The following is a letter from my great-grandmother, Clarissa Camnitz, written to me in my junior year of high school for an unremembered project. I reckon she was in her mid- to late-80s at the time.
Friday, February 2, 1979
San Clemente, California
You and a rainy cold day have given me an opportunity to reminisce a bit for my earlier days. You can screen my thoughts for that which will help you in your report.
My first year in school was in Cumminsville so where I was broken of using my left hand in writing. It was not permitted at that time. Was there one year when I went to Covington, KY to school where I lived with an Uncle and Aunt, then to Winton Place until I was in the 4th grade. Mother and my stepfather bought a home in Madisonville in 1906 at the corner of Roanoke, then Charles Street, Grancola, then George Street and the counry road named after the Settle Coal and Builders Supply Company family.
The school I attended there was one mile from our home which we walked in attending school which was and is at the corner of Prentice, Mathis and Ward streets fenced in but up to the B&B railroad tracks on the fourth side. The high schools across, the Ward Street side of it. The old grade school was replaced about 1909 with the present one. In the old one, the high school chemistry and physics laboratory, housed a “paddler” which was a seat with a paddle, operated by the teacher and a foot treadle operating the paddle. No sore and red hands for them! This was not placed in the new school. At the time the black population lived mainly on the hillside above the creek which paralleled Camargo Road between Madisonville and Madeira and on Red Bank Road between Erie and now Madison Road. They attended (students) our school without a thought of being integrated.
Three months (tomorrow) and six posts. Road to hell. Good intentions. Et cetera.
The original plan was to stay through the end of August. That’s now been extended to (at least) the end of October. All depends on what work turns up in the next few weeks. Everyone says I’ll have more than enough to make it financially viable to stay, but the same people have also all repeatedly said that nobody will do any hiring until mid- to late-September.
I’m going to try to post more during the next couple months and do a better job of documenting what is and has been going on. But in the meantime, here’s a random list (in no particular order of importance) of things I’ve learned/noticed in the past 90-ish days. Some I might expand upon here, others in the privacy of the offline world (or maybe in a story or six) …
A long time ago, on a blog far, far away, I started something called the Tuesday 200s.
After my Keith Haringmeltdown in Paris last week, I decided I needed to get back into some kind of regular creativity swing, and so I registered a new domain. Because you know, like the ADD bookclub (you can’t only just be reading one thing at a time; rules are rules), we might as well start up with the ADD blogging as well. Also, I decided on a separate space for the creative work rather than blend it all into the old blog or into this one (because clearly I’ve been so prolific since my arrival in Barcelona).
I revisited some of the old stories tonight. I don’t remember writing most of them and, to be honest, some took me by surprise. Sometimes a cringe, sometimes a chuckle and (not to toot my own horn … oh go on, Bob, toot away) a couple of genuine LOLs. There were a few twists I didn’t see coming (which is strange, since to the best of my knowledge I did actually write them), and oh my … I did go to the dark place a few times, didn’t I? So many little deaths in so many little tales. And the ones I did remember were pleasant little reminders that you can turn snippets of real life into little stories that actually didn’t happen. I guess that’s what they call writing fiction, innit.
No idea where this next batch will go, but that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it? A little structure, with some self-imposed deadlines to spur on the creative process. And at least I’ll feel like I’m starting and finishing something, be it good or bad, over however long I keep it up.
Anyway, here’s the new site in its early form. Now I reckon I should write something new for it. By Tuesday, at least.
I went to the US Embassy the other day to renew my passport. The one I only use to get back into ‘merica when needs be. Because in Europe, using a US passport involves all kinds of scanning and cross-checks and mad-skillz keyboarding at the immigration counter. Show the same officer a UK passport and it’s like handing a transfer to the bus driver; they just wave you right through.
I had filled out the necessary paperwork online and printed out the form. Most of the fill-in-the-blanks were drop down menus, so it was fairly idiot proof, but I’m just the guy to put such failsafes to the test. The Spanish lady (who was lovely, btw) behind the glass window reviewed it, stapled my picture where it needed to be, looked at me, looked back at the form and then said, “Why did you put gray has your hair color?”
Those of you with a certain theatrical bent will know that Diana Goodman missed the mountains.
I could be her Sherpa guide these past few weeks, and today was an all-day pass, ride as much as you like (and then stay on a little longer) on The Beast of emotional roller coasters.
Today’s brilliantly curated Keith Haring exhibit pretty much did me in. Sometimes a piece of work will press a few buttons, maybe even strike a chord or two. This was more like a symphony of memories, fears, dreams, hopes, triumphs, failures and insecurities.
Creativity. Art. AIDS. Racism. Sex. Injustice. Lost time. New York. Anger. Protest. Love. The dichotomy of making money while protesting capitalism. The 80s. Working with kids. Using your talents to help spread a message. Education. Compassion.
He died when he was 31, just a few years after being diagnosed. He created so much work, and it was so much bigger (not just in size, but in scope as well) than I had ever imagined. I don’t think I could create half as much if I lived another 31 years.
Do you know what’s the easiest thing in the world to do, no mater what city/country/time zone you find yourself in?
I can’t believe I’ve been here six weeks now and hardly written a word. Not just in here, but in the journal I said I’d scribble in (most) every day.
Oh well. Best laid plans and all. I’d love to blather on about my new Iberian life and how it’s filled with the same old neuroses, but I’ve got three lessons to prepare for tomorrow and need to bone up on my estilo indirecto, el imperfecto de subjuntivo, and then research some vocabulary so I can blag my way through tomorrow’s conversation class.
I got back in the water today … 1000m in this pool. Estupendo.
There’s an even bigger pool inside, and the weight training room was great. After than, popped by IH Bcn to confirm my next three weeks of Spanish classes, and then rested for an hour or so on the beach. Off to a jazz club tonight.
The gym is offering an online membership special starting tomorrow. Even without the discount, the monthly fees are cheaper than the YMCA in London. I’ll be joining for the summer.
Once upon a time I spent a day in a coaching workshop. One of the activities was a visualization exercise, the ostensible goal being to see your ideal place / life / whatever. Something trivial. You know, just take a couple minutes and casually map out out your own utopia.
We were sitting in a London flat, a room full of (mostly) strangers, and the moderator told us to close your eyes, focus on your breath, and then imagine your body floating up out the room, into the sky, above London (try no to think of the East Enders splash screen), then into the stratosphere and all the way into outer space. Imagine yourself looking down at the planet.
I saw so much water. All that blue covering a tiny little sphere suspended in the cosmos.
We then had to float back down and see where we had landed.