Today’s Birthday: Annelies Marie Frank

Anne Frank was born on June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Her unexpectedly discovered journal The Diary of Anne Frank is a testament to the endurance of the human spirit. In honor of her life I am reprinting my first post about Stolpersteine, the Stumbling Stones laid throughout the world to remember the lives of those killed by repressive regimes. – Jadi

***

She placed her unbandaged left hand over his on the table top. “Don’t think I’m only a cynic. If I lost my faith in nations, I find huge bravery and kindness in individuals. I kept my faith – and how can that be, after what religion did to my country? But I did. I believe in God. You saved my life so I am saved again. It’s more than a woman could hope for.” She squeezed his hand. “How long do you stay in Stuttgart?”

For the first time his regret about leaving had to do with a person and not with his phobia. “I should take a train tomorrow. Actually, I’m scared to fly,” Guy admitted. “I was in a forced landing once. I’m afraid of being in another.”

“Why fear a statistic chance? Why worry about an abstraction?” Nadia’s shoulders rose and fell in the Eastern European’s shrug, a slow, weary movement that expressed the futility of every question. “Think about the poor people who are in tsunamis. Or a war zone, where real fear is to think, how do you keep walking on the street as a rocket hits somewhere near, or you hear thwack!, and the person in front of you falls down? First you think, this time it isn’t me. It took years for me to stop looking over my shoulder. Stuttgart is civilized, but even here I stumble over Stolpersteine.”

“Over what?”

“Stolpersteine.”

Guy shook his head. “Never heard of it.”

“Them. Come, I will show you. There are some up around the corner.” Nadia refused to explain further.

She insisted on paying the bill and tucked her arm in his as the two of them headed up the Königstrasse. She led him to a stop in front of a store. “What do you see?”

Guy saw Europeans out Christmas shopping, happy people laughing and drinking glühwein, store windows filled with beautifully displayed consumer goods. Was it something special about the storefront? He shifted his weight and his heel came down on an uneven spot in the cement. When he glanced down, Guy saw gold cubes embedded in the sidewalk. He squatted to get a better look. Königstrasse 60, a stone with the name of Clothilde Mannheimer, another beside it for Jakob Mannheimer.

Nadia crouched down next to him. “The Mannheimers lived in this building. They were moved by train to Theresienstadt and died in the concentration camp there,” she translated. “These are their Stolpersteine, their stumbling stones. Wherever we go, we stumble over reminders of the past. The stones make sure we don’t forget the dead, these make sure that people today can’t push the dead from our memories.”

Guy traced the imprint of the names. The little golden cubes were weightier than their size. “Are there more?”

“All over Germany. Other countries, too. The Stolpersteine groups wish to mark the last free place where the persons lived, not where they were sent. Sometimes a family asks for a stumbling block; sometimes a local group did research for victims. And Stolpersteine are for everyone. Especially the Jews, but also the Behinderte, the ones with handicaps,” she corrected herself, “the mentally slow or physically handicapped. And gypsies, Communists. All were killed or did have to leave.”

“Knowing all this it wasn’t hard for you to become a German citizen?”

She gave another slow Eastern European shrug. “I gave up my old passport a decade ago. It was less hard than I expected. My home country is one in the heart.” – from the chapter What A Guy in Tsunami Cowboys, longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.

A newly laid Stolperstein
A newly laid Stolperstein

In memory of Anne Frank, 12 June 1929 – February or March 1945

NOTES: Text and Photos Copyright © 2015 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Stolpersteine 1: Tsunami Cowboys’ Stumbling Stones. 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. 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.

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

 

Robert Fripp + My Schizoid Loop

Robert Fripp, guitarist and founder of the group King Crimson was born on May 16, 1946 in Wimborne Minster in the United Kingdom. I’ve seen King Crimson in concert twice and the term PHENOMENAL doesn’t begin to do those concerts justice. Fripp has also famously played and collaborated with David Bowie, Peter Gabriel and Talking Heads, among others…. In his honor I am reprinting the post I wrote about feeling schizoid during the COVID-19 lockdown. – Jadi

Concert catelog from the second time I saw them!

King Crimson is infamous for a song named 21st Century Schizoid Man.

Cat’s foot iron claw
Neurosurgeons scream for more
At paranoia’s poison door
Twenty first century schizoid man

Blood rack, barbed wire
Politicians’ funeral pyre
Innocents raped with napalm fire
Twenty first century schizoid man

Death seed blind man’s greed
Poets starving, children bleed
Nothing he’s got he really needs
Twenty first century schizoid man

Songwriters: Robert Fripp/Michael Rex Giles/Greg Lake/Ian Mcdonald/ Peter John Sinfield. 21st Century Schizoid Man (2004 original master edition) lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

That’s the opening soundtrack to days that are hard in lockdown. I’m fine most of the time. The sky is a blue I cannot remember ever seeing. Less pollution and few cars on the roads mean more and louder birds than before.

And I go for walks, and practice self-care. I love to cook, so that’s more than all right. I can take my time with elaborate recipes. Great way to channel my restlessness. Uwe and I live together in lockdown harmoniously most of the time.

Last night’s quiche

Some days, though,  I exist in a schizoid loop. I’m trapped in repeating cycles of WTF WTF WTF? Every couple of days I feel this: boom. I understand how we got to where we are right now. We’ve been pushing the envelope for decades. Why did we think we’d be exempt? Boom! But hard as I try, I cannot grasp how swiftly our world changed once that final roll of the cosmic dice was set in play.

We’ve been taken down by a virus, something you can’t even see without a microscope.

BOOM!

And fuck doing yoga, and meditating, and the crap version that’s all I can remember of the tai chi I learned from a Chinese man in my San Francisco neighborhood 40 years ago. What’s happening now overwhelms me. Forget trying to understand the point of view that claims we just need to get back to business as usual. That bullshit is literally killing us.

I gather myself back into a little ball and slowly unwind my cramped limbs and psyche. Writing helps more than anything. My first collection of short stories is taking shape as I try to deal with what’s happening. [1]

I have friends with health issues who  live in  deadly serious lockdown. A few weeks into the self-quarantine the radio station I listen to played It’s All Too Much, a song from the Yellow Submarine album.  I’ve always loved this song! The Beatles were a big part of life’s soundtrack for my entire family, including my parents when they were alive.

My friend and her husband are Beatles fans too, and they turned me onto Radio Paradise in the first place. I was all smiles that morning, such fond associations and sweet memories all around. I thought, Hey, I’m gonna call her, and she answered her cell phone with a really cheery “Hi there!”

I lost it. I burst into tears and couldn’t stop crying. She hung on and waited for me to be able to speak, because that’s what friends do, and at some point my  crying jag stopped just as abruptly as it began. “That was not my plan when I dialed your number!” I said. “That’s the first time this has happened to me since this crisis began. I have a feeling it won’t be the last.”

And we had a really good laugh. I’m learning how to be less careful with my emotional balance, I figure if I need to weep then bring it on, because on some days crying is the single response that even approaches appropriate. I haven’t broken down since, but when I’m out for a walk and I see a family with little children in the distance, I feel those tears. Or when I hear from people I know in my present life, or from my past. Or anywhere else on the globe.

WTF WTF WTF?? I’m a hot mess, and that’s as it should be. If I find myself crying again, I’ll be in good company.

When I look into your eyes, your love is there for me
And the more I go inside, the more there is to see

It’s all too much for me to take
The love that’s shining all around you
Everywhere, it’s what you make
For us to take, it’s all too much

Songwriter: George Harrison. It’s All Too Much lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Stay safe everyone. Stay healthy.

NOTES: © Text Jadi Campbell 2020.  Previously published as My Schizoid Loop. Photos Uwe Hartmann 2020. To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Source: LyricFind [1] I finished that book: My short story collection 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. 

My other books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, and Grounded. 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 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.

That Collection of Soaps

Putin and Ukraine are the latest example in a long sad line of history. Another madman invades his neighbors.

The past repeats itself.

We watch the news each night and wonder, will Putin resort to dropping nukes? Or will he let his despot buddy Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko push the button in Belorussia? I watch the maps showing a 50 kilometer long procession of tanks heading inexorably towards Kyiv. Ukraine is the country on the other side of Poland, which is the country on the other side of – us.

I take walks. I do the daily shopping and welcome my routines. Yesterday morning, coming around the corner I saw stacks and stacks of boxes in the plaza in front of our Town Hall. I went over and checked them out. They looked like supplies, the kind you gather and send as disaster relief or to refugee camps.

Back at home I immediately clicked into our town’s Rathaus website. I guessed correctly: our town square is Ground Zero for goods to send east. The Ukrainians need sleeping bags, clothes, shoes, socks, coats, blankets, and food, and bottled water, and toys, and games, and (this one just about did me in) stuffed animals for little children.

The invaded Ukrainians need bandages and medicine and soap and toothbrushes and combs. I have a collection of these items along with pocket sewing kits, all saved in case a house guest spending the night forgot to bring their own from home.

… Or  someone in a war zone who left their house without the time to consider such mundane articles as the bombs began to fall…

I made a package and labeled everything in German and English. This morning on my way to the plaza I stopped at a bakery and bought some Butterbrezeln and belegtes Brotchen (buttered pretzels and sandwiches). The Rathaus website suggested snacks for the volunteers would be appreciated.

This morning at 9:00 workers are loading a giant transport truck. Over a dozen volunteers are packing boxes, sorting items into piles (a large one of sleeping bags). I set my little bag on a long table where a sign hung saying, Medikamenten und Hygiene. Someone directed me to place the bakery items by the coffee machine set up for the volunteers. A huge bag filled with pretzels was already there.

The transport truck in the foreground

And I’m crying as I write this, even as I think in the worst of times some people show their finest qualities.

The truck leaves tomorrow afternoon and is scheduled to arrive on the Polish-Ukrainian border on Monday. The action is organized by the Heck Spedition GmbH and the international YMCA. This is a time  to come together and give aid where we can, in whatever ways we can.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2022.

Here is the information from the Rathaus website.

Hilfstranport für ukrainische Kriegsflüchtlinge

Für einen Hilfstransport nach Medyka an der polnisch-ukrainischen Grenze sammelt die Heck Spedition GmbH, unterstützt durch den CVJM, von Mittwoch bis Freitag, 2. bis 4. März 2022, Schlafsäcke, warme Kleidung, Schuhe, Socken, neue Unterwäsche, Decken, Riegel, Babybedarf, Pampers, Spielsachen, Kuscheltiere, Bürsten, Kämme, Medikamente, Pflaster, Verbände und ähnliches.

Sie können die Sachen zu den folgenden Annahmezeiten auf dem Gerlinger Rathausplatz abgeben:

  • Mittwoch, 02.03.2022, 13.00-19.00 Uhr
  • Donnerstag, 03.03.2022, 09.00-19.00 Uhr
  • Freitag, 04.03.2022, 09.00-15.00 Uhr

Wer den Organisatoren bei Annahme, Sortieren und Verpackung, helfen möchte, kommt einfach zu den Annahmezeiten auf den Rathausplatz. Willkommen sind auch kleine Snacks zur Stärkung der Helferinnen und Helfer.

Der Transport wird am Freitag, 4. März 2022, starten und soll am Montagmorgen am Zielort eintreffen.

Kontakt: Heck Spedition GmbH, Telefonnummer 07156/43580

Wir danken allen Spenderinnen und Spendern sowie allen Helferinnen und Helfern für ihre Unterstützung an den Aktionen!

Paul Klee + Blue Tunisia

Artist Paul Klee was born on December 18, 1879 in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland. He was a part of the Bauhaus movement and wrote about color theory. Klee traveled to Tunis in April of 1914 for twelve days. The colors and light of North Africa strongly influenced his paintings and those of his companions August Macke and Louis Moilliet. In his honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after we visited Tunisia. – Jadi

We flew down to Tunisia for a week in September that year. I’d planned to write about Hammamet’s lovely laid back tourist vibe, the gorgeous beaches and how much fun it was viewing the Mediterranean from the Africa coast for the first time.

I didn’t want to obsess on the fact that a few weeks later terrorists shot tourists in a museum down the road from the souk we visited. I definitely don’t want to think about the beach where tourists from around the world were murdered in cold blood that summer. It’s less than 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the hotel we stayed in.

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Those cowardly acts have nothing to do with what Uwe and I experienced. I took notes as I sat on our sweet balcony, and here is what I wrote:

“The tourists are international. Every body size and shape, every age is represented. We see groups of Italians, French, Egyptians, Algerians, Germans and Brits. Women in black leggings, head scarves, and long sleeved tunics sit by the pool. Two men (young Arab males) hold hands and spring into the pool at a running jump. Kids run and play everywhere I look. Old folks in wheel chairs are pushed by family members.

The French and Italian tourists live up to their reputations with their rule of remaining poolside until 6 p.m. Then they go to change for dinner at 7:00.

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View from our balcony. Taken early evening, when guests had headed to their rooms to change their clothes and think about dinner

Lots of Middle East tourists are traditionally dressed in modest clothing. [1] They swim in the ocean fully dressed! But there are also single Arab women in bikinis, or young couples on holiday.”

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I sat and revised Tsunami Cowboys under one of these umbrellas…

“Paragliders are pulled by boats, a yacht and sailboat or two glide by, an endless panorama of ocean spreads from left to right. Without talking about it we head past the pool to go down to the lounge chairs under sun umbrellas on the beach. Uwe reads and I edit the manuscript for my second book Tsunami Cowboys. I’m beyond happy: I’m in an exotic locale with fun stuff to notice all around me and I’m doing good writing work. Each afternoon around 4 I stop and swim in the ocean.”

Our hotel was about twenty minutes from the center of Hammamet. Sometimes we strolled into town for dinner; some nights we had a drink at the hotel and picked one of the restaurants there. We did a couple of tours, to Tunis, Sidi Bou Saïd

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Sidi Bou Saïd is justifiably famous for its vivid blue architecture

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Sidi Bou Saïd is popular with artists too

and the ancient city of Carthage. [2]

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I bargained for sandals at Tunis’ souk [3],

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and harissa and couscous spices at an outdoor market.

Touristy? Sure. But here are more of my notes from that week: “Everyone smiles and says hello in the hotel. We’re all here to relax and co-mingle. I have the lovely experience of being welcomed as an American – and when was the last time that’s happened lately – the locals intrigued to learn where I’m from, and even more intrigued to hear that I live in Europe.

I think that’s partly because not many Americans make it to the area, or maybe our hotel books more Europeans and Arabs. Certainly on our charter flight from Germany I’m the only Ami on board! Tunisians are delighted when I assure them that yes, I am enjoying my first visit to their country.”

We learn that Tunisia’s population of 8 million swelled by an additional 2 million people displaced by wars. Tunisia is a struggling democracy in an unstable part of the world. The Tunisians on the coast are hospitable, curious, worldly. And I want to go back.

I want Tunisia without terrorism.

In memory of Paul Klee, 18 December 1879 – 29 June 1940

NOTES: [1] A sign by the pool read “Clothes clog the drains! Bathing suits only, please!” [2] Carthage made the fatal mistake of challenging Rome. The Romans burned it to the ground, killed all the men and sold the women and children into slavery. Then, to make sure everyone got the message that it was a really bad idea to go against Rome, they sowed the area with salt so that nothing would ever grow again…. [3] The shopkeeper held a lighter to the bottom to prove that they were made of camel and not plastic.  ©2016 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Tunisia Without Terrorism. Photos © 2015 Uwe Hartmann. More of Uwe’s images from our trips to North Africa and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

https://jadicampbell.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/d32_3302_dxo10.jpg?resize=600%2C398&w=840

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. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network. 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 is now 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.

My Imaginary Friends: #9 The Tidal Wave

Current events often find their way into my books. I wrote about the tsunami in Japan not long after it occurred. One of my characters in Tsunami Cowboys (the title I am most proud of thinking up!) can dream the future:

Ronnie’s coworker Yoshiko Sakei appeared in the next vision. Yoshiko came to the States for college and ended up marrying Erik Gross. She became an American citizen forty years ago. She’s nearing retirement, and she and Erik plan to move to Honshu. Yoshiko feels a secret guilt: she’s enjoyed the irresponsible freedom of a Japanese person living outside the home country.

Kyoto parade
Kyoto parade

Yoshiko tells Erik, “Let’s go back and care for my parents.” Erik likes the idea, because a Western man in Asia has lots of advantages. Gaigin aren’t expected to fit in.

They sell their home and plan to move as soon as Yoshiko stops working.

Miyajima
Miyajima
Kyoto train station
Kyoto train station
Kagoshima Aquarium
Kagoshima Aquarium

The vision shifts. Zen landscapes,

Bamboo forest
Bamboo forest
Zen garden
Zen garden

crowded city streets with tall buildings,

Tokyo
Tokyo

monks in yellow,

Kyoto temple
Kyoto temple

geishas in colorful kimonos,

Geishas

salarymen in somber business suits all kaleidoscope through the dream. A few exquisite pieces of lacquer ware and a hand painted folding screen decorate a small space.

Zen interior
Zen interior

Yoshiko and Erik sit at a table across from an old Japanese couple with gentle smiles and parchment paper skins. The four of them drink tea. In the next scene they lie asleep in blankets on spotless tatami mats.

All four open their eyes as the light wood of the house splinters into match sticks. They look shocked in Ronnie’s direction – and the dream blows apart.

– from my chapter Precognitious in Tsunami Cowboys.

Notes: © Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos and images © Uwe Hartmann. Uwe’s photos of our trip to Japan and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.  Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Books make great gifts!

The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network. 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 is currently 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.

Annie Edson Taylor Over a Barrel

Annie Edson Taylor  was born on October 24, 1838 in Auburn, New York. On October 24, 1901, her 63rd birthday, she became the first person in history to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive. Ms. Taylor hoped to secure her financial future with the stunt, but aside from some initial speaking engagements and a memoir she didn’t make much money. Her manager stole the barrel, and she had to use up her savings to hire private detectives to track him and the barrel down again. Annie died in Niagara County and her body is interred in the ‘Stunter’s Rest’ section of the Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls on the New York side of the waters. In her honor I am reprinting a post I wrote after visiting the waterfalls of southern Laos. – Jadi

On our last trip to Laos we headed south to the quiet little city of Pakse in the Chapasak province. We wanted to see old ruins – and really spectacular waterfalls!

For the latter we booked a guide to reach the Bolaven Plateau. Hiking in to some of the waterfalls was a gloriously steep, wet walk.

Later, with the same guide (and boats) we were carried to 4,000 Islands (Si Phan Don). I was beyond amused to notice the signs on some of the guesthouses in  4,000 Islands, announcing that special, magical pancakes were available for breakfast…. My German husband missed the inference and asked why I was laughing. “Guests can get their pancakes laced with the noble herb,” I informed him. [1] Sure enough, plenty of tourists in the 4,000 Islands region spent all their time literally hanging out in hammocks. They were all way too relaxed – or something – to be ambitious. They were in no hurry to explore.

Or move.

The Mekong River splits into branches at this end of Laos and tumbles over  boulders and channels cut through rock.

When the French colonized Laos they came up with a bold (and ultimately quixotic) plan to build a railway through the region. They  wanted to go around the waterfalls and create a faster, easier way to travel and ship goods either to the north, or to the southern Vietnam port of Saigon. The result is what a CNN article wryly refered to as “Laos’ first railway: 14 km of rust” [2].

The Mekong defeated the engineers, and 4,000 Islands is a beautiful sleepy area.

But oh, those waterfalls on the Bolaven Plateau: we hiked in to as many as our young guide was willing to take us to. And we didn’t even need a barrel.

In memory of Annie Taylor,   24 October, 1838 – 29 April, 1921

NOTES: [1] I turned 16 the year that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was released. If you know me, you know this fact explains everything, including what makes me laugh. [2] CNN travel. ©Jadi Campbell 2018. Previously published as The Waterfalls of Laos: South 2. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. 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. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies for American Book Fest. 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 2020 International Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts.

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

 

 

 

For My Friends Who Have Lost Loved Ones to COVID: Calling the Soul

Friends across the globe from all the stages of my life have lost parents, spouses, family members and loved ones to COVID. I have been thinking alot about the ways we are all tied to one another in joy, in grief, in loss, in trying to live together and ease one another’s pain. Here is a story about how a very different culture keeps people they care about literally connected to one another, in a ceremony that creates unity and restores harmony to both the individual and the community. For some reason this post has gotten a lot of views recently. I wrote the essay after several trips to Laos. May it offer some comfort and peace. — Jadi

 

Note the white cotton threads

When we visit the temples in Laos, we often see monks tying special white cotton strings to the wrist of a person’s right hand. Sometimes the monk ties connecting strings to whole groups of people. What are the strings, and what is their significance? The answer, it turns out, varies in the different regions of Laos (as well as the Sipsong Panna autonomous prefecture of the Tai Lü in the extreme south of Yunnan, China, and Northern and Isan Thai cultures). And the meaning depends on time and place….

Full moon Vientiane, Laos

The strings are tied in the Baci ceremony, and their significance depends on the occasion. Take weddings, for instance. According to an old Laotian legend, the cotton threads are tied to ensure a happy marriage. We each have a tree in the heavenly garden, and that tree has branches intertwined with your predestined partner. When our trees come to this earthly existence, the cotton threads binding them are cut and we’re born separated and alone. If you can find your soul mate again after searching for him or her, at your marriage you are rejoined by retying the thread.

In Laos threads are also tied on newborn babies and their mothers [1] or on people going home or departing from home, which explained the many men, women, and children wearing these bracelets we saw at airports. The ceremony is performed for specific life events: success, health (both for the cured and the sick), and annual festivals like the sacred Wax Castle Procession in Vientiane. We witnessed a high number of Baci ceremonies during that time. [2]

The ceremony is done after a death, too, to bring back any wandering  missing spirits and reinforce the harmony of the surviving family members.

The entire ceremony is rich is symbolism. The white color means purity, and the strings are believed to bind the 32 kwan, organs or parts to the soul, to prevent them from wandering away. The Baci ceremony is also known by the term su kwan, “calling of the soul”. [3] When kwan wander away from your body, this creates an imbalance in the soul that may lead to illness and bad luck.

Foundation stones are honored

The ceremonies take place in Buddhist temples, but kwan and the Baci ceremony predate Buddhism. [4] I’ve had strings tied to my right wrist in Buddhist and Hindu temples from Laos to India, but have never taken part in a Baci ceremony. Regardless, the white bracelet should be worn for at least three days. Then the threads can be unknotted or allowed to fall off on their own, but should never be cut.

Dedicated to my friends who have lost loved ones to the pandemic

NOTES: [1] A Baci ceremony for new mothers and their babies is performed to welcome the baby, and to recall any kwan that may have wandered away from the mother during the birth. [2] The Wax Castle Procession falls on an especially auspicious lunar calendar date: the full moon of the seventh lunar month. [3] Concept of Kwan: Kwan are components of the soul but have a more abstract meaning than this. The kwan have been variously described by Westerners as: “vital forces, giving harmony and balance to the body, or part of it”, “the private reality of the body, inherent in the life of men and animals from the moment of their birth,” and simply as “vital breath”. – Pom Outama Khampradith, Bounheng Inversin, and Tiao Nithakhong Somsanith, writing for Lao Heritage Foundation. P.S: Baci in Italian means kisses, and it’s also an awesome chocolate candy that contains a whole hazelnut at the center.

©Jadi Campbell 2018. Previously published as Laos White String Bracelets: The Baci Ceremony. All photos ©Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to  viewpics.de.

To learn more about kwan and the Baci ceremony: Laos-guide-999, Baci, UNESCO

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. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies for the American Book Fest. 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 2020 International Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts. 

Hiroshima at 8:15 A.M.

To mark the 76th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, I am reprinting my post 8:15 A.M. This tragedy must never be repeated. – Jadi

At 8:15 a.m. some 65 years later,

Birds perch on the Dome.

It’s startlingly calm. A becalming place

Green, tranquil, filled with standing statues

tourists with cameras and

prayers for peace and

pray-ers for peace and

Classes of school children

running

water everywhere.

They bring chains of 1,000 cranes

folded in loving memory of Sadako Sasaki

Her cranes became tinier

leukemia advancing until

Sadako folded symbols of longevity and healing

with the aid of a pin.

At 8:15 a.m. some 76 years later,

Five cranes hold sentinel on

ruined

blackened

girders

The skeleton now, simply,

called the A-Bomb Dome.

Statues are the world’s countries’ monuments

to Hiroshima reborn, arisen

declaring her residents will,

forever, live

in a place called The City of Peace.

Classes of children, schooled in knowledge of what

unthinkable tragedy

took

place

here

stand for photos before the fountain with the flame

in the center burning

until the last nuclear weapon is dismantled;

Before the cenotaph shielding

names of the dead, reopened, names

added on August 6th.

The Peace Park, the terrible

hypocenter.

And the tourists with cameras?

We bear witness. We come to

ask, Why?

How many

angels danced on the head of a pin?

We come to see The Truth or

as much truth as we can bear.

Seeing demands the clearest sight

possible when your eyes are filled

with the pin pricks of tears

Water,

like the water the burned begged for as they died

The peace fountains spouting outside the museum

the river that flows

calmly, becalmingly

near the A-Bomb Dome,

where the cranes have taken up residence.

(17 October 2010 21:27 p.m. Updated 6 August 2021.)

NOTES: Text © Jadi Campbell 2010.  Previously published as 8:15 A.M.  Photos © Uwe Hartmann. I wrote the first version of this poem while we visited Japan in 2010. The atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima at 8:15 a.m.on August 6, 1945. Sadako Sasaki lived 2 kilometers from the epicenter. She was 2 years old at the time, and died of the radiation exposure 10 years later. Sadako is famous for folding origami cranes. According to the Japanese legend, anyone who folds 1,000 cranes will be granted a wish: Sadako hoped to be healed. Today classrooms of children all around the world send strings of paper cranes to be displayed at Sadako Sasaki’s memorial in the Peace Park. Her statue and story are a powerful reminder of the innocent lives lost.

The cenotaph is opened each August 6th and the newest names of the dead are added. Its arched form provides a shelter to the souls of the victims.

The Peace Park contains statues dedicated by countries around the world; a museum; and monuments. We visited at night and the Dome (the only building left standing after the blast) was occupied by cranes. The image of this World Heritage Monument and the symbolic birds took a powerful hold on my imagination. When we returned at daylight to visit the park it overflowed with classes of laughing children, stunned tourists, and an atmosphere that is impossible to describe. It is a place of shared tragedy, and humanity.

The cranes were still there, perching in the Dome.

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 a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for 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 named a semifinalist for the 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Prize.

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

Hard Times in Sugar Town

POSTED ON  by URBANSPY777

 

HARD TIMES IN SUGAR TOWN by Jadi Campbell

“History does not repeat itself – at best it sometimes rhymes.” –  Mark Twain

HARD TIMES IN SUGAR TOWN by Jadi Campbell

July 5 at 20:00 hrs in MERLIN

HARD TIMES IN SUGAR TOWN is an evening of songs from the Depression Era and an original story by Jadi Campbell featuring Derrick Jenkins, Tiffany Estrada, Frank Eisele. This show is the FIRST LIVE installment of the DARK MONDAY @ series in 2021!

…………………………….

The Dirty Thirties were a time of failed crops and banks, repossessed farms, and massive unemployment. The decade generated a great creative response to the country’s suffering, with the brilliant banter of screen stars, and poignant and pointed music lyrics.

Today’s soaring unemployment, small business failures, and uncertainty about the future are reminiscent of a bygone era: the Great Depression, which lasted from 1929 until 1939 and was the worst economic downturn in modern history. The historical parallel to the Pandemic Present is remarkable and the results quite similar: insolvent businesses, shuttered store fronts, financially concerned families fearful to make large purchases, and long lines forming at food banks.

When the U.S. stock market crashed in October 1929, it brought HARD TIMES to the nation. The Great Crash soon became the Great Depression – for millions of businesses and individuals, fear and failure became as commonplace as the optimism and prosperity had been before the economic collapse during the high spirited Roaring Twenties. In the downward spiral which lasted for a decade, society was devastated. During the bleakest point of the Great Depression, about a quarter of the U.S. workforce was unemployed. Those that were lucky enough to have steady employment often saw their wages cut or their hours reduced to part-time. Sound familiar?

Mark Twain states – “History does not repeat itself – at best it sometimes rhymes.”

During the 1920s, business owners pretty much did whatever they wanted and the rich got obscenely richer. Like today’s corona virus-driven economic crash, the Great Depression devastated a nation where things were already awful for a lot of people. Like the opportunists of today, business titans of the 1930’s, such as the 18 year old millionaire Howard Hughes, actually grew their fortunes thanks to shrewd investments, fortuitous timing and entrepreneurial vision.

The downtrodden population was in dire need of distraction and uplifting entertainment to take their minds off the troubling times at hand. Even as many Americans struggled to survive, they still found ways to have affordable fun. Miniature Golf became fashionable and a plethora of Board Games such as Scrabble and Monopoly were introduced.

The opportunity to earn money while having “fun” drew many desperate couples to participate in Dance Marathons. These became more than just a form of recreation and could last for days or weeks. As long as the dancers kept dancing, they had food (usually 12 meals a day), shelter and the chance to win a cash prize. Each hour they were allowed a break for 15 minutes, during which they might lay down on a cot and have a nurse attend to them. Because they had to stay moving for the other 45 minutes per hour, dancers learned to sleep while their partner held them up and dragged them across the dance floor.

Radio was at the height of its popularity and a pleasantly inexpensive form of entertainment for 83 percent of the population that owned a wireless set. New program formats were created – Daily Soap Operas, Game Shows, Radio Westerns, Crime Shows, Mystery Programs. Listeners tuned in to hear about current events, the latest baseball scores or juicy Hollywood gossip. In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt revolutionized the way presidents communicated with Americans by talking directly to them through the radio. During his“fireside chats,” as they became known, he spoke of issues that affected everyone; like the banking crisisthe New Deal and the Dust Bowl.

This was also the Golden Age of the Hollywood Film Industry. Tickets prices were under a quarter for the whole of the 1930s – down from 35 cents in 1929, so spending time in the cinema was an affordable form of escapism for many. The technical transition from Silent Movies to Talkies was fully achieved and many revolutionary new genres were created such as Screw Ball Comedies, feature length Cartoons by Walt Disney, lavish film musicals featuring the dizzying choreography of Busby Berkley, as well as the popular series of dance themed movies starring America’s Sweethearts – Fred Astaire & Ginger Rodgers. What better way to forget your troubles for a few hours?

Many composers of what is today considered the Great American Songbook, wrote songs specifically for the movie industry; among them George & Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern. These were melodies with words to console, lift spirits and have the audience leaving the lavishly designed and decorated cinemas whistling and singing… ready to face yet another dreary day.

As lyricist Dorothy Fields wrote in one of her popular songs in 1936 – Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again!

Photos by Uka Meissner deRuiz

NOTES: Original post by Charles Urban and New English American Theater (NEAT). The show will be posted on YouTube and available for viewing from July 6th-onwards!

Our film version will be broadcast in wonderfully nostalgic and appropriate Black & White beginning Tuesday, July 6 on the MERLIN YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/c/MERLINSTUTTGART0711/videos

The Animal Kingdom: Grande Finale 1

And it’s the first half of the last post in this blog thread for Bobbo! I present the Grande Finale: Installment # 41! describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page. Happy Easter, everyone. May the world be reborn.

A colony’s done some serious colonizing in here. Back trails, Cranberry Lake, Adirondacks

  1. The host hosted a seed hunt.
  2. The storytelling is storytelling.
  3. The colony colonized the waters with colonies.
  4. She feverishly watched the fever.
  5. The road teemed with teams.
  6. No way to hide from this hive’s hive!
  7. The scoop scoops with scoops.

Answers:

Scoop!

  1. Host of sparrows
  2. Storytelling of crows
  3. Colony of beavers
  4. Fever of sting rays
  5. Team of oxen
  6. Hive of bees [1]
  7. Scoop of pelicans [2]

Fever, Kagoshima Aquarium, Japan

NOTES: [1] A hive is the physical location. Bee status: Endangered [2] Remember the squadron of pelicans from Installment #3?

NOTES on NOTES: I almost never put myself in my posts. For this final hurrah a photo and a final, special definition are called for. Thanks and much love to all my readers for sticking with this thread and sharing your feedback. — Jadi

Worshipper of words….

© Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.  Fun animal names from www.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

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

Hive, Thai temple