I dedicate this new blog thread to my father Bobbo, who worked for the Forest Service. On one of our last family visits we sat around and gleefully read out a list describing groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.
The shrewdness shrewdly assessed the jungle floor.
This obstinacy obstinately refused to budge.
The covert covertly hid, migrating only at night.
The big bask basked in the river, seemingly aware nothing would dare attack them.
In spite of myself I was charmed by the pitiful piteousness.
One year when Uwe and I took a vacation in Asia, I jumped at the chance to fly early and visit my sister Pam and my nephew Nikolai in Hong Kong. They lived in the city for a few years, and Pam had made a game out of finding as many cultural events as possible.
We attended a Japanese hip hop performance, fascinated to see how a form that began with black America was interpreted into Japanese. We got tickets for electrifying (and surprisingly political) Chinese modern dance. Not everything we saw was good; we had to suffer through an hour of really bad flamenco. We fled as soon as politely possible.
And Pam got us tickets for the Bootleg Beatles.
Asians retain a fierce love of the Beatles to this day, and the Bootleg Beatles aren’t your average cover band. The Bootlegs are the Beatles’ first and oldest tribute band. They have been playing for over 36 years! “George”, “Ringo”, “John” and “Paul” sing and play, complete with costume changes to track the evolution of the group. An eight-piece orchestra backs them up. They. Are. Terrific.
The Lyric Theatre of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts is a classic amphitheater space. Our seats must have been the last three sold: Pam, Nikolai and I sat high, high up in the last row.
Once they started playing, it was clear why the concert was completely sold-out. It was like the Bootlegs were channeling the original band. My sister and I got up and danced.
But a strange thing happened: during the entire concert, we were the only people dancing. The amphitheater was filled to capacity with more than a thousand Hong Kong residents and visitors – and everyone was far too well-behaved to get on their feet.
We were surprised that no one else danced. Had we missed something? Was there some kind of Asian protocol about performances? We looked at one another, at Nikolai (sitting between us with his face covered, totally absorbed in listening to the band and not about to join us) and the proper people sitting all around. Like I say: we had seats in the final row up in nose-bleed territory. The only thing behind us was a cement wall. Who would it disturb if we danced?
So we did. From Please Please Me to Back in the USSR to All You Need is Love, we rocked out. Pam and I had a ball. There is something about giving yourself over to the ecstasy and joy of great music. These are the tunes of our childhoods and teenage years.
We grew up with the Beatles. The night in 1964 the band played on The Ed Sullivan Show, Mom came and got us out of bed. “Come see the Beatles!” she urged. I was a little kid at the time. I remember dashing to the black and white television set in excitement… only to watch bewildered as four men in black sang. Where were the insects? (Our dad Bobbo was an entomologist, so my confusion was genuine.) Later the band and their music became – and remain – an integral part of the weave of my life.
So. Fast-forward almost 50 years to an amphitheater in Hong Kong, and you’ll understand why we simply had to get up and boogie.
Before the first break, “George” said how nice it was everyone had come out for the show. He added, “Especially you at the back. We’re really glad you’re here. You’re great!”
“Hey!” I exclaimed. “Do you think he means us?” At the end of the show, “George” and the boys thanked the audience for coming, with “A special thank you to the two girls in the top row. You made the show.”
Some events remain live. In a parallel universe and all my dreams, I’m still dancing.
Long-time followers of this blog will know that I post at 2-week intervals. I’m stepping outside my rhythm to tell you about 2 very special projects. The first is all about rhythms of song and speech, so perhaps I’m not breaking my pattern after all.
I Like a Gershwin Tune, How About You? will perform at Theater am Olgaeck in Stuttgart on December 15 at 20:00. For photos of the performers and more information, click on the link I’ve provided.
I LIKE A GERSWHIN TUNE, HOW ABOUT YOU? is an evening of beautiful music; instrumentals, solos, duets and four part harmony featuring the song stylists Jeanne Ragonese, Sara Conway, Anthony King, Joerg Witzsch, pianist Florian Eisentraut, narrator Derrick Jenkins, and a story by Jadi Campbell.
Ira Gershwin is the lyricist to musical composer and younger brother George Gershwin. This brotherly collaboration created some of the most memorable songs of the 20th century.
The compositions of George & Ira Gershwin are among the masterpieces of THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK; which is the most popular source of material for singers and musicians today. After George’s untimely death at an early age, Ira went on to work with other composers, such as Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen and Kurt Weill; with whom he continued to write many successful Broadway Musicals.
With this musical project we aim to celebrate the 120th Birthday of Song Lyricist Ira Gershwin; whom many consider to be a Modern American Poet. Heartfelt, high-spirited, sparkling with vernacular eloquence, the lyrics of Ira Gershwin defined the spirit of an era and have lived on as part of the American tradition. Ira distilled ordinary American speech into indelible verse; embodying his wit romance and dazzling virtuosity.
On November 8, America voted for a new president. I sent my overseas ballot off weeks before the election.
I live in Germany, so it was early evening our time when the first results started being tallied. Uwe and I watched the nightly news and listened as stations began live reports from around the US. The living room glowed with candles. Around 10:30 p.m. Uwe said, “I think something’s burning,” and went out on our balcony. I got up and followed him. Sure enough, red flames were visible in the house right across the street from us.
“Hilfe!” voices shouted, and from blocks away came the blare of fire trucks. By now smoke was billowing. Teams of firemen raced around to the back of the building. People hung out of windows waving their arms, or watched from neighbors’ houses. The firemen put up klieg lights and a long ladder to rescue people from windows and then aimed water hoses at the roof.
They quickly had the situation under control: it was more smoke than fire, so to speak. I kept ducking back in the living room to watch the election returns.
Life felt suddenly, completely, dizzingly surreal. The election-cycle reminder that I’m an American citizen living overseas; an election unlike any other; a house burning. Maybe the entire goddamned street where we live is on fire.
Later – days later – I learned that the whole thing had only been a drill. A practice fire.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the metaphors inherent in this experience. As I turn it around inside my heart and head I get dizzy again. I leave it to my readers to take from this story what you can.
I’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.
Aw, come on. King’s Landing! Cercei’s Walk of Shame! Tyrion sightings!
This trip was going to be awesome!
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.
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.
“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 the guests’ fault.
He let me into thehotel… a home converted into apartments. We’d requested separate beds; the room only contained one. I didn’t mind sharing, but the hotelroom 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I remind myself Dubrovnik is all romantic corners and silly tourists taking selfies.
and the European Cup soccer matches!
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!
We married in Germany and went to Paris for a week. A few months later we threw a party in America. I wanted to show Uwe around the northwest, including a visit to Vancouver. For that part of the trip, the easiest solution would be to rent a car once we got to Canada.
I found a charter bus leaving from Seattle for the right price, leaving at the right hour. When we got to the designated departure spot that morning the others were already waiting to board the bus… all fifty members of the seniors’ tour group.
“Jadi! We’re 40 years younger than anyone else taking this bus,” Uwe whispered.
“Look at the bright side: no crying babies.”
The woman in line behind us tapped my arm. “Excuse me honey, but are you two newlyweds? Are you on your honeymoon?”
I grinned as Uwe began to turn an interesting shade of pink. “We are!” I told her.
“I knew it!” the little senior crowed. She nodded at her friend, totally pleased. “I have a sixth sense for honeymooners. When I meet people I can always tell if they’re newlyweds! What are your names, dear?”
Uwe was hurriedly climbing on the bus away from the conversation.
“Uwe and Jadi Hartmann,” I told her to keep it simple. Our first names are confusing enough without including the information that I’d kept my maiden name.
For a second she looked flustered, but she recovered quickly. “Well, it’s lovely to meet you,” she beamed.
As I boarded the bus and headed down the aisle she was talking with the bus driver. “That young couple that got on the bus ahead of me? They’re on their honeymoon!”
“Gott, Americans ask personal questions,” Uwe chuffed once I’d seated myself next to him.
“They’re friendly. Isn’t it wonderful?” I gave my new husband my sweetest smile.
We settled in for the short trip to Vancouver on a bus filled to capacity with chattering seniors. The bus left promptly, people in their 70s and 80s twittering like happy magpies.
When we reached the highway there was a scratching noise as our driver turned on his microphone. “Welcome on board, on the charter bus for Vancouver, Canada. Our estimated time of arrival is twelve noon. I’m your driver Carl, and I’ll be pointing out sights of interest along the way. But in the meantime, I’ve been informed that we have a pair of newlyweds traveling with us today! Let’s congratulate the new couple! Would Jay – ,“ he faltered suddenly, “Oo – uh, would Mr. and Mrs. Harmon please stand up and take a bow?”
I was already on my feet. “Stand up!” I encouraged gleefully. Uwe had slumped down in his seat as far as he could get without actually hiding underneath it.
My beet-red husband stood up and sat down in a flash to even louder applause.
As you, dear readers, can surely suspect, any trip that got off to a start like this one had to be good….
If you grow up with the name Jadi, it will be mispronounced. Jodi. Judy. Janie. Right when a community had it figured out, we would move. One after the other, a parade of grade school and high school teachers and college professors stumbled reading roll call.
When the second Star Wars film came out, everyone at the firm where I worked treated me to (insert uproarious laughter here) “Hey! It’s The Return of the Jadi!”
Perhaps it was inevitable that I married a German named Uwe.
Uwe is a common name in Germanic countries, but just about impossible to pronounce correctly for anyone else. “Ova?” my mother suggested. “Ewe-y,” grinned Dad; I know he did it on purpose.
We had a quiet wedding in Germany and a party Stateside a few months later. A restaurant catered the reception and a local bakery made the wedding cake(s).
I’ve written elsewhere about the awesomeness of German bakeries . For our party, rather than do a tiered and tired yum-where’d-you-get-this-cake-that-tastes-like-sugar-covered-cardboard, I wanted to honor the country I was marrying along with meinen Mann. I went to the best bakery in town and made a proposal:
I ordered six sheet cakes, all different. Yellow cake. Coconut cake. Carrot cake. Chocolate cake. Spice cake. And, yes, one white cake. Turns out I’m a sucker for tradition after all. The bakery manager dutifully wrote everything down.
“And,” I continued with the order, “I want you to write our names on all of the cakes. Wrong. Except for one of them. Here’s a list of names for each cake,” I said, and handed him a page of phonetics.
When we went to pick up those cakes before the party, the bakery let us know how much fun they’d had filling the order!
Twenty-three years later I recall those cakes with a smile – and wonder where the time went.
JayDee and Oyvay 4Ever!
NOTES:  Go to My Mother-In-Law’s Cookies for more about the tradition of yummy German cakes.  New Morning Bakery in Corvallis, Oregon still prepares their own baked goods and meals.
I always feel a little strange when I recognize it’s time to mark milestones and I have several to announce.
This is my 99th blog post.
I’ve posted in these virtual pages twice a month since I began way back in September of 2012. It all started with my husband’s suggestion that I establish an Internet presence….
My published books are fiction, and this blog serves as a good place to present excerpts. Potential readers of my books might want a sample of my writing and a glimpse of the human being behind the words. It’s also a place for non-fiction essays. I get to explore ideas and topics that don’t need to be transformed for novels. Posting every other week is great writerly discipline. I’ve never missed a bi-monthly posting date!
…. and this all began simply as a way to introduce my two novels Tsunami Cowboys and Broken In: A Novel in Stories. Both are available at amazon.com in book and eBook form.
It’s been a fun journey these last three years! Thanks to all of you for visiting these pages. I wish everyone the happiest of holidays. I’ll be back in the new year with an announcement. Milestone #2 is on the way!!!