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It is a whirlwind in here

Baked Onions

Having written two novels centered around an onion farm, it is always fine to share an onion recipe. Can there ever be too many onions? No! Just this past week I came across onion marmalade. I think I’ll tack that one down.

DE

Learn how to make baked onions from PBS Food. Moist and sweet without any heavy ingredients, these onions perfectly complement a steak.

Source: Baked Onions

Birthdays Bring Thoughts And Pictures From The Past

 

399px-mccord_hall

(image)http://unbhistory.lib.unb.ca/images/thumb/2/22/Mccord_hall.jpg/399px-Mccord_hall.jpg

Birthdays make me (surprise) ponder the past.

My great friend and writing mentor, Nancy Bauer, as wise as the ears she sometimes writes about, in the past had mentioned the Past on Facebook. One of the responses to her comment spoke about our mutual times with a fluid writing group, in the gathering place fondly known as The Ice House.

That reminded me of this past blog of mine. It is centred around The Ice House and the passage of time. I’m sure Nancy, who writes a weekly newspaper column and has, occasionally, some trouble thinking of topics, will allow me to modify and steal from myself.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I came across an announcement today about a memorial reading for the Canadian poet, Alden Nowlan. One of my claims to fame is being mistaken for Alden – sadly three years after he died. Perhaps I had had a rough night the night before. At any rate, at this memorial reading a number of the readers are known to me and come from my ‘era’. One of the things some of us shared was that we were members of the same writing group. This group met on Tuesday nights for two to three hours, reading and commenting on each others work. Save for one Master’s Thesis that I know of, not enough has been written about this long-lasted group. And much could be written. Many notables passed through the door and many eventually-established authors emerged.

Although the building where we met had the proper name of McCord Hall, it was in fact the very old converted Ice House of the University of New Brunswick. It had been turned fancy with wooden beams and high windows and a long impressive wooden table. The Ice House is in current use as I speak, designated as an English Graduate seminar room. There is even coffee.

 

Indeed, just recently I wrote a brief story about the Ice House for a CBC contest. It went, in its entirety:

When the august Ice House Gang was in its writing heyday at the University of New Brunswick, the saintly Nancy Bauer was looked upon as our revered Mentor. She was calm and fair, even to the untutored and raunchy. Once, while one of our more seamy members was reading out-and-out pornography, I began to rub my foot against her leg. A look of confusion crossed her face and then, with a voice etched in acid, she loudly announced: “That Estey is feeling me up under the table.”

 
I did not win.

However, perhaps the reason is because of the following. This is part of the description of the memorial reading for Alden:

Along with Nowlan, former University of New Brunswick professor Bob Gibbs was a member of the “Ice House Gang”, a group of faculty members and writers who would gather in an old stone hut on College Hill.

I know much is in the eye of the beholder, but…

DE

Kung Pao Shrimp

Try a shrimp twist on the Chinese-American takeout classic of Kung Pao Chicken for a weeknight meal that comes together in 15 minutes.

Source: Kung Pao Shrimp

Oktoberfest In Munich/München – Let The Beer Flow

Germany Oktoberfest Opening

Chapter One of Fame’s Victim:

 

UM PA PA! UM PA PA!

Tuba sounds assail ST as he forges through the clogged streets and packed alleys of Munich during these last hours of Oktoberfest. This, and the thousands upon thousands of revealers apparently heading to his own destination.

ST  worries what will happen when he reaches the Kafer’s Wiesnschanke tent. Because it is situated on the very edge of these huge Oktoberfest fairgrounds, ST is in one of his impeccable disguises. However but will it prove so effective (as it is proving now), that he will be unable to gain entry? Without immediate entry and quick access to his reserved table, he is not going to get to his waiting bottle of Glen Grant scotch.

ST has never had to deal with this problem. He uses camouflage to get from one private destination to another, and always has the luxury of removing his disguise in the comfort of some bath or bedroom. Here, he will have to prove who he is in one public place, so he can get out of another public place.

ST passes the Hofbrauhaus, with still a long way to go. He regrets he consented to spend these last two hours of the week deep in the gemutlichkeit of Bavarian sausages, chicken and beer – horse-drawn wagons of which trundle past even as he aims unerringly for Kafer’s Wiesnschanke tent.

This dramatic scene is foreign to him, though he supposes he is no longer foreign. It is through his inheritance of vast tracts of land and chattels along the coast of the North Sea (to say nothing of the interesting pockets of real estate and apartments still being revealed across the face of Europe, America, Australia, and the Bahamas) that his special invitation to this evening arrived. And the obligation to attend.

The acres of vibrant lighting cast a multi-hue glow across ST. He notes his roughly-shaped beard (one of three dozen – each cropped differently), takes on such bizarre colouring that he doesn’t remember what it really looks like. He probably could have gone without disguise and passed unmolested. That is what his hosts had told him, but he has had such assurances before.

Under a set of flashing amber and yellow lights, ST looks at his watch. The crowd is slowing him, and he should have used another entrance, instead of the broad way through the tents. He tries to get closer to the edge of the crowd, but the edge in an ever-moving mass is difficult to find. It is analogous to the boundaries of Space/Time, which he can never actually discern either. ST rarely gets such a chance to put his world-famous theories to a practical test. Head up and elbows to the ready, he begins a vigorous forward thrust. This attitude alone is enough to make more people give way, plus he is not without practiced skill at dodging and pirouetting among crowds.

As ST advances the garish lights become more extreme, and he has difficulty distinguishing the various tents. The one he wants is in the upper corner, and supposedly not easy to miss. But it is also one of the smallest (holding slightly over 2000), and for all he knows it may get lost in this absurdist hurly-burly. He may succumb to this incredible throng, and get carried away on its tide to the more boisterous Spatenbrau, or whisked back to the very beginning of his trek at the Hippodrom.

In an attempt to fit in, when ST first arrived at the fairground he had purchased one of the large gingerbread cookies, which so many people are wearing around their necks. This is now proving a mistake, for it keeps bumping back and forth across his chest. As he has never actually seen anyone eating the damn things, he hesitates to take this course of action. On the other hand he is concerned that if he just tries to remove it from his neck, the cord might get tangled in his fake beard.

ST clamps a hand over the cookie as if he was taking an oath, and continues through the noisy revelry. He is just passing the Winzerer Fahndl tent and thus is not far from his destination. A turn to the right and some more well placed elbows, and he might be able to arrive in another five minutes.

Just as ST can lose Time when he attempts to track it, equation by equation, through the vast quadrants of his computer programs, so it begins to elude him here. The overwhelming chore of Oktoberfest becomes surprisingly addictive. Although he still wants his scotch and reserved place at table, he looks longingly at the Winzerer Fahndl tent with a desire to enter. As he stares overhead at the amusement park rides, he wonders if he would find them as thrilling as the screaming participants indicate they are. ST is even tempted to gravitate to the nearest thundering band, and settle in close to the tubas. Perhaps he might risk an inquisitive munch of his over-large gingerbread cookie.

These thoughts put him in a better frame of mind as he eases himself into the slowly moving crush. He gets behind a trio of husky teen-agers, and lets them unknowingly clear a path.

It seems their goal is to sample beer from each of the fourteen tents, but so far their boisterous gung-ho remains good-natured and useful. ST keeps just the right distance behind the three so he is not considered a part of their group, yet manages to glean the benefit of their passage. Much as the stern of a ship glides through the wake of the prow.

When he comes within sight of his own goal at Kafer’s Wiesnschanke, he wonders if his trio of outriders is going to steer in its direction. An argument can be made that it is next on the list of any pub-crawl, but the youths are loudly debating the merits of either the Sportschutzen or Lowenbrauu.

ST has the temptation to clap them boisterously on their shoulders and invite them to his more rarefied destination. His popularity with youth is particularly high right now, as he appears to be quite the rebel with his contention that the year 2000 is not the Millennium. This is not his desire, but who is more going to be asked all the questions about this momentous event than the expert on Space/Time?

Even his obvious equation – obvious to ST, at least – that if someone owes you $2000, you are not going to be satisfied in only getting $1999 back – has become an imbedded catch phrase in nearly every article now written about the Millennium. It has even become a refrain in a contemporary pop song.

ST starts to hum “Don’t Shortchange Us”, having no fear of ever being heard over the din of Oktoberfest. The decision as to whether or not he will befriend the teen-aged trio is made for him as they abruptly link arms and make a wide swing toward the Lowenbrau tent. ST may be mistaken about the sound of his own voice, for the trio of teenagers breaks out in a thundering rendition of the refrain to “Don’t Shortchange Us”. They create a wide path through the packed revelers, many of whom applaud and join in.

ST soon proves to be exceedingly incautious. He raises his voice to match any in the crowd. He is no singer (although he did agree to appear in the music video, campily disguised as a gesticulating Einstein), and if anyone pays him particular attention, it is because his rendition is so bad.

As the teenagers wheel toward the Lowenbrau, ST is again

strangely attracted to follow. However, he can readily picture the chaos which might ensue if he is recognized. Even such a friendly swarm as this can turn dangerous just through enthusiasm. Enclosed space and intoxicated people lead to too many varied conclusions. ST continues on his way, quickly buoyed by the thought of Glen Grant and the opportunity to sit. As with many public functions, ST is actually expected to do very little. No speech, a moderate amount of glad-handing, and he fulfils his obligations. He is no entertainer – which he could quickly prove if he started singing – and Oktoberfest is no place for a learned report about Space/Time.

Kafer’s Wiesnschanke seems not to be a `tent’, but a permanent wooden structure, with lattice at the front. There is outdoor seating, and strings of lights along the peak of the roof. At this time of night guests to the interior are handpicked. No one has given him an invitation or a code word, or any such means of identification. He has not had to prove who he is for so long that he really doesn’t know of any way other than the removal of his disguise. He could show his passport or driver’s license, but the photo displayed doesn’t display him.

People sitting outside give him a once-over, just as they do to all the crowds washing by. Oktoberfest is a people-watching event, but at this time of night, after a festival of beer, there is a sameness and a tiredness to their actions. He has no reason to fear a close scrutiny. ST walks briskly through the seated people and approaches the main entrance. Waiters and waitresses come and go through the door, liter mugs of beer held aloft. There is a small table to the left, and a man wearing a hat sits on a stool behind it. This is obviously the person whose scrutiny ST must meet and pass. He prepares a firm handshake, and a brief explanation of who he is.

From the corner of his eye he sees a figure approach. From its size and build it appears to be a woman, but she is wearing a Harlequin costume and holding a Venetian Sun Mask in front of her face. The gold (it looks like real gold) mask is attached to a long, slender stick, and the hand holding the stick is gloved.

Gloved hand, stick, gold mask and harlequin-attired body all lean toward him. ST is tempted to back away, but an exotic perfume reaching his nostrils is too enticing. He is sure his own disguise will not reveal his identity, so he affixes his fake beard smile.

“Psst.”

This sound hissed in his direction seems to be a woman’s voice. Perhaps he is to be asked the time or offered some cut-rate passage to the giant Ferris Wheel. Both have already happened this evening. Some response seems expected and ST decides to resort to his rusty German.

“Bitte?”

The eyes blink behind the mask and an irrepressible giggle is barely muffled by a gloved hand.

“Annie’s crackers. That better be you.”

“Garbo?” ST takes a surprised step back.

“I was about to take a bite from your cookie.” She removes her mask. “If that wasn’t you, I would have either made an enemy  or a friend I don’t want.”

“What are you – ?”

ST can’t tell if he is more surprised by the presence of his lover, or by the fact he didn’t recognize her. As he ponders he hastily pushes her hand so the mask is once again in front of her face. What they both don’t need is the exposure of the beautiful, young movie star. For if she is recognized, will ST be far behind?

“You don’t want to look at me?”

“I don’t want others looking at you.”

“Mmmm.” Garbo steps close and rubs against him. “Jealous?”

“No more than usual.”

This generates a snort from Garbo and a thwack over ST’s head with the mask. She still finds it hard to accept he doesn’t get jealous, even about the explicit love scenes in her last couple of movies.

“Then what?”

“Garbo.” ST leans toward her. “We’ll lose our concealment.”

“If we’re being so secretive, don’t call me that in public.”

ST realizes even he is affected by their disguises, for otherwise her pet name would not have been uttered. Garbo is very particular that this name is for his use alone.

“But we’re not even supposed to be in public.” He looks around at the mass of revelers. “I’m here because – ”

“I arranged it.” Garbo giggles again.

“You what?”

“Do you know … ” She lowers her voice, making her words barely audible through the mask. “You look surprised, even through that beard.”

This is a dig at his array of beards. She is far more comfortable with the recognition she receives. ST assumes this difference between them is partly due to her age, and partially because of her business. But he is not above retaliation.

“Who’s wearing the mask?”

“I’m supposed to be a surprise.” Garbo shakes her head, deliberately making the bells on her Harlequin cap jingle. “You are already on the agenda.”

“Let’s not stray off topic.” ST reaches forward and flicks one of the bells. “What do you mean you arranged it?”

“You were asked to come here, because I asked them to ask you …” She jingles the bells again. “… to come here.”

“Garbo!”

His voice rises as the name-not-to-be-used spills into the night. ST avoids a hit on the arm and puts his mouth next to her ear.

“Garbo.” Her name is now spoken slowly but quietly. “Why did you do such a thing?”

“To get you out of the mansion.” Her lips are close to his ear, but she is not whispering.

“I’m rarely there.” ST sounds as puzzled as he feels. “You know I’m even thinking of selling – ”

“Are you this literal with Space/Time?” Although Garbo doesn’t shift her head, she does lower her voice. “Your boundaries aren’t narrow there.”

“Space/Time has no boundaries.”

“I know that.” Garbo pretends to pull on his beard. “Even though you don’t preach – you do teach.” Her hand reaches for the large cookie around his neck, and she grabs that instead.

“You have to get out more.”

“To Oktoberfest?”

“Where better?” She gives the cookie a solid tug. “Doesn’t time stop here?”

“The beer stops at eleven.” ST smiles, and it is not lost in his beard. “That’s all I know.”

“You’ve become too wrapped up in the Millennium.”

“Fighting the `fake’ Millennium.”

“Whatever.” Garbo lets the cookie swing and hit his chest. “It comes to the same thing.”

“Get me started on the Millennium, and I might preach.”

ST raises his finger, about to point with exaggeration and begin some elaborate theory. However, he remembers where they are and realizes such a joke would fall flat. Instead, he puts down his hand, and shrugs his shoulders.

“Let’s get this over with.”

“Mr. `Life-of-the-party’.” Garbo shakes her own finger. “You need to sing and schunkel.”

“Schunkel?”

“Hook your arms with those of your neighbors, and weave back and forth while singing lustily.”

“I don’t plan to sing – lustily or not.”

“Oh, yes you do.” Garbo links her arm through his, and starts to pull him toward the entrance. “Timely or not.”

She maneuvers ST past the man sitting at the table, and aims for a large, dirndl-encased woman standing at the far side of the door. She has the girth to block the whole doorway by herself, and ST has some hope that she will stop them.

“Remember – you’re with me.”

Garbo chuckles as she says this. When they are a few steps away from the door she lowers her mask and smiles that smile which charms millions. Even though the woman must have been expecting them she looks surprised, and then delighted. She makes a little bow, then opens her arms as if to embrace them.           “Wellcommen. They will be so pleased. The mayor keeps sober until you arrive.”

“That’s asking a lot.” Garbo replaces the mask in front of her face, and tugs ST toward the interior. “We have not expected such a sacrifice.”

“Why not?” ST directs the bearded question toward her ear. “I’ve kept myself without lubrication so I can appear here in fine form.”

“But you have me to get intoxicated on.” Garbo pushes him through the door. “You don’t need vile alcohol.”

“But there is going to be some, isn’t there?”

“Annie’s crackers – it’s Oktoberfest.” She pulls him forward. “It’s a feat you’ve managed to stay sober this long. Now it’s time for your reward.”

ST likes the thought of a reward so he snuggles closer, pressing his pelvis against her wondrous ass, encased in its very tight Harlequin pants. She shoves back, which she knows is only encouragement, then reaches and takes his hand.

“You wait until later.”

“Will it be better, later?”

“Depends if you drink too much.”

“You always sober me up.” ST links his arm through hers. “Schunkel, you say?”

“Don’t start singing.” She jingles her bells again.

“`Don’t shortchange us…'” He raises his voice with each word, making Garbo pull him off balance.

“Life of the party,” she hisses. “Not the death of singing.”

He stumbles slightly, making him fit in with most of the other patrons. Then he follows Garbo toward a table that is obviously the depository of dignitaries.

ST knows city officialdom will be involved, but he is unprepared for a mayor in crossed suspender short leather pants, complete with his massive chain of office. Others, whom he supposes are aldermen and various strata of bureaucracy, are also historically attired. They look as suspiciously in his direction.

“Garbo?” His hiss is in the high register.

“Keep your beard on.”

“You promise there’ll be Glen Grant.”

“Annie’s crackers.” She touches the mouth of her Venetian mask. “I’m going to want some, too.”

A functionary rises from the table, ready to approach them with a scowl.

“C’mon,” pleads ST. “Let him chase us away.”

“Too late for that.” Garbo holds her mask further from her face, glancing at him as she whispers. “Besides, it might come in handy to have the city fathers being fatherly toward you.”

“Why? So I can get a parade?”

“With a team of horses to pull you through the streets.”

“We’ve been together two years.” ST puts a hand on her shoulder. “You know I want nothing like that.”

“What you want, and what you need … ” Garbo brushes his forehead with a jester’s bell. “I obviously have yet to teach you the difference.”

Garbo turns toward the table of officials and lowers her mask. The grim face of the dignitary ready to bar their way changes in a second, replaced with a broad smile. He holds out his hand to shake, though obviously debating whether or not to give her a hug. The temptation is great, and the occasion offers a license to such familiarity. Garbo avoids the situation by holding her mask out between them, and pointing toward ST.

The official stops momentarily, the smile trapped on his face. He is confused, wondering if he is being introduced to a bodyguard or some secretary, equivalent to himself. Garbo smiles, and sings a couple of lines from `Don’t Shortchange Us.’ She sings loudly enough to be heard by the other officials at the table, and immediately two heads whisper into the mayor’s ear. The man jumps up, his chain of office clanging against the beer stein in front of him. He pushes past his own officials, and makes a lunge for ST’s hand.

“Mein Herr. Welcommen!”

The mayor’s grip is so forceful that ST is again pulled off stride and they both bump into the table at the same time. The heart shaped gingerbread cookie around ST’s neck gets caught in the mayor’s heavy chain, and they are pulled together as they try to come apart. ST smells the beer on the other man’s breath, and has a pang of envy. Alcohol would be a relief right now, Glen Grant or not.

“We do a little dance – yes?”

The mayor is laughing, but ST realizes that he may be in some danger of losing his disguise. He doesn’t plan any further excursions tonight but his life proves unpredictable, and he can never be sure. Plus, the pull of glue from his face will not feel very pleasant or look very dignified. He can neither escape, nor risk the energetic contact his dancing partner encourages.

“Does this mean you have no time to dance with me?”

Garbo eases herself close to the two men. She stands in such a way that she could be speaking to either of them. They are confused and stop moving. Garbo reaches over and using both hands, manages to untangle the ornate mayor’s chain, and the string which the giant cookie hangs from. She winks at ST, then nudges against the mayor with her hip.

“Or do you boys prefer each other’s company?”

ST has become used to this type of banter, but the mayor does not know if laughter is called for or not. People at this stratum of celebrity do strange things, and he neither wants to appear foolish, nor offend his high scale guests. However, his own photographer is already happily clicking away, and he must do something. Putting his arm across his mayor’s chain so it can catch on nothing else, he turns toward Garbo with a brief bow. Every voter will understand his attraction.

“You dress as Harlequin, yes, so you make the joke.” He extends his hand. “A few steps if the arena is not too crowded.”      “Even if it is crowded.” Garbo takes his hand and pulls him away from the table. “Let’s make that chain rattle.”

ST does not know how many people realize who is dancing with the mayor – he suspects no more than already know. It is late and dark and crowded and noisy, and much of that noise comes from people because they are drunk. Most will probably not even recognize the mayor, chain of office or not.

Because of photographs taken at the mayor’s table, ST has concern about his disguise – if photos end up in newspapers, will he have to discard it? Although expensive, it isn’t the cost or  inconvenience which bothers him.

Over the years, even with the expertise of Hollywood make-up artists, he has found only a limited number of disguises which look authentic. In addition to this, they have to be comfortable upon his face for hours at a time. The one he chose tonight is a favourite, and he will regret losing it. He should have thought more clearly about the transition he was expected to make. It is rare that he goes in disguise to a place where he eventually is to be recognized.

“I thought a beard would hide a man’s frown.”

ST is startled back to his surroundings. He has been watching the dancing, though he long ago lost sight of Garbo and the mayor. He is astonished to see her standing at his side, Harlequin costume glittering in the subdued light. He notes the mayor sits at his table, beer stein in hand.

“You worked him into a thirst.”

“It wasn’t that difficult.” Garbo reaches for ST’s hand. “I’m about to do the same for you.”

Though ST is tired and has been on his feet a long time, he does not resist. Once out among the other revelers on this last night of Octoberfest, he makes use of the dancing lessons both wife number one and two insisted he have. He has come to quite enjoy the dance floor, and Garbo is an excellent partner.

“Tell me again why we are here.”

“You are `Lord of the Manor’ – literally.” Garbo stifles a giggle. “You should make your presence known in the country.”

“Why in Munich?”

“It’s a good distance from where you actually live.” Garbo aims him toward a corner. “You don’t want people too familiar.”

“I certainly do not.” ST picks up her direction and twirls her adroitly among the dancers. “Except, of course, for you.”

“Not to worry.” She slides a hand over his posterior and pulls him closer. “I’ll not only help you remove that beard, but everything else as well.”

“That will be appreciated.” He thrusts his pelvis against her. “But maybe you could start here and work your way up.”

“It feels as if you’re working your way up already.”

“Yes.” ST now whispers in her ear. “I’ve often thought that dancing is wasted by doing it on your feet.”

ST takes note of the most flamboyant dancers on the floor, and starts to copy their steps. Garbo is initially surprised, but quickly follows his lead. She is prepared to match his every move, and ST is determined to make her lose her step. Other revelers make room for them, and some even start to clap to the music. The bandleader has noticed the commotion, and after watching the couple for a minute turns the beat around to their rhythm. By this time even the mayor’s table is back on their feet, thumping their beer steins on its slippery surface.

“Bring it home, Mamma!” shouts the mayor.

Garbo growls with laughter as ST puts a hand on either side of her waist, and lifts her from the floor. She places her hands on his shoulders, and kicks back with her feet. ST actually aims her in different directions, and other dancers dodge away, squealing in delight.

“And another thing.” Garbo is panting and shouting into his ear at the same time.

“What would that be?” ST precariously leans back, almost losing his balance as he lets her slide to the floor off his chest. He twirls her on her stomach before he scoops her up again, and grips her hard against him.

“You’re heading into two months of Millennium stuff?”

“Yes.”

“And it’s going to be serious?”

“Yes.”

“Then ya gotta have some f-u-n.” She throws her hands over her head and leans way back, knowing he is not going to let her go. “And what better place is there than the biggest party in Europe?”

As she presses against him again he has a different answer to her question, and he whispers it into her ear. Her eyes go wide, and she brings up her hand in a motion to slap his face.

But she kisses him instead.

DE

An Elephant And God Talk Up A Storm (Well … A Cloud or Two)

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The Elephant Talks to God is an endearing collection of whimsical tales in which a young elephant forages for answers to that age-old existential puzzle: What is the meaning of life?

In this new edition of Dale Estey’s best-selling book, this pachyderm philosopher asks questions and God answers — sometimes cryptically, sometimes humorously but always with love and patience. The answers unfold in a series of conversations between this humble, though occasionally impertinent, beast and the Almighty.

The free-ranging exchanges between the two include contributions from  missionaries,  various monkeys, birds and insects. These sweet, sometimes satirical, and occasionally moving stories will appeal to readers of all ages.

The book includes most of the original stories from the popular 1989 collection, as well as many new ones. Original, fresh and unsentimental, The Elephant Talks to God belongs on the bookshelves of anyone who, just like the inquisitive elephant, has ever wondered about life, love and the true nature of happiness.

https://www.amazon.com/Elephant-Talks-God-Dale-Estey-ebook/dp/B003ZUXXEM

It Is A Grave Thing To Be Dead

 

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(image)http://zeek.forward.com/workspace/uploads/kafka-photo-grave-300dpi-4c5c1958.jpg

I enjoy graveyards, and peruse them with vigour. It’s true I don’t plan to spend the rest of my life in them, but, after that …

So, I have many tales of cemeteries to tell. Hardly any are scary because, contrary to popular depiction, graveyards are not haunted. Unless one happens to die in one (or – worse yet – die after being buried in one), there are no lingering spirits to haunt. Graveyards are a place, however, to go and contemplate those buried there. I am planning for myself a grand mausoleum.

While researching my novel about Franz Kafka, I went to Prague. In those days it was still under communist subjugation, and travel in and out of Czechoslovakia, to say nothing of travelling the country, was complicated and dangerous. I was fortunate to have arrangements to stay with a Czech academic and his nuclear scientist wife while in Prague. They had a social standing which facilitated an easier visit.

Unknown to me upon arrival, the academic was an amateur historian. When he found the major thrust of my visit concerned Kafka, he was full of places to visit. Many of them I did not know about, and others I doubt I would have found on my own. For instance, he took me to the small house where Kafka had lived on Alchemist Lane, which eventually became the setting for half of my novel. Even though Kafka was in disfavour at the time, the house was noted for the fact he lived there, and it was on tourists lists. In a Kafkaesque twist, it was even then a bookstore, but none of his books were allowed on the shelves.

One of the places I was taken was to Kafka’s grave. It is situated nowhere near where Kafka lived his life, but is in a huge Jewish graveyard on the outskirts of the city. It took nearly an hour on the subway to reach the area. And then a walk to the graveyard itself. And then a walk through the graveyard, though the way to Kafka’s grave was signed. I would never have thought of trying to get there myself.

Kafka is buried with his mother and father (though, literally, vice versa, as he died first). It is only years after the fact that I read about the drama of his death, and the drama at the graveside. His young lover, Dora, who had spent the last year of his life with him, attempted to leap into the grave. She had to be restrained by Kafka’s best friend, Max Brod.

I lingered a long time – perhaps a half hour – by the grave. In the Jewish tradition I left a stone upon the gravestone. In my own twist, I also left a pen. And, because there were few about, and I was so moved, I lay down upon the grave itself.

DE

The Past, Present and … Future: To Boldly Go With Star Trek

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So, fifty years ago – Earth Time – Star Trek began to show the voyages of the USS Enterprise on television. It’s future has evolved much in a half century (Earth Time), and certainly over the Star Dates of the future. And into the past. I tried to hitch a ride on this star.

So, eons ago, I wrote a script for Star Trek, The Next Generation. Memory says (and I’ve been told my memory is not up to light speed), this was the only television series that asked for, and actively used, scripts from writers outside their own stable. They used one script per season from these submissions. So I submitted.

I had a response from Lolita Fatjo, and it gave me some quiet thrill to see her name among the STTNG credits at the end of each show. I believe she was classed under “Pre production”. I also thought she had a real nifty name. I note she currently still has dealings with Star Trek, helping to facilitate Star Trek Fan conferences and arranging appearances by some of the Star Trek stars.

I did not have an abundance of communication with Ms. Fatjo (I liked to think of her as Lolita). I think I got a package of information about the type of thing they wanted for a script. Memory says there was a desire to have a main plot line concentrating on just two or three of the main characters. There was to be one additional sub plot. There were arcs to accommodate the commercials. I believe they hoped for some humour. And timing, of course, all was timed to the exact minute. I followed directions and wrote a script and put it into the format and sent it off. I had two further dealings with Lolita. One told me they had received the script. The other – so deliciously close to the end of the season – was to tell me they would not be using it.

The script was called The Minstrel. An alien had a musical instrument (I think a horn, but it might have been strings) that would play tunes which adapted to whomever he was talking to. It had other properties, but I think I’ll keep them tucked away. You never know – there is a new show. Anyway, the Minstrel would interact (per act) with the Star Trek characters. Revelations were forthcoming. Not too many special effects (which was something else Lolita requested).

I received no big cheques or writing credits from this foray into television land. But not all was lost. I was writing my script in tandem with a friend who was writing her own script. News of our endeavours made the local writing circuit, and we were interviewed on regional radio. From that, we were asked to speak to a couple of writing classes, and even invited to an  alternate world fan club to give a reading. We boldly went.

(image)http://otium.fundacionasimov.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/star-trek-otium1.jpg

DE

Kafka And His Very Young Love

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Gerti Wasner

Kafka liked the ladies and he had many relationships.

While in the first year of his ‘love-of-a-lifetime’ affair with Felice Bauer (they were engaged twice but – indeed – never married) he met “The Swiss Girl”. In his diaries she was only referred to as W. or G. W. They were together for ten days in a spa on Lake Garda.

She was a Christian. He was thirty, and she was eighteen. However the relationship (apparently sexually consummated) made a great impression on him for the rest of his life.

Research over the years  finally revealed who she is, and Google search even provides photos. Her name is Gerti Wastner.However, very little else (as far as I can find) is known about her.

Where did her life lead after an encounter with Kafka?

Here are some of Kafka’s actual diary entries about the incident.

DE

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15 October 1913

Perhaps I have caught hold of myself again, perhaps I secretly took the shorter way again, and now I, who already despair in loneliness, have pulled myself up again. But the headaches, the sleeplessness! Well, it is worth the struggle, or rather, I have no choice. The stay in Riva was very important to me. For the first time I understood a Christian girl and lived almost entirely within the sphere of her influence. I am incapable of writing down the important things that I need to remember. This weakness of mine makes my dull head clear and empty only in order to preserve itself, but only insofar as the confusion lets itself be crowded off to the periphery. But I almost prefer this condition to the merely dull and indefinite pressure the uncertain release from which first would require a hammer to crush me.

 

20 October 1913

I would gladly write fairy tales (why do I hate the word so?) that could please W. and that she might sometimes keep under  the table at meals, read between courses, and blush fearfully when she noticed that the sanatorium doctor has been standing behind her for a little while now and watching her. Her excitement sometimes—or really all of the time—when she hears stories. I notice that I am afraid of the almost physical strain of the effort to remember, afraid of the pain beneath which the floor of the thoughtless vacuum of the mind slowly opens up, or even merely heaves up a little in preparation. All things resist being written down. If I knew that her commandment not to mention her were at work here (I have kept it faithfully, almost without effort), then I should be satisfied, but it is nothing but inability. Besides, what am I to think of the fact that this evening, for a long while, I was pondering what the acquaintance with W. had cost me in pleasures with the Russian woman, who at night perhaps (this is by no means impossible) might have let me into her room, which was diagonally across from mine. While my evening’s intercourse with W. was carried on in a language of knocks whose meaning we never definitely agreed upon. I knocked on the ceiling of my room below hers, received her answer, leaned out of the window, greeted her, once let myself be blessed by her, once snatched at a ribbon she let down, sat on the window sill for hours, heard every one of her steps above, mistakenly regarded every chance knock to be the sign of an understanding, heard her coughing, her singing before she fell asleep.

 

22 October 1913.

Too late. The sweetness of sorrow and of love. To be smiled at by her in the boat. That was most beautiful of all. Always only the desire to die and the not-yet-yielding; this alone is love.

 

Translated by Joseph Kresh

Could Kafka Resist A Bikini-Clad Lady On A Cockroach?

Kafka most certainly appreciated young ladies – his last young lover attempted to leap into his grave.

And he did have an affinity for cockroaches though, to be accurate, he did not describe his “giant vermin” as a cockroach.

And he enjoyed swimming.

So, perhaps he would not mind making a splash.

DE

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gigantic-cockroach-raft-inflatable-pool-float-kangaroo-7

Finding a bug floating around in the swimming pool is bad enough, but finding a six-foot cockroach bobbing about in the water is something else entirely. Take a look at this inflatable cockroach to see what we mean.

It’s called the Kangaroo’s Gigantic Cockroach Raft (obviously), and it’s perfect for people who like to swim alone. After all, chances are that most people will scatter like, well, roaches, as soon as you and your inflatable insect arrive in the pool. It’s available to buy on Amazon (although it looks like it belongs IN the Amazon) for only $29.99, and it’s sure to provide some wholesome entertainment. “My mother in law is afraid of roaches lol we got this to scare her and it worked so well!!!” reads one review. “My son loved riding on it and attacking her. Great family fun!!” Need we say more?

Terrifying Cockroach Inflatable To Make Swimming In The Pool Fun Again

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