Thursday, November 25, 2010

I'm Watching You, Little German Village

Today is Thanksgiving Day. I hope everyone out there has had a great one. As for me, there isn't much family left here, so I spent most of the day at the Magic Kingdom, and then came home to some delicious leftovers and watched alien shows on the History channel all evening (not my idea, I swear).

Although I had a super time at the Magic Kingdom, my thoughts strayed to my favorite park, Epcot, this evening.

There are many reasons why I love Epcot, but the one I am determined to write about goes way back. In fact, I always vowed that if I ever started a blog, I would post about this one thing frequently. What is it? Well, the little train village in Germany.

The village is a mini-scale model of a vast village, complete with a town square, a castle in the bushy background, and many, many trains. The figurines intrigue me the most and I'm always leaning over the bars, wondering about the little guys and what stories they have. I think I stare so ardently that tourists mistake me for some train fanatic. Truth be told, again, it's not the trains that impress me.

I've taken loads of pictures of the village over the years. I have a fairly good idea where most of the figurines are and what they've been up to. So when I went back this fall, after not having gone for at least a few weeks (yeah, it was a killer to wait so long), I saw a change.


On the corner of the display is a church. A wedding has always occurred. Here's picture of it from 2009:

What a joyous wedding it is! There are plenty of figurines gathered to witness the moment. A lot of them are wearing hats. I think it's because of the Florida weather. I don't know what's it's like in Germany, but if those folks are supposed to stand outside for another couple years, they are going to need to those hats. We only get a few good weeks of cold. The rest is like sitting in an oven. Or a kiln, I guess, since we're outside. This state considers us no better than a bunch of soggy ceramic pieces (I'd be a nail-printed bowl). Only when we pass out on the ground is it alright to send a merciful breeze through. The bride and groom are lucky enough to be standing under the shade of the church. The groom poses proudly; he looks like he has no trouble holding up his bride. And the bride - well, she looks content. Not happy. No, this is a much deeper feeling. See how her arms are legs are relaxed? She's not stretching in his arms, getting ready to throw a bouquet. She's not fist-pumping like she just scored a touchdown. No. She looks serene.

There are a lot of other figurines around the church that are just as intriguing, such as the lonely man on the bench below the church steps. Is he the uninvited guest? A mere passerby? I mused about him a lot. There's also the hunter and the deer, both balanced on mountains separated by the church. The deer is always on its side. Has it been shot, or is it just an accident of the wind? (I promise I'll post pictures of them eventually).

The family and I got into the habit of walking up the Canada side of the World Showcase, so the wedding would always be the first group of figurines I'd see when we got to Germany. I didn't worry about them. I was thinking about the deer.

So I graduate from college. I know that graduation always brings about change, but I never expected to see a change in the German village. It had been the same for so long.

And now? Well, look what's happened:

The church is barren. A leaf from the tall trees above has floated down to rest of the door of the church (not planned). The only figurine near the the building is a lone nun. She sits solemnly with her hands folded. She's holding the Bible. If she had a face, I wonder what her expression would be? Maybe she knows what happened to the newlyweds. For some reason, I don't feel like it's happy. There's a quiet eeriness there.

You know, something interesting happened while I was searching my desktop for all these pictures. I zoomed in very close to get the close ups of the figurines and, in the process, made a discovery that adds to the mystery. In the new picture, with the nun, there is a figurine standing on a bottom step. I noticed, much to my surprise, that he is the same figure that is standing in the front in the wedding photo - he has his arms up like he's looking a long distance and he wears a red jacket. Here he is in the new one:

Scroll up the wedding picture if you don't believe me.

There's a story here, no doubt. Perhaps the man has a relationship with the nun. If so, he could be admiring her from afar, wishing she would give up her vows so that they could run off together. Maybe he knows that she knows something about the wedding, and he is going to interrogate her. What do you think?

I'd like to meet whoever is in charge of this model village. I really would. To me, this type of storyteller is special. Everything is laid out before you like a silent film with missing dialogue. Whoever is willing to take the time to examine such a complex creation will, indeed, find a story waiting to be told.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I like to conjure up a particular image when someone asks me if I like dogs. I say, imagine that I'm standing in this dark, foggy alleyway at night. There's a chill in the air and I'm breathing hard because I can feel someone following me. Well, I hear someone shout, "Get her!" and I see, coming through the haze, a pack of dogs dashing toward me. Their eyes glow red, spit slaps their cheeks, and their snarls could make a grown man cry. What do I do? The only thing I can. I fall to my knees with the biggest smile, my hands open wide. "C'mere," I coo. I wait for them, sincerely expecting them to devour my face with kisses instead of... well... actually devouring it. Yes. It's strictly unconditional.

Naturally, I'm also one of the ten percent of people out there who hate movies where dogs die. I think there's even a book inspired by it... called No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Kormen. I haven't read it yet, but this is interesting to note. I can give you numerous stories of how sick I feel when I run into these on-screen or in-pages dog deaths. The most recent one had me so disturbed that I had to pause the movie for at least twenty minutes until I could calm down. That movie is going to collect dust... or forever have that opening scene (opening scene? Come on!) forever skipped. Ugh. Gives me the shivers.

"Do you like dogs?" Isn't that the best opening line for the start of a friendship? Of course, it can come off as a little strange if their are no actual dogs around. Or puppy mugs. Or even a pin. That's how it started out: this one tiny friendship I had in high school. We got off at the same bustop. We lived in the same development. We walked home down the same streets. I couldn't say a word to him because I didn't trust boys who didn't sing video game lyrics at the lunch table and couldn't fathom the satisfaction of playing a Pokemon card battle.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What I'm Doing When I'm Not Writing: Writers' Harvest

I have a feeling that this might be a reoccurring title... which is why I added the magnanimous colon to make this post specific. Since this is the novel writing month, my mind is wired with guilt for every minute I'm not writing something to add to the word count race. This isn't my first time writing a manuscript, but since the main structure of this one is not quite so linear, writing it is strange and wonderful, but mostly frustrating. Ah, yes. Sounds like I'm right on track.

So this past Monday I went to the Writers' Harvest, an amazing event that our department put together to help raise money and collect cans for Feeding America. I happily brought my cans, listening to them clank in a tinny, musical way. The sun had long set when we got there and the venue, Ella's Folk Art Cafe, was alive and waiting. The building was two-stories, inviting and exotic with its artistic atmosphere and earth-tone colors. We all gathered around the first couple tables, taking in the colorful bar and metal sculptures; Ella's is usually closed on Mondays, so we felt special standing within its doors.

Photo Courtesy of Claire Stephens

Haha, here I am on the left, wearing what I call my "Sci-fi shirt." I fell in love with the teal stripes and the band of brass buttons along the collar. I think I gained a bit of money experience after manning the USF booth at the Other Words Conference, so I volunteered to sell the featured writers' books, tag teaming with fellow MFAer, Alan. With a full bar at my fingertips, I ordered a Diet Coke and got to work...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Am I Tired or Just Impressed?

It was one of those Friday nights where the fatigue of the week sets in and you find yourself buried in the cracks of your well-loved couch.

With a bag of no-name brand chocolate chip cookie sandwiches (the strange pimply step-child of the Oreo) and a bookmarked, bedraggled copy of Sara Teasdale's biography, I enjoyed the evening. The TV was set to the home and garden channel. With the Travel Channel gone (Why... oh... why?), I appease my travel bug now by watching rich people (they have to be) house shopping for international abodes.

My fingers on the keyboard of Gorgonzola, my randomly-named laptop (blame Chowder), began to slow. Yes, yes, I was on my laptop too. I really am a multi-tasker. The idea was to read a little, watch TV a little, and raise the word count on my novel manuscript another notch. Hey, it's only a first draft. At least, that's what I keep telling myself. It really is better to just get it all down the first time. So in the process of my usual bout of juggling, a commercial came on that made me stop in my tracks.

A new, Christmas-themed Planter's Nuts commerical.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The "Old" and St. Augustine

I'll be the first to tell you that Florida isn't magical.

If that comes as a shock to you, I'm terribly sorry. We do have theme parks, most of which I admittedly love and will likely blog about. Beyond that, though, Florida is a very new state. I say new in broad terms: we don't have much "old" going on here.

In craft class, we were joking about ghost tours. Thinking about the possible tours that could spring up in New Tampa, the best we could think of was one that boasted haunted outdoor shopping malls. "And over here," Claire said, wiggling her fingers for good measure, "is the haunted Steinmart! It's three years old... creepy, right?"

In order to find the "old," one must travel to certain parts of Florida for the fix. St. Augustine is, without a doubt, one such place.

As I said in my previous post, the lot of us mosied over to St. Augustine for the awesome Other Words conference at Flagler College. The air was sharp with cold and we huddled together as we wandered up and down the tiny streets and hidden treasures. I was so happy to have finally put my sweaters to good use: winter is a rare breed of season around these parts. With a red nose and aching finger joints, I grinned and sighed happily at each gust of wind attempting to tear off my face. It was so delightful. I friggin' love the cold.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Ye Old Comics

When I was little, food shopping was a fun activity. There was a payoff. If I refrained from dunking sugary items into the cart, and the constellations were lined up just right to give us all a good mood, my parents would let me pick out an Archie comic for the week. Starry-eyed, I would dramatically reach for the little books on the tops of the towering magazine stands. Gum? No. Chocolate bars? No. Nothing was ever as tempting at the end of the hunt than holding Betty, Archie, Jughead, and Veronica in my grubby paws.

Flash forward to this past weekend when "Other Words: Literary Conference" in St. Augustine, Florida took place. A particular bunch of us MFAers answered the call for papers with a panel about comic books and creative writing.

I never read many American comic books. I lived and breathed Archie (and then later on, the Sonic the Hedgehog comics... by the same company, really) and only read Wonder Woman via a Christmas present of a collection of WW comic covers. Well... that's just the way it was. I knew that Archie and the gang would be making an appearance in my paper and it was just a matter of what it would be about.

"Behind the Trope: Love Triangles in American and Japanese Girl's Comics" was born.

I find love triangles ultimately exhausting and frustrating to read, so I attempted to overcome those feelings by thinking about what makes this device tick. Betty and Veronica helped me out in this matter, as well as studying one of Yu Watase's newer works, Alice 19th. Poor Archie. Kyo just might give him a run for his money.

I was half hoping for a Betty fans vs. Veronica fans brawl during Q and A, but nothing like that happened. Everyone was rather pleasant :)

I'll hold my tongue on the girl I rooted for over the years. That, I'm sure, would make an entirely different post.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I'm a Kid

Whenever I'm shopping at certain stores, I feel like I have to apologize for what I bring to the cashier. Hmm. Bold statement. But doesn't the cashier sometimes seem a place of judgment? It is a platform of the public where everyone can see what was sitting in your shopping cart. One by one, the items march into plastic bags and the cashiers can never, ever keep a straight face if they see something weird.

A curious woman might blush at the video store if the movies in question were a little... suggestive. An embarrassed father might look away as the items scanned are supplies his daughter sorely needs. As for me, I'm always finding children's book and movies.

"Wow, look at this," the cashier, maybe Sally, says as she put a paperback Nutcracker book into a plastic bag. She does the same for a McDonald's booklet story from An American Tail to a delightfully hilarious, illustrated book called King Bidgood's in the Bathtub:

"Cool, right?" I reply, still high off of the adventure of perusing.

She smiles like I'm ten and says, "Are these for you?"

"Yeah, they're for me."

She laughs and rings me up.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A new blog begins like the rising of the sun, drawn by Apollo's chariot...


How strange it is to finally be writing in a blog. I'll be surprised if anyone follows me, but we'll see how it goes.

What better way to start a blog than share a poem? I'm no poet but I admire poetry all the same. I just discovered Sarah Teasdale and I think she'll be influencing my own writing from here on out. I feel akin to her. I drool over every poem of hers I come across. They are like tiny jewels.

Here is one of hers that I've been musing upon for the last couple days: