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Life lessons

Belated Greetings And Returns To Kafka On His Birthday

405px-franz_kafka_-_4_jahre

03 July

My Present / Your Future

Still in this World

A Life Away

Dear F:

You would find it perverse to be wished a “Happy” birthday, but your response would be gracious. Such is the reality you understand, and how you deal with it. I have found that your reality is actually real.

Although it will give you no pleasure – well, ‘little’ pleasure – you are correct in all your observations.

Governments become the tools of the bureaucracies which run them. It doesn’t matter what type of Government, from the monarchy under which you lived, to the right wing horror of fascists that called themselves socialists, to the inept socialism pretending to be ‘for the people’. All three governments held their sway over the city where you spent your life. All three oppressed the people they ruled. All three looked after themselves first.

Writers are either writers or they aren’t. The urge to write encircles one like a snake around its prey. Feed it and it won’t quite squeeze you to death. You can not ignore it – even at your peril. It is with you every hour of every day, ever inquisitive and (sadly) always looking for something better.

Love is a see-saw of extremes. Every high guarantees a low. Every low reaches for a high. Every high reaches for a high. When these hills and valleys are eventually levelled, they are still desired.

Sex is highly over rated. The thing of it is, even rated fairly, ’tis a consummation devoutly to be had. Yes – I know – you appreciate Shakespeare. On a par with Goethe, even if you can’t bring yourself to say the words.

People are just one damned thing after another. Of course, so many people have brought you blessings, you throw up you hands to ward off the snake. And sometimes – some few times – it loosens its grip.

There is no castle with walls thick enough to hide against the perils of being human. Which is why you never tried.

Except the grave, of course.

Except the grave.

Yours,

D

DE

(image)http://silverbirchpress.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/405px-franz_kafka_-_4_jahre.jpg

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

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

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

An Ex-Con And A Biker Meet On A Bus

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There are all sorts and conditions of people who take the bus (myself included). A few years ago I made particular note of the two talkative folk who sat in front of me, one on either side of the aisle.

Directly in front was a handsome young man in his twenties. He had, that morning, just been released from penitentiary. He was on his way home. Across the aisle from him was a grizzled and bearded man in his mid-life who had never taken a bus ride before.

 They talked. I listened.

The convicted felon (a cheerful and polite fellow) had, with a partner, robbed a grocery store. Stole the safe. Got a lot of money (thousands in the double digits).

They got away with it.

However, some days later, his partner got a case of the ‘guilts’ and turned himself in.

And told what had happened.

His buddy, unplanned and unwanted, soon followed. Fourteen months.

The bearded fellow – never on the bus – had a host of motorcycles and vans, and travelled in them.  He took a header when he hit an empty pop bottle. He was a hippy from way back, and more or less continues to this day. Even the bus driver recognized the van he described, famous for its art work.

The former inmate revealed:

how to make ‘moonshine’ from unimaginable ingredients;

how to make money from ‘nicotene patches’ (by cutting them into strips and selling the contents);

how cigarettes behind bars cost $15 each.

Oh – yes – he also  lost his girlfriend because of his actions. “A BIG mistake,” he said.

I gotta admit, all this plus the beautiful scenery wiled away the time.

DE

(image)http://m-2tvextreme.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/cropped-NScotian-Nov-2014-DSCF8122.jpg

Kafka And His Very Young Love

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Gerti Wasner

Kafka liked the ladies and he had many relationships.

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

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

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

Where did her life lead after an encounter with Kafka?

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

DE

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

15 October 1913

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

 

20 October 1913

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

 

22 October 1913.

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

 

Translated by Joseph Kresh

It’s A Dog’s Life … And Eventual Death

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(image) http://www.blessedquietness.com/pets_in_heaven02.gif

I have spent some portions of my life house-and-pet sitting. Always enjoyed it. And there are certainly tails to tell.

One such dog-sit was with Tibbit, a great, friendly dog. She just passed on to a more comfortable afterlife this week, leaving nothing but fond memories on my part. We shared this following episode a few years ago. I’ll share again in her memory.

*********************************

 

This past weekend 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.

DE

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