Or, Why You Should Be Listening To King Falls AM
So yeah, that’s a thing I did.
Not really an Em-sounding thing, is it? I’m, unequivocally, not so tough – my best friend calls me Marshmallow, I cry if the wind blows too hard, and I’m associated in the minds of my friends with things like unicorns and baby elephants.
I’ve thought about it before. I’ve always liked the thought of having a tattoo on my wrist, but 1) I couldn’t think of what I wanted and 2) I wasn’t sure if I could handle the actual process of getting the tattoo. It was just few months ago that I was thinking I would probably…never find something good enough, and I was fine with that.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, to find me carefully researching clean, well-reviewed tattoo places, so excited about this particular choice I could hardly stand it.
Bad times are tough, but not tougher than me.Ben Arnold, Next Year, A King Falls Christmas
So…how’d I get there? Let’s talk about that.
Why King Falls AM?
If you’ve known me for a while, you’re possibly thinking…okay, but why this? It’s only in the last few months my social media presence has blown up with my love for an independently-produced podcast. In the scheme of things, while I’m prone to obsessions, this is a relatively new one.
Of all the things you’d expect, it’s not Captain America, Agent Carter, or Star Wars.
I didn’t decide to get a Doctor Who tattoo or put my favorite line from The Princess Bride on my arm.
I didn’t get tattooed with the words of Madeline L’Engle, or C.S. Lewis, or J.R.R. Tolkien.
I picked King Falls AM. So why did this make the cut when all these other things – things that are vital, integral parts of my life – didn’t? It isn’t because they aren’t important, but my relationships with these things are simple, things I can express in a sentence or less.
Captain America taught me that to love my country is to question it.
Agent Carter taught me my value.
Star Wars gave me a hero whose greatest asset was love.
The list goes on. But if you ask me to summarize everything the-little-podcast-that-could means to me, I…can’t. Not in a single sentence. In a blog post, maybe. I’m gonna try, anyway.
A Long, Long Time Ago…
The story of this tattoo starts with a friendship that could have very easily…not have been.
It was the birthday of a fanfiction author I admired, and lots of people in our fandom were writing her birthday stories. She was a fun person, a sort of breath of fresh air in a fandom that was fast growing stale for me, and so, without really thinking, I typed out a story about something I knew we both liked, and posted it for her.
I don’t remember much of the specifics. But I do know she sent me a message the next day.
Hey, we should talk more! Here’s my phone number, you should text me.
And I have, every day since, for the last four years.
When we first became friends, we were both living at home with our parents and working crappy retail jobs, and we wrote stories back and forth to each other to pass the time and keep ourselves distracted. During my tenure at Starbucks, I was struggling with the sensory overload aspect of my ADHD and comorbid anxiety, battling panic attacks, breakdowns, you name it – and more than once having Jen in my pocket to talk me down is what helped me get through the day.
For heaven’s sake, will somebody take my hand and carry me down this road?Ben Arnold, Can You Hear Me? – King Falls Episode 40 – A King Falls Christmas
These days, we’ve both moved out, landed on our feet. Jen has a Real Job in the city, and I work for myself now. (Completely panic attack free for months at this point!) A lot has changed, but in the years since, we’ve written hundreds of thousands of words between the two of us, and one thing hasn’t changed.
Creating things, as a team, is a huge part of who we are and what we do.
Give Serendipity A Chance
“You really need to listen to this podcast.”
She had been talking about it for about a week and a half. Jen listens to podcasts like some people breathe air; she’s got a job that lets her blast through eight hours of them a day. (When I introduced her to The Adventure Zone , she ended up finishing it before I was even through with the third story arc.)
The reason I decided, finally, to start listening was a curious bit of serendipity.
“You know, the girl’s name is Emily too.”
I go by EmmiJade online; but my real name is Emily P. I worked in coffee for a while, but anyone who has known me for any length of time knows I spent a decade working with books in my small hometown, which is a textiles industry town nestled in a valley between two mountains in rural Georgia.
If that sounds familiar to you, you either know me – or you’ve listened to King Falls AM.
The podcast is about two late-night AM radio hosts in a small mountain town with a penchant for weird activity; the leading lady is the small town librarian (who even wears my perfume, smh). There are some clear differences between she and I, but the similarities were enough to keep me hooked, until the show had done that all on it’s own.
The Sammy and Ben Show
I have an inkling that you can be intense, yes.Sammy Stevens to Ben Arnold, King Falls AM
The boys investigate a series of abductions, including some of people dear to their own hearts. Along the way, Sammy Stevens, the hot-shot, big-city radio guy, and Ben Arnold, the eager hometown boy, become best friends, and their friendship is the thing that drives the show. They fight, they lift each other up, they give the show the heart that makes it so good.
Sammy: In the immortal words of The Doors…
Ben: Break on through to the other side?
Sammy: Close. The time to hesitate is through. You got this.King Falls AM Episode 44 – Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines
Before I had even gotten past the first 20 episodes, Jen messaged me on Discord. She had just listened to a particularly intense episode of the show I hadn’t got to yet, and I could tell it meant a lot to her.
“I just wanted to thank you for being the Ben to my Sammy.”
As I kept listening to the show, the more I realized how true her words were. It became evident that whatever cloth we had been cut from, whatever recipe made us – the people making the show had that recipe.
The first things were superficial, little things. I’m from a small town, she’s from a big city. Jen is infinitely cooler than me when it comes to music, movies, drinks, life. I’m an ex-chorus kid who would rather listen to boy bands than anything.
I have a crippling inability to hold back any emotion I’ve ever felt ever; she acts tough, but she’s a softy, no matter what she says.
I love you, buddy. You’re like the big brother I never had but wished I did.Ben Arnold to Sammy Stevens, King Falls Episode 44 – Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines
The thing that stuck out to me the most, though? Ben goes through some pretty…gnarly stuff. And he and I share the particular foible of having big, all-consuming emotions that often overwhelm people and scare them away or ruin relationships. And Sammy, who could have, and with good reason, walked away when his dramatic rear end was falling apart? Stayed.
Ben’s emotions just sort of broke over him like waves on a rock. And he picked the other man up, helped him stay on his feet, and believed in him.
And that, friends, is the story of my friendship with Jen.
I’ve lost a lost of friends that way. Being too much, too fast, too often. And while I can’t say that Jen is the only person who sees me as I am, she’s the person who deals with all the “as I am” the most. I cry over something ridiculous? She listens. I have a crazy idea that absolutely will not work in a story? She finds a place it will work and makes something we both love. I act crazy? She tells me I’m being crazy and suggests we watch a movie to distract me.
She’s my best friend. That’s the first thing I carry with me when I look at this tattoo.
Love Can Bring Anyone Back
I love cosplay.
I love the way it brings a little bit of a fictional world to life. I love the looks on other people’s faces when they realize you’re dressed as a character they love. It’s like, for a second, you and a new friend have a moment of shared, suspended disbelief. The fictional world becomes real for them, and that’s the entire joy of cosplay.
I’ve learned a lot from the hobby. Sewing, fabric dyeing, leatherwork, foam propmaking, and lots more. But the number one thing I’ve learned from cosplay?
In media, there are no leading ladies who look like me. The hero doesn’t fall in love with the curvy girl.
I’ve loved you lifetimes, and I’ll love you lifetimes more.Ben Arnold to Emily Potter, King Falls AM
No matter what I cosplay, I’m the fat version.
And in even the healthiest con venues, I hear about it. It doesn’t matter to the jerk at Dragon*Con that I run and lift weights three times a week, or that I eat virtually no sugar, it only matters to him that I dared not to look like he expected me to.
It doesn’t get to me most days. I do everything I can to take care of myself; health factors are health factors. But I do spend a lot of time beating myself up because I can’t quite figure out how to date (just ask Jen, she’s the one who has to put up with hearing about it.)
That was the problem with King Falls AM.
Emily Potter, the girl with my name and my interests, didn’t have a canon appearance.
And so as time went on, I started to imagine she had brunette hair and wide hips. I started to think about a little collection of baby elephant statues on her bookshelf and a stuffed unicorn on her bed. She wasn’t me, but she was like me, and that was a dangerous thing to think.
I found myself several times berating myself for those kinds of thoughts. “No one would feel that strongly about you.”
I have such a hard time believing someone would want to date me pretty much ever. (This is NOT a cry for attention, simply honesty – but as an example, most of the time even run-of-the-mill fantasizing about falling in love with a celebrity involves not so much falling in love as being let down gently…it’s something I’m working on.)
But then, Dragon Con came, and I cosplayed Emily Potter.
And all of a sudden, I wasn’t the fat version.
I was just Emily Potter.
The few people who recognized me were PSYCHED. I felt…like the real thing. For the first time as a cosplayer, I felt like the real thing.
I felt like the girl who kicks butt and gets the guy, and I’ve never felt like that before.
That’s the second thing I carry with me when I look at this tattoo.
Bad Times Are Tough, But Not Tougher Than Me
When Jen told me she wanted to cover up her self-harm scars with this quote, I had already been thinking about getting the tattoo for a week or two. I consumed all of this love story – this love story about every kind of love – in such a short period of time, and like a handful of media I’ve consumed throughout my life, it made an immediate mark that was bigger than I had words
It rang so true. Like Sammy, my sweet best friend has struggled with self-loathing, and those words covering up her scars echoed everything the show and it’s creators had done to lift her up.
And those words would be in the same place on my wrist. She’d know that she was never, ever alone. Like Ben and Sammy, we’d both know that.
That’s the third thing I carry with me when I look at this tattoo.
A Little Help From My Friends
There are a lot of other reasons to love this show.
Deputy Troy Kreighauser, for example, is the world’s most precious character, and as someone with several police-type loved ones I can’t express how much I appreciate Kyle and Eric striking a balance between a good man working for a system that doesn’t always work for him.
Kyle is probably one of the world’s most accessible creators, and it’s been just so cool being able to talk to him. The KFAM cast and crew and more accessible than most in general, and I love how clear it is that they love each other and the thing they make.
The fandom is blissfully nontoxic. There are so many people who love this show and want to see it thrive.
Two days after I got this tattoo, I had my first real bad crying jag in a while. It came on for no real reason, but I couldn’t stop it, and banished myself to the shower to get it over with. It happens.
And I looked down, and there it was. Those words. Bad times are tough, but not tougher than me.
I didn’t stop crying. But I didn’t feel as…overwhelmed as I usually did.
That’s what I carry with me now. And I’m never gonna regret it.