10/2/2013 Banned Books Week

Dear Friends,
It occurs to me that I’ve been delaying writing the letter this week because every time I start I remember that I won’t be printing out and mailing a copy to El of the Two Knives anymore. He has died, and while I am philosophically good with that- he had a good life in may respects, many friends, did much good in the world; also his last few years, in the Harris Health Center, dealing with diabetes and other problems that reduced his options for self direction, so being dead is almost certainly an improvement for him, *I* am still sorry for myself that he is no longer one of the people I can think of out there as a resource. I regret not visiting him, seeing him more often. I understand that he saved these letters, and had them read to him when he couldn’t, but still, when it’s too late to be a better friend, you have to remember the friends that are still alive and try to be better friends to them! Remember to go share times with them, ask the questions you want to ask, tell them how much they mean to you. Now, I have to fall back on the metaphysical stuff that, while convincing, is still incredibly ambiguous and self contradictory. It’s like sending a letter without getting a return receipt. Perhaps I’ll see him in my dreams. But since he just died yesterday, I figure he’s busy. Lots of old friends to greet on the other side, and also frankly, I expect that moving is complicated, things to do and arrange and settle, no matter whether it’s two places here, or from here to where ever we go. So I wouldn’t pester him right now. Besides, we surviving friends need to comfort each other.
So now that I’ve got that off my chest, I suppose I can get on with telling you what I’ve been up to this week.

It’s been gorgeous fall weather this week, good cool evenings to sleep, and weather clear and in the seventies and eighties. The blue asters are blooming in the yard, and I’ve been getting harvests from my little garden. We actually had the corn from my 12 stalks of corn. We each got a couple ears- although they were small, they were as delicious as fresh corn is always.  We also have cucumbers, some tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and a melon coming, and the lettuce seed John started while we were at the war has come ready to transplant. No, it’s not enough to stock the pantry, but it does satisfy my urge to dig in the dirt and grow my own food. The stevia is blooming, so maybe it’s too old to harvest. We’ll see.
chard
We had a problem with the washer. Last week it wasn’t draining. Kat and I drained it, and turned it over and checked it using instructions from the internet. We checked to make sure the pump was turning (it was), and the hoses weren’t blocked (they weren’t). So we turned it up again, and it worked, but I’d called Fletcher’s where we bought it, and I forgot to call them back (I was waiting to see if it misbehaved because I wasn’t sure about it, and then I forgot when it didn’t.) So Monday the fellow came, took one listen and said the pump was dying. When he pulled it, there was a twisted safety pin inside, clearly the problem. (I have to wonder whether just taking it out would have done.) He says that if the pump had died, it would have taken the computer part of the machine and the whole thing would have had to be replaced. I am unconvinced that washers need computers, but that’s the way they come now. I’m glad I didn’t blow it out.
Wally and the guys came back Monday- they are currently building the doors for the pantry cupboards now down in Wally’s workshop, and will hang them tomorrow. Wally fixed the wall where the door to the china closet used to be, and fixed the ceiling where the leak was several years ago. He’s fixed the handle to the pantry door that no longer worked, and put up weather stripping. We’re getting all the little things- like shelves under the sinks, we’ve been wanting. I think the most important thing is making sure the barns are winter-ready. Now I’m going to have to redo the walls of the “dining room”, we’ll probably just paint them. But I do want to polish the floor as well. I doubt we’ll get to that until after the con.
I hope we have the money at that point. The last thing to get my mouth good is two crowns- which will be another $3K, and Willow’s got a couple to do as well. I had a small shock, I’m renegotiating my mortgage to get a lower rate and save money, and the title company found a lien on the house (but not the paper that said it came off). Now they’re waiting for THAT documentation (I checked, and the town says it’s all fine, but doesn’t know what the Title company wants), and warning that if it takes to long I have to pay extra for taking too long. For goodness sakes! I wonder what they’d say if I said “tough, forget it!” They’d probably add the cost of the title search to the mortgage, so I’d end up paying for it anyway. Seems to me that if I’m paying for it, they’re working for me, so I should get to say. If they’re working for the bank, the bank should pay for it. But I suppose, the one with the gold makes the rules. (That’s why the government is shut down, right? But let’s not talk about THAT! There’s enough of that on Facebook!)

On Saturday, we went down to Western Mass Pagan Pride Day. One year we made over a thousand dollars, this year only a couple hundred. But we had fun. I went to workshops, although I didn’t do any, and talked to people. Recruited a few people for the con.
The most interesting part of the trip was going through Keene in the morning. While the rest of the trip was clear and bright, the Keene Valley was in a fog bank. We were looking for a Dunkin Donuts to get  breakfast, and the GPS took us into an industrial park. We felt like we were in Silent Hill. If a siren had gone off, or the radio had gone to static we’d have freaked!

I’ve spent a great deal of time on the computer working on the con this week, but while necessary, it’s not interesting, so I’ll just say that the best thing was that it kept me off my feet. Anytime I am on my feet much, my foot begins to hurt again, and when I stay off it, it seems better, and it’s a surprise when I stand up and it hurts again. After walking around (except while in workshops) Saturday, I was down for the day Sunday.
We’ve been playing on the wii, and in theory that’s exercise, but since most of it requires standing on the wii board, and standing isn’t good for me, I’m not doing much of it. The funniest thing is that when you start up, the board weighs you, and I’ve been caught up in “how heavy are the clothes you’re wearing?” question (because it has a huge impact on whether the line goes up or down); I finally decided to just always say nothing, and it will be consistent. Then Monday it occurred to me that it was saying that I had 14 pounds to get to my goal (they only allow you 20 lbs. at a time- I suppose they don’t want to tell you “Only 133 pounds” until you reach your goal- or even 33. My actual goal is 180, although my initial “realistic” goal is 232- under the “morbidly obese/100 pounds over average” weight so I could get health insurance- I’ve talked to about a dozen companies and it always fails when they find out how heavy I am. They love that I am not on any meds, and never smoked, and insist they can offer me a dead. ONE didn’t say no way, they could get me a special rate of “only” $1600 a month for catastrophic coverage. Yeah right. (Guess who’s NOT unhappy about the Affordable Care Act, and has two thumbs? This fat chick!)
If I got down to 180, I’d be pretty happy. This may be based on how good I looked last time I was 180 pounds- and I was only 30 then, so I won’t look like that. But I’d look pretty good. Anyway, at that point I noticed that I’d lost 6 pounds. This is funny because I’d been thinking “normal fluctuation” and was still wondering if “low carb” was working for me. I’ve been “kinda” hoping it wasn’t so I could go back to my normal diet, but I would like to lose the weight. For one thing, most of my clothing is stained and needs replacing. It’d be easier to say goodbye to old favorites if I could get into smaller sizes.
I may not be doing it “right”- they say that you are supposed to eat until you are full, and won’t be hungry. I’ve been hungry more this past week than I can ever remember being in my life. I can have all the meat, greens and salad I want, which is great at dinner time, but I miss my breakfast oatmeal and the ease of a sandwich at lunch. I look at the leftovers, and the lovely fruit yogurt I can no longer eat, and milk and cider, and nothing appeals to me. I’ve made a “crustless quiche” with sliced ham for a crust, and that’s not bad, but it probably has led to the expected hardening up down below. I cast covetous eyes on the prune jar and look them up (about 5 per prune), and decide to drink more water, and cut back on the cheese. Oh well.
So anyway, I finally decided that 6 pounds in about 2 weeks probably meant the diet was working. Then I saw that the corn was ripe. Corn is about 15 per cob. (“Screw it, I’m doing a test!”) I had corn and milk and a potato, and ice cream. The point of this test is since I plan to have the occasional off-day anyway, let’s see how much trouble I’ll get into with one “bad” day. Two days later I’m back at 260, so one bad day can be really bad indeed, but I still think it’s probably worth continuing. I just know that I’m not going to stay under 20 carbs a day forever, and want to deal with that up front. But reducing carbs (severely) does seem to work. Let’s face it, in the last five years I’ve tried several reduced calorie diets, and on every single one I put on weight, with no reduction first. I can do this; I miss my potatoes, rice, noodles, & home baked goodies, but at the same time, I worry about my knees, it would be nice to be under 200 lbs. again, and at 2 lbs a week, I may be there in a year or so.
Now I’m thinking about other nutrients. My hands and elbows are beginning to ache- could be the amount of time I’m spending on the computer, but since it’s happening at the same time as the diet, it could be I’m missing something I got with the carbs. I should track it down.
Oh, and Willow found a cute thing in the store this week. A little quart jug of October beer. We love the jug, and were pleasantly surprised that the beer was good too.
beer

I am so suggestible, all the kitten images on Facebook have made me long for a new kitten, something orange, black or white. I love our cats but they are all grey or camoflage. Willow’s cat Mouse has been visiting a lot lately. I think he finds the house less annoying now that Smokey goes out. We saw them facing off in the yard once, and Mouse seems to have pushed Smokey off a stone wall- he didn’t seem the worse for it when he came in. I’ve been looking at the pictures of the cats available at the shelters, and sadly, they are all the wrong color (I want any new cat to be a different color than what we have), and too old. (I have found that there is less friction introducing a kitten, it knows it’s at the bottom of the hierarchy, and adult cats are more patient with a kitten than another adult. If it happens, it happens.

This week we’ve been getting in our first holiday presents (although with the china closet gone, I need to find a new Mathom Trove to store them in). I’ve been ordering Prince Valiant’s for Willow. Don’t worry about her finding out- she hates surprises, even in gifts. She’d prefer to anticipate. Also, since they’re used, I don’t feel guilty about reading them before putting them away. You have to keep an eye on them (they’re on her wish list on Amazon) because they generally run between $30-$50, although occasionally one title or another will be aimed at collectors and run $400-$1000. I get them when they’re $10 or less. Probably someone is just getting rid of an entire library and puts what looks like a good price on a used graphic novel. One thing I have noticed is that after I read one, I find myself narrating my own life in Hal Foster’s style. I always felt a certain kinship with Arn, who generally seemed to be about my or my brother’s age. Aleta and Val didn’t age, but that’s OK, they’re comic book characters. Also, even when reading the old ones, the rampant sexism doesn’t seem so bad (except the spanking), because it always reflects the world they were living in (or maybe the world they were written in),  just as we don’t ask them to not be devout medieval style Christians with medieval attitudes toward saints, pilgrimage or magic, why would we expect them to have modern views of gender rights? I’ll admit that I may have figured when I was younger that Foster was representing his views as medieval when I found them alien, but it doesn’t hurt the story any. They certainly had an repentant, and even playful attitude toward killing their enemies, and fighting.
I have been trying to watch Fight Club as it is such an iconic modern movie, and it shows a similar joy in men beating the crap out of each other. (I wonder if there isn’t some of that in the SCA.) I’m not sure I’m actually going to watch it all the way through, the characters are not in the least appealing.
This past week I’ve been listening to a course on Early Man (we’re all the way up to hunter-gatherers, about 10K bce). Yesterday I’ve started one on how sisters talk to each other (You were Alway’s Mom’s Favorite), and one on Evolutionary Psychology- why people act the way they do. I noticed that both talk about competition vs. cooperation. That must be in this decade. In the Sisters one the professor said that comparison is only a hair away from competition, and I think she’s got that right. I shall probably be insufferable to the kids as I explore these new ideas.
Another thing I watched was a movie John got from Netflicks Lost City Raiders, in which the ocean levels were rising, and frakking was the way to make them go back down into the middle of the earth out from where they were apparently pouring out. I had to wonder where they were getting food if most of the land was covered with water- have mountain tops suddenly become covered with friable soil? Oh, oh, and when they got the water in the mediterranean to go down “10 meters”, they were told they needed to go around the and do it to the rest of the world because the water was still high elsewhere! What happened to the straights of Magellen?! As an adventure it was barely adequate in a formulaic sort of way, but probably the worst science in a movie I’ve ever seen! It was painful. If you’ve heard of worse, do share it!
El and Tam
I think I’ll finish with a few more thoughts about El. He was part of the landscape of my world since I joined the SCA. He was I think, 6 foot four inches tall, and big as well. The most frequent comparison made to El was Rosie Greer (the football player who did needlepoint). The other image came from a full length, red, full-circle seneschal’s cloak he wore. Someone asked where El was once, and when pointed to him, they asked “behind the red tent?” “He IS the red tent!” He was a big guy.
When we were all using freon tanks for helmets, he had to use a 50 lb. tank instead of a 20 lb. tank for his. The only other use for that size was building ovens or cauldrons. He fought with a mace he called Mathilda, as one can when one only needs pound people into the ground like a tent peg. I especially remember a round in the Mirkfaelin Crown Tourney where Ælfwine was fighting El and they both got so hot and tired, they were essentially taking turns raising their weapons over the other one’s head and dropping it, not swinging it down. It was pathetic, and the marshals sent them off to take naps. Ælfwine didn’t wake up until the next morning, I have no idea who too El out. He never got to be king, or knight, because some of the knights objected to reports of him and his lady’s enjoying kinky sex. None of anyone’s business you say? This was back before when men objected to women fighting in the lists because since they were following the rules of chivalry, they’d HAVE TO concede to any woman fighter, because they couldn’t strike a woman. Well, he was the Principal Pelican, the premier Peer of the realm for decades. I don’t know if it still rankled years later. In my mind, stupidity and unfairness always rankles. But that’s over now.
He was part of a warband called the Hurlathing, based on a medieval fighting war band, but I think there were only three of them, El, Angus, and his brother Brak- or I may be confusing them with the order of the Southern Cross. Back in those days we tried so much harder to recreate our favorite parts of the middle Ages. I know I have pictures from Pennsic three with the Southern Cross in it, but can’t find any of my old albums. I’d like to be able to share them with all the other people who are mourning him today.
When he didn’t want to be The Seneschal, he had an alternative persona: Kay the Minstrel. You could only tell because K wore a certain amulet (and not the red cloak). He sang a lot, and told wonderful stories. He’d been around “forever” so I loved having him at our house, so he could tell me stories from the founding of the kingdom. He had a bookstore down in NY (the Crown Province) when I first joined, but then he moved up to RI, and I think was one of the founders of the Barony of the Bridge. He had a bookstore- Merlin’s Closet there, and his house was full of books too- ones I think he couldn’t bear to sell. We bumped into him when we went down to the Dragon’s Horde to get jewels occasionally, which was a little like a kid running into a school teacher at the supermarket- one expects people to be in their context.     He was also big in Fandom, which didn’t seem to jar. He was the one who came up with the idea that `there are only 200 real people in the world, the rest are all “extras” or backdrop. This can be shown because if you go to the SCA or Science Fiction conventions or pagan festivals, you see all the same people.’ I guess we all love reading.
I got to know El and the other Kingdom officers because my mother let me offer our guest rooms when, after events, people were looking for “crash space”. Since I had real beds, I got the royalty. That probably had a lot to do with my hanging with the movers and shakers right away. El was always a charmer, my mother loved him. One morning he was dropping Alfgar, Brigantia Herald, at the train station, and Aonghais ate El’s bacon. After that, for years, at camping events, I’d take El some bacon, and make sure that Aonghais saw it.
Elliot_Shorter_jason
Aonghais was passionate, El spent a lot of time and energy keeping him from doing stupid, if dramatic, stuff. I suppose I should mention for those of you who aren’t in the SCA that the Order of the Pelican recognizes those who work beyond all reason for the SCA. I guess I have said all I need to say. The trick is that when you should speak is when someone is still alive. Tell them how wonderful they are even if it embarrasses you (or them). Even if it inconveniences you. Lots of my friends on facebook have been mentioning funerals and family members dying and hospitalizations. Once someone is slipping in and out of consciousness, it’s really too late to tell them. While we often cause unintended harm, we do not know the good we do either, and only our friends can tell us about it.
Well, this is me, staying in touch.
Until next week,
Tchipakkan

It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out–it’s the grain of sand in your shoe. -Robert Service

“Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. The surest path to wisdom is a liberal education.” Alfred Whitney Griswold

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