Monday, September 18, 2017

Crime at the Brooklyn Book Festival

Annamaria on Monday

After the demise, after twelve years, of my beloved
 espresso machine, I began Sunday with a coffee at my
favorite local coffee bar.

At the MWA-NY booth, My friend Ann Aptaker--the chapter's organiser--and
I arrived early to set things up.  Members were schedule to sign books throughout
the day.

The BBF is the largest such festival I know.  It extends for acres--with hundreds
of booths.

Our booth was very near the elegant, historic Brooklyn Courthouse

Traffic at our booth was steady and enthusiastic all day.

Just behind out space was the main stage, where hundreds listened
panels of writers

There were book buyers galore

These people are listening to poets talk about their work

Along with my friend Alex Segura, I took my turn at the
last slot in the afternoon and signed many books,  Best of
all, I had time with my tribe of warm, friendly, talented writers
on a splendid September day.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sometimes, You Must Get Lost to Be Found.

-- Susan, every other Sunday

Jeff's Saturday post resonated with me more than usual this week--so much so that I changed my own post to ride his coattails piggyback on the resonance he started.

If you haven't read his post, Whose Life Do You Wish to Live, go read it and come back.

I'll wait.

It took me more than 40 years to embrace the person I am inside, and I had to go halfway around the world, and lose myself, to do it.

Iga castle, Iga-Ueno, Japan

Like many writers, I often felt like a misfit toy. I was happier in worlds of my own creation than in the real one, where I felt I never quite belonged.

I sat in my room and created adventures to replace the ones I lacked the courage to pursue any other way.

And then, in the summer of 2015, I boarded a plane with my family and flew to Japan on a research trip that would change my life.

The Great Buddha at Nara - even bigger in real life than I'd imagined.

After years of devouring mountain climbing books, I finally stood at the peak of one I actually climbed.

Summit marker at Mt. Mizen - my first Japanese mountain.

After decades of gazing in awe at National Geographic photographs of Japan's iconic Great Torii, I took my own.

The entrance to a sacred space.

In fact, I took a whole lot more than one.

A dream come true, and a calling found.

I had never felt so close to any place, or so certain that I'd made the right decision in writing about Japan. Wherever I stood, whatever I saw, the country sang to my heart and inspired my soul.

When the time came for me to go home, I watched the landscape fall away with longing, nose to the airplane glass and wishing desperately to return.

Me, watching Japan fall away beneath the plane.

The following year I returned--this time, alone. I screwed my courage to the sticking place and did what I never dared to do . . . I traveled the length of the country by train, staying in new hotels and thousand year-old temples.

I watched the sun rise over the rice fields of Shikoku:

Dawn in Tokushima

and the moon rise over the alps.

Moonrise in the old post town of Magome.

I hiked on the Tokaido and Nakasendo - feeling the weight of history where tens of thousands of feet had walked -- and wandered the paths of Okunoin, where 250,000 people lie in silent, peaceful graves.

Okunoin, Mount Koya, Japan

To my surprise, I never once felt lost or homesick, even though I'd never gone so far or spent so long alone. Each morning felt like a new adventure, each night the end of a lovely dream. The more I hiked, and climbed, and saw, the more I understood that this ... the life I'd been too scared to live, the world I'd been too scared to see ... this was the life that I'm supposed to live.

The gateway to adventure, and to home.

Instead of feeling separate, I felt a part of something, close to something, in a way I'd never been. I love my family, my friends, and my home, but I also felt the need, the call, to share this lovely country and its history through my stories (and through photographs, as often as I can).

Autumn at Okunoin.

I always knew I would love Japan--I've loved its history, language, and culture since childhood, and that hasn't changed. If anything, it's merely spread to my son . . . a generational love.

My son and me at Ginkakuji (the Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto.

What I didn't expect is that traveling there--a place I expected to feel lost--would leave me feeling found.

I'm not sharing this to brag about myself (or Japan, though if you like what you see, I do encourage you to go), but rather to issue an invitation to anyone else out there who's feeling lost, or scared, or powerless. The world is big, and wild, and terrifying, but it's also ancient, beautiful, and beckoning. Sometimes, you have to step outside your comfort zone to find yourself.

Not all who wander are lost, indeed. And sometimes, you need to get lost to find the place where you belong.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Whose Life Do You Wish To Live?


The other day, as I sat in a chic harborside eatery, staring out beyond an armada of luxury yachts across a blissfully calm Aegean sea, I found myself thinking of the meaning of life. 

Cue the violins.

I live on an island where temporal things matter.  Big time.  The island’s very existence depends on nurturing a sense in the hearts and minds of the hordes drawn there each summer that our very being is defined by what we possess or consume. The right table in the right restaurant, the right row of beach beds on the right place on the right beach, the right watch, the right late night club, the right bikini—or the right bikini wearer—all matter in the eyes of those who keep track of the things that determine your position in the governing pecking order.

Then I thought a bit longer.  About other places I’ve lived: big, medium, and small cities, farm and academic communities, chic apartment buildings and shacks.  They all use different measures, but inevitably the same dynamic is at work everywhere.  Perhaps it’s what you do, where you live, where you (or your children) go to school, what you wear, what you drive, what courses you teach, your publisher, what ranks or distinctions you’ve obtained, but in some way or another they factor into the calculations of those who keep track of your position in their particular pecking order.

And I’m talking now about decisions made once the broader categories of race, religion, ethnicity, political party, and gender have been resolved.

Let’s face it folks, we live in world where categorization is a fact of life.  Jeffrey the writer occupies a different position than Jeffrey the New York City lawyer.  Annamaria the chef, a different position than Annamaria the stripper. Caro the comic a different position than Caro the sincere (okay, so my examples aren’t perfect).

The bottom line is, to be truly free you must be happy in your own skin doing what you want to do.  There will forever be persons out there judging you by their standards, and if you invest in playing by their rules, you will end up living someone else’s view of your life instead of living your own.   

A word of warning to those who might think this is a curse of the capitalist class:  Anarchists can be just as ruthless—if not more so—in determining the status of their adherents in the “anti-isms” rankings of their disparate pecking orders.

As Davy Crockett once said, “Be true to yourself and you shall not fear from any man [or woman…other than Annamaria or Caro, of course].” 

Now back to staring out to see/sea.

Coronets please.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Bloody Scotland Flanuerette

I was very busy the week before Bloody Scotland and couldn't get there before this....

Obviously the Scots won the football. Again.
If we hadn't there wouldn't have been any pics.

Action packed action.
Well some men running after a ball. Slowly.

Simon T to Simon K 'Nae luck mate that's water.'

I think they were both trying to translate my wit and wisdom.

Simon K 'Stop right there Scotty. A quick fire round. The  past tense of  'dive' is.... errr.... 




Haylen is muttering under his beard, 'Are we getting paid for this? We bloody better be!'

Simon K pondering the question, Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift? Which one does the planet need least?

Searching for a really difficult question. 

Consulting one of last years panellists...

how many of these blondes can you name?

those two wondering...

what I am going on about.
 I was declining the verb to foutter.

                                               blonde 3 explaining the concept of a normal American..

me explaining the concept of thermal underwear to the californian three...

a famous crime writer with a tea cosy on his head

Another crime writer explaining why his pal has a tea cosy on his head...

some crime writers, a les paul and two microphones....
what could possibly go wrong

Caro Ramsay 15th Sept 2017