Chapter XXVIII, FOLLOWING THE EQUATOR: Pudd’nhead Wilson Quote

Self does remember telling dear blog readers a little while back that each chapter of Following the Equator began with a quote from Pudd’nhead Wilson.

And many’s the time she fully intended to share a Pudd’nhead Wilson quote, but that resolution usually fell by the wayside because she is having so much fun reading the Cassandra Clare trilogy, The Infernal Devices.

But now self will make a Pudd’nhead Wilson quote. Here it comes. Ready?

  • Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Broken: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is BROKEN:

  • Capture something broken:  broken windows and tools, an old window, a toy never fixed, and so on.

Each of the pictures below depicts something “broken” — whether it’s Anthony Burgess’s disturbing novel of social dysfunction in an England of the future ruled by thugs, A Clockwork Orange (the book was in a visual art exhibit at the Walter Phillips Gallery here in Banff), a preserved dinosaur head, or an installation representing America’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan:

Anthony Burgess's CLOCKWORK ANGEL

Anthony Burgess’s CLOCKWORK ANGEL — Ooops! Self means A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Self’s got too much Infernal Devices on the brain, dear blog readers!

Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum at Drumheller, Alberta

Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum at Drumheller, Alberta

Harriet Bart, American:

Harriet Bart: “Enduring Afghanistan” – map of Afghanistan rendered in dog tags, at the Walker Art Museum, Minneapolis

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Enveloped 5: New Leaves and Smiles at The Banff Centre, Alberta

There’s a huge tree just outside self’s window that was just a skeleton of twiggy branches. Until three days ago, when leaves started to appear. Now, just look at it:

Spring arrives in Banff!

Spring arrives in Banff!

There’s a Writing Studio reading every Wednesday night. Last night’s reading was held at Wild Flour Artisan Bakery in downtown Banff. Greg Hollingshead, Director of the Writing Studio, was one of the readers.

A little about Greg: His collection, The Roaring Girl, won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. His novel Bedlam was a Globe and Mail 100 Best Books of the Year and a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice.

Greg Hollingshead, Director of the Banff Writing Studio, at Last Night's Reading in Wild Flour Artisan Bakery, Banff

Greg Hollingshead, Director of the Banff Writing Studio, at Last Night’s Reading in Wild Flour Artisan Bakery, Banff

It is truly amazing that everyone read so well, even though self calculated about a third of the readers, and probably half of the audience, were sick. Sick like self: stuffy nose, cough, no appetite, etc.

Self actually saw an in-house doctor at Lloyd Hall on Tuesday, who told self that she was suffering from a run-of-the-mill cold virus and didn’t need any prescription medication. The only good thing about having this cold is that everyone around her at the reading (including Greg Hollingshead) seemed to be suffering from the same thing. She could hear people trying to quell coughs all over the place. Dear blog readers, there is nothing worse than knowing you’re going to have to hawk a big one, something so explosive it will be heard all over the room, and despite your best efforts, it still comes. I kept chewing zinc lozenges but what can you do.

Freelance writer and editor Julia Phillips, who read excerpts from two of her short stories last night.

Freelance writer and editor Julia Phillips, who read excerpts from two of her short stories last night.

Anyhoo, the reading last night went on as planned. All the readers were fantastic. Julia Phillips (pictured above) has had work in the Crab Orchard Review (Woot Hoot! So has self!), Drunken Boat, The Rumpus, The Week, and The Moscow Times. She was a Pushcart Prize nominee and a finalist for the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers.

Self also began chatting with a woman sitting near her, who turned out to be author J. Jill Robinson. Here’s a link to a review of one of her books, More in Anger, in The Globe and Mail.

Canadian Fiction Writer J. Jill Robinson, at the Banff Writing Studio reading last night

Canadian Fiction Writer J. Jill Robinson, at the Banff Writing Studio reading last night

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Mark Twain: Disquisition on Railroad Coffee

At 62, Mark Twain undertook a journey to follow the equator. He called his book — what else?– Following the Equator.

At this point in his narrative, he’s been to Fiji, Molokai, Australia, etc (Wonder why he skipped the Asian countries?) got very very sick, then resumed his journey by train through Australia. He got a tall tale from a fellow traveler (Of course — what is travel if not a series of encounters with tall tales told by strangers one meets in the course of a trip?)

Last weekend, self was in Lake Louise, and it was almost completely iced over. As soon as she got back to Banff, she started reading Robert Falcon Scott’s diary of his disastrous South Pole expedition. The poor man led a team to the Pole, but days away they already saw signs that they had been beaten to it by another team: there were sledge marks in the snow, small cairns, and far off, the Norwegian flag. 1 and 1/2 miles from the Pole they came across a compact tent with a note inside listing the names of five Norwegians and the date: 16 December 1911.

On the way back, all of Scott’s party perished in a blizzard.

Having now gotten completely off-tangent, self has to pull herself back by the nose to Mark Twain’s disquisition on coffee:

Twain experiences his own frustrations during his Australian train journey:  “We saw birds, but not a kangaroo, not an emu, not an ornithorhyncus, not a lecturer, not a native.”

He did, however, encounter something called “sheep-dip,” which he describes as follows:

It is a stuff like tar, and is dabbed onto places where a shearer clips a piece out of the sheep. It bars out the flies, and has healing properties, and a nip to it which makes the sheep skip like the cattle on a thousand hills. It is not good to eat. That is, it is not good to eat except when mixed with railroad coffee. It improves railroad coffee. Without it railroad coffee is too vague. But with it, it is quite assertive and enthusiastic. By itself, railroad coffee is too passive; but sheep-dip makes it wake up and get down to business. I wonder where they get railroad coffee?

Just for fun, self looked up “sheep dip” on Urban Dictionary and got this.

The next chapter, Chapter XV, begins with this quote from Twain’s novel Pudd’nhead Wilson:

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Enveloped in Snow, Trees and Stillness in Banff, Alberta

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is ENVELOPED.

What does “enveloped” mean to self? The weather, definitely. It is so different from what she’s used to in California.

These pictures are from last week. It was super-cold then. This first picture was near the Hoodoo Trail, which was closed for a few days because an elk carcass was attracting Grizzlies. Shivers!

Somewhere near the Hoodoo Trail

Somewhere Near the Hoodoo Trail

Sorry if this picture isn’t that clear. But she was taking the picture on the fly, from inside a van. It was snowing, as you can see.

First Elk Sighting -- EVER!

First Elk Sighting — EVER!

Sorry if this is a repeat of last week's elk sighting. Something about the snow adds immeasurably to the viewing experience, in self's humble opinion.

Sorry if this is a repeat of last week’s elk sighting. Something about the snow adds immeasurably to the viewing experience, in self’s humble opinion.

Forces of Nature 2: Around Banff

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is FORCE OF NATURE. Since arriving in Calgary several weeks ago, self has been truly awed by, to borrow a phrase from The Daily Post prompt, “the sheer scale and power” of the physical surroundings. And even more since getting to Banff, which is in the Canadian Rockies.

Self had signed up for a one-day tour to Lake Louise, today. But she got the meeting place wrong, and by the time she found the Eric Harvie Theatre, the tour was long gone. Anyhoo, self was all right with that, because she ended up doing more work on her novel-in-progress (Working Title: That Wilderness).

Apologies for her photographs being smaller in scale than she was expecting to post today. But the human imprint is also a “force of nature,” isn’t it?

A path leading to the Eric Harvie Theatre

A path leading to the Eric Harvie Theatre in The Banff Centre. Well-traveled. Clearly.

Bridge Over a Gully -- Stumbled Across During A Walk This Morning

Bridge Over a Gully — Stumbled Across During A Walk This Morning. Puts new meaning into the phrase “river of stones.”

And this was the view yesterday, from the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. One of the other writers, Sheila Stevenson, asked if she’d like to go there for a fancy drink. We were joined by writer Jill Frayn. And self had her first Canadian beer. The three of us shared a huge appetizer of Nachos with Flatiron Steak. The beef here in Alberta is really good.

from the Rundle Lounge of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

from the Rundle Lounge of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

The hotel was crowded yesterday: full of families and wedding parties. There was live music. And many Asian tourists.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

What Is Story?

Maple, 1989: A Painting in Lloyd Hall, The Banff Centre

Wendy Allen, “Maple, 1989″: Collage, Mixed Media, Lloyd Hall, The Banff Centre

A few thoughts self scribbled down after yesterday’s symposium/discussion between mentors and participants here in the Banff Writing Studio:

  • The end of a novel is not the end of a STORY.
  • The writer is not responsible for hope.
  • Sample story: Someone comes. They make someone miserable. And then they leave. (Or maybe they don’t leave. Thereby extending the misery? Wouldn’t it be so Deus ex machina for the cause of misery to just pick up and go?)

Self this afternoon finished reading the first story in the Bluestem Spring 2015 issue:  Meagan Cass’s “ActivAmerica.” Oh, it is a good one. Here are a few of the gorgeous sentences:

Out on the track, the cold settled over our bodies like wet cement.

*          *          *

“No weather exceptions for non-management,” the monitor told us, his face shining with Vaseline, heavy lines around his mouth, dark shadows under his eyes . . . “You’d have to check the binder . . . I think there’s a liability clause.” I didn’t want to know his story, what they were paying him and who was sick in his family and why he needed the money. I only wanted to kick him in the shins.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Intricate 2: Balboa Park, San Diego

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is INTRICATE.

Krista explains:

Visiting the Alhambra is something I’ll never forget. To this day, when I think of the beauty and majesty of that massive palace, I wonder about the people who inhabited this stone fortress high on a hill above Granada, so many centuries ago. I think of the craftsmen who worked magic in stone, in metal, and in tile, in intricate color and texture.

So far, self has been posting mostly about buildings. The San Diego Museum of Man, self thinks, is very rococco. She visited last year, with one of her former classmates from Assumption Convent in Manila. The museum and the California Tower next to it are in Balboa Park.

The California Tower is Next to the San Diego Museum of Man.

The California Tower is Next to the San Diego Museum of Man.

Here’s another view of the California Tower. It is open for public tours.

The tower can be reached through a climb of seven floors. It is open to public tours.

The tower can be reached through a climb of seven floors.

The California Tower's Spanish Colonial Facade was the design of Bertram Goodhue, who was inspired by Spanish churches in Mexico. It was built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition.

The California Tower’s Spanish Colonial Facade was the design of Bertram Goodhue, who was inspired by Spanish churches in Mexico. It was built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition.

Dear blog readers can find out more about artchitect Bertram Goodhue here.

“Art pre-existing in Nature, and Nature Is Reproduced in Art.”

(Written above a dormer in Goodhue’s attic room)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.”

“Emptiness of Air”

Wrote this piece after Typhoon Haiyan/ Yolanda devastated Tacloban City in the central Philippines. Read other pieces on the disaster on the Vela Magazine website.

Pericles lost his wife to a great emptiness of air, and water, and sound.  One moment, she was alive in the house with him. In the next, she had shifted somewhat. She still had the same form, the same face, but something had changed. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he knew what had happened had happened. He also knew there was no going back. Whatever had happened to his wife had stolen her from him as surely as if she’d been abducted and lost to him forever.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Matthew Park’s Illustration for “The Freeze”

Lately, self has been writing science fiction in the apocalyptic vein.

She wrote a story called “The Freeze” which imagined a woman as the only survivor of a drastic temperature drop, who decides to abandon her home city of San Francisco and head south. Along the way, she encounters a band of teen-agers; they all somehow find each other while stumbling around in the dark. She joins their group. Keeping the Pacific Ocean to their right, the group heads for Mexico (What? You expected them to come up with a better plan? They’re all starving, freezing, and in semi-shock. Sorry, this was the best anyone could come up with)

The story’s been published on Bluestem (Spring 2015) but here’s the illustration Matthew Park did for self.

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.

TheFreezecover_concept02-3

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