I hadn’t planned on doing a lengthy end-of-year recap. But there are so many stories to tell, and I am nothing if not a storyteller.
2018 was certainly a year of ups and downs. The biggest hurdle was my health. In early 2017, I was diagnosed with severe arthritis and bone spurs on my left hip from an old riding injury. Cortisone shots were then prescribed every two to three months. Even with the shots, I spent all of 2017, and most of 2018 in astronomical pain. There would be entire weeks that I couldn’t dress myself, or go up and down the stairs without assistance. Tying my shoes, and showering alone were things of the past.
The area that I was most affected was my riding and my inability to safely work around horses. I kept going, kept pushing through the pain to ride, to do the one thing that I had done for work and joy for decades. But it was soon clear that even grooming was too much, as I couldn’t even pick feet. All it took was a horse to rub up against me and they could knock me down. It was now unsafe for me to be around my wonderful animals anymore. This was the single most difficult thing to digest and sent me into months of depression.
My one solace was conlife. As hard as it was to get dressed, I somehow managed to put Clever on and miraculously get out the door. It was hard, it was excruciatingly painful, and I ended up relying heavily on the magic of my cosplay. I have often joked that if I can just get my costume on, it does the rest. And for about two years, this was most certainly the case. However there were times that even with the cosplay on, I could only last one day of a two day con.
The first con of 2018 brought about one such instance of debilitating pain. Arisia 2018 marked my 5 year anniversary of officially going to a con as Mr. Clever. This is one of our absolute favorite cons, and the one that we always have the most friends that go with us, and yet somehow always meet new people. This year was no different. With a bunch of wonderful crazy, costumed friends in tow, off we went for day one. As per usual we did the Running of the Doctors, tied a bunch of people up with my rope, attacked the vendor room with financial rage, and had our usual lunch at the bar. On Sunday, I broke out Darth Clever and ended up meeting two new amazing friends, still known to us as Missy and Clara. This was the highlight of the weekend and what con life is all about! This year I was supposed to be on a few panels, but the pain proved to be too much, and I had to opt out because by Sunday morning I couldn’t even walk. We spent most of Sunday hanging out in the lounge, until I couldn’t take it anymore and we left.
Not one to quit on having fun, the next weekend I judged the costume contest at the annual masquerade ball at the Hawthorne Hotel, hosted by The Creative Collective. This years theme was Through the Looking Glass. So of course, I HAD to do a mash-up of Mr. Clever and the Mad Hatter.
The ball is a lot more low key than a con, and the hotel has plenty of places to sit, so it was not as hard on my hip as Arisia was. It was an incredible night, and I am forever grateful for being a part of this event since its inception.
Most people that know me well, know that every February I try to throw CJ, my amazing, wonderful, perfect spouse a themed birthday party. CJ is like a child when it comes to his birthday. He will run around yelling “BIRTHDAY!” all day until someone pays attention to him. So far I have done Sherlock, IT Crowd, Avatar the Last Airbender, Rick and Morty and now Doctor Who. CJ’s fave Doctor is 12, Peter Capaldi. I decorated the entire house to look like the inside of the Tardis, complete with console, Pin the Eyebrows on Peter, and we even had a birthday cake shaped like a tank. As party favors, every person had black sunglasses with “attack eyebrows ” on them. (Remember those – they make another appearance soon). Everyone came dressed in cosplay, which wasn’t hard since most people we know are Whovians! It was so amazing to be able to bring so many smiles on so many faces – especially CJ’s.
February was also an amazing month because I got to work with Sauvage Photo + Edit aka Vignette for the first time! Contrary to popular belief I still do not like my photo taken. I have gotten much better with it over the years, and cosplay has helped a ton. Many times I push myself to do it because I like the challenge and feel the more I do it, the more I will overcome my fears. Photoshoots used to be challenging for me, as there are only so many canon poses available but now I enjoy taking Clever out of the blue box and doing wild things with him. Vignette is an incredible photographer and a warm, funny, kind soul.
We had already bought our tickets for Regeneration Who (ReGen) before they announced Peter Capaldi, but when they DID, CJ kinda lost his mind. I love, just love that he finally has “his” Doctor. And 12 really does suit him. In so many adorable and annoying ways. The “no hugs”. Omg. So we packed up the new car and drove to Baltimore. ReGen was hot or cold for me to say the least. The worst parts of ReGen were the assault, sexual harassment and physical pain from being jumped on. (Caused by other con goers – not staff members) I am still not ready to talk about these traumas yet. But someday I will write this all down and share my entire experience.
The best parts of Regen was seeing CJ get to meet Peter, get to meet his Doctor. Which of course, yes, I have a story. We have never cared about celebrities (outside of Jenna Coleman, I really don’t care about anyone except James Roday and Dule Hill) but we did the thing. We bought tickets for an autograph and our very first photo op. Ever.
CJ has social anxiety, so we had rehearsed what to say to Peter, how to say it, where to stand, etc. This is how CJ operates. He had cue cards, like the ones from Under The Lake, made by our friend Melissa, ready to read so he would know exactly what to say. He also had one cue card with BOTH sides written on it to finally hand to Peter. One side mentioned all the wonderful things he wanted to say about his Doctor, the other side was funnier and mentioned how CJ was thankful for having a Doctor that also didn’t like hugs. We walked up to his table, CJ handed him the cue card. Peter read the one side, said “Oh, how lovely” then proceeded to slowly get out of his chair and walk over to CJ. At this point I knew he was going to hug him and I lost it. I was cackling already. It was the most awkward hug ever. Poor CJ was torn between this is the greatest moment ever, and why is this person hugging me? Peter kinda then glanced over at me like “Who is this crazy cyberman?”, sat back down and I very dramatically flipped over the cue card, slammed it on the table and exclaimed “but wait, there’s more!” Peter looked down, read the “no hugs” part and went “OOOOOOOOOH”. I was laughing so damn hard, I thought I was going to fall over. He took the journal that CJ had wanted him to sign and autograph as “Who likes hugs? Not us!”
The next day was our photo op with Peter and Michelle Gomez, which CJ was also very nervous about. Our first op, we had no idea what to expect. Luckily, we had already been up to the photo area to get some cosplay photos, so he knew the lay out of the area, and that helped ease his nerves. Remember those party favors? Well I had decided to pack a few for the con. I made the suggestion to CJ that we ask Michele and Peter to wear them, and we do a sort of CSI: Gallifrey pose. We waited our turn and when we got up to them, I asked Michelle to wear them and she was downright giddy about it. I gave Peter his pair and he looked at me and said “ Do I NEED more eyebrows?” We got one of my favorite con photos ever in one take, and I couldn’t be happier for CJ. Watching him meet his Doctor, and the seeing how hilarious the interaction was made the trip worth it. Even with the trauma, I would not do it differently if it meant CJ didn’t get to meet Peter.
Every May 11th, or as close to it, since 2014, most of my friends and I get together and celebrate the anniversary of when Nightmare in Silver aired. The first year was just supposed to be a viewing party. Except people brought me cake. Well, two cakes to be exact. That said Happy Birthday Mr. Clever. And had Hello Kitty on it. This has now become an annual thing. And has, no lie, outgrown my house. I am not joking when I say that we are renting a hall for 2019. This year, aside from the normal shenanigans, we also ventured to NY to visit the Pandorica Restaurant for the first time. It was a bittersweet visit. I had been planning this visit with my friend Rachel, but that wasn’t meant to be as Rachel passed away just a few months before. Shirley was a gracious host and we had a blast! I highly recommend going.
The trip to the Pandorica was our last outing before my usual summer hibernation. This summer was extra painful due to my ever increasing pain and immobility. The cortisone shots had stopped working, and I had zero relief. One last ditch effort to seek help brought me back to my surgeon who told me that my hip had deteriorated so quickly that he couldn’t believe I have been walking on it all this time. The decision was made to replace my hip altogether. At the end of July, I finally went in to have my hip surgery. My recovery was quick, and in less than two days, I had no need for a walker, could already go up and down the stairs, didn’t need pain killers, and was driving in less than two weeks. I had very little PT, as they were shocked at how quickly my body accepted the new, um, upgrade. I am finally pain free for the first time since Dec 2016.
So what do you do when you are pain free? You get back on a horse. I am so lucky to have friends that have horses for me to ride, and I am so happy that I can ride pain free again! I spent most of September slowly getting back into shape, riding when I could, and preparing for October.
Ever since I started cosplaying as Mr. Clever I have been wanting to figure out a way to bring him to Salem in October. But he is too fragile and valuable to me to wear in the insane crowds. CJ and I thought, well what if I did a Zombie version of him, except with grease and oil and random cyber parts instead of flesh and blood. So I threw Zombie Clever together and brought him out for Super Megafest as a trial. Ripped pants, tattered vest, and an old cyberplanner that I had meant to throw away years ago that I found and added one light to. It was a lot to fun to wear! Was a blast as always, especially since it moved back to its original location in Framingham. Arriving home from Super Megafest was a different story.
For a few months, our old ginger cat, The Doctor, had been showing his age. Frail, thin, losing his appetite. But still purring, still happy. We had made the decision to put him down that week if we didn’t see a change, but he didn’t make it. When I walked through the door and saw him lying in his bed, I knew he had passed. He was so a grumpy old man, hated my other cats, but loved people. Always wanted to be pet, always up for a head boop. He will be missed by so many.
Some actors from Twin Peaks were going to be at Rock and Shock the same weekend as Super Megafest, and since I was back to my normal conlife speed, we decided to do two cons in one weekend. Zombie Clever needed a picture in the Black Lodge. We were so blown away at the amount of art that we all saw and wanted. Not to mention the fun of chatting with Malcolm McDowell while he was shopping for t-shirts. We will be going back for sure.
The true test of Zombie Clever however was taking him out in Salem, in October, in the vast crowds. The beauty of this costume is that I DID get bumped into, had something spill on me, and had it broken (which is my fear with NiS Clever) but it doesn’t matter since it blends in with the costume. I did get bumped into a lot, which is normal. I even had some people recognize my character! The biggest accomplishment though was that I finally did it! I went out in Salem, in October in a costume that I loved and felt comfortable in.
Halloween itself is not for the faint of heart, and even with a crowd safe costume, we all planned to get out of the main areas by nightfall if we could. This year wasn’t too bad, but even still, with road closures, massive mostly drunken crowds, and police everywhere, we did what any group of costumed people would do with a 12 year old along for the ride – we went trick or treating. At this point there were 11 of us. Ten adults taking a near-teeneager trick or treating. Except this is us. So of course there’s a story.
And that story is Boot Candy.
Have I told you about my good friend Richard, aka Tequila Mockingbird? No? Well, Richard is a drag queen. And when you are dressed in drag wearing some fabulous boots, your feet might hurt when you walk the mile from downtown Salem back to my house, plus with the added hours of walking to go trick or treating. So you do what anyone would do, you take them off and have your chivalrous bf hold them, which is what Donnie did. So when we came to a house with all of us, Donnie, who had the boots in his hands, would run up to the door and yell trick or treat! At first people were putting candy just in our friend’s kid’s bag. But when we got to about three houses down, some nice woman looked at Donnie, who hadn’t had time to put a costume on, and said “Oh would you like some candy for your boots?”
Now, what candy loving person is going to say NO? Not one of my friends!
“Yes?” So Donnie got the first of many pieces of boot candy that night.
Off we ran to the next house! Trick or treat!
Except this time Donnie shoved both of Richards boots in the peoples’ faces. And they just dropped candy into the boots. No lie. I thought we were going to wet our pants we were laughing so much. Walking up and down the streets of Salem, all night, laughing and yelling BOOT CANDY. By the time we got back to my house and everyone emptied their bags, Donnie had filled Richards boots to the brim with candy. It was one of the best nights ever.
The energy of Salem in October is like nothing else, and I truly come alive during this time. Even after being a tour guide for eleven years, I never tire of it. I always look forward to October. I could spend every waking minute downtown during October if I could. (I have already started a countdown until next October.) And now I know I can do it comfortably, in a great costume! And now we have boot candy and zombies, and new traditions, and more friends than ever to share it with.
Truly the BEST October ever.
November is usually spent recovering from October. And this year that was certainly the case. I hadn’t been that active in October in a long time and post October sadness set in quickly. It didn’t help that I was kinda bummed that Jenna Coleman canceled RICC. She is the only person that I want a photo with. Ah well. Someday. RICC was still a lot of fun, especially since we opted to go on Sunday to avoid the crowds.
The best part of November however was the soft opening of Kakawa Chocolate Shop here in Salem! You have no idea how long all of us have been walking past, staring into the space, longing for this place to open. About 12 of us were walking by one day and the manager, Jack Bauer, was working inside. Our resident chocoholic, Paul, went up to the glass and smooshed his face up against it. That got Jack’s attention all right. He came out and introduced himself, and so now myself, Chuck and Paul have been going almost every single weekend since. That isn’t an exaggeration. Kakawa has kind of become our home away from home.
December is usually pretty slow, event wise. This year there were two really fun events that I hope happen again in 2019. One was SqueeCon, that I had been excited about for awhile. Hansi Oppenheimer, the Creator/Director is not only a good friend but a badass filmmaker and proponent for equal rights and diversity in film and art. The con itself may have been held in a tinier venue than most but the venue itself was stunning – quaint historic playhouse nestled in downtown New Haven, CT. The programming that Squeecon offered was diverse, unique and unlike other cons. As excited as I was for this con, the fear settled in just as quickly. I already wrote some of my thoughts on how I felt before Squeecon here. But I put the costume on, and I faced MANY fears at this con. The fear of being shunned, the fear of being inferior, and the biggest fear – going on stage and doing a Q and A panel. When I was asked to be a panelist/guest, I thought it was going to be in the same capacity like any other con. Let’s discuss how to make a costume, or Cosplay is Not Consent, seated behind a table. But like anything else Hansi does, this was unique. Myself and some amazing cosplayers and artists were seated on this glorious stage and asked questions pertaining to ourselves as cosplayers and this was a first for me. As was being on a stage and allowing myself to be videotaped. It was terrifying, but there was something very welcoming and comforting about this crowd. Of course, I probably made a fool of myself. My rope had its own chair, and I did swear. A lot. “I fucking loved Nightmare in Silver!” But I had a bunch of friends with me at this con, actually most of them drove up with me, so it was a ton of fun.
We also got to visit the Mew Haven Cat Cafe which was super fun too as the people there are Whovians. They were excited when 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, Jack Harkness, Yaz, a Tardis Ghostbuster and Mr. Clever walked in. I still can’t believe we paid money to go play with cats. Don’t anyone tell OUR cats this, ok?
The other event that was a ton of festive fun was Haunt The Halls. I threw on a festive version of Clever, met up with some friends and we all went to visit Paul at his art booth, and got photos with Krampus. We also did get called naughty by a rather mopey Santa.
The last social event that I had as Clever in 2018 was another photoshoot with Vignette. This time however, I had the gorgeous Kelly with me as NiS Clara. It was so nice to be able to recreate canon shots and some fanart. After lunch which consisted of pizza, things got, well, entertaining. CJ decided that we should recreate a rather famous type of scene. I’ll just let the photo speak for itself. This was by far the most fun, hilarious, off script shoot I have ever done, and I can’t thank Kelly enough for being the BEST sport. It was also a huge treat to not only get my new Abbyshot coat in time for this shot, but to have Abbyshot love Vignette’s photos from this shoot and use one of them. Truly a great time.
We may have gone a little overboard this year for Christmas, and we may have invited more people over than my house can handle anymore. I need an actual Bigger on the Inside House. Which reminds me, did I mention CJ got me a life-sized Tardis for Christmas? Where am I supposed to put this?
I am typing the last paragraph of this blog on New Year’s eve. Hoping to wrap all this up in time for actual New Years Day. Sitting here reflecting on all this. Laughing, smiling, sometimes crying, messaging friends, “Do you remember the time we did…?” 2018 was filled with emotional and physical pain that I had never experienced before. But it was also filled with great new adventures and friends, fresh start and the promise of even better things to come.
My goals for 2019 are very simple. Ride more, adopt another cat, more Clever mash-ups, and enjoy my second chance at better health, because most people don’t get one.
This has been your Year in Review for the year ending 2018. Cyberplanner out.
Happy New Year!