Showing posts with label vacation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vacation. Show all posts

26 May 2016

A Question of Identity

by Eve Fisher

Amalfi Coast, © Wikimedia Commons
With any luck, by the time you read this, I'll be on vacation with my husband, taking a Mediterranean Cruise. I love cruises: I find it infinitely relaxing to unpack once, and then do pretty much whatever I want to do for the duration. I love the Mediterranean: the food, the scenery, the history, the artwork. I love vacations: it gives me time to think, the long-houred, idle thinking (sometimes drifting, sometimes racing) that I don't often have time for at home. This is the kind of thinking /dreaming / drifting that came with childhood and is one of the main reasons for nostalgia about childhood. Time. An idea. A thought. A question. And you're off…

And currently, I've been thinking about a lot of things: identity, mortality, friendship, relationships, because of the death of one of our very best friends, Frank Senger. He was only 61. A wonderfully talented actor, who appeared in (among other things) The Professional, Maximum Risk, a number of Law & Orders and Oz. He also wrote and performed poetry and performance art pieces. He was the best man at our wedding, 37 years ago, my husband's best friend, and my best improv partner ever.

Frank Senger
Frank Senger
Allan and I and Frank and his wife, Theresa (a wonderful visual artist), hung out well together: we talked constantly, vacationed, cooked and ate extremely well, hiked, laughed, watched movies and TV shows, went to art exhibits and performance pieces, and anything else that struck our fancy. Frank was a great friend, a great listener, a great person. His death was sudden, tragic, comic, and pure Frank: he was teaching an acting class, doing a death scene, in which he fell down... and did not get up... (A friend of mine heard that and said, "he'll haunt that theater forever - in a nice way", and she's probably right.) He suffered a massive coronary. We still can't believe that he's really gone.

Deaths are hard. Every time you lose someone important to you, you lose not only the person you were, but the person you were with that person. And the person they were with you... For example, whenever we all got together, sooner or later Frank and I would go into improv: Bad Kabuki Theater, Bad Greek Theater, Hillbilly Hamlet, and many, many others. I could be absolutely fearless with Frank, because no matter what I said, he'd catch it, play with it, tie a bow in it, and throw it back. I can't imagine anyone else triggering the Eve who did that fearless improv at PS1 in NYC. We'd gone to see an installation piece that was pure crap, so Frank and I started doing Bad Greek Theater, with Frank orating a mixture of artistic / political / social satire and gobbledegook while I was his Greek chorus, waving my arms while chanting, among other things: "Orestes! You've lost your testes!"

Allan... well, to Allan, Frank was his best friend and his brother. And Theresa... it's unimaginable what she's going through.

Monochrome head-and-left-shoulder photo portrait of 50-year-old Lewis
C.S. Lewis
By Source, Fair use,
https://en.wikipedia.org/
w/index.php?curid=7049156
Friendship is a great mystery, and only deepens the great mystery of identity. None of us will ever be again who we were with Frank, because that special chemistry only existed when we were with him. Not only do we not live in a vacuum, but we (literally, in all conjugations) ARE not in a vacuum. Who we are is dependent, in large part, on who's around us, and changes accordingly. C. S. Lewis explained it on The Four Loves:

"Lamb says somewhere that if, of three friends (A, B, and C), A should die, then E loses not only A but "A's part in C," while C loses not only A but "A's part in B." In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald's reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him "to myself" now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald." (p. 96)

And less of myself as well, because I'm also not large enough to call MY whole person into activity. Contrary to egomania and other common disorders, I want and need other lights than my own to show all my facets as well. I believe that's part of the reason that people, as they grow older and their contemporaries die, retreat into memory. To recapture not only their friends and family, but themselves. Because half of what we talk about with family and friends is the past, the things we did together. We reiterate, play back the past over and over again to make sure that not only we remember, but the next generation learns it as well, so that they can remember, too.

That's why we have things like history, diaries, Gilgamesh, the Iliad, and Icelandic Sagas. If you can't pass down the memories one way, pass them down another. Because when there's no one who remembers but you... well, that gets tough. And strange. I know. My parents have been dead for 16 years, my grandparents for over 30 years. I have no other living relatives. So I have no one to reminisce with about my childhood, not to mention the stories they told me about their lives, and other relatives' lives. Thank God for writing…

Back to friendship: Lewis also wrote, "Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival." (And God knows, as Emily St. John Mandel said in Station Eleven, "Survival is insufficient.") But I disagree with Lewis: Friendship IS necessary. It DOES have survival value. Art, philosophy, music, friends, lovers, family - everything that touches us, mentally / emotionally / spiritually, goes into making us who we are. To lose any of that is to lose a part of ourselves. To change ourselves. To gain any of it is to enhance ourselves.


“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, 1624.
John Donne is always right on the money.

R.I.P., Frank Senger, and all the people I have loved, now no longer.

Back in a week. Love to all.

30 November 2015

Scandal in the Bahamas

by Susan Rogers Cooper

I just got back from a wonderful vacation, a cruise to Key West and the Bahamas. As any writer would, the first leg was a quick trip to the Hemingway House. Met a few six-toed cats and got the grand tour. His work was always a little too “a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do” for my taste, but there's no denying he was bigger than life. I was on the trip with a friend I've had since we were in our teens, and on the second leg we stopped in Freeport and took a tour on a guided bus. There were ten other people on the bus, and at the end, one young woman said, “Let's meet tomorrow in Nassau!” So eight of us did. Have no idea what happened to the other four.
I'm the first to admit that I'm not great at self-promotion. When I started in this biz, I thought the whole idea was to sit at my desk and write. And, of course, cash the checks when they came pouring in. I had no idea I had to go out there and sell myself.

After twenty-seven years in this business, I'm still not very good at it. So, of course, I never mentioned what I did for a living to anyone on the cruise. Some people talked about what they did – one owned a hair salon, one an event center – but I saw no reason to bring it up.

But of course my friend, who has been a supporter for all these many years, decided it was her job to do so. The other six on our tour of Nassau were very excited about the entire thing, and basically wrote a book for me.

So if you ever see the title SCANDAL IN THE BAHAMAS, know that I was not alone in the writing of it. And when the movie version comes out, the premier will be in the Bahamas, of course, and we're all going to meet there for the reunion.

So there was some alcohol involved in all this. Come on, it was a vacation!

08 May 2014

Other Places

by Eve Fisher

In a shameless attempt to win a vacation, I filled out a survey the other day about past vacations.  It asked - among an endless list of things - for a memorable sight, restaurant, etc., from various cities that my husband and I have been lucky enough to seen.  And I decided to share some of them with you.

Herodion Roof-top Bar
Athens, Greece.  We were given a tip by a cousin to stay at the Herodion Hotel in Athens (http://www.herodion.gr/).  If you ever go, stay there.  Well-run, surprisingly quiet, and three wonderful advantages:
(1)  It's right around the corner from the Acropolis Museum.
(2)  It has a rooftop restaurant with a view to die for.
(3)  Every room (or at least ours did) has a balcony from which you can see the Acropolis. At night, with the Parthenon lit up, an appropriate beverage, the warm air...  you never want to go back inside...
Movie Tip:  (none of these are specifically in Athens, but...)  Mediterraneo; Zorba the Greek; A Touch of Spice
Mystery Tip:  Anne Zouroudi's Hermes Diaktoros mysteries; also quite a few Mary Stewart's (old, but well-written)

Florence, Italy.  We went there on a guided tour, and I'm not giving names because I don't want to get sued. We were NOT happy, because they ran our feet off, didn't listen to any suggestions (like can we stop to get a bottle of water or use the toilet), and basically didn't know as much as we did about Italian art.  Sigh. Anyway, of course they took us to see Michaelangelo's David, giving us a full hour or so to appreciate the masterpiece.  I was satisfied in about 10 minutes (so I'm a Philistine), and I went wandering around the rest of the museum (Galleria dell'Accademia), and right around the corner was a wonderful room that was full of discarded Madonna altarpieces:



I mean, all four walls were covered in these, stacked seven high, heavy beaten gold, with blue-robed Madonnas with heavy-lidded eyes...  And yes, discarded altarpieces - because in Italy, as the Renaissance came in, you wanted something a lot more modern than these hypnotic, incense-laden half-domes of gold...
Movie Tip:  "Obsession"; "A Room with a View"
Mystery Tip:  Giulio Leoni - The Mosaic Crimes starring Dante Alighieri as sleuth

File:Amsterdam canals in summer.JPGAmsterdam, the Netherlands.  Besides canals, bicycles, the Rembrandthuis, the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, etc., there is also my favorite activity in any foreign city, eating.  I always try to find an obscure one where locals eat, and one night in Amsterdam we lucked out:  a restaurant which was chockful of elderly patrons, eating and talking.  We sat next to a table of eight little old ladies who were gossiping over their wine and lamb with huge whoops of laughter.  I don't remember where it was - but we loved it.  The lamb was very good, too.
Movie Tip:  "The Girl with the Pearl Earring"
Mystery Tip:  Jansillem van de Wetering, the Henk Grijpstra and Rinus de Gier mysteries.

Venice.  I fell for Venice the way a teenaged girl falls for that sexy older man who everyone knows is wrong for her.  Including her.  But it doesn't matter:  the look, the voice, the touch, everything is intoxicating.  I still feel that way. Riding the vaporettos to Murano and Burano, not to mention San Michele (I like old cemeteries); eating spaghetti a vongole and minestrone every chance I got; chamomile tea on a rainy afternoon, overlooking the canals; the smell of the place, the feel of the place, the light, oh, the light...  Give me half a chance, and I'm going back there, and staying as long as my pension will allow.

File:Canal Grande Chiesa della Salute e Dogana dal ponte dell Accademia.jpg

Movie Tip:  "Don't Look Now".  (We actually stayed in the hotel that part of this movie was set in.)
Mystery Tip:  "Don't Look Now" (du Maurier), and, of course, Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti mysteries.

Well, there's a start.  Now, if only that survey will send me back to one of these places...





23 May 2013

Random Observations

by Eve Fisher

Update:  (This was to have been published on 5/9/13, but current events got in the way.)

I've been on vacation for the last couple of weeks, and I only got a chance to check in a couple of times, but all I can say, from reading my co-writers' blogs, is that (1) they know a lot more about writing than I do and (2) I've got to start writing more.  I don't outline - although I may try to start doing that; I don't journal about my writing - though I may start doing that, too.  What do I do?  Well, I try to write something every day, even on vacation.  (I keep a journal, just not specifically about my writing.)  And I try to pay attention.  I watch.  I listen in.  I mull a lot.  And I try to describe it, at least to myself.


We were on a cruise in the Caribbean, which we had won on our last cruise, playing the cruise lottery.  It was a great cruise, but then I love cruises, because all you have to do is unpack once.  After that, it's up to you when you want to eat, what you want to do, and if you want to do nothing at all, there's the deck chairs, the poolside chairs, the top deck chairs, the library chairs, and, if worst comes to absolute worst, your room.  And I like doing nothing, when this means sitting in a chair and watching the ocean and watching people.

And 1200 people on a cruise ship can indeed represent the entire gamut of humanity.  As opposed to the endless "People of Wal-Mart" photos, the cruise clientele range from the Felliniesque to Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and everything in between.  Every weight - which rises over the course of the cruise, as we all know - every age, every height, every nationality.  And once in a while, something unique.  Something that says, check this out:

The very thin Asian girl, who was with a very pasty older Englishman, who came to breakfast, took 2 HUGE pieces of cake, went to a back table, and was gone 30 seconds later leaving an empty plate.  (Obvious questions: Was the cake in her bag or in her stomach?  Was she headed back to the room or to the bathroom first?)

The relentless smile on the face of an Indonesian steward, which relapsed into an existential exhaustion any time he was left alone for a few seconds.

The old man who sat for hours aft every day, looking out at the wake of the boat, with all the hunger of Edward for Bella.


The monarchs of the ship, the headliner entertainment, a married couple, strolling around the ship doing their best to look stylish and hot and powerful and above all the hoi polloi who were their audience.

An older woman, a deep dyed glorious blonde, generously proportioned, lavishly painted, dressed in a rainbow, with a laugh that would have made Bette Davis come over and offer her a cigarette.  (Fun to talk to, too.)

An Aussie who assured me that I needed to make the trip to Australia sooner than later, because time was fleeting...  and later told me the story of his wandering life as we stood thigh deep in the Caribbean.

The last didn't surprise me a bit - I heard a lot of people's life stories on the trip, and I always do when I'm traveling.  Maybe I look trustworthy, maybe not; maybe I just look interested.  (Which I am.  I am insatiably curious, and I am always willing to down tools and listen to someone's story or read a book.)  Maybe it's because I'm a stranger and they'll never see me again.  Maybe it's because they're traveling, and they need to assure themselves of who they are.  Or, in some cases, they're rehearsing a new persona.  Seriously. 

Many years ago, I was fortunate enough to go to a writer's colony (one and only time, at Ossabaw Island, Georgia), and while I was there, I had a memorable conversation with a woman.  She was married, and it was the first time she'd been away from the family in years, and she was at first bewildered, then bemused, and then bedazzled by the realization that, since no one knew her there, she could be anyone she wanted.  For the first time, she could choose who and what to be.  (I'd already done that years before, but that's another story.)  We agreed, it was interesting, and she should pursue the opportunity as far as she could.

File:MalteseFalcon1930.jpgHow far was that?  Hard to say.  The flip side of changing who you are - running off and becoming someone knew - is what is called nowadays "The Flitcraft Parable" in Hammett's "The Maltese Falcon" - Mr. Flitcraft, who is almost killed by a falling beam one day and leaves his job, wife, children, everything, without a word and vanishes:

"He went to Seattle that afternoon," Spade said, "and from there by boat to San Francisco. For a couple of years he wandered around and then drifted back to the Northwest, and settled in Spokane and got married. His second wife didn't look like the first, but they were more alike than they were different. You know, the kind of women that play fair games of golf and bridge and like new salad-recipes. He wasn't sorry for what he had done. It seemed reasonable enough to him. I don't think he even knew he had settled back naturally in the same groove he had jumped out of in Tacoma. But that the part of it I always liked. He adjusted himself to beams falling, and then no more of them fell, and he adjusted himself to them not falling."

Or, in other words, you can run, but you can't hide, at least not from who you really are. Was Hammett right or not?  Can you reinvent yourself, or do you simply put on an existential wig?  Discuss, children, and we will talk more later. 


06 September 2012

What I did on my Summer Vacation

   by Deborah Elliott-Upton
 
 
The familiar prompt every student has been instructed to use on a September paper has been: What I Did on My Summer Vacation. To that, a writer would have to reply: What is a vacation?
 
 
I don't know a writer who takes a real vacation any more. If they travel, it's often for research for a work-in-progress or in search of a work-in-progress.
 
 
Forget not taking a computer as a way to force yourself into relaxing and not "working" -- it won't work. We'll use the cell phone's notepad, pads supplied by the hotel and napkins in the restaurants to scribble great ideas we won't want to lose.
 
 
One would believe a writer could depend on a good memory since we write vivid descriptions of details others may not notice or recollect as clear, but alas, most of us have indeed lost wonderful ideas that came to us at a time when we were unable to jot down a notation to jog our memory later -- or worse, not be able to read our own writing the next morning or remember what the cryptic message meant.
 
 
A vacation without writing seems impossible, so I thought I had a solution: I enrolled in a couple of college classes I assumed would aid my writing and keep me too busy to work on an actual project. I chose Philosophy and Psychology, figuring both would be a boost to my deciding what my characters might do in certain situations.
 
 
My downfall was having interesting instructors who encouraged discussion.
 
We watched films in Philosophy and discussed how the subject matter worked (or not) in today's society. Philosphy, religion and a director, writer and actors choices determined how the film "moved us" as an audience. So much for not playing my own What if game with those choices. My mind went into overload of ideas.
 
In Psychology, we learned why people may act differently from one another. The instructor brought a hypnotist to class and he gave a demonstration and answered questions. (Guess who not only had more than a few questions, but also volunteered to be one of the subjects just so I'd know how that felt?)
 
Both classes had discussions about those who lived under different circumstances than our own. Talk about wonderful research for characters -- both classes were filled with interesting characters.
 
The Philosphy class contained the usual suspects of college-age students and a mix of varied ages and backgrounds.
 
A biker with a gray beard who argued belief in God turned out to be a Viet Nam veteran who had returned to college on a full scholarship. I'm not completely sure, but from some of his opinions, I think he was a stanch Republican.
 
His counterpart was originally from Oregon and extremely Liberal in his point of view. One day he decided to load up the kids and his van and tour the country, ending up in Texas. He was an avowed atheist. He also professed a love for Bill Clinton, so I'm guessing he was a Democrat.  
 
These men were polar opposites and yet both had lost their wives to death.
 
The Oregon man had left his home following his wife's death.
 
The biker's wife had been murdered behind a convenience store.
 
Two men who had seemingly nothing in common besides choosing to take a summer course in Philosophy, had in reality shared the same pain of losing a spouse.
 
That alone raised my muse from her slumber.
 
The Psychology class was a mixed breed of fellow students. A young racecar driver happened to know my dad (also a racecar driver), ended up the following Sunday in my church which was a surprise to us both. A man who came from Uganda was pursuing a degree to help people coming to America like himself was soft-spoken and extremely polite. One would not guess he had been chased by lions. A young woman had returned to college to become a nurse after working years in a clerical position and being fired when she was late to work because she'd been in an automobile accident. Her change of career was unexpected, but had completely changed the course of her life.
 
Everyone in this class knew someone who had problems with bullies, abuse or self-mutilation. (An interesting fact I was surprised to discover are tattoos and piercings are considered self-mutilation. The reasons people choose to do these things to themselves was interesting and eye-opening.)
 
The Muse was wide awake now and not just whispering in my ear or tickling my mind with ideas, she was shouting: Write something!
 
So, I did.
 
Vacation? I'm not sure I know what that is any more.