Posts tagged ‘books’

A Bavarian Weekend Story

26 May, 2016 | | No Comment

“I’ve lost the bride.”

There may be no words in the English language more terrifying, more fraught with angst than those. (Well, possibly a sign stating “Sorry out of coffee” in a diner window, but that’s a story for another time, and besides, they’re closed.)

Let’s look at these four words.

I’ve – It’s personal, and it’s past tense. This is something I did, something I have done and cannot undo.
Lost – The absence of a thing, the lack, with the understanding that it’s something I had at one point, but have no longer.
The Bride – Sheer. Unadulterated. Terror.

These are the words SOBUMD and I heard a high-heeled, gown-wrapped woman utter as we walked past her into the Bavarian Inn last weekend for our Anniversary. I, luckily, have never lost the bride. It’s been 25 years since we held hands and jumped over my sword, and while I haven’t misplaced her yet, we decided to get lost for the weekend to celebrate.

The Bavarian Inn, should you find yourself in Shepherdstown, WVa, has all the amenities you could want from a getaway spot: rooms for sleeping, fireplaces, rooms for formal eating, rooms for less formal eating, swimming pools, and a view of the great Potomac River that could inspire poetry, or at least that kind of “huh, wouldja lookit that” sigh that passes for poetry among most folk these days. There was even a decent-sized hedge pig just outside our balcony, rooting among the flowers and the hedge, having a grand old time.

Bavarian View

Potomac River

Since we were only there for an overnight, we decided to maximize our time and headed straight for the pool – despite the 50-degree weather and the on-again off-again drizzling blatter of the rain. It couldn’t really even be called rain, truly – a heavy cool mist that couldn’t make up its mind to piss down or just piss off and let the sun through. It certainly wasn’t going to prevent us from getting into the mostly heated pool, the infinity edge of which appeared to drop off as a sheer cliff face to the curving bend of the Potomac River, 200 feet or more below us.

The view was wonderful, the water was warmer than the air around us – albeit not by a wide margin, but warm enough to get in and float around. After all, this was our own private pool! I realized that it wasn’t really our own private pool, but it seemed that way since we had it all to ourselves. We paddled and splashed our way to the edge, enjoying the vertiginous sight of the mighty river below, pondering the story arc of the past 25 years and contemplating the arc of the next 25, dreaming of the stories we will write together.

Paddling around the pool at the Bavarian Inn recalled for me a different story, one told by David Niven in his autobiography “The Moon’s a Balloon.” He recounts a chilling tale of Bavarian skiing one day, years ago before modern ski equipment, and mentions that he “suddenly felt coldest where he should have felt warmest,” if you get his drift. He got down the mountain as best as he could, and went straight to his friends and the doctor at the lodge, concerned about frostbite in a place most men should NEVER be concerned about frostbite. The consensus was that he should warm the afflicted appendage in an alcohol solution, and so a (presumably inexpensive) brandy was poured for him in a (presumably large) brandy snifter – which he then carried gingerly into the men’s room. He stood in front of a urinal, his chilly willy dunked in the drink, thinking about the horrors of amputation and reconsidering his recreational hobbies, when a casual acquaintance entered the room and took up arms at the urinal next to his. He glanced over.

“My God! David, what are you doing?”

Being David Niven had its advantages. His immediate reply was, “Why, I’m pissing in a brandy snifter. I always do.”

So there I was, hand in hand with SOBUMD, watching the river flow under the trees playing hide and seek with the mists and the rain, when David Niven’s story came rushing back to me as a kind of satori of embarrassment. One of the downsides of having a very new bathing suit is that one could forget that this new one might happen to have a zipper.

No brandy snifters were required, but I was quite glad to have realized my condition before our reverie was interrupted by six basic bros, all of whom had brought their beers with them, and most of whom might have been muttering things about lost brides. None of them looked particularly put out, and so I have to assume the erstwhile groom was not among them. (If he was with them, I will assume the wedding hadn’t been entirely his idea.)

SOBUMD and I headed back to our fireplace and changed for dinner, which was sumptuous, as was breakfast the following morning. The weekend was topped off with a stop at a small Shepherdstown Bookstore that was large enough to hold the secret of a long and happy marriage:  There, among all the stories on the shelves, you can get lost together or separately – but tucked in between the poetry, the biographies, the fiction, and the cookbooks, there’s always something for everyone, and your story never ends.

Just don’t lose the bride!

She Knows Where Her Towel Is!

14 June, 2015 | | 3 Comments

Today, I couldn’t be more proud.  Mind you, I couldn’t be more late in updating this blog, but that’s a different issue.  Right now, I couldn’t be more proud of the Reigning Queen of Pink, Grand Duchess of Fluff, Lord High Protector of Barbies, and Baroness of the Hummingbirds.

RQOP:  “Can we watch Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy now?”
BUMD:  “Yes!”
RQOP:  “OK, I’ll be right back!”  (runs off)
BUMD:  “OK……..”
RQOP:  (having returned with two dish towels.)  “Here you go!”
BUMD:  (blinks)
RQOP:  “We can’t watch without our towels!”

Too bloody Belgiuming right we can’t!  What a cool frood she’s growing into – as a Douglas myself, I am very proud!



A Quick Valentine’s Day Book Review

14 February, 2014 | | 1 Comment

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d re-read and review one of the best love stories ever written.  It’s particularly appropriate, since the book turns 100 years old this year, and I thought I’d see how it’s held up over the century.  Don’t worry, you know the story.  It’s Tarzan of the Apes.

So, yeah, I know, it’s not the first thing that jumps out at you as a love story.  Oh, sure, it’s got beatings, killings, maulings, beheadings, and all sorts of good jungle violence.  Some characters die for vengeance, some die because someone else was angry – or just hungry.  At least 16 men or apes are killed before chapter 10 – and I mean right in front of you, with guns, knives, or teeth.  All told, there are probably around 80 deaths in the book.  There’s a lot of blood.

Warning:  Hereafter lie spoilers.  I know, you think you know the story.  Disney didn’t cover the books very well, and many people really don’t know the original story.  If you’re interested in reading the original, I’m going to give away the ending here – be warned.  (Also, for those who know me well and are curious, no, I don’t have a first edition.  I’m reading a later reprint, from around 1916.  If anyone wants to get me a first printing/first edition, they’re most welcome!)

But still, it’s a love story.  The first time Tarzan lays eyes on Jane Porter, his world changes – as does hers.  He goes from wondering about his purpose in life as a man among apes, to a man with a mission – Jane.  She left the jungle without him, against her will while fearing him dead or worse, but left him a love note.  For Jane, he leaves the jungle, learns the ways of civilization, and crosses continents.  He went to Paris, then to Baltimore, only to find she had moved to Wisconsin.

He makes his way to Wisconsin, just in time to save her from a raging forest fire, and then moments later from a loveless marriage to a miser.  He gives her father enough money to cover his debts, restoring the family’s honor.

And then, at the end, Jane has a crisis of faith, and agrees to marry William Cecil Clayton, Lord Greystoke, who inherited his title, wealth, and lands when his uncle was declared dead – his uncle, who was Tarzan’s father.  Tarzan, for his part, receives a telegram from Paris just moments later, from his friend who had been investigating the matter, stating:  “Finger prints prove you Greystoke.  Congratulations.” 

He realizes that at a word, he can have Clayton stripped of his title, lands, and money – and in doing so would strip them from Jane, too.  Clayton chooses that exact moment to walk up to him, thank him for all the help he’s been, and ask how he had wound up in the jungle anyway.

“I was born there,” said Tarzan, quietly.  “My mother was an Ape, and of course couldn’t tell me much about it.  I never knew who my father was.”

Yes, Burroughs was a privileged white man born in Illinois in 1875, and wrote what he saw.  The impression he had of Africans as savages, the idea that women were little better than chattel, the concept and conceit that British nobility would of course shine through despite a life lived as a brute among brutes, all of those products of Burroughs’ time that we now look back on and cringe – these are all here in this book.  The anachronisms, the patois of racism and privilege, grow worse with each passing year.  As a book, it doesn’t hold up well to modern morality.

But – that’s a love story.  He swept her off her feet, she fell in love with his savage nobility, and at the end he renounces his true identity and birthright, giving her up, to secure her happiness and well being – without telling anyone.

I hope everyone had as Happy a Valentine’s Day as that kind of love can bring!



3 November, 2013 | | 2 Comments

This does not usually happen to me.  I do not, as a rule, become conflicted about things – do something, don’t do something, make up my mind and get on with my life.  I try, most of the time, to be a person of action – I don’t tend to over analyze or overthink things.

But, Ender’s Game has come out on the big screen.  I’m going to go see it, on the big screen.  There’s no conflict there – I’ve been waiting for this flick since I heard it was in the works.  It has Indiana Jones, for Pete’s sake.  And, oh yeah, it’s based on one of the greatest works in sci-fi history.  Ender’s Game is so good, it’s the only sci-fi book that my mother has read, to my knowledge.   I read it in college, more than 24 years ago, and as I was nearing the end of the book, a really gorgeous redheaded girl that I’d been hoping to go out with some day called me and asked if I wanted to go out right then.

I told her I couldn’t. 

I had 75 pages left, and I couldn’t put it down.  Probably for the best, since I found SOBUMD, but still – the book was that good.  Since then, I’ve stood in line for signings, met Orson Scott Card, and bought all of the books in the Ender series, and many others as well.  Back in the day, before the Internet made everyone as connected as they are now, no one really knew that he held views that were incompatible with those expressed in his books.  It is still amazing to me to find that he espouses such hate-filled homophobic views and yet has written such lovely, loving, and open-minded characters.   I write, or at least I try to pretend that I do, and I’m not sure how I could do that; nor even the other way around and have one of my characters spout nonsensical vitriol and hate without having some other character standing there to point out what an asshat the first one was. 

So, I’m going to see his movie.  I’ve heard a lot of talk about “separating art from politics” and the quote from Oscar Wilde about “The fact of a man being a poisoner is nothing against his prose.”   Mind you, even Wilde, no paragon of virtue there, went on in the same article to say, “Of course, he is far too close to our own time for us to be able to form any purely artistic judgment about him. It is impossible not to feel a strong prejudice against a man who might have poisoned Lord Tennyson, or Mr. Gladstone, or the Master of Balliol.”  In our case, Card is far to much a part of our time to be able to easily wholly divorce his odious and onerous views from his towering literary achievements. 

And so, I find myself conflicted.  I’m going. I’m probably going to like the movie.  I still recommend the book, and its sequel, and the rest of the series.  They’re that good.  But, I feel the need to caveat them to people with, by the way, the author’s a right-wing homophobic nutjob, but if you’re into good sci-fi, you need to read this anyway.  (At least the first two.)

I’ll post a few thoughts, if not an actual review, about the movie once I see it.  Anyone else going?  Not going?  Conflicted?




On First Looking into Jackson’s Hobbit

14 January, 2013 | | No Comment

Yes, I’m blatently pulling this across from Free Range Poetry:

Many’s the children’s tale or poem or book
I’ve seen turned to a movie on the screen;
I worried what this Hobbit film would mean,
and how bald-faced the liberties he’d took?
From many had I heard a pre-viewed look:
The latest Peter Jackson film they’d seen,
and urged me skip, at risk of primal scream —
An Unexpected Journey, best forsook!
And yet this weekend past, I sat entranced
while Tolkien’s dream of Shire-folk unwound,
while stout Bilbo with ogres fought and danced,
like Arthur Dent, whose courage must be found.
And Gollum gollum’s best, and thus advanced
the tale – our Precious, lying on the ground.