What is a ghost expert, really? I’ve pondered this my entire life. Not to sound dismissive, but it seems really easy: you can just say you’re an expert on ghosts and who’s to say otherwise? It’s not like you can get a license or a deg-g-g-gree in ghosts. If you’ve had one spooky encounter in your life—say, witnessing a door opening by itself creepily or a window also opening by itself but even more creepily—then you’re an expert.
In an effort to gain some more understanding into the world of supernatural fandom, I RSVP to the San Diego Ghost and Paranormal Group’s (SDGPG) virtual Meetup. What exactly goes on when a group of ghost-heads get together? Do they talk about orbs? Do they debunk phenomena? Do they get spiritual—not in the cool ghosty sense, but in the dumb religious sense? And seriously, what’s the deal with orbs?
Which is sort of what’s kept me from pursuing any involvement with paranormal groups before now (the religion stuff, not the orb stuff). Believing in ghosts has always carried vaguely religious, or at least faith-based, connotations for me. And since my level of belief veers between atheist and agnostic, it’s always been a roadblock to fully committing to ghosty shit. To believe in otherworldly spirits implies that there’s some sort of life after death—which is sort of the point of religion but also super heavy subject matter to think about when you’re looking for, like, a good ol’ spooky-ooky time.
I mean, we’re all very good at compartmentalizing the implications of the afterlife when watching scary movies, but do people ever think about what mortal sin Slimer committed in life that’s kept him from going to heaven? I mean, sure, 🎵busting makes us feel good🎵, but does it provide spiritual release for the damned souls?
Meeting with the SDGPG over Zoom (ever heard of it??) seems like the perfect platform to get my questions answered. I’ve never met up with like-minded ghost aficionados in real life, but something about the ephemeral, transitory experience of talking to people through a computer screen seems appropriate. It’s also easy to escape Zoom calls without having to come up with a complex strategy. Not that I’m itching to introduce myself to a bunch of ghost nerds with a “So, do you all believe in God or what?” but I like to know that I can just hit “Leave Meeting” when/if I do and shit gets weird.
After RSVPing, I peruse the event listing. Twelve other attendees have signed up—some have cool names like “Ghost Wheel” and “Aexaus.” With names like that, I have no doubt that these people are experts. I consider changing my Meetup profile name to something with a little more spooky stank on it, but the best options I come up with are GhostFan and GILF. Plus, attendees like Susan, Claudia and Laura—among others—have used their real names to register, which gives me the impression that these people take it seriously enough to not hide behind avatars. I quickly decide that’s what I want from my first paranormal meetup: serious people.
At 7:00 p.m. on a Tuesday, the scheduled start time, I click on the Zoom link and wait to meet my fellow fantasm stans. Stantasms? I think, wondering if that’s a good way to introduce myself. I chuckle softly to myself. Easy there, old chap. Don’t come off too strong. Save it for next time... (even though cool members Ghost Wheel and Aexaus would probably love it).
The little icon in the Zoom window continues to swirl as I wait for the SDGPG founder—a guy named Dan—to let me in.
I wonder what Dan does for a living, and what sort of person creates a paranormal group on Meetup. I determine that he’s probably a person who just works to fund his interests, which is ghost stuff. Based on that assumption, I develop a deep respect for Dan. Props to people who can balance work with their passions.
The clock hits 7:05 and the little icon is still spinning. Nobody has let me into the Zoom yet.
Ah, fashionably late, I think. Classic sign of a cool group. Would I like it if the meeting started on time? Perhaps. But would I respect it? No.
I google images of spirit photography while I wait. So many orbs. Honestly, they’re the least interesting ghosts. I swear to god, if anyone mentions orbs in the meeting, I’m gonna hang up.
7:10. Okay, now I’m a little upset. Multiple scenarios enter my mind, and they all involve a secret meeting where I’m not invited. I just know they’re discussing a kind of new ghost that’s, like, really scary. I open Photoshop and make my own spirit photography. I don’t need to be part of any paranormal group. Look how much fun I’m having by myself.
7:15. Vengeful thoughts enter my head, not directed toward anyone in particular, especially not Dan or Claudia or Susan or Laura. I’m sure they all have their reasons for leaving me high and dry. Probably not good reasons, but reasons all the same.
7:20. The icon is still spinning. I google “imposter syndrome.” Not the first time in my life I’ve googled this (oh ho ho, not by a longshot), but it seems extra poignant now. Could it be said that imposter syndrome applies to ghosts, as well? Do ghosts feel the internal inadequacy for life? Am I a ghost?
7:25. I’m not mad anymore! I’m laughing, actually. Didn’t want to join the stupid Meetup anyway.
7:30. I finally, mercifully shut off the Zoom. If there is any connection between the paranormal and God, then I’ll never know. Because God is dead to me.
Later, I get an email from SDGPG with the rescheduled meeting time. No explanation of why they cancelled the first meeting. That’s fine. I hope they have fun talking about their little ghosts. I’ll never know. I’m not really into that stuff anymore.
AWKSD IS “...SMART...” SAYS THE MOUNTAIN GOATS
Last week I published the first entry in a series called “Is This Band Good?” which is an attempt to determine if bands are good using scientific, circumstantial and anecdotal evidence. I was shocked and thrilled when writer/musician John Darnielle—singer of The Mountain Goats and author of Wolf in White Van—tweeted it out, saying it was “smart.” I’ve been a big fan of that guy for a while, so you can only imagine how happy I was, and I’m already getting “‘...smart...’ - John Darnielle” etched into my tombstone. Anyway, a number of you subscribed based on that, so hi new friends, and welcome, and thank you. I’m planning to do “Is This Band Good?” once a month, so please stick around.
THE WEEKLY GOODS
Listen to this
I can’t help but be jealous of a musician like Jordan Krimston. Not only is he one of the best drummers in San Diego, having played in bands like Weatherbox, Crasher and New Miss Buddha (to name a few), but he’s also one hell of a songwriter, as evidenced by Bushwhacking, his new album coming out on Friday. Bushwhacking gently slays—an indie-pop/emo-revival gem that reminds me of the best songs by Hotelier, Weezer, Pavement and Saves the Day with a little bit of Menomena experimentation rippling through. It’s earnestly playful, yes, but there’s enough complexity running underneath to keep me hitting repeat (it’s also a refreshingly concise album with high replayability). I should probably stop listening before the jealousy consumes me, but I can’t. Get it this Friday at Krimston’s Bandcamp or Half Way Home’s website. And check out the amazingly vibrant video for one of the album’s singles, “Rooster.”
Over at PACIFIC Magazine, I wrote about gaining profound insight into how I deal with change via two experiences: one involving cat piss and one about finding old high school papers. I’ve been thinking a lot about change in relation to how we, as a society, can avoid repeating the past four years, and also how I can better myself. But for now all you get is an essay about cat piss, sorry. But you should read the cat piss essay.
Sad news: Farmer Bill Tall, the founder and owner of City Farmers Nursery in City Heights, died last week after a long battle with cancer. I live around the corner from City Farmers, and it never ceases to amaze me what he built in the heart of our city. And although I don’t have a horticultural bone in my body, I love going to City Farmers to say hi to the cow, chickens, goats, bunnies, and, yes, even the scary turkey when life feels stressful. I never really knew Farmer Bill himself, but it’s impossible to ignore the profound impact he’s had on this community. The Union-Tribune ran a very nice obituary for Farmer Bill, which talks about the farm’s intrepid beginnings and its current status as a San Diego institution, and you should read it. RIP Farmer Bill :(
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Julia Dixon Evans edited this post. Thanks, Julia. Go follow her on Twitter.