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Posts from the ‘Poetry’ Category

WOMEN AND WILD SAVAGES PRINT VERSION NOW AVAILABLE

You asked for it – Women and Wild Savages, the print version, hot off the presses! Hold it in your hands. Feel the sleek, smooth surface of real paper. Revel in the smell of fresh ink. Dog ear it. Marginalia it. Mark it with an R for Reader and Me.

Romance, love, betrayal, poetry, friendship, horse-drawn carriages, coffeehouses, wineries, death, tragedy and hope – all wrapped up in the story of a young, aspiring actress and her marriage to the world-famous architect and designer, Adolf Loos. Because you deserve to spend some quiet hours in Vienna’s coffeehouses.

Women and Wild Savages

Women and Wild Savages is the first book in the Vienna Muses series

Women and Wild Savages at Amazon – print version

E-Book Versions are Available too

Women and Wild Savages at Amazon for Kindle

Women and Wild Savages at Barnes and Noble for Nook

Women and Wild Savages for Kobo

And Don’t Forget to Download the Free Readers Guide

Women and Wild Savages Readers Guide

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CEMETERY OF THE NAMELESS

Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there; I do not sleep, I am a thousand winds that blow, … the diamond glints on snow,… the sun on ripened grain,… the gentle autumn rain,… the morning’s hush, … the swift uplifting rush, Of quiet birds in circled flight,… the soft stars that shine at night. – Mary Elizabeth Frye, Do Not Stand By My Grave and Weep

A couple evenings ago, a good friend and I met up for dinner after work at a little Vietnamese restaurant at Karlsplatz. The white-shirted, black bow-tied Vietnamese waiter interrupted us. “Sorry, Jennifer, your table by the window will be ready soon.” I stopped mid-sentence. We already had a table. True, wedged by the door, not very gemütlich, but nevertheless one of the rare tables in the beloved restaurant. Not only had my friend apparently snagged us the best seat in the house, but she was obviously on a first-name basis with the man wielding the ultimate power to determine all the diners’ fates. “Jennifer?”

Graves at Cemetery of the Nameless

Graves at Cemetery of the Nameless

There’s something comforting about people knowing your name. I venture even if you end up with some unfortunate name like Engelbert Humperdinck, you get used to your name, and it grows on you. And can there be any sound sweeter than that special someone whispering your name in the dark?

Perhaps that’s part of the tragedy of the picturesque little plots resting under the shady elms along the bank of the Danube – that rather than names, towering over the overgrown mounds of day lilies are crosses bearing inscriptions of dates, male or female and “Nameless” or “Unknown.”

I was a young child when I first visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, DC. And even at that tender age, I distinctly remember the profound sadness that struck me that someone had left this world, someone who had laughed, and cried and loved and no one knew they had gone. Or perhaps that they had even lived. No one to shoulder a pack on Memorial Day bearing his name in remembrance of him.

Chapel of the Resurrection at the Cemetery of the Nameless in Vienna

Chapel of the Resurrection at the Cemetery of the Nameless in Vienna

I had long heard of and wanted to visit the Cemetery of the Nameless. Once, years ago, at the prospect of soon returning to the States, I actually ventured on a bus that I believed would take me there. I ended up spending the day somewhere completely different. A good day. But not where I meant to go.

So this past weekend, on a Sunday drive back from wine country, the after-rain sun illuminating the world in a friendly glow of promise, with nothing but the road and a lust for life, I punched the “Friedhof der Namenlosen” address into the “Navi.” Not such an easy task since Google refused to betray the address. How Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy managed to find it before sunrise is beyond me. But I’ve always liked a challenge.

Peculiar Chicken Rabbit Grave at the Cemetery of the Nameless

Peculiar Chicken Rabbit Grave at the Cemetery of the Nameless

So I entered the address to the Gasthaus zum Friedhof der Namenlosen (the restaurant with the same name that I ventured would be close by): Albern 54, 1110 Vienna. Despite the Navi, we still almost missed the turn and found ourselves on back roads by the Danube seaport surrounded by menacingly tall buildings with tiny windows, mammoth-sized cranes, concrete silo structures and unattended weeds and overgrowth. In Anytown America, this would have been just another Miracle Mile back alley but in a country where the guys at the dump yard adorn their break-time containers with flower boxes, this placed seemed eerie. And the perfect place to dump a body. Or two. Or a few hundred.

And that’s exactly what the Danube had done here for decades. On the shore of current kilometer 1918, the Danube washed up the remains of Viennese who had grown “life tired” (Lebensmüde) and ended their lives in her cold wet womb.

Entrance Wall Cemetery of the Nameless

Entrance Wall Cemetery of the Nameless

The old cemetery (1840 – 1900) existed on the opposite shore side and the 478 nameless souls who rest there are now only memorialized by a cross. The flow of the Danube flooded the original cemetery so often that in 1900 Vienna moved the cemetery to an area behind a high water dam to where it now stands today. In 1935 the tiny Resurrection Chapel was erected. In 1940 the last burials took place here. Changes in the Danube current stopped the bodies from washing up to shore here years ago and those who get “life tired” nowadays are buried in Vienna’s Central Cemetery. Of the 104 accidental, self-induced and forced victims of drownings buried in the Cemetery of the Nameless, only 43 have been identified – 61 remain nameless.

Rare Sign for the Cemetery of the Nameless

Rare Sign for the Cemetery of the Nameless

As you stroll through the tiny garden of graves, one particular plot is bound to catch your eye with a weathered stuffed elephant and bright orange ribbons tied to his cross: “Here lies Wilhelm Töhn. Drowned by another on June 1, 1904 at age 11.”

But little Willy is not alone. The candles, flowers, toys and stuffed animals adorning many of the graves are testament that perhaps those who died here will forever remain unknown, but they will never be forgotten. The Worker-Fisher-Club (Arbeiter-Fischer-Verein) makes sure of that. Every year, on the afternoon of the first Sunday after All Saint’s Day (November 1), they build a raft and decorate it with wreathes, flowers and a symbolic gravestone with burning candles and send it off down the Danube in remembrance of the desperate souls who tried to find a final peace forsaken them in life.

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Poem on the wall of the Cemetery

Cemetery of the Nameless Grave marked "Unknown"

Cemetery of the Nameless Grave marked “Unknown”

Deep in the shade of old elm trees
Crosses gaze here upon gloomy
bank edges
Though no epitaphs
share who sleeps beneath
the cool sand

So silent in the wide eyes
Even the Danube’s
blue surges are held back
For those who sleep here together
who the floods washed ashore
Silent and lonely

All who join together here
Driven by desperation into the cold
Womb of the waves
So the crosses loom
Like the cross that they carried
“Nameless.”

Count von Wickenburg (rough translation: KC Blau)

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READY TO LIFEBALL

Just as only a lover can reveal to a man what life means to him and develop its innermost significance… – Austrian writer Hermann Bahr, 1901, in his “Speech on Klimt” describing Klimt’s artwork.

Gearing up for Vienna’s 2015 LifeBall

Print This Post “Dress – good buy. Worn once. Wedding.” The taxi driver gave me a thumbs up and pocketed my Euros. One thing was sure, he was happy to see that thing go.

Second sure thing, if gowns could talk, this one would have tales to tell because it was going to the Lifeball. With me!

This year’s theme? GOLD – VER SACRUM ala Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt.

Gold Accessories for Lifeball

Gold Accessories for Lifeball

Klimt! The name “…intimately associated in the art-lover’s mind with sensuous lines, erotic and beautiful women, and decorative golden detail.” (Essential Klimt)

After the confirmation that I had accomplished the next-to-impossible task of securing a ticket, I moved into action mode. That evening I charged head first into Willhaben’s “Abendkleid” collection, scouring countless computer screens and hundreds of gowns. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, my weary eyes in blurred determination spotted it like a fata morgana on a distant horizon — a flowing toga-looking dress bearing a bold gold sash and dotted with gold spheres destined for Gustav’s magic.

Close of Gown

Close of Gown

Next stop, basement of Libro in a hunt for fabric paints (don’t kids do crafts anymore?).

A kitchen table, a bottle of nail polish remover, 99 cent paintbrushes and a Klimt coffeetable book of art I had scored a few years ago for half price at Borders in North Carolina and I was set. I am no artist, but the lights in Vienna’s City Hall were bound to be forgiving. Or the alcohol flowing. Or both. Let’s face it, by midnight, all Cinderellas will have hurried home and every man, woman and Conchita is stunning in any costume.

Contrary to other Vienna balls, come 1 am at the Lifeball, it’s not just the ladies kicking off their heels to jam in their stockings, it’s the guys too. In fact, the entire night, you’re getting sympathetic nods, as they too adjust their mascara, dab some clear nail polish on the run in their ‘hose, and duck into a corner to readjust their bra straps.

Faschingsprinz

Gold Glam at Vienna’s Faschingsprinz – perfect of Lifeball accessories

“Hmm Hmm Hmmm giiirl! Where did you get such a sassy hair feather? That so accentuates the azure in that gown!” OK. Maybe the German version of that. But you get the idea. And hey! Maybe not. Because the Lifeball is without bounds and without borders. Folks are from anywhere and everywhere. And you won’t know if they are black, white, grey, brown, yellow or polka-dotted green. Speak German, English or Swahili. You also won’t know if they are homosexuals, heterosexuals, transsexuals, asexuals or what-ever. Are they male, female, neither or both? You won’t know. Because no one cares. Everyone is there to have fun, party, celebrate and raise money for a good cause. So get with the program!

Amongst this crowd, if you don’t want to blend into the background like a sparrow in a parade of peacocks, you better go for the gold and accessorize.

Fortunately, I live in the district with probably the very best shop in town for Lifeball needs – Faschingsprinz. Don’t judge this shop by its website. They seem to have last updated their important events list in 2010, but I’m sure that’s just because they’re too busy uniting creative customers with their artistic needs. No idea where to start with your Lifeball outfit? Go there. And if you’re tempted by those sparkling red no-place-like home heels, go for it. They’re bound to match someone’s leather outfit.

Armed with leis of golden flowers and sparkly Egyptian style eye make up damning me to hours of mirror time, I headed home to pimp up my parade.

Lifeball 2014

Lifeball 2014

Full Gown for Lifeball

Full Gown for Lifeball

By midnight, pleased my gown project didn’t end in disaster (I have a low success threshold when it comes to creative projects), I was sleep-deprived enough to convince myself that the smock-donning man who was still inspiring multitudes with his beautiful works of art almost a hundred years after his death would have forgiven my attempt to emulate his technique — considering it was for a good cause. But even at that hour I seriously doubted he would have exhibited the thrilled enthusiasm of the taxi driver husband who was so eager to get the gown gone that he offered to perform a home delivery on a Craigslist sale item. A good buy. A very good buy.

Friends have asked why I would want to go to a ball alone. Truth is, I only got one ticket so it wasn’t really a decision. Sure it’d be a blast to go with some friends but if last year’s ball is any indication, I’m not worried.

At the Lifeball there are no sparrows, only peacocks. And I will just sync my step with the suicidal stilettos, shiny heels, sensible sandals and ripped stockings of my fellow Dorothies dreaming of a better place somewhere over the rainbow. That in Vienna, year for year, exists for an entire amazing night. Because beyond the gold, flash, and pizazz is a celebration of “life’s innermost significance” – what distinguishes but unites us. No matter color, creed or sexual orientation. Everyone coming together in a night of awesomeness to fight HIV and AIDs and celebrate life.

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Sparkly Red Shoes

Shoes from Faschingsprinz high and sparkly enough to transport anyone over a rainbow

And I’m ready. Ready to Lifeball.

And maybe get a selfie with Conchita Wurst!

KC’s 2014 Lifeball Good Times and Memories: Celebrating Life in the Garden of Earthly Delights

Vienna Lifeball: Vienna’s City Hall (Rathaus)

Saturday, May 16, 2015
Ball Opening: 9:30 pm
Entrances: Open as of 7:30 pm
The Vienna Ringstrasse will be closed Saturday evening from Schwarzenbergplatz to Schottentor from 6 pm – 11:30 pm.

Don’t have a ball ticket?

Come to the Rathaus (U2 Schottentor or Rathaus) and admire the costumes as ball guests enter the ball parading down the red carpet to the Vienna City Hall.

Want a preview of what’s to come? Check out the Lifeball Style Bible – Klimt’s paintings staged with live models – a feast for the eyes! No wonder the man caused a ruckus when he opted to stop painting the cherubs and go for something a bit more modern – over 100 years ago!

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Testament to the Art of Finding your Own Way – Miro

Laying bare the soul…poetry and painting are done in the same way you make love; with an exchange of blood, a passionate embrace – without restraint, without any thought of protecting yourself. The picture is born…of an overflow of emotions and feelings.

– Joan Miro, Conversations with Georges Duthuit the French art critic 1936

Chinese Character Strokes

When writing Chinese characters, each stroke has a correct start and finish direction and each character a precise stroke order

My first encounter with the works of the Spanish artist, Joan Miro, occurred in the most unlikely of settings — at the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) in Beijing. The exhibit was entitled, “Oriental Spirit: Art Exhibition of Joan Miro.”

Miro Exhibition Visitors on a Saturday afternoon in Vienna's Albertina

Miro Exhibition visitors on a Saturday afternoon in Vienna’s Albertina

After months of intense Chinese studies, I was craving a good excuse to give my cramped fingers a break from relentless hours of practicing Chinese character strokes. Classes at the Beijing Language and Cultural Institute began each day with a drill of the 30 vocab words assigned the afternoon before. One lucky student of our class of 20 was randomly chosen to demonstrate the characters on the board while the others struggled to write them in their notebooks.

Me and my bike in China

Me and my bike in China in front of the Kempinsky Hotel

Since I had the good fortune of living 2 hours away from the institute at the charming last stop of the Beijing subway in a town ironically called Ping Guo Yuan (Apple Orchard supposedly existing somewhere beneath the shadow of a huge smoke billowing factory) and since a commute which entails a bike ride, a subway ride, a bus ride and then another bike ride, is often subject to various unforeseen delays, I was often a minute or two late for class. Which also meant that the Chinese-ified version of my name, which sounded particularly brutal at 8:03 am, was often the one called out for the daily public drill. Fortunately, the class consisted of every nationality possible and my French, German, Canadian and New Zealand colleagues tended to be far less judgmental of any errors than the three Japanese businessmen who always seemed to get everything perfect (the rest of us accused them of having an unfair language advantage).

Chinese is a tough language to learn. Unless you’re a Japanese businessman. At least for me it was. First there is the whole Ting Dong stuff with the four tones. Assuming you manage to get those right – and let’s hope you do because a horse-mother mix up could cause quite a bit of awkwardness – you can move on to the next really tough part of Hanyu — writing.

Practicing Chinese Characters

Practicing Chinese Characters

To get the characters right, you have to get the strokes right. One Chinese word can have several characters and each character several strokes. Each stroke starts and ends in a very specific direction and are put together in a very specific order. All of this must be memorized and practiced, practiced, practiced. Any sign of rebellion – starting a stroke in the bottom right hand corner and moving upward and to the left, for example, is swiftly quelled by a stern reprimand by the Laoshi. Heck. I was even put in my place by a sweet looking but very strict schoolboy in a uniform seated beside me on the subway one morning. No doubt exasperated by the big nose lady (all foreigners in China have big noses, not just me) attempting a proper language that uses both sides of the brain, he gave me a vigorous head shake and stern look as he swiped away my homework notebook from me to demonstrate what I was doing wrong (and no, I wasn’t doing the homework the morning before class, it was the evening after, of course – just in case you were wondering. You believe me, don’t you? And just for the record, the English homework he was working on, wasn’t perfect either).

Needless to say, the art of learning Chinese is rigid. Very rigid. And after awhile, you start to feel a bit stifled. (Or maybe the mandatory start of every sentence with Tóng zhì (Comrade) causes that feeling.) Whatever the reason, Miro entered my life at a time when I needed him most.

The works must be conceived with fire in the soul but executed with clinical coolness.
– Joan Miro

Oh the complete and utter awe to stand before his paintings in a place so rigid with rules. Bold lines, incomplete forms, and off-set shapes. Yes, “Heaven is high and the emperor is far away.” Strokes going right to left, up to down, sideways and through figures. Eyes of different colors, hand prints here and there and chickens afloat. Nothing conformed. Nothing matched. Every painting was free. Rebellious. Without restraint. Fire in the soul.

Miro Exhibition Visitors admiring Miro's painting, The Farm, which Hemingway scraped together 5000 Francs to purchase

Miro Exhibition visitors admiring Miro’s painting, The Farm, which Hemingway scraped together 5000 Francs to purchase

This past Saturday, as I visited Miro’s masterpieces once again, years after my first encounter, I learned about the Spanish artist’s past and close encounter with a missed fate. How his family had pressured him to work as an accountant for two years before he had a nervous breakdown and retreated back to his family’s farmhouse to paint. I learned that he spent nine months in Paris, poor as a church mouse, working endless hours on a painting entitled, The Farm, that Hemingway insisted on buying (after going bar to bar to scrape together enough money to do so). What if he hadn’t had that breakdown? What if he hadn’t gotten through the rough times and kept painting? What if the world never got to see Miro’s paintings because he kept accounting or because he gave up and did something other than slave over a Farm painting for 9 months?

At the Language Institute we had a tone teacher who marched into our class and for an hour each day, she pressed the button on her cassette player, played a phrase and had us repeat. Played a phrase and had us repeat. Played a phrase…. The first phrase she taught us was the one we would use over and over again during our time in China: 我听不懂 wo ting bu dong – which literally translates to mean, “I hear but I don’t understand.”

 Joan Miro could hear the voices telling him what to do but thankfully they made no sense to him. A stronger, clearer inner voice spoke louder and truer to his artist soul.  Tóng zhì ta ting bu dong.

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More on Miro:

Miro Exhibit at Vienna’s Albertina Museum – September 12, 2014 – January 15, 2015

Adam, Tim,s Joan Miró: A life in paintings Guardian Article, March 11, 2011

 

Stairs of Albertina leading to Miro Exhibition

Stairs of Albertina leading to Miro Exhibition

Miro From Earth to Heaven Albertina Exhibition Poster

Miro From the Earth to the Sky Albertina Exhibition Poster

Albertina Museum Opening Times

Albertina Museum Opening Times

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