Saturday, November 27, 2010

Traditional American Indian Pow-Wow Is No Disney Show

Had a rare chance, Saturday, to meet some real McCoy American Indians at their annual post-Thanksgiving Pow-Wow just down the road from Fort McCoy. The fort doesn't come up in conversation much, due to it being built during the late Seminole Wars. Maybe coincidentally, the only Florida-based Seminole faces I saw were on Harley-Davidson biker tee-shirts worn by tourists...

However, there was no lack of traditional costumes displayed in a kaleidoscope of prime contrasting colors, set off by home-made trinkets and jewelry wrought from metals, mirrors and glass. Feathers and furs mixed with leather and spurs, bound by intricately patterned beaded belts. Tassels and fringes, bones and bells decorated vests, dresses and boots.

Sometimes a mix of old with new caused a double-take like when a warrior rolled back a leather amulet to peek at a digital wrist-watch, or a basket-weaving squaw, cross-legged on a blanket, took a sip of coffee from a Styrofoam cup.

Hereditary roles of Chiefs and Princesses have been replaced, in large part, by democratically elected tribal I was told. The times, they are a'changing...

An adult raven-haired Ohioan, her hair plaited to drape at bosom level, recalled less festive times as the family odd-duck – all her sisters inherited red hair from their Irish/Indian parents. In the school playground the prejudices of the times tempered her into a strong independent woman. She is heard daily by drivers stuck in traffic and housewives watching the Soaps on television, in a variety of voice-over advertisements.. Her “Oxford English” accent would make a Cockney blush but she's not afraid to try - anything.

The folklorists reciting stories of bears and the great Spirit, or singers lamenting lost loves and hard times, were a prelude to thundering drums and chanting voices raised above the cheers and clapping of the crowd, following the silent parade of all flags: American, Tribal, Memorial flags wereborn aloft by veterans of current wars in honor of the warriors from many wars.

Quite amazing. The real McCoy.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tempus Bl**dy Fugit, eh!

On my way back from Thanksgiving dinner, with leftovers still to be consumed, this over-the-top display of colored-light-bulb wealth lit up the highway for all to see a grand display of conspicuous (power) consumption.
Am I getting older quicker or is the world spinning faster?
I guess next week it'll be time to display the Easter Bunny!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why Hardcopy Books - not Nooks - Will Outlast Us All

Its been an interesting writerly week talking about just about everything BUT writing, to writers.
The first session was at the invitation of Dr. Maureen Jung, a recent transplanted California communications expert, who's drawing poets, pundits and potential writers into the FWA network
The premise of the chat was: will electronic tablets take over the writer's world – or will hard-copy books survive. As a writer and purveyor of books over the decades I spent an hour, demonstrating with papyrus, parchment, rag and wood pulp why they have – and will - outlast plasma screens. I had no idea, until I saw the photos taken with my camera by artist/writer/builder and pizza-creator buddy “Doc” Heman Harris, how animated I become when talking.
And on Saturday (Nov.20, 2010) I joined a panel sponsored by the St. Augustine FOL and FWA Steering Committee discussing the state of modern publishing. It was guided by FWA NE-District leader and author Vic Digenti. Also author Tim Robinson and Writer/Publishers Mike King (ClearView Press); Bill Reynolds (High Pitched Hum); with Barnes & Noble ebook/Nook expert Brad West. Members from both St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra groups crammed the room, and peppered the panel with a lively Q&A session.
Stay tuneed to FWA...there's more to come!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Florida Does Too Have Fall!

Folks who only ever see sand, sea and palm trees don't believe the seasonal changes Floridians experience. But, facing half-an-acre of fallen leaves scheduled to be raked up, I'm a believer!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Starting Is Not For Sissies

A couple of decades ago when I wrote a boaty column for the Palm Beach Post, as light relief from chasing cops and criminals on the south Florida police beat, I was given the "honor" of starting the International Off-Shore Power Boat Races from Miami to Palm Beach and back.

Millions of dollars worth of boats with a crew of three were churning up the sea maneuvering for position, waiting for the pace-boat I was aboard to lead the pack and for the checkered flag to be lowered for the START me!

Earlier, writing an advance piece, I'd spoken with an off-shore driver who told me harrowing stories of crews breaking limbs as the hulls became airborne and smacked into waves – solid as concrete. He airily told me they sometimes dumped the guy overboard, in a life jacket, for the chase-boat to pick up.
“Saves time and gas.”he shrugged.

As our pace-boat picked up speed and I firmly grasped the pole sporting the flag, it flapped noisily and tugged for freedom. What started as a -- “ Don't go over the side” joke -- shouted by fellow news-jockeys bouncing on the slick vinyl stern seats, soon took on elements of scary reality.

The hull lifted and smacked with increasing speed as bow-waves of pursuing boats poured on the gas, inching throttles of mega-horse-power engines, forward. Noisy cracking flaps from the black-and-white flag overhead, mixing with shrieked conversations between committee members arguing about knots, distances, wind and time, whipped back along with stinging spray from our bow waves.

The flag and pole, once bravely held aloft and anchored by my 150-pound frame, wobbled and staggered as the pace-boat bounced from wave to wave.

White, and some pale-green faces, stared up at me as journalists and PR hacks jounced around. I mouthed the word HELP several times before fingers grasped my shirt, shorts, whatever, to keep me anchored aboard. Other hands grabbed the wavering flagpole dangerously close to the area where I tried to clamp it in what I call my “fireman-sliding-down-a-pole” grip.

Suddenly, as the white bones-in-the-teeth of a thundering fleet of throttle-gunning powerboats threatened to over-run our churning wake, the inaudible shrieks from forward were reinforced by a power-horn blast signaling -- START!

We'all collapsed in a heap, the checked flag was lowered, the fleet pounced forward and we were drenched in a deluge of crisscrossing waves which tossed our slower pace boat about like a ping-pong ball in a washing machine.

I politely declined the honor next year, to repeat my role!

This link MAY take you to a few hairy moments recorded in recent races


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Today is History - Tomorrow

Does anyone remember wooden radios powered by glass batteries? Money in the meter for gas or electricity...mail delivery three times a house-calls...the BBC Nine o'clock news before lights out, electric devices unplugged, doors bolted and so to bed.
In today's 24/7 world of several hundred television and cable stations available via cable or satellite dish, it's difficult to recall the era when BBC or Networks ruled the waves. Most everyone in the land knew the catch-phrase of the day or season, most could discuss an episode of a favorite show broadcast the night before, and most knew the current stars on the tiny Black & White screen.
For the life of me, if called upon today, I could not name one song in the top ten. For a million dollars, if asked to name Hip-Hop Royalty, it would have to be Eminem – the only one I know.
Its my personal belief the remote-control is a major cause of obesity, followed by addiction to FaceBook and its ilk which keeps lard-ass's glued to the couch or seat for days on end.
For the most part, neighborhood streets remain deserted of kids playing stick ball, kick the can, hop-scotch, rope-skip, tennis-ball-tag, hide-and-seek and a dozen other activities designed to blow off steam before the call to come home echoed from house to house.
All the above sparked by a comment in the supermarket checkout lane to the bag-boy stuffing 16 items into 16 plastic bags.
“What a waste. Why don't you combine some of this into fewer bags,” I ask, deftly tucking the counter-load into two handfuls instead of arms-full.
“In my day” (harrumph added) “we all had our own shopping bags. Walked or rode bicycles everywhere and were lucky to get one or two stations on our steam radio!”
“Steam radio? Wow! For real?”
Behind me a geezer using a shopping cart as a walker, turns a laugh into a cough and gives me a knowing look.
I'd like to be there when the kid asks his mom about that one..


Friday, November 5, 2010

It Could Be Verse...

It wasn't even a “Poetry Slam”, from what I gather, just the regular Thursday night session of poets reciting.
But the bare emotions displayed in verse have to be right up there with conversations overheard in a therapist's or psychologist's study.
Moving, raw, personal emotions aired in public for any casual spectator to tune in to.
Stories of infidelities and thwarted longings. Of pride and praise for a family raised and hopes dashed. Love crushed under a constant stream of abuse and scorn piled on the prime breadwinner of the family by an ambitious daughter and dissatisfied wife.
Stuff I'd normally only hear from close friends – he's or she's – when in their cups and inhibitions were set free by booze or dope. I'd warrant, more confessions are spilled in a bar than are heard by occupants of cubicles in houses of worship.
When I was finally dragged to a poet's night out, as a morale-boosting escort to a frequent recital cop-out, I was expecting "moons" and "Junes", butterflies and puppy dogs, puffy white clouds pinned on blue skies, rising sun rays lighting dewdrops on leaves or a green flash from the last glimmer of sunlight as the molten orb sizzles into the sea.
Not a laundry list of workaday woes, deep desires and tirades against everything from cell-phone usage to wars of conquest and assaults of corporate cash to buy elections.
Ginsberg's “Howl” would have felt right at home, inside the Gainesville university city Civic Media Center last night, after carefully stepping over and around recumbent figures of the homeless, They clustered in doorways and on the sidewalk wrapped in blankets, waiting for the benevolence of strangers to bring hot meals on the first cold-snap night of the winter of 2010.
Including, a poetry perfect tan puppy curled comfortably in the warm fetal cave provided by its new master, camped on the sidewalk.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Inspiration & Perspiration – Pen Mightier Than Sword?

A roomful of white-haired wannabe and real writers sat in awe Sunday, soaking up the words of a two-time Top-Ten NYT best-selling author telling them how she did it.

The 16-year-old - that's right, SIXTEEN YEAR OLD - writer who's still attending high school in Gainesville, Florida, has published two books (“Swordbird” and its prequel “Sword Quest”) which have received world-wide circulation and acclaim by children and adults. The first book, written when she was 13, made her the youngest best-selling author in the history of publisher, HarperCollins.

Her fantasy world, of talking birds who enjoy a chat and a spot of acorn-tea but sometimes have to take up arms to fend off evil, is her “Peace” story response to the New York twin towers tragedy of 9/11. She and her family, then living up-state, had viewed the city from the observation tower in the summer. Her book, she told a rapt audience, was inspired by that attack and a dream she about birds facing evil.

The articulate, animated, young writer reeled of a work and achievement roster which drew “aahhs” and “ooohs” from the mostly sedentary audience with grandchildren older than the speaker. Her poise, focus, and enthusiasm for all the tasks she has taken on from piano, math, science, ballet, psychology and sword-fighting energized the somewhat somnolent audience. It could barely contain itself, itching to pepper her with questions at the conclusion of her address.

Did I mention she was a seven-year-old who only wrote and spoke Chinese when she entered the United States. She has since translated the English text of her book into Chinese to reach HarperCollins' expanded market. And, between gearing up for exams to enter college where she plans to obtain degrees in biochemistry and comparative literature, she's preparing a sequel to round out the trilogy.

Hey ho...back to the drawing-board!

Nancy's website link