Autodidact: self-taught


The Autodidact Goes to New Orleans

by V. L. Craven

As mentioned in a recent post , I’ve just spent a week in New Orleans.

Here's the photo I promised in my last post about N.O. (blech.)

Here’s the photo I promised in my last post about N.O. (blech.)

I was there with some friends (15 and my husband–17 total) whom I’ve known for ten years or so.

We rented three flats in the Western Union Building in the business district. This plan was all right. We had several kitchens, which included things to eat off of and to eat with.

And they were modern and a lil bit swanky. (Though not without problems.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I lost one day to a migraine, and with 17 people trying to get groups together to do things was like herding cats that all wanted to do different things waaaaay earlier than I was capable of so I wound up not getting to do some things I’d wanted, but I still had a great time and enjoyed seeing my friends.

And the food was excellent.

On to the food.

Food I Paid For

Most of what we ate was prepared in our kitchens because we were a bunch of broke people, but on occasion I spent money on something.

Beignets. Everyone was telling me to have beignets. It’s a New Orleans doughnut (or a French doughnut, depending who was doing the talking).

Holy crap you guys. Have a beignet. They come in servings of three.

The first round was from Cafe Beignet :

I may or may not have just licked my screen.

I may or may not have just licked my screen.

I had a cafe au lait (which needed a LOT of sugar and was still seriously strong coffee, yowza, but it was great). And the beignets… So good. It’s just fried dough, but man alive. So good. I’d weigh 900 pounds if I lived somewhere I could eat those regularly.

During that first sitting I ate four because one of our group couldn’t finish all of hers. Several people were impressed with this for some reason.

Others were impressed I was wearing black and wasn’t covered in powdered sugar. What can I say? I have a rare gift.

The ability to not wear my food was tested on my third trip for the wonder that is the beignet (the second was a repeat trip to Cafe Beignet).

We went to Cafe du Monde . A place that, apparently, doesn’t own a sifter. They just dump the box of sugar over the dough.

There were lumps of sugar. Really.

There were lumps of sugar. Really.

Cafe du Monde is open 24 hours and some of my friends went out around 1 or 2 in the morning and they thought the place had closed for some reason because the chairs were upside down on the tables.

Nope, they were just hosing down all the powdered sugar that had fallen on the ground during the day. Probably to discourage ants.

So I highly recommend those. And I did prefer Cafe du Monde over Cafe Beignet. Both were excellent, but the former was slightly crispier. The former also offers iced cafe au lait which is delicious.

Note that Cafe du Monde only takes cash, though.

ALLIGATOR. I ate some. It’s another thing I’d eat all the time if it were available where I live. I know it’s bad for my GERD so it’s good I can’t get it here.

The first version was a fried alligator po boy from Felix’s and the second was an alligator sausage po boy from Daisy Dukes .

I *definitely* licked my screen this time. GRAAAAAH GIMME

I *definitely* licked my screen this time. GRAAAAAH GIMME

There’s an enormous alligator that lives near a lake in this area and all I can think is, ‘I know what you’d taste like on a sandwich!’

And I would be remiss if I left off the first thing I ate in N.O., which was:

Voodoo tastes like salt and vinegar, who knew?

Voodoo tastes like salt and vinegar, who knew?

They were quite inexpensive and could be found all over so if you like salt and vinegar (which I do very much) go for it.

Places I Went to & Things I Looked At

Boutique du Vampyre : Located at 709 1/2 St Ann St. this was one of the highlights of my trip. It had lots of handmade gothic gifts and items and books and such. One of the ‘and suches’ are custom fangs. (I didn’t get any.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Pharmacy Museum : (514 Chartres Street) Second highlight of my trip right here. It was like being in Professor Snape’s storeroom. They had a giant mortar and pestle for making large quantities of drugs, which of course they’d have to do on occasion. It’s something I’d never considered before, though.

Also they have a wonderful array of torture implements. I mean, surgical devices from way back when. Brings a tear to your eye just to look at some of them.

Faulkner House Books : (624 Pirate Alley) This was a tiny, but fantastic little bookshop. Plus they stayed open a little late when I got distracted by their New York Review of Books section. I wish I had spent more money here. I certainly could have (they had Karl Ove Knausgaard’s trilogy and dozens of NYRB books).

Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo : Well, this was disappointing. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it. It was very small. And the fact that more than one site listed this as a ‘must-see’ didn’t give me hope for other voodoo houses.

While there, a white woman asked one of the assistants, ‘Where is Marie Laveau buried?’
Guy: ‘Under our floorboards.’ :points down:
Woman: :knowing tone: ‘Yeah but, where does everyone in the world think she’s buried?’
Guy: ‘Saint Louis Cemetery Number One.’

That’s when I rolled my eyes right out of my head and sighed so hard I died.

Speaking of cemeteries, I genuinely tried to go to one, but they all close around 2 in the afternoon (I guess people don’t visit their dead after then?) Some have guided tours and require visitors to purchase tickets. A good reference for that information is Save Our Cemeteries .

I completely understand closing before dark. But 2 in the afternoon?! These people clearly don’t understand that some of us aren’t awake and mobile and able to get transportation *to* the cemetery before 2.

We drove past several. They looked cool from the other side of the fences.

Other Things I Didn’t Get To See/Experience

I had wanted (and intended) to get to the house that was used in American Horror Story: Coven, but that didn’t happen.

We didn’t make it to the Garden District at all, in fact.

I didn’t try chicory coffee. Though, from what I’ve read , I’m not sure I’d like it.

I was intrigued by the Museum of Death , but it was $15 to get in and we were broke. Perhaps next time we go we’ll be able to afford it.

Miscellanous Observations

My friends and I did some walking around and chatting and looking at masks–there are mask shops everywhere.

There are gas lamps lit all the time.

Note how it is the middle of the day.

Note how it is the middle of the day.

Which is both beautiful and one of the least green things I’ve seen in some time.

Bourbon Street is the living embodiment of an anxiety attack. I’ve been on taxi rides in Rome that were less stressful than walking down Bourbon during the daylight hours of a weekday. I can’t imagine what a weekend night must be like. Sakes alive.

There were ‘Katrina Tours’ … I don’t know what those are exactly, but they were offered alongside ghost tours and alligator tours and that is terrible and wrong.

And finally, something I learned about myself

Up in the photos of the flat I mentioned Chekhov’s blanket.

Well. I’m not allergic to anything. Or so I thought. From the time I was in the flat the first night I found myself sneezing rather frequently when in our bedroom.

I tend to sleep with something over my face–it’s a comfort thing. At home it’s a pillow. I was using that cursed blanket because we only had one pillow each.

Look at it. Just... lying there.

Look at it. Just… lying there.

I don’t know what that… thing is made of (not a natural fibre in there, I’m sure), but by the third night my nose was running like it was crying and I was sneezing my face off.

I still hadn’t put it together it was the blanket, though, because I’m not allergic to anything.

I thought I was coming down with a cold… that only struck…wait a minute… when I’m anywhere near…hey, you guys… that blanket…

So I’m allergic to soft and snuggly, faux zebra blankets.


In summation, I learned a great deal on my trip.

Voodoo houses are tiny and overrated.

It’s impossible for beignets to ever be overrated.

Cemeteries in New Orleans close before the living dead can have their second cup of tea.

Alligators are quite delicious and, since they’re basically dinosaurs, a T-Rex steak would probably be tasty indeed.

Avoid Bourbon Street unless you’re drunk or planning to be in short order.


Why There Are No Reviews

by V. L. Craven

I’m in New Orleans for a week so there will be no film or book reviews for a couple weeks.

I’ve actually left the house. It’s incredible.

It’s raining like nobody’s business here, which is what you want when you go on holiday. And I’m here with a group of friends from all over the U.S., U.K. and one from Australia, so people are handling the humidity and rain in various ways.

Those from the northern parts of the U.S. don’t understand warm + rain.

The U.K. people aren’t coping with humidity and heat.

The American Southerners are: What? This is strange?

And the Australian, being accustomed to living in a place where everything is trying to kill you, is happy to be somewhere relatively safe.

When we arrived at the airport the first thing we saw was a sign advertising crawfish strudel. This is an abomination. Our taxi driver asked if we’d tried one.


I should have taken a photo of the sign. I’ll try to get one on our way out of the city.


Anhedonia Addams

by V. L. Craven

When the Autodidact in the Attic was small, she became acquainted with another little girl named Anhedonia who would visit for long stretches of time and occupy all of the Autodidact’s attention. Anhedonia was quite distracting. Nothing seemed very important when she’s around.

The two girls spent an inordinate amount of time together as children and teens and even into their twenties. Then they grew apart to some extent. Though Anhedonia never goes away for too very long, these days she usually only returns for day visits every now and again.

But recently, she arrived out of nowhere–as is her wont–and has settled in. And she’s one of those guests who, when she’s around, you simply can’t do anything with. She’s uninterested in going anywhere or doing anything except spending time with you. And she reminds you that, ultimately, everything is an exercise in futility so there’s really no reason to do anything in the first place.

If you ask me, Anhedonia needs to cut back on the Existentialists.

I mentioned that once and she just quoted Macbeth at me.


I don’t have any photos of her–she’s incredibly shy–but here are some approximations of what she’s looked like over the years.

We first became acquainted when I was 8 or so and she would have looked something like this:

Anhedonia 1

(The little girl from  The Colors of Evil. )

Then, she grew up a bit and looked like Wednesday.

Anhedonia 2

You know who’s next, right?

Anhedonia 3


Now that we’re adults she looks more like Death in  Mortys  than Morticia, oddly. Very tall and thin and pale. Tilda Swinton with long black hair, really.

Anhedonia 4



In all seriousness, anhedonia is ‘the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable’.

I’ve always thought it sounded like one of the Addams family cousins, though.

She’s been visiting so I’m dealing with her at the moment.


Regular posts will resume this Friday with a book review of a Gothic story for children. Or a story for Gothic children.

See you then.



The Philosophy of Cleaning

by V. L. Craven

Yesterday I threw away a good portion of my childhood. And it felt great. It was needlessly taking up space I did not have.  And it’s not like I was using it for anything anyway.

As mentioned previously, I’ve been cleaning like a nutter & have very nearly realised my long-time goal of having nothing extraneous in my hovel. I now have two boxes of papers that need sorting through. And that’s it.

Yesterday was the top of the second room closet–the room we call the Room of Requirement. It had huge boxes I’d moved in with five years ago and had never opened. In several of them were dance costumes from the years I took ballet, tap and jazz. I had moved those big boxes three times since moving out of my parents’ house. Why? Why was I carting around these completely useless bits of fabric?

That’s when I started getting philosophical about it. It became a metaphor for life–you carry around big boxes of things to no good purpose when you could be using that room for something useful.

When you start thinking anything you’re doing is a metaphor for life it’s time to stop doing whatever it is you’re doing.

[Reposted from a now-defunct blog. Original post date: 3 September 2007]


Hatching Reptiles & Writing

by V. L. Craven

I took a little unscheduled break due to a few things.

First: my dog had an episode of vestibular syndrome , which is vertigo. It’s scary to watch and it can look like a stroke but it’s highly treatable and goes away and probably won’t return. Sometimes people put down their dogs because they think it’s a stroke when it’s something that would resolve in a few days or a week. Please tell any dog owners you know about vestibular syndrome. Dogs are great. This one is mine:

Emma the Best Dog Ever

75% Chow, 25% Shar-Pei; All AWESOME

Next, very happily, I started writing again. There will be an entire post about that next Wednesday. Short version: when you have loads of ideas for stories, you have to write down all of those ideas at that time because if you ignore them, they get stroppy and they will go away.

Screw You Guys Penguin

Like so

Unfortunately, there’s only so much time in a day and writing other things doesn’t leave an enormous amount of time to write blog stuff, because I don’t want to just poop out blog posts. I do actually care about what I post here, believe it or not.

Then: My migraines decided to have a passel of their friends (headaches) over for parties every day, all day. Several days a week of nauseated headaches and migraines makes for a fun existence, let me tell you. It’s like having a reptile trying to hatch its way out of your skull, but it doesn’t have a beak, so it can’t just crack your skull open and be done with it (at a certain point, you’d be fine with that) so it just pushes and pushes and turns you into an Existentialist. I mean, really, does life have a point? We really are just put here to fritter away and die, right?

This went on for many weeks, as I hate going to the doctor (I always feel like I’m wasting their time and whatever it is will resolve itself on its own). But a person can only take so much Sumatriptin and being unproductive due to waking up with a headache and deciding to simply not get out of bed that day, if THAT’S what it was going to be like.

Went to the doctor, got Topamax. Or, as people who take it call it, Dopamax, because wow.



That seems to have lessened, thankfully. I mean, I’m sitting upright and typing without having my husband holding my eyes open. One of the other side effects is appetite suppression, so hopefully that will work out.

In there I took a couple of days to do jury duty for the first time which was an interesting experience. I wasn’t chosen, which was a bummer, but maybe next time.

And finally, I’ve upgraded my Ubuntu machine to 13.04 and now my wireless doesn’t work and I just…don’t feel like dealing with it. So I’m on my Windows machine for the time being. The good bit is I’m surrounded by my macabre geeky office stuff, the bad news is this Windows computer is effing slow and this chair does bad things to my back. Whinge, whine, moan, complain, first world problems, first world problems.

But I’m back!


A Life Lesson from the Divine Miss M

by V. L. Craven

Bette Midler has taught a very important thing.

I never want to be famous.

I wanted to be a STAR!! from the time I was 12. I felt this was the best way to meet celebrities and they were the people I wanted to be with/like. They were always perfect, looked great, were worshiped by millions and had loads of money. Then I talked my mother into paying for VIP tickets to a party Madame Midler was attending so I could meet her. We were not wealthy and those tickets were expensive. I’ve only very recently realized what my mother sacrificed to buy those tickets so I could meet my hero of many years.

Anyway, we went to the party and there she was. She treated me like garbage. I was nineteen, I had adored her for many years and she looked at me like I was muck on her shoe. This was at a function she was being paid to be at to meet her fans. I was within touching distance of her at Disneyworld a few years prior and didn’t say a world to her because she was on vacation and I didn’t want to bother her, but I felt I was justified this time. This time two thousand dollar tickets to be at the party were involved.

She came into the room thronged by paparazzi (and this was when her career was in a slump). Once she was finally by herself I tried to tell her what a fan I was–that I had come from North Carolina to New York just to see her, but she treated me like scum. I was stunned. It was inconceivable to me that a person I so admired could be such a jerk.

Once my mother and I were back at our crummy hotel I fell apart, crying and so on. I told my mother I couldn’t wait to be famous so I could treat people like crap, too. My mothers’ response: “Most people didn’t even get to touch her coat.” Yes, I got to touch her coat. That was supposed to be worth the two thousand dollars my mother paid.

Once I’d recovered I realized that I didn’t ever want that to be my life. I never wanted to have a life that wouldn’t allow me to go anywhere without being surrounded by the flashing of cameras. I have much more sympathy for celebrities (and am completely baffled by the people who’d court that insanity) and I’m grateful to have seen what being famous entailed before I sacrificed my life in the name of infamy.

I do hope she got what she wanted and I’m grateful for what she taught me.

And I haven’t bought an album or seen a film of hers since that evening–I simply can’t support a person who has so lost touch with her sense of humanity.

This is the first time I’ve written/spoken about that event, which was ten years ago, because it’s still so painful to me. I usually don’t think I’m worth a whole lot, but being treated as garbage by one’s idol is difficult to admit/look at, even a decade on.

Still, I’m grateful for it. I could have spent my life straining to be like her, only to either fail or get what I wanted and be a total bitch. And I can be a bitch without killing myself, thankyouverymuch.

[This is a post from a previous blog. Original post date: 8 October, 2007]


Drink, Pray, Kill

by V. L. Craven

Today I’d like to talk to you about the joys of Christmas and the holiday season in general. Being a non-social person from birth, I was pretty much over the holiday by the time I was 13 or so. I moved out when I was 20 and promptly got a job in retail, thereby giving me an excellent reason not to return to my family’s house for eight wonderful holiday seasons. I now have a job that isn’t retail and therefore this year I had no acceptable reason to stay home. [”I don’t believe in your god, his son–who would’ve been born in the summer FYI–or slavering consumerism as a placeholder for love.” Isn’t acceptable to most families, including mine.]

So I dragged my poor husband the three hour drive up to deal with my family. Never again, kids. Humans are quite adaptable, you know. Particularly when the adaptation is to a life that suits a you just fine–for example, neither my husband nor myself can stand being around lots of noise, people or a bunch of physical affection and we haven’t had to put up with those things for many months now so being forced back into the box of trying to tolerate loud people, hugs and fairy tales had us both climbing the walls. We came home after roughly eighteen hours in their presence and slept for the better part of twenty-four hours. Our dog had stayed with the canine equivalent of my family–several loud, rambunctious dogs–and she fell asleep as soon as we got into the Jeep. We got home, she got on the sofa and slept almost a day. People exhaust all of us.

Then I saw this column on the BBC about the statistical rise of drinking and murder (and interestingly, church attendance) during December. “While people are less inclined to take their own lives in the festive season, they are more likely to kill others.” They don’t specify if the people killed share DNA with their murderers, but I would bet they do.

So. Dealing with family leads people to drink and possibly murder those family members. I’m guessing the church attendance is along the lines of: “Look, god, I had to do it. Otherwise she wasn’t ever going to shut up.” Or “Please, Jesus, help me keep from killing these idiots.”
Christmas is bad for your health. Besides being a giant lie. For these reasons it should be cancelled.

[This is a re-post from Christmas 2007, but remains applicable]


Things They Don’t Tell You About Living on Your Own

by V. L. Craven

When you’re young and looking forward to moving out of your parents’ house you think about all the wonderful things you’re going to do. You can stay up as late as you’d like, eat ice cream for breakfast, walk around naked, etc. You do not fantasise about the never-ending housework or realising you’re out of clean pants/underwear on the day of a job interview. These sorts of realisations happen fairly early on in living-on-your-owndom.

But there are other things you may not realise are your responsibility for years. Like… fourteen years.

One of those things is that you’ll have to deal with bugs. Sure, you’ll deal with smaller insects and the occasional jumping spider. You’ll grow accustomed to the indigenous creepy-crawlies of your geographic location, but eventually, after you make enough, ‘I’m glad I don’t live in Australia! Everything’s trying to kill them there!’ jokes, Mother Nature says, ‘Oooooh?’ And sends a bug the likes of which you were blissfully unaware existed. A big bug. A bug that wants a nice cuddle in your bed. Where you sleep.

Last Wednesday, a bug of a type we hadn’t seen before appeared on the wall by our front door. This guy:


The next day he was still there. So we took the photo above and showed a friend who knows about these things… She said it looked like an assassin bug, which would eat other bugs.

We were very fine with that. We were going to call him Floyd and high-five him on the way in and out every day.

Unable to find photos online of assassin bugs that looked like good ol’ Nope up there, we did a bit more poking around and it turned out it was a Florida Leaf-footed Bug.

Wikipedia had this to say about our friend:

Pesticides will not get this bug out of a home, so the best means is hand removal….This bug may enter houses when the weather turns colder and likes to make a home for itself in beds.

To recap: They laugh at poisons and want to snuggle with you. The article went on to say the best way to keep them out was by blocking all windows and door frames and such, but, thanks to the fantastic humidity in our part of the world, there’s a small gap at the bottom of our front door juuuust big enough for some bugs to get into. Nope had to go.

I didn’t want to kill the guy–I just wanted him far away from me. If I didn’t have to see him I could pretend he didn’t exist. It’s pretty much the same way I feel about social conservatives. So the plan was to capture him in a paper cup by slipping a bit of card over the top and walk him out to the nearby pine trees, as apparently they like the sap. I know I wouldn’t mind being kidnapped so much if you didn’t harm me and just dropped me off at a nice pub near my house.

The thing about Nope bugs is that they can fly. Did I mention that? They fly, too. What if we try to put the cup over Nope and he flew in our faces? The decision was taken that I’d have two cups and K would have one and the bit of card and if Nope got out of the way of K putting his cup down I could flail around with my cups.

But it turned out he was too high up on the wall. I couldn’t have reached him if I was standing on my tip-toes. My husband is 6’4″, though, so he could reach him fairly easily. He took a second cup in case it was a two-handed job and I held the card at the ready. We psyched each other up and the capture was done quickly.

The next worry was that we’d take the card away from the cup and Nope would be all, ‘WAZZUP! BITCHES!’ in our faces and the entire neighbourhood would see us squeeeeeeing like little girls up the road. To that end, we decided to put the cup down on its side with the bottom of the cup facing us and flip off the card. Then just leave it there like a little driveway to his sweet, new bachelor pad. If it was still there the next day and Nope had moved on the bigger digs, my husband would pick up the cup and card, both of which were paper and biodegradable so no harm done, right?

Kids, when you move out on your own have a plan for big fuck-off bugs. Because they have a plan for you and your comfy, warm bed.


Post-Death Review Parties

by V. L. Craven

When my uncle died he didn’t want a wake or funeral–he wanted only for my aunt to have him cremated. The day after he died was strange because, as much as I dislike wakes and funerals, there was nothing by which to commemorate him by. No wake is fine by me–a body in a box is not the person I knew. No funeral is fine by me–it seems to be an outpouring of emotion that is tortuous for those of us that prefer to grieve on our own. I’d be all right with funerals if people who didn’t wish to attend were allowed to deal with their loss in their own way, but saying you don’t want to go makes people think you’re a heartless jerk. No, it’s just that I can’t sort out how I feel when I’m thinking, ‘There are far too many loud people here; when can I be alone.’

So when I kick off, I’m donating my organs and the rest of my body to science. A few weeks later, when the pain isn’t so fresh, throw a party where people can talk about how I made them laugh or was infuriating as all get-out. [The best part of funerals, to my mind, is when everyone talks about what a tit so-and-so made of themselves that time in Vegas with the monkey and the nun.] Then everyone watch some Dylan Moran and Bill Bailey stand up DVDs. I’d much rather you be laughing at my funeral than crying. Laughter outlasts tears anyway, because I still find myself chuckling about things that happened years ago, but the people I’ve known who died years ago only evoke a wisp wistfulness.

And for the love of Nora, none of the cliches about how dear and lovely she was. If you didn’t know me in life then I don’t want you speaking at my post-death review party. I don’t believe in an afterlife but if there is one and some half-wit starts yammering about me you’ll know it because my supernatural self will be kicking his corporeal heiny.


Because I’m Five

by V. L. Craven

Last weekend my husband and I decided to pick up some Play Doh/Plasticine and whilst we were at the toyshop I asked where their Harry Potter section was. They were out. Except! The very helpful guy went into the back and found a big Harry Potter (about a foot and a half tall), but who wants him? He makes me mutter ‘Goody-two-shoes,’ under my breath.

The very nice guy went into the back again and returned with the only other thing they had:

Dementor! YAY!


My Next Tattoo

by V. L. Craven

I got my first tattoo fourteen years ago and it no longer means anything to me. I at least chose something that, at the time, was meaningful and original, rather than just walking in, pointing at some flash and saying, ‘Gimme that dolphin!’

But I got it before I was a fully formed human being and it’s easy to cover up, so it’s getting covered this Thursday. I have all of my work done by Port City Tattoo in Wilmington, NC. Everyone who works there is incredibly nice and talented as hell. I’ve had work done by all three artists, Humphries, Justin, and Little Brian and have been thrilled by all of their work.

Little Brian did my husband’s tattoo of our dog:

Which is nothing if not incredible.

For my cover up, I took in reference pictures and told Humphries to have at it, as I know that whatever he does is going to be incredible. He said it could take up to six hours, which will make it the longest tattoo I’ve had yet. I know it’ll be two sittings, at least, because I think my limit is 2.5 hours. We’ll see, though. I’m going to take my Kindle, my DS and my iPod, which has a couple video games on to try to distract myself from the needle stabbing my delicate flesh. I’m also going to try to psyche myself up all week.

Wish me luck.


Death is for the Living

by V. L. Craven

Last June [2007] I had my first psychotic episode; during which I tried to kill myself. I know that sounds highly dramatic, but that’s what happened, apparently. I say ‘apparently’ because I have no memory of it. I left work two hours early one day and when my husband came home at 5pm I was nearly unconscious and vomiting profusely from alcohol and pills. I had also been cutting myself. What I remember is going home at 3pm and then being in a hospital bed at 11pm. Then there’s another blank space followed by being at home about twelve hours later. Roughly eighteen hours are missing; though it was a very active eighteen hours. I’m amazed at the thought of being physically present for such a momentous occasion as my near-death while remembering nothing of it. It’s like seeing yourself in pictures in a place where you can’t recall being.

The entire episode is something that puzzles me. It’s been a bit over four months and I’m just starting to get my head round it.

What I’ve been thinking about most (besides how badly I feel at scaring K, my husband, so much) is when people say, regarding death, “At least they didn’t suffer.”

Suffering can only be appreciated from the point of surviving said suffering. If I had died that day I would have had no memory of being crazed or whatever was going on and so it wouldn’t’ve made any difference if my last moments were spent shouting at the universe or quietly meditating. Suffering before death is only important to the people who are still alive. Once you’re dead that’s pretty much it. Whatever pain you are in ceases to be once your heart stops beating. I used to be of the mindset that a person not suffering just prior to death was vastly better than being in horrible pain just before. Now I see that doesn’t matter. This is a good thing and this is why…

I’ve known two people who were murdered. One was killed during a robbery at his workplace and the other was killed in his bed while he slept*. I used to think, “Well, at he least was asleep and had no idea what happened,” and, “Christ, how horrible to know you’re going to die–to spend your last moments fighting and pleading for mercy.” But now I see those thoughts are only tormenting/comforting the living.

In Judaism, the funeral service and shiva are for the living–to support those still alive–not really for the soul of the person no longer of this earth like in Christian ceremonies. The deceased has far better things to be getting on with. I’ve always found wakes and Christian-style funerals to be wrenching to no good purpose, though I can see why some people feel compelled to say goodbye to their loved one. I would not begrudge people wishing to say goodbye to me even though I wouldn’t have been in the room for some time.

Unlike the previous post (a quote from a dear friend) I have no great concept of what happens when one dies other than decomposition to the organic matter from which one came. To me, you get your time on Earth, spend it as you will. When you’re gone some people will remember you kindly and others won’t care one way or another. That’s fine with me. Hopefully no one will be actively glad I’m gone, but if that is the case, I won’t give two shits by that point.

The idea of suffering v. not suffering prior to death not being of any consequence was a real eye-opener for me, as I’ve been socialized to think that one’s last moments are best if they are peaceful. It’s better to go quickly rather than painfully. Now I see that’s more about the living. The people who survive you don’t want to see you suffer–they don’t want their last memories of you to be horrid. Your last memories won’t count for anything because you won’t know about them once you’re on the other side.

You may say: You’d feel different if you’d actually died, but I have. I was clinically dead (drowned) when I was five years old. I remember the drowning, but there was no white light or whathaveyou. That experience was similar. I was swimming, swimming, swimming and then nothing and then I was on the beach, awake and surrounded by people. No breathing or heart-beat for several minutes. Death is a nothingness that happens when it happens. In many ways I find this comforting…

Anyway, just some thoughts I wanted to put out there/down for my future self.

*For those who care–the people who murdered my brother-in-law and my friend have been put in prison.
[This post is from a previous blog. Original post date: 18 October 2007]


Plot Twist Worthy of Poe…

by V. L. Craven


I’ve been applying for jobs lately and decided to see what HR would see if they put my name and ‘blog’ into Google. I used a service called Scroogle , though, as Google leaves cookies on your computer and will show different results than what a complete stranger would see.

Well… um… There are several hits with my name, but of the first 100 results I’m … none of them.

However, the first few are from an American emo who writes about cutting herself and generally mopes around. Another is one of the top reviewers on and has terrible taste in books. And my absolute favourite is the American writer who writes historical romance with a paranormal twist. And she’s published with a company that takes its name from an Edgar Allan Poe story. Which is something that would happen in a modern story… The writer discovers she’s been writing atrocious fiction in her sleep! Then reading and reviewing awful books on!

Unable to cope with the idea that she’s been recommending and writing books that should be used as emergency toilet roll, she tops herself.

Then it’s revealed that she’s been driven insane by her guilt about putting off her own writing in order to work for The Man.

There’s another website that’s home to an ongoing fiction piece with a character that has my name. Do I need to say that it’s [checks words not yet used] horrendous? It has illustrations that look like they come from the Sims.

The only saving grace is that I share a name with an editor with a major publishing house.


Dammit! No One Asked Me!

by V. L. Craven

Here in the States, we’ve just celebrated Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday any country could have because it’s not really about the Native Americans getting on with the settlers, is it? That’d sorta be like a holiday in Ireland celebrating the ten minutes the Irish got on with the English. Yeah, sure, we then stole your land and killed you for fun, but we really had a good party there for a bit, right? I do wonder what Native Americans think of this holiday…

But I digress.

This year was the first year I could remember that I had something to be grateful for other than my old stand-bys, “my health and I’m thankful my parents didn’t beat me with live electric cables.” Don’t get me wrong, I AM thankful for those things, but after one has used those for sixteen consecutive years it begins to sound like your life sucks the big one.

I used to dread Thanksgiving because I was expected to socialize as well as say what I was grateful for. There were times I wanted to say, “Well, I think everyone is grateful I’ve managed to ignore the voices for yet another year.”

This year, the year I finally had things to be grateful for, no one bloody asked! And you can’t go around crowing about how great everything is because you sound like an utter twat.

So I’m happy. I have a life-mate I adore. We’re both gainfully employed with the state in jobs we enjoy, with co-workers we actually like. We’re looking into perhaps, maybe buying a house we’re in love with so me can start our dog-family. With our jobs, we could be out of debt in 2-3 years. And we even have health insurance and paid vacations. Yay! Life doesn’t suck! It hasn’t not sucked in a very long time.

And it was entertaining to watch my English husband celebrate his first Thanksgiving by over-eating.

[This is a repost from a now-defunct blog. Original post date: 23 November 2007]


Cereal Boxes and Nabokov

by V. L. Craven

I’m indifferent to sex. This isn’t a secret, as I’ve done interviews for television and print media, as well as participating in a massive study on asexuality being conducted in Canada.

I’ve known I was asexual since I was sixteen and a typical response is complete incredulity. I’ve always found this to be offensive, figuring the other person thought I didn’t know myself well or that I hadn’t met the right person, I was abused, raised very religiously, etc. They couldn’t accept that not everyone enjoyed the things they did. To me, it was perfectly logical that some people would have no interest in sex since some people seem to be attracted to anything that metabolizes oxygen into carbon dioxide.

Recently I realised what tripped up the incredulous. They couldn’t imagine their lives without sex. It colours their lives to such a degree that if they didn’t spend time and money pursuing it, keeping it and improving it then what would they do?

Then it occurred to me: They felt about me the way I felt about reading. When I meet someone who says they don’t enjoy reading I think, ‘Why not? Reading’s awesome! I’ve been into it since I was little. They couldn’t pry the book out of my hands. Was the person traumatized by a book as a child? Did they receive negative images of reading? Were readers thought to be boring? Did their parents tell them to get outside and play rather than reading? Perhaps they’d been reading the wrong books! I could find the right books for them!’

Yeah… so…

To extend the metaphor, there are two types of reading: reading because you love the author or subject matter. For me it’s Nabokov. When I first discovered him I looked forward to getting back to reading his books all day during work. I thought about him all the time. I sang his praises everywhere. I was in love with him. I wanted to read every word he’d written, as they’d seem to have been written expressly for me.

This is the equivalent of being madly in lust with another person. Not being able to get enough of said person. Every fibre of your being is longing for that person’s presence and touch.

The second type of reading is when I just have to read something. If I don’t read something I’ll die. I’ve found myself reading cereal boxes. I think, ‘What am I doing? How is this useful?’

This is like the one-night stand. You have to read something and at a certain point it doesn’t really matter what. Once you’ve read the cereal box you realise how pointless it was to do so, but there it is. And you know you’ll do it again in future. It’s just part of life for real readers.

So now I wish my friends to have lots of profound Nabokov experiences and I hope their cereal box experiences are few and interesting, at least.

(Though I still think I could hook you up with books that will get you interested in reading.)

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress