Archive for the Black Hymeneal Category

Black Hymeneal update (11/02/2017)

Posted in Black Hymeneal with tags on November 2, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Since it has been almost 5 months from the last time I mentioned it here, I just wanted to give you all an update on my upcoming poetry collection, Black Hymeneal. Well, I haven’t met my last 2 deadline goals (8/26 & 10/31, respectively), but I have been meeting periodically with my longtime friend Denisse Montoya, who has agreed to help me with the technical aspects of the layout, cover design, and publication of the book. I have retyped the manuscript and written new introductions for many of the individual poems, as well as a general introduction for the book. I have given the manuscript to her and she has promised to read it over for reference and inspiration as she works on the cover design. At the moment I am also awaiting a PDF version of the book for pending approval before we can submit it to Create Space for e-book publication. Once that happens, a trade paperback edition should also become available for order through Amazon. After this first stage is over we shall get working on putting together a nice hardback version which shall go to anyone who donated to the original fundraiser back in 2015.

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7 Minutes in Hell (10/14/2017)

Posted in 7 Minutes in Hell, Black Hymeneal, Jobot Coffee & Bar, Melt Ice Cream Shop with tags , , , , on October 16, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Facebook event banner for the 2017 edition of 7 Minutes in Hell.

Saturday night I took part in what is to be the last 7 Minutes in Hell to be performed at the Pierce Street location of Space 55. It had been a while since I had read there, at least a year or more, and I figured it would be a good opportunity to plug my forthcoming book, Black Hymeneal. I went to the theater directly after getting off from work, so I was a bit early and so I decided to go to Jobot, a hip local coffee shop on 5th street & Roosevelt, for a quick snack, but they seemed to be closed for some reason. Moving down a few doors I stumbled upon an ice cream shop called Melt. The flavors were very unusual, pistachio with cherries, churro, horchata, etc. I settled on a single scoop cake cone of horchata and was not disappointed! It even came topped with a fortune cookie; the message within read: “You will lighten another’s heart.”

I don’t know if I did that, but I believe I entertained a few people in the audience at least. I was 3rd in line after a boisterous opening song by host Russ Kazmierczak and a hilarious skit by Ashley Naftule. Russ had what I assume was a karaoke track for Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive over which he sang a lyric about all the wondrous things he’d seen at Space 55. His voice wasn’t always on key, but his heart was in the right place and he got the whole room, myself included, singing the refrain “I saw it at Space 55”.

Ash came on in character as a film critic whose name was a spoof on Cliff Notes, but I cannot recall exactly what it was. His deal was that he was a critic who would do reviews of movies he’d never seen. He asked the audience to shout out some film titles and he would do these brilliantly hilarious reviews. Ash is a master of improv and his broad knowledge of film and pop culture was put to good use here.

Then I came up, plugged Black Hymeneal and my blog, then read 3 poems selected from my book. I started off with Manurog to ease the crowd in, then moved onto Manqueller Manque finally wrapping up with Love Song of the Lugubrious Gondolier. My preamble was a bit rusty, and it soon became apparent, to me at least, just how long it had been since I’d last read in public. I introduced Manurog as a poem about a goblin that takes his grooming tips from Ed Gein and ended by saying it was “one for the kiddies”, which got a chuckle from the audience. My explanation for Manqueller wasn’t anything special, I just explained how the inspiration came from a book on obsolete words and how it was about a would be murderer. My explanation for Love Song… was a bit clunky and when I explained it was inspired by a movie they asked for my review (in reference to Ash’s skit) I replied that I couldn’t do that because I had already seen the movie. The set seemed to go over fairly well, despite my losing place in the middle of Manqueller. The reason for this was that my old book of poems has so many corrections and cross-outs in it that I couldn’t tell where to look for the marginal notations. That being said, I did get a few compliments afterward.

Now, I tend to get antsy after I come off stage and generally only stay for the next act so as not seem ungrateful for a chance to read or non-supportive of my fellow artistes.  I waited for the next act, Steve Marek, a stand-up comedian to do his bit. His set began with a eulogy to Hugh Hefner, which was clever, and ended with a political “horror tale”. He asked the house to dim the lights and he used the light from his gadget (i-Phone, or whatever) like one might put a flashlight under one’s chin to tell a campfire tale, as he regaled us with an explicit piece of horror-otica featuring Sherriff Joe and Jan Brewer engaged in some rather compromising  hi-jinks. It was a bit sophomoric, but it had some poignant political digs thrown in for good measure.

I considered leaving then, but ended up sticking around for the next act. This one was a woman named Dineta Williams-Trigg who I guess is a regular in the scene, I did not know her but she was very personable and even approached me before the show to ask me about my Venom t-shirt. She explained that she was a fan of B-movie Horror and had recognized the Baphomet symbol on it. I returned the compliment by saying that I liked her Glen or Glenda t-shirt. She gave her time up to invite people to come up and talk about their experiences at Space 55 and what it meant to them. First up was Amy Ouzoonian who came up with her precious infant in a make-shift papoose fashioned from of a long swaddling blanket wound around her torso. She told of her experiences there as part of the Arcana Collective and as a cast member in one of the past productions featured at the venue. She would later come back up with her babe to recite a monologue about the questionable joys of mother hood. Then came Marcella Grassa who told a similar tale of working with the Arcana Collective and being in shows, most recently as one of the leads in Ashley Naftule’s play “The Ear”. Lastly, was an audience member who told how seeing some of the wacky skits there gave him the courage to try his hand at performing on stage.

After this heart warming tribute, I began to relax and just enjoy the show and stopped looking for a chance to make my exit. I believe the next act was Marcella and her friend Gullveig (spelling?) who did a skit they’d penned about the legendary water spirit Melusine explaining to the goddess Kali her decision to allow Starbucks to use her image for their brand logo. It was a bit rough in spots (Marcella gave the disclaimer before they began that they had just written it a couple of days before and were under-rehearsed) but very clever and on the money on certain points about cultural appropriation by big corporations. I also dug their costumes, which were simple but effective for featuring identifiable attributes of the entities they portrayed.

Space 55 regular Leslie Barton did a shtick as a brontosaurus comedian called Brontobill Hicks, Bill Brontohicks, or something to that effect.  She basically wore a brontosaurus mask and told  brontosaurus themed jokes in the manner of Bill Hicks. Up next was Paul Kolecki, one of the current Space 55 troupe who played the male lead in “The Ear”. He did a passionate monologue from “Death of a Salesman”.

Following him were the Arcana Collective the fluid line-up of which this time consisted of Ernesto Moncada as the shaman Don Pablo Xibalba (Xibalba, roughly translated as “place of fear”–according to Wikipediais the Mayan word for the Underworld), a character he played in “The Ear” and Allison Dee who was topless, dressed only in skimpy panties and a body-length, diaphanous, black veil which, along with the usual Arcana eye kohl, made her look like a vamp from a Paul Naschy film. She played the theremin and some Eastern-looking variation on a percussion triangle. Don Pablo, also topless but not creating quite the same effect on the beholder (not to disparage Ernesto’s rakish good looks), called for a volunteer from the audience  and a young man came up. Don Pablo made him drink from a glass bottle filled with the “waters of the dead”, I believe he said, then covered him with a red cloth and did some mock ritual over him involving maracas and some amusing mumbo-jumbo. There was more to it, but I cannot recall the detail.  Either way it was very amusing and one of the more accessible things I have seen them do.

Closing the show was comedic singer Scott Gesser, who began with a brief monologue introducing the song he was to play. The intro went a bit too long, but the song, a tale about his misadventures in Nebraska, was fun.

In the end, I stayed for the whole show and not once had the usual anxiety fueled  urgency to bail the premises, which is saying a lot. All the artists and entertainers were fun and unique in their way and I was glad to have been part of the show. I look forward to upcoming events at their new location and even have an invite to participate in a planned Horror themed Christmas show to make up for the last Lovecraft bash in August which had to be postponed for real life stuff. Good times.

“Black Hymeneal” Reboot

Posted in Black Hymeneal, Gothic Poetry, Gothic Prose with tags , , , on June 16, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

My first poetry collection, “Black Hymeneal”, is back on track. It will not be the beautiful book I envisioned so long ago, but it will at least get out into the world. It shall not feature any specific artwork. Unfortunately, my friend Michele has some pressing familial responsibilities which have taken precedence (understandably) over helping to complete the artwork for the book, so I am going to just continue without it at this point. Perhaps someday we can collaborate on a portfolio of the completed artwork she did for the book, if the collection proves to be successful enough to warrant that. Her lovely artwork deserves to be seen, and I hope some day it will be. I appreciate the hard work she did and the help she gave me in showing me the ropes of the publishing business. I shall never forget her kindness.

The table of contents for the new book has changed, since I have decided to pull a few pieces for another planned collection of song lyrics for my old band, The Dark Young. More on that after I get “Black Hymeneal” into the world.

The new selection is as follows:

01. Manurog
02. Hell-flower
03. Thalia
04. Witch’s Tit
05. Sor Maria and the Devil, Luzbel
06. Krampus
07. Manqueller Manque
08. Moribond
09. Skull in an Ice Cream Cone
10. HPL RIP
11. Broceliande
12. Threnody
13. Black Hymeneal

I have already begun retyping the manuscript and adding new introductions for the poems. My goal was to be ready to publish by my 50th birthday in August. We’ll see if I can make the deadline. Keep your eyes on future posts with updates.

Goodbye 2016, and Good Riddance!

Posted in 2016, Black Hymeneal, Dick Kelly, Gothilocks, Krampus, Michele Bledsoe, year in review with tags , , , , , , on December 25, 2016 by Manuel Paul Arenas
Goodbye 2016, and Good Riddance! It may be a bit early yet to be assessing the past 12 months, but I don’t foresee much of any consequence happening between then and now. 2016 was to be a year of promise, a year for turning things around. Instead, I spent most of the year coasting and waiting for change to happen. I had planned to complete and publish my book, “Black Hymeneal”, but made very little progress at all, despite the help of a few good friends, while several of my colleagues from the local poetry scene put out their 2nd or 3rd books. I was going to go back and finish up some of the many unfinished works I have floundering in limbo, but I only managed to finish one, and added several more works to the unfinished pile. In fact, I wrote very little this year. Aside from my journal, which I write in almost every day, and some odd lines of doggerel, I did very little writing despite having some genuinely good ideas. I fear that I cannot rightly call myself a writer anymore because I do not write.
As I have mentioned before, I suffer from anxiety and depression, which holds me back from doing the things I love. I do see a counselor, which helps, but I am loathe to take medication because of the adverse side effects. I also fear it might block the creative juices. I may have to rethink that though, because I don’t know how much time I have and I have too much unfinished business to attend to before I go and I can’t let my anxiety hold me back.
This year, despite my anxiety, I took a leap of faith and on a tip from a friend left my bookstore job to work at a local mortuary. I was a “removal technician” for 3 weeks. My job was to pick up “decedents” from wherever they might be (hospitals, hospices, and even private residences) and transport them to a care facility for processing before they go on to their final destination. It is not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination, and I respect the folks who can do it without the repercussions I faced. The physical demands alone were intense, even with tricks and tools of the trade, and I was often in serious pain after one of my 4 weekly 10 hour shifts.
What got me, however, was the human factor. I thought that with my interest in funerary ritual and with the right attitude, I could make a career out of this job. What I didn’t count on was my empathy. I couldn’t deal with the grieving families or even the people who died alone with no one around to send them off into the great abyss. I would look at the pathetic husks of human remains and think, “Is this all we are?”
I would obsess all day over this before my graveyard shift of 7 pm to 5 am. Many times I would worry about losing my loved ones, like the time I picked up someone at a hospital morgue with the same exact name as someone from my extended family. I knew it wasn’t them, but it made me think about when I would have to pick up someone I knew. I thought a lot about my own mortality, and would have panic attacks.
Worst of all, I dreaded picking up dead children and messy cadavers, which they called “nasties”. As part of my training I was taken to the “decomp” cooler where they kept corpses in advance states of decay, or messy bodies, like gnarly accident or murder victims, so that I could accustom myself to the sights and smells. It wasn’t too bad, something like looking at a gruesome picture of a crime scene or a horror film, but I didn’t have to touch them, like I would on a run. And then there was the smell…
The smell of death, a distinct pungent smell unlike anything else, began to follow me everywhere I went, even to places it could not possibly be, and whenever I talked about my new job with friends, I would break down in tears. In desperation to save my situation from getting worse, I lit a votive candle with the image of the Santa Muerte and implored Her to help me to find the courage and strength to take on this sacred task of helping the dead in their last voyage, but to no avail.
An Internet stock photo of the vela I used. I got mine from a local Frys supermarket of all places.

An Internet stock photo of the vela I used. I got mine from a local Frys supermarket of all places.

After 3 weeks of this, I quit. I had informed them of the possibility of me leaving a week prior, but when I did it was overnight. I had other reasons for wanting to go so suddenly, like how I didn’t fit in with my colleagues, and felt like they weren’t helping me get trained properly before they tried sending me off on my own, but really, the main reason was Thanatophobia a/k/a “Death Anxiety”. Anyone whom has read my poetry, especially such pieces as “Moribond” or even my beloved “Black Hymeneal”, knows my obsession with, and fear of, death. I thought I could use this job to help get past it, but it only intensified it.
The next few weeks were spent applying for jobs and trying not to spend too much money. I finally got a job working at a company that does closed captioning phone service for the hard of hearing. I haven’t started yet, but I am hopeful it will work out.
Twice in recent months I have had family members warn me of becoming bitter. I admit, I am not as hopeful as I have been in the past, and I have developed some negatively fatalistic attitudes about my life, in particular where my love life is concerned, but I don’t think I am quite there just yet.
Speaking of my love life, there is nothing going on there, which has surprised the heck out of me. I thought that within 6 months or so, I would be over my last amorous fiasco and finding solace with someone who would be less judgmental of me and more willing to settle down. Boy, was I wrong. I haven’t met anyone else in over a year with whom I would feel even a little compatible. That’s not to say that I haven’t met people I’ve liked, they just were not available to me or would have been unwise choices to get involved with. With my 50th birthday coming next summer, I fear that I may have to accept the fact that whatever time I have left in this life will be spent alone.
Perhaps this is for the better. I have heard a few times lately that attachments make one vulnerable and distracted. I need to stay focused if I hope to finish all the work I have planned for next year.
I also have family around me, who love me, and a handful of good friends, and that is what gets me through the day. I have come to realize that in this all too brief life of uncertainty and misery that is the only thing that matters.
Etching by artist Dick Kelly for an upcoming illustrated edition of my Krampus poem.

Etching by artist Dick Kelly for an upcoming illustrated edition of my Krampus poem.

On a final note, I am working on putting together a chapbook of my poem “Gruss vom Krampus” with the help of my good friend, artist Dick Kelly. The illustrations he has done already are amazing, and I cannot wait to see how it all fits together. If it goes well, and if we can recover some of the costs in printing it through sales, I am hoping to make more like it; perhaps a story this time, like “Gothilocks”. We’ll see.
Photo os me with my new hair cut, holding the card I made with the help of a very talented friend, for my parent's th anniversary.

Photo of me with my new hair cut, holding the card I made with the help of a very talented friend, for my parent’s 50th anniversary.

PS: I cut my hair, which I hadn’t done for 7 years, and I like the way it looks. Surprisingly, I look a bit younger, and although I’m still spending my nights alone, it has garnered me a bit more attention from the ladies than previously. Looking towards the future, let’s hope it’s brighter and better than 2016.
P.P.S.: I still intend to publish an e-book version of “Black Hymeneal” with alternate cover art and no illustrations just to get it out there into the world. Eventually, however, I hope to put out the version I originally planned featuring the amazing artwork of my good friend artist Michele Bledsoe.

Skull in an Ice Cream Cone

Posted in Black Hymeneal, Gothic Poetry, Gothic Prose, Kharon, Michele Bledsoe, Moira, River Styx with tags , , , , , , , on October 21, 2015 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Skull in an Ice Cream Cone comes in 13 flavors including disabusal, despair, and doom.

Toppings of mingled tears and lifeblood ooze down the bony pate in delectable fashion, dripping across nullified sockets, and pooling around pearly teeth, lovingly nestled in a crunchy waffle cone.

Sprinkled atop the crest are tiny crumbs of respite and joy, which are few and fleeting.

Guaranteed to all, everyone eventually gets a taste regardless of age, sex, race or station; proportionally meted out in accordance to one’s fate as determined by our lovely scoop girl, Moira.

And, for a limited time only, some lucky folks may find a shiny treat betwixt those immobile ivories–like an obol for Kharon, to ensure safe passage across the river Styx!

Won’t you have a lick? I hear it’s to die for…

"Skull in an Ice Cream Cone" illustration by Michele Bledsoe.

“Skull in an Ice Cream Cone” illustration by Michele Bledsoe.