Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Oban, Scotland: Paying it Forward

I’d met Alex in Fort Augustus after ascending the Suidhe Viewpoint on the south side of Loch Ness. He looked terrible. I was no masterpiece either. I’d spent the night in a field behind a pub near Whitebridge as I had no more energy to tackle another climb. At one point I was tempted to throw my bike on the ground and give up. I was defeated by rain, wind, and relentless steep climbs. I learned Alex had gone ahead and tackled the climb and spent the night stealth camping in a clump of trees beside the road. No wonder he looked a wreck. We hooked up and rode together to Fort Williams.

Together we followed the Caledonian Canal or the Great Glen Way, essentially a forest track for 30 miles. Alex had promised himself this trip after passing his bar exam in Montreal. (He seemed so young!) He’d rented the bike in Inverness and was planning a bike tour of the Outer Hebrides. I of course was hoping to complete a JOGLE. We decided to ride together at least to Oban. At Fort Williams we stopped at a bike shop where they tried to replace some broken spokes. It was only his second day on the bike. As we pulled out in the RAIN from the shop another spoke popped, indicative of a way bigger problem. But at that moment we were looking for a place to camp. We rode through thick milky rain to a campground at the base of Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain.

We sent up in torrents and made a dash to the campground restaurant where we charged our phones and ordered a hot meal. I recall a feeling of deep warmth washing over me—until I had to go back out into the rain. That night the wind howled and my little tent shook.

In the morning Alex was on a mission to get his bike fixed and so we parted—hopefully to meet later. Indeed, later on that day I came out of a café and met Alex on the trail! Just like that we went on serendipitously. In Oban we discovered a great hostel in a former church and after settling and showering went out to secure food. We bought ingredients to make a huge pasta dinner. On our way to Tesco we passed a small shop where he bought a soda. On a candy rack I spied a Lion bar.

Once while in Prague we were on holiday with another family, one more familiar with the place than us. The couple had actually lived there for a few years before coming back to the States. Anyway, she spied a Lion bar at a shop. “You have to try this,” she said. She went in and bought one for me and her.

Wow. She was right; it was a GREAT chocolate bar and one unlike anything I’d ever had.

So I said to Alex, “You have to try this.” And I told him the story of being in Prague and my friend introducing me to the Lion bar, the world’s greatest chocolate bar. We continued onto Tesco and afterwards we passed the same convenient store where he asked me to wait. He went in and bought another bar since he loved it so much, and one for me. With a smile, he said, “You have to try this.”

So the cycle continues, each of us paying it forward.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Once Upon a Time: Siena, Italy

Once Upon a Time: Siena, Italy

We had just arrived in Siena and spent the day checking out the candy-cane striped cathedral, duomo, in the historic city center. As evening settled a light rain began to fall. We passed restaurants and read the chalkboard signs out front. We observed diners cozy and warm in their familiar setting, talking and laughing in their native language, while outside, we felt outside. Strangers wanting nothing more than to be inside somewhere, part of this wonderful place.

Which seemed impossible.

Around us residents hurried carrying groceries, crusty bread, wine for their dinner. We were like a rock in a stream as they flowed by. The drizzle added to the incongruity we felt, blurring street lamps, creating glowing arcs that radiated out to us.

Then out of the darkness came a little old lady in a trim-fitting coat navigating the steep cobbled streets. We ran over to her. I extended an arm for her to lean on while my husband lifted an umbrella over her. Together we walked her home.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Once Upon a Time: Tranås, Sweden

Once Upon a Time: Tranås, Sweden

I blindly followed Lotta. We were on a bike ride around Lake Sommen. The roads reminded me of driveways, tiny little lanes, some dirt-packed. I couldn’t imagine cars navigating these narrow byways. At some point even Lotta was lost; she stopped to consult with a farmer.

Of course I didn’t know what they were saying. Sometimes when traveling I’d often feel an out-of-body experience, as if I was observing myself reacting. This is just one example of how travel transports us out of comfort zones; everything is new and slightly off-kilter.

We continued on, pumping up a sudden, steep rise where we entered an emerald forest. Earth and sky were this amazing mossy green. Spongy moss carpeted the forest floor while the tree canopy sheltered us, Only patches of blue sky showed through. Even the tinkling stream nearby gleamed green. Eerily dark, fecund, musky—all my senses were attuned. Lotta explained to me that we were in a mushroom forest and that the farmer had said he knew where the best mushrooms were. It was a secret.

Once out into brilliant sunlight I felt as if I had my own secret: this special place that I may never see again.
44 km, 8 kantareller o 1 Karl-Johan - dagens accomplichments.
44 miles, 8 Cantharellus O 1 Karl Johan - contemporary accomplichments.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Once Upon a Time: Goreme, Turkey

Once Upon a Time: Goreme, Turkey

One time we took a night bus from Selçuk to Goreme, better known as Cappadocia. Just like nomads traveling by night we’d come upon an oasis in the darkness where a squadron of attendants ran out to gas and wash down the exterior of the bus before we moved on into a vacuum. Eventually we arrived in town before sun up. We still didn’t know exactly where we were. That’s how it is with travel—especially in places with little doodley hooks on their letters; I was continually lost, unsure how to pronounce words, what to order to eat, afraid I wouldn’t see the right stuff. Somehow we managed to make it to our hostel.

It was early; not a thing was stirring except a cat lounging on a cushion in the unlocked reception office. There was a computer there and I checked my email—though once again I was flummoxed by the foreign keyboard. Nothing was where it should be. I wandered outside. The sky was beginning to lighten, stars were growing dim. Slowly I became aware of shapes.

I remember feeling awestruck in sudden light as I realized I was standing in a courtyard surrounded by sand cave rooms carved out of unusually soft volcanic rock. It was like no place I’ve ever been.

pic of me

Monday, February 13, 2017

Creepy Genealogy

Over the weekend I read about a new genealogy website, actually a controversy brewing over a genealogy website that spends time analyzing the present—and perhaps, eerily, revealing too much information, about you. In the the article a woman did a people search and her name popped up, not unusual as she was an author, but the troubling part was that at this website the names of her children and their ages was listed. So this wasn’t so much about researching the past, but the present. She didn’t want that info out there.

I’ve been off and on conducting research into my family. What I find on the web is both interesting and confusing. For example one bit of misinformation about my dad has snowballed into all the websites that collect and generate genealogical information. It started with a misprint in an on-line newspaper obituary and spread from there. He did not die in 2001, but in December of 2011. Yet, now and forever on the WWW he will have died in 2001. That date will carry much more pervasive weight than anything I put together.

Secondly, why is this lady so upset? Her personal info is out there, no matter what she does. Privacy on the internet is complicated and unless she is a rich author and can afford to hire someone to keep track and manage her on-line reputation, then what recourse does she have.

From the article: Profiles on FamilyTreeNow include the age, birth month, family members, addresses and phone numbers for individuals in their system, if they have them. It also guesses at their “possible associates,” all on a publicly accessible, permalink-able page. It’s possible to opt out, but it’s not clear whether doing so actually removes you from their records or (more likely) simply hides your record so it’s no longer accessible to the public.

The woman pulled up her file and opted out.

One other note on my own research. At the turn of the century—the last one—it was considered an achievement for someone to be a high school graduate. Apparently in Nicholas County, Kentucky in 1900 you did well if you made it that far. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Hot Flash Friday: Write a Flash Mystery

In  places to submit on Wednesday I gave the link to:

Flash mystery

Flash bangs are a type of contusion grenade meant to flush an assailant out of hiding or from shelter. They startle.

Right now write a sudden mystery, a flash bang that will leave the reader startled. Flash is typically anything under 1000 words. Start small, the hardest challenge, by attempting a tweet mystery of 140 characters, and grow it, adding different word counts, 50, 100, etc The above is looking for:
  • We want stories that feature believable characters who speak naturally, realistic situations that bleed conflict, and surprise endings that stay with us long after we reach the final period.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Places to Submit

Splicikty, post complete

The Bumblebee looks soft and cuddly but hides a venomous sting.  Entice us with your inviting prose that serves up a pointed ending in 750 words or fewer.  Want feedback on your story?  Get a professional critique from one of the Pulp Literature editors for only $15 more.
Contest opens:  1 January 2017
Deadline:  15  February 2017
Winner notified:  15 March 2017
Winner published in:  Issue 15, Summer 2017
Prize:  $300
Entry fee: $15
Earlybird fee (before 15 January): $10
Entry fees include a 1-year digital subscription to Pulp Literature.
This contest is for previously unpublished works of fiction up to 750 words in length.  Total entries limited to 300.

Flash mystery

1000 or less