the stone age, before things like cellphones. When I was your age, we…*coughs* Sorry.

Where were you this time, last year? What were you doing? Who were you with? Can you remember? Chances are, if it was important to you – if you were with someone you really love(d), you remember down to the last detail.

I have a good memory. Freakishly so. I may not always remember dates, but words and details? Almost to the letter. This can, occasionally, be unsettling. It is nearly impossible to lie to me, because of it. So, if you do lie, and I don’t say anything or call bullshit? That’s not an accident. It’s choice. But I digress.

This time last year, I know exactly where I was. I can conjure up the memory like a magic trick – the feelings, too. It was an important day for me, because someone I care very deeply about did something so small, but so wonderful. It wasn’t a grand gesture in terms of flowers or public singing. We can’t all be Patrick Verona in 10 things I hate about you. But sometimes, you don’t need that.

You just need someone to show up – to keep a promise. To be unexpectedly present, when it is absolutely inconvenient to do so. There’s a magic in that. I remember that morning being totally blown away by what happened. Not because it wasn’t a genuine or sweet thing. Not because it wasn’t, in a lot of ways, the right thing. I was awestruck, because of what it meant to me – and how it contrasted with the behavior of the past.

The point is, it was really important to me. Because it was a symbol of just how much someone cared. It was, in a way, tangible evidence culled from an intangible thing. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it meant the world to me. It gave me hope and it made me feel loved.

A thousand things have happened since that day. A thousand things will happen from today forward. But there are some moments, some gestures, that measure more than others. For me, that is one of them. And, thinking about it, it reminds me of what’s possible when we dare. Perhaps, too, when we put another person first. There’s really nothing that we can’t do, if we do it with love. If we consider someone before ourselves – it’s a beautiful thing, in our fast-food, me-centric society.

I’m grateful for that day, one year ago. I’m grateful for the fact that my memory is what it is. And, if I’m honest, I’m grateful for that person still. My heart doesn’t change, darlings. Some things are as constant as the ocean. I am one of those things.

What memory do you hold like this? What moment can you keep close, when the world’s uncertain and dark? Where does your heart travel when we sit still? It means something, dear hearts. Remember that.

Now, go find some mistletoe and kiss the person that your heart is asking for. I dare you. I double-dog dare you.

a long December

December 16, 2014 Leave a comment

There are times where we unable to recognize something for what it is. Not what it was or what it could be, but it’s current state. For whatever reason (and there are plenty of possible reasons), our vision is obscured just enough to make that impossible. It’s not good or bad. It just is what it is. (For the record, I dislike that phrase. It is whatever you make it, damn it. Don’t like something? Change it. Period. But that’s another rant for another day.)

Have you ever seen the movie We Bought a Zoo? I did. And I took it to heart. At the time, my mother was dying of cancer. And she loved the movie, because something about it gave her faith and hope. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a family who buys a zoo shortly after the wife/mother passed away. It sounds ridiculous, I suppose – except it’s based on a true story. Truth is always stranger than fiction, no?

There’s a scene where Matt Damon’s character tells his son the importance of having “twenty seconds of insane courage.” It’s a beautiful moment. For me, that solidified the idea that it’s always better to try, reach out, do, speak, love, dance, ask, tell, and a thousand other action words. To exist may be safer and easier, but to live is the marrow of life.

Two years ago this December, I did a crazy thing. I quoted from that movie and said a truth out loud. It was my truth. It was the right thing. Not the easy thing, but the insane, honest thing. I’m not sorry about it in the least, although it led to a serious of difficult moments and a few instances of disappointment. That’s life.

You have to say things out loud. Don’t assume people automatically know how you feel, what you want, or what you’re hoping. Take a deep breath, and leap. Use those twenty seconds to be brave with every ounce of your being.

Since that December day, I’ve gone down a rabbit hole in a lot of ways. Things have happened, some amazing and some utterly heartbreaking. Maybe they all, in a way, sprang out of that one moment. It’s resulted in some of the best moments in my life and some of the most painful.

Do I regret it? No. Not even for a half an instant. Let me repeat this: I do not regret it. In fact, even knowing everything I know now, I’d do it again. I’d do the same exact thing if given the choice right now. No questions, not hesitations. This may, in some people’s eyes, make me certifiable. Fuck ’em. My life, my rules.

But here’s another thing I realized: it takes a lot of courage to really change your life. It’s easy to sit back, detached from a situation, and judge it. To label it stupid or easy to solve. Or something we can slide quietly into a box. Reality reveals how untrue that really is – and how it’s never easy to be brave.

There are also times where we make something more complicated than it is – maybe because we’re scared. And, guys, it’s okay to be scared. If you’re never scared, you’re probably not venturing outside of your comfort zone. But you know what’s outside your comfort zone? Possibilities. All of them. I learned a long time ago not to be the reason something didn’t happen or work out. What I mean isn’t that I’m flawless and some kind of shining paragon of awesome. I’m not. But what I am is a person who does and says things.

Even when my hands shake, and I feel like I might die. Even when I can’t get out the words in something more eloquent than a rapid-fire breathy mess. Even when I have to take a deep breath and hit send before I lose whatever nerved I’ve cobbled up. Even when the thing I’m trying to do seems ten kinds of crazy.

Thinking about that December day, it doesn’t wreck me like it used to. Because I was my best self, even if that self is a little sideways. There are no regrets for all the times I’ve leapt into something or all the times I’ve spoken up.

Right now, darlings, this is your moment. Do the thing you’re dreaming about, and reach for the thing that excites and terrifies you. It might be a long December in a lot of ways (Counting Crows, ftw), but this new year – hell, this next moment – is an opportunity.

You’ve got twenty seconds of insane courage in you. Use it. Day ain’t over yet, darlings – let’s see what you do with it.

our own story

December 15, 2014 2 comments

Let’s bring the audience
to their feet one last time, show
this parade to the people,
a ferocious story
is all anyone’s after –
and we’ve got legends
in our bones, a gift
for bad decisions, let’s
make good on all the promises
we never intended to keep,
this is the closing act, isn’t it?

Let’s show the people
what they came for, a spectacle
of indecent love, the most
irresistible scarlet
finally revealing the trick,
what is and what isn’t,
easily dissembling
our own choreography,
house on fire, blueprints gone –
look how everyone
has gathered in the street,
imagine what would happen
if we were alone.

Let’s give the crowd
what they’re hungry for:
someone to blame. It’s not
rocket science to show up naked
in one way or another, and who
would expect an admission
of guilt now? I wanted
to get away from everything,
but you’re still here, not in the city
but in my heart – we can’t salvage
each other from this ruin
we’ve made of the truth.

So, I’m ready
to light the fireworks
and be done with it, ready
to close down this circus,
there’s no more shelter
in photographs, the idea
of what was – we
never told our own story
and look where it got us,
days breaking without sleep,
and still, the show went on.

Allow me this encore, a final
offering no one will understand
but you: I did my best
not to let the silence hand me a match,
not to steal the spotlight
just to point a finger – but
I’m ashes overflowing
and who would have me now,
in love with a man
whose heart’s like a rising creek,
every moment
a new drowning.

This was what
everybody wanted, right –
a generous exit? Maybe
we were a temporary shelter
in a savage city. Maybe
you wanted one last
mark – a few easy lines,
but imagine
what would happen
if I told my story without you,
whose name do you call out
in the dark – go on,
the audience is waiting.

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Old Flames and Old Monsters: Constantine’s “The Saint of Last Resorts”

December 13, 2014 Leave a comment

There are people in life we drop everything for. It doesn’t matter if we haven’t spoken in years. It doesn’t matter what happened or what didn’t. When the nightmare hits the fan and the impossible happens, that’s who we reach out to. And that’s who shows up.

In this week’s Constantine (The Saint of Last Resorts), we meet another of the Newcastle crew, Anne Marie. She’s got a neat trick of being able to protect herself, and she appears in the millhouse, calling on an old debt. She’s not one to mince words or suffer fools lightly, but given the look on Constantine’s face, it’s not just the debt that sends him to Mexico. And it’s not just the monster of unknown variety that compels him to go. No, some people pick up the phone and no matter what it costs, you answer.

Interestingly, when Anne Marie’s bilocation spell’s done, we see her back in her room at the convent, holding a punk rock photo of herself and John. And whoever made that picture happen is a genius. It’s perfect. But the fact that she held onto that photo after all this time speaks volumes. Constantine may owe her, but that’s not all there is to this. For her, he may be her great heartbreak – the one that sticks in your ribs for the rest of your life, never quite allowing for peace. More on that, later.

The conversation between Zed and John (when he informs her she isn’t coming with them) is interesting. When he talks about himself in any capacity, Constantine is hideously uncomfortable. He admits that he and Anne Marie slept together, but the look on his face makes it clear that it wasn’t just sex. No, sex itself is easy. Feelings? Haha, not so much. Anyone who tells you differently is either lying or a sociopath. But back to the point: John also reveals that Anne Marie is who got him involved in the occult scene. Which means she’s a big part of his past and the way that past informs the future. Of course, Zed is rather miffed that Constantine’s leaving her behind. He says that she’s still on R&R, which is why he’s been letting her stay at the millhouse. But something about that reasoning rings a little false to me and falls a wee bit flat. Could it be that John’s keeping her close to keep an eye on her? And that he leaves her behind, because he doesn’t really trust her? Possibly. Time will tell on that.

Chas and John arrive at the convent and are immediately confronted with the fact that neither speaks Spanish. Chas quips, “We should’ve brought Zed” with just the right amount of reasonable sass. But Anne Marie’s there, dressed in her nun’s habit, and John looks both taken aback and amused. Chas sneaks in a brilliant eye roll at John’s face, before they head inside. Anne Marie and Constantine talk business for a moment, until they venture into an awkward bit of parsing out the past. “I always thought one of us would flee to Mexico, but I thought they’re be tequila involved.” Slow clap for that line, because tequila’s my favorite. And slow clap for it, because it demonstrates John’s curiosity. It’s not idle when it comes to Anne Marie. He wants to know when and why she became a nun. But he makes one joke too many and Anne Marie only sees the brash, blustery exterior of a man who doesn’t give a damn. Not the man underneath, who gives too many damns (so to speak). You can actually see him struggle to cobble his walls back together, as Anne Marie hurls some figurative punches his way. It’s not merely salting a wound. It’s tossing Newcastle with gasoline and lighting a bloody match. She lays into him with a quiet, raging fury – spouting off all the members of the Newcastle crew, not stopping to notice the actual physical distance John put between himself and her when she started digging at the exact place of his shame. The body language there was magnificent, and Matt Ryan’s sharp subtlety is well-done

Chas, Anne Marie, and John start poking around the place where the baby went missing. (This is intercut with Zed walking around the millhouse, finding a door that leads to a misty abyss. That comes into play later, of course.) Sister Luisa saunters in while they’re looking around, and she starts flirting with John pretty hardcore. And Constantine being Constantine gives it right back, later calling her Sister Flirtatious and insisting that she started it. That bit made me chuckle. Because holy gods, John flirts with everyone, and it’s rather marvelous. Anyway, John casts a spell with some runes to discover what stolen the child – and the runes promptly catch on fire, indicating that the monster in question has covered its tracks. But the precaution signals that the child might still be alive, so Anne Marie and Constantine head off to unbury the child’s placenta (ew. So much ew. A WORLD of EW) from the family’s yard. That will give them a connection to the baby’s soul, enabling them to find him.

Arriving at night to the creepiest foggy yard, occupied by an equally terrifying tree, there’s an unexpected vulnerable exchange between John and Anne Marie. She reveals how hurt she was when Constantine slipped out of bed to go chase after other girls. The root of her wound isn’t Newcastle – it’s further back than that. The ungodly betrayal of a first love. And John doesn’t have his walls up here. What she says gets through (and I so adore her sass, when she asks, “Do you want that vow of silence back now?” Anne Marie’s got a devastatingly quiet way of chastising John. It’s challenging and not explosive, but the effect is still visceral).

When they begin digging in the yard, John apologizes to her. He doesn’t seem the type to throw apologies around lightly, and his words are spoken with genuine regret. Anne Marie’s having none it, though – throwing his ego in his face, the fact that he tends to use people, snapping that “everyone’s just a port in your storm.” But then John looks up at the tree and grabs the most disturbing pear I’ve ever seen. Cutting it open, the damn thing bleeds and the tree starts bleeding too – and thank you, because THAT will be occupying my nightmares. HUMAN FRUIT, guys. Incidentally, the symbolism of John standing there with blood on his hands did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Regardless, the father, Hugh, rushes out of the house and John tells him that the baby’s still alive.

We cut back to Hugo, Anne Marie, and John tossing back some tequila (FINALLY), discussing the particulars of the situation. One of Eve’s sisters is what has stolen the baby. The sisters are goddesses of hell, which sounds both powerful AND alarming. During the conversation, Anne Marie asserts something interesting: “Evil wins when we let it destroy our faith in the power of good.” That sums up a main struggle of the show: believing in good, believing in its power, even in the face of unspeakable evil. That’s part of John’s battle – and perhaps Anne Marie’s as well. While she’s talking, though, Constantine’s gone distant again, his body language as rigid as a wall. Perhaps her words hit too close to home.

Hugo gets up to answer the phone, Anne Marie lays into John yet again, saying that his ego is out of control. But it’s not John’s ego that’s the problem here. It’s the pain that seems to overwhelm him, and the guilt, when she’s near. He drank at least four shots of tequila in that short scene. That’s a defense mechanism, liquid courage. When Hugo comes back, we’re told another baby’s been stolen – and to make a long story short, it’s his son’s secret child. This means the baby snatching isn’t random – it’s attached to a lineage. To find out why, they later go to visit Hugo’s grandmother. Who, you know, John also flirts with.

Meanwhile, Zed’s getting art supplies from what has to be the least well-lit and most atmospherically creepy art store ever. And it just so HAPPENS that Eddie, hot model dude with an agenda, finds her. They go have a drink at an equally creeptastic bar, where she has a vision after touching his hand (a white room that looks like a bank vault). Playing it cool, she essentially lures him back to the millhouse, kicks his ass SPECTACULARLY, and we learn her real name is Mary. And that he father (ominous, much?) wants her home. We discover that Zed spent most of her childhood locked in a room, which is a few shades of Carrie. She’s some kind of salvation, supposedly, and the Crusade (Eddie’s word) will also find her. Some crusaders show up, shoot Eddie, and chase Zed around the millhouse. Harkening back to the earlier scene, Zed drops one of them into the abyss without so much as a backwards glance. For all her ass kicking, Zed is surprised by a creeper with a syringe, who is hellbent on taking her home. Which, I guarantee, will make for the world’s most terrible family reunion. I have thoughts about Zed’s family, but I’m going to see how it plays out.

To figure out which goddess of hell is pulling a Jareth at the convent, John casts a spell that will reveal her true reflection in the foundation. Before he starts, Anne Marie gets in his face again, and he flat out asks why she bothered to call him, if she’s just going to give him flaming crap every time he turns around and tries to help. John surmises that it’s because he is capable of making the tough calls that she isn’t, snapping that she should just go off and pray while he does the hard work. That exchange, right there, is preciously two ex lovers still holding on to each other. Only someone who knows you inside and out can hurt you like that.

Chas has an interesting role in this moment. He knocks John in the shoulder and makes it clear that he’s not okay with his bullshit, before trailing after Anne Marie. Here, he is levelheaded and soft, a counterbalance to Constantine’s brash blundering. He explains what Anne Marie is missing about John’s demeanor and reactions. “He’d rather risk your feelings than any other part of you. That’s how…he deals with the pain. John has one thing that makes his life worth a damn, and he can’t do it if he lets anyone in too close. Like he did…with you.” That it’s not that he cares too little, but that he cares too much. Every snark and every quip is merely a slight-of-hand, the ordinary magic of misdirection. It rings true, because who hasn’t known someone who acts the fool to hide the truth? Who puts up walls with good intentions? Hell, I’ve dated one. At least one. Anyway, there’s a really sweet moment between Chas and Anne Marie, and Charles Halford has a way of melting my heart.

Curiously, when Constantine starts the spell, Sister Flirtatous shows up mid-incantion and tries to shoo him away, raising John’s hackles. He calls out a series of hell goddess names (turns out she’s Lamashtu) until she whirls around and reveals herself in a fit of fury, nearly drowning John, until he manages to stab her. While Anne Marie is bandaging his wound, he explains that they’re dealing with Lamasto (Anne Marie really looks worried). They head off to visit Hugo grandmother, Pia, to uncover the darkness at the roots of this particular family tree.

Pia explains that La Brujeria is back, tracking down their family. Pia’s grandfather was a part of La Brujeria (the literal translation for that, by the way, is The Witchcraft. Totally sounds better in Spanish). Pia’s father had run away from La Brujeria, but it seems that no one can escape his/her past. John steps out on to the porch for a smoke, where Anne Marie and him get to talking. (Again: someone get me that lighter.) John has a small crisis of reality, because he doesn’t want to believe the Brujeria still exists. He doesn’t have a spell to shut them down, to fix things. And for Constantine, there are few things worse than helplessness. If someone wields a power that makes JOHN need a smoke, rant, and a pace – that certainly doesn’t bode well. But he realizes that Pia is right. This is the overarching bad of the season – the rising darkness is La Brujeria. He’s been fighting against it all along.

In the midst of this conversation, Anne Marie admits that she sees the truth in John (that he cares too much), now – and that she came to Mexico as a way of hiding, too. They’re both wearing disguises in their own way. Underneath her habit, she’s still the same scared girl she was at Newcastle. This gives John an idea to bring Lamashtu out of hiding and allow them to find where the babies are being stashed: filling a chicken with Hugo’s blood and disguising it with a glamour to look like a baby. Since the hell goddess is going after his family, it should do the trick. Trouble is, Anne Marie has to make the offering. And unlike Gary Lester, she knows this immediately as John starts hinting about it. Called out, John gives a brilliant turn about how “no price is too high to save the innocent,” which wins Anne Marie’s respect. It also will come back to bite him in the ass not too long down the road.

Before making the offering, there’s a layered, touching scene between John and Anne Marie. Their posture is a mirror of one another (hands on their hips), as they’ve finally gotten to a bit of middle ground. Constantine takes the blame for Newcastle, telling her that she’s got nothing to repent for. It wasn’t her failure – it was his. But that’s when Anne Marie comes clean about the genesis of her guilt: she blames herself for getting him into the occult. He was 15 when they first met – always hiding from his father and longing for a mother, someone to take care of him – and instead of helping him escape it the easy way (sex), she invited him into the underground world of darkness and magic. That is the true blame that she’s been carrying about. But John assures her that it was “a world of wonders” that she introduced him to – there’s a real spark in his eyes, a light that we haven’t seen before. For a few brief moments, there’s no regret in his bones, just gratefulness. He gives her a necklace – the icon of Puzuzu – a demon that used to be Lamashtu’s soulmate before an ugly breakup. This necklace allows Constantine to close the gap, figuratively and literally. He and Anne Marie kiss, a tentative thing at first, a kiss that asks permission and says a million things without a single spoken word. When she kisses him back, it’s a kiss born of a fevered history, a wild bit of wanting that can only be born out of a caged longing. For the barest second, they hold each other’s faces, a tender gesture. Then, she pushes him away, using her hand to create distance between their bodies. And it hurt too look at that moment, for all its vulnerability and John’s almost bewildered agony. Beautifully done – and props to Claire van der Boom.

Anne Marie makes the offering, and they follow Lamashtu down into the freaking SEWER. Because of course. Chas and John go down the rabbit hole, with Anne Marie arming herself with Hugo’s gun. Once in the sewer, they split up – with Chas saying, “If you need me, scream.” Such a small line, but wonderfully delivered. It’s so earnest and so commonplace for Chas.

John and Anne Marie recover the babies. And in a rather stunning bluff, John uses one of them as leverage to pull information out of Lamashtu, getting to the heart of the rising dark’s plan. La Brujeria wants to abolish the separation between hell and earth, which is why Lamashtu has been working for it – purely self-gain. Which, you know, hell goddess and all. Hardly altruistic.

As soon as he knows the game plan, Constantine drops the Puzuzu amulet with a few choice words, igniting blue flame and sending her to meet her old flame. Literally in flames. Nice symbolism, there. Anne Marie takes the second baby from John, who then hands it to Chas. Anne Marie and John hear another baby crying and start to go after it, when they discover a supposedly extinct monster – an Invunche. There’s no way to outrun it and no magic to fight it. So, with all the practiced coldness of survival, Anne Marie shoots John, leaving him as prey to the Invunche. Right before she shoots him, a look of betrayal and respect cross his face, and she repeat his wisdom back: no price is too high to save the innocent.

Is this the treachery that Papa Midnite’s sister spoke of? That John would be betrayed by someone close to him? Perhaps. It would prove the old truth that only those who are closest to use can wound us so soundly. It’s ironic that Constantine spends so much time with his defenses up that once he finally lowers them, that’s what gets him hurt. It would make any sane person think twice about letting anyone in – assuming, of course, that there is a next time.

If you missed any episodes, you can catch up on demand, on Hulu, and on the NBC site.

halves, hearts, and questions

December 11, 2014 Leave a comment

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” ~Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Sometimes we forget how fragile people are. How every person is carrying around at least one thing he wishes he wasn’t. How, sometimes, we can’t get rid of the pain or the fear – and so, we try to run. Or push people away. Or just hide.

There’s something to be said for emotional evolution – recognizing a problem or pattern, knowing when to stay and when to go (and why). Knowing when to reach out and when not to. In some cases, it’s a constant dance –something constantly weighed and measured.

Yesterday, someone asked me a question about why I do something. And it was one of those head-tilt moments where the world stops and everything narrows as you think. It was a simple, small, ordinary question. The answer was deceptively simple: I care. Isn’t that the motivation for most things? I’d like to think so.

But let’s face it: we live in a cynical, stupid, often heartbreaking world. We live in a place where things happen that shouldn’t. Everybody’s always got an angle, right? Everybody wants something. It’s so easy to get jaded and wary. Because hearts break the way ice cracks: small, almost unseen – until it spreads. And we’re never quite the same after that. You can’t be. I can’t be. You live through something, anything, and it changes you. For better or worse.

So, yesterday, when I was asked the question of why, the answer was simple. But it was like a domino effect. I started to wonder why I care. Because I’m a person who jumps in, reaches out, asks the questions, make the first move, and whatever. I, as a general rule, like people – until proven otherwise. I don’t know how not to. It’s part of who I am. But it never really occurred to me that it might be odd – that there was the possibility someone might be taken aback by it.

For this, I think, you can blame my mother. Like her, I’d rather give something than get something. I’d rather run the risk of looking like a fool than play it safe as kittens. She spent a lifetime – her lifetime – caring about other people. Looking after them. And let’s face it: if you cross my path, physically or on the world wide web, I’m probably going to try and take care of you at some point. I’m going to ask if you’re having a bad day. I’m going to check on you.

Because I care. Because the world can be a dark place, so why not make it brighter? That is how I want to spend my time: lighting up days, singing in the grocery store, and stopping to hug basically every animal I see.

I can’t see the point of holding back. Or saving face. Or not trying, even in unusual circumstances. To hell with how it looks or how it might seem. To hell with playing it safe. Play it safe when you’re 98 and you have to – not while there’s a chance something good or magical might happen. Not while there’s a glimmer of adventure. Not while there’s potential. Don’t waste it. Don’t let it sit and rot, darlings.

To be honest, I felt a little sad after being asked that question. It could’ve innocuous, I can’t really say. Thinking about it, I felt a little embarrassed for a second. Like, maybe, I’d done something asinine. Like maybe it was bizarre and I too big of a clod to realize it. But, no. That’s just insecurity rearing its big ol’ dragon head.

What kills us, darlings, isn’t embarrassment. It’s not trying and failing – it’s not even getting back up. No, it’s holding things in and living too neatly, conveniently. It’s giving a damn and not showing it – or not showing it enough. It’s always doing things with expectation, not for the sake of the act itself.

Do yourself a favor, okay? Step up. Step into the room. Step into the unknown. Step outside of your comfort zone. And don’t look back.

It might be scary. It might be hard. But all the good things are, loves.

touch is not reversible.*

December 8, 2014 Leave a comment

Because I don’t understand this
in ordinary terms, I wonder
which shade of red
longing is – and whose feet
are these that walk among wolves,
wanting full as the moon, howling
from all corners, a feral force
of ravenous light –
tell me that death
does not come in all forms:
an absent touch,
a sun with broken bones,
the stain of a mouth.

How can skin vanish
like a bird, but not
stop the wanting? Where
has the night gone
with its hands, flinging
magic from an everyday wind?
This is too much dissolving
and not enough shelter –
a well of promise, unrealized,
a simple gesture
of the word abandon.

Leaning in, I am looking
for tongues – a rise in temperature
I can label a vocabulary lesson,
teach me how to unravel
in extraordinary ways, palms
full of joy, bending skyward,
perfection in an impossible kiss,
the everyday dark
gone wild – we are living
for the agony of things
given up, these traps
of silences singing with too many stars,
give me wine
and a world to run –
there’s no leash that says
we must live like this.

These are my hands
and my feet – I know where
I’m headed, hope tuned
like a violin, these notes
are a melody
bleached of innocence, and
there’s no visible evidence
of how we happened, but
here we are, conjured
out of ordinary skin:
let’s turn up the heat
and dare to believe
just how much we belong here.

*title taken from Marty McConnell‘s “The World’s Guide to Beginning

Categories: Uncategorized

Decisions and Deceptions in Constantine’s “Blessed Are the Damned”

December 6, 2014 Leave a comment

Belief can be a valuable tool in life, but blind faith is always a dangerous thing. Devotion without questioning leads to blindside moments and surprises. And if it is our beliefs that lead us to fight, to pick a cause, or take a stand – it’s even more imperative that they are well-placed. In this week’s episode of Constantine, a good recurring question would be, “What’s your angle?” Everybody’s got one.

In “Blessed Are the Damned,” a church in rural Kentucky, whose preacher is not even close to the showman his father was, is suffering from low attendance. But with a quick bit (or bite, as it were) of theatrics involving a rattlesnake and what we later learn to be an angel feather, he’s filled with remarkable powers of healing. But with great power comes great responsibility (Spiderman shoutout), which is unfortunately very foreign to Zachary. He simply starts healing people with the holy spirit, motivated by the intense desire to honor his father’s memory. And, let’s face it: he’s on a bit of a power trip. His disregard of potential consequences blinds him to the truth. But more on that later.

Meanwhile, Zed has a vision in art class of snakes. The model in her class casually hits on her, and they agree to go on an eventual date. Nothing about this seems out of the ordinary, but things are rarely what they seem. I will say that Angélica Celaya has really blossomed in the role of Zed. I was a little skeptical at first, but there are a lot of layers and subtleties. Like John, I’m still trying to puzzle and parse her out. Before they head off to Kentucky, she’s entirely alive with glee over her vision, while Constantine makes hilarious quips about etiquette and how she could at least say hello. What’s important about that is she constantly throws him off balance. Her focus on her powers and her art are the only things she’s shared about herself. John’s not one to trounce about blindly, and her secretive nature definitely sets him on edge. He’s not merely curious. For any relationship to work, there has to be a give and take, there has to be trust. Zed’s fierce mysteriousness keeps him from fully letting his guard down. (Side-note: When John was packing his bags for the trip, I laughed SO hard about the condoms. Holy hell. Nice touch.)

Once in Kentucky, John and Zed slip into the congregation, where they argue about religion and belief. Zed wants to believe in a guiding hand, and Constantine’s brief quips illuminate his uneasiness with the idea. His tone isn’t necessarily dismissive. He has trouble seeing the worth in himself, so why would any god approve of him? After this, he discovers that Zachary is speaking Enochian, the language of the angels. Of the preacher, John keenly observes, “Nobody wields that kind of power without consequences.” And it’s true: everyone who has been “saved” or “healed” starts turning red-eyed and a bit murder-y.

Zed touches Zachary’s hands and has a vision of an angel. Her expression in that scene is beautifully done, because it’s just the right shade of awestruck. But later, when she and Constantine are discussing the situation, she offers that “Blind faith can be a dangerous thing.” It’s a small, half-reveal, and she doesn’t give up anything else personal. But the weight of how Zed says that conveys that, for her, faith is a heavy thing.

Circling back to the idea that power is never without consequences, John reveals that these so-called miracles are taking the toll on the land. There’s an entire lake of fish is dead, which reaffirms that the magic happening in the church is dark, dangerous. And John calls on Manny for help, using dried myrtle (not drugs!), tossing in a ‘please’ and a shrug. It was very John Constantine moment. Manny arrives and John explains the situation, and Manny tells him that “It will only make sense if you stand facing the sun.” It’s clear that, by whatever rules the angels operate by, this is flirting with the line. But Constantine is all rage and frustration still, because he’s all about action, not words. However, Manny’s advice bears out, and John and Zed discover a beautiful angel, Imogen, who’s manifested on the mortal plane because of a missing feather, which happened when she came to take a dying mortal to heaven. It’s killing her.

Manny arrives, looking almost curious. His appearances holds a bit of comic relief, since Zed can’t see him, and she spends several minutes trying to figure out where he’s standing – while John is having a conversation/sparring match with him. These two squabble like siblings, and it’s really excellently done. Manny fervently reminds John that it’s basically impossible for a mortal to remove an angel’s feather, but that she will die if it’s not restored – her soul simply snuffed out, as if she never existed.

So, Constantine and Zed leave Imogen stashed in a barn, with Manny sitting watch. Before leaving, John sets up a protection spell using a garden hose (I love that he constantly uses everyday objects – it’s resourceful and charming). It will keep evil out. Constantine observes that Zed is gobsmacked, and her awe is positively radiating off her. Curiously, though, this is what she says, “I believed everything I was told as a girl. The older I got…the more lies I uncovered.” This shows that Zed has deep beliefs, but in what? We’ve seen her with a pretty impressive cross, but whatever religion she once practiced, it hasn’t shown itself as anything other than lapsed. And her statement also begs two questions. One: what lies did she uncover? And two: do her childhood beliefs inform her movements/decisions/actions now? Only time will tell.

Her curious unease with her powers – that she’d want to ask the angel where her powers come from if she could – is great moment. There’s an undercurrent of fear when she tells this to John. He offers her a practical, honest bit of advice, “Doesn’t matter where they come from. What matters is what you do with them – and what it costs you.” For Constantine, this is a brilliant, almost offhand revelation. He believes in the power of choice, in deciding your own fate. That it’s what you do with what you have that matters. That, I think, is why he fights. And in that moment, you have to wonder what it’s cost him. Because all magic, as we’ve heard time and again, is not without consequence.

Zed is a person who seems like she’s longing for faith, desperate for a reason to believe. She confronts Constantine about his cynicism, even in the face of proof – even with the evidence of angels right in front of him. And, again, in a stunning turn of grim honesty – and the look of a man who has seen and done too much – John counters her wide-eyed, hopeful naivety. “Could’ve been a better man if I hadn’t seen it all. Yes, angels exist – sound the bloody trumpets. As for religion, yeah, alright – be nice to your neighbor and all that. The world isn’t all puppy dogs and rainbows. Can’t just pray evil away. You’ve still go to fight.”

That, right there, is Constantine in a nutshell. That’s why he fights. That’s why he wages a war against the growing dark, even though he’s just one man with a couple of friends and a bag of tricks. What’s the saying? “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Constantine will be damned if he lets that happen (no pun intended). He’s not waiting around for someone else to fix things. He’s not leaving it up to fate. He’s in the thick of it all, using everything he’s got to maintain the balance. He might be a guy who brings condoms to church, but he’s also a guy who does what’s right. (Plus, it’s hard to argue with the whole ‘safety first’ idea.)

Later, John tries to take the feather off of Zachary (who had a spectacular falling out with his sister). When he gets close, the feather pulses out a magical blast that knocks him on his ass. Zachary, in true crazy religious zealot fashion, says that this indicates that John’s an evil force, which is why the feather reacted that way. More on that later.

Zed is attacked while lying in her tent, but John comes to the rescue in the nick of time, saving her from a ghoul. Ghouls are formed from magic gone wrong, and this one (the first parishioner healed) appeared to be looking for something. Zed cozies up to preacher Crazypants, telling him that she “wants to believe.” For a split second, that confession of Zed’s rings true, and you have to wonder more at where she came from.

Zed agrees to be baptized by Zachary. In doing so, she takes the feather from him. Keep in mind that this feather wouldn’t let John near it, but she could steal it without a problem. The feather starts protecting her, just as a gaggle of ghouls appear. Constantine, Zachary, and Zed barricade themselves in the church, but John sends her to restore Imogen’s feather; it’s the only way to stop the ghouls.

We cut back to Imogen and Manny, who are having a bonding moment. There’s something sharp and calculating about her gaze, as Manny is asking her what it’s like to be manifested. Poignantly, he asks what pain feels like, having never felt it before. In a heartbreaking turn, he also asks what it’s like to feel the sun. There’s a deep longing in his face, in the cadence of his questioning, and Harold Perrineau is exquisite in this scene. There’s a depth to Manny that we haven’t seen before; for the first time, we see his wants and desires. And what’s more basic than the desire to feel the sun on our faces?

While Zed’s gone, Constantine and Zachary have a conversation about the angel, and it comes to light that Imogen is not an angel from heaven. No, she’s fallen. She was taking a soul to hell – Zachary’s. He killed a man the night he got her feather. The realization hits John in the stomach like a sucker punch. And we cut back to Manny and Imogen, whose conversation has taken a curious, almost contrary turn. She’s subtlety challenging his beliefs about the purpose of angels, about humanity as a whole. Before Manny can really absorb the lilt of her words, Zed bursts in with the feather and restores it. This turns the ghouls John’s grappling with back to regular old humans, revealing Imogen as a dark angel to Manny. Zed, meanwhile, has no idea that she’s dark, until John shows up.

Presumably, Zed can still see Imogen the same way John can see Manny, but I have to bring up another possibility. Zed could take the feather – a thing of darkness. John couldn’t touch it. John sees Manny, a creature of light. I think that Zed’s ability to touch the feather revealed that there’s darkness in her, a mortal sin on her soul, like Zachary’s. Constantine may have committed many sins, but it looks like there’s more good in him that darkness. Like John, we don’t really know anything about Zed, but I think this scene revealed a whole hell of a lot. Okay, pun intended, here.

Now, John’s protection spell served to keep Imogen in. It looks like the growing dark has thinned out the barrier between worlds, allowing darkness easier access to humanity. And you know THAT is never a good sign. Imogen gave Zachary her feather so that she could break through to earth, which, as far as evil plans go, was quite clever. Turns out, Imogen was also just really desperate to get out of Hell, and she’s just as desperate not to go back. She grabs Zed by the throat, confessing that she fell because she killed a mortal just to see what it felt like (I’m guessing this is the angel equivalent of “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die…”). John starts angrily pleading with Manny, because he’s the only one can stop Imogen. But Manny, always acting by the rules, reminds Constantine that he can’t step in. In a passionate plea, John says something that rings very true to anyone who is deciding whether or not to fight. There’s always a moment where you choose. And for Constantine, choice is paramount. In a barely contained passionate fury, he tells Manny, “You’re either in this bloody fight with me, or you’re not.”

And it looks like Manny disappears, leaving John in a lurch and Zed to die. Except Manny takes possession of Zed’s body in a brilliant move, ripping out Imogen’s heart in one unexpected move. Absolutely beautifully done scene by everyone involved, with just enough surprise and fierce words to be impressive. Constantine doesn’t tell Manny thank you, but there’s a barely perceptible nod. I can’t help but wonder if he expected Manny to flee, to let him down. If, perhaps, even Constantine was surprised by Manny’s actions. Zed comes back to herself holding Imogen’s still beating heart, which is apparently concentrated evil. John wraps it in burlap for temporary safekeeping.

We cut back to the preacher, who is no longer crazypants. He is speaking on the power of choice, which is a major theme of the entire show, not just a main belief of Constantine himself. Choice matters. What a person (or an angel) does when faced with a point of no return or dangerous situation. There’s no puppetmaster pulling the strings. There’s only what you do and what you don’t do. Which brings us to the closing scene.

In final twist (I’m taking this out of order), it looks like Zed skipped out on her date with the model from her art class. And it turns out Hot Naked Guy has an ulterior motive, and that someone whose face we can’t see is pulling his strings. I’m curious to see how that mystery is unraveled and revealed. I wonder if it has anything to do with Zed’s hidden past. Only time will tell.

John and Manny are hanging out in the mill house. Manny admits that he doesn’t have all the answers, looking almost ashamed. John realizes he’s kicking himself about Imogen, about not seeing her for what she was. In response, Constantine offers comfort, “She fooled us all, mate. And that’s not something I admit to, lightly.” It is an endearing moment. But, for me, it makes me wonder if, down the line, that same sentiment won’t also apply to Zed. She could touch the feather of the fallen angel. Something about that is going to come back around again. It’s Chekhov’s loaded gun.

During their conversation, John puts Imogen’s heart in a nice jar with a lid, adding it to the curiosities housed in the mill house. Incidentally, I have that exact same jar (no rust), and I keep coffee filters in it. Gave me a bit of a chuckle. Constantine comes very close to thanking Manny, telling him he saved that day, that it’s the kind of faith he can get behind. Manny admits that he’ll face consequences for what he did to Imogen, confessing that what she did shouldn’t have been possible. He vanishes without a word, like some sort of heavenly ninja.

This whole incident seemed to further ignite Constantine’s tenacity, his desire to fight. John uses his pain, his passion, to fuel his actions. It doesn’t consume him. It spurs him on. He may be a jackass of all trades, but that kind of impassioned will is something to be admired. Constantine may question his beliefs. He may question himself. He may have doubts. But when it comes down to it, he doesn’t walk away from a battle.

You’re either in this bloody fight – or you’re not. And no matter what fresh hell appears, John Constantine is all in.

honest monsters

December 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Something always
goes wrong, and we end up
here, lost in a language
made of rain boots
and untied shoes, leaving
the windows open
in winter, boundaries
earned in inexplicable ways –
I’m a postcard girl,
always so close to leaving,
always wanting to stay.

But here we are:
a man, a woman, a coward,
a moon – an easy study
of separation, inherited thorns,
and something that calls itself
relief when it’s really flight
we take turns ripping out the garden,
guessing at what might’ve grown.

If you put me on a scale,
I’ll weigh no more than a photograph –
the idea of something, a memory
gone gray around the edges,
and this story is old
but repeating, feelings
so bright they’re bleeding,
heart an unsleeping
crime scene –
okay, yes: I miss you.
So, what?

There’s only ever one train
to this city; we both live here,
we’ve both left, and we always
come back, carrying words
like new pennies, kisses
like vanishing points, full
of last spring and everything
we’ve yet to learn, convinced
there’s a new bravery
in place of our spines, that ruin
is not our only gift, that love
may not be the first sin
but it is the last,
and this is war
and this is peace,
but I believe I can hold us,
so, give me the stars again
and I’ll give you the keys,
fear dissolving in light,
let’s invent new ways
to become who we already are.

I was born
for this, hands open,
heart full of ugly gods,
honest monsters –
I am always, but you
are not sure
how to love me, your
body a surrogate
for fear, but it’s time
to lean in, skin to skin,
shut the windows
and begin, watch
what I can do with my hands –
sometimes yes
is the answer to all questions.

Categories: poem, poems, Poetry, Writing Tags: , , ,