Posts tagged ‘stories’

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!

High Occupancy

6 August, 2014 | | 2 Comments

So I accidently got on the HOV lanes this morning, and when I say accidently I mean I forgot how to count to three.  When the cop pulled me over, I explained that I had multiple personality disorder, and that the vehicle was quite crowded, really.  (“No it isn’t.”  “Shut up!  Who asked you?”  “Will you guys be quiet and let him talk?”) 

He asked me how many individuals were with me in there, and I told him four.  He asked their names, so I did a quick roll call and had them sound off.

And then he wrote me four tickets.

Well played, sir.

Just So!

12 August, 2012 | | No Comment

Pardon me – and join me! – while I a take a moment from recounting the tales of vacation to recall this evening.  We were gifted this evening by generous friends of the Human Tape Recorder with tickets to a new play being produced by the Acting for Young People (AFYP) group at George Mason’s Center for the Arts.  I accompanied the HTR to this play, Just So, to see our young friend Paul on what was not his first and what will certainly not be his last performance on stage.

The topic of the play, though, was a natural draw for me – it was written and directed by AFYP’s Lisa Nanni-Messegee as a re-imagining of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories and parts of The Jungle Book, mashed up with the events of Kipling’s life as shown in the movie “My Boy Jack,” which is about the enlistment and subsequent death of his son John in WWI.  As a lifelong fan of Kipling’s work, as well as a solid fan of our friend Paul, I couldn’t wait to see it!

Having now seen it, I expect that this play could eventually find its way to a bigger stage with a wider audience.  It needs first to decide what it wants to be; the mashup takes tales written for children in the 1890s and finally published in 1902, and tries to find the intersection of these stories with the events of 1915, when his son died in the Battle of Loos, France, in WWI.  The Just So Stories treated in the play, both How the Whale Got His Throat and The Elephant’s Child, tend toward comedy, as do several of the parts of the Jungle Book.  (Baloo is hard to play as anything but a comedic foil.)  In the meantime, the guilt Kipling feels over his role in getting John into the Irish Guards is anything but comic, and the juxtiposition of the two doesn’t always work.  The audience may have been left in several scenes trying to decide which parts were supposed to be funny.  There were a few factual missteps:  for instance, at one point our young Kipling mentioned that he was the Poet Laureate.  In fact he was offered the post more than once, but refused it.   He *was* a Nobel Laureate, however – he remains to this date the youngest Literature Laureate, having been 42 years old when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907.

Speaking of young and talented, the actors, ranging in age from 18 to 11, were brilliant for their parts.  They were well chosen for their roles and performed them like the professionals that they aren’t yet – and there’s no question that some of them will be.  Noah M_, who played the young doomed John Kipling, was particularly brilliant, as was our Paul, who played Mowgli on the cusp of manhood and made him seem every bit as real as any teenager caught between child and adult.  Jessi S_, the young lady playing Kaa, the snake, was also exceptional. 

It was a well choreographed, well thought out play, and I enjoyed it a lot.  It lasted nearly 2 and a half hours, and the time flew by – the story was paced so well that I wasn’t the only audience member surprised by the hour when we exited.  The music was used well and often, and the props were minimal enough that they never got in the way of the story.  There was a musical called “Just So” based on those stories in 1984; this isn’t that.  I’ve been reading Kipling since I was much younger than tonight’s actors, and I’ve never seen or heard of anyone revisiting these two very different points in Kipling’s life in quite this way.  I expect that with some minor variations, this unique perspective will be retold in increasingly larger venues, and it should be.   For those readers in the DC area, it’s playing again tomorrow at the George Mason University Center for the Arts at 2 pm.  If you’re half the Kipling fan I am, it’s more than worth the price of admission – and I thank Paul’s parents again for the opportunity to attend tonight! 

For further reading in case you need a refresher on why Kipling’s still considered one of the best short story writers ever, I offer you a choice:  The Man Who Would Be King, a novella from 1888, or The Brushwood Boy, a shorter story written in 1895 and included as the capstone story in The Day’s Work in 1898.  The Brushwood Boy is probably my favorite short story ever. 



A Case of Vegetables

8 January, 2012 | | 2 Comments

So there I was, minding my own and just popping in for a few things on my way home – not like I was still on the clock, you know.  The grocery store isn’t too crowded at my hour, couple of stiffs and junkies, geezers getting out for their daily fiber and trying to cop a feel from the checkout chicas, the usual shuffle of the old, the bored, and the employees, most of whom were both.

I had just checked my list for the sixteenth time – hey, a drinking man’s memory’s got gaps – when I heard the loudspeakers crackle to life:  “Security, aisle 6.”  As I kept moving, it said, “Security, please scan all cameras in aisles 4, 5, and 6.”  I looked up to see where that was in relation to me, not being too familiar with the store, and I realized I was right next to those aisles. 

Being in the profession I am, and trust me that you do not want to know, my friend, I have a healthy enough sense of paranoia that I was perfectly happy to turn the heck around and not get involved or even be standing too close to something unpleasant.  In my line of work, “Cleanup on Aisle Nine” can be code for “kill all the witnesses and invoke the Patriot Act if anyone asks.”  So, I removed myself from the area of aisles 4, 5, and 6, and went over to the produce section. 

“Security, please scan all cameras in Produce.”

I looked around.  I was, for reasonable definitions of the word, alone.  It was me. 

I turned around to look for the cameras and realized I wasn’t as alone as I’d thought.  On the other side of the Produce section was a knockout redhead with the biggest melons I’ve seen this side of Chiquita.  I noticed the celery, the carrots, and the parsnips all standing a little straighter as she walked toward me, and I’ll admit she had my undivided attention as well.  It was a good thing, too, because she set the melons down on a display and pulled a loaded banana out of her purse.  This was looking less appealing.

I ducked as her first shot went wide, winging a turkey in the frozen food aisle.  Since I was pretty sure they were out of season, I assumed the turkey hadn’t been her target.  I took a good jump for the safety of the roughage, and her second shot slammed into the lettuce.  Heads rolled.

There was less yelling than I would have thought there would be, and I could hear the Muzak version of The Cure’s Lovecats as I watched a grocery staffer running pell-mell down the nearest aisle.   She took a shot at him as he made an endive into the dairy section.  She missed, but he got creamed all the same.  I took advantage of the distraction and threw a cabbage at my assailant.  “Head’s up!” I yelled! 

She turned it to mid-air cole-slaw with one shot and kept stalking forward, past the celery, toward me.  “Who are you?  What do you want?” I yelled.  “Why are you trying to kale me?” 

“Stand up, you sniveling collard,” she spat bitterly. 

“Only if you put the gun down – I don’t want to get chard.”  She lowered the gun, and I stood facing her.  I’m not a religious guy, but right there in that produce section, I don’t mind telling you I made the sign of the cress. 

As I got a better look at her, I saw she was sporting a black eye over her sorrel sweater.  “Some tough legumes give you that, ginger?”  It was the wrong thing to say, because she flipped the gun over and beet me with it.  My split lip was leeking and I was more than a little worried, when she stopped and said, “I knew you’d turnip somewhere, chickweed.  Admit it, you’re a rabeist.” 

“Lady, you’ve got the wrong Swede!  I don’t know what you’re talking about!” 

“Don’t give me that horseradish!  You were in Brussels that night, I saw you!” 

I gave her a quick poke while she was yelling, and she dropped the gun.  Store security swarmed her, and I took advantage of the confusion to roll under the garlic and split.  Besides, I had to pea.  As I was leaving, I heard the loudspeakers crackle again.   “Cleanup On Aisle Nine, I repeat, Cleanup On Aisle Nine.”

Oh, snap.  Time to run.




Advent of Holiday Horror: Song 19

7 December, 2011 | | No Comment

In honor of Pearl Harbor day, we will begin with one of my favorite jokes about intolerance.  After all, intolerant people are about the only ones left that we’re allowed to make fun of!

A Jewish guy and a Korean guy were sitting at the bar, and the Jewish guy kept looking over and getting angrier and angrier.  All of a sudden he turned, got up and hit the Korean in the face, knocking him off his stool.

Stunned, the Korean guy gets up and says, “What the hell was that for?”
The Jewish guy replies, “That was for Pearl Harbor.”
The Korean guys says, “Pearl Harbor was the Japanese, you idiot!  I’m Korean!”
The Jewish guy says, “Japanese, Chinese, Korean, you’re all the same.”

The Korean guy says “Fine!” and sits on his stool and continues drinking. He keeps looking over at the Jewish guy, getting angrier and angrier.  About a half hour later the Korean guy walked over and punched the Jewish guy right in the head, knocking him off his stool.

The Jewish guy gets up and says, “What the hell was that for?”
The Korean guy says “That was for the Titanic.”
The Jewish guy replies, “What? The Titanic was sunk by an iceberg!”
The Korean guy says, “Iceberg, Steinberg, Goldberg, you’re all the same…”

And that’s the kind of thinking that leads to wars, and as John and Yoko told us the other day, that’s bad.  It’s never OK to be intolerant.  I know there are people in this world who do not love their fellow human beings and I HATE PEOPLE LIKE THAT. 

I should say, it’s never OK to be intolerant of other people. Being intolerant of Christmas songs, in particular some of those by the Beach Boys, is just fine.  “Hope he doesn’t pull on Santa’s beard?”  Now, things may be different up there at the Pole, but where I’m from talking about “Santa’s beard” has a whoooole different meaning.  (And yes, I got the words to the song from Metro Lyrics.  Shut up.)  So, Santa’s favorite song during the off season really is “When I think about you, I touch my elf.”  Marv.

So now we know, first, there’s a distraught not-quite-6-year-old who still thinks the fat guy in red’s got nothing to do but hang out in the mall; second, his older brother’s an idiot; and third, the Beach Boys didn’t know bo-diddly about wintertime.  I think the closest most of them got to snow on a regular basis in Southern California was cocaine, and that didn’t really pick up until the ’80s.

So please, love each other.  Love this song if you can.  Love it for me, because I have lost faith with the Beach Boys and the Mall Santas and the Christmas Album and the Man With All the Toys.  Now that we know Ms. Claus is Santa’s beard, can we assume that “Little” St. Nick is the man with all the sex toys?  Oh, snap!

And love, if you can, this video of some idiots with “Santa’s Beard” in the background.