Dylan Marlais Thomas + The Blarney Stone

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

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

The evening did not go as planned. – Jadi

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

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

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

Two roosters singing at a microphone, isolated Stock Photo

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

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

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

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

Doesn’t this sound too good to be true?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Microphone Stock PhotographyMicrophone Stock PhotographyMicrophone Stock Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Birthday: 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.

 

The Animal Kingdom: 36

Flurry at Wilhelma Zoo, Stuttgart, Germany

Hard to believe, but today I give you Installment #36 of my epic blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. A glide glitters as it glides.
  2. The salon took over the salon.
  3. The warren warrants another look.
  4. The flurry’s flurry reflected on the pool.
  5. A huddle has no need to huddle!
  6. The dappled dopping dipped and dived.
  1. Glide of flying fish
  2. Salon of poodles
  3.  Warren of wombats [1]
  4. Flurry of flamingos
  5. Huddle of hippos [2]
  6. Dopping of ducks (diving)
Warrenless
Diving dopping, Tokyo, Japan

NOTES: [1] With a tiny range, wombats are critically endangered. Only 200 Northern hairy-nosed wombats remain. wombatfoundation.com [2] The ‘river horse’ is endangered. worldwildlife.org © Jadi Campbell 2017. 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 en.wiktionary.orgwww.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

The Trail Back Out is finished and available for purchase! In this collection of short stories, two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed.

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

 

Pour Wine and Oil in my Grave

I attended the funeral of a friend’s mother recently here in Stuttgart. I arrived early and sat awhile in the silent cemetery chapel. First, I lit a slim yellow taper in the entrance to the church.

Greek Orthodox monastery, Corfu

The family is Greek Orthodox. I’ve lit candles in lots of Orthodox churches throughout Greece, and once went to a church service in a tiny church in Thessaloniki that stands on a spot where the Apostle Paul preached.

I’d never been to an Orthodox funeral. Huge wreathes of white flowers bought by the families of her children were arrayed to the left of the altar. Candles in red glasses flickered around a framed photograph of Olga on a small stand; a cake in a white box and a bottle each of wine and olive oil were placed beside the photo.

The priest prayed and sang in Greek; he lifted the icon set on the casket and kissed it. Believers in the chapel crossed themselves at the right places in the text. Later, it was time to bury Olga.

A man played horn music, the priest chanted as the coffin was lowered into the ground. He opened the bottle of wine and poured it, in the shape of a cross, in the grave. Next (after wrapping his long black robes between his knees to keep them from getting soiled) he poured olive oil in the shape of the cross. He took the white box of cake that my friend had carried out of the church with her and, cutting it, spooned some of the cake into the grave as well.

We approached the grave one by one. When it was my turn, I tossed in a blooming flower and then a spade of dirt onto the casket.

The musician started playing Amazing Grace, which almost put me in tears. Some pieces of music transcend time, and continents, and cultures. In any language, for any generation, they bring solace and peace.

Then we went to a restaurant for the Makaria, the “Meal of Mercy”  that follows an Orthodox funeral. This one was a German/Greek hybrid of coffee, Butterbrezel (large buttered pretzels), cakes and Greek pastries. My friend went around the long table and spooned out some of that traditional funeral cake onto each of our plates. “My mother used to make this dish herself,” she said. “Koliva. It’s traditional; every Greek family has a recipe. I didn’t have time to make it myself, so I bought one at a Greek bakery.”

I ate the Koliva, a mix of sesame seeds, almonds, oats, ground walnuts, cinnamon, sugar, and anise amongst other ingredients…

I went home afterwards and lit candles.

The last funeral I attended was for my father.

NOTES: The wine is the blood in our veins and the oil announces the resurrection. Koliva is a dish used liturgically in the Eastern Orthodox Church to commemorate the dead. The cake is symbolic of death and the resurrection. Orthodox-death-rites. © Jadi Campbell 2019. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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

The Animal Kingdom #29

This is installment #29 in my blog thread for Bobbo, describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. The lounge looked longingly.
  2. The repetition repeated, over and over and over and….
  3. This is no school for scholars.
  4. The business busied itself sniffing out food.
  5. Why hurt a herd?
  6. The mustering masters moving through Munster.
I just had to repeat a lounge…. Wilhelma Zoo, Stuttgart, Germany

Answers:

Repetition member, Reid Park Zoo, Tucson, Arizona
  1. Lounge of lizards
  2. Repetition of ground hogs [1]
  3. School of carp [2]
  4. Business of ferrets
  5. Herd of bulls
  6. Mustering of storks [3]
Schools looking at schools, Xi’an, China
School kids crossing school, Nagasaki, Japan
One pissed-off herd member, Barcelona, Spain
Mustering home, Alsace rooftop, France

NOTES: [1] Also called woodchucks, whistle-pigs, or land-beavers Scientific American.com [2] Uwe took this photo during Golden Week, when everyone in China is on holiday. If I ever had any claustrophobia, I cured it forever during that trip! [3] Stork status: Endangered © Jadi Campbell 2017. 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.

 

The Animal Kingdom: 27

I present installment #27 from my blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. If you agitate the pandemonium you’ll create pandemonium!
  2. He cast the cast free.
  3. The murder murdered the afternoon quiet.
  4. A memory has very long memories.
  5. What a shock to find this nest nestled in the rocks.
  6. A mischievous mischief causes so much mischief.
Memory, Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Answers:

  1. Pandemonium of parrots
  2. Cast of falcons [1]
  3. Murder of crows
  4. Memory of elephants
  5. Nest of snakes [2]
  6. Mischief of mice
Nest member, Wilhelma Zoo, Stuttgart, Germany
A critter this smart could definitely cause pandemonium…. Loro Parque, Tenerifa

NOTES: [1] Cast is used for both bird and crustacean families [2] see The Animal Kingdom: 6 © Jadi Campbell 2017. 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.

Amsterdam

NOTE: I first published this post 5 years ago. I reprint it as a prayer for our world. —Jadi

The anniversary of 9/11 is just a few days away.

I was back in the States when the attack occurred. When I returned to Germany a few weeks later, I was in turmoil. I felt all the contradictions of my life. I’m a resident alien on another continent. I’ve been the target of instant hate when someone found out I’m  American. This only has to happen once to convince you that prejudice is awful. What the hell was I doing so far away from my own country? What was going on in the world, and could anywhere feel safe? It seemed like everything was getting sucked into a swirling vortex. My identity as a US citizen, as a foreigner, as a human being, came crashing down.

A few months later my epidemiologist friend Elena came to Europe for a conference. I took an unplanned trip to Amsterdam with her. Maybe 2 days away would give me a break from how heavy life felt. Below is the account from those 2 days and how they affected me:

Friday Buddha, Schwedagon Pagoda, Yangon Burma
Friday planetary post, Schwedagon Pagoda, Yangon Burma

“I people-watch as we travel to Holland. On a German train near the border, the train car is full of local residents heading home. An African couple talk over their baby. Another young couple sit by me with their own child. The wife’s exquisite black scarf frames her face. Her husband reads from a small leather bound Koran. Both of them keep an eye on the baby carriage. The rest of the car is full with the usual students, professionals, commuters.

An old man goes into the WC. Later the door slides open without his realizing it. He stands helpless, then fumbles at the door. We all see the prosthetic leg strapped to his upper thigh. Everyone looks away. The door slides open again and he looks up, stricken. I rise and go to the door and close it. When the door inevitably opens again a few minutes later, the man with the Koran closes it for him.

A cell phone rings. The African man pulls out his phone and answers, then switches to English. I realize they’ve understood every word of the conversations Elena and I have been having about global health issues, world politics, and travel.

The woman in the headscarf looks at me steadily. When she finally catches my eye she holds me in a gaze of tenderness and our connectedness as human beings. We see one another for a few minutes, and then the train stops and they detrain.

The train reaches Amsterdam. I’ve been here before and always feel as if I’m coming home to an old friend. We walk along the canal streets, and brick building facades reflect in the Amstel as it flows under the bridges. The Egyptian bellhop at the hotel asks where we’re from. “I love this city! You meet people from all over the world,” he declares.

In 2 days Elena flies back to the US. Later that morning I stand waiting to catch the tram from our hotel. A dark-haired woman at the street bus stop carries a backpack. I offer her my tram pass; I won’t need it beyond the central train station. She thanks me, but says she’s heading home. She’s an Israeli airline stewardess, in Amsterdam for a few days’ holiday.

“I live in Tel Aviv, and I’m afraid to go out of my house,” she tells me. “Everyone is scared of more terrorist attacks there. The situation is out of control.” I listen to her and say, “The rest of the world says, ‘just make peace!’ If only it were so easy.”

Once I’m on board my train I read a Newsweek, then dive back into a novel. The quiet man next to me asks in English if this train stops at the Frankfurt airport. I offer him the magazine. We begin to talk: he is Iranian, in Germany for an international banking and finance conference. He lectures at the University of Cardiff. His wife is a dentist, he tells me. They live in Britain and go back to Iran, to their home in the northeast by the mountains at the Afghani border, each summer for vacation.

He lifts the suitcase at his feet and sets it on his lap. Opening it, he pulls out framed photographs of 2 smiling boys. “These are my children.” We discuss their names, their ages, their personalities. At the airport station he leaves for his flight, and I wish him a safe trip home.

The woman sitting across from us changes trains with me in Mannheim. We stand shivering in the evening air on the platform. She is a Dutch physical therapist, doing an apprenticeship in Munich. She asks what I think of Holland.  We talk about the coffee shops. I mention the small scale that guides decision-making in her country. I give her my leftover Dutch coins and she buys the tram pass from me.

Late that night I finally arrive home. In the space of 48 hours I touched on what seemed to be the entire planet. And I didn’t learn the names of any of the people who talked to me.

Travel isn’t just seeing and exploring other countries and cultures or the threads that weave those peoples’ histories with the present. Travel is the journey we make every day into other people, other lives, other ways of being and thinking and feeling.

Travel is about the interconnectedness of us all. Each person with whom we interact leaves behind traces that can change the world. Travel is about holding onto hope.

A part of me remains in every place I’ve ever stood. My image was impressed in a snow angel I made up in the Arctic Circle, which vanished years ago. But who can say if some part of my spirit still wavers there like the Northern Lights? Or in my interactions with all those people on the trains between Stuttgart and Amsterdam? I don’t know…. but we should live as if every act matters, as if choosing to love and be open to the rest of the world and each other can transform us.”

Bagan, Burma

NOTE: This post originally marked my first year of blogging. I’m still at it, 6 years later. Thanks for your support.  — Jadi © Jadi Campbell 2013. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. Uwe’s photos of our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

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

This Post Is About Soccer. What Else Could It Be About?

It’s that time again: the World Cup. In honor of the season, I give you 3 posts that (along with a motley bunch of other stuff) mention Fußball, Pink Floyd, a hotel from hell, bar none the largest and greatest party I’ve ever been to, and one damned good pizza.

Soccer, Religion & Pink Floyd

The H(ot)ell in Dubrovnik

The Year the World Came to Party

Let the games begin and may the best team win!*

NOTES:  *I live in the home country of the current world champions so I’m rooting for the German team. With that said, I really enjoy watching those scruffy Icelanders. All participants should bring this much joy. **Uwe’s photo of a female Brazilian fan is the most clicked-on photograph he’s ever taken, on my blog or his. All text © Jadi Campbell. All photographs © Uwe Hartmann or Jadi Campbell. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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

The Vagina Monologues

I’m honored to post this advertisement for The Vagina Monologues as presented by NEAT (New English American Theater) in Stuttgart. For two years I appeared on stage with real actresses and actors, women and men engaged and passionate about ending violence against women and children. This year I’m Stage Manager in order to remain involved in any way I can to support this important cause.

Wherever you are in our world, please support and pass the word about V-Day activities! —Jadi

Stuttgart Vagina Monologues: Kulturwerk Ost

NEAT is proud to be presenting Eve Ensler’s iconic The Vagina Monologues. All proceeds benefit local women’s crisis centers in the Stuttgart area. Please see descriptions of our beneficiaries on their Facebook page!

Funny, moving, and most of all, thought-provoking, The Vagina Monologues is a play that has been breaking down walls for the last 25 years. The monologues are a wonderful mix of well written human experiences and local stories of survival in today’s world. This year’s theme, resistance, is punctuated in the daily headlines we read.

Please see our two other performance dates- on February 15 at Theater am Olgaeck, and February 25 at Kulturwerk Ost-all in Stuttgart!

The Animal Kingdom: 20 — HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Happy New Year, Everyone!!! My gift to you is Installment #20 from my blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. Man, a flamboyance is flamboyant!
  2. See the run run.
  3. Is a zeal zealous?
  4. I saw a rainbow rainbow!
  5. The route kept to the route.
  6. Did you find the bazaar at the bazaar?

Answers:

Rainbow part, Khao Yai National Park, Thailand
Rainbow part, Khao Yai National Park, Thailand
Rainbow part, Khao Yai National Park, Thailand
  1. Flamboyance of flamingos
  2. Run of salmon [1]
  3. Zeal of zebras [2]
  4. Rainbow of butterflies
  5. Route of wolves (on the move)
  6. Bazaar of guillemots [3]
Flamboyance, Wilhelma Zoo, Stuttgart Germany

NOTES: [1] Bad news for salmon populations worldwide. This website’s table says it all: www.stateofthesalmon.org [2]  The status of zebras is mostly positive. zebrafacts.net [3] I had to look this one up: the guillemot is a seabird. © Jadi Campbell 2017. 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.