I think, deep down, I have a little bit of Republican in me. On most days, it's easy to keep the anger at bay—these are the days where I can remain reasonable, thoughtful and considerate. But sometimes, something triggers me and I have an emotional reaction akin to Hulking out. The id takes over and I feel my compassion and empathy dripping through my fingers.
One thing that squeezes dark, conservative bile from my glands is the perceived infantilization of our culture. My immediate reaction to things like "safe places" and "trigger warnings" is probably the same as the staunch Trump supporter, and I regard most popular movies (i.e. Superhero culture) as our increasing desire for escapism over difficult or morally challenging art.
Considering that, I just about flip a table when I first hear about adult coloring. Of all the darn-tootin', crack-pot, bitter-clinging, pussy-footing liberal/hippie/hipster/woo-woo ideas, this one seems the worst. And even worser, I discover that I had friends who were into it. Is everything okay? I want to ask them. Like, with life?
Prejudices flow through my veins when I see the Facebook invite to the release of Adalaide Marcus' adult coloring book, Chakra Mandalas. Among the red flags on the itinerary is a group meditation meant to "blast our third eye off," and a point when we will enter our "COLOR vortex." I give them props for the hard sell, but this seems as overcompensating as referring to fruit as "nature's candy." Plus, the last time I blasted anything off, my wife forbade me from eating Frito pie ever again.
The red flags are ultimately what persuade me to go. It sounds so out of my element that that it's almost imperative to subject myself to it.
But on the day of the event, my lighthearted snarkiness has devolved into unfocused animosity. Earlier in the day, I received a slew of emails undermining my artistic vision on a project that I'd spent a lot of time on. That people wait until a Friday afternoon to send those kinds of emails is a testament to how courtesy is wasted on our culture. I arrive at the adult coloring party in a foul mood.
The release party is in a basement space at the You Are Here development in Golden Hill. Guests are already seated at the foldout tables, quietly coloring; some are nestled up on the pillows that line the perimeter. It's an oddly comfortable room, albeit heated to an ungodly temperature. I guess part of it is due to the number of people here—probably around 50. The adult coloring craze ain't no lie.
Maybe it's the warmth, but I feel a little bit of the day's frustrations slip away. Good God, is this what it feels like when your chakras align?
The woman at the door hands me the coloring book, and I immediately feel like a jerk for having reservations about the $25 price tag. I mean, yeah, that seems like a lot to spend on the coloring book, but the paper is high quality and Marcus' illustrations are dope. Having had a little experience in self-publishing and knowing the price of paper stocks, assemblage and reproduction, I'd guess that Marcus is probably only breaking even tonight.
Marcus traverses the crowd, engaging everyone with spritely energy. I realize that she's different than most artists whose events I've been to. For one, she doesn't surround herself with a too-cool-for-school entourage. It often feels like artists put on events just to hang out with the other elite, and the effect is alienating. She introduces herself and talks about her illustrations in a way that simultaneously doesn't condescend to someone who has no idea what a chakra is, and belies the stereotypical flightiness of someone who does. Simply, she's one of the most direct and genuine artists with whom I've interacted.
I order a drink—basically a shitload of vodka, Midori and Sprite—and take a seat at a corner table. A shaggy guy in a rainbow helicopter beanie walks up to me and asks, "Can I get you anything, brother-man?"
"No, I'm good," I say, endeared to his kindness. I think: bless your helicopter hat-wearing heart, brother-man.
Pretty soon, my table fills with strangers, including two goth girls who sit across from me—Anastasia and Vix. Vix has an impressive set of markers that she keeps in a black, plastic container with skull emblazoned on the top. I, on the other hand, have brought a fistful of loose Crayola Magic Markers. I don't even have red. Vix watches with disdain as I begin filling in one of the mandalas with gray. I surround the gray with purple and yellow and soon I've rendered Marcus' intricate design into a clashing garbage heap.
Helicopter beanie brother-man leads us in a group meditation. He takes us away from a big city, into a forest, where we become part of the roots. I don't exactly blast my third eye off, but it's not unpleasant either. More of the day's anger disappears.
Despite my sorry coloring skills, there's something very soothing about the activity. Enthusiasts advocate the therapeutic qualities of adult coloring books, and I begin to see what they mean. Plus, the adult coloring party turns out to be prime environment for an introverted extrovert like me: you get to be around people without having to talk to them.
Somewhere deep inside me, Republican Ryan is drowning in chakras. And that's fine.
Ryan is the author of Horror Business. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @theryanbradford