Sunday, January 31, 2010

Vita non est vivere sed valere vita est

At this exact time a month ago, I was in Chicago O'Hare International Airport preparing to board an aircraft for a flight to Poland, and I was aware that New Year's Eve 2009 would reveal a full moon. Now, looking out the window of The Apartment this evening, I have been watching the rise of my second full moon from beneath the sky of Warsaw, this one poised above the clock tower of the Royal Castle. If you believe, as I do, in all manner of phenonomena beyond the corporeal world, it seems like this moment has been meant to be since the beginning of time. It also must be, I believe, more than a coincidence that the full moon of January is called the "wolf moon" among the traditions of some Native American tribes.

If a shadow crosses your path ....

Sort of San Francisco Fan Club ends today, tonight, whatever time it is wherever you might happen to be. Including a blog operated by "Willie Boy," which I began about ten days before this one, I lasted for thirteen months.

To be honest, I cannot be honest about my opinion regarding these "personal blogs" beyond saying I think most writers / photographers should take a chance and go out and find an actual life instead of perching here. Anyway, to each his / her own. Thirteen seems like a good number to me to end this episode.

If you ever are in a mood to run a practical pistol course with a 1911 Colt .45 or the rapids on a river in a canoe, or to stand atop a hilltop in the midst of a forest near a river or a lake, look me up. Beyond that, semper fidelis and .... god, I am so very tired of those words .... take care .... there, those two words are far better.

So, then. If a shadow crosses your path, wave, because it might be me, having again strayed beyond the boundaries while strolling out and about in the territories between Mythago Wood and Neverland.

See you in the next incarnation .... maybe ....

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

View through the mist of time

It is quite easy to escape the boundaries of time when in a wilderness. Look up and see no trace of aircraft; listen and hear only the sounds of nature. It also is possible to walk down a street or to enter a building and to experience the same sensation, the same feeling, the same reality, the absolute actuality of having been and done and met and known before.

Once upon a time there was a letter

It amazes and puzzles me how a few back and forth words .... can set me on my way toward rediscovery of past pleasures in life.

Those are words I wrote a few days ago, and the same thing has happened to me again -- all ready -- only in a slightly different manner. I read a post about letters written during World War II by a well-known writer, Iris Murdock. The first thing -- or, rather, the first person -- who entered my mind was a not-so-well-known writer, Mildred Aldrich. She wrote letters, too, mostly of a different sort than those by Iris, during World War I.

Mildred was a school teacher, a newspaper reporter and a woman who began her own literary magazine dedicated to photography, music, acting, books and other arts. She left the United States in 1898 to take up residency in France for the remainder of her life.

In France, Mildred worked as a translator, made friends with literary types such as Gertrude Stein and wrote a few books of her own. I encountered her, I am almost hesitant to say, because of her association with World War I and my own interest in the study of warfare -- warfare then, now and forevermore.

Here, for you, if you are at all interested, is a brief moment with Mildred, while I take leave to quietly slip away into the mist of Neverland:

A Hilltop on the Marne

By Mildred Aldrich

Being Letters Written
June 3-September 8, 1914

June 3, 1914

Well, the deed is done. I have not wanted to talk with you much about it until I was here. I know all your objections. You remember that you did not spare me when, a year ago, I told you that this was my plan. I realize that you -- more active, younger, more interested in life, less burdened with your past -- feel that it is cowardly on my part to seek a quiet refuge and settle myself into it, to turn my face peacefully to the exit, feeling that the end is the most interesting event ahead of me -- the one truly interesting experience left to me in this incarnation.

I am not proposing to ask you to see it from my point of view. You cannot, no matter how willing you are to try. No two people ever see life from the same angle. There is a law which decrees that two objects may not occupy the same place at the same time -- result: two people cannot see things from the same point of view, and the slightest difference in angle changes the thing seen.

Monday, January 25, 2010

View from the street

The walk from the Grand Theatre, which is home to Poland's national opera and ballet, to The Apartment passes along Senatorska street. The Apartment is among those in the group of buildings visible about a block distant, just beyond the barbican, constructed in 1540 along with its adjoining walls to protect the "Old Town" which was Warsaw. It is a short walk, but made longer by arctic-like temperatures and winds on a late January afternoon.

Sherlock, Warsaw, the opera and THE woman

"Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point."
-- Sherlock Holmes to Dr. John Watson in "A Scandal in Bohemia"

The photograph I posted a few days ago of horse-drawn carriages below The Apartment in Warsaw drew a comment regarding Sherlock Holmes.

The comment was, to be precise: "I had a chance to see more of Fram's photos from his apartment .... how fascinating those horse drawn carriages so close by, it almost feels like one is in Sherlock Holmes' London."

My reply was, to be exact: "By the way, in reference to your remark about Holmes .... one of the central figures in "A Scandal in Bohemia," Irene Adler, before moving to London was the prima donna in the Imperial Opera of Warsaw. The present-day Grand Theatre, with the national opera, is two blocks, maybe three, from The Apartment."

Irene Adler was the only person, man or woman, to see through Holmes' disguises and to completely outwit him. From that story forward, in the words of its author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: "To Sherlock Holmes she is always THE woman. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex."

It amazes and puzzles me how a few back and forth words such as those can set me on my way toward rediscovery of past pleasures in life. I quickly found the short story, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” online at Project Gutenberg and re-read it.

Somewhat satisfied but hardly satiated, I looked for the Granada Television episode of it made in the 1980s and broadcast in America by the Public Television Service. Unbelievable. There it was on YouTube, in pieces, but almost intact, for me to watch.

Forty-one of the sixty Holmes stories written by Conan Doyle were adapted into the Granada series, with Jeremy Brett portraying Holmes. Brett did not merely play Holmes; he became Holmes. To those who watched the series, there can be no other explanation for the depth and manner of Brett's performances.

The series itself was the epitome of Sherlockian lore, culture, habit, addiction, costume and style, and was as true to the times and the characters as, perhaps, any television company is capable of producing from stories born of mortal mind and recorded with the rudimentary tools of pen, ink and paper.

Pause, smile, take a deep breath.

Before I get carried away singing the praises of Conan Doyle's brilliant invention, meaning Sherlock; Brett's brilliant portrayal of the original master detective; and Granada Television's brilliant production of these stories, I will retreat once more into the brilliant world of Neverland.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

View from the parterre

The Grand Theatre in Warsaw is home to both opera and ballet
Now playing is an operatic version of "Faust" by Charles Gounod

There is more than one way to sell your soul

"Many and many a year ago, in a kingdom not even close to the sea, I signed my name on the dotted line and, forevermore, a Marine came to be. (Recognize who I am sort of paraphrasing / plagiarizing?)

"It has been a few years since, on January 24, Capt. William "Hoppy" Boyd administered the oath to swear me in as a United States Marine. It was in the evening, in a hotel room. I will not bother with the details other than to say the event was witnessed by a Gunny (Gunnery Sergeant) whose name I have forgotten and by a high school friend who just happened to be driving through town on his way to boot camp with the U.S. Navy. He had knocked on my door, looking for a place to spend the night. That was the last time I ever saw him. He stayed in California after his discharge from the Navy, and he is dead now ....

"This date is as important to me as any other anniversary in my life. I mark it each and every year. In a sense, having been a Marine to the "core" while having retained my individuality is a "feel good," personal accomplishment."

Those were the words I wrote a year ago on this very blog to mark my anniversary with the United States Marine Corps. Those words will do for this year, too.

But, here are a few more. Most people are familiar with the story of Faust, the man who sold his soul in exchange for wisdom or power or notoriety or the possession of a beautiful woman or a few other things, depending upon which version a reader selects.

My personal reading has included two versions, "Faust," by Johann von Goethe and "The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus," by Christopher Marlowe.

In Goethe, Faust craves infinite knowledge, as well as his next door neighbor, Margaret, sometimes called Gretchen. In exchange for these things and for having the devil, Mephistopheles, serve him on earth, Faust agrees to serve the devil in hell for eternity.

In Marlowe, Dr. Faustus makes a pact with Lucifer to have the arch demon, Mephastophilis, serve him for twenty-four years in exchange for his soul. Wisdom beyond ordinary human capability is the object of this exercise, as is obtaining the presence of Helen of Troy as his consort when his end approaches.

These things enter my mind at this moment in time for three reasons.

One reason: Some would say joining the Marine Corps is making an accord with the devil. The point certainly is open for debate.

Another reason: Goethe's version of "Faust" recently came up in a discussion with Magdalena, who was in the midst of reading the work. As a result, a desire both to re-read the play and to see a stage production of it rose to the surface with a fair amount of intensity.

The third reason: Glance at the banner in the photograph of the Warsaw opera house.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

View from The Apartment -- Tuesday afternoon

The world -- the view -- is outside the window ....
Or, is the view actually inside the window ....

Or, maybe, the view envelopes the viewer

Outside The Apartment on Castle Square, the world went by, while inside The Apartment, it was possible to view the activity taking place just outside on television broadcast live from a camera atop the Taras Widokowy viewing terrace.

The daily view of Castle Square is worth thinking about and writing about. A photograph might be worth a thousand words, but a photograph cannot reveal the significance of the experience nearly as well as words. Through a photograph, it is possible to see what the viewer saw, but not to feel what the viewer felt or to understand what the viewer experienced. Words still rule.

The Apartment is on the second floor of one of the buildings at the far end of Castle Square. Perhaps, if you look very, very carefully, you might see hands waving to you from Neverland ....

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness

The Apartment: Look behind and beyond the second floor windows of the center building and you will find The Apartment that will be the home of Fram Actual for approximately the next six months. The open area in front of the buildings is known as the Castle Square. It is in the heart of Warsaw, Poland.

The Royal Castle: Look straight ahead when leaving The Apartment and there is the Royal Castle, once the home of Polish kings and later seat of parliamentary government. The original structure was destroyed during World War II and reconstructed in exacting detail a decade later.

The Column: Look to the right when leaving The Apartment and there the Sigismund III Column dominates the Castle Square, a landmark that has existed since 1644. The very air in a place such as this is life sustaining to those of us who are born with an instinctive belief that all of time is but a single moment, and that we are present within that moment. These photographs may be viewed full size.

And, from there ....

How many Americans pack a bag or two and go to live in a "foreign country" for a few months, then move on to another "foreign country" for a few more months, I am not certain. Possibly, it is more common than I realize. I do know that I never have met anyone who actually has done it.

Most people, other than those whose American-based company assigns them abroad or students who are attending school overseas usually travel with a tour group, and then return home to resume their "normal" lives. At least, this is the case as far as I know.

There always have been Ernest Hemingways, for example, who move from mid-America to Paris because they think (hope ??) the Parisian atmosphere will somehow assist them to write a great novel, or a Robert Louis Stevenson-type, who leaves his native British Isles to embark on an extensive walking tour of Europe to learn, to see with his own eyes, and to experience what he has read in books. In the case of Stevenson, as an attempt to improved physical health, as well.

In recent months, I have encountered people who think a particular city or country is magical. Those who know me understand that I find nothing made or even dreamed by mankind to surpass nature, and someday I want to return to a house atop a hill in the woodlands by a river or a lake. Before and until that time, life will be a search for the right location.

And, to my way of thinking, a person either carries magic within or does not. The magic, therefore, is not in a place as much as it is in specific people.

Therefore, I will live most of the Winter, all of the Spring and part of the Summer in cold and snowy northern Europe because my search has led to a specific magical person named Magdalena. In the summer, I will move along to hot and sunny southern Europe. Rumor has it that Italy will be the destination country. And, from there ….

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Forever is there for those who search

The Restauracja U Barssa, where New Year's Eve was spent enjoying an eight-course meal over a span of four and one-half hours, first opened its doors in 1853. As the bell tolled midnight, some few of us enjoyed strawberries in champagne as we watched fireworks exploding in the sky above the square from the second-floor windows. The plaza was crowded with onlookers despite the cold, winter night air.

The Duval, constructed in the 15th Century and a survivor of World War II bombings, once was owned by monks, but now holds a four-room bed and breakfast, along with the Cafe Same Fusy and the Tea Room Same Fusy, and an Italian pizza parlor, Na Prowincji, to the side of it. No, that is not Fram perched on the second floor window. He is yet another story higher, where he can almost touch the sky.

The run is under way

Where are these places? What city? What country, you ask? If you truly are curious, there is no mystery. Search, and it will be evident. Better yet, you, yourself, seek your own destiny and just maybe you will find what you are looking for, although you might have to range thousands of miles from the place you now call home.

Forevermore or Neverland or whatever you wish to call your idyllic refuge does not wait for you. You must slip the harness which binds you, and go to it.

Something special ....