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.

20160624_09525320160624_120324Aw, 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.

20160624_102135I remind myself Dubrovnik is all romantic corners and silly tourists taking selfies.

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20160624_101129and 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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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.

Green crowned brilliant

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.

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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.

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.

An old paperback had landed on the bed half-opened. Its cover was yellowed, the edges of the pages cracked and cuThuvia Maid of Mars-1920.jpgrling. 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.

The 2014 Soccer World Cup Finale

Reprinted in honor of this day in 2014 when Germany won the Soccer World Cup.

It wasn’t the first time I’d hitchhiked, but I was 18 the last time I did anything this dumb. Or this kind of dumb anyway. Allow me to explain.

I was back in the States and it was the day of the final match of the 2014 World Cup, Germany vs. Argentina. My family unfortunately all had a prior engagement. They took the car that morning and left for a certain Country Fair. [1]

I, however, remained true to the country of my husband and my adopted home for the last 26 years. I put on face paint, donned my German lei, and headed out the door.

I’d done my research. I knew the exact location of not just a sports bar in town, but a soccer sports bar at that – and I gave myself plenty of time to get there. As I headed down a footpath alongside the main road, a Mercedes Benz honked its horn repeatedly when the driver passed me. I looked at the car and laughed: he had decorated it with the colors of the German flag. I gave him a big wave and headed for my bar.

Ten minutes later I neared the entrance to a park and was astonished to see the car again. It was waiting for me. The driver had rolled down his window. “Do you know where I can go to see the game? I’m driving through on business, on my way to the coast, and I don’t know where to go to watch the match!” His accent was German and anyway he had the (to me) comforting look of a German engineer. [2]

“I sure can!” I answered. “There’s a sports bar near downtown. You need to turn around, take a left before the ramp for the freeway heading south, go under the overpass, take the one-way road three blocks and….” I stopped talking and considered. The park was empty, and so was the path I was walking on. I thought to myself, “Jadi, this could end up being the last spot anyone might have seen you standing alive before you made one last, stupid, fatal blunder.”

I scrutinized the driver more carefully. And then I made a snap decision.

“It’s complicated. Give me a ride, and I’ll guide you to get to the bar,” I offered. “Otherwise, it’ll take too long to describe.” The surprised dude immediately agreed. He opened the car door and I climbed in.

Fifteen minutes later we claimed two of the very last available seats in the packed bar (the employees were bringing in more chairs when we entered). I sat between the man whose name I no longer remember and a Mexican father and daughter.

The things we do for love (love of soccer, that is). No need to hitchhike this year, which is probably a good thing. I figure I used up my entire quota of guardian-angel-watching-over-you-while-you-do-something-colossally-stupid protection. But I’m definitely watching some soccer. France vs. Croatia, Sunday night! Come early if you want a seat!

NOTES: [1] Go to my post The Oregon Country Fair for more on the fair. I’m still glad I made it to that bar and saw Germany win. [1a] … especially after watching their pathetic performances since…. [2] The standard German engineer: short hair, clean shaven (99.99% of the time), honest face and slim body wearing jeans, an ironed shirt and a trustworthy earnest expression.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2018. Previously published as The Last Time I Hitchhiked was to get to a Bar. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. Uwe’s photos of 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

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.

 

Today’s Birthday: Peter Matthiessen

Environmental activist, writer, wilderness traveler, Zen Buddhist student and teacher, Peter Matthiessen was born May 22, 1927 in New York City, New York. He was a CIA officer in his early 20s, one of the few acts of his life that he regretted. He co-founded The Paris Review, one of English language’s most important literary journals. His book Shadow Country won the National Book Award for fiction, and he won again in nonfiction for The Snow Leopard. He remains the only writer to have won in both categories.

A friend gave me The Snow Leopard when it first came out, and I’ve reread it over and over in the decades since then. Matthiessen movingly tells how, after his wife Deborah Love died of cancer, he accompanied the naturalist George Schaller in search of the elusive leopard on the Tibetan Plateau. The book is travelogue, natural world description, and a meditation on life and death.

In his honor I am reprinting a post I wrote after visiting a site with 10,000 Buddhas…. – Jadi

Pam on the path

My sister Pam and her family lived in the New Territories. This part of China is on the mainland north of Hong Kong. While Hong Kong is the most densely and vertically populated city on the planet, the New Territories were still relatively quiet. The landscape consists of steep, lush jungle peaks that end in bays and inlets.

Hong Kong Island
The vertical density of Hong Kong
The view from my sister's apartment in China's New Territories
The view from their apartment near Sai Kung

The region is growing, and changing fast. The bus from the apartment passes villages on hillsides or tucked into hamlets and harbors. Floating villages of traditional houseboats are minutes away. And then the high rises suddenly appear, row after row after row.

There are lots more that look just like these
There are lots more that look just like these
It’s not far to Man Fat Tsz, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin. The monastery was founded by the devout layman Venerable Yuexi (the Chinese月溪法師; pinyin: yuè xī). Building began in 1949 as Yuexi and his disciples carried everything up from the foot of the mountain. For eighteen years they constructed the buildings – along with 12,800 Buddha statues.

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You head up through a bamboo forest where statues line both sides of the path to the monastery.

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There are roughly 500 Arhan [1] statues in plastic, painted gold. Each one is unique.

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Their expressions represent the experience of enlightenment. Other statues await once you reach the summit. I felt like I was in a tacky Buddhist Disneyland.

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So did you hear the one where the Buddhist monk, the Catholic priest, and the Jewish rabbi enter a temple…

 

Then I got to the top and entered the main temple. Before the altar is a glass case; it contains Venerable Yuexi’s preserved body! His body (still perfectly intact) was exhumed eight months after his April 24, 1965 death. Yuexi was next embalmed with Chinese lacquer, his head and face covered in gold leaf. [2] The Diamond Indestructible Body of Yuexi’s robed corpse sits in the lotus position. I was oddly moved by his preserved body: with the sight, I had a glimpse of religious truth.

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That feeling became surreal as we headed back to the bus stop.

This pagoda appears on the HK$100 banknote
This pagoda appeared on Hong Kong’s $100 banknotes

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We climbed down a different set of steps past my least favorite creatures: wild monkeys.

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And from the meditative hillside of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we neared and then entered the shopping mall complex at Sha Tin.

Sha Tin shopping mall
Sha Tin shopping mall

As I say, the New Territories has both the traditional and the modern. They all line the same path.

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NOTES: [1] To quote Wikipedia, “…in Theravada Buddhism, an Arhat is a “perfected person” who has attained nirvana. In other Buddhist traditions the term has also been used for people far advanced along the path of Enlightenment.” [2] Taking pictures inside the temple is not allowed.

In memory of Peter Matthiessen, 22 May 1927 – 5 April 2014

Photos and Text © 2015 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Adventures in China’s New Territories 1: Ten Thousand Buddhas. Uwe’s photos of our earlier trips to Hong Kong and mainland China 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

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.

 

Jean-Jacques Rabin + The Trogon Family

Jean-Jacques Rabin, better known as John James Audubon, was born on April 26, 1785 in Les Cayes, Saint-Dominigue, now known as Haiti. His name graces the National Audubon Society, founded to protect waterbird populations. Audubon was both a naturalist and an artist. He painted birds in beautiful color plates; his book The Birds of America is one of the finest and most detailed ornithological works ever completed. According to the Aubudon Organization, “[p]rinted between 1827 and 1838, it contains 435 life-size watercolors of North American birds (Havell edition), all reproduced from hand-engraved plates, and is considered to be the archetype of wildlife illustration.” My parents owned this gorgeous book and we’d leaf through the pages as we watched birds at the feeder on the balcony.

In his honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after Uwe and I visited Costa Rica and had the great luck to spot the magical, elusive quetzal. – Jadi

What’s quetzal, anyway? A symptom brought on in quarantine for the corona virus?

Glad you asked. The quetzal is a legend, a myth, a member of the trogon family, and one really cool bird. It’s also very, very elusive.

Okay. And what the hell is a trogon?

Let’s start at the top. Until just now, I didn’t know. Trogon comes from the Greek and means ‘nibbling’, because quetzals carve through rotting wood to make their nests in tree trunks. The trogon family of birds is an exclusive club: they are the only animal with a heterodactyl toe arrangement. [1] The resplendent quetzal lives only in a narrow range of cloud forests at high elevations in Central America. They don’t migrate, and like altitudes of 4,000–10,000 ft (1,200–3,000 m).

A lot of people think it’s the most beautiful bird in the world. The quetzal was sacred to the Aztecs and Mayans. The Aztecs associated the bird with the snake god, Quetzalcoatl. Kings and nobles wore quetzal feather headdresses for special ceremonies.

And oh my god, those feathers…. The head and back of the bird are a brilliant green, the belly feathers are bright red. The female has more gray on her chest, and black and white in her tail, while the male has incredibly long streaming tail feathers that trail up to three feet (!) behind him. These don’t grow until the bird is at least three years old.

The quetzal’s big, about 36-40 cm or 14-16 inches long. But its brilliant green feathers are iridescent and blend perfectly into the cloud forest foliage. For a large bird, the quetzal is surprisingly hard to spot.

So when we planned our trip to Costa Rica (I wrote this in March 2020, after two weeks of the virus lock down, and already our trip felt like a different life time rather than just a few weeks earlier), we hoped we’d get lucky enough to spot a quetzal. We went to the Monteverde cloud forest region. One day we joined a tour to the smaller and less crowded Curi Cancha Reserve. Amazingly enough we saw a pair of quetzals! Quetzals are monogamous – and there they were, male and female! Thank god for the guides that day, because there’s no way we would have sighted the birds on our own. They’re just too perfectly camouflaged. I only have one photo for you, but hopefully it was worth reading this post to get to it.

We present to you in all its shy glory: THE QUETZAL! This is the female, a brilliant emerald that dazzles the eye. Believe it or not her partner is much, much gaudier

It was magic to see a quetzal pair. We got lucky that day.

In memory of John James Audubon, April 26, 1785 – January 27, 1851

NOTES: [1] Dictionary.com explains heterodactyl is “having the first and fourth toes directed backward, and the second and third forward, as in trogons”. Well, what do you know. This is my second new word for the week. Trogon was the first. Resplendent quetzal © Jadi Campbell 2020. Previously published as Quetzal. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal 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.

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.

A Hurdy-Gurdy Update

One of the emails services I happily receive is One Word a Day. Last year I wrote a post about spotting a statue of the musician known as The Hurdy-Gurdy Man. Recently the word of the day was hurdy-gurdy, with this pleasing information:

hurdy-gurdy
noun

– a string instrument that produces sound by a hand-turned wheel rubbing against the strings

A LINGUISTIC CURIOSITY

“Hurdy-Gurdy” is a wonderfully, curious word combining euphony, onomatopoeia, and reduplication, all at the same time:

euphony = a harmonious succession of words having a pleasing sound

onomatopoeia = the forming of a word that sounds like the thing it represents (e.g. buzz, cuckoo, sizzle)

reduplication =  repetition of a sound or syllable in a word (e.g. chit-chat, hocus-pocus, tip-top)

Let’s read that sentence again: “Hurdy-Gurdy” is a wonderfully, curious word combining euphony, onomatopoeia, and reduplication, all at the same time.

Man. Being a language geek doesn’t get any better than this!

NOTES: ©2022 Jadi Campbell. Uwe’s images from our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.  Click here for my original post: Hurdy-Gurdy. To subscribe to One Word a Day go to https://owad.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 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 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.

Grandpa + His Thumbs of Death

Just two years after Great Britain handed the island back to mainland China, we went to Hong Kong. We were heading to Indonesia for a month and bracketed the long flights to get there with a stop in Hong Kong at both ends. Those seven days would cost us as much as the four weeks on Java and Lombok and Bali, but man, were they worth it….

I’ve gone back a half-dozen times since. One of my sisters taught at international schools in Hong Kong and the New Territories.* My nephew Nikolai ran two restaurants in Sai Kung and just opened a new bar-bistro named Graceland in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok district.** Graceland opened the first week of November 2021.

 But let’s go back in time a few decades and return to that first trip to Hong Kong. Uwe and I ate great meals of dim sum and quickly found ourselves dining in spots where we simply pointed at photos of menu dishes that looked familiar (and we hoped didn’t consist of canine or rodent). Hong Kong is and was a fascinating world city, and we explored knowing we’d definitely return.

Along with stocking up on traditional Chinese salves and medicinal oils to use in my own massage practice, I made an appointment for Chinese foot reflexology. This was easily done as soon as we found a street lined with neon lights of foot soles.

I booked a time slot for a few hours later, happy that I was going to get a massage. Long flights are hard on me, and I’d felt pretzled ever since the plane landed in Hong Kong. When I arrived at the clinic my feet were bathed and cleaned, and I was led over to my therapist. He was a delicate looking older gentleman in glasses. He looks like someone’s honorable and slightly fragile grandfather, I thought to myself.

 The therapist and I didn’t speak each other’s languages. The clinic manager handed me a sheet of paper with a diagram of a foot and points on it highlighted in Chinese characters, numbers, and the names of the body’s organs in English. I rolled up my jeans, my therapist rolled up his sleeves, and we sat facing one another. He placed my foot on a towel on his knees. He slathered some lotion on my leg. I studied the diagram, wondering how to use it.

Then he went to work on the sole of my foot and the first jolt of pain hit.

I jumped in my chair. “Ouch!” I exclaimed.

“#32,” he commented.

#32 on the information sheet corresponded to kidneys or liver. Now along with the pain, I was horrified that major organs were being bruised.

He moved his hands down my foot looking for the next tender points and immediately found them. He drove his thumbs into the new spots.

 “OUCH!!” I repeated. You know that jolt you get if you jab your elbow against a hard surface and your nerves shoot pain all the way up and down your arm? Magnify that pain about 100 times and imagine it blasting up from your foot which is being tortured by an evil sorcerer…

Uwe moved to the side of my chair with his camera out and a fat smile on his face.

“Having a good time? Are you enjoying documenting suffering?” The questions were caustic but I’d turned into a sniveling bundle of inflamed nerve endings. I felt pitiful.

“Like you always say… Relax, Jadi. Plus, don’t you want me to take photos so you can remember this later?”

I wanted to make the perfect sarcastic retort, something like, “Why would I want to relive pain like hot needles being pushed under my nails?” But I was too busy flinching. Every time Grandpa probed a point, I jumped in my chair.

Breathe! I reminded myself over and over.

“#17.” “#23.” He kept calling out numbers and I read along as Grandpa punished my internal organs. Diaphragm. Lungs. Sciatic nerve. Forget a sore back from a long flight; clearly, I was one hot mess.

The gracious grandfather who I now referred to as He-With-the-Steely-Thumbs-of-Death went on inflicting pain and suffering on my left foot.

He inflicted the exact, same, unbelievable pain on my right foot. I twitched in my chair as he calmly called out numbers.

As soon as the torture session was finished I tottered off to the bathroom to pee (funny how torture really clears out all your systems!). But when I came back to the main room where the manager, Uwe, and my therapist waited, I felt surprisingly okay.

Back out on the street I had the strangest impression that I was about to levitate. I felt that good. I slept like a log that night and my back pains vanished. I bet my inner organs benefited from the workover he gave them, too.

Take a look at the third photograph. I am glowing. It had to be from increased blood flow due to shock to the various parts of my body (like, all of them). Or it was the vast tide of the endorphins that followed the experience.

But I’ve never looked at gentle old grandfatherly types again in the same way. Gracious Ancestor? Hah! He-With-the-Steely-Thumbs-of-Death!

 

NOTES: *See my blog thread Adventures in the New Territories for more pictures and stories. **Graceland’s instagram page is @gracelandmk

© Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal 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 honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and 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 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: Nicholas Berkeley Mason

Nicholas Berkeley Mason was born 27 January 1944 in Edgbaston, Birmingham, England. He is an English drummer and founding member of the progressive rock band Pink Floyd, and the only member to appear on every single album. I  heard Nick Mason play with his current band Saucerful of Secrets. In his honor I am reprinting the post I wrote in which soccer, Pink Floyd, and pizza met…. – Jadi

YES, I already have tickets for the next time he comes to town! Hell yes!

On July 4th, 2014 Germany made soccer history. They are the first country to ever make it to four World Cup Semi-Finals in a row. I’m back in the US for a visit, and watched that game early in the morning on my friend’s couch with the German flag in face paint on my cheeks and a German lei draped around my neck.

Soccer ball on the green field Royalty Free Stock PhotosSoccer ball on the green field Royalty Free Stock PhotosSoccer ball on the green field Royalty Free Stock PhotosSoccer ball on the green field Royalty Free Stock Photos

I came to soccer late. It wasn’t until after I moved to Europe in 1992 that I realized how exciting the World Cup is. The globe takes its soccer pretty seriously (understatement of the century!); I first became a fan out of a need to share in the experience or miss out on life for weeks at a time. When Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006, I became a fan for real. What great matches! What a party!

So here I am in 2014, cheering on everyone. I’ve cajoled my friends into going to pubs and restaurants with wide screen televisions, or watching at home. I was happy to see the USA make it through the elimination round in Group G (the Group of Death), ironically up against Ghana, Portugal, – and Germany. I rooted for both even as I knew Germany would take it.

During the next round I watched the Argentina-Belgium match on a Spanish speaking station. I had the volume turned low, but I love hearing the cheering and chanting of fans in the stands.

The sounds suddenly reminded me of Pink Floyd, of all things. I was 16 years old when Dark Side of the Moon was released, and if you know me that fact explains everything. [1] But Floyd’s earlier album (and that’s a word that really dates me) Meddle contains the song “Fearless” with a background of singing Liverpool F.C. fans. At the time I didn’t know from soccer. I was sure the sound had to be religious chanting, like the noise of saffron-robed Indians on a hillside in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Remember the scene in Dharmsala where they sing out notes and point at the sky? I somehow made a connection between religion, and Pink Floyd, and joyous tones.

Decades later I moved to Europe. When I heard the chants of fans in the stadiums, I realized with a start that “Fearless” is really about soccer.

So it’s all come full circle. I’m back for a visit in the country of my birth; I’m watching the land I currently call home kick butt and take names as they make sports history; and it’s all accompanied by a soundtrack that returns to me to one of the happiest times of my life.

GO TEAM !!!

NOTES: [1] EVERYTHING. © Jadi Campbell 2014. Previously published as Soccer, Religion, and Pink Floyd. Uwe’s photos of our trip to Japan and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de. A shout out to Mark O’Brien and American Dream Pizza in Corvallis for opening up the bar early so we could watch Germany make more history as they beat Brazil. 7-1, baby! Soccer ball image courtesy dreamstime. Cover art work for Pink Floyd’s Meddle, image courtesy of Wikipedia. Music video courtesy of YouTube. Go to my earlier post The Year the World Came to Party for more on soccer.

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 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.