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Kafka Sprints Through May Day Full Of Many Thoughts

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Excerpt from my Kafka In The Castle, where I fill in all of his missing diary entries. Here he is dealing with a time twenty-eight years after the first May Day was declared. Kafka dealt with workers every day of his work life. But he didn’t take their problems home.

By the way – in real life – Kafka is credited with inventing the the hard hat.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

27 April 1917

Life seems to offer a handful of solutions which solve nothing. If I could get out of Prague, then I wouldn’t have to get out of Prague.

 

29 April 1917

Ottla managed to get away, and I’ll be able to visit. The dead man next door (I have since found his name was Adolf) also managed to get out of Prague. Him, I can not visit, but I can follow.

 

03 May 1917

The thoughts of the living discourage the dead. I spend so much time watching over myself, that there is no one left to watch over me.

 

06 May 1917

I write to Ottla. I make no mention of her terminated neighbour. I do say “hello” from father. Not an uneven balance.

 

08 May 1917

If Shakespeare were alive today, and people pestered him about Hamlet, would he wonder what all the fuss was about?

 

(image) 2.bp.blogspot.com/-atmC5fHIQp0/UhqBTCq06LI/AAAAAAAAAkA/S47fPCQHuww/w1200-h630-p-k-no-nu/kafka_hard_hat.jpg

Is It Santa Claus, Or Is It Me, For Christmas?

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Although I am no fan of having the Santa Claus story take such a bite out of Christmas, I’m not against Santa Claus. In fact, we’ve had quite the relationship.

As a child, I had two ‘encounters’ with Santa. I can’t place the years, but I remember them from the houses I lived in.

The first time I would have been no older than five. I was going to the outhouse on a dark Christmas Eve. The outhouse was a couple of minutes walk from the house. On my way, I heard the bells on Santa’s sleigh. Don’t try to dissuade me, I know what I heard. I even remember the direction I had to turn to see if I could see anything. I was right quick about doing my business.

The second time would have been a couple of years later. On Christmas Day I saw the marks from Santa’s sleigh runners on the snow beside the house.  Never mind your smiles, I know what I saw.

And, a few years after that, I was with some younger friends who questioned me about the reality of Santa Claus. Now, by then I did not believe that Santa existed. But, I didn’t want to tell the “children” that. Neither did I want to lie. I don’t know how long it took me to think of a way out, but long enough (obviously) for it to remain strong in my memory. My answer was: “Well, there must be a Santa Claus. How could your parents afford all those gifts?”

In the years when I did a fair amount of house-sitting, I did so for one couple where the husband had a perfect resemblance to Santa Claus. Thus, for many a Christmas, he was the hit of local gatherings. And he had a beautiful suit and hat and – of course – a real beard.

I also know a poet whose first book was about Mrs. Claus. She is also known to dress up the part (even with a Christmas bonnet) and read at Christmas gatherings.

As for myself, one day I entered my financial institution around Christmas and got into line. As we snaked forward, I came opposite a mother and father with a young child. He looked at me and screamed (literally) “Santa Claus!” Then he burst into tears. I don’t know what troubled him (maybe I was out of uniform).

A few years ago, (and this was not around Christmas, though it was Fall) I was walking in a park. A family approached, two parents and three children. One of the boys (and he looked five or six) dashed ahead and stood in front of me. “Santa Claus,” he said. I thought it was some sort of joke, but he turned excitedly to his siblings. “It’s Santa Clause.” He was quite happy. The father said “Maybe not.” but did not really try to dissuade him. And neither did I.

Finally, a few weeks ago, as I was seated beside a very early “Visit Santa” display, an old codger, with whiskers of his own, approached, pushing a walker in front of him. He stopped and looked down at me.

“When do you take the chair?”

“What?’

“And get the red suit on?”

“What?”

“At least ya got the padding for it.”

I think it is fair to say that the twinkle was in his eye, and not mine.

(Image) https://slm-assets2.secondlife.com/assets/8867706/view_large/Santa_Chairs_003B.jpg?1386456018

A Military Parade For The Commander-in-Chief

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Commander-in-Chief  Donaldo decided it would be a grand day to become Admiral of the Fleet – Lord High Admiral, if he chose the hat with cockade and plume.

The plume put on an impressive display, as he either agreed (or disapproved) with a toss (or a shake) of his head. The dancing ostrich feathers would added a dashing air as he boarded his flagship and, with just the right mixture of stringent authority and well-tempered geniality, moved among the ranks of ratings on the aft deck.

He would, of course, be extra careful about the pitfalls awaiting a man, with ornate dress sword and scabbard, among the steep steps and narrow companionways.

 

Wednesday was khaki day for Commander-in-Chief Donaldo.

It was the day set aside to remind him of the loyalty he must always retain from his men. What is a leader without his troops? As a treat – for really, dull brown did not make a striking appearance – he would chose the tank commander’s uniform.

With its wide web belt and shiny black holster on the hip, flap unsnapped to reveal the butt of a wicked forty-five. And  black leather gloves, as befits a man at the controls of so much power. And a steel helmet polished to a mirror-shine.

The riding crop? Ah, the riding crop was debatable.

 

Today he would have a parade.

Massed men at attention with stiffly-held rifles and fixed bayonets.

Commander-in-Chief Donaldo would have to chose carefully. to represent his awesome power and responsibility. Cavalry boots are a must, raising half-way up the calf, resounding with silver spurs, steel-tipped toes and heels.

Then would come crisp black trousers, billowing majestically around the thighs, kept up with a wide leather belt. He took care that each red stripe reaching the length of each leg was as straight as an arrow.

His blue tunic, he decided, would have only muted decorations, with the minimum of gold braid entwined about his shoulders. He is – after all – a fighting general.

[Image] https: //www.britishbattles.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/2-Lieutenant-General-Sir-George-White-VC-GCB.jpg

Travel But No Sex On The Night Train Of Years Ago

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The night train goes between Halifax and Montreal, and Montreal and Halifax. You can’t get there from here in daylight . . . by train. The train chug chug chugs out of Halifax early afternoon, and out of Montreal early evening. The two pass somewhere in Quebec. Arrival in Montreal is early morning (breakfast time) and early evening (supper time).

Although I’ve had some association with trains for decades (the father of a next-door childhood friend was even the conductor on a train) I came to my pleasure and interest in trains from my first trip to Europe. Both in Great Britain, and the continent, I had great pleasure on the trains (much due to the scenery I had never seen). It was really after that first trip that I travelled with any seriousness by train in Canada. And, as I said, any travel from east to west must include the night train to Montreal.

I have been blessed in that I have never had to ‘sit up’ on this trip (though, these days, even that is not too bad). I’ve had berths (upper and lower) and compartments (these days – again – even with their own shower). And I love the dome cars, sitting there for hours even after dark. It is a grand sensation travelling though the darkened forests with often no more than moon light and stars. And the red and green signal lights of the track itself.

Back ‘in the day’ I even almost had a Night train romance.

This was in the upper berths, where nothing more than a curtain flap and a zipper kept the sleepers private. One usually undressed while supine upon the mattress, sloughing off one’s outer clothes.

On one particular journey to Montreal, in the dark of that Quebec landscape, across the narrow aisle, was a beautiful teen-aged gal, not many years younger than myself. And she indicated ‘interest’, with smiles and giggles and some gentle teasing of undress.

However, she travelled with her (I presume) parents, safely ensconced in the lower berths. And Daddy looked as if he:

a) would brook no nonsense

and (more to the point)

b) would cease and desist any interest by me

The sweet lass keep appearing from behind her curtain with smiles and gestures, but finally realized that an athletic leap from my side to hers was neither safe nor wise. We arrived in Montreal as pure as we set out.

*Sigh*

(image)http://www.museumoftheamericanrailroad.org/Portals/0/Gallery/Album/21/Women-in-Pullman-Section-Berths-January-1930-Hulton-Archive-Getty-Images_600px.jpg

Christmas Married To A Pagan Feast

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[ABL photo]

“The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.”

~ Clement Clarke Moore

 

The first serious snow is falling. Outdoor Christmas lights across the street melt through a cover of snow – a sight I particularly enjoy.  So, I’ll reprint this – albeit edited – from a few years ago. Maybe it will become a tradition.

Christmas is a fake that has taken root like the holly, and it survives tenaciously. It has become a goodies grab fest, and helps keep our commercial society stable. Perhaps reason enough to exist.

The wily Christians conquered the outnumbered Celts, and supplanted their winter festival with the birth of their God. The wily pagans live on in the numerous traditions the Christians stole, so perhaps it is a fair trade. And no doubt those wily pagans chuckle over their cups o’mead, noting that this celebration of reverence has become a surfeit of greed.

I have been no fan of Christmas for decades, but its mixed legacy encourages me not to abandon it. My Christian background enhances my enjoyment of the music and traditions. Most commercial intrusions can be muted or turned off. I do have some personal traditions I follow religiously.

I do not even rail against Santa Claus. I heard his sleigh bells one Christmas Eve, when I was four. I saw his sleigh runner tracks in the snow a couple of years later.

I have even been mistaken for Santa a couple of times. Once, in the line-up in a bank near Christmas, a two-year old pointed at me. Unfortunately, my presence terrified him, and he started to scream and cry. I was wise enough not to go Ho Ho Ho. Another time – but this happened in early fall – a family approached me as I walked in a park. A boy, who looked to be six or seven, stopped in his tracks, then ran back to his parents. “Santa Claus!”  He pointed. Happily he did not cry. They walked past me in silence.

Also, for decades, I lived close to a residence where one of the very first recitations of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas happened. The author of that stirring piece, Clement Moore, who wrote it in 1822, sent a copy to his godfather, the Rev Johnathan O’Dell, of Fredericton New Brunswick. However, the poem was not published until 1837.

To be fair to myself, I’m not a total Scrooge, as I have written some Christmas tales.  Here is a wee segment from The Elephant Talks To God:

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

“I want to see you,” said the elephant, and the words raced from his mouth. “I don’t have to see you, you know that. I’ve believed even before you talked to me. But I want to see you, it would mean so much. I wasn’t around for the Baby, but cows and sheep and things got to see Him. I can’t explain but it would … ”

“Go home,” said the cloud.

“You’re not angry with me?” said the elephant.

“No.” The cloud started moving away. “It’s an honest request.” The rain stopped falling. “Thank you for coming.”

“You’re welcome,” said the elephant.

“Sing some carols,” the voice was distant. “I like them.”

The elephant turned and started through the woods. He ignored the tasty leaves within easy reach and the tall grass near the brook. He wanted to get home as quickly as possible so he could join the singing he knew was happening later in the evening.

He turned along the trail, snapping a branch here and there in his haste, when he noticed the stillness, the hush which had overtaken the forest. He slowed down and the stopped in his tracks. He turned his head, his small eyes squinting into the brush. There was movement coming toward him, and when the trees parted, he went to his knees with a gasp. Tears rolled from his eyes, and a golden trunk gently wiped them away.*

*Last line edited from an error in the book.

 

Be Of Christmas Travel Cheer

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As it is always double the chore to travel on holidays, I departed on my Christmas retreat earlier than usual. Before the dozens turned into hundreds.

It was clear weather (easier to choose when one can take the time), and I was waiting for the bus a good hour before departure. I wait outside so I can walk around. There are always a few others who do this, and one fellow approached to ask if I would watch his luggage for a few minutes. I agreed, and said perhaps he could do the same for me. “Sure,” he said. “We gotta look out for each other.” I took that as some Seasonal good will.

While I pondered in the sunshine (the last sunshine, it turns out, that I was to see for four days), I heard a sound that I interpreted as either a roaring bus engine or a plane flying overhead. When neither was revealed, I went looking. On the far side of the bus station is the large parking lot of a large grocery store. In one corner of the parking lot was a forest of cut and bundled Christmas trees. One of the tree vendors was removing the bindings of the trees. He then placed the cut base of the tree on a circular metal platform. He turned on an engine (the sound I had heard), held the tree, and the metal base shook violently. It shook so much that it shook all the loose needles off the tree. The fellow then removed the shaken tree, stood it aside, and did another one. Tools for everything.

As I was watching this performance, an elderly gentleman approached me. Perhaps because I was immersed in a woodland of felled trees, his clothing reminded me of someone from the back woods. His work boots were unlaced, his heavy coat was well worn, and his face was both creased and had the stubble of three days growth. He had a guitar of similar vintage slung over his back.

“Nice day,” said he.

I agreed.

“I’m a Busker,” said he. “I’ll give you a Christmas carol for two bucks. I don’t have enough for smokes.”

“That’s OK,” said I. “I’ll gladly give you two dollars.”

“No – I’m going to sing for it.”

“OK.”

I could not judge if his voice was more rough than the guitar. The guitar was out of tune. Some strings were loose. ‘Hollow’ and ‘twang’ come to mind. I got a hoarse rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. He included three verses.

Then he took my two dollars and wended his way to the large grocery store.

“Let nothing you dismay.”

DE
(image) https://secure.img1-ag.wfcdn.com/im/29181556/resize-h800^compr-r85/4366/43669485/VW+Inspired+Christmas+Tree+Bus.jpg

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