Today’s Birthday: Lena Kathren Headey

Lena Kathren Headey was born on October 3, 1973 in Hamilton, Bermuda. She is, of course, the superb actress who portrayed Cersei from Game of Thrones. Cersei’s beauty and willingness to plot and then ruthlessly destroy her enemies are balanced by her deep love for her children and her inner insecurities. She is absolutely magnificent and I will never forgive the producers of the show for leaving her gazing pointlessly over the ramparts of King’s Landing for most of the final season. What a betrayal of her character’s intelligence, and what a waste of her talents!

In her honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after my visit to King’s Landing, aka Dubrovnik. – Jadi

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I’d wanted to see Dubrovnik for years.  It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. Dubrovnik is one of the most intact – and surely one of the most beautiful – walled cities on the planet.  It was strategically built on the Adriatic coast, has spectacular scenery, and provides settings for one of my favorite shows, Game of Thrones. It had to be perfect!

Note to Self: In the future, question any place that sounds too good to be true. It usually is.

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Aw, come on. King’s Landing! Cercei’s Walk of Shame! Tyrion sightings!

This trip was going to be awesome!

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I frequently meet a friend on her way back through Europe as she travels around the world. We travel well together, enjoy exploring new spots, and always have great luck with our plans. We’ve never booked a bad hotel.

Note to Self: Always and never are adjectives doomed to fail at some point.

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I flew to Dubrovnik a day early and went hunting for the hotel. I dragged a suitcase up the stone stairs of narrow alleys. And down the stone stairs of narrow alleys. And then back up the stone stairs of narrow alleys. No sign over the doorway, no answer when I repeatedly knocked. Not one person who could give me any information.

It was really hot, humid and sticky, and overcrowded with tourists now heading to the outdoor restaurants for supper. I sat beside my suitcase on the hard stone steps, trying to stay calm (forget about cool or collected – at that point I was drenched in sweat). I dug out the phone number for the hotel contact.

Note to Self: Never, ever leave home without your cell phone fully charged and that list of phone numbers close at hand.

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“You’re here?” a male voice exclaimed. “Someone will be there with a key in ten minutes.” I was still waiting over half an hour later.  A pleasant young man finally arrived. Why hadn’t I called when I arrived at the airport to let someone know to come meet me?

Note to Self: They never suggested that we do this. Regardless, it was their guests’ fault.

He let me into the hotel… a home converted into apartments. We’d requested separate beds; the room only contained one. I didn’t mind sharing, but the hotel room furnishings were neither as advertised nor promised.  The air conditioner had been installed so that it blew directly into the head of the bed.

Note to Self: Check carefully when booking rooms. Sometimes Southern and East Europeans have loose definitions for things, including accommodations and measurements of time.

What about the included breakfast? I asked. No worries, I just needed to head down the steep stairs a few streets, turn into the main road, and find the café the hotel apartment rooms had made arrangements with to feed guests.

Relieved to finally be in my hotel lodging I showered, changed clothes, and went out to find dinner. No time left for sightseeing.

The next morning, I eventually found the café after going in the wrong direction and hungrily gazing at a half-dozen other breakfast spots. “Where’s your voucher?” the waiter asked. “Uhh, I wasn’t told I needed one,” I stuttered, and retrieved the hotel booking invoice I luckily had with me. The waiter vanished with it and consulted a colleague. He returned with a different menu with fewer choices. I ate a passable breakfast and headed off to walk the city walls.

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The wall is everywhere

Now, this was more like it! Not a bad view in any direction and it was early enough not to feel the oppressive heat already settling on the city. What a shame there were so many other people crowding the ramparts.

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Back at the room I waited for my friend to arrive. One of the young men showed up and insisted, “No, you don’t need a voucher for breakfast, regardless of what the café says. And you should have waited and walked the city walls late in the afternoon when the cruise ships have left again.” So why didn’t he tell me this yesterday? But, I thought, it would have meant traversing the walls for two hours in 90-degree peak afternoon heat, so I didn’t speak up.

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He wouldn’t let me pay with a credit card. Cash only. We’d have to wait until his associate came the next day as my friend hadn’t arrived yet. When we paid, he couldn’t make change. He promised to bring it by later; if we weren’t there, he’d put the money they owed us under the room door.

The man and the money never showed up.

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The last morning, I tried to get out of bed and thought I was going to throw up. I had developed benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) from the extreme heat, not enough fluids, and cold air blowing on my face all night.

Just before we checked out I wrote a curt note indicating where to have the money deposited that they still owed us. As we were leaving we ran into a cleaning woman. “Oh! The boys couldn’t make it over yesterday. They asked me to give it to you.” We then headed off to the airport with money we no longer had any time to use.

Note to Self: Make sure to carry lots of small bills to make change next time you go back. If you ever go back. 2nd Follow-up Note to Self: Cash-only vacation options are a really bad idea. 3rd Follow-up Note to Self: Do Not Sleep Directly Under an Air-Conditioner. Ever.

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I remind myself Dubrovnik is all romantic corners and silly tourists taking selfies.

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and the European Cup soccer matches!

Croatia's flag flying proudly for the soccer tournament
Croatia’s flag flying proudly for the soccer tournament
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I’ll tell you another time about how I almost didn’t make it on our plane going home. Or why my friend was late getting to the hotel room. She’d been charged $600 for her rental car, dinged when a gang tried to scam her with a staged accident.

I shall be forever grateful that we were there together. We even laugh about parts of the trip to Dubrovnik, and figure those few days used up more combined residual bad travel karma (and available cash) than any trip we’ve ever gone on.

Note to Self: Re-read this post before planning the next trip!

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NOTES: Text and Photos Copyright ©2016 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as The H(ot)ell in Dubrovnik.  Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

James Maury Henson + The Most Beautiful Sound in the World

Jim Henson was born September 24, 1936 in Greenville, Mississippi. Henson created the Muppets and transformed children’s educational television with Sesame Street. He was a puppeteer, composer, inventor, filmmaker and screenwriter. His creations include the eerily lifelike Bert and Ernie, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Miss Piggy, and the world’s greatest frog: Kermit. In honor of Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog (who – I kid you not – received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame  located at 6801 Hollywood Blvd – ) I am reprinting a post I wrote after visiting the frogs at Kubah National Park on Borneo. – Jadi

Ah, Kubah National Park on Borneo…. froggie paradise.

March 2019 Journal entry: Just returned from an exhilarating 2 and ½ hours night tour with nature guide and tour guide at Kubah National Park. We saw frogs on trees, leaves, vines, boles, the sides of the road…. Two rare horned frogs! Mahogany frogs! A teeny pitcher plant frog – just one – it jumped away before we could look more closely but I did see the tiny thing leap (the narrow-mouth frog first described in 2010). Three different lizards. White-lipped frogs. Cinnamon frogs. Firebelly toads. Harlequin tree frogs. We had to head up to 1,000 feet up a road in the dark, the ranger with a head light. Unreal how he could spot the frogs. Glorious sounds of running water and night sounds of the jungle all around, my glasses fogging over with the heat and humidity, a large frog pond formed by wild pigs’ rutting. The frogs surprisingly calm, not jumping at our presence, just hanging out in their domain. I was in the moment, totally blissed out, just there, present with each frog we spotted. The guide and ranger and I backlighting each critter with our flashlights so Uwe could photograph it. The deep jungle trees and vegetation and clicks and buzzes and calls of frogs all around us. Nature’s Symphony. Glorious. An Australian recorded just this place and won an international competition for the most beautiful sounds in the world. Borneo’s really promoting sustainable growth, they recognize what they have here. The Malaysian part of Borneo, that is. I feel hopeful about a corner of the planet for the first time in a very, very, very long and sad time. Man, I like Borneo.

But with this frog tour tonight: I’m blissed out.

Mahogany frog (Abavorana luctuosa)
white-lipped frog (Chalcorana raniceps)
I think this is a cinnamon frog (Nyctixalus pictus)
file eared tree frog (Polypedates otilophus)
Borneo horned frog (Megophrys nasuta)

In memory of Jim Henson, 24 September, 1936 – 16 May, 1990

NOTES:  This night tour was magic. Many of these species can be found only on Borneo. To hear what serenaded us in the jungle, go to this link: Most beautiful sound in the world competition winner Marc Anderson  © Jadi Campbell 2019. Previously published as Borneo is Frog Paradise: Part One. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s pics from Borneo and our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Riley B. King + Monteverde Hummingbirds

BB King was born September 16, 1925 in Itta Bena, Mississippi. Mr. King was a towering figure as a blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist. I could write an entire post about the influence he had and the importance of his legacy.

But I’d rather tell you about hearing him play.

BB King! I saw him in concert three times over three decades. The first time I heard him live was a side room at a casino in Lake Tahoe. The room held about 500 people and it felt like a private concert. You gotta GRAB your woman! he hollered as his guitar Lucille sang out. You gotta GRAB her! The second time, ten years later, was in a stadium at the Bumbershoot Music Festival in Seattle, Washington. I based my entire attendance at the festival around seeing BB King play again. I headed for the main floor and danced the entire set. The last time I saw him was an outdoor show in  Stuttgart, Germany, yet another ten years later. BB was clearly suffering from health problems and sat down in a chair on the corner of the stage most of the night. But when Lucille let loose, he was still the King of the Blues.

He performs a song called Hummingbird, and in his honor I am reprinting a post I wrote after visiting Costa Rica with its wonderful hummingbirds. Sing it, Lucille! – Jadi

Click here for Lucille and BB: BB King performs Hummingbird

The first of many hummingbirds we saw in Costa Rica

February 2020

Monteverde in northern Costa Rica is one of the few cloud forests left on the planet. Winds from the Caribbean smack into currents from the Pacific. The results are a steady light mist all day.

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Or, like this morning, a heavy falling rain. Uwe and I both wear the super-duper, Chinese-made raincoats we bought last year in Borneo for a $1 apiece. We unfold them and discover that these are thin, glorified garbage bags with holes cut out for our arms and heads. I’m glad to have mine – it’s still pouring. Uwe’s bummed. It’s raining so hard that he has to leave his  camera equipment in its special backpack. It’s windy here, too! His camera’s way better protected against the weather than we are….

Magenta-throated woodstar

The park guide tells us about primeval forest, secondary growth, the Quaker settlers who came here and founded this nature preserve. We see almost zero wildlife, and that’s because everything is hunkered down against the shitty weather. He points out an orchid the size of my thumbnail as my sneakered feet and my blue jeans grow damper. It. is. cold.

Violet sabrewing

Uwe’s face is glum. His cellphone camera is a poor substitute for the Nikon. I try hard not to think about how little fun he’s having. Then the guide points to a pale slender green object on a leaf. I peer closer in the rain.

Purple throated mountaingem

It’s a walking stick! I haven’t seen one of these in the wild since I was a kid! I’m suddenly a kid again myself, I’m way beyond excited. “Any biosphere that’s got walking sticks is an intact one for sure!” I exclaim. Oh my god! I stand there and stare at it, wetter by the minute.

Thirty minutes later we’re back at the park entrance’s buildings. The downpour vanishes. Uwe gets out his telefoto lens to capture the 7 varieties of blue, emerald, crimson, orange, purple hummingbirds darting in and out to the feeders on the porch. A white nosed coatimundi scurries under the hummingbird feeders, licking up the sugar water that’s dripped down onto the floorboards.

“A walking stick!” I murmur.

Everybody’s happy.

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Empress brilliant. The feathers overlapped in a way that made me think of snake scales

In memory of BB King,  16 September 1925 – 14 May  2015

NOTES: I’m still mad at my spousal unit for not taking a photo of that walking stick with his cell phone. Monteverde orchids and hummingbirds © Jadi Campbell 2020. Previously published as Let It Rain! All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Concert clip courtesy of YouTube.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

My Writer’s Identity Began Ten Years Ago

For the last ten years I’ve joyfully called myself a writer. I feel better able to claim the title on some days than other days. And there were decades of my life when I despaired of being able to write at all.

I was one of those little kids who knew very early what I wanted to become: I was going to be a writer! And then life happened, an income to be earned, and rent and bills to pay.

I had so many self-doubts. Who was I to think I had enough talent? What did I know about life, anyway? Whatever I did know, it couldn’t be enough to write a book….

So I went out into the ‘real’ world and forgot about my very first, exhilarating dream.

Or did I?

I wrote freelance for Massage Magazine for a decade and I’ve always kept a journal, but in my mind those activities never qualified as actual writing. Gods, I was dumb.

About twelve years ago I decided to re-read all those old journals in consecutive order, from beginning to end. By the time I got to the fifth one moaning about ‘Woe is me, how I wish I could write a book’ I was ready to hurl the journal and myself across the room. Enough whining!

I started to write in earnest, I found and joined the Writers in Stuttgart, a writers’ group  that meets monthly. On September 5, 2012, I self-published my first book. On this day ten years ago, I held the first copy of Broken In: A Novel in Stories in my hands. As I held it I literally felt my heart and my body and the room and my life begin to expand and glow. I was filled with a joy that has never really abated since.

Writing remains easy some days… less easy on others. I still have those self-doubts. Those, I think, will never really go away; I’ve learned to regard them as healthy. They’re reality checks. But you know what? The only question I ask myself these days is    ******What took me so long?*******

Don’t wait to start on your dreams. Whatever they may be, no matter how impossible. Part of our soul will only feel complete if we are following whatever Muse has chosen us.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Happy Birthday!

NOTES: ©2022 Jadi Campbell. My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories went on to become a Semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and was a Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Edgar Rice Burroughs + Dad’s Childhood Books

Edgar Rice Burroughs was born on September 1, 1875 in Chicago, Illinois. My father owned all  of his books when he was a boy. They were red, cloth-covered hardback editions that cost a dime apiece. When I was young I read my way through Dad’s copies of everything in the Tarzan of the Apes series and Burroughs’ books about Mars. Ray Bradbury would later state that those books inspired countless scientists to dream of visiting other planets. In Burroughs’s honor I am reprinting a portion of a chapter I wrote, paying homage to his book Thuvia, Maid of Mars. – Jadi

Charlene pulled the wooden lid back and peered in. Sure enough, Linda’s missing photograph of Rob and herself laying on their sofa was on very top of the box, just where Carl had claimed it would be. Underneath lay a jumble of boy’s treasures, the usual collection of any adult. Charlene lifted the picture out carefully, the old photo thick and heavy in her fingers. Careful as well of her husband’s privacy, gently she placed the lid back and returned the box to its place at the bottom of the closet floor.

Charlene began to dial Linda’s number on her cell phone as she turned back to the room to retrieve the photograph. The image of Linda and Rob looked up at her from the red bedspread, stained a color like wine in the bright afternoon sunshine from the window. Linda would be relieved to hear it was safe and sound.

Charlene picked the photograph back up and more photos fell and fluttered down to the bedspread. Apparently they’d stuck to the back of the first photograph after years of laying in the darkness of Carl’s treasure trove.

Charlene stared down at photos she’d never seen and hadn’t known her husband possessed. The first one was a gray photo, slightly blurry and out of focus, taken from the railing of a ship. A whale’s flukes were just visible in the background. The only elements clearly in focus were Rob’s huge grin and outstretched hand, pointing excitedly at the gigantic mammal.

Two photographs were close ups of a radiant, exhausted Linda holding Jennifer, their newborn baby. The infant couldn’t be seen through the swaddling of the baby blanket wrapping her, but it was clear these were photographs Rob had snapped as he welcomed home his wife and first born child in the middle of winter, snow piled at either side of the front doorway.

Charlene fanned the photos out on the bed and she sat down. She looked the images of a baby in winter and felt frozen. What in the world? Charlene dropped the cell phone. The phone call to Linda would have to wait.

Carefully she put the photos in a perfect stack and set them on the mound of the pillow on her side of the bed. She pulled the box back out of its hiding place and placed it in the very center of the bedspread where she’d have the most room. Her heart pounding, Blue Beard indeed! Charlene reopened her husband’s childhood box.

Charlene grimaced as she looked down into a jumble. It was a random collection, the emotional residue of any small boy’s life. But this didn’t explain what the photographs belonging to Linda and Rob were doing there. She began to slowly remove objects to review each of them more carefully.

The sun moving across the bed winked at her when light glinted off ruby glass in the box. Charlene gasped out loud as she recognized the eighth Venetian cordial glass that had gone missing so many years ago. The last time she’d seen it was at the dinner party to introduce Carl into her circle of intimates. In all the years since, she’d thought two glasses had broken. Carl had never bothered to correct her assumption and now Charlene knew why: that night, he stole one of those glasses.

Charlene sat very still. Then, with one swift motion, she upended the box and dumped its contents out onto the bed. A golf ball rolled off the spread and bounced over into a corner. She retrieved it and turned it over in her palm, biting her lips. It was signed in red ink with the name Jack Nicklaus, 1980.

“I hate golf,” Carl claimed; he found the game mind numbingly boring to watch on television, and not much of a sport to play in real life. Charlene thought, What’s he doing with a golf ball signed by the man considered to be the greatest PGA Championship player of all time?

Terry Rundell, she thought with the next breath. Terry and Carl worked together, and Terry was an absolute golf freak. Charlene had no actual proof that her husband stole the ball. But she knew. In light of all the other tokens she was looking at on the bed, Charlene knew.

Suddenly they were no longer random. With her fingertips Charlene picked up the single, ominous pearl colored silk stocking she’d overlooked. Charlene draped it over her left forearm and held it out in the sunlight in front of her where she perched on the red bedspread. One stocking. One. Stolen from a clothesline, maybe. Or filched from the back of a dresser drawer from a house where they’d been invited for dinner, or drinks, or an innocuous social gathering. Who had it belonged to, and what was it about the woman to compel Carl to steal her stocking?

Her mouth twisted in disgust and she dropped the silky, filmy thing into a pile. She continued to sort through the other items.

Thuvia Maid of Mars-1920.jpg

An old paperback had landed on the bed half-opened. Its cover was yellowed, the edges of the pages cracked and curling. Charlene placed it with the cover up in front of her. Thuvia, Maid of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Her brain racing, Charlene recalled that Edgar Rice Burroughs had written the popular Tarzan series. This book must be one of his potboilers.

She turned cautiously to the first page. For Timmy, as promised! With love from Grandpa Brent was written on the flyleaf in an old man’s shaky, old-fashioned penmanship. Underneath he’d added, Xmas 1966. It had to be the treasured present of a boy from Carl’s grade school class, or later. Charlene knew adults have even stronger emotional attachments to items from their childhoods than children do. Well, wherever Timmy might be, this book left his possession years ago. She placed a tender palm on the cover as she closed the book and set it by the crumpled stocking.

– from the chapter “Carl Possessed” in Broken In: A Novel in Stories

In memory of Edgar Rice Burroughs, September 1, 1875 – March 19, 1950

NOTES: ©2014 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Thuvia, Maid of Mars. Edgar Rice Burroughs, Thuvia, Maid of Mars & A Princess of Mars, A. C. McClurg Publisher, 1920 (Photos from Wikipedia). Photos Uwe Hartmann 2020. To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, and named a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Today’s Birthday: National Park System

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the “Organic Act” creating the National Park Service, a federal bureau in the Department of the Interior responsible for maintaining national parks and monuments that were then managed by the department. The National Park System has since expanded to 423 units (often referred to as parks), more than 150 related areas, and numerous programs that assist in conserving the nation’s natural and cultural heritage for the benefit of current and future generations. – National Park System

In honor of the creation of National Park System I am reprinting the post I wrote after we visited the parks of the SW. – Jadi

We fondly refer to one trip we took as Our Vacation of the Rocks. We did a long loop of the American SW’s national parks. From the Grand Canyon we went to Zion, on to Grand Staircase/Escalante, Natural Bridges, Canyonlands National Park and Arches. We spent a few days at Mesa Verde and then headed south into New Mexico. We ended our trip back in Arizona at the Chiracahua National Monument Wilderness and the Sonoran Desert Park.

Canyonlands

We had a national park pass and drove from one incredible natural site to the next. We spent each day in our hiking boots, holding a park map. The quality of the stones we clambered over changed daily. It was all stunningly beautiful, the hard landscapes like being on the surface of the moon. (Bonus points for those of you paying careful attention: I’ll refer back to this post when I get around to writing about Hampi, India and Mount Teide, Tenerifa.) We hiked up, around and over endless variations on red striped rocks and hillocks of crumbling yellow sandstone. We picked out way down hillsides scrubby with deceptively harmless-looking small cacti.

Watch your step at the Grand Canyon!

I needed to replace my worn-out day pack. In Moab, Utah I headed into a well stocked mountain bike shop; the young salesman actually sneered when I insisted that I didn’t want a high end all weather multi purpose pack. “I just need something for day hikes,” I repeated. He lifted the inferior item with one finger and dropped it on the counter in front of me. It was perfect (and, to this day years later, I still get good use out of it).

I bought turquoise jewelry at a pawnshop in Gallup, New Mexico. We got to watch a naturalization ceremony in Sante Fe that was quite moving. Immigrants from at least 20 countries stood up when the judge called out the name of the country these new Americans hailed from.

We ate posole and regional Mexican-American dishes. In a Tucson restaurant we watched incredulous while a hot sauce seller set out samples on a table for the owner to try. One of them, he cautioned, was so hot that just one drop of the stuff would burn a hole in his tongue if he tried to taste it like a ‘normal’ hot sauce. (No, we did not try it!)***

Arizona’s Chiricahua Wilderness is like hiking through high stacks of pancaked rock. From beneath some brush a rattlesnake sounded a warning. I waited for the Swedish family I had heard talking on the trail behind us and pointed out the snake to their small boys. We met the family back up at the parking lot later, and the parents came over when they saw me. “Since we started planning this trip our boys have talked about nothing but how much they want to see a rattler! Thank you for making their vacations!” I laughed pleased (really I’d mentioned the snake both to warn the perhaps uninitiated, also to slow them down on the trail so that Uwe and I could have the section up ahead for ourselves). But I did feel I’d done a good deed.

Uwe loves the ‘otherness’ of the landscapes of the SW. I revel in the unabashed raw open nature. Rocks, stone, mountains and ravines, gorges and arches: all that geological strata. My heart resides in the leafy wooded Adirondacks, but any region with so much dedicated parkland is dear to me.

Zion National Park
Zion National Park

What is astonishing about the Southwest is the balance of stony terrain, flora and fauna. Cities will rise and fall; we build beautifully, or dreadfully, and reap our efforts or laziness. Mother Nature took millions of years to figure out what works. Maybe we should take our cue from her.

NOTES: *** A side comment for any enterprising cooks out there: southern Germany needs a real Mexican restaurant. I have yet to find a great Mex spot! If you come here and open a restaurant, you will win hungry hearts and minds. ©2012 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Our Vacation of the Rocks. Photos ©2012 Uwe Hartmann. More of Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon Band. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Labu Apetīti, Julia Caroline Child

Julia Child was born on August 15, 1912 in Pasadena, California. She was an American cooking teacher, author, and television personality. She stood 6’2″ (1.88 m) tall and is famous for the ground-breaking cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Childs hosted cooking shows I remember my mom avidly following. The National Museum of Natural History has a room dedicated to her original kitchen. When I visited, I joined  a group of other people: all of us watched videos of her cooking show.  In her honor I am reprinting a post I wrote after visiting the restaurants of Estonia and Latvia. – Jadi

Uwe and I made our first trip to two of the Baltic states. We spent a couple days each exploring Riga, Latvia and Tallinn, Estonia. Along with sparking a brand-new curiosity in the Hanseatic League [1], these cities introduced me to the northern European food scene.

Oh. My. God. We ate incredible meals every night. What made those meals so special is an insistence on local products and a reverence for tradition, but with a modern spin. The chefs did delicious things with grains like kasha, and groats and millet, and barley. For years I have firmly insisted that German bread is the best on the planet, closely followed by breads baked fresh in India [2]. Now there’s a new guy on the (bread) block: the pumpernickel and dark breads of the Baltics.

A starter with local smoked salmon

We ordered dishes with elk, deer, fresh and smoked fish.

A different restaurant’s smoked salmon with trout cavier, accompanied by rolled slices of cucumber
… and a third restaurant’s smoked salmon appetizer. Art on a plate
Traditional beet borscht soup, updated with yellow lentils and pieces of elk meat that melted in my mouth

We enjoyed the local cheeses and beers. For the first time in my life I ate (and loved!) kippered herrings. Everything was decorated with edible flowers and herbs, and served up with intense purees of once-uninteresting and now fascinating root vegetables. Everything was presented as a work of art. This is food to die for….

First course of wild mushrooms sauteéd and served in spinach blini purses

Without further ado, here are some of the plates from our feasts. Every night we forgot to photograph at least one course. We were too busy enjoying our food!

Lamb marinated in juniper berries served with yellow beetroot cream, cranberries and barley
Fresh fish with beet root puree and kale (out of all the meals we ate, the kale was the one item that was not perfect)
Venison stew with roasted onion halves
Beef with sweet pepper-eggplant-onion millet squares, oyster mushrooms, water cress and johnny-jump-ups

A shout out to the amazing restaurants Von Krahi Aed and Rataskaevu 16 in Tallinn, as well as Peter Gailis and Melna Bite in Riga. Labu apetīti and jätku leiba! [3]

Hibiscus poached pear, pumpkin seeds in apple syrup, and raspberry sorbet

In memory of Julia Child, August 15, 1912 – August 13, 2004

NOTES: [1] The Hanseatic League controlled all shipping and commerce across the Baltic Sea and northern Europe to Russia. Riga and Tallinn (then known as Reval) were member cities. [2] Go to my earlier post My Mother-in-Law’s Cookies for more on bread. [3] As always, I receive no favors for mentioning these establishments. © Jadi Campbell 2017. Previously published as The Art of Food. All photos © Uwe Hartmann 2017. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Top Shelf Award!

The Trail Back Out was just named a Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award… this is the fifth (5th!) accolade my book has received.

Use this link to see the books listed for the prize!

2021 Top Shelf Awards

The Trail Back Out was named a 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, Finalist for the American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award, and awarded a Red Ribbon by the 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Awards of England. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Stephen King Kept Me Up All Night

‘Salem’s Lot terrified me when I first read the book. I took it with me a few weeks ago, on a train heading to Munich.

It still scares me.

This copy is just about ready to fall apart

I read ‘Salem’s Lot when the book first came out. I was in college and found a copy at an used bookstore, I think, and picked it up on a whim. My roommate was away that weekend and I wanted a break from my text books. I wanted something to read for fun.

“There was a ruined church along the way, an old Methodist meetinghouse, which reared its shambles at the far end of a frost-heaved and hummocked lawn, and when you walked past the view of its glaring, senseless windows your footsteps became very loud in your ears and whatever you had been whistling died on your lips, and you thought about how it must be inside, the overturned pews, the rotting hymnals, the crumbling altar where only mice now kept the sabbath, and you wondered what might be in there besides mice – what madmen, what monsters.” page 203

I ended up locking all the doors and windows, turned on all the lights, and stayed up until 4:00 a.m. to finish the book. I was too scared to turn off the lights – no way I would fall asleep before I read to the end.

I brought the book to my parent’s home the following weekend where one of my sisters discovered it. That night she had to walk the dog; it was already dark outside and my sister went upstairs and fished a crucifix out of Mom’s jewelry box. Because she was that scared. Next, my parents read ‘Salem’s Lot. They actually sat together on the couch and read it in tandem, because neither one of them was willing to wait until the other had finished it.

“If a fear cannot be articulated, it can’t be conquered. And the fears locked in small brains are much too large to pass through the orifice of the mouth. Sooner or later you found someone to walk past all the deserted meetinghouses you had to pass between grinning babyhood and grunting senility. Until tonight. Until tonight when you found out that none of the old fears had been staked – only tucked away in their tiny, child-sized coffins with a wild rose on top.” page 204

We talked about that book a lot. What made it so frightening. About how Stephen King’s writing is contemporary and literary both. How he expresses those fears that cannot be articulated. Now, as a writer myself, each time I reread ‘Salem’s Lot I’m in awe of his control and mastery of language.

I left my battered copy on the bookshelves of a Munich hotel. Since then, I’ve entertained myself as I picture how some innocent traveler is going to pick it up, in need of something to read to while away the time, and will lay in that hotel bed afraid to go to sleep.

“His eyes strayed to the windows, which showed only blackness….”

NOTES: ©2022 Jadi Campbell. – ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, 1975. ‘Salem’s Lot is my favorite of Stephen King’s books, closely followed by The Shining.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network and with a Red Ribbon by the 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Awards of England. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, and a Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book Awards. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Today’s Birthday: Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern

Politician Jacinda Ardern was born on July 26, 1980 in Hamilton, New Zealand. She is leader of the Labour Party and currrently serves as New Zealand’s 40th Prime Minister. Ardern has successfully navigated the COVID-19 crisis and led the response to the Christchurch massacre, a mass shooting motivated by racial and religious hate. She was only 37 when she was elected, making her the world’s youngest female leader. Her emphasis on social equality and the environment are wildly popular. In her honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after we visited amazing New Zealand. – Jadi

Most of our time in New Zealand I felt the landscape was alive. Especially on the North Island, I had the eerie sensation of standing on a very active volcano. The ground steams in places, thanks to the underground hot springs everywhere.

Three things remain fresh in my memory: Maori culture and architecture; the crisp Sauvignon Blancs that were all we drank; and the utter alive-ness of the nature.

The charming city of Rotorua contains all three.

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Maori kapa haka performance
Whaernui
Wharenui

We could view the wharenui (meeting house) of the Māori people from outside. I was taken by the use of local materials, symbolism, and the symmetry and beauty of every traditional building.

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The Kiwis make great wine. When it comes to bottled grapes, I’m amused by the jargon. My own descriptions used to run to statements like, “A naughty little vintage. If this was a small child, I’d spank it and send it to bed without supper.” I loved it when I discovered that New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blancs are described as releasing a heavy whiff of cat pee when you first open the bottle. (I’m not making this up. Wine expert Jancis Robinson remarks, “Indeed one branded Sauvignon Blanc on sale in Britain is actually sold under the brand name Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush.”) * Yuck! If that’s the first impression you get from a wine, what could make anyone want to go past just opening the dang thing?

It was worth the adventure to try one.

We bought a bottle and opened it in our hotel room. Phew-ee! Sure enough, there was a heady stink of feral cat which thankfully faded immediately. I dared to fill a glass, took a sip… and was greeted by an explosion of quince, green apples, citrus fruits, kiwis and gooseberries. Those Sauvignon Blancs are so delicious that I never even bothered trying any other grape varietal while we were there. Why mess with kitty litter box perfection?

And then there is the natural world.

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We visited parks where everything burbled, bubbled, exploded or engulfed us in clouds of steam.

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We did all of the hiking loops and were wowed by the spectacle of shooting geysers, blubbering springs, and mineral ponds containing colors I had no idea normally appear in Nature.

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In one park gift shop I purchased mud for facials that someone dipped out of a pond on the park grounds. No small feat as most of the park waters are at boiling point!

Seriously. Someone was dumb enough to want to find out, "Just how hot is this spring?" The park has to post signs warning people not to step here.
Seriously. Someone was actually dumb enough to want to find out, “Just how hot is this spring? Can I really cook my ankles in it?”

The park had to post signs warning people not to step in the springs. I say, let Darwin’s theory of natural selection and Nature take their course…

NOTES: *www.jancisrobinson, waiotapu.co.nz ©2014 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Steamy Rotorua! All photos © Uwe Hartmann. More pictures from New Zealand and Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network and with a Red Ribbon by the 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Awards of England. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, as well as a Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book Awards. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.