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SCA Call for Commentary - A new peerage

Posted on 2014.11.18 at 12:37
November 17, 2014

Re: Proposed Change to Corpora, Creating a Rapier Peerage

To the Board of Directors of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA),

After much discussion and consideration on this rather controversial topic, the time has finally come for the Board to make a decision. Unquestionably, no matter what the Board decides, some people will celebrate, others will grouse, and a small few will make predictions of the end of the society as we know it.

Before I present my thoughts on this subject, I would like to provide you with a brief introduction for the benefit of those of you whom I have not met. I began playing in the SCA in 1989 in the Kingdom of Trimaris. In my time there, I had the honor of being elevated to the Order of the Laurel; working as a shire, baronial, and kingdom officer; and serving as a territorial noble in the Barony of Wyvernwoode. After moving to the Kingdom of Caid, I found myself having the additional honor of joining the Order of the Pelican, working as a baronial and kingdom officer; and serving once again as a territorial noble alongside my husband, Master Giles, in the Barony of Gyldenholt, where we continue to serve as the societies first same-gender nobles. In my time within the society, I have held more offices than I can recount, and have been through many experiences, both good and bad, exposing me to both the gentle side of the society as well as its harshness. And while on the one hand, I think most of us can agree that the SCA often does not readily embrace change, change is nonetheless an absolutely critical requirement for the overall growth and adaptation of our current middle ages. It is with that spirit in mind that I write to you today to advise you and give you my thoughts on the subject of a separate rapier peerage.

Very simply, I support the concept of those who have achieved mastery in rapier/cut and thrust having the opportunity to advance to peerage. However, let me be very clear, I do NOT support the proposed change to corpora as presented. Why? Because the creation of a completely separate peerage is not a wise or effective solution. Much to the contrary, it is only a temporary fix that has the potential of leading the society and the future Board members into dangerous territory facing future requests for peerage in areas not currently covered by existing definition.

I strongly advise the Board members to not only consider how to fix today’s issue, but to be proactive and forward-thinking about tomorrow.

If you change corpora to create a new peerage for Rapier/Cut and Thrust peerage, you are only addressing today’s hot issue. But you are not considering other martial areas. What about Unarmored Combat? What about Archery? Equestrian? Thrown Weapons? What about forms of martial activities that the SCA has not even yet addressed, but may some day in the future? To make a comparison – making an alteration to corpora is in some ways like making a necessary home repair. Sure, you can do a temporary fix today that is the faster and cheaper repair. But chances are, you are only delaying what will eventually be a much costlier repair that will not only involve extensive revision, but also ripping out the temporary repair. In situations like this, it is best to just do it right the first time, as in the big picture, it will do the least damage.

Many times, both publicly and in my correspondences with the Board, I have stated that I support the idea of elevation for those who have shown mastery in Rapier. But in my humble opinion, there is no need to create a new order of peerage when we already have the Order of the Chivalry. Currently, the only thing that I can find within Corpora to prevent a rapier fighter from being elevated to Knighthood involves a combination of two sections in the January 18, 2014 version of Corpora. In Section VIII.A.4.a.(i) “The Chivalry”, it states “the candidate must be considered the equal of his or her prospective peers with the basic weapons of tournament combat.” And later in section IX.C. “Rapier Fighting in the Society”, it states that “Rapier combat, not having been part of formal tournament combat in the Middle Ages, shall not be a part of formal tournament lists for royal ranks and armigerous titles.” To me, this is still somewhat open for interpretation in that it does not expressly forbid elevation into the Order of the Chivalry for rapier/cut and thrust. (after all, what does “considered the equal” to mean?) However, that is strictly my opinion and my interpretation. (and by all means, if I have missed a key section of corpora, please educate me on what I have missed!)

Over the years since rapier began in the society, I have heard many thoughts and opinions about whether or not to expand the Order of the Chivalry. I have worked very hard to stay open-minded on the debate, listening to all sides and arguments. Personally, I have no vested interest. I have never personally had interest in martial activities of any kind, other than a scholarly interest. Yet, the arguments for including rapier in the Order of Chivalry (along with the other martial areas that I mentioned) far outweigh any logical reason for excluding them.

Simply for your consideration, here I present to you some of the most common arguments that I have heard on this issue:

Rapier should just be included in the Order of the Laurel: With all due respect to the naïve few who have made this claim, I maintain that the Order of the Laurel is an order for art and research. And in my time as a Laurel, I have seen individuals recognized for their work in rapier and combat studies. But it has absolutely nothing to do with their skill on the field. It involves their research, or their knowledge, or their ability to teach or their ability to reproduce various implements used in the pursuit of the martial activity. But when it comes to one’s skill on the field, that is vehemently NOT the concern of the Order of the Laurel. Skill on the field is the concern of the Order of the Chivalry. Incidentally, I have also seen individuals who have worked tirelessly to promote and run and set-up and break down fields for rapier eventually elevated to the Order of the Pelican. Two order have embraced rapier. It is time for the other to do the same.

Rapier only covers a very small time frame of the SCA: If one were to fairly and equally apply this standard across the board to peerage, I’m afraid we would see very few peers out there. Would an Elizabethan clothing laurel qualify for a laurel? “Elizabethan” is only a very small time frame of the SCA. One of my own personal areas of expertise involves western European dance. The earliest known choreography that we have is dated to 1445. What about the other 1500 years or so of SCA society? I am unaware of any section in corpora that states that a fighter must be an expert in all forms of combat and combat studies for all time periods and cultures to be considered a Knight.

The Knights should be all about the Arthurian Ideal: Yes, we’ve all heard the stories of how the SCA was founded. Yes, we began as a bunch of happy college hippies trying to recreate a pre-Raphaelite version of the middle ages. But whether we like to admit it or not, the society has evolved in the decades since that first party – sometimes because we wanted to, sometimes because we had to, and sometimes because we just grew up. Tell me, how many of the knights of the round table were women? Is it part of the Arthurian Ideal to allow women to fight? Is it part of the Arthurian Ideal to allow plastic armor? Is it part of the Arthurian Ideal to hit each other with rattan sticks? The Arthurian Ideal involved the good guy killing the bad guy and riding off into a magical world of honor and glory. The SCA of today is a tournament society based upon a modern application of what we have learned and gleaned from history. We do not restrict a peerage based on gender. We do not insist upon period authenticity within the Order of Chivalry. To restrict an absolutely documentable form of martial arts is, I would argue, and absolute insult to the Arthurian ideal being bantered about.

The Order of Chivalry is and has always been about heavy weapons combat: Members of the Board, how many of you have seen the video of the very first tournament? I have. I have seen those silly and fun-loving college students, donning fencing masks and flicking fencing epées at each other. And that, was our very first tourney. What exactly is heavy weapons combat? Does that refer to Freon helms? Does it refer to carpet armor? Does it refer to rattan and PVC? Rapier/cut and thrust/unarmored are executed in arguably a truer to accurate form than any modern heavy-weapons fight.

The Order of Chivalry is about medieval combat, whereas cut and thrust is a later-period form of civil defense: While cut and thrust forms of combat are indeed later period, to state that the Order of Chivalry is only about medieval combat makes about as much sense as the other Orders restricting elevation consideration only to those concepts that were dreamed up in the A.S. single-digits. Did the first Pelicans ever consider recommending a Pelican for work in databases or web design? No – the real world and the SCA had not gotten there yet. Would the laurels have considered someone for elevation based on their reconstruction of the Pandolfo farsetto? No. We hadn’t dug it up yet, and could not fathom at the time doing such a project. Did the early Knights consider rapier and cut and thrust? Of course not – the early SCA probably had no idea that the concepts even existed or that the manuals existed. (Indeed, most were not yet translated). In short, “because we haven’t done it before”, is just not a good reason to prevent moving forward.

There is no way to gage a rapier’s skill if I, as a heavy weapons knight, do not do rapier: How does a pottery laurel gage a candidate’s skill in cooking if the laurel knows nothing about cooking? How does a Pelican whose service-background involves running events gage a candidate’s worthiness when the candidate is known for cleaning up after a feast? The job of a peer is not always easy. And sometimes, it takes extra work to do justice to our candidates. Sometimes, we talk about candidates who live in other states or other countries. Sometimes, we discuss candidates whom we have never had the opportunity to meet. Is it right or noble or fair to expect them to come to us and meet us on our own personal terms in our own personal arenas? If one wants to gage a candidate who is outside of one’s expertise, one needs to either learn to grow and expand one’s own skills, take council and advice from people who do know something about it, or stay out of the discussion entirely. To do anything less in any circle is to do injustice to the candidate and to the peerage that one is trying to represent.

The Order of Chivalry is about hand-to-hand combat only: I found this argument to be the most interesting, in that it does indeed allow consideration for rapier/cut and thrust; but excludes areas that are not hand-to-hand (such as archery, thrown weapons, equestrian, etc.) This is, perhaps, true today. But I would argue that this is no reason for the order not to evolve and grow for the sake of tomorrow. To be fair, I have seen changes and growth in the martial community. I have seen changes and improvements in armor, higher authenticity on the field, etc. What I have not yet seen is the evolution within the Order of Chivalry as a whole. Individual Knights have evolved and many have expressed a strong acceptance of the idea of adding other types of martial arts to their circle. So it should be.

It really doesn’t matter what the membership thinks or says. The Board has already made up their minds: I have heard this statement made not only about this particular issue, but about almost every controversial issue over the years, with many different Boards. And in very recent times, over an entirely different issue, I recall well being involved in a rather in-heated discussion with a former board member over the subject of change. I was told that the Board, by its nature, must make the most conservative and mildest change at any time simply because the membership at large just cannot handle large-scale change. I maintained then, just as I maintain now, this is utterly untrue. The society is resilient – far more resilient than what most of us (myself included) give it credit. I do not advocate that the Board make the single most sweeping change just for the sake of change. Nor do I advocate that the Board make the most conservative change just to avoid too much of a shake-up. What I DO advocate is for the Board to make the most appropriate change to make our society better. And no matter what the change, it should be about making this game of ours MORE enticing, MORE approachable, MORE interesting, and MORE encouraging; not just for today, but for tomorrow. And if that means losing a stuck-in-the-past person who has been around since 1972 in order to open the door for productive and enthusiastic newcomers in 2015, then so be it. In order to enjoy what we have learned from the past, we must look to our future.

My recommendation to the Board is to approach this subject differently, and with a greater forethought for the future. Rather than adopt the proposed changes that you have presented, my suggestion is that you simply change the sections of corpora that imply (not restrict, but imply) that only heavy weapons fighters be allowed into the Order of the Chivalry. From there, let the individual kingdoms do as they will. In kingdoms were Rapier is not strong or not allowed at all, they won’t have to embrace change. They won’t have to live under the shadow of a new peerage that they don’t even like or want. But in kingdoms that are and have been ready to make the change, they can. And the celebrations will be heard near and far. Nothing will be forced upon the Kingdoms. But they will have more freedom to do as they will, according to their own culture. This will leave the door open for future change as well, making the job of future Board members easier.

I thank you for your time and attention to this matter, and your willingness to consider change for now and for the future.

Sincerely,



Joseph Cook-Giles
Ska Messer Giuseppe Francesco da Borgia, O.L; O.P.

The Destruction of Culture

Posted on 2014.11.17 at 12:44
After a fantastic (but exhausting!) day of helping to prepare feast for Frost Dragon up in Naevehjaim, Sunday became a serious Day of Rest! Pulling up in front of the house at about 11:00am, my hubby and I unpacked the necessities, and then began our ritual of rest. For Paul, that meant reading. For me, that meant crashing out for a little nap. OK, maybe it wasn’t a little nap, as I didn’t rise from my crypt until around 2:00ish.

On the one hand, I probably could have been somewhat productive after getting up. Oh, but no. The Sunday paper, couch, and warm cup of tea called my name. And who was I to ignore such strong pleas? After enjoying the Sunday paper and various puzzles, I quickly realized that there was nothing but rubbish on the TV, and it was time to rely upon Netflicks. Combing through the recesses in my brain, I finally remembered a few things that have long been on my “Must Watch eventually” list. So we treated ourselves to a themed double-header – Monuments Men followed by the Rape of Europa. For those of you who don’t know, Monuments Men is the true-story of a small task force of Allied servicemen at the end of World War II who were tasked with the job of tracking down and recovering stolen artwork plundered by the Nazis. The Rape of Europa is the documentary covering the same subject.

While it is nothing that I didn’t already know, it reinforced my utter contempt for the Nazis. Argh! They really wanted to just destroy the world! It wasn’t enough to simply butcher millions of people in a failed attempt at racial purification. They wanted to utterly obliterate history and other cultures from the face of the earth and from memory.

In The Rape of Europa, one of the things that really stuck with me was the very difficult job of repatriating found items. Sometimes, we have clear-cut documentation for where an item came from. But on other occasions, trying to figure out ownership is a beast! I think, for instance, of the hundreds of Torahs that were found. Personally, I find it amazing that they even still exist at all. I would have thought that the Nazis would have simply burned them. But for whatever reason, they kept them. And nowadays, many have been surrendered to Jewish historical societies and museums. One moment that really stuck with me involved the work of one German researcher who showed the cameras a pair of beautiful silver Torah Crowns. Removed from their synagogue and from their intended use, they sat in a drawer along with a bunch of others, waiting to find their homes. Fortunately, this particular pair bore the inscription of the patrons who commissioned and donated them for use at a synagogue. The researcher was able to identify the graves of the patrons (who died before the war), and then track down descendants here in the United States. The return of the Torah Crowns was, of course, met with much emotion, ritual, and celebration. And to see them once again adorn the top of a Torah felt good.

For me personally, I feel just sick about the whole thing. I am angry at what happened for so many reasons. I am angry because my grandfather’s family were effectively wiped off the planet – their possessions confiscated, and their lives cut short in the likes of Auschwitz and Birkenau and Sobibor. I am angry because I know nothing about them and never will. I am angry because I feel like a part of my own past and my own culture was taken from me before I was even born.

The treasure hunt is far from over. So many items still remain missing. Were they purposely destroyed by the Nazis? Are they still hiding in plain site, just like the paintings discovered in the dingy apartment of the son of a nazi art collector? Will more be found in an abandoned mine somewhere in Europe?

Only time will tell.

Traffic racket

Posted on 2014.11.13 at 12:38
Hustling back to my Jeep after running home for lunch one day, I reached to remove what I thought was a flyer stuck to my hood. “WTF?!” I said to myself. A ticket?! For WHAT?! I’m not parked in a non-parking zone. I have a sticker for this neighborhood. WTF?!

Reading through the ticket, I received a citation for not having proper registration on my license plate. That can’t be right! I have my registration. But just for the heck of it, I went to take a look… and the anger began to seethe! There, on my license plate, I could barely see the traces left in all four corners of the annual sticker, marking where someone had come along with a razor-blade to steel my sticker, taking with it the remnants of several years underneath.

SUNNOVABITCH!

The citation was for a significant amount, so naturally, I wrote in to protest. After all, I paid my annual registration fee. I have a copy of my registration in my car. And frankly, why couldn’t the officer just run my plates to see that I was up to date? In the meantime, I had to maneuver the anything-but-user-friendly DMV website to figure out how to order a new replacement sticker. The first response I received was a letter from the DMV indicating an incomplete application for a replacement sticker. Why? Because I didn’t pay a $19 replacement fee. ARGH! Not only did the website not tell me that, but it made my blood boil. My sticker was stolen! It really ticks me off to have to fork out additional money for the little add-on to the significant annual expense that I already paid for! But what can I do other than grouse about it? I wrote a check and sent it in.

The next thing I received was a denial of my protest for the citation. WTF?!!!!!!!!

According to the citation, it was considered a “Fix It” ticket, meaning that I could have my citation reduced to $10.00 if I get the replacement sticker AND have a police officer sign off that I placed it on my license. Oh mother of god!

Weeks later, the sticker arrived, and in my first open window (on Veterans Day), I went to the police station to see if I could find an officer willing to say, “Yup, that’s a sticker”. I found the police station. I found some officers. And they said, “sorry, can’t do it. It’s a holiday.”

Um… WTF?!

Apparently, unlike what the instructions claim, a citation like this doesn’t require a signature of an officer – it requires a stamp along with the officer’s signature. And the stamp was in the office, which was closed. But they sent me to another office that they said might be open. So off I went. You guessed it… closed. ARGH! FML!

The next day, I went to the police station. After waiting in line long enough to feel my joints stiffen, I spoke to the lady behind the counter only to learn that for traffic issues, I needed to be in the OTHER line – you know, the one with all the signs in Spanish.

Moving to the other line, I found myself behind this one party, all speaking sternly in Spanish to the woman behind the counter. Several gray hairs later, I got to the counter, and handed my citation to the person behind the counter. Gruffly, she asked me where I was parked. Indicating that I parked in the garage across the street, she angrily told me I would have to move to the “citation sign-off” spot. OK, fine.

“Oh,” she said. “That’ll be five bucks.”

“Five dollars?” I asked. “To have a police officer walk across the street and look at my license plate?????”

“Five bucks!” she angrily repeated. ARGH!

Luckily, the fates shined on me. Opening my wallet, I actually had a ten with me. I handed her the bill, and she pushed it back. “Exact change only,” she said as deadpan as could be. And before I could say anything, she said, “get change at the garage. NEXT!!!!!”

Pissed off, I went across the street, got change, moved my car to the place where she told me to park, and then I returned to the station where I had to wait in line AGAIN to deal with Miss Manners. As I got to the counter, she repeated again, “five bucks???!” I pushed the bill under the window along with the citation. “I’m not sure I have an officer available,” she said.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Then she disappeared for a bit.

Five minutes later, she returns to the window, with the citation stamped and signed off. Nobody walked with me to check my car. Nobody actually verified that I got the sticker. I’m happy that the ordeal is over. But seriously?!!!!!!!!

My An Tir Brother

Posted on 2014.11.10 at 12:48
I can barely put into words how fantastic this past weekend was for me. Truly! I feel just a little bit bad in that I had to bow out of attending Calafia Anniversary to the south. But given the rarity of the opportunity, it was so worth it! What was so special, you might be wondering? Simple. I got to spend the weekend hanging out with a wonderful tatted gay fuzzball who loves to drink, bar-hop, geek out over 15th century clothing, tease mercilessly, and shop for fabric!

“Um Joe…” you might be thinking. “It sounds like you are describing yourself.” Well… in a way, yah. I guess I was.

My identical twin is Charles de Bourbon, and for the life of me, I just cannot understand how it is even conceivable that we had neither met nor even heard of each other over the course of the years. We know many of the same people. We have attended many of the same events. We have been in the same place at the same time. We have very similar interests. We have shared some very similar experiences, both good and bad. And in many ways, we have similar personalities. For those reasons, I entered this weekend a bundle of nerves. What if our personality similarities brought out the worst in one another? Gods only know, I have had that sort of a thing happen with a tiny handful of others with whom I SHOULD get along well, but manage to bicker with endlessly. Fortunately, such was not the case. We got along famously – well enough, in fact, that I was exceptionally sad to bid adieu this morning as he left to return home to the north.

For me, it just felt like such a huge relief, and one that most people just can’t really understand. I will put it simply. In the time that I have been playing in the SCA, I have studied areas of costuming that, to put it simply, most people just don’t touch. Sure, there are many women that do 15th century Italian clothing – usually at a basic and functional level. But there are very few men that I have seen do it. And of those who do, most only do the most basic and functional version – but very few examples that make me really take notice. Unlike my hubby, for instance, who really does have other people to chat with who share his interests in what he does, I have been very much alone for a long time. And no, I won’t lie - it has been frustrating. So frequently, I see households or clusters of people who are interested in the same thing. They work together on projects to combine efforts and I see entire Viking encampments, or medieval camps, etc. And I think that is great. Truly I do! I love to see that. And I wish I had that myself. But I don’t. Where’s my gang? Where are my peeps? Where is my moment? Where are my collective geeks? Where are the guys into 15th century costume bling?!

Frankly, I long ago gave up on finding someone of truly similar interests and just figured I would coast along, unchallenged. And for me, that is a sucky feeling. At least, until now. Though he may live far away, plane tickets aren’t that expensive, and the opportunities are plentiful. To my new good friend, Chuck, it was an absolute pleasure meeting you this weekend and hosting your visit. I look forward to seeing all the wonderful things that you make with your fabric finds, and I feel very inspired to get to work in the sewing room, myself.

Great big huge 15th century hugs!

Random Acts of Kindness

Posted on 2014.11.03 at 12:35
The other day, I sat quietly at Subway following a heavy-duty workout at the gym. Call me an oddball, but I cherish my occasional random moment of alone-ness. While I love my hubby and friends and family, there is something very calming about being able to just sit quietly in my own little world, not talking to anybody, and just watching the world around me. It is where I find my zen-place.

And older lady paid for her order, and carefully turned around with a couple of sodas and sandwiches in both hands. By the time she got to the door, she was struggling a bit to open it up. Just then, a guy who had been otherwise engaged in a conversation got up, and said to her, “I’ll get that for you” while opening up the door for her. She smiled and coyly said thank you while he chuckled and said something nice in response. And I smiled. It really wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t like he had just saved her life or rescued the momma cat and her kittens from being squashed on the railroad tracks. But it was a very subtle act of kindness, and one that I wanted to highlight.

Like many of you out there, I too sometimes get really bogged down by the negative. You cannot open the paper nowadays without reading the latest chapter in the arguments in Congress or the Senate. People everywhere are angry and protesting about something happening to somebody somewhere. All around the world, we have chaos and confusion and war and victimization. And in our own lives, we have traffic jams and work frustrations and relationship tiffs and things that just don’t work out the way they want. Let’s face it – life can get kind of overwhelming sometimes. And with all the concern about the things that are going wrong, I think we all tend to forget sometimes when things go right. And seeing a stranger get up from what he was doing to come to the aid of another stranger reminded me of that.

Sometimes, little random acts of kindness happen all over the place and we don’t even necessarily think about them. There’s that person who holds the elevator when they see you coming. There’s the guy who sees an empty water bottle on the ground and he picks it up to dispose of it properly. There’s the random text you get from a friend who was thinking about you and just wanted to let you know. Or maybe there’s that pretty leaf-pattern that your local barrista draws in your crema. Ultimately, if you really make a point to look for the random acts of kindness, they are indeed out there. Sometimes they are so subtle that you don’t notice them – at first. But they are there.

For the rest of this month, I think I am going to really make a point to try and focus on seeing the random acts of kindness. Who is with me?

True Sad

Posted on 2014.10.29 at 12:46
Well, at long last, my hubby and I watched the last True Blood episode last night. And now, I’m sad. Oh sure, it was for the best that the show ended. They started going off in some really cray-cray directions. But I have to admit it, I was a True Blood addict.

I have really tried my darnedest to avoid getting hooked by TV. I haven’t seen Orange is the New Black. I’ve never seen an episode of Walking Dead or Boardwalk Empire. I adore Jon Hamm, but haven’t gone through Mad Men. Why not? Well, frankly, because I just don’t want to be a couch potato any more than I already am. I want to get my butt to the gym and to cook and to work on projects and to be productive with my time so that I have something to show for it when all is said and done. And I know me – if I give in to a lot of these well-written cult-addiction shows, I will fall hook, line and sinker.

At various times in my life, I have found myself completely enthralled by a show. As a kid, it was all the superhero stuff – Six Million Dollar Man, Wonder Woman, Superman, Bionic Woman, etc., etc. In college, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit, I was all over Dynasty! I knew every cat-fight that Alexis and Crystal got into. I knew all the relations and plot twists. And I even stuck with it when Fallon got kidnapped by the UFO (Worst EVER!!!!!) Yet, when it ends, I feel kinda sad – like someone I know suddenly exits from my life. Heck, I think of how addictively I read “For Better or For Worse” when it was in the comic strips. But when the artist announced her plan to retire the strip, how could I NOT be upset? Heck, in a lot of ways, I grew up with that storyline and I felt like I knew the people portrayed in it. Silly? Of course. But it is nonetheless a familiar thing and part of my routine that suddenly… leaves.

To many, I’m sure it feels a little silly. But for me, when a storyline that has been part of my life for a while ends, I sometimes feel almost a little bit like I am in mourning. Something I have enjoyed is now gone. And yes, that is a little sad. But I enjoyed it while it lasted!

I wonder what my next semi-addiction will be?

Shards of Memories

Posted on 2014.10.28 at 18:24
Walking the beaches of Provincetown in the 70’s was typically hard on the feet. Despite the tumbling effect of the rough winter waves, the beaches on the Atlantic side were always covered in rocks. And unless you happened to be walking in a pair of flip-flops, the trip to and from the water was often met with a rocky obstacle course. But completely unlike the Oceanside, the bayside of Provincetown consisted of very shallow waters, mild waves, hermit crabs… and shards of yesteryears.

Once an absolutely bustling fishing community, Provincetown of the late 1800’s going into the 20th century was a town built upon the fishing industry. What now appear as jagged and rotting teeth jutting out of the water is all that is left of several wharves that used to provide safe docking for fishing boat after fishing boat, bringing in tuna, scallops, muscles, cod, etc. And back before the days of being “green” or environmentally conscious, when something broke or was no longer useful, it often went overboard. So today, as one walks along the shoreline of the bay, it isn’t unusual at all to find bits and pieces of Provincetown history from about 100 years ago. Shards of matte-finished smooth beach-glass will eventually make their way onshore, looking more like a raw gemstone than a piece of broken glass. Next to that, a smoothed piece of what once was a delicate Victorian-era teacup – perhaps transferwear from England? Perhaps something a little more exotic? Perhaps it is less common nowadays, but when I was a kid, it wasn’t terribly unusual to find pieces of clay pipes. Made on the cheap, little white pipes were fairly common for sailors. And when they broke, they were just tossed overboard and cheaply replaced.

For me, going to the beach was always a treasure hunt, simply because you really never knew what you might find. You might find a smoothly tumbled item that is now, in and of itself, a piece of artistic beauty. Every now and again, I would find a completely intact old bottle to add to the collection. But more often than not, it was all just the various pieces. Yet, introspective child that I was, it wasn’t just about the various shards of glass or pottery that I might find. It was about the story. If objects could speak, what would they say?

Was this piece of glass simply trash? Sure, maybe it was just a piece of an old beer bottle that someone smashed and threw overboard. Or, maybe it was a piece of the last bottle of medicine during a harsh time of disease and winter flu? Was that piece of a pipe just broken and thrown overboard? Or was it all that is left of a wreck? Was it carefully stashed away in a sailor’s box, only to be smashed in a horrible sea tragedy that splintered the boat, swallowing up the crew?

Where did all these objects come from? Sometimes, the smooth bottom of a tumbled bottle might show the marking of where it came from – various states elsewhere. The pottery shards might often bear markings or stamps to indicate “made in India” or “made in England”. But I always wondered, what was their full story? How long had the pieces been in the water? How did they get there? At what time were they in use? And, because our town was so small and so many families related, was it one of my own ancestors who owned this now discarded piece of another time?

If only objects could talk!

Tea Time

Posted on 2014.10.21 at 12:33
Waiting for my tea to finish steeping, I can’t help but enjoy my own little tea ritual. Oh, I don’t mean anything formal. It is just my own little personal observation. I love feeling the warmth of the cup, watching the water darken, smelling the wonderful aroma of the tea as the oils begin to release. It is, in fact, one of those personal formalities that lead me to my own form of Deep Thoughts.

Nowadays, one of my favorite pastimes involves trying different types of cuisines, flavors, recipes, etc., in my pursuit of foodie knowledge and the pure enjoyment of eating. But, this wasn’t always the case. When I was a kid, let’s just say that culinary exploration was not something that really happened in the family home. Despite the fact that my parents owned a restaurant, neither was what I would consider a stellar cook. My dad loved seafood, and I vehemently did not (and still don’t). That didn’t leave much overlap. But when it came to non-seafood items, my dad’s food tastes were as pedestrian as one could get – Oscar Mayer bologna, yellow mustard, Wonder Bread. As for my mom, she approached cooking not so much as an artform but as something that had to be done to keep the kids and the family going. So whatever would work the fastest and most efficient is what she would do – lots of frozen dinners, canned items, boil in bag stuff, etc. I think mom would have been a fantastic Army cook. Also, once mom or dad had something that worked, that’s what they would stick with – the more basic the better – no variety.

At that point in my life, when someone mentioned “tea”, that meant one and only one thing to me – a bag of bitter Lipton’s with sugar. (Shudder!) I didn’t know there were different types of teas or sweeteners. I had no idea that different varieties would have different flavors. It was just an alien world to me. Heck, I remember how crazy it was the first time I had some Lipton tea sweetened with honey rather than with sugar. It was madness… MADNESS!

At some point in my childhood (and yes, memories are getting a little fuzzy nowadays), I remember visiting sister 3 of 5. She was away at college, and lived in a little (apartment? Condo? Townhouse?) Anyway, it was breakfast time. And she always seemed to eat “Weird” foods. By “Weird”, I mean food items that would never ever appear in the family home because, well, they weren’t frozen-meals. And when I tried my tea, I noticed it wasn’t the all-too-familiar Lipton. No worries, though. Tea is tea, right?! Imagine my utter shock when, rather than bitter Lipton tea with sugar, I had a cup of strong chamomile tea with lemon, milk, and honey.

I WAS IN HEAVEN!!!!!

I had no idea that different types of flavors like that existed! I had no idea that there were alternatives. (Yes, purists – I know that chamomile “tea” is not really tea, but an herbal infusion, but bear with me). This sent me down the rabbit hole of exploration. If there was one alternative flavor… clearly there must exist more, yes? So after this, I decided to make it a point to go and explore grocery stores for different types of tea. Who knew? There were flavors and combinations and complexities that I never would have ever considered.

“Hmmmm…” I thought to myself. “If this is the case with tea, I wonder if food in general has more variety, flavor, combinations, etc., etc.?”

The rest is, as they say, history. Ever since, I have loved trying different foods, and methods of preparation and ingredients and enjoying the fun that is food.

What’s not to love? Food is love. And if variety is the spice of life, then I believe spice is the variety of life!

Time for Me

Posted on 2014.10.20 at 12:47
What a glorious weekend!!!!!

While I feel bad for saying such a thing since my honey was away for the weekend, I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the rare gift of solitude. I got ME time! Me-time means the perfect and uninterrupted combination of rest when I want it, and progress when I want it.

In terms of projects, I felt ever so domestic this weekend, striking item after item off of my to-do list – going even further than I had hoped. And in terms of sleep… YES, YES, YES!!!! I got some much needed sleep! Around the house, I made cheeses, got in some workouts, cleaned, organized, sewed, did quite a bit of gardening, cooked, baked, etc., etc.

I don’t really know if it is the stress involved in doing our big events, aging, the heat, or the combination of all of the above; but MAN do things like GWW knock me completely out! While truly things went fantastically well, and I enjoyed myself quite a lot; the recovery takes longer each and every year. Youth is wasted on the young!

But now, having had some rest and some progress, I can ease into the work-week and return to some semblance of the routine.

Hmmmm... what to work on next?

Kermit Face

Posted on 2014.10.17 at 12:34
One of the many funny moments that came out of our most recent event was the suggestion from one of our friends to create a Facebook page dedicated to “The Many Faces of Giles”. While as a loving spouse, I would of course never endorse such a thing, I must admit that the idea is funny. Particularly because after the years have rolled by, I have learned to read some of the subtle differences between the faces-of-Giles. And one of the most common that I am faced with is nothing other than Kermit-face.

Take this morning, for instance. There we sat in the back parlor like most mornings, both with laptops open perusing various blogs and posts. Just then, we both heard the unmistakable noise of our cat, chasing after polter-mice in the dining room. Anybody with a cat understands polter-mice. There is nothing actually there (or so we think), but the cat decides to get frisky and run around chasing something imaginary, throwing itself around in the process, as if practicing for The Big Kill.

“Your cat has lost his mind,” Giles announced, emphasizing again that when Cosmo acts unusual that he is suddenly MY cat.

“Why do you say that?” I asked innocently, setting the trap.

“Because for no reason at all, he is just going whump-whump-whump in the dining room.”

“So?” I replied, confident that my victim fall into the trap. “You whump-crash-bang-boom around the house all the time too. Does that mean you too have lost your mind?”

No reply. Well… no verbal reply. The Kermit Face said it all.

Ahhh… the Many Faces of Giles. This just might have som

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