For months, we have been tempted and teased with the “Opening Soon” signs of the new Kakawa Chocolate shop here in Salem, MA. Up until now they have had only one other location – in Santa Fe, NM. Week after week, myself and all my friends, would stop by, peek into the windows, curious to see if there was any indication of movement inside. We used to joke that Willy Wonka himself would eventually pop out of the door. Welcoming us.
One gloomy Saturday, an exceptionally large group of us walked by and just as Paul and I placed our faces up against the glass and mouthed “Chocolate!” we heard the door open. A lovely man peered out, and said, “SOON! We open on Tuesday, 10 am!”
Obviously I had to shake this man’s hand, introduce myself, and tell him that we would be back. On Tuesday. At 10am. That man was one of the owners, Jack. Wonderful man, great sense of humor to accommodate all of us peeking into his shop!
Tuesday morning was rainy and cold. But I kept my word to Jack, and showed up at 10am (well, ok 9:40) with my friends Sarah and Chuck. People on Essex Street kept asking us why we were standing outside in the alcove. “CHOCOLATE!”, we said.
At 10am on the nose, the door opened, and Jack, ever the bubbly host, said “Who wants to be the first through the door?”
Well, I happened to be closest, so it was me! The first customer! I got a wonderful hug from Jack and inside we went for our tour. It really did feel like we had golden tickets.
We were greeted by the other owner, Tony, and handed small samples of their sipping chocolates, known as “elixirs”. Which were the single best things I have ever tasted. Ever. We sat down and enjoyed the sipping chocolates paired with some lovely conversation. Then we wandered around and perused their yummy wares.
They didn’t have a full showing of every item they will be selling as this was a soft opening, but even with limited stock, we were in awe. And they were so knowledgeable about every piece. We each bought some truffles and received some free samples for being the first customers.
All in all, this new shop is a tasty fit for our Witch City and I am very excited to go back for it’s official grand opening on Saturday with even more friends!
It is National Cat Day, and in my household that really is like every other day. Especially when you are a foster cat parent. I grew up always having at least one cat, but it wasn’t until I became an adult and became a foster home for various shelters that I fully grasped how many lives needed saving.
When my spouse and I first moved to Los Angeles we had a one bedroom apartment, with very little furniture and somehow managed to foster every single cat we could. Many times we did this at our own expense, because the shelter system in L.A., like most major cities, leaves much to be desired. Most of the rescue groups there were running on fumes and many of the cats’ lives were at stake if someone didn’t jump in asap to swoop them up. And even then, sometimes that didn’t always work. More times than I care to count, I would call and say I could take an entire family, and a wonderful rescuer would drive two hours to pick them up and they would already be put down. This is the life of a rescuer in most major cities. Bless the souls that do this every day.
This is Moo Moo. He was supposed to be a cat sitting situation. Friendly, lovable, giant ball of fluff. Family never came back for him. Turns out he had a tumor over his left eye that exploded while we had him. It was operated on, and he did find his forever home with a new loving family. Poor guy, at least he had a happy ending.
Most photogenic kitten ever. This is Kerouac. He was part of a litter that all got adopted except for him. We ended up with a momma cat whose babies died. She ended up loving this kitten and we somehow managed to get the two of them adopted together.
What can I even say about this little guy, Jedi. We got Jedi from a rescue group, and had him as a foster for over a year and a half. We had a really bad skin condition that made it so he basically lived with a cone on 24/7. But he was the single most sweetest cat we have ever had. And he was the welcome committee whenever we had new cats come in. A wonderful family with the money to care for his skin condition came forward and wanted to adopt him. This was one of the hardest decisions to make. This is always hard when you foster. But we did the right thing and gave him to a good home that could afford to give him the meds that he needed daily.
This was our Fred Weasley. He and his sister, Foo Foo Cuddly Poops were two foster failures. After about a year, we woke up to Fred dragging his lower part of his body across the floor, after a blood clot permanently paralyzed his legs. We had to make the hard decision to put him down. His sister cried for days. And was never fully ok until we got another litter of kittens and sort of adopted one, which of course meant we had to keep her.
This is the Doctor. We recently lost him to old age. His story is the epitome of why we foster.
We met the Doctor while we still lived in L.A. They gave him to us because he had been on the streets, snatched up and living in a cage for almost a year because they said he didn’t get along with other cats. We took him in, and had him for the entire time we lived in L.A. No one wanted him. He was sort of friendly to people, but cranky, typical old tom-cat syndrome. Hissed at other cats. But our Jedi wouldn’t stop until he felt at home. Took years, but the Doctor finally settled.
Finally we get a message from the shelter that someone wanted him. This woman came in, got to know him, loved him, took him. Next week we left to visit Salem, and get a message from the rescue group saying this same woman had taken the Doctor to the vet, found out he had asthma and arthritis and proceeded to dump him off there. And left. Just left him. No one had room for him in their house so they put him back in a cage. When we got back to CA, he had lost so much weight from being depressed. We swore we would never leave him in a cage again.
Fast forward to us moving back home to Salem. And still no forever home for the Doctor in CA. Well, guess he is going to have to come home with us. Except we already had two cats coming with us. We took a huge chance but he stayed in CA with a nice woman that was friends with the rescue group, and then he flew home on a flight with another kind soul. So right around Christmas we drove to Logan and picked up our cat and he never changed families again.
We lost the Doctor last week to old age, but he was purring up until the end. He was the poster cat for why we foster, why we rescue, and why we continue to do this. His spot in our family of six cats will always be for an older, special cat that no one else wants.
There are so many more cat stories I could tell. Like Adam and his sister Gaige. Captain Peanut and Bellatrix Cabal. Baba who was blind most of the time he was with us until he got surgery. Lorraine our real first foster who had cat leukemia. Hundreds.
So many of them need help, even a little. We do what we can. And to all the other fosters and cat parents and anyone that rescues…
I haven’t written a blog post in a while. Recently I uploaded some new photos from a photo shoot and there were a few comments that could only be described as trolling so I thought it was time to get something off my chest.
It wasn’t just the trolls that made me decide to write this. After a few “Facebook friends” made their comments, I doubted myself, so in a moment of weakness, I deleted the whole album.
Doing that shoot was incredibly hard for me. You may not realize it when you see me running around a con with grapes and rope but I am very self-conscious. And I delete far more than I post. And in that brief period of self-doubt after the trash people thought they had a right to tell me what I could or couldn’t wear, I thought it was just easier to delete it, delete myself, off the screen, and deal with all later. Or not, depending on how I felt.
After some soul-searching, and some convincing by my close friends, my partner, and the wonderful photographer, the album is now back up.
The reason I reposted it isn’t just because I didn’t want the trash people of the internet to win, but the larger reason is that when I see these photos I am reminded that even though these pics are “of me” they aren’t just about me.
I think a lot of people in the cosplay community will agree with me – when I see a professional cosplay photo I see a team effort that goes into making those beautiful photos. And when I share mine I am not only sharing my own art (like the cyberplanner) that I have painstakingly created (with the emphasis on pain) but the art and skill of my friends and colleagues.
There are so many people that have helped me over the years, that have also invested time and talent into helping me make Mr. Clever come to life in these photos and in person.
The insane number of amazing photographers alone. It is not easy to capture (and edit) a wonderful photograph. It is even harder to work with someone like me, who has severe anxiety in front of the camera. Cosplay photographers often go unnoticed and are truly the unsung heroes of our community. The photographers that I have met and worked with over the years deserve a medal for putting up with me. Many times, they have worked with me for free, so yes of course, I am going to share their photos everywhere (and give them credit as often as possible).
Or the hair stylists that have helped me over the years. Running into the salon with pictures of Matt. “This is the color I need”. And the random make-up artist we met while in NYC for NYCC that color matched me and taught me how to put make up on for photos. Never would have known any of that if not for her.
And the friend who felt bad that I couldn’t wear the Abbyshot coat who went and got fabric for me. And the other friend who made me the coat that I wear now. This coat is amazing. The curator from the DW experience loved it. The person who made it should be proud of herself.
Even down to the tattoo artist who worked with me to make my cybermite tattoo come to life.
And that doesn’t even cover the emotional challenges that people help me work through: how hard it is for me to overcome the fear of cameras, the challenge of my body image issues, getting into character, overcoming the severe pain that I am in all the time now, and with this shoot in particular there was the added fear of because of my injury I was terrified that I was going to be unable to move.
Everyone knows how much this character and cosplay means to me. I have lost much in 2017. For a fleeting second, there was the thought that I could lose that too, and that was devastating. And I know there are people that don’t get that Mr. Clever is both my first and last cosplay. It is who I am and I cannot imagine cosplaying as anyone else.
But trolls will be trolls and after battling my own demons and winning, at least this time, I have taken the trash out, and that album is back up. Not just because I need it, or because Mr. Clever is who I am, or because I don’t want to let the haters win, but because all those other people deserve to have their work talked about too.
So the last thing I want to do with this blog is thank (some) of those many people and give everyone who reads this a way to connect with them and make some of that cosplay magic for yourself.
Above photos were taken by the amazing Vignette of
Creative Salem asked me to co-host a cosplay party with them at the gorgeous, historic Hawthorne hotel. What an amazing night. No words for how much fun we had. Its hard for a cosplayer like myself to establish themselves, so to speak, (that is *not* my end game. This is just an observation.) because I do cosplay such an obscure character from well, let’s be honest, a less than well received episode. So to be able to do something like this, and have it be “presented by Mr. Clever” made me so incredibly happy. I hope they do it again!