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It is a whirlwind in here

Coffee To Go – No Strings Attached

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I was standing in line in a coffee shop, waiting to place my order. I was third in line, the end in sight.

A voice came in my ear.

“Thanks, Man. It was kind of you.”

I turned, cautious and obviously puzzled. A clean-shaven and well dressed middle-aged man was not exactly in line behind me, but more to my shoulder.

“I appreciate the help.”

I didn’t feel overly anxious in the midst of a well-peopled coffee shop, but I was glad he didn’t look unhinged. I was wondering what obvious response to make: “Pardon me?” “I think you’re mistaken.” “Can I help you?” But then he spoke quickly.

“You helped me out back there.” He pointed to the street. “Up on the corner. You gave me money.”

I had had no such encounter, and was concerned that any sort of response might elicit offence. Plus, his stability now came into question.

“Wasn’t that you?”

“Sorry. You are mistaken.”

“Looks like you.”

“Then he’s a lucky fellow, whoever he is.”

This did get a laugh. Then, though I might have been expecting many things, I did not anticipate what he did next. He took out a gift card for the Coffee Shop we were standing in.

“Hey, can you give me $5 for this. A lady gave it to me earlier. It’s real.” We both moved forward as the line moved. “I don’t need coffee, but I need strings for my guitar. That’s how I make money on the street.”

As soon as he said this, I remembered someone playing a guitar across the street I had been on. There was no way I could tell if this fellow was him – but what are the odds?

“I can’t play without strings.”

I did not know at the time, nor do I know now, if this was a well-honed and practised routine to get some money. But it was only $5, I’d soon know if the card was real, and if it was a fraud I figured he’s earned $5.

So I gave him the $5.

“Thanks, Man. I swear it’s real. I play along here all the time. I can’t risk my reputation.”

A couple of minutes later I made my purchase. I used the card for part of it.

It was real.

DE

(image)http://champ.d.umn.edu/sites/champ.d.umn.edu/files/styles/hero_interior_710x326/public/umd_interior_home/northern_shores_coffee_shop.png?itok=SorWnqf6

History And Europe And Estey

0a Isabella d’Este, Giovanni Cristoforo Romano, 1500.

There is a tradition in “my” branch of the Estey family that we descend from the d’Este of Italy. The d’Este clan were rich and powerful and influential. They married well which – yes –  brought the infamous Lucrezia Borgia into the family when she wed Alfonso I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara.

My father had a reproduction of Alfonso’s sister, Isabella, readily at hand. Isabel was a name for at least one daughter in every generation of Esteys. Lucrezia attempted to befriend Isabella, but to no avail.

The town of Este is in Northern Italy, in the Veneto region, about a two hour car ride from Venice. It’s most recent population figure of two years ago was around 17,000. I have a special fondness for this part of Italy and have sprinkled references to it in some of my novels. Indeed, my whole historical onion trilogy is centred around a town in this area.

So, Este was certainly a destination when I travelled through Europe. And the surrounding area. Este was suitably medieval in tone, with its ruined Este castle and wonderful flower beds and bowers and stone bridge over river and walled town and as happily historic as all get out.

I looked to see how many Estes were in the phone book (a respectable number) but I didn’t phone anyone.  I would be more thorough and stay longer on another trip. I doubt there is any way to fix up that castle.

I enjoyed all of Italy that I visited (and the rest of Europe held no less enthusiasm from me). But to stick, as it were, around the old homestead, the most enjoyable places were Venice and Florence. I was most surprised to see cruise ships looming from the Venetian waterfront.

I sighed on The Bridge of Sighs – from such beauty to such terror those prisoners were lead. A stunning memory was boating on the Grand Canal at dusk and seeing rooms in a passing mansion ablaze with chandeliers.

Florence was my favourite. It is, of course, awash in museums and galleries and art art Art. To chose the one which stunned me most was  Botechelli’s Birth of Venus – and that’s saying a lot, considering. The Ponte Vecchio over the Arno lives up to all its billing. Alas, I bought no gold.

Also, a memory is walking along certain streets and assuming I was near riding stables because of the permeating smell. However, I was in the leather good quarter. There was also the ancient, wire mesh and gated elevator,the type I had only seen in movies, wheezing me aloft to my lodgings. And the lady who left her room key on my table after breakfast. And don’t get me started on the markets and the food. Don’t.

However, there is one golden memory which consists of neither history nor ancient art. This happened in Verona. I was walking along a busy street and looked into the interior of a news vendor. The building also had an array of paperback books. And there, looking back out at me, was my own novel, L’INGANNO BONNER, recently produced in an Italian translation. That was a most pleasant delight indeed.

DE

(image)http://www.isabelladeste.org/_/rsrc/1467897567813/isabella-deste/0a.PNG

 

When Writing Spooks Television

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I am currently writing a *perhaps* novel (that is, perhaps it will be a novel), though I suppose  I should find out if it is a novel since I just passed the 200 page point.

In my current project, following the escapades of Alison Alexandra (entitled Stones for short), my erstwhile activist, Alison Alexandra, is a passenger on a freighter (that takes a limited number of passengers) as it delivers goods from port to port.

I’ve done a fair amount of online research into these freighter cruises as I, myself, would much prefer such a trip over the very crowded (and expensive) Cruise Lines.  But, I will research anywhere that might help my cause. So, a couple of nights ago, on television, there was a documentary about the most recent, largest, and most extravagant Cruise Ship as yet built.

I was very interested in following its construction. I was also very interested in seeing how it was run, taking into consideration the thousands of people who had to be tended to. The delivery of provisions, the kitchens, and the massive amount of work necessary to clear out thousands of folk and then greet thousands of folk on the same day, was fascinating. Not a freighter by any standard, but basic principles were the same.

Then the documentary followed the ship on its first cruise.

Now, back to my reality. At the same time as writing original material about Alison Alexandra, I have been putting a hand-written manuscript of a novel finished a number of years ago into the computer. I do one thing in the morning, and the other in the evening. So far – no problems have arisen.

My hand-written manuscript is set in the 1300’s. The first part depicts a two year voyage from Italy to China and back. Both the voyage and events in China are described. And then, the arrival back to Italy. For four straight days, I have been transcribing the docking and aftermath of the ship at Civitavecchia, Italy. It is the closest seaport to Rome.

On television, before my eyes, after a day of writing, the Cruise Ship I had watched from inception to voyage, pulled into the port of Civitavecchia.

Maybe I should take a cruise.
 

DE

Civitavecchia (image)http://www.cruisemapper.com/images/ports/81-e23a9f4fb2887.jpg

Of Valentines And Kafka And Love

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Kafka and “lady friend”

Contrary to popular belief, Kafka had a very full love life. He was rarely without a lady friend during any part of his life. When one left, another soon took her place.

This is a part of a letter he wrote to Felice, the woman he was engaged to – twice. I think it fair to say that she was long-suffering. I would think that the sentiments Kafka expresses might have given her second thoughts. Perhaps that is partly why there were two engagements.

Think what one will about Kafka’s romantic abilities, he was a chick magnet. Right to the end. After his funeral his last lover had to be restrained from leaping into his grave to be with him.

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

11 November, 1912

Fräulein Felice!

I am now going to ask you a favor which sounds quite crazy, and which I should regard as such, were I the one to receive the letter. It is also the very greatest test that even the kindest person could be put to. Well, this is it:

Write to me only once a week, so that your letter arrives on Sunday — for I cannot endure your daily letters, I am incapable of enduring them. For instance, I answer one of your letters, then lie in bed in apparent calm, but my heart beats through my entire body and is conscious only of you. I belong to you; there is really no other way of expressing it, and that is not strong enough. But for this very reason I don’t want to know what you are wearing; it confuses me so much that I cannot deal with life; and that’s why I don’t want to know that you are fond of me. If I did, how could I, fool that I am, go on sitting in my office, or here at home, instead of leaping onto a train with my eyes shut and opening them only when I am with you?  … Franz

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While in the first year of his ‘love-of-a-lifetime’ affair with Felice Bauer,  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.

 

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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 f

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

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And in the spirit of Valentine’s Day and Kafka, I’ll add a bit from my Kafka In The Castle

27 February 1917

A letter from F. I am beginning to think that we do not really see the people in front of us. F. has changed from a vibrant companion to a banal drudge. But, of course, she has not really changed. She is neither of these things, but rather a combination. She is a person living through her life, and what I see reflected are my wants and fears. I want F. to share my tiny house, but I am ever fearful she might say yes.

04 June 1917Sometimes – with F – a kiss could make me feel I was becoming part of her. And she into me. I retreated.

05 June 1917

Had I not retreated, I would have given up myself. This is what is expected from love. My thoughts and emotions would be continually extracted. I have no way to replenish them, so I would eventually be hollowed out. And I would collapse.

05 July 1917

I will meet Felice – it is what she wants. It is what must be done. She is coming to Prague, and will no doubt fit in perfectly. My parents approve of her – more, I suspect, than they approve of me. She’ll be insulted by this tiny house – it will be found wanting and crude. Some of those annoying qualities she hints about me.

DE
(image)http://madamepickwickartblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/kafka33.jpg

Onions And Eggs And A Cook On The High Seas

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In my novel, China Lily, the good ship, The Pegasus, makes a voyage from Italy to China a number of years before Marco Polo. This is a taste.

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The cook, Matzerath, was a thin and abrasive man from some vague Northland who was not a particularly good cook. His selection of dishes was limited, and his ability to make meals taste appealing was hit-and-miss. He would probably not have had much success in a village or a town, but he had abilities that made him sought-after aboard ships. He could make dishes – if not tasty, at least palatable – from the poorest of ngredients. He could feed many on scant provisions. And the crews he worked for rarely became ill from the food.

Cepa did not know what methods Matzerath used to achieve his ends. He did possess a chest of herbs and spices and dried plants, but they seemed to be used to either stop putrefaction or make putrefaction edible. He took as many onions from Cepa as he could, but the results were rarely rendered up in the taste of the dish. In many ways his skills were more of an apothecary or doctor, though he did not possess the temperament to acquire their knowledge.

 

Matzerath did have one trick of the trade that continually amazed Cepa. He could take basic eggs and make a dish you could put down in front of a prince. Perhaps the opportunity to use eggs was rare enough that it interested him, or perhaps he just liked eggs.  At any rate, for a few days after they left any port, the crew was blessed with egg as part of their diet. Matzerath served them fresh, on their own, and also made omelettes and frittatas with them. He also – to make some last longer – boiled a number when their worth was near exhaustion.

 

He had an odd method of boiling eggs, to which Cepa became a party because Matzerath used onions. Not fresh onions or green shoots, but the outer layer of brown skin and some inked parchment into boiling water.  After a vigorous boil that leaves the eggs overcooked but more durable, the shells become a mottled brown colour. Cepa can’t tell if this is a deliberate decoration or a side effect. Matzerath did not seem a person concerned with beauty, but Cepa didn’t see how onions helped the boiling of eggs – they did not alter the taste. He queried Matzerath about the procedure, but the only answer he got was that was the way it was done ‘where he came from’.

DE

(image)http://pngimg.com/upload/egg_PNG24.png

Kafka Walks In A Winter Ice Storm from “Kafka In The Castle”

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I follow Kafka in my Kafka In The Castle, filling in his lost diary entries. I have him only where he really was, imagining his days. For a number of months he lived, with his sister, Ottla, in the village of Zürau, a couple of hours by train (in those days) outside of Prague. So, he had some taste of what happens outside my windows right now.

Excerpt from Kafka In The Castle:

05 March 1918

Ice storms the last two days.

It clatters into the chimney, which is quite a startling noise if one happens to be up the stairs, and going about ones usual business. The rattle and ruckus of the ice is an abrasive encounter. More so even than when it beats upon your face as you go along the road. At least there it is expected, and you can be muffled against its intrusion.

Ottla saw to my protective gear, although she did not want me to go out.

Procured, from somewhere, a wide-brimmed hat. Swathed me in scarves up to the eyes. Insisted I put on an outer leather jacket, from which the ice drops merrily bounced. But, she had nothing to offer to assist in the walking. It was, as far as I can compare, like walking through a field of fine salt.

It is not even accurate to say that I slide, for it was actually the ice underfoot which did the sliding. I would find my foot being grabbed and held. I’m sure it was what walking through purgatory would be like.

DE

(image)https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/24/0e/ae/240eaeb02816b44d8dfbe224da8f53ef.jpg

 

When The Government Changes from “Kafka In The Castle”

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Excerpt from Kafka In The Castle

I agreed only to answer questions – that way I could not be accused of fermenting treason.

15 January 1918

This war. They wanted my opinions about this endless war. These earnest, honest men, awaiting the words from the Herr Doktor of Prague.

I agreed only to answer questions – that way I could not be accused of fermenting treason. Even in these troubled times, the law allows a man to answer questions. Assuming that the law prevails.

The law was present in the form of the policeman, attending this questionable gathering while still in uniform. He doffed his hat as he shook my hand. I would rather have him in our midst, than lurking in the hall. We have nothing to fear from him.

“Will the empire last?” This was first from their lips. And they must have needed to hear the words, for even the Emperor must know that all is lost. The Old Order, having fallen into the hands of dull and witless men, must succumb. The complacency of the age must be purged – but that has not yet happened. That awaits the next generation – and the destruction will be furious. But I do not tell them this.

I am skillful in what I do not tell them, for the truth is beyond their power to persuade or control. (Their next questions would have been more difficult had I not curbed the truth further still.) “What will happen to Zurau? What will happen to us?” And they have every right to worry. To suspect. When a society crumbles, it is those at the bottom who get crushed. But I told them that Amerika seemed a just power – not bent on retribution.

I did not tell them that a victor can do as he wants.

And I told them that we live in a secondary part of a secondary empire – the powers of destruction will be concentrated on Vienna and Berlin. I did not tell them that during the death of a snake, the spasms of the tail can be lethal.

And I told them something which could really be of help. I told them, in this coming year, to grow more food: fatten more beasts: prepare, preserve and put away. Fill their cellars and barns to bursting with food and fuel. Buy some things now, which they can use for barter later if the currency becomes worthless. Look after their families and lands.

Look after each other.

DE

Seasons, Storms And Mushrooms Enhance Life And Love

 

the-perfect-storm-in-digital-marketing-q1Dear Eustace:

Summer wings its indolent way past,

and the petal touch of fall floats the air.

If one refused to meld into the other,

would thoughts of mortality arise?

I have often wished

– no, not upon the distant stars (shooting stars are dying a hot death, did you ever think of that?) –

but upon the green/mauve bud and the chill of September morns.

The wishes and the dreams … oh, my.

Have you noticed the abundance of mushrooms this year,

ink caps thrusting to the sky?

Such treats

– such tasty, tasty, treats.

Yours,

Margot.

 

*******

Dear Margot:

The seasons each have their place,

and since I get pleasure from them all,

their comings,

goings

(or, if you wish – passings)

seem not the least profound.

I certainly shan’t waste my time pondering over morality

– what, after all, is more immortal than the changing seasons?

And what might your wishes be, my friend?

I rarely do little more than reach out my hand,

and am fulfilled.

There is so much bounty to partake of

– and no better displayed then at this time of year

(your seasons; Bursting seasons).

Ah, the summer sun has warmed me,

but the crisp fall eve shall make me more appreciate

a warm lady snuggled by my side.

Watch out for mushrooms,

they make the body lament a single bed.

Yours,

Eustace

 

 

*******

Dear Eustace:

My wishes would leave you

– yes, even you –

dazzled.

There aren’t heights on the earth tall enough to reach them,

and the ocean depths would soon be full,

if ever I let my hopes accumulate.

Ask not after a person’s dreams, for you could easily violate a soul.

I put more trust in the unspoken word,

and the unseen deed,

for they are oft the strongest.

There is chill enough in the air this morning to make your warm ladies

work overtime to keep you in a happy state.

What a storm was loosed upon the world last night.

I fear the poor mushrooms

will be more mush than anything else.

I fill my bed quite happily, sir,

do not lament for me.

Yours,

Margot

 

 

*******

Dear Margot:

I shall trust unspoken words

when my ears hurt from the noise they make.

I hear too much as it is,

voices full-primed with choice advice and platitudes,

whether from the pulpit or a cozy bed companion.

You’d be surprised the little that I heed.

With so much new in life,

so much to taste and try,

the wonder lies in the drabness of most lives.

From where do so many fears spring,

and how do they exist?

We also had a grand storm across our lands,

but I had not ignored the signs, and thus picked

a bounty of the succulent fungi.

Whether they aided me or not I can’t say,

but my rest did seem more deserved than usual.

Yours,

Eustace

ps Moira sends again her thanks for your hospitality.

 

DE

(image)https://brand-quarterly-veseycreative.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/The-Perfect-Storm-In-Digital-Marketing-Q1.jpg

Letters Of Reality Or Romance

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Dear Eustace:

My mind confronts so many intangible truths that you sometimes seem

– or is it just hope on my part –

to be my only peg of reality.

Have you noticed whenever we finally believe

we know the reason for something which happens,

it often occurs that the real reasons are exactly the opposite

of what we supposed.

Everything walks a line

– as narrow as those upon this page –

between profound revelation and mindless absurdity.

As I look through my window,

the shadows cast through the trees on the next building,

take the shape of a French poodle carrying a parasol.

Is even Nature absurd?

Yours,

Margot
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Margot:

Nature is nothing but reality,

only the intangible can be absurd.

As I’ve said too many times

(and why do I repeat myself yet again)

you spend too much effort

– and wasted effort, for how can it be other –

on futile quest and query.

The only truth to be found is in sour milk

or pleasant fornication

– these things are real, these things exist.

Absurdity is kittens playing

or the Prime Minister’s latest speech.

These things we look at with amusement

or contempt

– we know not to expect much from either.

Quit you silly endeavours

and join the world which surrounds you,

not the one which your head surrounds.

All important answers can be found between someones legs.

Yours,

Eustace

 

DE

(image)http://i.huffpost.com/gen/2463292/images/o-HANDWRITTEN-LETTER-facebook.jpg

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