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Atlanta Vampire Alliance [AVA]  |  Vampires & Vampirism  |  Vampire Community & Subcultural Discussion (Moderators: Merticus, SoulSplat, Eclecta, Maloryn, Zero)  |  02.17.09 - True True Blood: As Pop Culture Sucks On Myths, Some Real Kansas... 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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« on: February 17, 2009, 09:41:49 pm »

http://www.pitch.com/2009-02-19/news/true-true-blood-as-pop-culture-sucks-on-myths-some-real-kansas-city-vampires-tell-their-stories/1

True True Blood: As Pop Culture Sucks On Myths, Some Real Kansas City Vampires Tell Their Stories
By Peter Rugg of The Pitch
Published on February 17, 2009 at 11:35 AM


Excerpt from the Real-Vampires Community Alliance Guide to Safer Bloodletting, written by Sylvere:

Before you begin, you should prepare a first-aid kit. Include antiseptic mouthwash, antibacterial ointment or spray for aftercare; Band-Aids or another brand of sterile bandages for punctures and small cuts; nonstick, sterile gauze pads and medical tape for larger wounds; and latex gloves. You should also purchase one or more puncture-resistant plastic containers to dispose of your sharp instruments or to store them for sterilization later. You can get these from medical suppliers. Take this kit with you if there is even the slightest chance you might feed. Like the Boy Scouts, you should always be prepared. We also advise taking a class in basic first aid in case of accidents. Learn as much as you can about anatomy so you'll know where the major veins and arteries are and be able to avoid them.

Peter Rugg reporter's notebook, 12/19/08:

I'm sitting in the Winstead's by the Plaza waiting for a group of people I've never met. It's the monthly meeting of Gathering Dusk, a Midwest meet-up club that's primarily for people who identify themselves as vampires.

I realize, when they arrive, that I wouldn't give half of them a second glance if I saw them on the street; the other half look as I'd expect a vampire to look in Kansas City in 2008: lots of black clothing and eyeliner and lipstick. For most, it's a good look.

The oldest is Sylvere, 38, who's dressed for comfort tonight rather than in gothic style. She has gone by the name Sylvere since high school, when she picked up the nickname because her fashion tastes favored silver tones. She wasn't immediately agreeable to a story on local vampires. "I won't be set up as the local freak of the week, if that's your angle," she had written me. "I have my family's welfare to consider."

She has dark hair and eyes, and her features are birdlike in a pleasant way. She has run this group for almost four years and has finally agreed to introduce me to local vampires. The press has approached her before. Because the online community of vampires isn't that big and not many are as willing as Sylvere is to out themselves, she has been approached by a British documentary crew, been called for interviews on programs like The Tyra Banks Show, and had her account of vampire life included in anthologies from new-age publishing houses.

Though they call themselves vampires, not all drink blood. They tell me that there are different classifications of people who genuinely believe they need more than food. The most common are psi-vampires, such as Sylvere, who say they drink in the energy from surrounding people and willing donors. Then there are the real blood drinkers, called sanguinarians. As they explain blood classifications to me, I wonder if their way of life would sound more acceptable if they presented it as a fetish rather than a health issue.

They describe it a health issue because most claim to feel fatigued if they don't have a decent feeding every once in a while. Bright sunlight can cause them to burn badly and quickly, though this seems a common problem for many light-skinned nonvampires, too. Religious icons don't bother them. That doesn't mean they don't have opinions about religion: When Sylvere says she hopes to work in publishing and I mention a local Christian company, she insists that hardcore Christians don't "agree with rational thought."

Fewer than 10 of us are sitting at a table in the back of the restaurant. On my left is Sylvere, who starts polling the group as to whether the 1950s-themed diner would be a good spot for future meetings. It has two of the group's most important requirements: open to all ages and open late. They vote yes.

To my right is Lisa, who requests the use of a pseudonym for this story, out of fear of what might happen if all her friends and family find out she occasionally drinks blood. She looks like the type of young woman who is unaware of how pretty she is. Next to her is her fianc้, who was a donor early in the relationship but isn't now.

"It just wasn't my thing," he says. To hear Lisa explain it, drinking is a necessary part of her life and happiness; while he can't help, he encourages her to find other donors — within certain restrictions.

"We've had girlfriends in the past that've been open to it. Some really, really want to do it," he says. "But there's a sexual thing going on there, so I don't want her doing it with a guy. Besides, two girls together is hot."

Lisa laughs and agrees.

"When I first started out, you'd hear about blood parties with people just cutting each other and people getting sick," Lisa says. "There was some really dangerous stuff going on. A lot of people were doing stupid things."

Most vampires find their donors in the people they date, regardless of whether they're after blood or a more nebulous type of nourishment. Lisa, one of the cautious ones, requires that a doctor screen her partners for diseases before she'll touch them.

Most also describe the process in erotic terms. "It doesn't have to be sexual," Sylvere explains. "But it helps if it is, because then you're producing a lot more energy." Sylvere's needs are met more simply. She says she sups bits of energy here and there. For a truly satisfying feed, she requires that they be creative people willing to let her hover above them awhile. Writers and artists are good. Musicians are best.

In the early days of Gathering Dusk, meetings consisted of Sylvere, Lisa and a couple of others hanging out in coffee shops, wondering if someone new would show up. Today the group, hosted at Meetup.com, has 94 members in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska, and meetings can be as large as two dozen vampires. It's also easy to find groups of people who are convinced they are vampire slayers, though they use online threats and harassment instead of trying to pound a stake through anyone.

"Those people have problems," Sylvere says. "I don't even want to deal with that."

On the vampire Web sites where communities are built, arguments continue: over the use of the name vampire; over the rules for membership; and over how much exposure vampires should have, given pop culture's recent fascination with them. As we sit in Winstead's, a few blocks away at the Cinemark movie theater, the film adaptation of the vampire teen-romance best-seller Twilight is in its second week of release. By the time I start writing this, Anna Paquin will have won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Television Series for HBO's vampire drama, True Blood. Though it won't be nominated, Let the Right One In, a Swedish film about 12-year-old vampires, has been getting some Oscar buzz as a possible contender in the Foreign Language Film category; it has already made some critics' "Best of 2008" lists.

Sylvere and Lisa are fed up with the trend. Every day, it seems, more kids are declaring themselves vampires and dropping their parents' cash at the mall on black designer T-shirts.

"A lot of people think they're vampires now," Sylvere says.

"I will say, though, reading those books True Blood is based on, they did their research," Lisa allows. "They even got the flavors of the blood types right."

"There are flavors?" I ask.

Lisa begins. "They got it right that the best one is ... "

"O negative!" they yell out in unison.

"Why is that good?"

"It's hard to describe," Lisa says. "It's sweet. It's like a dessert wine."

"How about AB positive?" I ask, curious if my own blood type — I'm the universal recipient — is any good. Lisa's smile freezes, and she rolls her head from side to side as if searching for a polite way to tell me that I'm unpalatable.

Sylvere scoffs. "Tastes great, less filling."

E-mail from Sylvere to Rugg, 1/14/09:

If I hear one more fan girl wax dreamy about how she's destined to be the future Mrs. Edward Cullen, I think I might scream. Human fascination with vampires isn't new. However, instead of the horrific, inhuman and debauched yet alluring creature found in folklore, the vampire of modern pop culture is beautiful, sexy and complicated. Vampires no longer rape and kill. They seduce and feed on willing participants.

This is a double-edged sword. More people are willing to be donors, but there are more vampire groupies with romanticized notions of escaping their mundane lives by joining the ranks of the children of the night. We don't all walk around sporting fake fangs (Vampire Grillz? OMG, spare me!) or dress like we raided Bela Lugosi's closet. Some of us look like punk rockers and some like bankers. Some of us are BDSM fetishists and some are straight-laced. The vampire community is diverse. The stereotypes apply only to a few, and the rest wouldn't stand out in a crowd. Nine days out of 10, I look like a soccer mom. The other vampires are threatening to revoke my membership card! Being a vampire doesn't make you rich, beautiful and powerful. We still work, go to school, raise families, worry about the economy and curse corrupt politicians. If only the Hot Topic crowd would grasp that concept.

I've spent more than a decade educating people about the differences between the myth and the reality of life as a vampire using a discussion forum on Yahoo, called the Real-Vampires Community Alliance, and at Gathering Dusk on Meetup.com. When I first joined Kansas City Coven (the former name for Gathering Dusk), it wasn't user-friendly, and we seldom got more than one or two people at the meetings. We went through a couple of sponsorship changes without improving attendance, so I volunteered to organize events.

I changed the group's description to attract people who have a sincere interest in the vampire community. It's tailored to discourage anyone looking for a fan site or role-playing game. Nothing against fans or gamers, but there are other groups meeting that need. I also changed the name to reflect a more inclusive attitude and expand the service area. The Midwest isn't the most welcoming area for those who don't conform to the status quo, so it's a risk to "come out of the coffin." Society assumes someone claiming to be a vampire is either a head case or an overzealous fan. No one cares why we use the word. Gathering Dusk provides a friendly, low-drama atmosphere, where people can feel comfortable being themselves. Growth has been slow but steady. We've got a good core group, and attendance ranges between five and 20 members for the regular monthly meeting.

The media have taken notice of the public's interest in the vampire community, and I can hardly spit without hitting another reporter wanting to document the "life of a real vampire." Far too many of them are "freak of the week" shows like Hannity, Tyra and WEtv's Secret Lives of Women. It was good to see Hannity get some respectable members of the community on his show, but no one expects impartiality from that guy. WE contacted me to do their show through Meetup.com, but I turned it down when the producer made it clear that they favored sensationalism over reality. My life as a wife, mother and university student isn't "visually interesting" enough for cable television. Some reporters have treated modern vampirism as an interesting, if eccentric, outgrowth of whatever book or movie happens to be in vogue. Those pieces are seldom accurate and more often annoying. The Independence podcast Nightwatch — an Internet radio show dedicated to unexplained phenomena — is one of the few interviews I've done where I felt the focus was more on getting the facts than catering to the fantasy.

Rugg reporter's notebook, 1/09/09:

When I see Lisa today, the black lipstick and gothic clothing are gone. She looks like any other 21-year-old woman living in Overland Park and going to school at the University of Kansas. When she finishes school, she wants to be a writer. She's trying to find a new place to live before the semester starts, and her eyes are half-closed — she looks weary — when I meet her.

It has been months since she has had a donor. She and her fianc้ have a girlfriend now, and they've talked about it with her, but the girlfriend is apprehensive.

"I think she's interested in it, but she's not ready yet," Lisa says. "We don't want anyone to do anything unless they want to and they're ready."

Lisa started finding donors when she was in high school. At the time, she was in therapy, still recovering from a childhood sexual assault. She had also been in hospitals for a range of health problems, including asthma and waking seizures. She hung out with the goth kids and other people who were considered freaks. Looking back, she says she was almost motherly.

"I was good at helping people with their problems. I wanted to help everyone and be there for everyone — very empathetic. I still am. I knew I was different. I just couldn't quite say how."

The answer presented itself at a friend's house one night when she was 15. The friend's boyfriend immediately sized up Lisa, somehow intuitively understanding that she would share his tastes. After that, she drank every few months if she had a willing donor. She would make the cuts herself, always sure to avoid the major arteries. The back was a good place to cut because the scars would be hidden. Her favorite spot was the upper arm, where the cuts could be covered by a shirt and the blood flowed more easily than the forearm, as long as she agitated the wound with her tongue.

"I guess I usually drink about a pint," she says.

"How would you know?" I ask.

"I sort of measure with my mouth."

She found Sylvere online and started attending Gathering Dusk. Sometimes people come who think they're vampires but really aren't. Sometimes people come out of curiosity. "One time we had this 16-year-old girl who just wanted to ask questions. Her mom came with her, so that was cool."

As for outing herself to potential donors and friends, she usually gives them one layer of information about herself, then another, testing them with each new revelation.

"I'm a pretty alternative person." She's into BDSM, polyamorous relationships, "lots of different stuff that isn't really accepted yet. So if I can open up about one of those things, and you're cool with it, there's a good chance you'll be cool with the rest of it."

"I don't want to be offensive," I say, "but a lot of people would think you were in need of psychiatric help. A lot of people would say, this is a damaged person and they're escaping into fantasy. What do you say to that?"

Lisa thinks it over for a moment.

"I can't change anyone's mind. People think what they want to think. I just have to go by what I feel is right in me."

When I get home, I call the Hot Topic in Zona Rosa.

"Hey, I'm looking for vampire fangs. Do you guys sell something like that?"

"One second, let me check if we've got any left," the clerk says. I hear a dry sound like thin cardboard squares being shuffled in the background.

"Nope," he says. "We usually get a bunch of those around Halloween, and then when they sell out, that's it. They usually go pretty quick. But if you go to our Web site, you can order some from there."

"Just plastic? Or can I get gold fang grills, too?"

"I think just plastic."

"OK. I just ask because I'm interested in vampires. Like, if I was a vampire and I wanted people to know I was a vampire ... I heard you could help out with stuff like that."

"Yeah, we can help you get into that. You just have to be a little more creative."

"Like what?"

"We definitely have a bunch of stuff that fits that vibe. We've got some jackets that are, like, not trench coats but black and kind of long. Those would definitely let people know you were a vampire."

"Cool. Are there a lot of people asking about that stuff?"

"It's not as big as it used to be. Lots of kids are still into it, though."

"Real vampires or just kids into the look?"

"Uh, ha, I don't ask."

I thank him and hang up.

Later, I go to the kitchen faucet and fill up a glass of water and drink. I don't swallow, and when my mouth is full, I spit into a measuring cup. It comes exactly to the half-cup line.

E-mail from Lisa to Rugg, 1/16/09:

Every time was different, but that's part of the fun. Some of them writhed with me, clearly as excited as I was. Others stared at me calmly. Sitting here, I can't remember now what they were thinking, but I know that in those moments I could feel them, could tell from their breath, from the way their muscles tensed and relaxed, exactly how they felt. I miss them in those moments, regardless of how close or far they now live, or how loyal or two-faced they ended up being. In those moments they understood me, respected me. And they gave me such beautiful gifts. There are few things I can think of that are more precious than one's own lifeblood.

And, of course, there's the first time. Hanging out at a friend's house after school, her new boyfriend came over. He saw me and knew. And I knew it about him, too. "I can always smell one of my own," he said. But I was working with an incomplete lexicon. All he had to do was say the word "vampire." Suddenly every fumbled detail of my growth clicked into place. Yes. Vampire. Of course, I knew that. I knew that. So he set about showing me how to make the proper incision on my boyfriend, who also knew. Anyone who knows me knows. And once it was open, there was very little for my instructor to teach me. I drank, and shuddered, and awed at how energized I felt. So different from the girl who spent her life in hospitals. After, I bandaged him up tenderly and brought him some juice to replenish his system, a practice I still continue with any donor. Was it weird? Sure. But just like when I feed now, it was the most natural thing in the whole world.

When my instructor was surprised by my capacity for tenderness, I really should have taken that as a warning sign. It didn't take me long to "smell" out others, but I wasn't prepared for their egos, their disregard for safety, their cruelty. Sure I stuck around with them for a while, needing to be around others who understood the emotions involved in drinking. It didn't take long for me to choose solitude. Maybe that's why I avoid getting involved in the big mature vampire organizations. Too many vampires trying to write the rules and definitions for us all.

Isolation is no picnic, though. I had to learn to deal with this hunger on my own. I had to lick my lips and look away when the school had its blood drives. All of this while still finishing high school. Of course, high school seems like a piece of cake now, after dealing with my parents' divorce, taking care of my siblings and maintaining a GPA that keeps the honor-society invites rolling.

But it's not like I can come out of the coffin now. Everyone is running around infatuated with the idea of vampires, but those same people would be the first ones to commit me, to blame it on abuse or chemical imbalances or an unhealthy imagination. I've heard people use hair color as evidence of being a Satanist, so I know they'd find a reason. Still, I find myself making conversation with these people, hearing them gush about us like we were movie stars, wishing desperately to say, "That's me. That's me that you like so much." It gives such a false sense of relief, like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. I should really stop it. But I probably won't.

I worry about them. They all have this romantic notion of what it's like. Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't give it up for the world — it's who I am — but it's not all candlelit graveyard dances. If I don't feed, it doesn't kill me, but I feel constantly fatigued. Several times, I've slept for 12 hours without feeling rested. Not all of us are as nice as I am, and I worry that others could be taken advantage of — if not by one of our less reputable members, by a more human kind of predator using the persona to his advantage. Even excluding that, the number of blood-borne diseases is staggering. Would they think of having donors provide medical proof of health? Would they sanitize their knives? Would they remember that blood is precious? I don't know.
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SoulSplat
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« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2009, 12:19:22 pm »

True Blood posters

LINK: http://www.flickr.com/photos/36464234@N08/?saved=1
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