Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Manicure for All Eternity...

In the ancient world, death was often as important as life. The two worlds were intertwined and coexisted in the minds of many people. Egyptians held ceremonies for their dead and celebrated the afterlife, making sure that tombs were stocked full of food and wares for their journey into the next life (we could say they obviously disagreed with the old adage "you can't take it with you"). They also believed in ghosts, or khu. Although we can't be sure that apparitions wander the Valley of the Kings, there might be a few restless spirits lingering near the Nile River. And all of them may not be straight.

A tomb was unearthed in 1964 near Memphis which surprised many archaeologists. It was the final resting place (or way station, in their views) of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, two royal servants from the Fifth Dynasty (2498-2345 BC, a.k.a. Old Kingdom). When combined, their names can be translated as "joined in life and joined in death", which is fitting given their life together and joint burial near the pyramid of King Unas. Though what is not very common is the fact that Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum were both men.

This pair of royal confidants were "Overseers of the Manicurists in the Palace of King Niuserre", according to inscriptions at the site (fascinating how some 4500 years later, we sometimes perpetuate the stereotype by having such professions). In artwork adorning the tomb, the two men are shown holding hands and touching noses (the Egyptian version of a kiss). At the time, the accepted hypothesis was that they were twin brothers and that explained the "exaggerated affection" shown. But the evidence from history could not be ignored, leading some historians to name the pair the oldest documented gay couple in history.

While some people insist that homosexuality was not accepted in ancient Egypt, the lack of mentions of gays and lesbians may, in fact, mean that sexuality was a non-issue. Mundane, every-day things were not often recorded in history, after all. For these two royal manicurists to be given a tomb together says a lot about the world before Christianity took root. it's nice just to know that thousands of years ago, the love between men could be deemed worthy enough for the afterlife... and two male lovers could share an eternity together.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Can't You Hear, Can't You Hear the Thunder...

I'm an aussiephile; there's no denying it. So far in my life, I missed out on a chance to attend university in the "land down under" and take a vacation there (after saving the money and wasting it on a bad relationship). The country itself intrigues me to no end, as does the history. Needless to say, I was absolutely tickled pink to find my book on sale at Angus & Robertson. I might not be on the other end of the globe, but some part of me is.

I'm still determined to get there. Most people don't realize how hard I tried to find ONE story from Oz for the book. I gave up after a tiny nibble (a bed & breakfast which might be haunted, but needs to be investigated), but this time I'm more determined than ever. So, I'm asking for a little help from readers. If you're in Australia and know of any possible hauntings (be it hate crime ghosts, haunted gay bars, or anything of the like), I would really appreciate any tips. There has to be at least one LGBT haunting in the country, and I need to hear about it!! I'm about a dozen stories shy of being able to start work on the next book, so any input is much appreciated. Even if they're not from Australia, I'd love to hear from anyone who might have an interesting tale to tell.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

And the Compass Turns to Nowhere That You Know Well...

In Celtic circles, November is the beginning of a new year. And thus far, the month has been a time of further great change for me. Finding time for blogging hasn't changed, though. Coupled with a dash of writer's block and feeling completely worn down, I simply haven't had much energy to devote to Spooked! Maybe the culmination of all the events of the year have led me to this very point, where I'm back to where I began: uncertain of the future and longing for change.

And change itself is something we love and loathe. While we hope things will become better or different in a positive sense, we are ever fearful of reaching outside our comfort zone. There is danger and risk outside the known bubble in which we exist. Calamity and heartache, rebirth and different scenery. Which is why so few people ever step toward that great horizon and dare to see what could be. It can be a great adventure... or an incredible disaster.

I am often guilty of wavering on issues and directions. I contemplate too much. But there's a good reason for it. I can see all sides of most situations and moves, and there's never a perfect decision to be made. For every step we take, there can be both joy and pain. What brings happiness to some leaves other individuals damaged, battered, or bruised. Change itself is one of those risky behaviors our school teachers warned us about. We hate the people who refuse to change while chastising those who do. We question the purpose of mending the wall while keeping with the status quo.

I often ask myself where I will be in another year, another decade. I have no sure answer. A dozen trails lay before me and I could follow any one of them at any given time. There is no "safe path" except inaction. And oh, how I loathe stagnation. But I'm the dreamer, the surrealist. My life won't follow a course of normality. I don't want my life to be average. Yet I pay the price time and time again. And therein lies the trick to leading an alternative existence: understanding the risks involved and weighing your options. Sometimes, it's important to take the plunge into a new pool. It's up to each of us to decide whether to check and make sure it's filled with water first, though.
As winter fast approaches, I have a great many things to ponder. I have new projects to work on and important decisions to make. And honestly, I have no idea what the outcome of any of it will be. The only thing I know for sure is that any choices I make carry permanent risk and damage. In the end, I will follow what I believe to be best. Perhaps it's being selfish, but they will be the decisions best for my own life. Of course, I will be considering how it will impact everyone else close to me. Given my nature, I can't help but ponder the ripples through my own private ecosystem. Each path we forge or stream we reroute effects our world.

In retrospect, the past year has been a bit terrifying at times. I've taken chances for the first time in what feels like centuries. I set a dinghy out among clippers and schooners in the literary world and managed not to sink, ventured beyond the United States and explored and loved and lost, and navigated the East Coast solo. None of these were without a few bumps along the way, but I survived. Adventure is like heroin, and I'm finding myself addicted. I need more exploration in my life to feel fulfilled. As for what kinds of adventure it will mean next year, that remains to be seen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Spooky Happenings in the Crescent City...

Among the many cities I'm dying (well, not literally) to visit is New Orleans. Just like the Witch City of Salem, it's a town where death seems to be a part of life. Ghosts, witches, vampires, and other nocturnal peoples seem quite at home there and the presence of hoodoo is undeniable. Every shop, bar, and hotel carries with it some fascinating, if not haunting, tale.

One such place is 5 Continents Bed & Breakfast, which I did look into and noted in the "Haunted LGBT Accommodations" section in the back of my book. While I left out some of the history and hauntings at the inn, I just might finally revisit it for the sequel. It's a beautifully-restored old home, and apparently still occupied by its original owners.

Passport Magazine visited this haunted hotspot for the Halloween season (possibly after seeing it listed on my website... I'm not trying to assume, but reporter Paul West did attempt to contact me about a story earlier this summer, but due to email issues I missed him... sorry again, Paul!) and interviewed the innkeeper as well as a paranormal team as they looked for paranormal evidence at the business.

Check out the video from Passport.TV:

Monday, November 2, 2009

Crawling Out from Under...

October is finally over. And somehow, I managed to survive. Sure, I slept away the entire first day of November, but my body was trying to tell me something, aside from all these aches, pains, and utter exhaustion that still floods over me. I feel as though I've been thrown in a washing machine with a few dozen boulders. And my throat feels like I tried swallowing a grapefruit.

Boy, you're probably thinking, sounds like he sure had a fun Halloween! If only that were so. If fun involves being too exhausted to focus energy on anything for more than 5 minutes, trying to nap and failing miserably, battling the cold weather of Ohio, watching as half the people you know face automobile problems, and ending it with phone calls to police and hospitals, panicked that a family member has been in a serious accident (or possibly dead)... then, and only then, would I say yes, it was fun.

That does make it sound like I had the worst month ever, though. And I can't say that. I've met and spoke with wonderful people, traveled extensively, made new friends and contacts, and found a few times to smile and laugh genuinely. Still, there have been difficult moments. And some people have been left by the wayside as my time has been horrifyingly limited. I'm still only in the beginning phases of catching up, so hopefully I can, at least in part, make up for the many blunders and changes that've happened in these short few weeks. Only time will tell.

I do need to get back to business here on this blog too. I've had one guest blogging offer already, which pleases me to no end. Any time I can have a few people take over for a brief time and post some interesting, amusing, or humorous tidbits in keeping with the intended purpose of this blog, it's greatly appreciated. As one man, trying to write these posts along with other articles all over and future book projects, it can be difficult finding the time to remember that my own life is often kept on the wayside. I love to write on here, don't get me wrong, but after a few years of posting far more regularly, I do need a break. There are people out there I want to have some actual time with and trips I need to make or plan. And to top it all off, I have a severely difficult project on the horizon: writing a sequel to my book. It won't be easy, that's for sure... but I want to do it and refuse not to do it.

So, as the weather gets colder and more dreary here in Ohio, we'll see what happens with my cabin fever as we head into winter. One year of so much traveling and interesting adventures will certainly make matters worse. And when the first snow flies in the coming month or so, I'll probably have more time for blogging... but long for the world outside that is frozen in place until the spring thaw.