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Posts Tagged ‘Storyteller’

 
Easter Sunday, I did something I have not done in a very long time. I went to church. No, although faced with my own mortality, I have not converted back to religion just in case I have a soul and there is some vengeful deity somewhere eager to punish me for not giving him the respect he believes he is due.

Naida and I, after celebrating our one year anniversary being together, decided to attend the Easter Morning Services at the Unitarian Universalist center located near the Enchanted Forest. On the scale from a non-religious community organization to a full-blown religion, Unitarians are only one step up from the Society for Ethical Culture which is again only one step up from agnosticism.

The ceremony seemed more a meeting of Liberal Democrats with music than a religious one. The sermon was given by a woman who promptly explained that the Jesus Church, led by those who knew Jesus, was a religion of peace and ethics and that of Paul which eventually became Christianity, was one that focused on death and resurrection. Although the hymns we sang were recognizable, the words were carefully purged of any reference to a deity or a traditional creed.

With our brush with the supernatural behind us, we returned home and watched Anthony Quinn and Jack Palance tear up the scenery in the movie, Barabbas. (It was Easter of course and the entertainment mob, not satisfied that nailing someone to the cross was enough blood and mayhem to memorialize the holiday for Americans, decided to feature a movie instead about a thug and gladiator and a colosseum filled with blood and body parts.)

Monday came with a sigh like the month in which it resides and stepped aside for days of more promise, although the blooming azalea bushes in the backyard and the warm sparkling sunlight overhead heralded enough promise to suit me today.

On Tuesday, I managed to bestir myself enough to take the dog for a brief walk through the Enchanted Forest. The weather was almost summer warm, the skies clear and I walked along happily until my usual lightheadedness forced me to collapse on a bench by the path beneath the trees where I sat until the dog impatiently indicated that he was bored and that if we were not going to traipse around some more good smelling bushes, I might as well take him home — which I did.

I returned to the studio and watched Naida struggle with editing her memoir. She had a roll of butcher paper about eight feet long on which was carefully plotted the genealogy of her family going back as far as the sixteenth century to some British or Scottish Knight. We reviewed it for a while trying to puzzle out a problem with the genealogy of the Whipple family, a prominent New England family, whose progenitor arrived in the colonies in 1631 only ten years after the Mayflower deposited the dour, bigoted and racist Puritans at Plymouth Rock.

Captain John as he was known, tired of the oppression by the Puritan overlords and eager to make his fortune, left the Massachusetts Bay Colony along with Roger Williams and traveled to Rhode Island where he distinguished himself during Prince Phillip’s war. One of his descendants became a signer of the Declaration of Independence. (In case you are thirsting to learn more about the Whipples, in a fit of useless information overkill there some obsessive individuals have created a number of internet sites featuring that particular family’s genealogy and history, the most prominent of which is the Whipple Website [https://www.whipple.org/]. In there, if you want, you can learn of the eleven or so Captain John Whipples floating around the colonies at that time and how to tell them apart.)

The Whipples became quite wealthy “early settlers” eventually settling throughout the colonies and later in the new nation. Eventually, in the 1880s a young descendent named Emma after earning a college degree, something rare for women then, decamped for the Black Hills of the Dakotas to teach school, met an Irishman who could sing well, drink better, and owned a stagecoach, married him and was promptly disinherited by the Whipples for marrying someone below her station and a Catholic to boot. So, penniless, they traveled to Idaho, moved into an abandoned shack and lived a hard but at times exciting life. She was Naida’s great grandmother. Naida got to know her shortly before her death, heard her stories, and experienced a few or her own during her time with her (e.g., the curing of her great grandfather’s “quinsy” attack).

One of the many things I find fascinating about Naida is her apparently bottomless reservoir of stories. I spent my life gathering stories, but alas, compared to her, I am but a home library to her Library of Congress.

After that digression, I returned to writing this and reading my most recent trashy novel about the adventures some Templar Knights searching for the sacred bones of St. Stephen Protomartyr in Muslim controlled Majorca during the 13th Century in order to steal the sacred bones, and bring them back to their refectory (home castle) in Christian Aragon so it could become a prominent pilgrimage site, make tons of money, and allow the Knights to be well supplied with sacramental wine, mutton, and shiny armor.

On Wednesday, the sun was shining, the weather delightfully warm, and I dreadfully bored. So, I decided to go shopping. It is not as though I find shopping either invigorating or relaxing. It’s just that I could not think of anything else to do and we did need some things and Naida celebrates her birthday on Sunday and I wanted to buy her a present. And so, off I went, hoping I had recovered enough from my dizzy spells and other side effects of the chemotherapy to make it through the day. Off I went and made it almost through everything, but by the time I had made it to the last stop, I was well exhausted. Except for brief stops to and from my car to appreciate some flowering bushes, that is how I spent my Wednesday.

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At six AM on Thursday morning, I was awakened by Naida singing an old hymn and giggling. Bleary-eyed and muzzy-headed I turned to her and mumbled, “Sup?” She respond by explaining that she was amused at recollecting how a very old Easter hymn’s lyrics were often mangled by her children in church — “Low in the gravy he lay, a mighty feeling in his toes, bringing in the cheese and singing in the trees.” Now normally I enjoy the music and the stories, but at that time of the morning, I had no response but to mutter, “That’s nice,” turn over and go back to sleep.

The rest of the day passed from my memory leaving little behind but a vague sense of the passage of time and a whiff of ennui.

On Friday morning, nothing occurred worth remembering or writing about. So, I put on my favorite Hawaiian shirt, set my Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department straw hat upon my head, grabbed my faux blackthorn shillelagh walking stick and strolled off through the Enchanted Forest to where I park my car. It must be summer, I mused. Not because the sun was out, or the flowers or the temperatures but because for the first time since last October I donned one of my collection of Hawaiian shirts.

I set off intending to have lunch then to drive into the Golden Hills to visit HRM. I also thought I would try to walk around the lakes at Town Center that I used to enjoy so much but have not been able to since my most recent health setback. Today was the first day in many months I had not felt faint after walking a few feet or more.

During the drive, I decided that I would like to have pasta for lunch and tried to think of someplace that served decent Italian food. As I tried to come up with a place, I realized that good Italian family style cooking is hard to come by these days. I remember while growing up it Tuckahoe NY an Italian family style restaurant existed on almost every street corner. When I arrived in San Francisco in 1970 it was the same. Now those family style places have been replaced by either expensive restaurants pushing faux but chi-chi Italian food or fast food joints — both of which seem to have forgotten how to use herbs and spices as well as other equally egregious sins. I ended up at the Old Spaghetti Factory.

After lunch, I drove to Dick’s house where I found HRM and Jake playing video games in the basement. I told them, “As a responsible adult, I should say to you, ‘Why are you not out in this beautiful day getting some exercise instead of playing video games in the basement.’ You two, as responsible teenagers, should respond, ‘Hmmm, yes we’ll think about it’ and go back to playing your video games.” They laughed and returned to playing “Grand Theft Auto.”

I left after reviewing my mail and drove to Town Center. Following a quick browse through the bookstore, I sat on a bench in the rose garden by the lake. The roses were in full bloom and I sat there enjoying them for a while.
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At the Rose Garden.

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I then walked around the lakes for the first time in six months. I felt good about that.

Saturday, slipped from my memory like fog before sunlight.

Sunday we went to Naida’s daughter Jennifer’s house to celebrate Naida’s birthday. Before the party we all traveled to Sacramento City College to see Jennifer’s daughter, Josephine, perform in a play, a spoof of Little Red Riding Hood.

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After the performance, we returned to the house and the birthday party.

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That evening, back in the Enchanted Forest, I watched the third episode of the eighth year of GOT, the great battle at Winterfell, a bloodbath that lasted a full hour and 20 minutes and ended with Arya killing The Night King. Go, Arya.

And so, such as it was, that is what my week is like nowadays. How was yours?

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The following is a letter I sent to friends and relatives in January 2010. It is followed with my Journal entries for the period described in the letter. 

My first full day in Chiang Mai. The house that I had built, for those of you who have seen it, is in pretty good shape. The landscaping has grown in well.

This morning I walked Hayden to school. As befits the dawdling scholar, he took absolutely the longest way possible, stopping to examine every hole in the ground, viewing from both sides each muddy mosquito infested canal that passed under the road and insisting on discussing the wonders of each thing he investigated.

Joe…

PS: Below are photographs of the grounds of the house in which I now live. I apologize for the mawkishness of this e-mail. I am composing it at the local coffee shop that I realize may, in part, along with the house and the school circumscribe the limits of my life here in Chiang Mai.

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FROM MY JOURNAL: January 19, 2010

Walked Hayden to school this morning. He said he knew the way, since I did not. It was a boy’s map, full of turns to visit points of interest (friends houses and residences of selected and named canines). We also explored any interesting holes in the ground and had several discussions about my walking stick among other similarly engaging and important topics. We stopped at all of the muddy weed choked and mosquito infested canals that crossed beneath the road on which we walked, first to one side and then the other searching for ways to get down to the water (me of course counseling against it).

A car stopped driven by a woman who I believe lives in the house across the road from ours. She offered us a ride and over Hayden’s objection, I accepted.

At Haden’s school, “Sunshine Kindergarten” we were met at the gate by an attractive young Thai woman. And of course, even in my dotage, I preened.

The school contains a main building and several small attractive adobe like out buildings.

After seeing him off I searched for the cafe for a latte. At first I went in the wrong direction but retraced my steps and found it. I ordered a cafe latte and an orange juice and played with my computer answering some emails and trying to set up my calendar.

I left the cafe. As I walked towards home I passed a group of buildings that I recalled were either a school or the subdivision office but were now mostly derelict. One building in good repair contained a restaurant. I went in and ordered pad thai and an iced tea. Mediocre. The other customers were Europeans of whom there is a lot in the subdivision. I left and walked home.

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For the past week, I have been forced to forgo my normal writing schedule (emails, novels, journals) and succumb to pressure to complete a number of children stories by next week when Hayden returns from Bangkok.

I got started on this because I ran out of children’s books to read to Hayden at bedtime. When my daughter Jessica was a child, often before bedtime I would make up stories to tell her. Unfortunately, long before the story was finished, much to her dismay and amusement. I would fall asleep. In order to avoid inflicting that trauma on another child, I decided to write down the stories so that we can read them together. I chose to use Google Images to illustrate the stories with cartoons and photographs to add interest. Once it got out that I was doing this I began to receive demands and deadlines to produce new stories, not from Hayden or other children who could care less, but from their parents. I am under the gun to finish one of the stories by Thursday of this week for parental review.

One group of stories are a series of detective tales staring Hayden and his stuffed animal friends “Snaky the Snake”, “Buddy the Bear”, “Whitey the White Tiger” and other creatures of his bedroom menagerie. Also appearing in the stories are some of the creatures living in the gardens and empty lots around the house. They include “Feral Kitty (one of the feral cat pack that lives in the lot next door), “Boo-blue bird”, “Francis the Fraidy Frog”, “Clarence the Cross-eyed” the king of the cobra’s living in the lot next door (yes, we have cobras as neighbors in the lot that I have dubbed the “Wild-lands) and in Bangkok “Ratty the Great, King of the Rats, the 10347th of his Line” and others. The humans in the story include me “Pookie the Old”, Nikki the Pilot” and “Pi Newan.” Pi Newan is the name of the maid and is usually the heroine of the adventures while Nikki and Pookie prove to be pompous and mostly useless. In addition to the Prologue, the first three tales are, “The Case of the Missing Breakfast”, “The case of the Monster of the Wild-lands” and the Case of Close Encounters of the Rat Kind”. The latter I have to finish by Thursday or suffer the consequences.

Tomorrow is Hayden’s 5th birthday. Today’s photograph is of the small party we held before he left for Bangkok.

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He who boils asparagus and then fries them in fat, and then pours upon them the yolks of eggs with pounded condiments, and eats every day of this dish, will grow very strong for the coitus, and find in it a stimulant for his amorous desires.
The Perfumed Garden, Richard Burton, Trans.
Fabula Interruptus
Now I know that in my most recent issue I promised to continue with the Last Afternoon of the Geriatric Knights in which the Knights Get Down to Business, but as any reader of fiction knows, you can never trust the storyteller.
I thought it would be a good idea to break in here now, because I was worried that the reader may see the individual Knights as mere shadow figures around which to build a tale. While that may be true, I thought it would help the narrative if we put a little flesh onto their bones, so to speak.
Not a back story, for that would be irrelevant even to the Knights themselves. Instead I thought it would be helpful to the reader for me to provide an insight into the essence, if you will, of each Knights character.
We will begin (as we usually seem to do) with Jerome, who prefers to be known as Horace, because he is the least interesting and because of that also the most compelling of the Knights. The reason for this apparent conundrum is  that  to some people Jerome, who prefers to be known as Horace, seems to have no soul. As a result, of all the Knights of the Round Table (upon which our tales are very loosely based) he seems most like Galahad, the most boring and soulless Knight at Camelot. What Galahad did have going for him however is that he gave off a strange light that really freaked everyone out. Consequently no one wanted much to do with him and so compared to the other of King Arthur’s Knights we know next to nothing about him.
Now our Jerome, who prefers to be known as Horace, lacks the freaky light. In fact, for him it is sort of the opposite. Instead of giving out light he appears to be where light goes to die and so he is easily the most fascinating of the Geriatric Knights because he can be all things and nothing depending on the storyteller’s mood.
Density on the other hand is certainly the strongest and most knowledgable about practical things. But beneath that tough seeming hard-nosed, sagacious exterior beats the heart of an incurable romantic and he knows it and it worries him.He knows sooner or later he is going to fuck up. In this he  most resembles  Lancelot du Lac, the peerless and dread Knight of the Round Table, dauntless in war and strategy and prudent in all things except for his need to dick half the women in England.  When he finally got around to playing hide the salami with the King’s wife, Guinevere, the shit hit the fan.
Our Harvey on the other hand, is not romantic at all. True, he is optimistic and a good companion. In that he is a lot like Sir Gawain, ever optimistic and always running off to somewhere or other for a good time. But, Gawain was a constant screw-up. Not our Harvey though. Harvey is more cautious. For an example of that feature, one has to turn to another set of tales about a brotherhood, the Merrie Men of Robin Hood. There we find that old Friar Tuck bears a similar cautious trait to our Harvey. If one reads the tales closely, one realizes that Tuck never completely bought into the bullshit of Robin of Locksley. Sure, if there was good food, tasty wine and a roll in the hay now and then, he was happy to join in the fun, just as long as it did not get him into too much trouble.
Now Spy, he most reminds me of Parsifal, who no matter how badly he fucks-up always comes out smelling like he just fell into a vat of the world’s most expensive perfume. You can be assured that, among all the Knights, he will be the one to stumble across the Magic Vulva and probably not recognize it. But, not to worry, like Parsifal he undoubtedly will end up chosen to guard it, either that or in charge of renting it out.
Giufa is the opposite of Parsifal, he is the eternal Kingfish. No matter what high hopes he begins with, it will turn to shit in the end and he will be lucky if he escapes with his limbs intact. In this he most resembles Merlin minus the magic and the dress (He kept the funny hat though). As I am sure you recall, no matter what Merlin starts, it all falls to pieces in the end. Take the Sword in the Stone, it begins pretty well but everyone soon ends up dead at the Battle of Camiann and the Sword gets tossed into a lake like a crushed beer can. Merlin even ends up imprisoned in a block of ice or something, deep under some mountain somewhere, his magic gone along with all his money, taken by his girlfriend who runs off with it so that she can fuck her brains out with Mordred and his Golden Armor.
Now this may all sound pretty squalid and depressing but that is not so. Like Camelot, the story of the Geriatric Knights is a tale of hope in the face of the inevitable.
When we were  young with our peers about us, we dreamed and hoped for that which we had not yet experienced. Now in our old age we dream and hope for one last chance at  that which we will soon no longer have.
Symmetry is a beautiful thing.

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