Adeline Virginia Woolf + A Room in Latvia

Author Virginia Woolf was born on January 25, 1882 in South Kensington, London, England. Her novels were some of the first to use stream of consciousness, and Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, her circle of family, friends and fellow artists, founded one of the most important movements in modern art and culture.

I’ve read my way through most of her work. Virginia Woolf has a delicious sense of humor (and irony!) and a keen sense of what it is to be a woman and an artist. I’ve reread her slim treatise A Room of One’s Own over and over, throughout my life.

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” Woolf tells us.

Indeed. In her honor, here is the post I wrote about hard lives after visiting an open-air museum in Latvia. – Jadi

Open-air museums are inappropriately named. For many people, Museum + History = Death by Excessive Yawning. Not me! A good open-air museum can transport me into other cultures and the past. I think a better name for such a site is ‘living museum’.

Latvia Ethnographic Open-Air Museum

A favorite open-air museum is Neuhausen ob Eck (amusingly named ‘New Home on the Eck’), located not far from Tuttlingen and Konstanz in southern Germany. In the bee keeper’s house, I learned all about the world of bees. The German language holds bees in special regard. In German, the term for animals is die Bestie or Tiere, beasts. But Germans speak of the Bienenvolk, a hive or literally ‘the bee people’. In the Middle Ages, if the bee keeper died in the night someone was sent to the hives to whisper the news to the bees.

The bee keeper enjoyed a special status. Thanks to his bee family he produced wax candles for light, honey for food, and pollen products for medicine. [1]

Fishing nets, Latvia Ethnographic Open-Air Museum

Outdoor museums can teach with their simplicity. On our trip to Estonia and Latvia, we spent a day at Latvia’s Ethnographic Open-Air Museum on the shore of Lake Jugla. The spot is incredibly atmospheric.

It’s an easy bus ride from the capitol Riga to the museum. Go to my  post The Art of Food and salivate over the delicious meals you can order in Baltic restaurants.

What I learned is that as recently as 100 years ago life here was a different story.

Existence was harsh and hard, like the overcast skies much of the day we visited. [2] Along with simple huts, the site includes windmills.

A store building is filled with dowry chests and traces of Latvia’s long history serving in the Hanseatic League.

My takeaway: How truly thin the veneer of prosperity is. Our sense of progress and the advance of civilization is so recent, and so young. I left grateful for the things I take for granted in my everyday life. In too many places in the world people still live without electricity, running water, or centralized heat.

In memory of Virginia Woolf, 25 January 1882 – 28 March 1941

NOTES: [1] Honey-based products never rot. I purchased a propolis salve at Neuhausen over a decade ago; it’s still good. The bee keeper told me the salve can be used on everything from wounds and burns to arthritis and herpes.  [2] For Game of Thrones fans, I kept thinking of the Iron Islands and how craggy-rocks bitter life is there. These Latvian houses would fit the scenes perfectly, except for the fact that Game of Thrones is a fantasy world, and real people lived in the huts as recently as the start of the 20th Century. © Jadi Campbell 2017. Previously published as Death By Yawning. Photos © Uwe Hartmann. 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

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

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien + Tin Hau’s Dragons

JRR Tolkien was born on January 3,  1892 in Bloemfontein, Orange Free State, South Africa. He is of course reknowned for The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, for which he invented complex alphabets and histories for elvish, dwarvish, and other tongues. Tolkien taught at Oxford, England where he became close friends with fellow scholar and author C.S. Lewis. I once heard a story (I’d love to believe that it’s true), that the two professors were observed in a deep debate that went on for hours. Finally the observer gathered his courage and approached: what, might he ask, were the two men so fiercely arguing about?

“The characteristics of dragons,” they answered, and promptly went back to their discussion.

In Tolkien’s honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after seeing a dragon parade for the goddess Tin Hau in the New Territories of China.

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Tin Hau is the Goddess of the Seas, patron saint of sailors and fishermen throughout China and Southeast Asia. [1, 2]

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Her festival is always held on the twenty-third day of the third lunar month of the lunar calendar. My friend Weiyu flew over from Beijing, and we had the good luck to see a dragon parade. [3]

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Lin Moniang (don’t forget that Chinese put the family name first) was born March 23, 960 in the Song Dynasty, on Meizhou Island in Fujian, China.  She was the seventh daughter, an excellent swimmer, and wore a red dress. No matter how bad the weather was, Lin Moniang stood on the shore in that red dress in order to guide the fishing boats back home. She went into a trance during a terrible storm and saved her father’s life.

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She was deified not long after she died.

There are many reports of miraculous sightings of Tin Hau by sailors in distress. Chinese who immigrated often built temples once they arrived overseas to thank her for the safe journey.

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Each year a major festival is held on her birthday. One of the most spectacular is in Yuen Long in the New Territories. Weiyu and I headed out early to reach the town. We left the metro station and immediately spotted bright colors and a crowd of people. As we got closer, firecrackers began to go off! We’d arrived right on time!

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The firecrackers exploded and confetti fell out and rained down!
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The village had just begun to parade their dragon. They circled the lot a few times accompanied by a loud drum and cymbals. There was another loud bang, more firecrackers popped, and everyone followed the dragon into town.

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We arrived at another square where more dragons waited.

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The dragons took turns weaving up and down the main street, curling and snaking, rising and falling in an intricate dance. Sometimes two dragons danced at the same time.

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People’s shirts indicated which village and dragon they were with. Groups of old women waved fans, children were in costume, and I saw lions.

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Can you see the dragon on the side in green?
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Flags and banners waved around the Fa Paus: ornate towers with paper flowers. Huge elaborate placards wished for luck and prosperity.

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One village group’s Fa Pau
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Offerings included entire roasted pigs.

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I recognized those roast pigs instantly from the worship of goddess Bà Chúa Xứ in southern Viet Nam. It can’t be a coincidence that her festival starts at the beginning of the rainy season on the twenty-third day of a lunar month too…

In memory of JRR Tolkien, 3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973

NOTES: [1] Tianhou (天后) literally means “Empress of Heaven”. [2] She’s also known as Mazu, Tian Fei or A-Ma. Buddhists conflated her into a reincarnation of Guan Yin, Goddess of Compassion. [3] She has over 90 temples in Hong Kong alone. Photos and text © 2015 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Adventures in China’s New Territories 2: Dancing Dragons. Pictures from our trips to Vietnam and China 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

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, 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.

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Samuel Leroy Jackson’s Garters

Samuel L. Jackson was born  December 21, 1948 in Washington, D.C. Mr. Jackson is one of the most versatile and talented actors in Hollywood. My personal favorite of his films is 1997’s Jackie Brown; one of his funniest turns on the screen is in the overwrought Snakes on a Plane. In his honor I am reprinting an earlier post I wrote in praise of snakes. – Jadi

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I’ve written elsewhere about how nice my sister Barb’s garden is. [1]

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She and her husband have created a space that invites you to stay and relax. Along with fruit trees and blueberries, garden beds and flowering bushes, there are ceramics made by both Barb and Javier.

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Each time I return, they’ve made it even more beautiful. My recent visit included a new delight: garter snakes have taken up residence!

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The garter snake is Massachusetts’ official state snake, and is endemic to most of North America. It’s the most common snake species, and closely related to water snakes, the genus Nerodia.

Garters communicate with and seek one another via pheromones. All garter snakes, regardless of color, have a side and a back stripe. The similarity to the garters men used to wear to hold up their socks gives the snake its name.

Barb has thoughtfully created ceramic dens for the snakes in her yard. They curl in the sun to get warm, and head for spots under rocks when it’s too hot or they feel threatened. Garters are mostly harmless, and seldom attack or strike unless cornered or threatened.

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I find snakes fascinating. [2] Sacred snakes were used by the Oracle at Delphi and in ancient Minos. Recall the cobra, who spread its hood to shelter the Buddha. St. Patrick supposedly drove the snakes out of Ireland. [3] On a practical level, the garter snakes in Barb and Javier’s yard will eliminate any pest threat from rodents. (They also eat snails and slugs, common garden problems in the wet Northwest.)

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As I admire the yard and go look from time to time for the two snakes I’ve seen in different parts of the garden, I think mostly about the fact that the presence of snakes means the small biosphere of my sister’s home is a healthy one. It’s not a coincidence that garter snakes are often referred to as ‘garden snakes’.

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NOTES: [1] See my earlier post Meet the One-Tracks. [2] Fun science facts: some garter snake species have two-colored tongues. They are ovoviviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. Garter snakes go into something called brumation before mating. [3] Ireland didn’t have snakes….

Text and Photos Copyright ©2016 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Garden Snakes. Find out more about garter snakes at: snake removal, www.livescience, www.popsci

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. Books make great gifts!

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, 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.

Today’s Birthday: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was founded on December 14, 1950 to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes following WWII. In 1954, the UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Their headquarters are located in Geneva, Switzerland. The work of the organization to protect and help refugees all over the globe is more vital than ever. You can donate by clicking on this link: Donate.unhcr.org

In honor of the work that the UNHCFR tirelessly does on behalf of our world, I am reprinting the post I wrote about why I decided to offer trauma massage for refugees. – Jadi

After more than a decade, it was back. An insidious, slowly increasing unease, a worried feeling that the world was spinning out of control. For months I’d watched news reports about refugees drowning off the coast in places like Libya or Lampadusa, Italy.

The reports came with more frequency, their tone more urgent. One night I saw the tragic footage of a small child, lifeless where he’d washed up on a beach in Turkey.

That Turkish beach is in Bodrum, and I once set foot there. Two years after I got married we spent a vacation in Turkey. Uwe and I began with the magic of Istanbul. We visited ancient Greek and Roman ruins, took off our shoes at the Blue Mosque, and travelled down the coast as tourists on a local bus line. At rest stops the driver came around with rose water for passengers to wash their hands and faces.

We bought rugs in Bodrum and had them shipped home. I joked about magic carpet rides. We put a wool rug I’d chosen in the center of our living room. Its wavy stripes had reminded me of the ribbon candy my grandparents always gave us when we visited.

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Now, when I looked from the television to the floor, I saw waves in a treacherous ocean. I saw the long voyage of those desperately trying to save themselves and their families from wars.

Images of bombs and flight began to haunt my dreams. I had trouble sleeping and for a while I stopped watching the news. It was too close. The borders between frivolous holidays and grim realities had blurred. Actually, they’ve never really existed to begin with.

I was slipping into a spiral of feeling overwhelmed, and helpless, and very sad.

A German friend came for her monthly massage. “I’ve begun volunteering with refugees here,” she said. We talked through much of the session and I asked question after question, curious to know how she came to the decision to help refugees. I began to rethink how to respond to my encroaching depression and what I could do.

I talked it over with Uwe. A few weeks later, I called the Rathaus (Town Hall) to offer my services.

NOTES: © 2015 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Helping Refugees: Part One. I wrote an entire thread on helping refugees if you want to read further. Uwe’s images from our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

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, 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.

Today’s Birthday: Stacey Yvonne Abrams

Stacey Abrams  was born December 9, 1973 in Madison, Wisconsin. A Democrat, Abrams is a politician, lawyer, author, and activist for voting rights. In 2018 she founded an organization to deal with voter supression called Fair Fight Action. Ms. Abrams’ efforts got out the vote in Georgia.

I would love to see her put in charge of assuring voting booth access for every state in the USA. Stacey Abrams has brought international attention to solutions that address inequality in access to voting, especially for blacks and minorities. In her honor I am reprinting the post I wrote about election night, 2016. – Jadi

On November 8, America voted for a new president. I sent my overseas ballot off weeks before the election.

I live in Germany, so it was early evening our time when the first results started being tallied. Uwe and I watched the nightly news and listened as stations began live reports from around the US. The living room glowed with candles. Around 10:30 p.m. Uwe said, “I think something’s burning,” and went out on our balcony. I got up and followed him. Sure enough, red flames were visible in the house right across the street from us.

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“Hilfe!” voices shouted, and from blocks away came the blare of fire trucks. By now smoke was billowing. Teams of firemen raced around to the back of the building. People hung out of windows waving their arms, or watched from neighbors’ houses. The firemen put up klieg lights and a long ladder to rescue people from windows and then aimed water hoses at the roof.

They quickly had the situation under control: it was more smoke than fire, so to speak. I kept ducking back in the living room to watch the election returns.

Life felt suddenly, completely, dizzingly surreal. The election-cycle reminder that I’m an American citizen living overseas; an election unlike any other; a house burning. Maybe the entire goddamned street where we live is on fire.

Later – days later – I learned that the whole thing had only been a drill. A practice fire.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the metaphors inherent in this experience. As I turn it around inside my heart and head I get dizzy again. I leave it to my readers to take from this story what you can.

I’m going to go light a candle.

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NOTES: Quick December 2022 update: Sanity has prevailed! Georgians rejected  an election denier with no prior political experience who stated he would push for a national abortion ban without exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother … (but pressured several lovers to get abortions). The state just re-elected Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock instead. © 2016 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Our House is on Fire!

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

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.

Truth in Advertising, or, Be Careful What You Promise Your Patrons

Vegan dishes and vegan cooking are definitely a ‘thing’ these days. The plant-based diet is a philosophy I’ve heard described in at least two very succinct ways:

  1. Never eat anything that has a mother
  2. Never eat anything with eyes that see

This is all well and fine. Eating less meat is better for our health, better for the planet’s health, and definitely better for the health of the animals that won’t be factory farmed for our dinner plates.

With that said, a few weeks ago I saw a sign as I walked by a vegan restaurant that I’m STILL laughing about. It’s a lovely new spot, the pictures of the dishes all look delicious, and a slogan declares Go Vegan and Save the World.

Then I read the next advertising sign.

                 Image result for heart emoji  Taste the Vegan HeartbeatImage result for heart emoji

This sign is wrong on so many levels that I hardly know where to begin…. Maybe we should all go back to those first rules of the vegan philosophy and add a third one.

            3.  Never eat anything that has a heartbeat

But I wish them luck, – and a smarter advertising campaign. Bon Appetit!

NOTES: Text  ©2022 Jadi Campbell. This post is for foodies, language lovers, and anyone with a sense of humor!

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 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.

Roberta Joan Mitchell + High on Travel

Joni Mitchell was born November 7, 1943 in Fort Macleod, Canada. Singer, song writer, painter, Mitchell’s intensely personal songs reflect her thoughts on the inner and outer worlds.  In her long career she has explored folk music, pop, rock and roll, classical, and jazz. I have read articles that describe Joni Mitchell as the major female artist of all time. I say this: She is one of the most important and influential recording artists of any age, period.

An amazing voice and unique guitar playing frame her writing…. Here are a few lines from A Strange Boy.

We got high on travel
And we got drunk on alcohol
And on love, the strongest poison and medicine of all
See how that feeling comes and goes
Like the pull of moon on tides
Now I am surf rising
Now parched ribs of sand at his side

– Joni Mitchell [1]

In her honor, I am reprinting a post I wrote while high on travel in northwestern Burma. We spent several days in a region that is now closed off tight to the rest of the world. – Jadi

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We had arranged in Sittwe for a guide, a boat and a special day visa in order to travel on to the semiautonomous Chin State. As we headed up the river the small boat traveled slowly. It was the last day of the year, a calm morning with no winds.

Sky and water reflected one another like twin mirrors.

In a mirror
In a mirror

We sailed on for several hours, and I was overtaken by a sense of displacement that was complete. It was preternaturally still, so quiet and without movement that it seemed we had sailed to a place located somewhere between firmament and earth. It wasn’t quite attached to either.

Finally the boat came to a stop and we debarked and began our walk up into the first Chin village. The villages are extremely remote and what makes them extraordinary  is the Chin art of tattooing. The tradition had been strongly discouraged by the government since the 60’s, and was believed to have almost died out.

In the villages we sailed to by boat, only the old women were reputed to still have the facial tattoos. The men had gone out into the jungle and gathered the materials necessary for the tattooing process. Several days of painstaking tattoo work ensued; only faces of  young teenaged girls were transformed.

We walked through the village with our guide talking to the locals.

Chin village path
Chin village path

Pigs and puppies tumbled on the path as people worked. The tamped dirt was cleared and clean.

After perhaps 20 minutes of walking through the village and watching and being watched, the female elders suddenly appeared to meet us.

NOTES: [1] Source: LyricFind, A Strange Boy lyrics © Crazy Crow Music / Siquomb Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.

©2022 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Chugging Slowly Upriver in Northwest Burma, Part Two. All photos © Uwe Hartmann.

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 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.

Dylan Marlais Thomas + The Blarney Stone

Dylan Thomas  was born on October 27, 1914 in Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom. Dylan was a poet, reporter, playwrite, radio broadcaster, author, master of the English language…. In college I was required to read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. It was good, but I found it self-serious and a bit pompous. Then I discovered Thomas’s glorious answer, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. I was hooked.

Dylan Thomas was a notorious drinker. He died too young, at age 39 on  reading tour. In honor of this artist who is impossible to categorize I am reprinting the post I wrote after my writers’ group did a reading in an Irish pub.

The evening did not go as planned. – Jadi

I’ve belonged to a writers’ group since 2011. How did I survive so long without the company of my crazy peers and fellow wordsmiths? I have no idea what I did before I hooked up with these people.

Over the years the group has included writers of short stories. Essays. Erotic (really erotic) poetry. Autobiographies. Plays. Novels. Urban fantasy. Flash fiction. Song lyrics. Wistful thinking (how a member explained what he writes, and I loved his description).

We come together to share and critique works-in-progress. We use writing exercises to loosen up our creative muscles. And we’re committed to public readings.

Two roosters singing at a microphone, isolated Stock Photo

A little café named Wir Sind Babel was one venue. A brightly lit coffee house with marble floors and comfy chairs was another. And a third one…. well, that venue gets a blog post all its own.

An Irish pub I’ll call The Blarney Stone seemed like the ideal spot. The bar’s slowest weeknight was the perfect time.

We could use a side room for our event. The space resembled a library room filled with bookcases, a perfect setting for our brilliant words. Even better, the owner promised us  if we could total 50 people we’d get the main room – they often feature live musical acts and the entire bar was already wired to hear us. He had a microphone we could use! Sweet!

A Toast Master offered to be our MC. He’d read short bios to introduce each reader. We printed up fliers for the tables and info sheets to hand out ahead of time. It was all perfect…

Doesn’t this sound too good to be true?

That Tuesday we arrived with high expectations. Our side room grew too small for all our friends and guests, but the main room was already filled with patrons who, sadly, were not there for our earthshaking literary creations.

Every chair was taken and people sat and stood everywhere. Waiters and waitresses had to slither their way with plates and drinks through the crowds. Then we realized our side room had no door, and that meant no barriers against the noise levels that kept increasing.

No worries. We were as cool as the collective cucumber, because we had the ultimate secret weapon: the microphone. The first reader began to recite her piece.

The m crophone we were loan d began sh rt ng out w th ever sec nd sente ce and nex with ev ry thi d word. It g t wors . The m ke beg n to let o t awf l and ear splitt ng sccccrrre eee ee ech hhhhiiiing fee eeedb ck. We checked that the batteries were fresh and the wiring solid. We tried holding the mike in different parts of the room, closer to our lips, away from our mouths, up in the air. We recited louder, and then more quietly; none of it made a difference.

At that point every writer in the room knew we’d been rat f cked. Without saying much (not that we could have heard one another anyway over the noise in the pub) we had that group moment of grokking that this evening would not be the literary triumph we’d all awaited.

The first reader gamely made it through her piece. The second reader performed in a different corner of the room. When it was my turn to read I lay the mike down on the pult and basically yelled out my story, observing every pause, emphasis and careful nuance I’d practiced. No one heard a word over the pub din.

But I am so very proud of all of us. We observed grace under pressure. We went forward despite impossible conditions (and false promises made to us). We made the best out of the debacle… and it really brought us together as fellow failed performers.

The pub owner got more than fifty extra paying guests on what was his slowest night of the week! I’d like to say he bought us a round of drinks to make up for it. I’d really like to say that our words triumphed over noise decibels. But no, that night the gift of gab got stuck in a malfunctioning microphone.

Microphone Stock Photography
Microphone Stock Photography
Microphone Stock Photography

Our next public reading was not held in an Irish pub. The first moral of the story? To get over stage fright, sometimes you have to scream. The second moral to the story? Don’t mess with writers, because at some point we will write about you and what you did.

In memory of Dylan Thomas, 27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953

NOTES: Text and book cover © Jadi Campbell 2014. Previously published as The Gift of Gab. Images courtesy of dreamstime.com

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 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.

And now for something completely different

check out the Grim Reaper above his name

Last week I went to hear John Cleese of Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and A Fish Called Wanda …. He’s currently on what he’s macabrely calling his Last Time to See Me Before I Die tour. Cleese is now almost 83 years old: still cheeky, still funny, and still very, very silly. He told jokes at everybody’s expense, skewering sacred cows with gusto. His show was punctuated by clips of glorious skits and scenes from his shows and films.

The evening wasn’t entirely perfect: Cleese informed us the reason he was touring was the $20 million in alimony he was ordered to pay to one of his ex-wives, and he mentioned a couple times how we (the audience) all have boring ordinary lives. True enough. But I wondered, did we need to see an image of a woman’s hand withdrawing cash from an ATM? And did he expect that we applaud his much cleverer existence? The 70€ for tickets we were all willing to purchase to come see him seemed like acknowledgment enough….

In any event, the night was just what the doctor ordered for someone living in Europe listening to the reports of new spikes in COVID (Oktoberfest super-spreader opportunities, anyone?), saber-rattling by Russia’s dictator Putin, threatening to drop nuclear weapons as a way to win his invasion of Ukraine, and the autumn deaths of one of my original German instructors (‘long illness’), the cousin of close friends (sudden and aggressive form of lymphoma), and the death of another friend’s father. It doesn’t matter how old the person or expected the death is. It still leaves a hole.

Enter Mr. Cleese and his cheerful irreverence. May John Marwood Cleese, Minister of Silly Walks, continue to make us all laugh for many  years to come. I fart in your general direction, Mr. Cleese!

NOTES: Text and Photos ©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  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.

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.