I am not Kenny Klein

I would like to take a minute to clear something up. I am not Kenny Klein.

I state this in the “About Me” portion of this blog, but some people are still confused. So I wanted to clear things up once and for all and talk a little bit about my more creative half.

I don’t talk all that much about my  personal life on this forum, I bring up New Orleans; I bring up personal moments that relate to entries; but mostly I use this blog to discuss things in Paganism that I find interesting or issues that fire me up. Paganism is a burning passion in my life, after all. And be warned, if you don’t want to read about my personal life and don’t have patience for a long rambling piece, this is not the blog for you.

This is the story of how Kenny and I met and came to be a couple.

My name is Lauren and I work for a library (and if you don’t think that isn’t very much like admitting that you’re an alcoholic, well, that simply shows that you’ve never worked in a library before).

I grew up in Newark, a blue collar town right outside of Columbus Ohio. I moved to Cincinnati to go to college and ended up living there for a long time. For the record, Cincinnati is another awesome river town with a lot of great art and music.

It was in Cincinnati that I met the Pirates; with that meeting, my life changed forever. While I had always known that I wasn’t Christian (my family is solidly Methodist), I didn’t realize until my late teens that there were other options out there. Of course I had heard of Wicca before, but it didn’t really occur to me that it was possible to seek it out, or that there was a larger Pagan community to explore. In central Ohio, it’s hard not get swallowed up by the overall Abrahamic religious vibe. But when I met the Eclectic bunch of Pagans who call themselves The Pirates, a whole new world opened up for me.

When the economic downturn hit Southwestern Ohio pretty hard, I knew that my job was no longer stable. It turned out that as they were downsizing my department, another job turned up in Columbus. I was sad to leave my friends in Cincinnati, but I reasoned that Columbus couldn’t be too bad. My parents were nearby, I had grown up there; and it was only two hours away from my friends, so I could still go back and visit everyone regularly.

There were certain flaws in my reasoning. Namely, I was miserable in Columbus. There were a few pirates that dotted the Columbus landscape, and I was lucky enough to spend some time getting to know them better. Between them and my Cinci family, I was generally kept on the desirable side of sanity. One of the Columbus Pagans runs a small festival that brings the Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati Pagans together in Central Southern Ohio: it was there that I met Kenny.

I did not like Kenny the first time I met him. Little did I know at the time, he was in the process of going through a frustrating break-up and was moving his life from Los Angeles to New Orleans. He had lived in New Orleans before Katrina, but had moved to L. A. to be near family afterwards. At the time, all I saw was an old curmudgeon who was quite content to mope in a corner of the kitchen and yell at the pirates for being too loud at his concert. (The pirates ran the kitchen and we had to put up with him all weekend; we were excessively loud at his concert).

Kenny did however connect with my best friend at that festival, and ended up staying with her and several of my other friends while he performed at the Ohio Renaissance Festival. He endeared himself to her, but I was still convinced of his overall curmudgeonliness. While he stayed with my friends, he gave them an open invitation to come down and stay with him in New Orleans whenever they wanted.

Now, at one point, the older generation of the pirates lived in New Orleans for several years. For various reasons, they ended back in Cincinnati, but we of the middle generation had been fueled with many stories of the “good ol’ New Orleans days” and of course we all wanted to visit. I had been trying to get to New Orleans for years and every time I tried, plans fell through.

In early December of 2010, my friend called me up and asked me if I wanted to go to New Orleans. The conversation went something like this:

Friend: “Hey! We were thinking about taking a vacation to New Orleans over Yule, want to go with us?”
Me: “Of course!”                                                                                                                                                                                                   Friend: “One small thing…”                                                                                                                                                                                       Me: “What?”                                                                                                                                                                                                          Friend: “We’re going to stay with Kenny Klein…”                                                                                                                                               Me: “*Sigh” I suppose New Orleans is worth putting up with HIM, fine.”

And so, on December 16th, 2010, we set out on the thousand mile road trip from Columbus to New Orleans for an extended weekend.

We drove all night to get there. I remember stumbling out of the car, sleep deprived and rumpled in my sweats, simply wanting to sleep for a few hours. I was even beyond caring that we were staying at Kenny Klein’s house or that I was actually in New Orleans.

Kenny will tell you that he opened the door in time to see me come stumbling out and that he was struck with how cute I was and with the fact that he didn’t remember me at all from the festival. (Not surprising; at the festival, I avoided him like the plague). My friend had warned him that I shared no love for him at all, but that I had promised to be polite. Great start, right?

Over that long weekend, I was struck by the huge difference between the man I had met at the festival and the man that I met in New Orleans. In New Orleans, he welcomed us with open arms into his home, spent the entire weekend showing us around the city and was just, in general, a warm and lovely host.

We returned to Columbus and I didn’t really expect anything to happen with the connection that he and I had made. I was a thousand miles away, there is a thirty year age difference between us, and how in the world would something like that work anyway? But…he started writing me and I wrote back and soon I found myself driving to New Orleans again; this time, by myself.

The first time I came to New Orleans, I knew that it was the city where I wanted to live. So with Kenny writing me, I took a chance and started applying for jobs. I figured, if nothing else, I’d have a friend in New Orleans to help get me through the move and I wouldn’t be entirely alone when I moved a thousand miles away from home by myself. Kenny graciously offered to allow me to move in with him, thinking that I could watch his apartment for him while he was away on his annual summer tour, and then when he returned,I could get my own place. (Kenny says his evil plan was to convince me to stay with him all along, but he and I were both too realistic to think that we would work out in this fairly impossible scenario). Fortunately (unfortunately?) in the midst of all this, I found him to be the love of my life. Needless to say, I never did get my own place when he returned from that tour…

For those of you who don’t know who Kenny Klein is, Kenny has been in the Pagan community for over thirty years. He and his  first wife Tzipora are responsible for spreading the Blue Star tradition of Wicca across the U.S. and Kenny was one of the very first Pagan musicians of the modern era. Moon Hooves in the Sand, Kenny and Tzipora’s first recording, which Kenny generally shudders over now, was pretty groundbreaking at the time. It is one of the first recordings of Pagan liturgical music (if you want to hear really bad recordings of the music that makes up Blue Star ritual, go listen to it). And they did something that no one else had done before. Pagan music was not readily available to the public when they started out. While Kenny and Tzipora didn’t work out in the long run, and their break-up is the stuff of legends now, their music and the tradition they spread has had a lasting effect on the overall Pagan community.

Kenny will tell you even now that he never foresaw himself being a Pagan musician. He grew up in New York in the 80’s punk scene and hung out with bands like the Beastie Boys and the Bad Brains and played at the infamous CBGB’s. As a teen, he struggled with Judaism and searched for something greater. He went to his first Wiccan ritual at The Magical Childe in New York City and as they say, the rest is history. He has been a Wiccan Priest for nearly thirty five years now. Kenny is one of the figures from that second generation of Paganism that took what Gardner and the first generation had started and really spread it around the U.S. for the first time. He was and is close with figures like Oberon Zell, the late Issac Bonewits, the Farrars and many other influential Pagans of his era.

Kenny with Hair in the 80's Punk scene

Kenny with Hair in the 80’s Punk scene

Kenny is a pretty polarizing figure, both in Blue Star, the tradition he helped found, and in the larger Pagan community. A lot of people in the Blue Star tradition itself don’t like Kenny at all and get upset with what they see as being his old fashioned viewpoints. A lot of them will tell you that he has left the tradition and doesn’t know what he’s talking about. A lot of other people find him to be loud and obnoxious. He is pretty open with his viewpoints, whether you like them or not.

A lot of other people sneer at us and question our age difference. They see me as the little girl he’s been able to seduce. Anyone who thinks this has probably never met me.

So here’s the deal: When people mistake my writing for Kenny (who has four books in print), it’s pretty frustrating. While he and I are a couple, and I agree with many of his ideas, my thoughts and especially my writing are my own. And while I’m lucky that my infamous boyfriend is willing to promote my writing, it doesn’t mean that he’s secretly the one actually writing it. Whenever I see someone congratulate him on a blog of mine, I get this image of Kenny in a bad wig, hunched over my laptop, looking around sneakily.

Through Kenny, I have gotten to travel all over the U.S. and I’ve been able to go to Pagan festivals and gatherings of all kinds. I have gotten to meet many fabulous Pagan figures, and I get to be privy to a lot of the secrets and the politics that make up the Pagan community. Despite being brought to Wicca by my relationship with Kenny, I am forging my own presence in this greater community.

I also get judged by Kenny’s past decisions (which weren’t always great) and his past wives (which for the most part have been a tableau of mental disorders). I guess that can’t be helped. I have been told I am a welcome relief by some who have gotten to know me.

It frustrates me that often people can’t simply be happy for two people who finally found a happy relationship together.

At the end of the day, controversial, infamous, annoying, outlandish or anything else, Kenny Klein is my S.O. I chose him and kept him, no matter what he wants to tell you. Accept that we are an unconventional couple or don’t accept us at all. Neither of us are exactly what you would call everyone’s cup of tea.

Either way, when you read my blogs, be aware: I am not Kenny Klein. I just happen to live with him.

Kenny and I in Salt Lake City 2011

Kenny and I in Salt Lake City 2011

A Pirate’s Packing List for Festival

Fancy Corset

Leather Corset

Plain Corset

Bustier

Pantaloons

Multi-pocket Belt

Nipple Shields

Pirate Shirts

Pirate Hat

Regular Hat

Sashes

Lacy see-through dress

Ribbon Skirt

Victorian Skirt

Multiple skirts for layering

Vest

Coyote Tail

Tall Leather Boots

Short Leather Boots

Thigh-high boots

Sandles

Assorted hippie dresses

Festival Pants

Eyeliner

Shower Kit

Traveling Altar

Altar Tools: pentacle and scourge, incense, bell, athame, matches, 3 white candles, 1 red candle, wand, candle snuffer, small candle, water dish, salt dish, salt, item that symbolizes the God, item that symbolizes the Goddess, chalice, cakes plate, Broom, Staff

Ritual Robe

BOS

Bug Spray/Sunscreen

Mandolin

Washboard

Tarot Cards

Pillow

Rum

Whiskey

Abita Strawberry

More Whiskey

Flask

(Camping gear provided by the itinerant musician that you live with and who is already on the road ahead of you).

‘Nothing for them except subjection and plaiting their hair’.

“One doesn’t become a witch to run around being helpful either…. It’s to escape all that – to have a life of one’s own, not an existence doled out to you by others, charitable refuse of their thoughts, so many ounces of stale bread of life a day.”

~Lolly Willowes, or The Loving Huntsman, Sylvia Townsend Warner

Sylvia Townsend Warner

Sylvia Townsend Warner

If you’ve never read Lolly Willows, or The Loving Huntsman by Sylvia Townsend Warner, you should run out and find yourself a copy immediately. This book isn’t (necessarily) a Pagan book. It is an early twentieth century novel looking at the role of women in English society. Laura, or Lolly, the main character, is a spinster who casts off society’s expectations and eventually makes a pact with the devil. “If women, Townsend Warner implies, are denied access to power through legitimate means, they will turn instead to illegitimate methods – in this case to Satan himself, who pays them the compliment of pursuing them and then, having bagged them, performs the even more valuable service of leaving them alone.” (Sylvia Townsend Warner: the neglected writer) While modern witches have nothing to do with Satan, this book has always struck a chord within me and when I reread it, which I do every year or so, I’m reminded again and again about why I became a witch.

“If she had been called upon to decide in cold blood between being an aunt and being a witch, she might have been overawed by habit and the cowardice of compunction. But in the moment of election, under the stress and turmoil of the hunted Lolly as under a covering of darkness, the true Laura had settled it all unerringly. She had known where to turn…. She was a witch by vocation. Even in the old days of Lady Place the impulse had stirred in her. What else had set her upon her long solitary walks, her quests for powerful and forgotten herbs, her brews and distillations?”

I never felt I belonged in our church. My parents had to bribe me with coloring books and trips to MacDonald’s to get me to go. And according to my father, they just quit going to church after the bribes quit working and I started throwing screaming tantrums. Keep in mind that I had parents who didn’t let me get away with tantrums. I still have a healthy dose of fear for what my parents might say to me if I screw something up too badly. I don’t remember these tantrums, but they must have been pretty spectacular for my school-teacher parents to give in to me. I can’t think of any other instance in my entire life where I have done anything similar. I’m not a tantrum sort of person. I’m the “so-quiet-you-forget-they-can-actually-speak” sort of person.

I never found anything in a church that called to me; I never felt the divine in the church. But I knew no alternatives. When I left being Christian, I thought that there was really nothing else to pursue. I knew that the divine was real, I knew it existed; I had felt it when I walked in the woods of my childhood. Presences of things that I couldn’t explain had always been there. And, as I’ve mentioned before, my family is chock full of witches in denial. I didn’t know enough to call it Paganism at the time, but I started thinking about the divine as the Other. It was something that I could sense, call on,try to somehow explore. This helped bring me back into a spiritual balance.

Just a usual gathering of pirates…

It wasn’t until later, when I started living with a Pixie, that I was confronted with Paganism. The Pixie was an eclectic who was willing to put names to things and remind me to do the polite thing, like leave offerings of rum out to appease certain deities at the right moment. I found a great deal of peace around her altar, and a sense of comfort in thinking that she knew what was going on. Her knowledge of Paganism was slowly able to bring my sense of the Other into a concept that I could express. At this time I also found the Pirates, which was just as enlightening. The Pirates are a very eclectic Pagan bunch whose thirst for knowledge is unparalleled. It was through this group of wonderful people that I was finally beginning to learn the names of things; to know that the thoughts and feelings that I had had as long as I could remember where not as crazy as I had always thought. And while Pixie and I have not spoken in a long time, and I don’t know if we will again or not, I will always be grateful for the many wonderful things she brought into my life.

“She was changed, and knew it. She was humbler, and more simple. She ceased to triumph mentally over her tyrants, and rallied herself no longer with the consciousness that she had outraged them by coming to live at Great Mop. The amusement she had drawn from their disapproval was a slavish remnant, a derisive dance on the north bank of the Ohio. There was no question of forgiving them. She had not, in any case, a forgiving nature; and the injury they had done her was not done by them. If she were to start forgiving she must needs forgive Society, the Law, the Church, the History of Europe, the Old Testament, great-great-aunt Salome and her prayer-book, the Bank of England, Prostitution, the Architect of Apsley Terrace, and half a dozen other useful props of civilization. All she had to do was go on forgetting them. But now she was able to forget them without flouting them by her forgetfulness”

I was very happy as an Eclectic. In fact, having had some very bad run-ins with Wiccans throughout the years, I was fine with keeping to my solitary nature and doing my own piratical thing.

The S.O. and I in Salt Lake City. Religulous anybody?

And then I made the mistake of falling in love with not just a Wiccan, but an extremely staunch Wiccan. I have just written a column for the Pagan Household about this, but I’ve never really explained it here.

My S.O. and I do not live a conventional life. There’s a thirty year age difference between us. If you had told me five years ago that the love of my life was going to be an itinerant musician who was thirty years older than I am, I would have laughed you right out of town.While he and I don’t usually notice our age difference, the society that we live in certainly does. Even in New Orleans, it generally makes eyebrows raise and prompts some very inappropriate questions. And of course there’s always the old stereotype of the older man taking advantage of the younger woman. If anything, I take blatant advantage of him (which I openly admit to).

In my daily life, I run the acquisitions department of the library of a major Southern University. I work the usual sort of eight-to-five hours and bring in a steady paycheck with benefits. However, I refuse to give up being myself. I know a lot of people that cover up who they are when they are in the “real world”. I always live in the “real world”. My real world simply happens to include the fact that I am also a witch. My fantasy life is my actual life.

“’They say: ‘Dear Lolly! What shall we give her for her birthday this year? Perhaps a hot-water bottle. Or what about a nice black lace scarf? Or a new workbox? Her old one is nearly worn out.’ But you say: ‘Come here, my bird! I will give you the dangerous black night to stretch your wings in, and poisonous berries to feed on, and a nest of bones and thorns, perched high up in danger where no one can climb to it.’ That’s why we become witches: to show our scorn of pretending life’s a safe business, to satisfy our passion for adventure.”

If you had then told me five years ago that I would start my path towards initiation in a Wiccan tradition this year, I would have laughed at you even harder. Until my S.O. came along, I had not had a lot of good run-ins with Wiccans. And as I said in my column, watching my mother exist in a religion that she didn’t really seem to believe in had always made me angry. I swore that I would never be the girl who converted for my partner’s sake. And I also know that age old argument about who can and cannot claim to be a witch. For this, I will continue to claim my old eclectic view. Anyone can be a witch. Being a witch really has nothing to do with what tradition you follow or your level of initiation. That whole year and a day thing is just sort of ridiculous to me. I see its purpose for those who are new to the whole idea and need to see a whole year as a witch, but are you a witch or aren’t you? It really is that simple. I’m not saying that you should claim knowledge that you haven’t gained or claim initiations that you haven’t earned, but the title Witch itself is just so much more encompassing than a tradition. This is one thing that the S.O. and I will have to continue to agree to disagree on. For me being a witch isn’t tied to being Wiccan. It is a state of mind and of being that I will never leave behind me, no matter how Wicca works out for me in the long run. But being a Witch means facing ones’ thoughts and fears, and perhaps Wicca is a step in this direction for me.

Laura cries ‘Nothing for them except subjection and plaiting their hair’. The dullness of everyday life for women ‘settles down on one like a fine dust, and by and by the dust is age, settling down […] there is a dreadful kind of dreary immortality about being settled down on by one day after another’.

At the end of the novel Lolly Willowes Laura agrees to sell her soul to the devil in exchange for ridding her of nuisances and letting her live a peaceful existence. I have not sold my sold my soul to Satan (or even believe in such a figure), but by becoming a witch, I have found peace in my own life. My life would never be complete ever again if I had to give up this feeling. I hate the end of the movie Bell, Book, and Candle. I can’t imagine falling in love in a world where the love of my life could not accept this side of me or that even by being a witch, I wasn’t able to love. I’ve had to compromise my religious beliefs a little for my S.O , but he has had to compromise a little for me as well. Together, we are an excellent pair. And together, we are both witches of an excellent sort.

Boundaries

This week marks my year anniversary for living in the amazing and wonderful place that is New Orleans.

Last year was my year without boundaries. I was in love with someone who was too hurt from their own issues to be able to clearly see me. At the time I thought that I could put my feelings aside and just live in the moment. This had horrible consequences for my physical, emotional and spiritual selves. In the end, I walked away without saying anything. I knew he wouldn’t understand where I was coming from and I felt too stupid for having let myself get to that place to achieve anything productive from it. He has his own healing journey to follow and sadly, I don’t think that I’m a part of that. While I wish him well, in many ways I have been regretting the experience. I was never the sort of girl to have ridiculous crushes on people. I think the gods decided that it was time that I had just one. I think it was meant to teach me several very hard lessons and to put me on the path that I was meant to be on. The Gods are not always kind with their lessons.

I was lucky. I walked away from the whole experience in much better shape than I should have. I found someone who gave me the strength to recognize what I do really need and a city that I love dearly. My feet have been clearly set on a different spiritual path, I have a much better job and am much more financially stable, a man who I’m ridiculously in love with, and I am just in a better place in general.

The one thing that I regret in all of this, is that to find where I was meant to be, I had to move away from the Pirates. While becoming Wiccan has been a spiritual growth that is furthering the tools I have at my disposal, the Pirates were my first Pagan family and will always remain my family. The Pirates are a group of eclectic Pagans who identify as pirates in dress and manner, who practice Paganism, and being pirates, who steal from whatever Pagan source they see fit. While they’re probably a part of the reason that I wasn’t much more greatly hurt by last year and were part of the vehicle that brought me to New Orleans, alas, moving away from them was also the part of my process.

This year has been rough in its own way. If last year was my year without boundaries, this year has been my year to once again set those boundaries that I had always lived with. I’ve found it necessary to be more confrontational this year. It has been a year of recognizing a lot more of my warrior side. This has been my year for being an “aggressive, territorial bitch” (yes, this has been thrown at me several times). I’ve decided to embrace this aspect of myself and go with it. I refuse to be cowed again by the ridiculousness of other people’s behavior and to let myself get back to that place without boundaries.

This weekend, my best friend and sister Pirate, MadmadmadMadame Magda, ship’s scribe, came down to visit me. In the course of her stay I went and had my septum pierced. I had been thinking about getting this piercing for a while and figured that while my best friend was here to hold my hand, I might as well go and get it done. (For someone as covered in tattoos as I am, the piercings still get to me…ironic, no?) Later, we were sitting on my front stoop drinking mead and she asked me if I knew anything about the history of the septum piercing, which I don’t. She told me that she thought it was interesting that it was the body modification that I had decided to go with next since it was a symbol of warrior cultures and the closed ring was used to symbolize the code by which they lived their lives.

In the end I think this is a good thing, I’ve never thought of myself as someone that wouldn’t stand up for myself. In some ways, this has been something that has always defined me. But I was never someone who wanted to have the actual confrontation. I’m a very polite pirate at the end of the day. Confronting someone about something and getting things out in the open is much healthier, usually, than keeping it all bottled up inside of you. I think that having lost sight of that, I also lost sight of some of my spiritual practices. Maybe this is partly the reason that Wicca has come into my life; I’ve needed that more disciplined practice to pull myself back to what I was doing before the insanity of last year.

In the end, the Gods knew what they were doing, even when I didn’t. While last year certainly wasn’t a good year, it was the catalyst that brought me to my true place in life and for that, I am grateful. I am also grateful for the people around me who share their insights. Sometimes life lessons aren’t easy, but they serve a purpose and that, at the end of the day, is what counts the most.

Pirates

Pirates hanging outside the galley at Earth Warriors Festival 2010 (I’m the redhead in the back), if you would like to meet the pirates they assist with the Earth Warriors Festival and perform at Wisteria Summer Solstice.

Pirates

MadmadmadMadame Magda, Dirty-Dirty Alice and Me (The Luscious Lead Boots Lea)