Travel Thursday: A Redhead To India

Co-written; Emily wrote her parts. . . though she never saw the finished product. . .


This was it. She would never find another place as amazing, as beautiful, as. . . all-enclosing Nirvana as this. Not that she was feeling any Buddhist inclinations right now, far from it; it was her own special brand of heaven. The amazing artistry of the sculptures, the age of the buildings, the improbability of her being here, and most of all the subject of the visions in front of her. . . if it could be said that her mind and soul were having orgasms, she would heartily agree that this was such a situation. And her body felt as into it as if she was being touched in all her most tender places as well. . . it was truly a completely encompassing experience.

I had once described Khajuraho as the pop-up book for the Kama Sutra, to general hoots from the less stodgy members of the archaeological and historical community. Legend has it that when the moon god saw the young maiden Hemavati bathing in a river–gods allowed to be peeping Toms, of course–her beauty was such that he descended to earth to engage in a passionate affair. Before his return to the celestial realm, he swore she would soon bear a son who would one day erect a great temple to celebrate the beauty of their divine love.

Kinda story that gets you right there, huh? No, not there, higher. . . well, there too. In fact, not one but eighty-five temples were built, though only a very few of them featured exquisite sculptures, right on the outside walls, of men and women joyfully engaging in the most intimate and erotic of arts.

So you can understand my interest in it, as well as any sensual redhead who’d ever heard about it.

By the end of the fifteenth century the temples were abandoned, quickly hidden deep in thick jungle, until their accidental discovery in 1838. But only twenty-two remained, which made me wonder, considering all the variations of sex that survived, what might have been on those lost ones. . .

She found one panel that particularly entranced her, and she quickly put her hands in her pockets of her jeans–not easy, considering how tight they were–to keep from playing with herself–in public, this time–as she allowed her mind to float away and picture herself in the scene. . .

I came around the corner and instantly spotted the redhead, who seemed to be blushing from more than just the sun on her pale skin. I could barely see more than just her profile, but still thought he could spot a gorgeous blue eye above a slightly chubby cheek. And of course that amazing red hair  . . . and she certainly seemed to be in the right place; I could easily picture her up on the stone, a celestial maiden pouting and posing while acting out every page of the Kama Sutra. . .

Going back to my personal project of photographing every square millimeter of every building on the site, I nevertheless found time to observe her, wanting to see her walk, wondering just how beautifully she moved in those tight jeans. . .

And I was already thinking of ways to shoot her against the sculptures. . .

Unbeknownst to me–so she thought, anyway–Emily was keeping an eye on the guy with the camera, because he seemed more interested in the sculptures than her. Howz that for an ego? Sheesh. Still, if he was some kind of expert, taking photos for his thesis or something, it might pay to hang around and learn something. . .

And then I turned, grinned at her, and took her photo.

She laughed. That’s better. . . like I had any doubt! Wow, that made me inordinately happy. Now I owe him one. . .

Having gotten my point across, whatever that point might be, I went back to shooting the sculptures, waiting for her to make the next move.

Which she quickly did. “Hi, I’m Emily.”

“Really? You don’t look like one.”

Big smile. “I was hoping you’d say that. What name would you give me? Colleen?”


“Even better! Now then, tell me about this place.”

I noticed she didn’t ask for my name, but didn’t bother with that as I went into professorial mode, telling her about the Chandella Dynasty and so on, while I enjoyed staring at her incredibly cinnamon-colored hair.

But if I expected her not to notice, she proved herself more observant than I’d thought. “Like it?”


“Good. . .”

“The sun on a brunette’s hair looks red. The sun on a redhead’s hair looks like Heaven on Earth. . .”

“You sweet talker. . .”

Before either of us knew it we were sipping tea in the shade–after I made sure to check where I’d left off on the photos–clueing each other in on what we were up to here. She told me she was basically traveling around the world, and liked it here so much she wanted to learn the local seductive dance. I wasn’t sure if dancing was what she had in mind, considering the statues, but I cut her some tight-fitting slacks, to use a local idiom. It helped her cause that a ten-day festival of dancing performed on the temple grounds was currently underway.

“I’m on a crash course to learn enough to at least tell what moves they’re doing, if not actually join in.”

“Because you’d fit in so well.”

Impish grin. “Can’t you tell by now that I’m the standing-out type?”

“Of course. You’re a redhead.”

She rolled her eyes, but giggled too.

“Want to go see some more sculptures?”

“Surely. I haven’t seen stone people fucking for a while.”

“You do know only about ten percent of the sculptures are sexual?”

She waved that away with a hand as she got up and led the way back to the temples. “Not interested. If it ain’t dancing’ or fuckin’, don’t bother me.”

“And here I thought you were a virgin.”

“You did not!“ She stopped in her tracks, turned to look at me, saw my big grin, and kept going.

“Now that you are learned and most experienced,” I laughed, “does that imply you have to give yourself to the first man who propositions you?”

“Oh, no indeed,” the playful redhead replied in the same vein, though you could tell she wanted to giggle. “Now that I know what it is all about, I shall be most discriminating indeed. Even discerning. . . possibly particular.”

“Nice word power.”

“And I certainly wouldn’t want to get you jealous. . .”

“What was your name again?”

“Ouch!. . . hey! You haven’t told me your name yet!”

“I was wondering when you’d get around to asking. I didn’t think you were that particular.”

“I just said I was!” This time she did giggle. “I almost feel like I’m back in London, with all those punkers coming on to me. You’re smoother, though. Thanks for that.”

“You’re welcome. . . I think. You live in London now?”

“For a while, before I went back to wandering. I miss it some­times, especially the coolness and the fog. I do love the fog. It makes everything very mysterious and soft-edged. Here the sun is so hot and strong it seems to expose every tiny detail, illuminating things that would perhaps be better left hidden.”

“Ugh, last thing I need in my life is another mysterious chick!”

“Deal with it!” she laughed. “And that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to look at other possibilities, you swine. As a redhead, I’m allowed to get jealous.”

Instead of the appropriate “You wish, you hypocrite,” I kept to her mood with “What happened to innocent until proven guilty?” I even put an extra whine into it to amuse her.

“Wrong country, bub. Could you reach into my backpack and pull out my sunblock?”

“Good idea. Redheads don’t tan, they fricassee.”

“Yes, my dermatologist says redheads are dry and easily irritated.”

“Still talking about your skin?”

She made a face at me, but had to laugh at how perfectly I’d made that work.

Unfortunately by the time we got back the tourist gangs had arrived, though we did manage to worm through them until we arrived at a place where a not-bad-looking blonde was gawking up at a particular sculpture in puzzlement, while everyone else was wearing a combination of amused, amazed, and aghast.

Puzzled herself, the redhead looked up at what everyone else was staring at, no doubt a particular sculpture the tour guide had pointed out. It took her a while, but finally she figured it out, if her laugh meant anything. “That’s clever! These guys sure knew how to slice up some stone.”

The blonde next to her suddenly gasped as she finally understood what everyone was talking about, her hand covering her mouth in the classic involuntary gesture of pretend innocence. Turning her head away, she looked at us in confusion, then despite herself looked back. “What in the world. . .”

“What did you expect to see on this stop on your tour?”

“Well, temple carvings.”

“Here they are.”

“Don’t leave much to the imagination, do they? Oh my gosh, three. . . four together! And right in the open, where everyone can see! I wonder what kind of mind it takes to think of such things!”

“People who think of nothing else!” the redhead laughed, enjoying herself. She could easily imagine herself living in those times, relaxing all day except when being interrupted by talented practiced men for some amazing sex.

And those who want to carve me, immortalize me, of course.

The thought was so pleasant that she led me over to a side where there was no crowd and posed in front of the carvings, trying to imitate the positions behind her with her dancer’s body. . . alone, of course, without the aid of males.

That’s okay, done that before. . . am I blushing?

“What are you thinking about that’s making you blush?”

Answers that question. “Guess!” she snapped.

“Yeah, I know that, but which one in particular?”

Her blush grew, so she turned away, anything to keep me from seeing it. . . and saw something that made her blush even more, though she sounded incredibly delighted as she squealed, “That monkey’s trying to join that three-way! Get a photo!”

That told me all I needed to know about her. . .

“I wonder if we’ll ever find out exactly why they carved all these beauties.”

She sounded so wistful I knew there was nothing I could say to equal her state of mind. The guide, however, was just coming around the corner and couldn’t resist showing off, of course. “One theory was that men who came would see these carvings, get their desires out of the way–”

No one around here will use the word “masturbate” or any version thereof, she realized.

“–and be free and pure when they approached their god’s temple.”

“Kinda like porn today,” I deadpanned, which made the redhead giggle.


Poetry Tuesday: Wanderer’s Night Song

In honor of finally finishing the Lost Girl binge today–though I may watch the whole thing again next year when season 5 ends–here’s a Goethe piece with an appropriate name, considering the show’s (kinda) big baddie.

To every hill crest
Comes rest.
In every tree crest
The forest
Scarcely draws breath.
Each bird-nest is hushed on the heath.
Wait a bit; you
Soon will rest too.


Book Review: The Woman Who Would Be King

It’s been far too long since I did a book review, despite so many millions of words I’ve read in the past few months. Mostly I’ve been perusing the science-fiction and mystery tomes–what else is new?–but the first of what will probably be many literary deconstructions–shut up–will be renown Egyptologist Dr. Kara Cooney’s The Woman Who Would Be King, a biography on what’s really the only female pharaoh in history, Hatshepsut.

First disclaimer: I was given an advanced copy, though not the final proof, with the understanding that I would give an honest review; insulted they even have to ask, but okay.

Second disclaimer (Ha, weren’t expecting that one, were ya?): I know the author, and have listened to her lectures about half a dozen times, plus I have her entire Discovery Channel series on my tablet. Those who regularly read this blog–if such animal exists–might remember I refer to her as a giggly teenager with a giant brain, at least in person, and to a smaller extent in her lectures. I would imagine most stolid archaeologists and historians tend to take her less seriously because of her playful demeanor and frequent asides–often to mention how much she loved the latest sci-fi movie–but for those very same reasons she’s a hit with us who don’t make the study of ancient Egypt our lifelong passion. In fact, I might even go as far as to consider her Egyptology’s version of Carl Sagan or Stephen Hawking–or nowadays Neil DeGrasse Tyson–though obviously not to the same acclaim or fame, in bringing what’s generally considered a stolid subject, at least when historically accurate, to the masses.

The reason I wrote all that is so you’ll understand when I say she writes the same way she speaks.

One more thing. A few months ago I was passing time in the UCLA library before an event and happened to come across Social Life in Ancient Egypt, by the one and only Flinders Petrie. For a book published in 1924, it was in amazingly good shape, but more to the point, it wasn’t another dry, facts-only tome on buildings or leaders. Dr. Cooney takes this to another level with an almost conversational style, even moving into supposition a few times, though she makes sure to point out when that happens.

Okey-dokes, on to the review. If there’s a running theme in this biography, it’s how previous Egyptologists had given Hatshepsut a hard time, jumping to conclusions about her character. Though there are a lot of women in this discipline–and a lot more coming, if the UCLA grad students are any indication–it wasn’t that long ago that you’d only find older white guys writing the books and giving the speeches. So as she mentions the belittling from previous generations of critics who’d thought of Hatshepsut as a power-hungry witch, taking her nephew’s crown for herself, Dr. Cooney defends her girl. On the other hand, she also states that some later historians overcorrected, turning the relatively young leader into a feminist icon, doing everything selflessly in order for her nephew to be a successful ruler, once he came of age. As with most human endeavors, the truth is no doubt somewhere in between.

The book is divided into a relatively small amount of chapters, telling the story of this enigmatic historical figure chronologically, starting with what life would have been like for her growing up as the daughter of an Egyptian leader. Like Petrie’s work, there’s a lot of stuff about everyday life that I’m sure most people would never think of asking. She was groomed to marry the next pharaoh, who was actually her brother, only to find him too sickly as a teenager to do much ruling, finally dying before they could produce a male heir. He did, however, have a son with another of his wives/concubines, thus continuing the familial line barely started by the previous ruler. This put her position of power, and the purity of her father’s lineage, in danger of going away, but with the respect she’d earned–and apparently plenty of money–she managed to become the baby king’s regent. Over time she amassed more power, basically becoming co-pharaoh before pretty much taking over the whole thing, to the point where she had to switch her identity to male, at least in the official records in the walls of the temples and obelisks.

Dr. Cooney’s specialty is the reuse of coffins, but if there’s another subject on which she frequently lectures, it’s the history–or is that herstory–of powerful women. To me the most telling line was “Hatshepsut has the misfortune to be antiquity’s female leader who did everything right.” She mentions how few of them there were, referencing one of my favorites, Boadicea, as well as Empress Lu–never heard–and of course Cleopatra. She does mention, however, that Hatshepsut was the only female ruler to rise to power without the use of assassination or coup, all the more impressive doing it during a time of peace and prosperity. Interestingly she adds, “Hatshepsut’s story can help us appreciate why authoritative women are still often considered to be dangerous beings who need to be controlled, monitored, contained, and watched.”

Dr. Cooney describes Hatshepsut as practical and elegant, not devious and cunning, adding a term that I like very much: “She was intelligently ambitious. . . she really had been bred for palace politics.”

A couple of examples of her famous irreverent nature: “Egyptians were not troubled by the idea of burying a king in an incomplete tomb–that was the last guy’s problem.” Even the notes that take up the last quarter or so of the text contain her witty, as when she starts off with, “What Egyptologists put in print is often different from what they might say at the bar among friends.” Reminds me of that interview Dr. Cooney gave where she mentioned how Egyptologists like to get together and drink. . .

One more note on the text: about two-thirds of the way through, if you count the notes at the end, there’s a long description on the removal of the organs from the dead king/queen’s body. You have been warned; I wish I could UNread it.

Okay, considering what I told you about Dr. Cooney to begin this, it’s her dedications that show you exactly what I mean about her bubbly personality; in fact, it might have been my favorite part. First she notes that she began writing this soon after the birth of her son, and finished at his fourth birthday. “No woman should write a book during those years.  No one.” Then she talks about her women in power class at UCLA, and how the students would soon be reading this book, “whether they like it or not.” Then, to completely cement her irreverent attitude, she tells that she wrote most of this book at a Mexican food joint, and lists a few of the workers who no doubt kept her table full of not just computer and books, especially on Taco Tuesday.

Guess this proves she really is from Texas. . .


Poetry Tuesday: Fire times four

Thomas Campion (1567-1620)

Fire, fire, fire, fire.
Loe here I burne in such desire
That all the teares that I can straine
Out of mine idle empty braine
Cannot allay my scorching paine.
Come Trent, and Humber, and fayre Thames ;
Dread Ocean, haste with all thy streames :
And if you cannot quench my fire,
O drowne both mee and my desire.

Fire fire, fire, fire.
There is no hell to my desire.
See, all the Riuers backward flye,
And th’ Ocean doth his waues deny,
For feare my heate should drinke them dry.
Come, heau’nly showres, then, pouring downe ;
Come you that once the world did drowne :
Some then you spar’d, but now saue all,
That else must burne, and with mee fall.


Travel Thursday: Victorian Canada, part 3

Back at the hotel the next morning, she woke up to see me juggling oranges, which no doubt made her wonder if she was still asleep. It didn’t last long, as my arms got tired and I kept hearing that annoying circus music in my head. Besides, it was more fun watching her yawn and reach for her hair. “The Magic Braid,” I sighed happily as she began getting her do ready for the long day. Waiting for her to finish with that, my next step was to toss her the sunblock. “Butter up, Whitey.”
Smiling, she did so, for once not annoyed as I took some photos of her creaming herself, so to speak.
After breakfast I immediately took her to another place I knew she would like.
“This is the museum, right?”
“Yep. See that statue? I impressed my high school teachers big-time by mentioning it was a perfect example of gestalt.”
Looking at the semi-abstract carving of what she figured was a man, a woman, and a child, she noticed how their arms were not just intertwined, but actually connected to each other, making for one flowing statue. “The whole greater than the sum of its parts? Hope your psych professor was one of them.”
“He was indeed, but it embarrassed him.”
“Because he’d just told everyone else how badly I was doing in his class.”
“You? Psych?”
“AP psych.”
The Royal British Columbia Museum, or some similar grandiose-sounding name, was a world-class, world-famous institute across a side street from the Empress Hotel, and across another side street from the big government building that looked like a parliament in Europe or something. But not even the stern visage of the Queen Victoria statue could detract from the modern lines of the museum. Unlike its equally famous cousin at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, these guys weren’t just into the anthropology, but more the history of the area, though of course when you went as far back as the Native Americans, or “First People,” as they were called in Canada, the two disciplines had a way of intermeshing.
As always wanting to be different, she hit the gift shop first, claiming she liked to see the postcards, so she wouldn’t miss anything she liked. I didn’t buy it for one second, especially when she bought a rather large pair of dice that instead of numbers had the possibilities as: love, sex, pub, TV, read, disco.
“Disco girl,” I muttered.
She merely smiled, and certainly didn’t complain.
Though she was surprised when, after an hour, I claimed this was a quick survey of the highlights, since we didn’t have all day. “So I can’t go back for another lobster?”
“Not today, but I’m sure you’ll be back here.”
“We’ll be back here.” She thrust out her chin for emphasis as she softly threatened me.
“Wherever you go, Iago,” I agreed.
She brightened, as she usually did when Shakespeare was in da house.
Leading her back outside, I was not surprised when she quickly proclaimed her fave exhibit had been the HMS Discovery mockup, at least till she got to Thunderbird Park. Having seen the totem poles in Pioneer Square in Seattle, she found these even more impressive, as well as fun.
After posing for the requisite photo beside the totem pole, and claiming she didn’t like being made to feel short, she walked back over to me, moving like model on a runway, then grimacing when I kept shooting.
“Okay, back to the hotel,” I pronounced. “Next stop. . . well, after Seattle, Goa!”
Squealing, she jumped me from behind and planted a big buss on my right cheek, then pretended I was kidding when I shrieked in back pain. . .
“When we come back here, can we also go to Vancouver?” she tried to change the subject after carrying my bag onto the boat.
Since the pain had mostly gone, I figured I’d save my revenge for later. “Sure.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Most beautiful city in the world. Maybe if you go with me I’ll finally finish circumnavigating Stanley Park.”
“That almost sounds like fun.” But her frowny grimace belied that. “Big city?”
“Pretty huge. Airport in Richmond in the south, the local Beverly Hills or Malibu all the way north up the coast, plenty of stuff to the east. . .”
“How come you know it so well?”
“Usta spent my summers there as a kid.”
“And do they know you there as well as they seem to in Victoria?”
“You mean blondes at McDonald’s?”
“No!” She breathed through her teeth for a few seconds as she got her annoyance back under control. “My temper might keep me from being an honorary Canadian.”
“Ha! That’s like getting your degree in one semester!”
Wince, but not long enough for me to get a photo of it, for as the boat slipped out of its berth and headed west to get out of the harbor, she shut her eyes in terror as a float plane came in for a landing in front of us. I stayed quiet, not knowing why she was acting this way; planes landed on water all the time, after all.
“Is he okay?”
“Who okay?”
“Pilot okay? Plane okay?”
“He okay.”
“Okay.” Opening her eyes, she nonetheless checked for herself. Though the plane had long since coasted to its dock, she was satisfied with seeing no wreckage, then instantly yelped, “Hey! You never told me the ending to your Blarney Stone story!”
“Why said who to what now?”
“Nice! But remember one of the first times we met, I told you I’d just been to Ireland, and you were telling me the story of your visit to the Blarney Stone when we were interrupted.”
“By an autograph seeker, as I recall.”
“By a little girl who had the same name as me, remember that?”
“Yeah, too bad she didn’t look anything like you.”
“That may work out well for her, but finish the story!”
“I don’t remember where I left off.”
“You told me about the blonde babe tour guide being hit on by the American jerk, and how she told him to fuck off.”
“She never used those words, she’s a nice lady, unlike–”
“So what happened then?”
“Hmph. It was raining too hard for us to go up to the stone, so he told her ‘If I kiss you, it’ll be like I got to kiss the stone.’”
She looked surprised. “Quite smooth, considering the way you drew his character.”
“Just wait, Yvonne will become your hero when you find out what she said.”
“Tell me!”
“I will when I’m sure there won’t be any interruptions.”
She almost promised not to, until she realized keeping quiet was better.
And indeed it worked. “She told him, ‘Well, I’ve never actually kissed the Blarney Stone, but I have sat on it.’”
“Kiss my ass!” she whooped, then looked around in embarrassment as she realized just how loudly she’d said that. “Let’s get our own asses topside, now that this thing is finally in motion.”
On the stairs I told her, “So that night at the hotel, I ran into Yvonne in the hallway as we went down to dinner–”
“Wait! There’s more to the story?”
“Sigh. So much for not interrupting.”
Wincing, she thought about running up the stairs, but knew she wanted to hear the rest of the tale. Trying to actually look sincere with this smile, she purred, “Sorry, darling,” only to roll her eyes when I laughed.
“I told her what a great line that had been, she said thanks, we had dinner together, ended up back in her room–”
Now out in the heavy wind, she felt okay with howling, “Too much information!”
“And yet another interruption. A stupid one at that, since you’re always asking about all the girls I slept with.”
The hand went to her forehead–with quite a bit of force–before she could stop it. “Could this day get any worse?” she asked a passing island, then decided it could and went with her contrite look, which she actually didn’t have a lot of practice with. “So what happened after you fucked her?”
“The guy had been badmouthing her all through dinner, claiming she must be a lesbian for not wanting to be with him.” I waited to see what she’d say to that, but this time she somehow managed to keep quiet, to her own amusement. “Finally I told him, ‘That doesn’t prove she’s a lesbian, it proves she has great taste.’”
She smiled brightly and rubbed my arm, but that was all I was getting right now; apparently she was finally serious about not interrupting.
“So the next morning I’m coming out of her hotel room, putting on my shirt, when I run into the guy, who’s totally shocked by this turn of events. Which made it easy for me to say, ‘Told ya she had taste. . .’”
“Yes!” she crowed, now that she was sure the story was over, then leaned against me for a cheeky kiss. “You are so my friggin’ hero!” But she couldn’t help adding, “Did you ever see her again?”
“Sure.” Knowing I was being naughty but unable to help himself, I went with, “Saw her at a Shakespeare symposium. Guess she has a lot of time to read between tours.” And sex, as I recalled, but saved that one for later, not wanting to give her any ideas. “She’s firmly in the camp that thinks Bacon wrote Shakespeare.”
“Damn! Just when I was liking her!”
“Hmmm?” Once again I felt bad for stringing her along, but she might as well get used to it, I mused. Besides, my back was still achy.
“I can’t stand those people who say it was Bacon that really wrote Shakespeare.” She made a face that he was sure she’d been practicing since she was about two.
“Yeah, they’re pretty crazy.”
“Thank you!”
“Everyone knows it was Marlowe that wrote Shakespeare.”
“No! Go away!”
“No! I didn’t mean that.” Unable to stop herself, she went with contrite again.
“Typical woman. I need to go downstairs anyway.”
“I’ll try not to be bored.” This time she tried gloomy, even as she realized I’d never buy it, considering how well I knew her.
“Here.” Pulling it out of my pocket, I passed over the electronic chess game.
“Awesome! See ya later!”
Knowing that was coming, I yawned and moved from the railing, going southward so as to enter the main sitting room from behind, hoping to catch someone in the act. I didn’t, so I took the opportunity to hit the restroom before going back up top.
There she still was, leaning over the railing much like she had at the observatory, one foot up, leaning on forearms. She seemed to be intent on whatever was in her hands, which figured to be the chess game, so I was able to come right up to her, stand behind her a little to the side, and lean forward to lick her ear.
The loud yelp was certainly satisfying, though I was thankful for her great hands, otherwise the next person using the chess game would have been a mermaid, if it still worked while waterlogged.
Once she’d stopped shuddering and calmed down, she leaned her head onto my shoulder and tried lovey-dovey, though I assumed she was wiping her ear.
“What are you grinning at?”
“You’ll never be an honorary Canadian with that suspicious look, mister!”
“I already am,” I grinned, “and you’re talking your way out of a recommendation.”
“Too late! You promised!”
“Did not!”
She laughed and told me to go away, so I did.
Having seen how bright the light was coming in on my last trip inside–the cabin was well-lit, but still looked murky in comparison–I now slipped quickly through the side of the door, then stood just inside it, behind the empty bar, reasonably certain it would take more than a quickly glance to be spotted.
And that’s when I saw him, one of the stewards, rummaging through what was obviously a woman’s purse on the left side of the wide cabin. Since the guy was facing away, and using the light from the window to see what he was stealing, his vision would be too off to spot me, but on the other hand I had to adjust my camera quite a bit to get more than a silhouette of the suspect, and without the flash going off. Hopefully the man’s features, other than his face, would be enough to identify him later.
Staying at my post as long as it took, I was momentarily startled when the steward straightened up and turned to come toward me. I bowed my head down to pretend to be looking at the camera’s display, then twisted it sideways in hopes of catching a shot of the guy as he walked by. . .
Once again topside, I moved in behind her and hugged her from behind, placing my chin on her shoulder. There was no yelp this time, not even a little bit of surprise; the smile told me she instantly knew who it was. We stayed like that till the announcement that the ship was close to docking, no surprise to us as we’d recognized the surroundings and then the Space Needle from far away.
We were the first ones off, but instead of letting her skip off to grab a taxi or such, I pulled her to the side and told her to wait. She’d noticed the police gathered around the embarkation zone, but hadn’t made much of it, and now was even more surprised when I didn’t go meet the cops, just sat on the railing next to her.
Finally all the passengers were off and it was time for the crew to come out and the cleaning people to go in. At this point the police, equally as bored as she’d been the last few minutes, perked up and moved forward, easily spotting their target and quickly snapping cuffs on the surprised man.
The almost-equally surprised blonde stared, then looked at me, seeing me grinning at her reaction. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Shrug. “I heard somewhere that you like surprises.”
Turning back to the action, feeling like she had to show me I couldn’t get away with things like that. . . except she couldn’t think of anything to teach me a lesson, so she settled for watching the proceedings with a huge sense of pride, like she’d solved the case all by herself.
Unintentionally quoting a cartoon, I smirked, “I think we cweated some havoc. . .”


Poetry Tuesday: Dear Gentle Soul

By Luis Vaz de Camoes of Portugal, 1524-1580.

Dear gentle soul, who went so soon away
Departing from this life in discontent,
Repose in that far sky to which you went
While on this earth I linger in dismay.
In the ethereal seat where you must be,
If you consent to memories of our sphere,
Recall the love which, burning pure and clear,
So often in my eyes you used to see!
If then, in the incurable, long anguish,
You see some merit–do this favor for me:
And to the god who cut your life short, pray
That he as early to your sight restore me
As from my own he swept you far away.


Travel Thursday: Victorian Canada, part 2

Observatory Hill, the obvious location of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, wasn’t all that far, really, but there was no point in walking on a highway, and oh yeah, it was uphill. So we arrived less than fifteen minutes later, well rested. The cabbie reached under his seat for a sandwich and a newspaper and looked more content than he’d been in a while, though of course we had no way of knowing that.
“Centre of the Universe, huh?” she laughed on seeing the name of the place. “If I didn’t know what it was about, I would berate them for such arrogance.”
“This says it was briefly the largest telescope in the world.”
“How brief?” she grinned.
Shrug. “Maybe a couple of hours.”
Since neither of us were the hard science type, having a strictly amateur interest in astronomy, we allowed ourselves to be entertained by the exhibits without giving them much thought, which let us discuss life and other inconveniences like we always did. We both seemed pleased that we were able to get back into our established routine so easily after not seeing each other for a while.
“I still can’t believe someone like you majored in English.”
Being well used to my games by now, she merely smiled and purred, “Yep.”
“I like to think you’re a Shakespeare scholar.”
“Wow, thanks.”
“After all, no one knows more about deceit and fuckups than my ol’ buddy Willy Shakes.” I looked at her meaningfully until she blushed.
“I wouldn’t put it that way,” she tried, not knowing why she bothered.
I shook his head sadly. “As stubborn as she is Irish.”
She pretended to be proud of that.
By this time we’d made it outside and were taking in the view, which included forest, water, and islands. She asked if that was the mainland over there, but I couldn’t be sure.
I watched her go over to the railing, checking out the other side of the landscape, marveling at her grace of movement, the fluid lubricant that filled such a body and made it move so beautifully. Once at the railing, she unconsciously let the leg closer to me bend up at the knee, foot on railing, forming the natural taper that to me was the most beautiful part of a woman’s body, and hers the most beautiful example. . . so it didn’t take more than a second for me to bring the camera up and shoot the pose without her noticing.
So I thought, anyway. Either she’d been working on her peripheral vision or she’d gotten familiar with the click of the camera. Either way, she gave me that trademark demented grimace that was just as much fun to shoot.
“I do not get you,” she complained. “You shoot beautiful models for a living and for whatever tetched reason you keep shooting me. Are you mental?”
“Penalty for overuse of synonyms.”
“Up yours.”
“Much better.”
“Answer the question.”
“You’re much more fun to shoot.”
“Really? How? Because you make me blush all the time?”
“Partly, but I’m talking about the way you move.”
“The way your body is built, you should be gawky and uncoordinated. But you’re not, you’re a ballerina. That’s why it’s both a pleasure and a challenge to shoot you. If I can capture your gracefulness–”
“Never heard it called that before!” she hooted.
“You have an inherent graceful beauty, a fluidity, that’s a joy to watch, and I’m trying to capture it on film.”
“Good excuse,” she sighed, though grinning. “Like you need one.”
“If I don’t need one, then why’d you ask?”
She waved that away, not that it would get her out of it.
“You’re so wacky, and I don’t mean that in a good way.”
Pausing to ponder that, she finally tried to ask, “How can wacky not be good?” but was too late.
“So to have someone so wacky have such a natural grace of movement. . . the contradiction is fun to shoot.”
She rolled her eyes, but knew she wasn’t going to get anything better out of me. “You’re a jerk.”
“You know I always respect your opinion.”
She instantly blushed.
The I ruined it by adding, “Someone like you should be president.”
The blush quickly grew nuclear. “You mean prime minister,” she tried lightly, though it came out a croak.
“You haven’t passed the honorary Canadian test yet.”
“Oh, that’s right.”
There, she felt better now, in fact was smiling as she took in the sights. Lights over water, for instance, were much prettier at night, she thought.
And then felt my hand creeping along her back to her braid. “Enough with that!”
“I simply had a thought and instantly had to test it.”
Knowing she’d regret it, but also knowing her curiosity would always win out–and knowing that I knew it too, damn him–she had to ask.
“A guy could pretend to be Quasimodo and pull on your hair.”
She smiled weakly, having previously noticed the rope-like quality of her long braid. But was I also saying that her head was hollow as a bell?
“Wouldn’t I be too busy playing Beauty?” she tried, only to blush when a man passing by leered at her for that. . . then turned to find me taking her picture. Having moved into the shade, she had to ask, “Um, how’d you manage to do that without using flash?”
“Years of research.”
As she always did when I brought up my years of experience over her, she made a face and stuck out her tongue. . . which I’d of course known she would do and was ready to shoot that too.
“Ah, crap!” she moaned. “You’re gonna make copies to send to all my friends, aren’t ya?”
“What a marvelous idea!”
She stopped by a railing over the water, briefly considered jumping in, then was startled by my hand on her shoulder. Turning her head, she saw me smiling at her.
“You’d be great with kids,” I enthused, waiting for her to brightly return the smile before adding, “think how much fun they’d have pulling your braid.”
Shudder. “Step away from the hair!” she intoned in a way she’d heard on TV. But it did serve to get her out of her funk, as easily as she’d gotten into it.
“Now then, in order to totally salvage this situation, you’ll have to pose in a way that makes me completely forget about the tongue shot.”
Shuddering at the way “Tongue shot” sounded in her naughty mind, she figured Why not? and proceeded to pose as hammily as she could.
“Wow, you’ve turned into a true camera hog. What happened to that demureness you usta do so well?”
While momentarily relieved at not having to answer, she realized that might have been preferable when another male passerby laughed and asked me where he could get copies. And my photographer’s smile didn’t help either. She wondered if there was a category of blushes, like for hurricanes, and if she’d broken the record.
And of course she could never leave well enough alone. “Guys just care about looks.”
Snort. “You wish.”
She almost re-blushed at that, thinking I’d misunderstood; she wasn’t talking about herself. Then she realized I was denigrating her other qualities, her intelligence and sense of humor and–
She wanted to glare at me, but I was already grinning.
No, she still couldn’t leave it at that. “Are you out of your ever-fucking mind?”
“Not ever-loving, like a true romantic would, but ever-fucking. I like that.”
“You wish,” she growled.
“Playing both sides like a typical woman?”
“We were talking about you,” she managed through gritted teeth.
“When? Ever since I started with the photos, and especially when that guy passed, we’ve been talking about your beauty.”
“What beauty?” she shrieked. “I have wrinkles around my eyes! I’m too young for that!”
“Those aren’t wrinkles, they’re laugh lines. For you to laugh so much at an early age. . . you should wear them as a badge of honor.”
She grinned and sighed at the same time, kinda watching me in the reflection on the water. Damn, I love that! was the thought easy to read on her face.
“You know, I never figured you for the type who obsesses about her looks.”
Wince. Why couldn’t he have let me enjoy it for even a little bit? was the next un-poker face.
Finally changing the subject, I told her, “If we have time tomorah, I’ll take you to Craigflower Schoolhouse.”
“Because the guys who built it were drunk. I’m guessing it looked straight to them, but everything is sloped and tilted, almost like looking at a funhouse mirror.”
She wasn’t sure how to take that, figured it had to do with her Irishness, then realized it was exactly the kind of thing that would make her laugh.
“Unless, of course, you’d rather go to Anne Hathaway’s cottage.”
She did some furious calculations in her head. “No way Shakespeare’s wife could have lived here!”
“It’s a replica.”
“Ah. Well, I’ve already seen the original.”
“Never mind, then. Are we through here?”
“Sure, unless you want to make sure the cabbie earns his money.”
“I’m too hungry to care about other people right now.”
“That’s the attitude that won you Humanitarian of the Year.”
“I figured since I am now exempt from winning it again. . .”
She almost followed me into the men’s room, just to make sure I heard her reply, but it wasn’t that good. Plus she was laughing too hard.
Turned out the cabbie was taking a nap, but he didn’t seem that dismayed at being woken up, since there was still plenty of time in the day to pick up more fares. He even gave us his card, in case we wanted to pay him to sit around and do nothing again, but of course he didn’t say that.
After a quick pause at the hotel for freshening up purposes, so she claimed, we were soon back out and wandering the streets of Victoria, just as it was getting dark and cold. Not expecting that, Alanna grabbed my arm and hugged herself against me, convincing herself she was practicing for the return trip, when she wanted to give the impression of being my girlfriend so I wouldn’t be sending champagne to any more German girls.
“Hey, Irish pub!” she squealed. “I’m old enough now!”
“Still get carded, I bet.”
“But my card’s real now.”
“Ah. Besides, who knows what the legal age is here.”
“Very true! Anyway, I’ve always wanted to try an Irish coffee.”
“I knew a guy, he was in the Marines with me but originally from Ireland, who claims he went on a bender and drank eleven Irish coffees in a row.”
“Just try to imagine that. He said he went to bed totally drunk, but try as he might he couldn’t fall asleep from all the caffeine. Moaned that it was the worst night of his life, went clean and sober after that.”
Alanna was laughing too hard to make one of her usual comments, and couldn’t seem to stop, especially when I added, “An Irishman is never drunk as long as he has a blade of grass to hang onto.”
Finally able to get some semblance of control over herself, she tried to huff, “Can we go to this lobster-serving restaurant of yours now?”
“That’s where we’ve been going this whole time. As you might expect, it’s along the waterfront.”
“Long waterfront.”
“Not as long as Seattle’s.”
“True. Hope I don’t step on any frogs.”
“It’s not that provincial. It’s the state capital. . . or it would be if it was a state. Hmmm, considering it is a province, I guess it would be ‘provincial’ after all. . .”
“Ha! Word play, I love it.” Knowing she was taking a chance on grossing me out, she still couldn’t help herself. “I wonder if they have frog legs for dessert.”
“Old saying: if you have to eat two frogs, eat the bigger one first.”
When she laughed, I sat her down on a convenient bench and reached for my music player, quickly putting on Monty Python’s “Crunchy Frog.” A few minutes later, gagging on both laughter and the thought of “cockroach cluster” and “anthrax ripple,” she managed to stagger into the restaurant, where we were seated so fast she had to figure they knew me here too.
“So how goes the search for the dream job?” I yawned once my orange cream soda was on the way.
“Keep plugging away every week, but I may not be able to afford it much longer.”
Frown. “I didn’t know you had to spend money to get a job.”
Suddenly she looked dismayed. “I don’t think we’re talking about the same thing.”
“Ya think? Dean of Medieval Lit at Cambridge?”
“Oh, that!”
“Yeah, that. What did you think?”
“Didn’t I tell you my dream job was Lotto winner?”
“Must have been someone else. Sorry.”
I might have let that go, but she was smiling way too sweetly to leave alone. “Did you just say ‘sorry?’”
“I did indeed.” Smirk. “You gonna make a big deal out of it?”
Having been saving this one for just such a situation, I told her, “You’re the kind of person who makes a perfect friend,” just to confuse her.
Instead she seemed inordinately pleased by that, and the waiter noticed as he took down her order, though he did look a bit perturbed at mine, considering it was a seafood restaurant.
“You’re already my hero for that last bit,” she grinned, “but tell me a Shakespeare joke.”
“I only know one.”
“That’s all you need, buddy.”
“Okay, you asked for it. It’s by David Gerrold, an author you claim not to be able to stand.”
“I said I didn’t get him, that’s different. Now give!”
“Once upon a time there was this guy driving through the Australian Outback–”
“I said Shakespeare!” came the interrupting scream. “They probably hadn’t discovered Australia yet when he was alive!”
I gave her that pitying look that she absolutely detested, so she went back to pining for her cockroach of the sea, elbow on table, chin on hand, and listened like the good little girl she really was deep down.
“His car broke down, and he wandered through the desert for hours with nothing to drink. Finally he came a shantytown, though he thought it was a mirage–” Waiting a beat to see if she interrupted. . . she didn’t, not even a grin. “One of the metal shanties had a sign that said ‘Pub,’ so he went in and immediately begged for water.
“‘Sorry, mate,’ the bartender told him, ‘the water around here is full of minerals and whatnot, it’s undrinkable. It’ll kill ya, in fact.’”
She seemed delighted by my perfect portrayal of the Aussie accent, but didn’t say anything.
“So the guy asks for a beer. ‘Can’t do that, sir. This ‘ere is the town of Mercy, Australia. It’s a religious community and alcohol is prohibited.’
“‘Well, how ‘bout a soda?’
“‘Sorry, mate. We’re so off the beaten path ‘ere we don’t get any deliveries. Why, we ‘aven’t ‘ad soft drinks in. . . oh, years, just how many I couldn’t–’
“‘So what do you people drink here?’
“‘Ah, thanks for askin’, sir. We make a special tea that we brew in the pouch of a koala. Can’t explain exactly what happens, but somehow brewin’ it in there makes it safe and drinkable.’”
She made a face.
“The man is feeling thirsty enough not to care, so he says ‘I’ll have some of that.’ But when it’s brought to him and he instantly takes a drink, he spits it out. ‘It’s full of hair!’
“‘That’s not ‘air, that’s fur. From the pouch of the koala.’
“‘Can’t you strain it first?’
“The bartender looks offended. ‘Sir! The koala tea of mercy. . . is not strained!’”
She moaned as she chorused along with the obvious punch line, knowing she only had herself to blame. . .
After that we spoke as we always did, of trivialities and sports and other things we had in common, finally back into our usual communication mode. And even when there was a pause, it never became an awkward silence, because we knew the other could come up with something either hilarious or taking the conversation in a new and exciting direction. She didn’t even mention the McDonald’s girl more than twice.
Having given her enough time–all day–to bring it up, I couldn’t resist any longer, grinning right into her face. “Shakespeare HORSE.”
Not only did she moan, she slapped herself on the forehead, before I could, anyway. “Never crossed my mind! Shit! Guess that means you go first.”
“Okay. Here’s one that your romantic nature, if you have any of it left, after this–”
“Hey, sex and love are totally different! Now quote me dammit, quote me now.”
“You have said nothing worth repeating!”
“You know what I mean!” she snarled through gritted teeth, even while knowing I was just trying to throw her off her game.
“‘Oh how this spring of love resembleth the uncertain glory of an April day.’”
Her face instantly went downcast, so much that I knew she’d never heard it before. And she couldn’t afford to fall behind early, knowing how badly she did under pressure. Her only recourse was to pretend to be thinking about it until the minute given ran out, even though she knew I never bought it.
Long before she thought possible, I snickered, “H! From the play which one shapely professor at Mississippi State called ‘Two Sparkers from Verona.’”
“Shakespeare, Suthin’ style!” she whooped, then plotted her next move.
Only to find me getting her out of her rhythm again when I told her, “Every time I see you, I’m glad you haven’t cut your hair.”
“Of course not! Do you think I’m stupid?”
“Stupid stupid, no. Crazy stupid, sometimes.”
“You know me too well,” she grumbled, getting up to hit the restroom.


Poetry Tuesday: Caring for my Lover

Jalal ad-Din Rumi, best known by just his last name, lived in Persia from 1207 to 1273.

Friends, last night I carefully watched my love
sleeping by a spring circled with eglantine.
The houris of paradise stood around him,
their hands cupped together
between a tulip field and jasmines.
Wind tugged softly in his hair.
His curls smelled of musk and ambergris.
Wind turned mad and tore the hair right off his face
like a flaming oil lamp in a gale
From the beginning of this dream I told myself
go slowly, wait
for the break into consciousness. Don’t breathe.