Category Archives: the spiritual misadventures of sean

Here Comes The Fat Controller, or, "Swingin’ Shiva"

Leviticus 19:28 “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”

“Jesus Christ, man – do you ever drink any water?”

My skin is taut. So taut, that it is almost impossible for someone to grab a handful of the flesh across my back, to pinch a chunk of it together. This is a problem, because this is a necessary part of the process. This is an even bigger problem, because in order for me to be able to follow through on what I have set out to do this evening, my flesh has to have some give in it.

There is no other way.

The date is May 12th, 2001. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. This evening marks five years to the day that my own mother passed away – May 12th, 1996 – which just so happened to be Mother’s Day of that year. Me being the always-suffering and mourning son, I’ve decided that instead of my usual routine of getting plowed on as many illegal substances as possible at one time and making blubbering, incoherent long distance phone calls to members of my family and ex-girlfriends in the middle of the night, I’m going to try something different this year.

Very different.

*****

For the last few months, I have been working with some very interesting people. I stumbled into this weird little world right as my latest attempt at fitting in in The Straight World had flamed-the-fuck-on-out. I had just lost my last gig working as the manager of some chain restaurant because I was so fucking irresponsible and fucked-up in the head that I couldn‘t even get to work on time anymore. My truck had also recently been repossessed – right in front of my boss, which I think helped lead him into making the decision to can my ass, which he did at four-thirty in the morning on a Sunday.

Like I said – I had by then somehow drifted into this very weird and alternate universe type of world. I had become friendly with some people in Phoenix who were pushing the envelope on a lot of fronts – “artists,” if you will. I was a member of an Internet community that was geared toward people who were into body modification, and through that site I was able to connect with some people locally. After spending some time with them, I was asked to help them with their businesses.

Anyway – that part doesn’t matter so much. What matters is that through these people, there were things that I once thought impossible now being shown to be not only possible, but suddenly plausible. I have always been one to sort of let The Universe guide me to wherever it was that I needed to be, and being around these people had shown me that there were plenty of people out there in the world who were doing something akin to what I had always done, albeit in very different manifestations.

I have always, from a very young age, wanted to separate mind and body. Whether it was through meditation, drugs, sleep deprivation, exercise, or even fasting – I was apt to give it a shot. I’d followed seers, shamans, medicine men, and every other type of charlatan out there in the world who had promises of being able to complete, or even come close to this type of separation.

Some of my new friends achieved this goal before my very eyes. I had witnessed some very intense things, and came to the realization as the anniversary of my mother’s death was inching closer on the calendar, that I was going to use this opportunity that The Universe was putting before me for something new and powerful. I was not going to waste this. I was not going to do as I mentioned earlier on in this Ramble and get loaded on whatever I could get my hands on. No, I was going to take this to a whole different level of mourning.

I was going to fly.

[This is the part of the Ramble where I warn you that if you are in any way a squeamish person, you might want to go on ahead and read someone else’s site and forget I ever posted this entry.]

So, after witnessing many flesh suspensions, I came to the conclusion that I was going to do one my damn self. My new friends did this type of thing almost every night, weather permitting. If you wanted to be hung in Phoenix, these were the people that were doing it. I had seen a few suspensions done as performances before I met these people, but they were always run by my new friends anyway. And now that I was amongst them on a daily basis, I was also able to witness private suspensions that happened.

I knew that this was what I wanted to do, and in my meditation earlier in the week, I was able to reach a place of clarity I had not been able to reach before – which was a good sign for me. After speaking with my friend who ran the suspension group, and explaining the circumstances behind my decision, it was decided that we would do this on Saturday night, in the privacy of his back yard. When he asked me how I wanted to “go up,” I asked him which method would constrict my breathing the most, as I was pretty convinced that in order to achieve the state of mind/body separation I was looking for, a lack of oxygen was imperative.

It was then decided that I was going to go up “suicide” style – with four large hooks through the flesh of my upper back. The four hooks would support all of my weight, and also lift my shoulders up and back, which would change the way that oxygen was flowing into my body. I had seen another friend do this very type of suspension about a month earlier, so I knew what to expect to a degree.

*****

The day I was to be hung, my then-girlfriend was acting up something fierce. She was young, and also someone who at that time in her life was struggling very much with being accepted by this crew of people. At one point during the day, she actually said out loud –

I don’t understand why you get to be the only one to suspend tonight? It isn’t fair. Your mother has been dead for five years. Get over it.

Obviously, my blood began to boil immediately. I tried very hard to stay within myself and let the words just slide away, because I wasn’t about to let her childish petulance get in the way of something that was very important to me – especially something that I was taking on in such a spiritual manner. She then asked me if she could call some of her friends, so that they could come and watch. I shot that idea down very quickly, and watched her go stumble over to the computer to pout about it.

I honestly didn’t care so much in the moment. I had much more important things on my mind.

*****

I am now sitting backward on a metal folding chair, as two of my friends are trying to grab up enough of a handful of my flesh to push a hook through it. They are struggling, because my flesh will not cooperate with them. Standing in front of me is the girlfriend of my friend who is in charge of everything. She is currently running the show, since The Universe struck him down with a terrible bout of food poisoning.

I took that as a sign.

She is holding my hands as the first hook pushes through. There is an audible pop as the hook comes through the other side of the lump of skin that my friends managed to grab hold of. I feel a little light-headed, so she shoves a handful of Skittles into my mouth, and wipes my face down with a paper towel soaked in rubbing alcohol. My then-girlfriend is standing in the corner, still pouting and acting petulant.

“One down, three to go – you hangin’ in there, buddy?”

I nod, and go back to chewing on the candy in my mouth, trying to focus on what I am about to do. In my lifetime I have already walked on hot coals and broken glass. In my lifetime I have already fasted for ten days. In my lifetime I have already taken peyote with a Navajo medicine man.

I understand that this will be different, but somehow similar.

*****

Three hooks later, and I am now standing outside in the back yard. One friend is on top of the roof, waiting for the signal to start cranking me up into the air from the two friends who are standing next to me. The hooks in my back are attached to ropes that are attached to an apparatus that is attached to a winch. I am smoking.

“You have to lean yourself forward a little bit, try and get a good stretch going so that the hooks loosen you up a bit. If you don’t do that, you’ll probably pass out as soon as you go up. Okay?”


I follow the advice given, and start to lean myself as far forward as I can. My friend’s girlfriend asked me if there was any music that I wanted to listen to, so I had her throw on Adam And Eve, by The Catherine Wheel. I loved that album. Perfect little songs. I imagined myself floating to them as I stretched myself out further and further, pulling the lines as tight as they would go. I was bouncing on the balls of my feet.

“I’m ready to go up, guys. I’m ready to go now.”

I can hear the winch cranking. I can feel the pressure in my flesh as the lines start to get tension in them. I can feel myself being pulled back and up. My two friends are standing on either side of me now, each one of them holding onto my hands as they inspect the lines and the hooks – to make sure nothing will go wrong.


*****

When you are weightless, nothing around you makes any sense. I can still hear the music, but it sounds like it is under water. I know that my breathing has changed, because the lights out here have dimmed. My feet are no longer on the ground, and nobody is holding my hands. The illusion of being held up is gone – I am hanging from hooks in my flesh.

Closing my eyes, I try to navigate the millions of thoughts that are being processed by my mind. There is no pain. All I feel is the pressure of my flesh holding my weight. For a brief second, my mind flashes to the possibility of one of the hooks popping through my skin, but I quickly squash that thought – my friends would not let that happen to me. They are taking this as seriously as I am. They all know how important this moment is for me.


When you are weightless, there is no time. A minute can be an hour. An hour can be a minute. What happens outside of your body is inconsequential. What happens inside of your mind is all that matters. In my mind, I am trying to find her. I know she is in here with me. I can feel her. I can almost smell her.

*****

When I open my eyes, everyone is staring at me. I am still hanging in the sky. It is raining, but none of the drops are hitting me. The rain is light. The ground below me is wet with it, but none of it is on my body. The air feels warm. Someone is talking in hushed tones, but I cannot make out the words. Looking up into the night, I can see a clear patch in the clouds, and I can see the stars.

“I’m ready to come down now. Thank you.”

When you are weightless, and your feet touch the ground again, it is a very awkward feeling. Almost like having sea legs – you just do not trust that the earth will stand still for you. When the initial contact is made, and the sole of your shoe touches the pavement for the first time, you feel something that I cannot even begin to describe with language.

Everything feels like it happened so quickly, but you realize you must have been up in the air for a while when you hear that the album is on the last track. Your friends have huddled around you quietly, offering you sips of water and another handful of candy to go with the cigarette you’ve asked for. You do not feel faint, even though they have all told you that you might.

If anything, you feel just right. As if you actually were able to accomplish what you set out to do.

*****

In retrospect, I am thankful that I took this journey. Would I do it again? I don’t think so. There is no need for me to revisit something that might cheapen the experience that I had with it – which was my main reason for doing it in the first place, to experience something powerful. Over the years, I’ve talked to some people about the experience, but mostly, I never really felt any reason to talk about it at great length. It was my experience. I am thankful that I was able to do this in a safe and emotionally supportive place – the people that were there with me will always have a little nook that belongs to them in my timeline.

If you find yourself ever wanting to take a journey like this, please do seek out someone who knows what the fuck they are doing. If you need to be pointed in their direction, let me know – I’ll get you to the proper people.

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Burning The Altars(Part 3 In A Series Of Spiritual Misadventures)

Time to re-engage all of y’all with my Spiritual Misadventures series. I know it has been many moons since we’ve visited this part of my life, so if you clicky that linky(Part 1 & Part 2) you can revisit the earlier installments and bring your ass up to speed…

The group of us were sitting around Rev. Sassypants’ living room, sipping on coffee and chainsmoking our misguided little lives away. He had made mention that dinner was going to be traditional French-Canadian holiday-type fare – meat pie and beets. I was pretty hungry, not to mention a wee bit HIGH from all of the incense that was used in the earlier Mass, so I was down to eat whatever.


Cindy, the employee of mine who had invited me into this entire exercise, was trying to explain to the rest of the group what it was like to work with someone like me on a daily basis. It was pretty funny to hear her regaling them all with tales of my workaday doings with the ragamuffin staff I had working over at my little restaurant. She spoke with a slow Southern Virginia drawl, which elongated and added breadth to words that were normally terse and concise – and that kind of shit is always instant comedy to me, being a Yankee and all that.

Scanning around the rest of the group, my mind made with a quick stereotype inventory – there was Cindy, the older, lost and lonely former Catholic who had pretty much nothing in the world other than her jobs(during the daylight hours, Cindy worked as a press operator for a printing company that I had once interviewed at, only to find out that all of the cats that they had working in the Pressroom were all ex-felons – thankfully, they didn’t hire me – although I still have no idea how she survived in that environment).


There was Moustache McGhee, the good Rev’s trusty sidekick, who looked like he had escaped from being a member of The Orphans from The Warriors – shifty and rat-like in his movements. Part of me wondered if he and Rev. Sassypants were lovers because of the way they communicated with one another without speaking. I soon came to find out that The ‘stache had been rolling with the Rev for fucking years, and that made sense to me – motherfuckers in close confines will always develop that preternatural communication skill set after enough time in the saddle together. I kept my one good eye on The ‘stache, as he set off all kinds of alarms in my head. Did. Not. Trust.


There was a younger, almost waif-like girl in the room, too. Her name was Heather, and she immediately came off as one of those girls who was afraid of not only her own shadow, but like the kind of girl who cries herself to sleep at night while listening to Loveline on the radio. In my head, the dots were already connecting that Rev Sassypants was going to try and push this poor girl off on me, even though one of the first things Cindy told me on our drive over there was that Heather had a boyfriend who was currently incarcerated for some shit that would have him out of the picture for a few months, but that he was usually a regular at these meetings. She was totally the Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club of the group, sneaking looks at me from behind her muzzle of curly bangs and pouty, too-bitten lips.


The other two people in the room were pretty inconsequential, as neither of them regularly showed up after that night. One of them, an older German woman named Greta, supposedly told the Rev that she was pretty sure that I was “willing her not to be there any longer” with my presence. Whatever. She was probably overcome with guilt every time the Rev mentioned me being a Jew, since she was old enough to have probably been around during the fucking Holocaust.


ANYWAYS…

Cindy is wrapping up her Tales of Brave Sean riff, when the Rev informs everyone that we’re going to all take part in dissecting my secrets and delusions, and that everyone will have a chance to ask me questions about my life and about who the fuck I am.

Great. Just what I always wanted – to play 20 Questions or Truth or Dare with a bunch of downtrodden “cult” members with low self-esteem. This was even better than getting caught on the receiving end of a handjob by my mother.


“Now, everyone remember – Sean is a guest here, so let’s not get too personal and scare him off, okay? Give the young man a chance to feel welcome before we really start digging!” – the Rev is in fine form at this point. I just watched him pour three fingers of Scotch into his coffee, and he had given me a sly little wink when he caught me peeking at him. We were already BFFs.


I’m not the kind of cat who shies away from answering questions from people – never have been. I kind of pride myself on always being “an open book” type of humanimal. But I have to admit that I was a little nervous when they started bombing me with queries about my life. I mean – how would any of you react if you were in a room full of oddball strangers asking you shit fifteen minutes after rolling through a High Mass in Latin?


It started out innocently enough, with questions about my upbringing, my family, where I grew up and all that type of standardized getting-to-know-you shit. As soon as I let my wall down a bit and relaxed, figuring that this was going to be the level of questioning and my initial fears were stupid as per usual, Reverend Sassypants dropped The Thermonuclear Ordinance on my monkey ass.

“When do you think you’ll forgive yourself for wasting so much of your spiritual energies on hating ‘The Church’?”

This motherfucker. Goddamn.


I quickly glanced over at Cindy, and I know the way I moved in that moment probably came off as accusatory, because she looked white as fuck. Spooked. I felt like she had let the cat out of the bag, and told the Rev all of the shit that came rolling off my tongue about wanting to “burn all the Churches to the ground,” so that people would stop hating and being exclusionary – because that was pretty standard Sean-speak after my mother passed away, especially considering the way I was treated by certain members of my family who were chin-deep in the Church. I felt angry and ashamed at the same time, which was nothing new to a Bungler like myself. I tried to reassure Cindy with a smile, but I could tell that my snap movement had hurt her a bit.


“I don’t hate ‘The Church’ so much – I just hate how so much blood has been shed under the banner, how many families have been divided by faith. It pisses me off that people cannot just accept the fact that we’re all going to die at some point, and acting all High and Mighty about ‘my way is better!’ is just a waste of fucking time.”


All of the air is being sucked out of the room. I feel like I am shrinking. Getting tiny. Amber hue to all the lights. My cigarette feels like it weighs a ton. My legs feel tingly. Fuck.


Reverend Sassypants kind of tents his fingers around his mouth, taking in a deep breath. He looks from set of eyes to set of eyes across the room. He slowly pulls a cigarette out of his pack, turning it in his fingers before he lights it. He takes a deep drag, and he looks right into me.

“Sean. Your mother knows. She understands what happened, and she is not upset with you. You did what you had to do. Deferring to your Aunt and Uncle, as much as it hurt you at the time, saved your mother a ridiculous amount of stress before she passed away. It hurt her to know that you weren’t treated fairly, but really? What were you going to do? Your anger – really, your own righteousness – pushes everyone and everything away from you. You burn hotter than The Sun when you’re filled with that anger. With time, and understanding, you will learn how to harness that amazing power for something much more important than fighting with people who are sleepwalking through this physical realm.”


This motherfucker. Goddamn.

I couldn’t really say shit. The man was dead on correct. I could feel how right he was. I just sat there, like a lump, everyone’s eyes on me, waiting to see if I was going to pop or not. The Reverend reached over and put his hand on my shoulder again, this time much more gingerly.

“Okay. Enough about Sean – tonight, we’re going to be watching one of my favorite films of all time. The gorgeous and criminally under-rated Kim Novak in Hitchcock’s Vertigo…”


To be continued…

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Here To Take On Fuel And Burn(Part Two In A Series Of Spiritual Misadventures)


This is the second installment in what is starting to feel like a large series of rambles based upon my Spiritual Misadventures during my never-ending quest to “find myself”(part one can be found here for reference) – I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoy writing them. I sometimes forget how funny my real life is/was…

That first Mass/Meeting/Class I went to was something else, man. I think the last time I had been in a Catholic Mass was when my father and I flew back to Rockland County for his father’s funeral, in December of 1988. I passed out from the combo-platter of the previous evening’s beer/Jameson’s/Valium, and the never-ending sensing the Priest was doing in my general direction. My cousin Jodi had to drag me outside and put my face into the snow, so that I could snap the fuck on out of it.

Historical Interlude – we had a service for my own father in that very same church in January of 2006. Life is weird, man. Weird.

ANYWAYS…

Basically, we all met up in this cat’s condo in North Phoenix. Humble little place, pretty low-key and all that. Cindy and I drove in together – I met her at her place, and I left my truck over there. Cindy promised me I would not be too weirded out, and that I would probably learn a thing or two.

This is the part of the story when I have to start using fake names, because I do not want to call anyone out or fuck with anyone’s livelihood. That just isn’t how I roll, you know? That being said, from here on out, I will refer to the “leader” cat as Reverend Sassypants, since he took his position so highly that he had to take every opportunity to try and make himself appear smarter or more evolved than everyone else. Which, upon reflection, is exactly what a “cult” leader should do, isn’t it?

We get up to the door, and Cindy knocks.

I was weirded out the second the fucking door opened.

Almost as freaked out as this makes me feel. For real.

Reverend Sassypants is standing there, in full Liturgical Vestments, with a Pope-ish hat resting on his dome. He’s a stout little bastard, looks kind of like an actor who would play a shrink or maybe a literature professor. Before I can even enter through the doorway, he is already cupping his hand around my shoulder in that half-hug/pull-you-into-my-lair type of way that makes me very uncomfortable.

“Welcome, Sean. We’re very excited to have you here with us tonight, as we’ve heard a lot about you. My goodness, you have such presence! I can feel your vibration so deeply. So glad to have you!”

I didn’t feel dirty as much as I felt kind of confusingly comfortable, as the good Reverend was quite charming. Warm, even. He asked me how long it had been since I had gone to a Catholic Mass, and I told him it had been about a decade. When I jokingly asked him if this was going to turn out poorly, like some oddball Rosemary’s Baby type of scenario, he just giggled and guffawed like nobody’s business.

“Quick-witted. I like it! We need a good smartass in the group.”

After a few minutes, the rest of the group starts to slowly arrive. My observation skills immediately hone in on the fact that they all seem to have that downtrodden, overlooked-by-the-world look in their eyes. It was like a secret meeting of The Nervous Shuffling Feet Gang – everyone shaking hands with me upon being introduced, without a single one of them making direct eye contact.

Obviously, I was an interloper.

ANYWAYS…

All of us get summoned into The Holy Oratory, which is basically a back bedroom which has been converted into a space with an altar, the altar vessels, representations of four Archangels(Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel), and all of the other accoutrements one would find in a Catholic church. Even though we were in a small room in someone’s condo, it certainly felt like being in church.

Reverend Sassypants and his assistant, who will from this point forward be referred to as Moustache McGhee(he had a killer ’70s porn ‘stache going on, which when coupled with his overall creepiness – really, this guy is someone I need to explore as a character for later use) – they just jumped right on into the whole shebang right quick-like. I had no real serious background with Catholicism, as I felt more in tune with my Hebrew blood(which the good Reverend was always keen to point out at every fucking chance he got). All that kneeling and chanting, coupled with all of the frankincense and myrrh* filling up the room, well, that shit kind of did a number on my monkey ass.

*I, being a smart and nosy little bastard, came to figure out all on my lonesome why the frankincense and myrrh were so important in the ritual itself. Just file away that knowledge for later – it’ll come in handy, I promise.

After making it through the Mass itself, which was all done in Latin, I felt a little bit refreshed. Definitely a little high from all of the sensory overload. And my interest was certainly rising, as it felt quite natural for me to be there. We all filed out of the room, and out into the sitting/living room area of the place. As we all took seats staggered throughout the room, I noticed everyone staring at me a little more – obviously trying to figure me out a little bit, which was understandable.

Rev. Sassypants told us he had put on a pot of coffee(which always makes me a happy participant in pretty much anything going on – I’m the kind of cat that would probably grab a free cup at a public execution if it was available), and that dinner would be served shortly. Everyone seemed quite pleased with this announcement,which was promising to me, as a home-cooked meal was not something I’d had in quite a while – unless you counted my drunken late-night drives to burrito stands home-cooked.


If you’ve never been to a Filiberto’s, you are missing out on some of the greasiest, most beautifully destructive of gastro-delights available to human beings 24/7 in the Southwest. Trust me on this one now, I am an expert.

My comfort level was steadily rising, what with fresh coffee, some awkward smiles, and being in a room full of fellow chainsmokers – which is always a good thing in my book. As we were all sitting there in our Mass afterglow, Rev. Sassypants decides it’s time to have everyone take turns asking me questions about myself, which seemed innocent enough to me at first…

To be continued…

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Looking For Love, In All The Wrong Places (Part One in a Series of Spiritual Misadventures).

This is Part One in a series of pieces about how your humble narrator found himself.

I think it was around Thanksgiving of 1998 when my search for answers led me to get involved in what can only be described as a “cult” – for a lack of a better term. Of course, using a word with such strong implications automatically makes me a kook, right? Wrong.

This wasn’t some Death Cult led by an enigmatic frontman who wanted us all to wander the streets begging for donations, so that we could all depart the planet via a spaceship hidden in the tail of a comet or some shit like that. It certainly wasn’t a group that was stockpiling weapons and Sarin nerve gas. And I promise you – out of the entire group of people involved in the whole thing, I was probably the only one who was/is capable of taking sentient life.

These were some terribly fucking broken people, man. People who felt like the world had forgotten them. People who were really just looking for something, anything resembling some hidden wisdom that could give them a little bit of hope, you know? I know I was certainly broken at this point – six months removed from a nasty addiction that almost killed my ass dead, working a shitty job, and fresh out of a relationship that was never going to work out for either party involved. Not to mention that the loss of my mother was still fresh and the wound was wide open and infected.

Basically – I was ripe for the spiritual picking*.

*Kind of like how ripe I was after this bartendress that used to work for me gave me this photo as a token of our torrid affair back in 1999. This kind of shit would go on all night long…

I was already spending a fair amount of my own time studying different religious ideas and schools of thought. Ever since I was little, I found the idea of faith to be exciting and something that made me even more curious. And after dealing with extremely religious members of my own family treating me shittily during the death of my mother, I wanted to be able to know as much as I could about that side of things – kind of in a “know thy enemy” type of way.

I still have a hard time remembering exactly how it came to pass, but one of my employees must have noticed some of my reading material on my desk. Every now and then, she would ask me questions about my feelings on certain things, like how I felt about The Vatican blaming Satan for most of the wrongs in the world, and advocating exorcisms. Or asking me all kinds of questions about my feelings on astrology and whatnot. Normally I would have found someone asking me shit like this to be intrusive or rude, but Cindy never came off as such. It always felt like an older sister or an Aunt was just trying to get to know a distant relative.

Cindy was an older woman, and she was waiting tables for me as her second job. In all my time running restaurants, I don’t think I’ve ever had an employee that busted their ass more than she did, which led me to respect her a great deal. No matter how tired she was from her day job, she was always smiling, gracious, and kind to everyone – even the fuck-up kids I had working in the joint at night.

I didn’t really blink twice when she asked me if I would come to church with her. I actually found it to be a very genuine and kindhearted gesture coming from someone who could clearly see my inner turmoil in regard to the ideas of any form of organized religion. Cindy, being the sounding board she was apt to be, had already been informed of the circumstances surrounding the death of my mother, and was well aware of my need for some kind of answers. Of course, I accepted.

Oddly, when I asked her where the church was, she told me it was at a friend’s home, and that the group of people meeting there would be quite small. I asked her what kind of service it would be, and she told me it would be a Catholic Mass, followed by a meal and a movie, with some teaching thrown in for good measure. She could tell I was a little baffled, and explained to me that I would be fine, and that I would have a good time and that my spirits would be lifted.

Whatever – I was game, you know? Anything was better than the fucking angry and empty feeling I had inside at that point.

To be continued…

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