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Travel and Dine on The Orient Express With Alison Alexandra

vsoe-rest-int-07

A few days ago, Alison Alexandra unceremoniously ended my chapter. I had planned another week of work to arrive at the ending. She did away with my ending, put in her own, and ignored the intricate back story I had planned.

So, I sat myself down and wondered what would happen in its place. It turns out Alison Alexandra wants to take a vacation, and the one place where she might just get away from herself (as she seems to desire) is the . She previously had a few pages (literally writing-years ago) on the train.

Sounded good enough for me.

A half hour later, the Face Book page for the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express popped up in my feed.

Full steam ahead, think I.

The following is a portion of Alison Alexandra’s previous trip on the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express.

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

In the reflection in the glass of her for-the-time-being-stateroom window, Alison Alexandra notices the glances from people on the platform watching her peering, and she doesn’t want to give them any ideas of turning into spies themselves so she stops and turns from the train and continues to walk its length to the engine. Of course, she is looking for spies herself, as befits the aura of the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express. Spies and temptresses and writers and countesses and moustached gentlemen of natty appearance with zee little grey cells working overtime. And criminals and murderers and explorers and adventurers and (no doubt) adulterers and placid businessmen with fettered imaginations and the old wealth and the nouveau rich and folk on the run from the past and folk hoping to run to the past and not once in her complete walk to the engine did she once stop for all those posing to take a Selfie with the Orient Express in the background because – really – if you can’t remember it with your own memory then what’s the point?

She looks up at the engine and realizes that it has never belched billowing smoke and that it never will and she has been prepared for this disappointment – but still. It is a pleasant fantasy as is the whole trip as is the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express itself since the *real* train stopped years ago and even then there had been so many variations with so many destinations that someone could have taken several “Orient Express” trips and travelled on several different routes. In fact, two of the most famous books set on the Orient Express”, Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express and Greene’s Stamboul Train, are set on two different trains, neither of them the “Orient Express”. So Alison Alexandra is not really miffed there is no smoke-belching engine with escaping steam. She can make her own fantasy as others have done before her.

She returns along the platform, rubbing her fingers across the side of the blue-and-gold Waggons-Lits Sleeping Cars. She has kept out of the way of the ceremonial line-ups of the train staff greeting passengers. Enough attention has been paid. She again peers into her compartment window of the S-Series sleeper – slightly smaller and slightly less ornate – more suitable for a sole traveller who plans no assignations. The train is five minutes away from leaving. Alison Alexandra will indeed change for her evening meal. Not all her interests in the fashion of her youth have dissipated. And- after all –she is on the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express. She is not present only for the transportation.

Alison Alexandra wants to blend in and not be either a fashion statement nor a fashion disaster. Black is always the new black, so she enters her Waggon-Lit, enters her compartment, opens a travel case much older than she, and slips into spiffy clothing and accessories that would have allowed her to slip into any of the fantasies of the fantastic Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express with nary a comment of discord but with a nod of appreciation.

In the Etoile du Nord dining car, she has the desire to sit with three other people instead of one. She has made her request known, and will be hailed by a seated trio. She hopes for the best but her anticipation is tinged with a trace of concern. She does not want to be bored, nor does she want to spend the meal warding off unwanted attention. She felt it futile to make such stipulations up front. Sometimes you have to go with the flow.

“Hello.” A face turns up to her. “Are you Missy Alison?”

“Alison Alexandra.”

“I told you so.” Another head turns in her direction. “Your black attire will slide right well into a trio of  three widows.”

“Now, Blanche.” The third voice speaks without raising her head. “We’re sisters first, and widows second.”

“Which one of our husbands would have gone on this trip?”

“True.”

“So that’s why we’re here.”

“Is that why you’re here, Alison Alexandra?” The sister who has yet to look at her now does. “Death allowing you to escape into life?”

“No widow me.” Alison Alexandra looks at each face in turn. “Nor wife neither.”

“Do you still want to sit?”

“Oh, yes.” Alison Alexandra pulls out the final chair. “And as I am the only one in black, might I suppose your widowhoods are not recent.”

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Winter In Canada With Bear And Dog And Snow

After a late winter snow storm, Grosvenor Park, North Bethesda, MD, USA.

I post this winter tale  when the snow decides to storm and the wind shakes the trees and there in nary a bird to see. It happened a few years ago, and hints at the rougher side of Nature, which is so often just around the corner in Canada.

Some years in the past, I looked after a dog whilst her owners went out of town.

Tibbit is a big, friendly dawg who likes inspecting piles of leaves. She has a long lead which her benevolent human allows to go as far as possible. She knows (better than her accompanying human) that there are treats at the end of each walk.

On Saturday I didn’t get Tibbit out until after dark. We skirted the university (where her masters work) and went up a street bordering the campus. We both liked the Christmas lights. Near the top of the street we met an inebriated gentleman warning us of a bear in the surrounding woods.

“Flush him out,” said he, “And I’ll get my 3 aught 3.”

“Get the rifle first,” I replied, and we went our respective ways.

Now Tibbit and I doubted the veracity of the gentleman, so when we came to a trail through the woods, we took it. I will admit I did peer more intently into the gloom than usual, but one trail led to a larger trail which led back to the university. We advanced without incident.

On Sunday I again walked Tibbit toward the university, though from a different direction. It was a crisp, clear day and she gamboled (as much as the leash allowed ) through the new fallen snow. Sunshine gleamed. This time we were on the other side of the campus, but our walk eventually led to a position about half a mile away from where we were the previous evening.

We followed another trail into the woods and admired the sun through the fir trees. The path was wide and sloped. It came to turn some distance away which would lead us even closer to where we were the day before.

At the top of the slope Tibbit stopped dead in her tracks. She stared and stared. She glanced briefly into the woods but mainly kept staring along the trail. I saw nothing nor heard anything (and I was intent upon both).

Tibbit did not move and made not a sound. She just kept staring.

After a solid two minutes of this I started to backtrack and she made no complaint.

You betcha she got her dog treats.

(image)buckscountyandbeyond.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Winter-Storm-1-26-15-1024×770.jpg

It Was NOT The Person From Porlock On The Phone

wendys-poutine-0-0

My elevator pitch for my current work, There Was A Time, Oh Pilgrim, When The Rocks Were Not So Smooth is “In Xanadu, did Alison Alexandra / a stately pleasure dome decree”. Stolen whole cloth from Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his Kubla Khan.

So, I was startled awake this morning by a ringing phone. Just rang once. I have been attempting to write a dialogue between three characters in a pub concerning a dish of poutine. Although I did not exactly leap from my supine position to write the following, it was damn close.

I look upon the incident as a gift from the Backward Gods of writing.

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

Excerpt from: There Was A Time, Oh Pilgrim, When The Rocks Were Not So Smooth

“I’ve not had that,” says Bridget. “What is it?”

“A heart stopper.” says Amanda.

“Pretty well,” agrees Alison Alexandra.

“They start with a big effing pile of French fries.”

“Excuse her French,” says Alison Alexandra.

“And then they pile on cheese curds and smother that with gravy.”

“Smother,” agrees Alison Alexandra.

“Then they check your pulse and let you go at it.”

“They don’t really do that,” says Alison Alexandra.

“Maybe not,” says Amanda. “But I bet they have a defibrillator handy.”

“Probably,” says Alison Alexandra.

“Well,” Bridget smiles. “It sounds as if a pitcher of draft will go real good with that.”

 

(image)https: //cdn0.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/6uyEgzZ9ByVTIyKBCsu3gSNZaKM=/4×0:996×558/1600×900/cdn0.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/39119842/wendys-poutine.0.0.jpg

 

Gas Leak And Evacuation Give Alison Alexandra Much To Ponder

 

butane-leak-day-3-saint-john-east-terminal

I have been evacuated once before because of an explosion, and put up in a hotel by the Red Cross another time because of a house fire.

Monday last, both were able to be combined when a gas leak of Butane forced us to be evacuated just after supper, and the Red Cross found us fine hotel accommodations for (so far) two nights. Not only is there a pool with a water slide attached, but I’ve had the best waffles for breakfast that I’ve had for years. Now, if the neighbourhood doesn’t blow up (which looks less and less like happening) it will be quite the adventure.

Oddly, two days of unexpected hotel life seems like a week. I’m not sure why, because although the actual evacuation occurred in the relative haste of ten minutes, it is not as if we had not been forewarned and thus prepared. With bags and backpacks of provisions and clothes (and computers) we followed the instructions of three burly firemen and left. We did stand in lines in the hotel, and filled in forms and such, but it was not very arduous. Comfy beds awaited. If we have such stress in this situation, I might get some distant glimpse of what folk in dire straits must feel.

The Emergency Situation first began around 11:00 Monday morning. when I noticed hosts of emergency vehicles by their flashing lights, closing the major highways to our area. I actually got better views of our neighbourhood from news outlets and twitter accounts. I watched film crews at their work, and stand up reporters giving their reports across the street. Then, over the course of the afternoon, men in bulky uniforms and helmets started wandering along the street and across the fields. I went out to query them, and they were using their magic wands to sniff out Butane on the air. All seemed well for hours.

But then – as was fully explained in the next-day briefing – the wind shifted and the Butane (though apparently not dangerously concentrated) began in earnest to move toward the residential area, and away we all went.

The next briefing is in an hour.

And although two days of writing have been disturbed, today I returned to my current endeavours, where I follow Alison Alexandra through sundry places. It appears she will  find that she (in her own way) will have to deal with a somewhat similar situation.

But she can take care of herself.

DE

Memoir Of The Chickens And The Nazi

racist-grafitti
An Oldie Rock station just played Spinning Wheel by Blood, Sweat And Tears. This always – always – brings back my memories of working on a farm in Germany during my university days. It was a hit of the time.

And, since I am currently well into reading Alan Bennett’s new Memoirs, Keeping On, Keeping On, I did what I have not done for years. I excavated my Journals about my three month summer in Europe, and turned to the day which mirrors this.  And, since it proved to be a notable day, I’ll transpose it verbatim (well, except I’ll clean up the spelling).

18 June

An interesting day, in a rather strange way. I got to work some of the morning with the hired hand, Herr Steiner, alone. He could speak no English and I was surprised that I could converse with him as well as i could (we had lots of time and I could speak slowly and I could think things out. We were, as a point of interest, filling wool sacks.


He told me that he  did not care for the place very much and was planning to leave soon. I can not say that he gave me ideas. I already had them.

And then the other interesting queer occurrence. I am tempted to drag all the dramatic interest I can out of this episode, but I may as well tell it in a simple manner, for it happened in a simple way.

I was going into one of the egg houses to collect the noon-time eggs, and as i stepped through the door, I saw it. Now, I had been collecting eggs there twice a day for two weeks, and had never once noticed what i now saw.

There was a swastika scrawled on one of the walls. It was covered in dust (like everything else) and something beside it has been scratched over. I suppose one can not think of Germany without thinking of the Hitler era, and I had wondered what I would do or think if I came across something like this. I had made jokes about the Bunker on the back forty, or the tattered painting of Hitler in the attic.

I put the thing down to its most logical explanation, the imitative scrawl of a six or seven year old child. Even so, rather bigger thoughts went through my head every time I saw someone use a whip rather forcefully.

DE

(image) https://i.cbc.ca/1.3995470.1487856081!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_620/racist-grafitti.jpg

The Time He Could Have Been King Of Montréal

underground-city

“I don’t mean to stare – I apologize. I’m not in the habit of doing this, but you remind me of someone. That has to sound like a line – the look on your face. But I’m not after ….

 

“Have you ever been in the train station at Place Ville Marie in Montreal? The escalators that come up by the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.  I had a lot of travel to get to work when I lived in Montreal, and made train and bus connection.

 

“No, thanks. I don’t want another.

 

“One morning – a Thursday – as I was going up the escalator, I saw a girl coming down from the street. She had short red hair – that’s the main reason I’ve been staring – and a green skirt with a white blouse. Coming down that escalator, with that wide space between us. She was looking at me the way I was looking at her – interest and excitement and whatever potential that leads to. We stared into each others eyes as we came level, and craned to look back as we passed.

 

“I guess I’ll have another of the same, after all.

 

“That was stupid enough. I should have jumped that barrier, or at least gone down after her. But I had a job, and was young, and things like that just don’t happen.

 

“Next morning, even though I was looking for her, and hoping so much, I couldn’t have been more shocked by a ghost when I saw that red hair. She had that same look – of shock.

 

“God, to be so unsure of what to do, and stupid to the ways of the world, and even to have that stabbing thought that it can happen again tomorrow. We stared and stared, you could almost feel electricity between us. At the top I waited as long as I dared, hoping she would come up. I had to get my bus. I just jumped it as it was pulling away.

 

“That was a Friday. I sweated through the weekend, full of grand plans about telling her to wait, or to come up to me, or yelling my phone number. She wasn’t there, of course – on Monday or any other day. I looked the rest of the summer, then it was back to university.

 

“I mean, to be given one chance like that and waste it. But two. I’ve never forgotten, even now with a wife and kids, I wonder what might have been. It can make my hands shake, seeing someone like you, and with too much drink in me.”

DE

(image)https ://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/04/34/64/1f/underground-city.jpg

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

Eagle And Crows Face Off By A City Graveyard

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I http://www.naturebob.com/zenphoto/cache/Birds/hawks-and-eagles/bald-eagle-and-northwestern-crow_595.jpg

I was within three minutes of finishing my daily walk.This particular route takes me through an historic graveyard in the centre of the city. The graveyard encompasses two city blocks and is surrounded by a metal fence. One walks through a gate, along a cement path, and through another gate. The second gate is three minutes from my residence.

I was part way through the graveyard when I saw a group of people crowded together near the path. I assumed it was a group of youth, who often use the graveyard as a ‘park’. I assumed they were just hanging out, but i did keep an eye on them. When I was close enough I realized it was a film crew of seven or eight. They were clustered around a boom camera, one which can rise to a moderate height. As they were directly across from an historic cairn, I thought they might be filming some sort of documentary, and photographing the cairn. I passed them by, making a point not to gawk.

Just past the other gate I was about to cross the street. As i looked both ways for cars I saw, about five car lengths away, a bald eagle standing on the pavement. if one can not ‘literally believe their eyes’, this was the time for me. However, realizing it was there, I figuratively rubbed my eyes. It was standing stock still. I immediately thought it was a) stuffed and b) it was some sort of prop for that movie crew. Such is the imagination.

Within seconds the tableaux changed. The bald eagle started (or returned to) hopping around. And, now taking in more of what was before my eyes, I saw a crow overhead. The crow was diving at the eagle. Then, as quickly, I saw other crows in the sky, a half dozen or so. They were all circling overhead, and were taking turns aiming at the eagle. The eagle started hopping around even more.

I do not know what had happened to make this encounter occur. Now I wondered if the eagle was injured. It was moving slowly and kept its wings folded. The crows were not (I assume – wisely) making contact with the big bird. They were, however, constant and raucous. The term “dive bombing” comes to mind. The eagle became more agitated.

Without any effort (so it seemed) the eagle lifted into the air. This caused an increase in the vocal alarms of the crows. The eagle started a steady ascent toward the south, looking as magnificent as eagles are supposed to do. All the crows now circled continually, keeping their distance and cawing incessantly. The eagle was soon high above the tops of the trees. It made a slow alteration of course and headed toward the river, which is five blocks away from the graveyard. It kept gaining altitude and the crows kept pursuit. All the birds became too distant to observe.

As they all departed I heard a shout behind me. I turned in time to see the camera on its boom extended high, pointed toward the first gate I had entered. Within seconds a young man was running along the cement path through the graveyard. The camera lowered and tracked him until a voice shouted “Cut!” he stopped right in front of the memorial cairn.

Three minutes later I turned into the driveway of my residence.

DE

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