The Last Things…Oh, and That Guy

To be anti-climactic:

19. This year I have to get bifocals. I have been puting it off by taking off my glasses when I read, but that just is not hacking it anymore. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 11 (and needed them long before that), no problem. But that’s… well, that’s a bit of a shocker. I’m only 43.

I remember that first time I got glasses, I was freaked out by how sharply defined the world actually was.

20. The first fiction I wrote was X-Men fanfic, and Chris Claremont is a huge influence on me as a writer. What can I say? You never forget your first. Or in this case, second. Kipling was my first.

And just for funsies, let’s swing this meme into another meme:

Ten Books That have Stayed With You

1. The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling

2. The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco

3. The Rainbow – D.H. Lawrence

4. Watership Down – Richard Adams

5. Dubliners & Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (I have them as one book) – James Joyce.

6. HMS Surprise – Patrick O’Brian.

7. Here Be Dragons – Sharon Kay Penman

8. Scaramouche – Rafael Sabatini

9. The Whale Rider – Witi Ihimaera

10. New Mutants: Demon Bear arc/Uncanny X-Men #274 “Crossroads” – Chris Claremont.

Now I challenge Caty, Nell and Augustick!

So…

TheCrucible1

After twelve weeks, scores of rave reviews from critics, hundreds of rave reviews from audience members, The Old Vic 2014 production of The Crucible has wrapped.  Congratulations to all the cast and crew on such a resounding success.

And congratulations to Richard Armitage on laurels well-earned. I have yet to see the performance, I look forward to its release on Digital Theatre (and I will review when I see it), but I will take everyone’s word for it. I am so glad you have had a chance to challenge yourself this way and that you surmounted it so completely. I know this was an endurance trial as well, yet you have seemed so happy in your interviews during this period, I hope that you return to theatre on a  regular basis to feed your soul.

Now put your feet up and have a glass on me.

wine1

…so to speak. Tell you what, I’ll just donate 8$ to one of your charities. That covers a good glass of wine these days, doesn’t it?

Wine

Twenty Things You Don’t Know About Me, Part III

I got to thinking about rock climbing. For me it was never about reaching the top. It was the process I loved, the total concentration of the moment and what you are doing. It’s almost Zen. And I realized actually, I’m just not a goal oriented person, and realizing has changed my perceptive. It’s not easy to be that way as our society teaches us to be goal oriented. That only those that set goals and drive towards them single mindedly are successful. But that’s not necessarily true. Maybe it’s taken me longer to get to certain landmarks, like a bachelor’s degree, but that doesn’t make me a failure. I am not a goal oriented person, and that’s O.K..  I just approach life differently than those who are.

I think my Dad was the same way. The only goal he seemed to have was to provide for his family. His CB call sign was “Drifter” and he was happiest when he could do that, just wander and see the world. Yet he still worked on the Mars Sojourner rover and his name, with the rest of the engineering team, is inscribed on it somewhere. He was one of the first people to make it, albeit vicariously, to Mars. At some point, hundreds of years hence, Sojourner will probably end up in a museum somewhere and there his name will be, for all time. Not too shabby for someone who wasn’t “driven to achieve.”

I guess so long as you keep moving, it doesn’t matter so much if there is a goal you are driving towards or not.

Anyway…

13. I have a SCUBA certification. Too long lapsed now, but I have one. I never dived as much as I wanted as I never had a steady dive buddy, but I loved diving whenever I had the chance in Southern California. Just the experience of “being in the fishtank.” Kelp diving was simply beautiful. A cathedrals of light and green leaves. I’ve seen plenty of fish, sharks and rays while diving, but no mammals as of yet.

14. I was bullied mercilessly through elementary and junior high. The problem with small towns is that once you are assigned a role, it is next to impossible to break out of it. For whatever reason, I was assigned “the kid to take your frustrations out on” for my elementary school. Parents get into an argument in front of you over breakfast? Push Kip into a wall. It will make you feel better. Not feeling important enough? Make fun of Kip for how much her Dad makes, which neither you nor she knows. Accuse her of sleeping with her dog, too. That’s always good for a laugh. Puberty not quite working out for you today? Steal Kip’s backpack and toss her feminine products around the bus to show what a cool dude you are. I watched someone literally tell a stranger in the grade above me, “You should hit her. She a weirdo.” And what do you know? The person did. Complete stranger, didn’t know me from Eve. Smack. One time, one of my chief tormentors found me crying in the bathroom and she freaked out because it simply had not occurred to her that I was a human being and what she was doing was hurtful.

Of course, within a couple weeks, she seemed to forget all about that moment.

Sadly, it was not until I shot up during puberty and got the nerve to roll up in people’s grill that it abated to tolerable levels. It also helped that I began riding the bus with my brothers. One time my already six-foot eldest brother leaned across two seats to tell the kid giving me a hard time to lay off or he would fuck him up. But it was still a battle to be at school everyday. I frequently feigned sick just to not have to go. My parents were trying to figure out how to afford a private school to get me away from it as the school administration’s attitude was “Well, that’s just the way kids are. Whatever.”

And the thing is as the schools in my district consolidated, it was easy to find the other kids who had also been cast as “the one to pick on” in their schools. I remember attending the orientation for what would have been my high school had I stayed in Maine (that summer was when we moved to Southern California)  and you could pick them out of the crowd as they stood there like plucked parakeets, waiting for the next verbal or physical blow.

When I got to Southern California, it took me a while to adjust to the idea that no one in my 2,000 student high school gave a fuck, but once I did it was so liberating.

15. I did a semester at sea program when I was 38.

cramer b watch

B awesome, B watch!

The specific program was about studying the impact of colonialism on the indigenous cultures of the Caribbean (which was catastrophic, obviously). So, after six weeks of taking classes on land, we spent six weeks sailing a 135 brigantine from Key West  around Florida and up the coast a ways through the Sargasso Sea, back down to the Dominican Republic to Jamaica around the far side of Cuba and back to Key West.

While the main focus of the trip was anthropological/historical, we also conducted oceanographic research and so had two research projects, one anthropological or historical, one scientific. My historical project was studying the development of the Jamaican Defense Force naval organization (their military is not divided into branches like the U.S. and U.K.’s are) post independence. When I went to talk to people at the JDF about their history, it turned out no one had really complied it.

But a couple years after my visit, they had created an entire section of their website devoted to history of the JDF. I like to think I was kind of a small catalyst in someone getting that together.

The funny thing was because I was meeting with them, I wanted to show proper respect so I bought a suit with me. So I went onboard a sailing vessel with a business suit. lol! And it probably was unnecessary. But the people I met were really nice and interesting and the functional fluidity of the JDF is fascinating.

My science project was about the sargassum mats being used as fish nurseries, but we were traveling too late in the year, past most fish breeding seasons, so it ended up being kind of frustrating. I liked working the sampling gear though.

It was shortly after my father’s death, and I got a crush on one of my instructors. I kept it in sensible check, but he went so far out of his way to put me at arms length, it began to impact my educational experience as he would treat me differently than other students and not give me the same amount of instructional attention (which is kind of important on a ship). I had to speak to another instructor to intervene. As soon as the trip was done, so was my crush so obviously it was some manifestation of grieving, so in the end it was no big deal for me. But a couple years later I heard he had left the school.

But that was a minor sore point in what was otherwise an amazing experience. Many of the sailing moments I describe in SIMJP really happened. (And the ship in the story was modeled after the ship we sailed.)

Cramer

The Sargasso Sea does remind one of the sea of lilies at the end of the world in Narnia. Dolphins did bow ride our ship a few times. (And there is no more pure example of joy de vivre than watching dolphins at play. You can’t be in their presence without your spirit lifting.) The lights of other ships did appear like ghosts in the night. I did turn out to have a talent and love for navigation. Sleeping in the foc’sle was occasionally like sleeping in a zero gravity chamber, in very brief and violent moments in heavy seas when the ship would crest a swell and drop into the trough. And the colours of the sea and sky out there, there is nothing like it.

And we did go swimming in the middle of the ocean, in fact over a sea canyon that was three miles deep. One of the instructors went up the mast to keep an eye out of sharks. He was a great instructor and very funny. His focus of study was plankton, and so he had a (pretend) grudge against more popular sea life. When the dolphins would show up and all the students would be “oohing” and ‘ahhing” over them, he would sniff and grumble, “Charismatic megafauna.” But he would be saying it with a smothered grin.

Amazing, simply amazing trip.

16. The year before he died, my father rebound the family copy of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1825 edition, all eight volumes. He read it, and I will read it for the same reason: Just to say we did. (We read Cuppy’s Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody for the same reason too: We liked it. 😉  )

17. I have my father’s Gibson guitar, which is at least 50 years old now. I had it restored, but sadly I can’t play. None of the kids inherited my father’s musical talent. He could pick out tunes by ear. This was one of his favorites:

It was only after he died I realized that the fact he learned Carter’s “scratch” picking style all on his own, just from listening to it and seeing a couple of TV performances, was kind of impressive.

Lotsa Dad in this post.

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(If you’re thinking he looks like Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones had a love child, you would be right.)

18. I, and my father, once drove 20 hours, round trip, to retrieve my dog.

I had broken up with the BF I was living with (in L.A.) and he was going to drive out to Texas to live with some friends. We had split the dogs in the “divorce.” He was taking the Pit mix, Argus, and I was taking the Keeshond, Kuluk. I had not found a place to live yet that allowed dogs, so the agreement was he would take Kuluk with him to Texas and would fly her back (with the money I gave him) when I found a place. A couple days after he reached his friends’ house, he called me and started to tell me about his trip.

Don’t caaaare. “How’s my dog?”

“Oh, I lost her.”

WHAT?!!?

“I was spending the night at a camp ground and she got loose. Couldn’t find her the next morning, so I took off.”

The stream of obscene invective that came out of my mouth would have made a sailor blush. I slammed down the phone and took a moment to catch my breath. I picked up the phone again.

“Exactly where did you lose her?”

He gave me the name of a camp ground in Wilcox, Arizona, which is near the New Mexico border. I called the campground. The campground sent to the the City Hall, the City Hall sent me to the volunteer dog catcher, firefighter, rescue squad guy who asked, “It is a sawed off malamute looking thing?”

“Close enough. I’ll be there tomorrow morning.”

Dad wasn’t about to let me drive all the way out there by myself, so he came along and we switched off driving. Sadly, the trip was not as enjoyable as it could have been and we spent much if it in silence. That was my fault.

But the next morning:

KuluknMe AZ 1992

Besides a host of ticks, she was fine.

So 19 & 20….Hrm.

Twenty Things You Don’t Know About Me, Part II

O.K., so I added the story to #4 on Part I of this list (posted yesterday) so you all do not have to plow through my self-indulgent crap fanfic.

Also, Nellie, Augustick and Caty are being tremendously indulgent with me too. 🙂

8. I am most successful when I am not paying attention. I just kept taking classes until the school notified me that I had completed my AA degree. The longest story I ever completed, I wasn’t even trying to write a story that long. I just sort of kept writing until it was done. I stumbled onto a subject of historical study no one had really looked at before. I finished a 5K because I was talking to a friend and just not noticing what I was doing. So I try not to be goal oriented and flog myself, which just makes me collapse and fail in guilt. I just go on doing my thing until I get to the top of the mountain and say, “Oh Hey…” Think of as living by pleasant surprise rather than self-satisfaction. It’s the way my life works best.

9. What goals I do have are pretty modest. A quiet little home in the middle of the woods with an internet connection and plenty of time to read and take long walks with the pups. There are things I want to do, like climbing the stairs of Mount Tai to watch the sun rise and visit the Taoist temples, visiting Varanasi for a festival, kayak or swim with (baleen) whales or dolphins in the ocean. I’d like to get a job in the field of history. But, y’know, getting to the top of my field, climbing the corporate (or otherwise) ladder, being famous, etc.? Not my thing. Never really has been. If anything motivates me, it’s curiosity rather than ambition.

Y’know, and outrage. 😉

10. I vape. Which means I “smoke” (though nothing is burning) e-cigarettes. I love them. I get my nicotine fix at a greatly reduced carcinogen risk without tar and poisonous crap R.J. Reynolds puts in commercial cigarettes. Plus, they taste like vanilla or cinnamon or grape (or any number of flavors). Not “vanilla added to tobacco” either. Straight up vanilla. So I don’t smell or taste like a smoker.

It’s also a helluva lot of cheaper than cigarettes if you buy cartridges or “tanks” you can fill yourself.

(I hope I am not being insensitive to Nellie.)

11. I enjoy rock climbing and when I lived in Southern California, I did so frequently in Joshua Tree National Park. I have not tried multi-pitch climbs yet. I have no interest climbing ice in any form. As one of my climbing instructors put it, without drama, “It’s alive.” Eastern North Carolina is very flat, so I have not been since I moved here coming up on nine years ago. 😦

12. I have sky dived. My brother-in-law had done a tandem dive and he loved it. He told me, “You’re so high up, you can’t conceptualize it. It’s like jumping into a big matte painting.” Since I am a bit of a thrill seeker, I decided to skip the tandem dive and take the first lesson. Maybe I would like it. If I did, the tandem dive would be a waste of money. So I took a morning’s worth of classes and then went up in the afternoon to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

I was the first up.

The aircraft door rolled open. I looked down and said to myself.

“I CAN CONCEPTUALIZE JUST FINE!”

I froze. I just completely froze and there was a line of people waiting to jump after me. The pilot had to fly all the way through the drop zone and circle back because I simply couldn’t move. Finally, the instructor said “If you want, you can come back and try another time.”

Well, hell. I wasn’t going to do that. And I think I had embarrassed myself just about enough.

But when that door rolled open again…

To this day, I am not sure if I jumped or I was pushed.

So we fell (which feels nothing like falling), ran through the practice drills and I opened my chute.

Then the ride was amazing. From where we were at two miles up I could see all the way out to the silvered ocean as the sun began to set. That part of it was a wonderful experience.

When I landed, I was bang on target and remained standing.

Boo-ya.

Then I gathered my chute wrong, the wind grabbed  it and slammed me down on my side, dislocating my shoulder. One of the staff was able to pop it back into place (I have to keep exercising though to keep the muscle built up or it can pop out again) . But I got to tell you, the combination of adrenaline and endorphins? Those are some goooood drugs man.

The way I see it, what I enjoyed was the “wrong part” of sky diving. I’d glad I did it. I will never do it again. Unless, y’know, I’m not in a perfectly good airplane.

Hrmm…Twenty Things You Don’t Know About Me. Part I

So this meme is drifting about the blogosphere, so what the hell:

1. I like to dance. I can’t of course. The best I can manage is an emphatic wiggling, but I like to do it. This means…

2. I have a shameful fondness for the most inane dance songs. So long as the lyrics don’t annoy me too much.

What is up with the “Cheerio?” It makes no sense in the context of the song! Is she singing about the cereal? WTF!?

3. A Horse and His Boy is my favorite of the Narnia Chronicles.

4. The story I wrote in chapter VI of So I Met John Porter about my (now ex) BF setting the bed on fire is true.

In my younger days I had a futon and I used old wine crates as my bedside tables. I had prepared a romantic evening for my boyfriend at the time, with the wine and the candlelight. Note the candlelight. In the course of the evening’s activities we got sort of turned around, and he was, *ahem* taking a trip south of the border. And while I’m enjoying myself with my head hanging off the foot of the bed, I open my eyes slightly and think, “Hm. It’s a little bright.” But I don’t think anything of it and close ‘em again. A couple minutes later, I open my eyes and, “Wow. It really is bright.” I look up, or down, over his shoulder. And his foot has pushed one of my pillows over a votive candle on the bedside table and there is this four foot pillar of flame in corner of my bedroom.

I reached over him, grabbed the pillow and threw it out into the hall. Fortunately, my place was all tile and hardwood, so I just ran after it and stomped it out.

When I got back to bed, my boyfriend just had this dazed expression on his face and he said, “When you popped up with your eyes so big like that, I thought I had done something really amazing!”

5. So was the car accident I wrote in So I Met Alec Track. I went into another car, that tried to turn into oncoming traffic, at 40 mph with no airbags. His right front quarter panel was stove in, my car was an accordion. The engine ended up practically sitting in my lap. My face went into the steering wheel. They had to use the “Jaws of Life” to get me out. But the only injuries I had were a torn eye lid from my glasses (which survived undamaged, yay carbon frames) and a broken metatarsal from when all my weight went into the foot I had firmly planted on the brake. I did not even have a concussion.

“Hard-headed” comments can be made below.

6. When I was 27 one of my friends was a nanny and when her husband got sick, she could not accompany the family she worked for to Europe for a three-week holiday. “Can you get your passport in nine days?” NYC, Luxembourg, Paris, Southern France, Nice and Rome. Kind of a flying tour, but I sucked every once of enjoyment I could out of it. And the kid was pretty cool too.

A friend of mine gave me a great tip for how to entertain bored 8 year olds whose mom’s are trying to instill them with “culture and sophistication.” Go the gift shop first and buy a bunch of the art postcards. Split them up and make a scavenger hunt of your trip to the boring ol’ art museum. But after a while that began to wear and by the time we made it to Nice, I asked her, “Would you just like to stay in and watch cartoons?”

“Can we?” There were practically tears of gratitude in her eyes. So we split our time between the beach and watching Cartoon network.

But I just museumed my self to death, even when I was given the afternoon off. At the Louvre, when I flipped out over the Nike of Samothrace, the parents realized  was WAY more excited about it than they, so let me go off on my own. I was just filling up with all this amazing art and then I turned a corner and the Venus Di Milo was rising out of the crowd and my mind just snapped off. “O.K., that’s It. You’re done.” But I still got to the Muse’e d’Orsay and the Rodin museum which I really loved. I loved the way they used the natural light as he did, rather than contriving formal displays. Also the lesser known works some of which were so moving and the garden was lovely. We drove through Southern France and it was so beautiful, the endless fields of golden wheat or sunflowers  interspersed with little villages and at one point, a castle on a rocky outcropping. We stayed in a castle one night (the girl and I got a tower room! complete with arrow slits!)  and an old monastery the next. And as the father did not drink, the wife would order these amazing local wines and make me share them with her. (“Oh no, don’t throw me into that briar patch!”) I do not like reds, but I discovered Hermitages…oh, so yummy!

In Rome we went to the Vatican museum and I embarrassed myself by lying on the floor to look at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I would have crab-walked down to ponder more of it, but the guards really did not like it all that much. Well, how else are you supposed to really look at it? Also, why does the Pope need mummies? The one room with frescos of old maps all over the walls and ceiling was just stunning to me. And it wasn’t like the Louvre were everything was spaced out and elegantly displayed. All these amazing pieces you have been looking at in books for years and they all just jammed in there. I loved it. I had to borrow a jacket from the tour guide (that sun dress) to go inside Saint Peters and WOW, talk about impressing the pagans. I got an afternoon off in Rome and decided to go see the Etruscan museum of Villa Giulia. The taxi driver took me to the prison on Via Jullia. What the hell about me said I wanted to visit in Italian Prison? He did get me to the museum eventually. (Probably just trying to rack up the fare. Ah well, tourists.) And in the Forum they had excavated some graves along the Appian Way…the Romans were really short. No wonder they were intimidated by the Celts.

But my impression of Paris was there was this very deliberate “Let’s us impress you!” feel about it. It’s a beautiful city, don’t get me wrong, but there is a very deliberately constructed aura about it. And then you go to Rome and see how “Impressive” is really done. Rome is the eternal city. Hot, dusty, smelly and magnificent.

Anyway, I had an awesome time.

7. As I have mentioned, my mother’s family has a very long history of service in the military, going back to the Revolutionary War. But her family name died out in WWII at Dieppe when the only son of an only son died in the surf. (Yes, he was one of the first Army Rangers) Years later, he was identified in the pictures the Germans took after the battle.

The second one in, center, the one with the gaiters. My mother remembered her “Uncle Howard,” young and vital, coming in from playing lacrosse with his college friends and picking her up and tossing her around. It was very sad for her and his sisters, my great aunts, to see this picture.

But while the family name died as a surname with him, every succeeding generation has it as a first or middle name. My great-aunt was tickled pink when she heard it has been given it one of my nephews.

Number 8. Hrm…