Thoughts from A-Kon 30

Normally, when I write these posts, I do them in a bulleted list. But this time, I’d like to try something different. I want to try and structure these thoughts a little more. I hope that you enjoy this small descent into madness.


“I don’t want to be the Akira.” I whined from behind Carlos in the hotel hallway. I had made yet another reference to Devilman Crybaby, a series that had broken me two years ago and had become a vital part of our friendship. Much like how boy’s love characters fight over who is the seme or the uke, we argue over who is the Ryo (literally Satan) and who is the Akira (a dumb but good guy doing his best). We had checked into a hotel that was perfect in every way. It was close to the con site, close to the places we liked to hang out and we each got our own bedrooms and bathrooms. The kitchen had a stove and oven and the living room had a fire place we were not allowed to use but did look good in photos. I had driven to Dallas from San Antonio earlier that morning and this convention had been stressful to deal with. Before traveling, I had managed to get myself into a minor car accident and then prepping for the convention itself was exhausting. I didn’t get my panel time until less than a week before the convention. The con had moved from Fort Worth to Fair Park and many people complained and thus Carlos and I complained. We lovingly referred to it as TrashCon as we prepared for the convention. The move was an unpopular choice in the convention’s part. Moving it to Fair Park meant that it was in a less than safe at times part of Dallas and it was hectic and mostly outdoors. But a lot of the gripes people had with the move seemed to be unneeded. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Carlos and I dropped off our bags and went to lunch at a Long John Silvers/ A & W combo where I ordered too much damn food and felt like I was going to die.

We went back to the hotel and I had time to change before having two panels on Thursday. I cosplayed as Mello because I love being a chocolate-loving sociopath. We parked fairly easily at Fair Park and though the walk from the parking lot to the main registration building felt like a death march, it wasn’t so bad. But the heat already began to feel oppressive under my makeup, wig and compression shirt. I got to my first panel room about an hour early and it was empty so Carlos and I got to set up and entertain the few guests that had already settled in because it was hot and the panel rooms were inside and had air conditioning. The panel which covered the Mary Sue trope was only about half an hour as it was mostly me just preaching to the choir but it was time in the air conditioning so I could not complain. I had time in between my next panel and we mostly wandered around the Dealer’s Room where Carlos immediately found a very on brand button for me and we decided to simply go back to the hotel for a little while to rest. We returned to convention to finish up with another panel this one on Fandoms where I faced my greatest enemy: noise.

The new set up in Fair Park’s Grand Place felt a little like a flea market. Lots of structures made with pipes and fabric coverings and that would have been fine but every panel heard everyone else’s noise. I was the loud one during my first panel but my second one I was in between an idol performance and some sort of horrible karaoke event and so much of the video footage likely will just be me rolling my eyes and trying to fight against such awful audio.

We returned to the hotel, ordered pizza and spent the evening watching Into the Spiderverse and living our best Peter B. Parker lives.

Oh, and returning back to our car the second time, we heard a gunshot from one of the neighboring apartment complexes and our first time returning to the parking lot, we hired a man in a bike taxi and paid him double for the ride as I shouted whilst in a blonde wig “Ja ne, weebs.” as Carlos and I cackled as we zoomed past normies using their human legs.


Day Two started with breakfast and deciding to go to convention a little later hoping that the sun would be less of a miserable force. We decided to use some of our free time to go to Daiso and I shopped a lot and then oh lunch. Lunch was at Kura Revolving Sushi. Kura has a promotion going with Naruto and I was determined to eat the 15 plates needed for a prize with a lot of help from Carlos. I ate so many pieces of snow crab nigiri and I felt like I was climbing a mountain to keep eating despite my fickle appetite and I did win a Sasuke Uchiha eraser that I will never use but will treasure until I die.

We did not plan though for the sun to pull to giant “to hell with you, nerd” and it was actually cooler as we faffed around shopping rather than when we did finally arrive closer to evening at convention and it was hot as Ryo in that one strange technicolor nightmare club.

Day Two ended with some shopping and mostly hunting for a poster that will later become very important to the plot, I mean the story.

Dinner for Day Two was spent at Olive Garden, a place I have not been to in years and had strangely missed.

Friday night we went swimming and I got to wax philosophic about Free! one more time. I sat in the pool on my back looking up at the ceiling telling Carlos that very few people saw me like this, laid back, enjoying the water. I said that many people saw me as the more high strung Makoto, which is not false, but Carlos gets to see me as Haru: mostly wanting to be near the water and honestly a little listless.

I also made Carlos an entire peach cobbler because I am a good person.


Day Three I decided to not be lazy and get into costume. We had breakfast again and decided to go early and hope that the sun would not be cruel. I had made a Drifloon maid outfit for the convention because of course I did and I put on my makeup after breakfast and we set out to convention. The mask was a huge pain as I could still smell the paint I used and the heat of my breath and the stuffiness of the room drained me nearly immediately. I got a few photos taken of me which meant posing with a tea set I spent days on and doing the typical peace-sign anime idol pose. But a mask also meant not speaking as it was mostly muffled and resulted in me mostly making annoyed little whines and tired little moans to express my feelings to Carlos who was irked by my transformation fully into an anime idol.

We did more shopping and then decided to break away and go back to the hotel to cool down. We chose a local Tex-Mex place and I got queso and tequila drunk before attempting a small raid on a local Whole Foods Market.

Saturday night was spent ordering more food and we made two entertainment choices that evening. We watched YugiOh: Dark Side of Dimensions in which Seto Kaiba builds a literal space ship to be with his boyfriend, Atem, after the end of the main series and the rest of the plot mostly flopped around and it honestly made me hate the series a little with its camp and lack of logic. It was a lovely garbage fire and then we watched a series that I asked you to put a pin in based on a poster.

Before my accident I was asked to by a close friend to watch the anime Sarazanmai, a show about three boys that are turned into Kappas and must do things. I got two episodes in before I decided the show was too weird for me and honestly, it made me hate anime a little. But this person who means the world to me asked for me to be on the lookout for merch from the series and I picked up a print of two of their favorite characters. I was annoyed by having to do something that was for a series I didn’t care about but Carlos was sick of my complaining and encouraged me to try the show again. We ended up watching 5 episodes in one night before I managed to in my best idol voice mimic a line from the show and nearly tripped and fell over one of Carlos’ shoes: Kami-sama was finished with my nonsense.

I realized in that moment that I didn’t hate the show, I just needed a better reason to watch it. This is the same person who had so lovingly coaxed me into watching Yuri on Ice and thus I did hate that series because I don’t like being told what to do. This person isn’t a bad person, just wanted me to try something new and I am a stubborn trash goblin. The series is fine and the more I thought about it, the more curious I am and will likely finish it.

Back to talking about convention: the new set up was actually really good. There were lots of water and hydration stations. Lots of ice cream (I got an alcoholic wine pop day one but I didn’t finish it because it’s malt liquor and I can’t handle malt liquor especially before I’m meant to go on stage and talk about feminism). The walking wasn’t so bad but the Dealer’s Room, I have issues. The aisles were really narrow and that made traffic insane. If one person stalled or stopped for a photo, it backed up traffic and made a hot room full of people even more hot. That is my major gripe aside from the bad rooms in the Grand Place. Also, dollar water was a wonderful idea as well as the giant cooling misting fans.


Sunday was the last day of con and I had one more panel to go, Research Tips for Writers. Sunday featured a lot of packing and getting ready to go back on the road. The panel went wonderfully well and I got to be in a cool room that was literally called The Library. I got to have a more relaxed panel this time which was more fun if I could ignore the people that wandered into the cool room just to take pictures. I had a wonderful time and even though I was tired, it was worth it to do. We did a final lap around the Dealer’s Room, more things were bought and we decided to get lunch. We were originally going to go to Gen Korean BBQ but that place was packed and before I arrived, Carlos had been gushing about this shabu shabu place nearby. We had already planned on getting my post panel cake from Mozart (also nearby) so we decided to try something new: shabu shabu. We entered the restaurant that looked like the bar from Kill Bill Vol. 1 and we ate so much shabu shabu, a hot pot of broth that is then filled with things like rice cakes and veggies and noodles to make a rich soup later after one is finished dipping meat and softer veggies in for a wonderful dining experience. I ate with gusto, something that my friends have been concerned about recently, and the protein did help me feel a little less drained. Also, when you place potatoes into your caldron of hot broth, it becomes like a little hot bomb that will burn you out of spite. I added so much sriracha to my hot pot that my broth turned red with spice.

I got my post panel cake and it felt like all was going to be okay. We discussed the timing issues I had earlier in the week and we’re still learning how to overcome that.

The drive back to the hotel was…different. I won’t go into details here but I left Dallas feeling an odd mix of feelings that only got to simmer and brew as I sat in traffic.

I got home late last night and did my best to unpack my clothes and my feelings.

Overall, I never regret convention and A-Kon despite its rocky start was worth it. The new owner and shift to a new place did make for a very hectic con and it was hard to plan for and build hype for: but going in with no expectations or honestly, expectations of it being bad, made for a very good convention.

We watched Bar Rescue and anime and Live PD and cooked and ate and enjoyed ourselves. I had fun with my best friend and saw places I miss when I return home. I’m happy to be in my own bed, but I’m still so glad I went.

Sure, A-Kon was in places a brilliant TrashCon. But it was my TrashCon and the memories I made during it will stay with me for the remainder of my days.

The Legend of Gendou.Com

In 2006, I made a choice that would change the course of my life. I joined the website Gendou.com.

For those who don’t know what Gendou is, it’s a website that was at its height, the premiere place to find music from anime. Anime has always tended towards having fantastic music and unless you’re in Japan or had friends in Japan, during the early 2000s, it was nearly impossible to find this kind of stuff. Gendou was a site that allowed users to upload music, add lyrics and organize music files.

Gendou has two features outside of the huge library of music and that was radio: a radio station hosted by different DJs and a chatroom.

I don’t think I entered the chatroom until 2007. And when I was I was suddenly no longer alone. Let me give you a little primer on what it meant to be an anime fan back then. Sure, there were fans everywhere but it certainly was not popular. I had my anime club, sure, but I knew very few people in the real world that loved anime as much as I did. Gendou was full of people who loved anime just as much as I did. And more importantly, I could be myself, a truer version of myself. It was on Gendou that I got comfortable working through male pronouns and nouns, something that’s stuck around with me. Gendou helped me form better arguments when it came to anime as far as what I liked and what I didn’t like. Gendou also gave me a place to go that was relatively safe. My home life was a little less than ideal back then and thus I was able to be myself in a safe space surrounded by people who knew what I liked.

The chatroom was diverse, I cannot impress that upon you all enough. We regularly had dozens of chat regulars from all over the world: we learned each others time zones, we learned each others languages. I became a chat regular along with names that are still etched into my memory: Chaotic, HT, Holkers, Eng, Emi, Kiba, Lat, Yat, Stel, Risa  and so so many more. In time, I became a moderator for the chat, keeping away the dreaded all caps and preventing things from becoming a massive cesspool and with more devotion I became a DJ. Being a DJ brings us to the radio station part of Gendou. DJs could host radio which was often a mix of music they were listening to. The few times I ran music radio was a good mix of what I was into at the time so pretty much any big shonen anime and probably half of the Gravitation OST. But not all DJs did radio. For a while, I did talk radio which lead to one of the most infamous moments of my life. I had returned to my dorm room in college and I had consumed entirely too many Monster Energy Drinks as I celebrated Fiesta with the rest of San Antonio. I started hosting radio and hosted with one friend: Lat for about two hours before another friend, HT tagged in. HT and I are in the same time zone and we just started talking. We answered questions, talked about what we were watching, gave advice about long-distance relationships and before I knew it, I looked out of my dorm room window and asked: “Is that the sun?” HT replied: “Yes, yes it is.” I remember blinking and looking to my Skype call window that had been open for hours now and asked “Have we been hosting radio all night?” to which my co-host replied. “Yes, we’ve been hosting radio all night.” I told my co-host that I was going to bed and he said that sleep was a good idea. That’s how effortless radio felt.

And chat remained that effortless for years. When my beloved fish of twenty-four hours, Szayel, passed away, the chat header was changed to reflect my loss. We rallied around each other, supported each other. The girls insulated each other from the advances of creepy boys: it’s why so many of the girls with accounts had gender neutral or even male presenting names.

And we didn’t stop there, many of us had become friends for decades and some of us even decided to meet. It met with a friend Wurm who I now know as Carlos. We met online years ago and in 2010 decided to meet in real life. We’ve been friends ever since. We took our friendship offline and moved into a real friendship and he is now one of the most important people in my life. That can be said for Risa, for Kiba, for Eng, for HT, for Chao and Stel and Flora and Lo and Zuru. In fact, last year a lot of us met up because you should never give up on your dreams of meeting your online friends.

When I met Risa in real life for the first time, we naturally picked up a conversation that we had just started online while she was traveling. I’m not sure which one of us said it but the comment was thrown out “It’s like we’ve known each other for years.” and one of us did reply “Well, we have.” Many of us have grown up together, many of us have now been friends for easily over ten years. Gendou was my safe place, my family, my community, my people. They were family when I needed it, friends when I felt alone and support when I was scared. And all from a website built to house anime music.

Now, Gendou is not what it used to be. The chat always had some in fighting and recent mod changes have left the community fractured. There’s really three phases of Gendou and I was part of the Gloriana phase unto really its functional end. As the software that kept the chat going phased out, so did the chat. Eventually, the place that became a home for so many became empty. Though there’s one host who still does radio regularly (Shin) and one day I plan to join Shin and host radio at least one more time.

Fortunately, many of us had found ways to reach other outside of Gendou be it Facebook or Twitter or Skype. I don’t think I’ve lost many people from Gendou’s decline that I would truly miss having in my life. I think that speaks to the strength of the bonds made there.

And now with these people I met on the internet, we no longer use screen names but human names. We talk about our problems, our successes, our hopes and dreams: just like we always have. We’ve all matured together, grown together, been there for each other and I know I have been changed for the better because I knew them.

It warms my heart when I still get called by my old SN or and now we do regular calls when we can and sometimes it almost matches the frantic energy of a busy chat room. We’re all older now. Some have families now. Most of us have office jobs now but there’s one thing that connects us all: we’re all Gendounians; now and forever.


Dim Sum With Carlos

You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together._  Anthony Bourdain.png

A death in the family brought me home to suburbia for a brief time. But despite the mourning and family obligation, I made time to have brunch with Carlos. It was a much needed break to decompress and after very little planning, we settled on where we would go. We decided on Kirin Court, a place that is utterly mythological for the two of us.

The legend goes a little something like this. A few conventions ago Carlos, myself and my then partner were staying in a hotel room. We were hungry after watching an anime that emotionally scarred me and we were each tasked with looking for a restaurant that would feed all of us. I pulled up a few places on my laptop and I remember things as clear as day. I looked to my associates and said: I think I found the perfect place.

I gave them no context, nothing.

When I turned my laptop around across the webpage slithered dragons in the corners. Soft music played in the background. It felt like all the yakuza animes I’ve ever loved.

We went there, the three of us, and enjoyed a meal that we didn’t feel deserving of. We ordered too much and shirked the greatness of the dim sum in our attempts to fill our stomachs with rice and candy-coated chickens and nearly mostly naked chickens.

I was afraid that when my then partner and I broke up, I’d never be able to return to Kirin again. It did help that the restaurant is in my ancestral homeland but Carlos was persistent and I really wanted dim sum so we did Kirin Court again: just the two of us.

Kirin Court has become an important part of our friend mythology and now when I am home, we go to Kirin; hell, we’re already planning on our yearly visit for Christmas to exchange gifts.

We talked a lot. We talked about what we’re watching and how work is. We shared stories and do all the things we usually do when we catch up. And while we were there, we started with things that we usually order. I start with tea and water and entirely too much sugar. I got Carlos the barbeque pork buns he loves. I started with my Hong Kong egg waffle and Chinese broccoli and oyster sauce. We laughed and talked, chopsticks moving in and around each other like a fun little dance we’ve learned over the years.

But this time, things were different. They’ve added things to the menu!

It started with sausage rolls that made me let out a noise that sounded like a mix between a soft contented sigh and a shrill squeal. Next up was the salt and pepper calamari which I practically snatched off the cart before the plate could be placed on our table. Carlos picked up fried shrimp from the same cart and I was thrilled with the first bite of calamari. Coating pieces of fried squid in chili oil was a great idea and requesting hot mustard for the sausage rolls was worth it as well. I don’t think Carlos has seen me eat with such gusto in a while. It’s a bit of a joke but most of my friends are always worried I don’t eat enough (as I am writing this, my dinner has been mostly made of water and biscoff cookies) and even though my start at Kirin was heavy with mango pudding with milk, egg waffle and pineapple buns; he was happy to see me eat something that wasn’t a dessert (listen, I have an anime boy reputation to uphold, that means I consume sugar, angst and the fear I have instilled into my enemies).

I lost track of how many times I poured myself tea. I lost track of time even though I had to get back on the road. I simply lost track in time as carts flew by and plates stacked up and chatter filled the space that looked like every 90s anime version of a host club is hidden in the back of a restaurant.

I get asked a lot about if I’d ever move back home. I get these questions especially after visiting family which is…well, it’s visiting family. You can’t ever go home again and now Dallas/Ft. Worth despite being my homeland is no longer my home. Going to Kirin Court means I am visiting and thus means I will leave.

And while Carlos and I caught up since we do only see each other a few times a year I said something that I think encapsulates my feelings on the whole “going home again” thing.

I’d never want this place to be something we do every Sunday.

There. I said it. I said the thing I never thought I would. I admitted to missing my home and missing the great food and the shopping (oh the shopping) but I would never want this to be a place I could in theory go anywhere I want. I have a restaurant like that here in San Antonio: MiTierra. It’s a restaurant that meant a lot to my family and I tend to only go there during special occasions or when family and/or company is in town.

It’s a special place and merits a special occasion even though I could in theory go there and embrace technicolor culture any time I want.

And what’s amazing is that out of all the places Carlos could frequent without me, he doesn’t. He’s even said a few times that going to these places without me feels a little like an infidelity.

Kirin Court is one of the most special places in the world to me. It means I am home, it means I get to spend time with one of my best friends and it means I get to fill my stomach with food that I know is good and that even my anxiety will accept. I always leave full and happy and in these trying times, it’s remarkable and wonderful to have a place that still feels sacred.

With Friends Like These

“Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses — pretty but designed to SLOW women down.” ― Roxa

I’ve been one of the guys since as long as I could remember. High school was full of mostly platonic guy friends and the occasional male suitor; not to say I didn’t have female friends, I had many three that were close but the rest were simply rivals to non-existent potential relationships. College was some female friends which is especially funny considering that my alma mater was overwhelmingly female. But like many things patriarchal, it was never encouraged for me to make friends with females. Female friends would only steal your man and waste your time with duplicitous lies and incessant neediness. This is what society taught me. That to be friends with females was to be in a Mean Girls-style girl gang full of cackling she-devils.

It took me well into my 20s to learn that I couldn’t be more wrong.

The shift did technically start in college. I was surrounded by my anime club members (who were mostly female) and other close friends that helped support me from my high points to my low. It was my girl friends who kept me sane and my senpais (who are all female) that gave me someone to look up to and aspire to be like.

It was post-grad that I separated from many of my female friends. We tried to stay in touch and the ones that still matter to me, did. But post-grad I fell more into the folds of the LGBT community and to put it bluntly, there’s a fair amount of misogyny in the gay community and the most important show to me during that time was RuPaul’s Drag Race, which is essentially (at least for most seasons) 10 or so gay men ranting about how awful biological females are while trying to be better women than biological females with just a hint of casual racism and transphobia sprinkled in for good measure.

Pop culture is also full of vapid female groupings that emphasize a very specific type of female friendship. The Ashleys from Recess (yes, I’m old) come to mind of just a gaggle of gossipy gals. Additionally, because of the patriarchy, it was always an asset for me to be “one of the guys”. The fact that I “wasn’t like most girls” made it easier for guys to relate to me since all the things synonymous with being part of a girl gang were negative like being chatty, manipulative or excessively emotional.

When I first moved back to San Antonio, my friend group stayed small. It was mostly the ones I had kept from college and if anything I went through a similar friend purge that most mid to late 20-somethings go through. I lost people that I thought I’d have in my life until I decide to return to the swamp that birthed me.

But I have some people in my life now that are ride-or-die. And I’ve never really experienced this from friends of any kind. I have people in my life willing to fight for me when I am not willing to fight for myself (which, let’s be honest, is most of the time). I have folks that empower me, inspire me, challenge me and think that I am worth something (which is, let’s be honest, not something I feel all the time). I didn’t think this was possible from friendships, I didn’t think this was even conceivable from female friends. I’m not one to fight for myself and I hate conflict (thanks, trauma) so I’m willing to stay close to people who hurt me. I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice anything with these ladies and I feel supported (genuinely), lifted up (expertly) and empowered (sometimes too much).

So I wanted to take some time out to thank some of the members of my Girl Gang.

Amanda: Literally, this is a girl I met at LUSH (she thought I was a secret shopper because I caught one of the most obscure references in a commercial retailer ever) and we said we were both going to the same con. During that con at one of my panels I mentioned that I had one right after the other and that I needed food. LIKE A CHAMPION, this girl brought me chicken nuggets right in the middle of my set and it’s been a friendship made in anime series history ever since then.

Victoria: She’s the best mom-friend I never thought I needed. Fellow Slytherin, fellow feminist, fellow person filled with ennui but just so much endless love and support. I’m emotional even thinking about it. I’m so lucky to have her in my life and every part of her life is just magical.

Amber: The current longest running member of the Girl Gang. I have known her since college. She was my treasurer in the anime club I ran in college and helped keep me sane with my Vice President resigned suddenly. Amber is a frequent figure mentioned on my blog: she is my travel companion and close friend and I’m so fortunate to still have her in my life 10 years nearly on (I’m so old…).

Lisa: Lisa is honestly one of the most spectacular women I have ever met. There’s a reason I continue to work with her over and over again. I have never had someone so in my corner. She’s brilliant and the world sorely needs more people as empathetic, enthusiastic and kind as Lisa.

I’ve spent a lot of time valuing others more than myself but it’s amazing and frankly, relieving to have these wonderful women in my life that support me so much. Society tells us that when girls get together it’s nothing but incessant chatter and back-handed compliments. When we get together it’s talks about philosophy and art. It’s support that is genuine and real. It’s a love that is unselfish and kind. It’s listening and caring and telling you when your skirt doesn’t match your top. It’s telling you that your boyfriend’s behavior is scary and making a family when your own is a hot trash pile.

It’s a type of friendship I didn’t think that was possible or that I deserved but I’m so happy to have it.

Worth Having and Working For

I picked up Persona 5 not too long ago. For those who know me, this is a small surprise. I love the light novel aspects of the game but the dungeon crawling parts make me nauseous. But there’s lots of things about the game that I do enjoy. The mood and tone are straight up things I love and the jazz reminds me of Lupin III and Cowboy Bebop which is keeping me going right now. But Persona 5 is a very traditional JRPG and that means managing relationships. MC-kun has a lot of work to do keeping everyone happy and keeping his friends happy means that he can achieve his main goal. It’s a key feature of most RPGs and similar games to keep relationships solid to achieve certain tasks.

We’ve talked about how shonen anime kept me motivated about working towards friendship but today we’re going to talk about how video games remind me to continue to maintain those bonds.

2017 was rocky for me when it comes to personal relationships. I lost some connections that I thought would last a lifetime. The early part of 2018 continued that theme of me losing people that I assumed would be with me for the long run. But it means that I went on into the year with a core of people that I now feel like I can trust with my life. But it isn’t enough to add friends to the party or just keep old ones on the back burner, you have to maintain each friendship. I’m lucky enough that I get to talk to my friends regularly. There are very few I’ve lost touch with over time and if I have, there’s always been more than one factor. But there are people I’ve lost contact with and I miss them dearly. But I’m huge on the “phones work both ways” model, if I lost contact with someone while it’s easy to wait for them, I can also easily reach out: if it fails, that’s on them and it can be reassessed at a later date.

It’s easy to take long-time friends for granted. There’s this low-key assumption that they will always be there but your friends aren’t meant to replace a therapist but often times they do. I rely so much on my friends during the good and the bad times and I agonize over whether I do enough for them in return.

That brings us back to Persona 5 and another game I’m playing right now Harry Potter: A Hogwarts Mystery in both games there’s a huge importance on not just making new friends but also keeping the ones that matter to you content and satisfied with your friendship. These are the people that are going to bat for you and in both examples are often risking their lives for you (your character) and they deserve to be treated well considering. A Hogwarts Mystery focuses a lot on you comforting your friends after hardship: hell, I’m just about done with Year 2 and I’ve spent more time consoling friends than I have flying on brooms and being yelled at by Snape. Persona 5 is similar, you spend a great deal of time providing answers that you think people want to hear. They’re all somewhat aligned with what the main character would say or think but you can choose to be a jerk or be accommodating and being accommodating has its benefits: it raises the stats of the people and personas they use to better suit your will.

Now, that’s still a very cynical way to look at friendship. That you’re boosting stats and being friendly just because friends are tools but I don’t think of it that way despite being the proudest Slytherin around. I think of it more as a good reminder to check in on my friends. I rely on them so much that it only makes sense to support them as well. I find myself almost incessantly checking in on my friends and how they are doing and also because many of my friends have much more interesting days than I do. I’m known as being a great gift-giver and I often leave houses cleaner than when I arrived. Little things are great ways to maintain and keep friendships going. And they don’t have to be expensive, I love just a good phone call or playing a game together (as long as I’m good at the game).

Truth be told, the managing of relationships was always one of my least favorite parts of most RPGs and Dating Games. I had one route I wanted to pursue and like an Ayn Rand fever dream, I forged ahead. Just look at the games I play, they focus on one character that you can sort of self-insert to and relationships with NPCs be damned (except for N in Pokemon Black/White and the date you get to go on with him [regardless of the player’s gender choice] on the Ferris Wheel, that was magical and it will not be taken from me). And I rarely play cooperatively as an adult. As a teen I did play some co-op arcade games but it was mostly me being very bad at The House of the Dead II. I’m an only child. I play single player games or I play against others so fostering relationships with characters always seemed a little silly to me in some games.

But in my personal life, I just didn’t have the luxury of neglecting my friends. In college, I ended up moving away and I lost many of the people that meant the world to me as a youth. Growing up, that happens. There’s an entire social phenomena of people losing their friends in their 20s and 30s. However, the friends that do survive this battle royale are ones that are likely to be with you for the rest of your life. Not all the time, but very likely.

When my mother died, it was my friends that surrounded me with support. When I was struggling running my anime club, it was my friends that kept me motivated. When I was stressed out about work, it was my friends that had fried food and drinks to keep me sane.

And in return, I had to put in work. I gave money, gave time, gave energy and resources. I shared sofas and answered long phone calls and comforted people during loss. I’ve sent pies and flowers and been the a surrogate child and another sibling.

I gave my heart because I was already in the hearts and minds of those that matter most to me.

 

A “True” Introvert

There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum. Carl Jung.png

I’m always surprised by what the internet thinks an introvert is. Listicle after listicle will say that an introvert is someone who shuns plans with friends, ignores humanity from days on in and lives in some sort of Frodo Baggins book-filled Hobbit Hole.

Well, folks. Sit down. Today, we’re gonna talk about introversion, being a crappy friend and what it means to get power from the self or power from the crowd.

Here’s a good time to discuss the difference between introversion and extroversion. An introvert as described by the Myer-Briggs Personality Test of Magic and Mostly Nonsense is a person who generally sounds like this, apparently:

I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.

The following statements generally apply to me:

  • I am seen as “reflective” or “reserved.”
  • I feel comfortable being alone and like things I can do on my own.
  • I prefer to know just a few people well.
  • I sometimes spend too much time reflecting and don’t move into action quickly enough.
  • I sometimes forget to check with the outside world to see if my ideas really fit the experience.

And extrovert is someone who looks a little like this, apparently:

I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people. I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.

The following statements generally apply to me:

  • I am seen as “outgoing” or as a “people person.”
  • I feel comfortable in groups and like working in them.
  • I have a wide range of friends and know lots of people.
  • I sometimes jump too quickly into an activity and don’t allow enough time to think it over.
  • Before I start a project, I sometimes forget to stop and get clear on what I want to do and why.

The main differences between the two is that an introvert gets power from within while an extrovert gets power from the crowd or others.

In the made up land of Myers & Briggs (and I only say made up because it is reductive to say you can fit all of a person into literally 4 letters but like astrology, when it’s right, it’s right) I am an INFP. That is the archetype of the “idealist” and this is what that looks like:

As an INFP, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you deal with things according to how you feel about them, or how they fit into your personal value system. Your secondary mode is external, where you take things in primarily via your intuition.

INFPs, more than other iNtuitive Feeling types, are focused on making the world a better place for people. Their primary goal is to find out their meaning in life. What is their purpose? How can they best serve humanity in their lives? They are idealists and perfectionists, who drive themselves hard in their quest for achieving the goals they have identified for themselves.

INFPs are highly intuitive about people. They rely heavily on their intuitions to guide them, and use their discoveries to constantly search for value in life. They are on a continuous mission to find the truth and meaning underlying things. Every encounter and every piece of knowledge gained gets sifted through the INFP’s value system, and is evaluated to see if it has any potential to help the INFP define or refine their own path in life. The goal at the end of the path is always the same – the INFP is driven to help people and make the world a better place. (source)

I am an introvert and that surprises a lot of people. Many know me from paneling, podcasting, cosplaying, running organizations or generally being the center of attention. None of my friends would describe me as having a small personality and no one I work with has ever been able to claim that I don’t leave an impression.

So when do I have time to curl up in a cocoon of manga panels and mainline Mr. Pibb and ignore humanity in a sea of books I can’t afford and will never finish? The truth is that the Internet Introvert just isn’t real. Introverts aren’t just hermits. They aren’t hobgoblins that shirk away from sunlight and ignore humanity just to read and write fanfiction and sure there are introverts that do that but not every introvert is like that. And the continual perpetuation that an introvert is some sort of silkworm pupae that nestles in and ignores plans and calls from friends to binge watch Netflix is just immature.

If a friend needs me, I’m the first to hop in my car and be with them. If a friend cancels plans, am I sometimes happy? Sure sometimes. Am I also sometimes really disappointed that I’m wasting a full face of makeup and cute outfit? Absolutely and I will occasionally go out anyways if that happens. Just because I’m an introvert doesn’t mean I can’t command an audience. Doesn’t mean I hate going out. Doesn’t mean that I don’t like other people. It just means I don’t get a lot of power from those actions. If you’ve seen me panel I’m energetic and vibrant. I adapt to the changes of crowds and answer questions gracefully and with charm. After the panel? Oh, after the show is a whole different story. In the Whataburger at 2 AM after a panel is a very different Amanda. And even after convention I am usually exhausted emotionally for days after. The crowd takes my energy. And sure, sometimes I get perked up from the crowd. Carlos has noted many times that he can see the sparkle in my eye when I’m on stage but the power I get is not equal to the power I give.

The difference between introversion and extroversion is what gives you power and I do not get a ton of power from people. That doesn’t mean I don’t like other people or that I don’t like going out. I also do get lonely and don’t like being by myself for too long.  And the idea that introverts are strange magical bat creatures diminishes all the good that introverts who have to be public do.

You know what real introversion is? Sitting down after convention at Mozart Bakery with Carlos over aloe vera tea and rainbow cake. Introversion is sewing while watching Deadliest Warrior. Introversion is still comforting a friend after a long day. Introversion is late night phone calls despite being tired and firing up an audience only to sit in your hotel bedroom while watching 5 hours of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

That’s what being an introvert is. And it certainly doesn’t involve being a garbage person who just likes to flake out on friends and shun commitments.

So is now the time that I ask for my book fort, obnoxious blanket pile and general disdain for humanity?

You Are My Friend, You Are My Dream

Today, and even tomorrow and the day after, we'll keep laughing togetherWe're all tied to the same fateToday, and even tomorrow and the day after, we'll walk togetherWhatever happens now, is meant to be.Thank you, Th.png

Why wouldn’t I be into shonen anime? What about a good standard shonen series wouldn’t apply to someone like me? I didn’t click with shojo girls and their mostly small problems. And from an early age I fit much more easily into the narratives of young men against the world. We discussed in an earlier post how some series can grow with you while others get lost in the dust: I wanted to talk about an anime that itself may have been outgrown by me and my current life but has one theme that still holds true to my day to day existence and has been a nearly ever-present constant in my heart: friendship.

Naruto the anime and I have an interesting relationship. I started out as a high school student loving the story of a 12 year old Naruto Uzumaki trying to make his way through Ninja School to become Hokage. But the series did ebb and flow with some high points in the narrative and others that were…well, The Curry of Life arc comes to mind. But one radical notion did always stick with Naruto and my life with that series: how much Naruto went through for his friends. Now, we aren’t going to talk about…”dedicated” Naruto is to Sasuke but we are going to talk about friendship, sacrifice and effort.

Naruto is constantly fighting for Sasuke’s friendship. He is always trying to prove to Sasuke and to the others around him that they are important and that theme is so important to the series that most of the music in Naruto centers around it even before it centers around the romantic love the series tried to push later on in its run. This theme of friendship is so important to most shonen series that it is often more compelling of a story than the one between the main male and the main female.

Sasuke and Naruto have such great chemistry( And I use chemistry platonically. I have great chemistry with people I am not trying to date but that because we’re both compelling and engaging humans.) because they are constantly trying to prove something to the other while Sakura and Hinata are just sort of existing in the world.  Naruto speaks highly of friendship and is willing to do anything anything to prove his worth to Sasuke and then later to Gaara and to an extent to Shikamaru.

Friendship means collaboration, friendship means showing those you care about just how much you care but it also means regardless of where you are or what you are that hardship doesn’t simply  mean that anyone will being your friend.

One of my favorite scenes from Naruto is probably towards the end of the main anime that features Sasuke and Naruto as kids. Sasuke is underwater, he’s drowning in a sea of anger and darkness and a hand sinks below the water. Naruto literally pulls his friend up and is trying to save him. That’s what Naruto is willing to do, that’s how far he’s willing to go and to me that’s beautiful. Even though their backgrounds are similar, their experience shaped how they view the world and that’s what has the potential to make them close or to break them apart.

The same can be said for most shonen main males and their antagonists like Ichigo and Uryu of Bleach or even Goku and Vegeta of Dragon Ball Z. Their narratives together are much stronger because each one of those groups of men are proving themselves to those they care about all the time. Losing a friend is probably at times a more difficult and tragic part of a shonen anime than the main character dying for the 5th time or when the villain gets the magical McGuffin device. Think back to any episode of One Piece. The issue seldom is “Hey, let’s actually find the treasure.” and is usually Luffy trying to keep his crew together. He’s far more invested in keeping Sanji, Zolo, Robin, Nami and Usopp together than his is actually doing anything? And to go back to Naruto, the series only doubles down on the pain Naruto feels having lost Sasuke’s friendship. Shippuden is a giant road trip to find a lost friend and then the sequel Boruto (a show following everyone’s kids for some reason) continues to echo that sentiment. Everyone is still looking for Sasuke. Everyone still wants their lost friend back. 20 some odd years later and we’re all still held hostage while we look for one angsty raven-haired man in the woods.

Let’s get back to the real world before I fall off this soapbox.

I’m fortunate to have some of the best friends in the world. Why do you think I talk about them so much? They’re my family when mine has been less than ideal and I spoil them the best that I can as you’ve seen in several blog posts now. But fundamentally, friendship has always been something to work for and towards. While we all have something in common, we have differing opinions. We have different schedules: some of us live in different parts of the globe. We agree, we disagree. We have varying ideas about how cute a main character is or whether Batman’s a bad guy or a hero.

But it’s also about understanding when not to press an issue. Being of the older generation of the Internet, I’m very aware of the fact that my friends may not be on the same level as I am. They may not want to hear about me trying to figure out a Kousuke Oshiba costume and I don’t always want to hear about Street Fighter.  But them being my friend means supporting them.

Remember that A-Kon I spent mostly bored as the boys played their fighting game? Sure, I complained and I regret that now. But seeing my boys on stage made me so proud that by the second round when they both advanced to the main stage, I was on the ground taking photos. They’re my friends: I celebrate their success. And then immediately after the tournament they supported me as I courted one of my biggest panel audiences ever. I ride the wave of my friend’s success and their passion motivates me: even if it’s in something I may not typically enjoy myself.

Carlos and I have had passionate one-sided conversations while I rant over military uniforms in Japanese anime. And I lovingly will sit and listen to him talk about the game mechanics of Persona 5. And we double down on the things we do have in common like comic books and YuGiOh and misanthropy.

Friendship is struggle, sacrifice and understanding. Friendship is empathy and love and making time even when you don’t want to. Friendship is coming home early, staying up late and listening regardless of  how difficult your day was. Friendship is understanding hype levels, lovingly arguing and being there if and when you need a shoulder to cry on or a stiff drink. Working towards friendship is important and being willing to go above and beyond for those that matter to you is vital.

The lyrics that this is titled from is part of the Naruto Shippuden closing theme Distance and it’s about as shonen of an ending as shonen can be.   It’s strange little song but I think it’s a good place to wrap up with a few of the lyrics.

You are my friend

You are my dream

So I’ll go the Distance 

What You Need

God gives us relatives; thank God, we can choose our friends. Addison MiznerRead more at- https-%2F%2Fwww.brainyquote.com%2Fquotes%2Fkeywords%2Ffriends.html.png

The past few weeks have been interesting. Really, since last year my life has turned upside down and then right side up once more. I’ve never considered myself luckier to have the friends that I do while simultaneously feeling like no one listens and by extension: not cared about. And as I struggled with anxiety, depression and the demons of negative self-talk, I was struck with a strong reminder: sometimes the support of the people you care about most is exactly what you need and not exactly what you want.

My anxiety sometimes takes the form of mostly needing to be coddled and supported. I need adulation and attention. I want someone to tell me:

Everything will be okay.

But sometimes I get tough love. Sometimes I get stirring speeches. Sometimes I get loving cynicism. Sometimes I get told that I need to stand on my own. Sometimes I’m told to be strong. Sometimes I’m told that I need to just be positive and look on the bright side. Sometimes I’m told to buck up.

None of those are invalid forms of expressing care, love and concern for someone who is struggling with the evils of mental illness. None of those things are, in theory, wrong to say. Some of them, probably, are the best things someone like me actually needs. Sometimes.

It’s important to keep in mind that what sounds encouraging to one person is dismissive and damning to another. What is meant to be supportive often can sound diminutive.

Be kind to each other and know that sometimes what you want sometimes isn’t what you need.

 

 

Recommended Reading for the Care and Keeping of Your Amanda

Over the past convention weekend Carlos and I were able to air a few of our grievances and we both decided to work harder on being empathetic to each other and he came up with a rather brilliant idea:

Why don’t we each watch one of our favorite shows? That way we can better understand each other.

He offered for me that I should watch [REDACTED: did you think I was going to out Carlos for a blog post?] for him and for me he said he’d watch Gravitation. And that actually gave me a lot of pause (not that his answer was wrong or anything).

What would be the things I’d ask someone to watch/read to help better understand me?

Let’s start with the example Carlos gave: Gravitation. He’s not off the mark. I did spend convention dressed as the main love interest, Yuki Eiri. And I spent the weekend talking about the series a lot. I analogized a moment between me and my ex as one of the scenes from the anime. I sang the anime’s songs. I had a great time. Gravitation is, was and probably will continue to be one of the most important series in the world to me.

But why?

Well, to put it quite simply: I connected with the characters. Yuki Eiri is a stylized blonde version of me and I saw that from a very early age. Finally, a character in a TV show who had to act in many ways the same way I did: putting on a brave face of charm while slowly but surely having to cope with a past too dark to see the light. I loved the music, the animation, the darker storylines in the manga and I could relate to almost all the characters in the series (Except for you, Shuichi, you pink-haired ball of failure and forced happiness.). I empathize with Yuki, I sympathize with Ryuichi. I want them to be free of Tohma’s tyrannical control while simultaneously wanting the same charm, tact and strength that he has. Never before had a series so casually brought up mental illness for me (Yuki Eiri suffering from bipolar II and Ryuichi Sakuma suffering from what if often said to be schizophrenia but is probably dissociative personal disorder). These characters suffered; they had dark pasts but all of them, all of them were more than their collective histories. They wrote their own destinies (some more than others) and that really stuck with me. Besides, I make for a very handsome blonde.

Another great example series for understanding me has to be the obvious: Fullmetal Alchemist. God, this series meant the world to me when it came out. Imagine me: 14 years old, having just 2 years ago buried my father, living with my far too conservative aunts. I was angry. I was sad. I felt like I had no voice. And then busts through the door of my life a short, angry 14 year old blonde boy who faced similar loss and circumstances and took his destiny into his own hands. Edward Elric was my avatar to help me cope with the grief of losing a parent. Suddenly, I wasn’t alone. Suddenly, I had someone who understood my pain and on top o f it, he used science, logic and pragmatism to help him solve problems both emotionally and physically. Additionally, he also wasn’t always positive. He was sad, a lot. He had to be talked up a lot. He wasn’t alone. He had so much love and support around him and that made me feel much less alone in my own life.

Let’s move on to one more example and a more recent one: Twittering Birds Never Fly is a splendid yaoi manga and for the love of all things good and holy I never bonded with a cast of characters more. Which is probably troublesome since the series follows yakuza boss, Yashiro and his gang in a painfully emotional journey that shifts between love, angst, insecurity and the pain of wanting to feel but having to keep on a mask that you sometimes have to keep on because you think that mask proves that you have strength.

Is there any required listening? You bet there is. But sorry, it isn’t all happy stuff. It’s a lot of Panic! At the DiscoGood CharlotteGreen Day and Blink 182. These bands helped give shape to the tangle of feelings I had inside during my less than ideal teen years and if you give a listen to my mp3 player on shuffle, a clear image of who I was and who I came to be starts to form between chorus lines and guitar solos.

That was a fun exercise in self-exploration.

What pieces of media help those you care about better understand you?

Leave your answers in the comments below. This is a safe place. There’s no judgement here, just acceptance.

 

Ancestral Memories of the Local Olive Garden

It started when I was 9 oz of cheap white wine deep into what would stand to be a mostly forgettable meal at the local Olive Garden. In my younger years, I traversed across the Italian peninsula and ate some of the best food of my life. I soaked up Italian culture as any good Classics student would. So as I sat and pondered over a glass of wine that cost the same as my my meal and happened to cost twice as much in the restaurant as it would have if I purchased the exact same entire bottle outside of the fake stucco arched doorway, I asked myself a simple question:

Why the hell do I come here?

I was seated alone; surrounded on all sides by families and children running around hyped up on after dinner chocolates and soda they weren’t supposed to have but were permissively given because “it was a special occasion”. And I started really thinking about why I still come here. Most people who go to Olive Garden understand that they are not getting an authentic taste of the old country. So why come here? The prices aren’t great, the food’s okay, the restaurants are all the same aside from the occasionally too happy to please server.

To answer the question: we gotta go back in time.

When I was little girl, we (and by “we” I mean my family not some weird notion of the royal we) went to places like Olive Garden or Red Lobster when I did something exceedingly good. Back then Olive Garden was the perfect place for a middle/upper middle class family like mine. More expensive than most casual dining establishments but not out of the price range for a family of 3 to eat multiple courses without breaking the worrying about the state of the light bill. We went to Olive Garden when I made honor roll. When I finished a dance performance. When I ranked in a Latin Club competition (yes, I took Latin in middle school. And junior high. And high school. And college.). It was a place to celebrate. It was a place we didn’t go to often but when we did, we enjoyed it. It was different from Spaghetti Warehouse, a place my dad loved, and so we went to more often and more casually. Going to Olive Garden meant getting dressed up. I had to have my hair up, little stockings on and usually an obnoxiously frilly dress. It was a special occasion kind of place.

During my late teen years and even the post-college career it was a hang out spot. Taylor works there and his roommates did, too. I spent plenty of time there picking him up from work or meeting him there to hang out later. We abused his discount. Got punch drunk off of free bread sticks and drowned our miseries in glasses of wine that costs the same as the damn bottle would if we were at any other places. We stayed because of the discount. We went because of the friendship and we savored because we could use the restaurant as a de-facto headquarters. In fact, I was there so often that I got my own server’s name tag: a gift from hosts and hostesses that came to know me and my order due simply to the fact that I was always around.

So why do I come here now?

Because I can.

Because after the partial collapse of the middle class and the lowering of prices: Olive Garden suddenly went from a place I went to only dressed up for after church to a place I could visit in my sweat pants and a v-neck t-shirt. When you remove the monolithic-like barrier of entry to almost any place: it easily becomes more attainable and thus culturally ubiquitous. Anyone is welcome here. Everyone is sort of family. No one can judge you. The bartender can’t judge Amber and I for getting wine drunk after a hard day at work. Or Taylor and I for shoving mints into my shirt as we attempt to flee the restaurant. No one can judge us for playing the trivia game the electronic payment kiosk at the table offers and no one can say a damn thing about how many bread sticks I eat and with how much Italian dressing.

Olive Garden became a safe haven. A place to relax. The food isn’t the goal; you aren’t there because you want a real taste of Roma. You’re there because it’s attainable, common, simple and accessible. You’re there because you want to be. And don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wrong for that.

Enjoy your bread sticks.

Drown your sorrows in salad and overpriced wine.

Stuff your pockets with chocolate mints.

I won’t judge you.

Save me a seat.