A Normal Blog

I have been meaning to start a blog for a while. It took a few years of mulling it over, as well as getting over my aversion to talking about myself, but here we are. After writing a number of motivational letters for applications and such, where I had to talk about myself, I think I’ve gotten over my fear. It has started to become Normal.

Central Missouri
Renaissance Festival
, 2021. Photo by Polina Chelpanova

As a Time-Traveling Space Pirate Extraordinaire, I obviously have lived many disparate lives, while wearing a plethora of hats, many of which have feathers stuck into the bands with funky fibulae to fix them in place. My hat, or rather Viking helmet, now rests firm and comfortable, as I am about to set sail for Swedish shores to study Iron and Viking Age archaeology, ever so much closer to my моей любимой, who crafted for the Kaptain a wonderful website:

KVG

If you haven't notice, I like long sentences; I like clauses that hurt the brain to make sense of, so get over it, or quit reading, cause I cannot help myself but to write and write and write until my fingertips are sore from pecking like a chicken on a farmyard green, because I never learned to type right. 

My study of history began in a classroom at school, but not a history class. It was in Bible class that my eye for historical detail was honed sharp. I attended church schools in Memphis, TN after being homeschooled for my youngest years by a very religious mother. She was trying to keep us out of trouble. She was trying to keep us off the streets. The public schools were bad; actually, atrocious is a better term. Not only was education the last thing on any of the student or teachers minds but there was sex, violence, and drugs. I did not understand why Granny had to pay for private school. My neighborhood friends were nice, if a bit uncouth.

At the schools I attended as a child, I was taught that the word of god was sacred, that the holy history told within the Bible was infallible. I eventually learned that this was not true and began to question notions of truth. What they taught me in Bible class would end up causing me to follow down a path my teachers and parents would never have expected or wanted. The bitterness left in my mouth from their cramming religion down my throat for so many years turned my eyes toward history. I wanted to know the truth. A truth which was infallible, because that was the only truth I had ever known.

Kaptain Viciorious in Knoxville 2009. Photo by Andrea Stockard

After years of studying history, I now know that this goal is unachievable. I know that we can never know what happened in the ancient past, but it does not stop my imagination from trying, from wandering into the dimly lit corridors of a past unknown and unknowable. My mother and Bible teachers did not know what they had armed me with. They did not realize the spark of curiosity which they had ignited. They did not see the blade which they had begun to craft. Both my rejection of religion and my scholarly perspective of the past has led me into studying ancient history. At first, I sought to avoid Christianity in my studies (a quite impossible feat). I began my studies study Classics and the Near East and have shifted into the early Middle Ages as I fell deeper down the rabbit hole.

I love to pick apart the cultures and religions of the Greeks, the Romans, the Phoenicians, the Celtic and Germanic tribes, as well as Turkic steppe nomads. As history trundles forward like an uncontrollable wagon rolling down a steep him, I have always encountered Judaism and Christianity.

Iron Age artifacts from Northern Europe

Whatever your interests are, you cannot control the unavoidable truths of your own past. I try to embrace this avoidance of Judeo-Christian religions now by skirting the edges of known history, by looking for the grey areas of scholarship, such as the Viking Age in Russia. This strange road of love, hate, and god has led me to my current projects of studying history that has no written history, of looking at the dirt and asking questions of her.

I do not avoid Christianity anymore, as I now have a purpose and goal for my skeptical eye of scholarship. I am happy to wade through pages of church history in Latin. The Torah and Koran both sit on the same shelf as my Bible (apocrypha included), but so does Joseph Campbell’s Masks of God. The experience of Bible class was the first shaping of my mind-blade’s edge, while the years of isolation and rejection were the forge. Crafted into a being of scholarly purpose and drive, I now step forth into the world honed as a blade to carve my own path into academia. But it was a long journey from Anti-Atheism to Antiquities.

Over the past five years, I shifted out of the Antiquing Phase of my life and into an Antiquities Phase, as I returned to University of Memphis after a seven years hiatus from higher education. However, I didn’t choose to study something Normal, with lots of researchers available, but rather the Varangians on the Rivers of Russia from 750-900 CE.

Specific and obscure, just my style.”

-Kaptain Viciorious, after falling off of a flying contraption of dubious ingenuity, devised by a two-toned lizard man with speckled eyes and a bad temper, likely a ploy to kill the Time-Traveling Space Pirate for stealing his microscopic silly-string containers meant for a party which was that very night, to his near death upon the slimy surface of a surreal world named Ganzillogimo.

I took off a wide-brimmed fedora worn through with wandering and a goose feather through its Celtic-knot pin, and placed a slightly nicer stingy brim fedora with a pheasant flume fixed tightly to the side of the crown with a 1967 New York pin of a beautiful woman.

Kaptain Viciorious in Knoxville, 2009

Leaving my vintage vagrancy behind and closing the doors to Konrad’s Korner was not an easy task. As many of you know, I’ve spent the last ten years selling antiques and vintage wears in booths at Antique Warehouse, as well as the Crosstown Flea Market for three years and Sheffield’s Antique Mall for two years. I started my business in the summer of 2011 when I moved back to Memphis, Tennessee from Knoxville. The myriad of antique artifacts was my refuge from my mistakes in the “K-Hole” that is Knoxville and an avenue back to normality.

Cooperative Memphis fundraising event at Overton Park in Memphis, TN. 2015.

In my undergraduate studies I collected much of the printed data on my subject of interest. However, in the past few years ,in my pursuit of bridging the gap between academia and the public sphere, I have turned to more artistic means of representing the past, through historical fiction, for in what realm does the imagination lie, but within the strange miasma of religious studies, historical accounts, and archaeological evidences. Synthesized, these elements open a way to past cultures’ perspectives. Not the Normal academic route.

Which brings me to my fascination with the word, Normal. I strive against this definition. It is my nature as a Janus, a Gemini, if you believe in that sort of thing.

Normal: conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern; characterized by that which is considered usual, typical, or routine.”

Webster’s Definition

But I am anything but Normal.

The word normal was also used for describing colleges for training teachers since 1685 with the École Normale. Normal Schools sprang up all over the United States in the early part of the 20th century, one of which later became University of Memphis. The West Tennessee Normal School opened in 1912 with around 200 students and a $2 fee to attend. When I graduated with my bachelor’s in History from the University of Memphis in 2019 with 2,517 other students.

Moving to the area around the University in the fall of 2016, I found myself renting half of a small duplex on a quiet street named after one of the families who once owned the land the neighborhood was built upon, Carnes Avenue.

The neighborhood is known as Normal Station, for the trolley-train stop which once ended there at the school. The neighborhood is anything but normal despite its name. From the lady who walks a spotted potbellied pig around on an old, frayed rope to the graveyard with unmarked slaves graves half a block down the street from me, I had a plethora of fodder to begin writing creatively again. So, I have to thank this weird neighborhood. And what else would you do that with but with fiction!

I have several of these Noraml Station short stories published here.

A Short Promo for the Normal Station Project, 2018.
  • Email me if you are interested in the full copy of Part 1 to Normal Station. I have sold them at Memphis Zine Fest as small booklets so have printable pdf versions.

And what does all that creative writing do?

Well, it has made writing Normal for me! Over the past two years I’ve had poetry, fiction, and an academic article published. So, in a way I must thank Normality, West Tennessee Normal School, and the word Normal, though it is the very antithesis of my being.

More on my Time-Traveling adventures later. Hoping to post weekly with updates on my international travel as well as musings on my academic, creative, and kooky experiences.

Kaptain Viciorious at play, 2015. Photo by Nate Packard.

By Kaptain Viciorious Grimoire

A Timetraveling Space Pirate Extraordinaire who writes about 9th century Vikings and Varangians, fantastical worlds with floating cities, and 19th-20th century horror based in Memphis Tennessee, I am.

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