The Story Behind Our Unicorn Symbolism: Vakasha Brenman's Legacy

So, why do we exist? 

Right, so about that question, I'm not talking anything metaphysical, nothing at all pertaining to the nature of existence for humanity (or unicorns!)

What I'm talking about is why does Real Unicorn Apparel exist? I mean, our unicorn symbolism-informed designs are pretty dope, but, really, with the millions of options anyone has as to what they could do with their life, why did we choose to create Real Unicorn Apparel?

This is where Alfonso, one-half of the dream team behind Real Unicorn Apparel, has to step in and take the mic. But it's not about Alfonso (Lauren might add, for once!). This one's all about the legendary Vakasha Brenman: artist, documentary producer, and the founder of The Unicorn Archive.

I'm a writer by trade, and one thing about being a writer is that money can sometimes, well, sometimes cash isn't exactly overflowing when you make such a decision in reference to your professional life. 

One wonderful blessing that I've had in abundance, though, is the friendship of a diverse assortment of some of the most incredible people anyone could hope to meet in their walk through life. And one person who deserves the highest praise is Stephanie Urdang, esoteric healer and dear friend who I was connected to by a kind ex-girlfriend who thought Stephanie might be helpful for some minor health issues (she was!) 

Over the years, I began to visit Stephanie for "tune-ups" whenever I was feeling a little bit off. I'd share a bit about where I was in my life, and, through the course of our conversations, Stephanie became aware that I was looking to find a client. The funny thing is, one day, she had one! Stephanie had another client, Vakasha, who had told her she was looking for a writer to work with on a project that she had started around 25 years ago: a cross-cultural, multi-religious, equally metaphysical and pragmatic anthology of the history, mythology, and symbolism of the unicorn. 

Except, I didn't know that the nature of the writing work involved unicorns. In fact, I didn't know *one* thing about unicorns, despite my near-obsession with trying to figure out all manner of mysteries: from UAPs to the Mandela Effect to ghosts and so much more. Case in point: Lauren, the better half of this dream team, calls me "Mulder" like the gent from a certain TV show we fell in love to over copious amounts of episodes of, so yeah. 

I Want To Believe Unisex Crewneck Sweatshirt - heather gray

I mean, weren't unicorns nothing more than stuff on your classmates' folders in elementary school? You know, with the rainbows and the sparkles and all the rest. Make believe stuff, right?


Well, I don't think so. I believe unicorns are real. But we'll get to that!

Alright, I guess we've already established that I don't always have the best situational awareness since I didn't even ask Stephanie what type of writing Vakasha needed; all I knew was her phone number. I called it and that was my introduction to Vakasha, and unicorns too, for that matter!

Vakasha, in a Southern drawl that emerged out of her being born and raised outside of Greensboro, North Carolina, told me to "get your ass up here" so we could talk unicorns. When I arrived at her home, I went down a flight of stairs to a series of buzzers with faded name tags from an, I'm sure, long-broken staple gun. Hers was for "The Unicorn Archive." 

Well, this was going to be fun, that's for sure, I thought. I was right! Boy, was I! 

Vakasha downed a glass of Pinot Grigio and chain-smoked, offering me a glass and a cigarette, both of which I accepted because I too am far from a teetotaler. We chatted for around an hour about unicorns mostly, but also about ourselves and, actually, a little bit of everything. 

She was different. I like different. The world can be so drab and conformist. That's not me. 

That CERTAINLY was not Vakasha. 

For a year, Vakasha waited for me to finish an assignment with Reno Air Races legend Peter Zaccagnino, calling me on the regular to get an update on the status of my work with Pete. When Pete and I finished up our work on his series, Relevant, Vakasha was thrilled. Now her and I could get started.

I've never met anyone as insanely busy as Pete, but that's that extra ten gears true legends like him have, so he and I had by necessity a different working style than Vakasha and I developed. Pete and I were and are in two different locations, and that works for us, with trips out for a week to a month when needed. 

However, I wasn't ready for Vakasha's style, though. And boy, did she know it! When I visited her home to talk over a plan for the work that had brought us togetherthe creation of The Book of the Magical Mythical Unicorn—I told her that I could complete the task in one month. 

I also left her home with a stack of approximately 10,000 pages of research from articles, books, and documents about unicorn symbolism throughout the ancient world and within diverse faiths and legends, along with curious factual evidence of their existence. 

It took me one month to read through all the material. We didn't even write a single word in that first month working together. 

And, wow, did Vakasha never let me forget it, or let anyone else forget it either, when I was around!

But, eventually, that material was read, and we got down to brass tacks: the writing of the book. I live in Baltimore, but split time between Charm City and Vakasha's Upper West Side apartment for three years, until the pandemic, as we wrote, and rewrote, and rewrote, and rewrote, and rewrote, and rewrote, and, umm, rewrote the book. 

I'd sleep upstairs, in Vakasha's office, while she slept in a hospital bed on the main floor. Neither of us used the actual bedroom downstairs, which was utilized by a rotating door of interesting characters who were gifted a wonderful apartment in New York City for free or next to nothing in exchange for an unformalized expectation of companionship and errand running. 

One night around a week and a half into the commencement of the writing, I fell asleep at around ten (which was way too early for a night owl like Vakasha). 

I woke up a few hours later, stone sober. I didn't share a glass of Pinot Grigio with Vakasha that night as we played gin rummy and watched talent competitions on TV and listened to rock and roll from the sixties and seventies, like we'd do most nights. 

I didn't see a unicorn, but I did see a unicorn's horn materialize before my eyes. 

Yes, I said that, and I stand by that statement. It happened. Its horn was multicolored and gorgeous and ethereal all at once. It emitted a peaceful energy. I was with the unicorn. Hey, if I was going to co-write a book about unicorns, then I'd probably have to know they're not just things on an elementary school crush's folder, right?

I sheepishly went down the stairs the next morning. The first words of my mouth were about what I had seen that night. Vakasha just gave me a wry smile and said, "Told you." 

And, from there, I fully bought-in on the concept: that the unicorn deserved its story to be told, and that I was supposed to be nowhere else but right there with Vakasha, getting my hands dirty and doing the work with her. 

See, she had been asked by the unicorn to write its story. This was while she was in the hospital, after I had committed to working with her but before we could get started. 

Yes, these things happen. If that means I have to disappoint the atheists and rationalists and modernists that think they have all the information on reality, then so be it. 

Here's a hint: They don't have a clue. :) 

Over the years, The Book of the Magical Mythical Unicorn became (while still near and dear to me) secondary to the deep friendship and mentorship that I now had with Vakasha. She was like a second mother to me, a third grandmother. We'd visit The Dakota Bar a few blocks from her home and all the bartenders knew her. We'd visit Pappardella, an Italian restaurant up the block, and the same thing would happen. Tavern on the Green. I mean, it seemed like everyone knew Vakasha and everyone loved her. How could you not?

I knew her and loved her before I even met her. Strange as it sounds, she was my guide before either of us incarnated this time around. I found that out at a life between lives hypnosis session. Vakasha was hard on me then too. She was hard on me because she loved me and saw through all my bullshit to the diamond that was underneath. It was a gift to meet her again, in this life, several years later. I guess I didn't quite get her message about self-actualization when we were both on the other side, so she had to deliver it to me yet again, only this time on the terrestrial plane as Vakasha Brenman instead of as an unintelligible name that I couldn't even think of how to phonetically spell out. 

Like I said, the unicorn wanted us to get our hands dirty. It just added a secondary task on her plate. She got a lot of it gone, I'll say that!

When Vakasha passed away in 2020, the news floored me. I just lost my best friend. I was locked down in Baltimore. So were her sons, one in California and the other Florida. The virus had put a terrible ending to our story. No, she didn't pass because of Covid-19, but it did keep me from visiting her two months before her end. I'm glad she had my friend Tai Li to help her those last two months of her life because he was the last boarder she ever had. He's a mensch, truly. 

Another reason why Vakasha's death floored me was it made a promise I made her seem awfully tough to keep. She was not only so radiant with love, sharp with wit, rich in mysticism, and blunt with honesty, but dogged in work. She was the reason why we landed our publishing contract. She was the reason we negotiated rights and got amazing deals on featuring art and quotes from other creators and institutions. She was the reason this had even a chance of happening. 

In all my naivete, I promised Vakasha that we'd sell 50,000 books. 

I'm a writer. I should know that almost *no one* sells 50,000 copies of their first book, or any book.

To date, we're only at approximately 1000 copies sold, which is still incredible by almost any standard. I'm so blessed to have such a supportive publisher and fantastic publicist, one who even connected me with Coast to Coast AM with George Noory, which was a once-in-a-lifetime dream come true. I made that appearance on the show while sick with COVID-19. For almost two weeks, I felt worse than at almost any other point in my life. But when I spoke with their staff on the phone to get ready to talk with George Noory, all the adrenaline and endorphins made me feel perfect...until 4:00 AM and the appearance was over. That happened three months after Vakasha passed. I think it was only through her help, from the other side, that I didn't stand up Coast to Coast. Vakasha would have killed me if that happened, once I was dead too. That wouldn't have been fun. ;) 

So, Real Unicorn Apparel, the long (mostly) and short of it is this: We created Real Unicorn Apparel to honor a very naive promise Alfonso made to Vakasha. So come for the fun fashion and stay for the truth of the unicorn. 

Vakasha would love that. 

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