Search

kafkaestblog

It is a whirlwind in here

Category

house

When Murder Stalks The House Where You Live

29885646575_62806c67c9_b

As fodder for a writer, I have had the good luck to have two murderers as neighbours. Well . . . almost. One committed his murder a month before he was to move in, the other committed his murder years after he moved out. But, still – it’s the spirit of the intent.

Murderer Two lived in the apartment directly across the hall from me many a long year ago, and committed his murder last year. With a knife. The other murderer used a knife, also. Small world.

While living across the hall from me, Murderer Two was often a cause of disruption. He was prone to parties with unruly and uncontrollable guests. I arrived home one afternoon to an event of screaming proportions occurring across the hall. I was within minutes of phoning the police when someone else did so. Police cars and vans appeared on the street and in the driveway. Ten to a dozen officers entered the raucous apartment. People in various states of inebriation and addiction were taken away. Murderer Two was found hiding in his closet. He did not return.

Last year Murderer Two was charged with the murder of his room mate. No party, though they were both drunk. He claimed self-defence, though the victim was stabbed twelve times. It was established stab number nine was the death blow. He was found guilty of second-degree murder.

Murderer One was a month away from moving into the apartment across the hall from me. He was going to replace one of the occupants moving out. One evening however, he visited the apartment past mid-night. He arrived in a taxi. He had a dispute with the taxi driver (over what, was never clear, but probably lack of payment). From the back seat he slit the driver’s throat and fled the scene. A couple of hours later other drivers of the taxi company were searching for him. His cab was spotted at two in the morning. The engine was still running.

I awoke at six to the sound of a huge engine on the city street. I looked out my front window and saw a police mobile investigation vehicle, engine running. Police cars and vans and an ambulance and a fire department vehicle were all present. Out my back window – in the driveway, was a taxi, police officers, and a body under a tarpaulin. The man had been killed four or five metres from me. I had heard nothing. The investigation took hours at the scene. The body remained. Mid-afternoon it was removed. The taxi was towed away. The fire truck was used to hose away the blood.

I had seen the murderer a few times before, visiting his friends next door. He was arrested in a restaurant kitchen where he worked as a cook. He reportedly had been drunk, had problems with a girl friend. But the exact reasons he was there that night, or why he murdered, were not revealed. He also was found guilty and sent to penitentiary.

II no longer live in that apartment house – but not by choice. It caught fire and was eventually torn down.

(Image)https://farm6.static.flickr.com/5217/29885646575_62806c67c9_b.jpg

Advertisements

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

Finding The Right Hole To Live In

prague-ruelle-or-1

[Kafka’s Alchemist Lane “Burrow” with open door]

A burrow offers security and comfort.  Kafka found both in his sister’s tiny house on the Golden Lane.

The Golden Lane is a narrow, dead-end yet massively historic lane, hugging an interior wall of the huge Prague Castle. Centuries ago the small buildings along the lane housed workers of the Castle, including some resident alchemists. Thus the name.

Ottla – Kafka’s sister – had rented it so she could spend time with her lover, and not be bothered by parents and comments. Her lover was not only a Christian, but he was soon going to leave to fight in World War I. Time was precious. However, she rarely had opportunities to use it other than the weekends, so she offered Franz the use of the tiny house for most of the time. And use it he did, though he never stayed the night.

Through fall, winter and spring Kafka wrote a whole book of short stories there. For a single block of time, it was one of his most creative periods.

When I visited, under the Communist rule of the time, it had been converted to a book store. Of course (which he would have appreciated) there were no books by Kafka for sale. Today he is displayed in the windows.

It was only when I went thorough the small rooms, and looked out the window into The Stag Moat, that I realized how important the house would become in Kafka In The Castle, my novel about Kafka. It was cozy – even with the space cramped by tourists. It had been little altered. I could easily imagine Kafka looking through the same glass and walking through the same doorways. No doubt stooping because he was tall. Research met reality.

One of the last stories Kafka wrote, during his final year in Berlin, was called The Burrow. A version exists and is published, though a longer version is supposed to be among his ‘missing’ papers. In it a tiny animal keeps incessantly burrowing to keep away from an enemy. A vague noise convinces the animal to burrow deeper.

Yes – that’s Kafka.

DE

(image)https://www.avantgarde-prague.com/media/gallery/original/prague-ruelle-or-1.jpg

One Hundred Years Ago Kafka Returns To Prague

 

In my manuscript, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in his missing diary entries. One hundred years ago, to the day, he re-visited (in real life) the small house where he had been happy and productive.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~zlata-ulitzka

01 November 1917

The claws of Prague make fierce sounds when they tear into your flesh.

 

02 November 1917

I walked to Alchemist Lane this afternoon. It is not really a part of Prague – high and removed by its ninety-eight steps. A cold, clear day – much like the day a year ago when I accompanied Ottla on her mad little quest to see it. But not (as I had thought) for the first time. In fact, she had already rented it – something I’ve only learned these past few weeks. She had wished my approval, but she didn’t need my approval. I am glad of that.

It was strange entering the courtyards, and passing beneath the spires of the cathedral. But stranger still was to stand at the mouth of the Lane itself, and look along its length. I could have been away for years, or returning to resume yesterday’s thoughts. I felt both. It was if I were at the station, but not knowing if I were arriving on one train, or departing upon another.

The narrow lane was deserted, so I walked along its length slowly. There were new curtains on the windows of my little house. When I returned, I did pause before my old door, and glanced between the curtains to see that all of my furniture had been removed. Much as their owner.

(image)https://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/03/14/ea/f9/zlata-ulitzka.jpg

History Follows The Footsteps Of Franz Kafka 100 Years Later

kafka

(Franz Kafka, and his sister, Ottla, in Zürau)

A hundred years ago, in the Autumn of 1917, Kafka started his stay in the small village of Zürau (as it was then known) a few hours train ride from Prague. He was there from September 1917 to April 1918, living with his sister Ottla, who was managing a farm. It was in this time he wrote the book which became known as The Zürau Aphorisms.

The Village is now called Sirem, and this month a permanent photographic exhibition has opened in a local house.

Here is a news article about the event, followed by the first of my fictional diary entries about Kafka’s stay in the village. Time certainly marches on

DE

New Kafka exhibition opens in Czech village where he stayed

ČTK |

21 August 2017

Sirem, North Bohemia, Aug 19 (CTK) – A new exhibition on Prague-born Jewish German writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924) focused on his travelling has opened in Sirem village, where he stayed 100 years ago.

The permanent photographic exhibition shows less known sides of the writer. It presents him as a man in a good shape who liked rowing and preferred vegetarian diet.

Kafka arrived in Sirem in the summer of 1917 after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis.

“His relatives thought that he would choose some sanatorium, but he went to see his beloved sister Ottla who was running a farmstead in Sirem,” journalist Judita Matyasova, one of the display authors, told CTK.

She and photographer Jan Jindra were travelling to follow in the footsteps of Kafka for 14 years.

Kafka liked Sirem, the then German village, so much that he stayed there for eight months, which was the longest time he ever spent in the countryside.

Some literary historians are of the view that Sirem inspired Kafka’s novel The Castle (1926).

Kafka’s fans started visiting Sirem in the 1990s.

The new display is installed in a former oast of a farmstead. The first floor houses photographs taken during the trips of Matyasova and Jindra to the places where the writer stayed.

“This was a detective’s work. We were searching for how the sites looked like when Kafka visited them… and what he was doing there,” Matyasova said.

Works by young photography students inspired by Kafka’s short story The Burrow are displayed on another floor.

People can also visit the information centre near the church in Sirem to see old photographs of the village from the time when Kafka stayed there.

“(Former Czech president) Vaclav Havel also visited the village. He wanted to shoot a film inspired by Kafka’s novel The Castle together with Milos Forman,” Matyasova said.

The new exhibition is opened from 13:00 to 17:00 on weekends only.

A mini-brewery to make beer from a local hops sort might be opened nearby in the future, said David Herblich, whose parents own the farmstead where the Kafka display is situated

http://praguemonitor.com/2017/08/21/new-kafka-exhibition-opens-czech-village-where-he-stayed

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

Excerpt From: Kafka In The Castle

QUARTO XII

 

16 September 1917

Sunday dinner is certainly different here. The food – of course. More staple perhaps, but also fresher and richer. But the atmosphere is free. No etched pattern to follow; no dullness of similar fare and similar talk; no tension bubbling underneath because of what father was going to say. Ottla laughs because something is funny, not because she’s prodded by family expectation. I have often thought that our dread of the Sunday dinner started sometime on the Monday morning.

 

17 September 1917

A whole week away from the office. F. will soon pay a visit.

 

20 September 1917

Dreamed a mixture. I walked – a desolate figure trudging the vast Steppes. Yet I rode wildly – a madman with my forehead pressed against the compartment window. And I saw myself as the train raced by, outlined by the yellow light of the coach; and then a slender body turning to stare at the racing train. We both hollered, but noise and distance obscured our voice. The vast Steppes turned into a castle, but the castle was displayed in the photos of a magazine, which I held on my lap in the flickering light of the compartment, as the train became engulfed  by the large buildings on either side of the tracks. In the magazine there was a railway at the base of the castle, and as I looked out the window the stone walls filled the frame, each giant block wedged securely to the others, their facing protruding and rough. It was as if the train had entered a tunnel, except there was still light from the distant sky.

I turned a page, and had to squint to see the pictures. Along the whole bottom of the magazine pages, a train obscured part of the castle wall, almost becoming a part of the stones. Black and white, light and shade, blending into a sepia which smudged all the details. Was there a figure in the window?

 

23 September 1917

The trials of Felice. The trials of Franz. As they are put together in this obscure little village – with animals and harvest and the clatter of waggons without. Because of the war, her train journey an ordeal of thirty hours. Only to reach this destination. This lover who doesn’t “even have the grace to love another.” That is something F. can understand.

 

24 September 1917

The two days Felice spent here a trial of misery. A trail of misery. Even – I suspect – when she slept. It is fortunate that I am ill, for it lets her see me in life, the way I am in spirit. The`me’ she would have to fight against. The `me’ which is always opposed to her. We shared quiet meals, grateful and annoyed by Ottla’s constant chatter. As good a hostess as possible to this strange, sullen couple. She must have been thankful that her chores took her away as often as they did. I had no such excuses, yet could offer nothing in their place. F and I were truly left to each other, and any thoughts she might still have about us getting married must surely be removed.

When we did talk, it was about the change in seasons, the harvest (she took an interest), her work in Berlin. About my health when I seemed to tire (my weariness not all caused by being sick). We rarely held hands on our walks – just briefly, in the minutes as we returned. The few kisses were perfunctory. Not even for memories of things past.

 

26 September 1917

Two weeks away from the Institute. I should – for would not a normal man? – miss something. I’ve taken to feeding the animals.

 

 

 

27 September 1917

In Prague, I often wondered what to do with many of the empty hours. I would lie on the cot, or sit at the table, or walk the streets, but the boredom and despair clung to me like a tattered garment. There were many such days – many long afternoons with the dread of the torpid Sunday dinner damning the course of the day. But here in Zurau, though I spend hours just reclining in the fresh air (as I am supposed to do), often not even looking at the books which I have at my side, I feel comfortable and content. I suppose that I can not go without thought, but I find I can not even tell Ottla (for she asks me) what it is my mind has been doing over the course of the hours. Of its own volition, it must go to those places unknown to me.

 

30 September 1917

There was a knocking at the window this morning. A polite and concise rap rap rap. It awoke me while the room was barely light. Who could want me so early? And then again, an insistent rap rap rap. I was confused, wondering where I was. The panic of Prague weighted down the covers, and I was sorry I had opened my eyes. The room, the smells – even the bed – was not familiar, so I was both bothered and assured by the strangeness. When I realized I was not in Prague – for who could knock on my third floor window – I remembered I was in Zurau, where things were different. Here my window looked onto a yard, and anyone could  be at it. Was there something wrong? Was Ottla after my help? I even wondered, as I searched for my slippers, if her young man had somehow arranged leave from the army, and after much travail had managed to reach the wrong room. I could understand that very well.

I walked hesitantly over to the window, and cautiously pulled back the curtain. Such a commotion ensued that I stepped back in some fright. A bird flew immediately past the glass, its wings frantic as it screeched in agitation. It had been perched on my window ledge, pecking away at the frame. Ottla says it may have been after insects or grubs settled in for the winter.  “Insects in the walls of the house?” I asked.  “Yes.” She was quite matter-of-fact.  “It is a warm place for them during the cold months.”  I was not inclined to argue with the logic, but neither had I thought I would be existing in such close proximity with the tenants of nature. Houses for warmth and bugs for food. It is a blend of the base and the subtle which I can appreciate. Much – I like to think – as does the annoyed bird.

Down To The Sea In Ships On National Lighthouse Day

nova_scotia_-_cape_george_lighthouse

Cape George Lighthouse

Since it is National Lighhouse Day, let me celebrate.

I have enjoyed going to lighthouses, and have done so for years. If anything, I keep finding them more and more evocative. A number of years ago, from high cliffs over the Northumberland Straight, this is what I saw one afternoon from a lighthouse.

One old fishing boat:

One sleek new fishing boat:

One chubby fishing boat:

One fading green fishing boat:

One distant white sailboat under sail:

One close white sailboat under sail:

Two small outboard boats:

One tugboat pulling . . .

One rusting barge.

Happily, the Cape George Lighthouse is now listed as a Heritage Site by the government of Canada.

(photo)https://opto.ca/sites/default/files/pictures/featured_items/nova_scotia_-_cape_george_lighthouse.jpg

DE

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

I have also written a couple of chapters in one of my novels that were set in a lighthouse. This is a section of one of them.

Let the light shine.

 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Excerpt from: He Lives In The City / He Drives To The Country

“Well, Blaine, the place is as sturdy as the rock it’s on. Government inspected every spring. We even sat pretty through the Great Groundhog Day Gale in 1976, the worst storm in over a hundred years.”

Fred Gannet nudged Blaine to the huge windows. He pointed into the distance, although neither could see through the fog.

“Waves forty feet smashed up against us. We clocked winds at one hundred and thirty-seven miles an hour. We had the warning, so we got most of this battened down. Turned over my van, but I had it far from the cliff. Smashed out a window in the living room. I had a bitch of a time getting plywood over it. Lost power and phone of course, but everything here can run on emergency generator. And part of the roof lifted, but it didn’t do that much damage.” He jabbed his finger at the rain spattered windows. “This is a baby compared to that whore.”

He gave a whoop of a laugh, and took off his cap.

“Old George Crenshaw, he’s the keep on Goat Island, a mile square drop of nothing about eight miles further out to sea. Well, he took the brunt of that bitch, and we were all sure he was a goner. For hours after it passed, there was no boats could get through the waves, or helicopters through the wind. Even the radios were gone, and no one had talked to the old bugger for twelve hours.

“We kept trying and trying, and finally I heard his call letters, but real faint like. I turn my juice ’til the needle’s in the red, and I’m yelling, to find out how he is. You know the first thing any of us hear that old son of a bitch say?”     The large man’s body was actually shaking with laughter, something Blaine had rarely seen in anyone.

“Old George’s thin voice comes out of the radio, like a fart out of a ghost, and he says: `Well, boys, that was quite a breeze’.”

A Ghost House Suitable For Halloween

Samhain/Halloween is a night of death and ghosts. Ghosts to fear and ghosts to help along their way to the Otherworld. But not all ghosts are troubled and fearful. There is nothing wrong with being dead if one is content.

This excerpt is from a non-spooky novel, where a man goes looking for a new place to live. He comes across many houses on his quest. Many.

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

o-haunted-houses-towns-facebook

From: He Lives In The City/He Drives To The Country

  It had been a house of dreams, it was now a house of ghosts.

   Ghosts tranquil and benign peered through the dusty upper windows, stood in wait behind the boarded doors. The dreams of long ago, which had tumbled down the stairs, and frolicked through the rooms, were now memories in the minds of ghosts.     

   The ghosts were themselves memories, destined to further fade with each new birth. But there would be no births in this house, as it slid inexorably toward decay. The lackluster brown shingles would be more smudged, the remaining panes of old glass would break, the floors would warp and collapse, the unkept roof would succumb to the years of harsh weather. 

     Even the `No Trespass’ sign was barely legible. Then where would the ghosts go?

     Blaine left his car and walked toward the house. 

     If he had eyes to see, who would be there to greet him?  Would children’s dreams, fair-haired and boisterous, burst through the front door and surround him in games of tag and laughter?  Would he get caught by their enthusiasm (would he become a child himself), and race behind the trees, burrow into the hay, hide between the bins of potato and turnip, intent not to be `it’. 

     Or would he meet the ghosts, quiet and tentative at the top of the steps, moving slowly with their uncertain smiles. Would they greet him with a wave, invite him into their warm-smelling kitchens, offer him fresh tea, and squares right out of the pan?  Would he sit in the stream of fall sunlight flowing across the well-oiled floor, and talk about childhood?

     Blaine walked part way up the drive before he stopped.

     He knew what lay beyond the boarded windows, and the sagging door upon its rusty hinges. Wallpaper would be water-stained, and curling off the plaster walls. There would be lumps of refuse in the corners of the rooms, with one inevitable rusty bedframe lying on its side. There would be gaps in the ceiling, where beams of sunlight shimmered through motes of dust. There would be holes in the baseboards, where earnest rodents made comfortable homes.

     There would be musty smells offering a hint of long-ago meals, and something gone bad in the pantry. There would be one upper window (at the back) which still had a tattered lace  curtain, half obscuring what had once been totally private. At night he would hear bats.

     It was not this house he had come to see, of course. Of course, not this derelict house, which he knew could never be restored, and which was so beyond help even death slept while visiting. 

DE

(image)http://i.huffpost.com/gen/833600/thumbs/o-HAUNTED-HOUSES-TOWNS-facebook.jpg

Love, Death, And Memories – It Was An Autumn Night

cm7952q

(image)https://images.atgstores.com/img/p400/1683/cm7952q.jpg    

   Some day she would not wake – she prays for this every night as she lays waiting for sleep. Tonight is not bad, there will be no need to use a pill. In fact, she is very good about the pills. Dr. Morgan has told her – almost encouraged her, she feels – to use a pill a night, and not fight for sleep as she sometimes does. But she can not bring herself to believe that that is right – she is certain Ned would never have agreed to it.

 

     Ned was never one to take the easy way out. Not, she would hasten to add, that he was some sort of doomsayer, or a fanatic of any sort. But he did believe that it was up to each person to solve their own problems. Where he may have expected too much, was believing that all problems had a solution, and he would keep at something with a relentless persistence.

 

     She would sometimes stand near him as he was trying to replace some tiny piece of a machine, or climb yet again on the shed roof with some tar, and she would say, “Leave it be, Ned. Let it alone.” But he would just pause, settle back on his heels and perhaps light a cigarette, and say that he may as well be putting in the time on this as on anything else.

 

     And back he would go at it. As far as she knew, he never gave up on anything until it was done. He was not the type to gloat, or even show much sense of satisfaction, and she had been married to him for years before she recognised his small mannerisms which meant that he was pleased.

 

     She turns over, being careful not to lay an arm on his side of the bed, or let a foot stray over the line she has refused to cross for eight years, ever since she reached out one morning and touched cold flesh.

 

     No, she will not need a pill tonight, her work has tired her enough to eventually bring on sleep. It is, of course, the memories weaving through her mind which she would really like to stop with the pills. Those memories she can barely stand, and without which she could not live.

DE

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

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑