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If Kafka Welcomes Spring, Can Summer Be Far Behind?

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In Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the ‘missing’ diary entries from Kafka’s real diary. He either did not fill in these days himself, or he destroyed them. There are some estimates that Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote.

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

08 April 1917

I seem to end in the most absurd situations. This afternoon, before Sunday dinner, Ottla took me away for some gardening. Rooting around in the earth, with the frost barely gone. Only Ottla could find such a plot of ground in Prague, or expect me to grub about in it like some hungry animal.

It was obviously some sort of communal land – such places are popular during this war. There were even families at work. Children also. One small boy was caught between his interest in the garden, and his desire to be a small boy. And what a dilemma it was. He’d work in the ground for awhile, following the example of his mother, then suddenly race around, exploring like a small boy. He came over to Ottla and me, and hunkered down beside us. He shook his head with a sigh of exasperation, and reached over to put his hands on mine. “Mummy says that’s wrong,” and with great patience and determination, began to show me how to prepare the earth. I thought there could be no better proof to Ottla of how inept I was.

I followed the movements of his hands, and between us, we dug quite a hole. At last the little fellow stood, obviously satisfied. “I go now,” he said, and ran away to see some other entertaining oddity. Ottla hadn’t laughed for fear of offending the boy, but she didn’t show such restraint when we were finally alone.

It fell to me to find the flowers.

Such things prove God’s sense of humour, for I have no interest or understanding for flowers. There was a fellow at university who could talk about flowers for hours. Otherwise, he was quite pleasant to be with. So it seems a joke that I would find them, between a pile of rubble and the wall of a house.

I had been exploring, much as the little fellow had done. In fact, he was running past when I found them, so I showed him also. They were white, with frail leaves close to the ground. Quite nondescript. But the boy was fascinated. He put his face close, although he didn’t touch them.

“Can I tell Mummy?” He obviously thought they were my flowers. “Yes,” I said, and he ran to get her. She followed him as he chattered all the way, and then she too hesitated, looking at me cautiously. “Perhaps your wife would like to see them,” she suggested. It took a moment to realize she was referring to Ottla. The flowers had become my possession. “Yes,” I said, “And tell anyone you like.”  “The first flowers of Spring,” she said, and she went to tell the others, taking care to stop at Ottla first.

Tiny white flowers.

I can still not believe the looks upon their faces, as they crowded around. Even the children were silent.

The relief they showed.

 

(Image)https:/farm5.staticflickr.com/4122/4807642892_042ac4d5f9_z.jpg

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Is My Past Tying Up Loose Ends?

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I was in the City Market, looking at produce. From the corner of my eye, with my back turned, something familiar twigged about a person passing. It was a woman with long, shock-white hair.
In this day-and-age it is unwise to start trailing a woman shouting “Hey, you.” Plus, this lady did not look the type to appreciate any unusual approach. As she was moving at quite a clip, I also wondered how wise it might be to give any sort of obvious chase.
However, she popped into a craft shop. With this delay, I thought I could take at least a further look. As it was, I was staring through a window just as she was staring out. Her brow did indeed furrow, and her facial expression was more of annoyance than curiosity. But, then, her face did change, and I saw recognition at about the same time I confirmed to myself who it was.
I believe it has to be twenty years since I last saw her.  As we were saying the usual “I thought you looked familiar” type of thing, a young woman appeared at her side. I – who never remembers names – recognised her daughter, and even called her by her name.
They were in town for a family funeral. In fact, the interment had been that very morning. They were heading to the airport in an hour or so. The last she knew of my whereabouts was when I lived in a different city. We only had a few minutes of chat – nothing about writing, other than that she asked if I was still writing. I admitted I was now down to five days a week, and not daily. Then they were away.
It has been a strange year for the old times popping up.
One friend (whom I haven’t seen for six years) was in town for a family reunion. Another friend, (whom I hadn’t seen for three years) drove in for an afternoon.
I went to a Memorial for a colleague with whom I had no dealings for nearly thirty years. And I went to a cousin’s Funeral Parlour visitation (whom I had not seen for eighteen years).
However, from the Funeral Parlour experience, emerged a more-than-unusual episode for my latest novel, where I am following the exploits of Alison Alexandra.
It almost seems as if my past is tying up some loose ends.

Why There Are Many Reasons To Give Thanks For My Life

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Buddy and I are waiting for a bus. Hours ahead await us on the trip, though we go to different destinations. I guess proximity is the reason he starts to talk to me, there being nobody else close.

This conversation is edited, though mostly for continuity.

Buddy : Gotta great day.
Me: Yes. (and it is – the weather is some grand)
Buddy: I’ve come half way across Canada, and still have to take the boat to Newfoundland. (this means another 8 hours on the bus for him, and 9 hours on the ferry)
Me: Hope you can sleep on the boat.
Buddy: And then another twelve hours hitching across the province.
Me: You sure have me beat. (I have 7 hours ahead of me, half by train)
Buddy: I don’t know what will happen. My friend says the church will help people.
Me: You’re not going home?
Buddy; Nope – all dead.
Me: That’s tough.
Buddy: That’s my Mom there. (he points to one of his bags) Got her ashes to bury.
Me: You have a sad time.
Buddy: Found her at the end of the driveway.
Me: What?
Buddy: In the urn. My girlfriend threw all my stuff out. That’s where it rolled.
Me: All your things?
Buddy: I had to store my stuff. Just money left for the bus and the ferry.
Me: I gotta say that sounds cold.
Buddy: She’s keeping my last disability cheque.
Me: What?
Buddy $1,700. Says I owe her.
Me: Do you?
Buddy: I guess. Anyway, there’s no going back there.
Me: That’s what it sounds like.

(At this point the bus driver arrives, asking what luggage is to go under the bus)

Buddy: Not that one. (he points to the one with the ashes) That comes with me.

 

DE

Gas Leak And Evacuation Give Alison Alexandra Much To Ponder

 

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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

Trump And Bannon Walk Into A Bar

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~ Now whose the dirty Nazi?

~ Lots of mud. Lots of mud to throw, believe me.

~ So you’re going to throw it on me?

~ If the shoe fits.

~ And throw me under the bus?

~ Tire marks in the mud. It’s where you live.

~ You come from here, too.

~ Mud doesn’t stick to me.

~ I helped make you.

~ I’m a self-made man. Proof everywhere.

~ Don’t believe your own Press.

~ I don’t believe the Fake News.

~ I know about the Press.

~ I know about the people.

~ They’ll turn on you.

~ No – they want to be me.

~ That’s kinda crazy.

~ If they were in my position – if they had my power – they’d do what I’m doing.

~ That might be true.

~ They’d love to stick it to their betters. They love having a scapegoat.

~ It’s a mob that can turn.

~ Nah! Believe me. They have nowhere else to go.

DE

(image)i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2017/07/22/06/429285D700000578-4720054-image-a-74_150070035

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

Facebook and Death

recognized the world over

(Image)  http://screenshots.en.sftcdn.net/en/scrn/69664000/69664462/facebook-pro-01-535×535.png

Today The Guardian informs us that 1 in 7 people on the earth use  Facebook. One Billion
(1,000,000,000) people. We are not alone. These are not all our “friends’, of course.But they are
out there, tapping on keys as I am doing right now.
On the right side of my FaceBook page, there is a list telling me what people are doing. We are
obviously a busy lot.
One poster  likes another poster’s post.
Another poster commented on another poster’s post.
One poster desires us to see a particular film.
One poster shares a link.
Another poster like.
Another poster comment.
A poster shares a link.
And then there is this list  of photos of folk on “chat”.
yes
yes
yes
3 hrs ago
1 m ago
15 m ago
yes
yes
51 m ago
yes
And then
a photo
no time indication
because she is dead.

Kafka And Fame

(Charles University – Prague)

There are rumours (none of them started by me) that Kafka had direct dealings with Einstein, Joyce, and even Hitler.

The first two are more than possible. Einstein taught at Charles University when Kafka was a student there. Joyce was in Prague when Kafka lived there. It is quite probable they travelled in the same literary circles. Went to the same coffee houses (which Kafka frequented). Attended the same readings, or literary events, or even book stores.

The Hitler connection is far more tenuous, but based on fact. Hitler was treated, in Munich, by a doctor who had dealt with Kafka’s family in Prague. And Kafka did visit Munich in the right time frame. Kafka did, after all, predict Hitler’s world as much as he did the Communists.

Although I have, in my novel about Kafka,  “filled in” his missing diaries, I never give him such speculative encounters – tempting though it was. All events in my Kafka novel are based on detailed research from his own writings, writings of his friends, and multiple biographies.

I have written one short story that is totally speculative, where Kafka is encouraged to meet “the Austrian with the tiny mustache”, so as to kill him and stop an impending terrible war. And save his sisters from the camps.  But that doesn’t  happen in my fiction, either.

DE

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