Polter-Cow (spectralbovine) wrote,

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Girl, You Really Goth Me Now

Let me introduce you to Jilli (cupcake_goth). She is the Lady of the Manners at Gothic Charm School. And she has written a book, Gothic Charm School: An Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them.

Perhaps you've heard of it since Neil Gaiman Tweeted about it. Yeah, that's right, Neil gothdamn Gaiman pimped my friend's book.

She was also on the Seattle news. The news story is hilarious and awesome and totally worth watching.

After the book was released on Tuesday, June 23, she was going on tour. And her book tour included a Bay Area stop! Books, Inc in Burlingame on Friday, June 26! Plans were made, but little did I know how awesome a night it would turn out to be.

The plan was to meet at Barracuda at 5 for sushi (apparently Burlingame had a pretty hoppin' sushi scene?). I took off from work early, factoring in traffic and parking. I had worn all black in anticipation of the signing; my co-worker Capitulation commented, "Why are you dressed like a ninja?" I am thinking there's a heretofore-untapped crossover potential.

I was the first to arrive at Barracuda, and they weren't open yet, but I told them to expect a party of nine. I waited outside. I saw Jilli and Pete across the street and yelled, "Jilli!" She yelled back that they had to go to the bookstore first and would be right there. Soon, Perkins (la_perkins) arrived, and then Jilli and Pete returned, and there was hugging and handshaking, even though I had seen them just six days ago.

We were expecting more, but we took our giant table; luckily, the restaurant had just opened, so it wasn't busy. The menu was...interesting. They had some odd spins on regular sushi fare in addition to the standards, plus the weird names we've come to expect from our rolls. I was intrigued by the Spicy Crunch, which had spicy tuna, mango, lettuce, cucumber, crunch mix, and tobiko. Jilli hoped the crunch mix was Cap'n Crunch (sadly, it was just tempura, which disappointed her). I also split a Dragon Roll with Pete. Jilli and Perkins munched on green beans as an appetizer.

Now, this may be decidedly not Goth-friendly of me, but I remain amused at the sight of Jilli doing regular things in her ornate, elaborate outfits. Did Victorian women even eat sushi? So I tried valiantly to get a good shot of her eating sushi, but I missed all the best expressions; Pete chided me greatly for my failure in capturing them.

"Noooo," he said. By that time, she'd seen what I was doing, and it was too posed. "And your framing sucks!" I was trying to get a shot without Perkins's arm in it! I wasn't directly across from her; it was hard! I think my framing rocks.

Jilli has a weird way of eating sushi, but I think she'll poke my eye out if I say anything about it.

-t arrived, having also seen them just six days before. She lamented that we were getting used to it, and next week, we would wonder where our Jilli and Pete were. Last but not certainly not least were Hec (hecubot), JZ (zmayhem), and little Matilda, who was about to be very sad to discover that her plan to get cheese pizza at a Japanese restaurant was not going to work.

Pete told us a little about moving from England and adjusting to the different food options, like his inability to find a savory pie anywhere. I told him about my foreign friends who were mystified by burritos.

"When did you move here?" I asked.

"1994," he said. Or 1995.

"I've been here longer than you!" I declared.

Pete looked at me in that way that only a bald, articulate British man can do. "Well, you just mark that on your scorecard," he said.

Jilli and Pete had to get to the bookstore to set up, leaving Hec to quiz me about my arranged marriage woes. "So what potential future wife are we on now?" I said I was still on the one from a month ago and told him a little about her. He was not pleased that we didn't share the same tastes in books or anything, saying there had to be a good geek girl out there for me. (Yes, there is, but my family won't know her.) Also, did I get to have sex with these women before marriage, or were we just supposed to wing it afterward? I was pretty sure we were supposed to wing it.

Well, Hec would have none of that. "I'm going to call your mom," he said. "'Hi, I am just as invested in your son's happiness as you are.'"

JZ grabbed me. "Do not under any circumstances give him your mom's number," she said. "Not even as a joke. Don't even let him borrow your phone. Because he will do it." She cited the time he had called Tep at 2 in the morning to wake her up, just as she had requested.

The bookstore was 397 feet away. "That's over a football field!" said Hec.

"A football field and a third," I added.

"Well, if you add the goalposts, that's a few more feet."

"And then you have to add the tunnel." We agreed that there should definitely be a bookstore accessibly only by passing a goalpost and going through a tunnel.

Books, Inc, however, was not that bookstore. It was a bookstore that proudly displayed Jilli's book, though!

Inside, they had the table all set up with a few rows of chairs in front of it. Only a few people had arrived so far; I reserved a seat in the front row.

Whatever Jilli was actually doing on her phone, it reminded the woman next to me that she had not Tweeted that she was at the signing. I faux-admonished her for her oversight. She was wearing a long black coat with frills like something out of The Matrix: 1863 Edition. "Look at all these people wearing all black on a hot day in Burlingame!" she exclaimed joyfully. I felt sort of like a poseur in my all-black, not being one to dress so regularly. I am not Goth, nor do I want to be. I already have a subculture, and it's fandom. I'm far too lazy to deal with more.

The two pieces of artwork on the table were by Pete, who did all the illustrations for the book (and also designed Jilli's tattoos and all the GCS merchandise). They were going to be raffled off, but no one gave me a raffle ticket. I didn't mind since I'd rather someone gothier than I took them home.

One thing I did intend to take home, however, was a copy of the book. I flipped through the stack on the table.

"Which one is the best?" I asked Jilli. I picked one in the middle of the stack. "Is it this one?" She gave her assent. "Yeah, I thought it was this one." It was warm, and I realized it was one of the display copies from outside. I wondered whether it was good to get a copy that had been sitting out in the sun all day; maybe the binding was already weakened! I considered switching it for a cold copy, but the cold copy had a slightly bent back cover, so I stuck with the best.

At around 7:00, a man introduced Jilli and Pete (who was wandering around the store) and the book. Jilli said hello to everyone, including "those of you I don't talk to online all the time. Hello, strangers!"

And then she read the introduction with her eyes closed! Okay, so I took about forty pictures during the reading and signing, but I won't be posting them all here since they are largely redundant. You can see them in the gallery, however.

The crowd was very responsive, laughing at the funny bits, of which there were several.

It was a good showing. All the seats were filled! (The empty one in the front is mine, obvs.) You can't see the little babybat wearing a little Babybat shirt.

Then she read from another section that included a bit about NotAGoths, those who vehemently denounced their own Gothness. The woman to my left commented, "Andrew Eldritch!" I thought she was referring to some annoying friend of hers, but then Jilli smiled at her when she got to his name in the list. He is apparently the frontman for the Sisters of Mercy, and he once booted a band off his tour for being "too Goth."

(Pete, on the other hand, was not a Goth, not NotAGoth.)

Finally, she read a section on fashion and dress code, which included a warning to beware "panne velvet," whatever the hell that is. She cautioned against eBay sellers who described garments made of "penne." "That is not a fabric; that is a type of pasta." I just think that is an awesome sentence, and it is even more awesome as read by Jilli and then laughed at by all of us.

After the reading, it was time for Q&A!


No one dared to be the first. A woman behind me said she had a question but was trying to figure out how to put it into words. I had a question but didn't want to be the first.

Hec dared! He had a question that combined both fashion and etiquette. He wanted to know what to do when someone cops your style.

Well, Snarklings, first, you must admit that no one really has an "original" Goth Look, so get over yourselves already. (That is from an actual section heading.) Jilli seemed to be pretty flattered the one time she was told that someone had basically dressed like her.

I cannot possibly remember all the questions and answers, especially since most were largely irrelevant to my life or I didn't know what they were talking about. But I will do my best. For instance, I remember my question.

"So," I said, "I hear Goths eat asparagus." A roar of laughter erupted from the back that I later learned came from truejavachik. "And strawberries," I added. "So I wanted to know whether there is a 'Goth cuisine.'"

First, Jilli explained my question to the rest of the audience, who may not have seen the Seattle news story. But as to an answer, Jilli was at a loss! I had stumped the Lady of the Manners! For, no, she could not think of anything that would qualify as Goth cuisine! Some others around me offered suggestions that I cannot recall. It looks like there's an open market here, foodies! Someone needs to invent Goth food, stat.

Someone asked if all the letters Jilli answered on the site were real. Jilli said that there were only a handful that she suspected of being fake, like one that asked about Goth sex positions or something ("Okaaaay, not that kind of site, goodbye!"). There was one letter from a girl who was having trouble with a guy who wanted to make her his "vampire bride." She wasn't sure if she was for real or not, but she treated it as if it were because it sounded like a dangerous situation. She did get a follow-up from her later, but I don't remember whether she found out if the girl was okay or not. Weirdos.

Jilli was pleased that since the inception of the site, she'd gone from just getting letters from teenagers asking how to come out to their parents as Goth to getting letters from parents whose kids were Goth and who wanted to know how to support them. Although she did get a funny letter from a boy whose mom wanted to support him so much that she was becoming Goth as well and he was mortified and what should he do? Jilli's initial response was, "We should all be so lucky!" But she realized that when you're a teen, your mom is prone to embarrassing you on principle.

If there was a lull, I went ahead and asked another question to keep the flow going. Also because I wanted to know things. Like did she invent these terms she was throwing around like "babybat" and "ElderGoth" and whatnot or were they just floating around and I was unaware? It was the latter; they had probably started back in the days of Usenet.

The woman next to me had a question about crossovers. Like the San Francisco Goth scene had the RenFaire crossover and the...crossover with some other scene. I don't know; I don't do scenes. But they both involved dusty boots. Even though I didn't know what she was talking about, I like her voice. It was crisp, clear, full-bodied. It sounded as if she ought to have a British accent, but I think it's actually that it sounded like an American accent. Like a Brit or Aussie speaking American for a TV show or movie.

Jilli had an answer about Seattle crossover scenes, but of course I don't remember it. Instead, I give to you An Adventure in Jilli's Hands.

One woman was planning a Halloween wedding and wanted some tips and tricks, and Jilli had none since her wedding was a special case, done at a friend's house. But others in the audience offered suggestions, which was a common theme during the Q&A session. It was a very communal feeling, everyone wanting to help each other out.

Jilli told the story of how she started out as "Gothic Miss Manners," but then Miss Manners's people came after for her copyright infringement or whatever, and Jilli was all, "OMG OMG OMG SORRY YOU GUYS I DIDN'T MEAN IT I LOVE YOU." So she changed the site to Gothic Charm School. But best of all, she got an e-mail from Miss Manners herself saying she loved the site and Jilli was doing good work.

"Is Goth capitalized?" I asked. She did, but there didn't appear to be a consensus. The guy behind me said that if you were referring to the Visigoths, yes. And then he wondered whether they would kill them all if they came back from the dead and saw that their name had been co-opted so. They would never have sanctioned pink shoelaces!

Sometimes there was a lull, and Jilli would encourage more questions, and questions would come, and then they would keep on coming, but finally, the man had to bring the session to a close and do the raffle. The first winner was a cute girl with awesome hair who deserved to win on the basis of her outfit alone.

She got to choose which piece of artwork she wanted. She displayed it proudly.

A woman behind me won the CorpGoth piece, but she did not pose for pictures.

It was time for the signing and general milling about. I talked to Beth and Matt and truejavachik and Deb, who had arrived later; there was a lot of Buffista representation!

The woman in black who had sat next to me said, "I feel like I should know you." I assumed she meant because we both knew Jilli, so it was possible I was also on the GCS boards or whatever. Are there GCS boards? I don't know how her faithful Snarklings connect with each other. In any case, I wasn't there.

"Oh, you don't know me. You shouldn't know me," I said. Then, sensing the misinterpretation, I added, "Well, you should know me now." She was Laurel; I was Sunil. Her friend was Badger.

Before or after this, I can't remember now, I saw Laurel talking to the cute girl with the awesome hair and outfit about where she'd found the dress. She had apparently found it somewhere one would not expect to find something that cool. They both had their phones out and were exchanging social networking details. At the word "LiveJournal," my ears perked up.

"Actually, what is your LiveJournal name?" I asked. "Because I can send you these pictures." I showed them to her. She gave me her LiveJournal name and later formally introduced herself to me as Mina. I secretly hoped her last name was Harker.

Having milled about quite a bit, I went to the end of the line to get my book signed.

Perkins had bought many copies to be signed for other people, which gave Jilli and Pete a workout.

But finally, it was my turn! I did not have to tell Jilli who to make it out to.

Then I declared I had to get my picture taken with a "Goth legend," as the Seattle news had identified her.

"I'm never going to live that down, am I?" said Jilli.

Fear my all-blackitude!

I looked inside my book and laughed, as the comments were asparagus-related. I'm never going to live that down, am I? Pete had added that he hated strawberries.

"How you can hate strawberries?" I asked. "I love strawberries!"

"I hate them more!" he said.

The Buffistas were making preparation for the afterparty at Sodini's Bertolucci's, a South San Francisco restaurant Juliana (e_juliana), worked at. Perkins asked me which direction I was going afterward since she was going to have to leave early, and Jilli and Pete needed to be dropped off at their hotel south of the airport. I said I totally did not mind dropping them off (and in fact had been meaning to offer), especially because, hello, new car.

Javachik had been thinking the same thing. "Got to show off the new car!"

"I'll drive you to frickin' Alaska if you go in my car," I said. I do like feeling useful, after all.

When the signing was over, the store had only seven copies left of the twenty-eight they had ordered. Sweet! The Barnes and Noble that hosted the book launch had essentially sold out of the more than eighty copies they'd ordered, so this was promising.

We gathered outside, Perkins and Javachik and -t and I. In addition, Mina and a woman named Tristan who had helped with the website in its early stages were game for the afterparty if Jilli did not mind an entourage. Jilli had no problem with an entourage! So we played on Tristan's iPhone until we found the address of the restaurant and got directions. It was really simple, just up 101. I asked for Mina's phone and called my phone so she had my number in case they got lost.

-t had won the fight over who got to drive them to the restaurant, so she went to bring her car around. Mina and Tristan seemed like they would be fine, so I headed toward my car.

I saw Laurel and Badger across the street, so I jaywalked to meet them and say hello. They were looking for dinner.

"Well," I said, "we are going to a restaurant." I gave them the address.

Laurel asked if it would be okay. "I'm sure Jilli won't mind," I said. They had gotten along swimmingly at the reading and exchanged hugs and taken a picture, so it was clear Jilli knew who she was.

I walked to my car, passing Perkins along the way. She was giving directions to -t. I didn't understand why there was so much fuss over the directions. It looked pretty simple!

The first song Smellerbee gave me as I drove off was "Vampire Slayer Blues" by seanan_mcguire. I resolved to play it for Jilli and Pete.

Despite being confident I knew where I was going, I immediately got lost since I wasn't parked on the street I thought I was, but I quickly course-corrected and found my way to 101. I exited on Grand, and it was a little confusing, but I followed the path I thought was right, and it was right. I found the restaurant with no problem, and there was an open parking spot right across the street.

Inside, I found Javachik at the bar. She had told the host to expect a group of eight.

"Actually, it's more like ten," I said. She wondered if she'd miscounted, but I said I'd invited a couple people. "The one in—Well, they're all in all-black."

"The one in the long black coat with the..."

"Yeah!" We were really on the same wavelength tonight.

There was a little bit of a snag, however. Since it had been a slow night, they were planning to close the kitchen early. But it was only 9:00! I didn't know how many of the others were expecting real food, but I had specifically lured Laurel and Badger there with the promise of dinner! But Juliana was trying to work something out.

"Are those ours?" asked Juliana. She pointed us to the back, where Laurel and Badger were wandering in. Yes, they were ours, and they looked it.

Mina and Tristan found their way, and -t and Pete and Jilli had gotten lost but did make it to the restaurant in good time. We feared that Perkins was also lost if she had followed her own directions. Pete got a text to that effect a bit later, but, luckily, she did make it.

Juliana seated us at our table, took drink orders, and brought us yummy bread. -t ordered a cappuccino that Laurel coveted so much she asked kindly if she could have one of her own in addition to her Diet Coke. It was very cute.

Laurel sat across from me and next to Jilli. Javachik said she was acting like a fangirl. And she was! It was adorable. She was petting Jilli's outfit and asking her what makeup and eyeshadow she was wearing. Jilli was happy to answer, though, because, well, it's what she did.

Javachik thought Laurel looked familiar and Laurel thought Javachik looked familiar. They were sure they knew each other somehow. Javachick asked if maybe her icon was a picture of her, and it was. So she had likely seen her on Jilli's LJ. Which was amusing, the way your mind will ascribe familiarity to a face even if you didn't see it in person.

Juliana went around and took food orders. -t and I would wait for dessert. Laurel asked Juliana if the carbonara was as amazing as it sounded. Juliana confirmed that, yes, it was, and it would send her straight to the third level of hell.

Laurel and Mina and Jilli had all sorts of Goth-related conversations about The Scene and clubs and this place called Death Guild, an industrial/grindcore club that Laurel said was awesome to go to once a year and no more.

Mina mentioned finding something at Victoria's Secret, and the conversation kept going and moved to a different topic without a pause for me to insert a joke, so here it is: there should be a place called Victorian's Secret that sells 19th century lingerie. There, pretend I said it and everyone laughed.

We discovered that Badger had come all the way from Petaluma. Whereas Laurel lived in San Francisco. Coincidentally, both their neighbors were cows, but I discerned that Laurel's were not made of beef.

The fact that Laurel lived in San Francisco and not somewhere that made going to San Francisco require even the slightest bit of effort gave me an idea, since she seemed like a fun person, and she felt like she should know me. Also, she appeared to like music, and so did I.

Out of the blue, I asked, "What are you doing Wednesday, July 8?" Pause. "There's a band I want to see at Cafe du Nord, but I have no one to go with." She perked up at the venue, as you do because it's a good venue.

"Yes, let's totally do that!" she exclaimed. "Who are we seeing?"

"Nightmare of You," I said.

"I've never heard of them, but I like the name." I explained that they were not actually Nightmare-y; Pandora had given me a song of theirs that I really liked. It was more melodic pop or whatever. (Badger gave an "Ah, Pandora.")

She pulled out her iPhone to check her schedule. "Monday, bellydancing lessons. Tuesday, salsa waltz lessons. Wednesday....what's on Wednesday?"

"We're seeing Nightmare of You at Cafe du Nord," I said. And it was done! She was excited. I couldn't believe that worked. I'd never done anything like that before. Being around Jilli must have given me things like self-esteem and assertiveness.

Laurel did love her sinfully good carbonara, by the way.

For dessert, Jilli ordered "a biscotti," but it came with two, so Pete would take one off her hands. Laurel ordered spumoni, and Javachik ordered her own because otherwise she would eat all of Laurel's. -t was brave enough to order the dessert with a "surprise" in the middle; Juliana said it was coffee or chocolate, nothing too surprising. And because she had recommended the tiramisu, I ordered tiramisu.

"Ooh, I want a spoon of that," said Laurel. I said we could switch spoons.

When dessert arrived, -t remarked that they were all very geometric. The spumoni was a triangular wedge, the tiramisu was a rectangular prism, and hers was a semicylinder.

Laurel really loved her spumoni as well. When Juliana came by, she remarked that she was now in the sixth level of hell. I did have a very nice spoonful, and she had a spoon of my tiramisu, which she loved. It was pretty awesome tiramisu.

Other topics of conversation included Jilli's references to her husband, The Stroppy One. Pete said the adjective came from obstropulous.

"That's not a word!" I said. "Just because you're from England doesn't mean you can make up English."

"Actually," said Pete, "I think that is what it means."

Tristan said that she was an English major, and that gave her the power to make up words. So was I! "I am an English major; the English language bends to my will."

Mina had no horse in the race, but she knew that she supported the Oxford comma. I squeed and gave her a high-five. Tristan was also a fan of the serial comma, and I high-fived her across the table.

Then there was the dating-advice portion of our table conversation wherein Laurel, 32, advised Mina, 21, not to date anyone her age and also to date someone out of The Scene (like a ballroom dancer, for instance). She suggested she start at 30 because boys her age were actually 16. We men at the table tried not to be offended, but Juliana said it wasn't their fault they were more mature than we were. I thought that a 30-year-old dating a 21-year-old was kind of sketchy, but it almost satisfies the x/2 + 7 rule. She could start at 28.

It had been a very fun night, but the restaurant wanted to close, so we moved outside to say our goodbyes. Or, you know, keep talking for a while. Then there was hugging and goodbyes. A handshake from Mina. A touch on the shoulder as Laurel left, having told me to contact her re: the concert.

Mina and Juliana had also offered to take Jilli and Pete home, and Pete anticipated a big rock-paper-scissors knockdown-dragout, but in the end, it was I who had the pleasure. "Plus, I have a song I want to play them," I said. Pete groaned in anticipation.

I hoped Pete had a vague idea of how to get to the hotel. Even if he did not, he had Jilli's portable Internet, so that would work. I put on "Vampire Slayer Blues" and made my way to the highway. I could hear Jilli chuckling in the backseat. After it was done, Pete made a point to say, "That was quite good, by the way," which was nice of him. I skipped past the songs I'd listened to on the way to the restaurant, and the next songs that played were "Bodies" by the Smashing Pumpkins, "Halflife" by Lacuna Coil, and "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails. By chance, Smellerbee had given us three of the gothiest songs on her.

Pete was able to successfully navigate us to the hotel, where my passengers disembarked. I gave Jilli a big hug and Pete a manly handshake. I wished them luck on the rest of the book tour.

And then I drove back in the dark of night as the demons of longing ripped through the mutilated recesses of my twisted soul.
Tags: being indian, buffistas, desi arranged marriage notification, ethicalmedical.net, family, food, girls, life online, music, neil gaiman, personal, pictures, pimpings, real life friends, such is life

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