Monthly Archives: June 2011

BARBARIC YAWP WRITES “SKELETONS RATCHETS TENSION, IS ‘SHARP AS VAMPIRE TEETH’”

BoneWorld Publishing’s John Berbrich, editor of Barbaric Yawp, has heralded Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole in the literary magazine’s most recent issue, noting the writing “is clear as a moonlight on a cloudless night, the description as sharp as vampire teeth.”

“This present book deals quite effectively with ghosts and various spooks, some of which are located in the human mind…Kristi knows how to ratchet up the tension,” he writes.

The review is in Vol. 15, Number 1 Barbaric Yawp’s Bookbeat column.

Barbaric Yawp first published my short story “Ghost Light” several years ago and is published quarterly. It features fiction, poetry, book reviews, and more—don’t miss out. A yearly subscription is $15.00 and it’s well worth it.

You can check out Barbaric Yawp and BoneWorld Publishing’s MuscleHead Chapbook series by visiting here: http://www.boneworldpublishing.com/

THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 6–Archaeology

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 6: ARCHAEOLOGY

Update: June 27, 2011 Shortly after this post was published, I got a note from my friend Rob, who wanted to adopt the book on the Ramapo because he is doing research for a novel he is writing, as well as any of my books that were heavily highlighted. I was excited about this and am happy to report that both the Ramapo book and the Archaeology book are now part of his collection.

 

 

Me digging at Gallows Hill in Redding, Connecticut, with other members of my Archaeology Class from Norwalk Community College in November, 2002.

In the Fall of 2002 I was looking for a kick-start with something new. I was enjoying my time volunteering at both the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk and Mystic Aquarium, in fact, so much that I was considering finishing college for something in the sciences.

I was at the SoNo Arts Festival that August and discovered a booth run by Ernie Wiegand, who runs the Archaeology department at Norwalk Community College.* A couple of weeks later, I signed up for his Archaeology 101. After all, although I loved the marine sciences, I still felt the ages-old pull of geology and volcanology. Archaeology seemed as good a place to start as any. If I didn’t like it, I could always drop out.

Turns out I loved it—I learned how to read layers of dirt, what finding pieces of shells meant. I loved digging in New England in the fall, that smell of leaves, hot coffee, and loam with the bite in the air. I met other students who were walking history books. It didn’t only exceed my expectations, it was magical.

I did well in it, too—although I soon learned I don’t have much of an analytical mind when it comes to solving mysteries. Or maybe I just didn’t have all the knowledge backing me up. At any rate, that semester remains as one of the greatest eras of my life. Being a shovel bum was pretty cool.

I continued to do research after the class was over and had even thought about exploring some areas on my own. But that was nine years ago—I never went further, and it’s time to let go of my books and tools. The hardest to let go is the textbook. I honestly read that thing from cover to cover and highlighted the hell out of it, and believe it or not, had always thought I’d sit down and delve into it again someday.

If you want to read my final Site Report (December 18, 2002) on the Gallows Hill Dig, you can read it here in PDF:

SiteReportGallowsHill

*The current course catalog online at Norwalk Community College’s site doesn’t isolate the Archaeology as an Avocation program in a convenient manner, so here are two screen shots of what that page looks like. To access the full catalog and find out more about registration, please visit: http://www.ncc.commnet.edu/default.asp

And now…on with the story…

My textbook. It was tough to let this one go.

 

I didn't keep a record of all the passages I highlighted--only my favorites.

In 2000, I had written a short story that keyed around 18Rabbit. I did finish it, but had always wanted to improve it. I probably had planned on using this information to beef up the backstory. Who knows. Want to read the first draft of the story? It's right below this picture as a PDF: "Shorn." Enjoy!

Shorn

This was one of the books I used for research for my final site report.

I don't remember where I purchased this book, but I do remember it being one of the most interesting books I ever read. It did inspire me to do some exploring on my own, which I actually never got around to.

I can always tell how much I love a book by how many Post-It Notes I use.

I took a map of New Jersey and tried to pinpoint the burial ground noted in the book (the book may have given me the actual coordinates; I don't know).

Obviously, I had planned on trying to find this place, because other places in New Jersey which were familiar to me I marked so I could try to get my bearings.

Me, digging at Gallows Hill, Fall, 2002.

The woods at Gallows Hill. It was in an isolated residential neighborhood, and the houses were far enough apart that it felt like being in The Blair Witch Project.

Heather, one of my classmates. She was calculating depth or provenience, I don't recall which now.

Christmas, 2002: My housemate put together an archaeology kit for me as a gift. At that time, I was planning on furthering my studies.

The kit contained knee pads, safety glasses, gloves, hand cleaner, and, not pictured because I'm keeping them, tools such as a really nice Black and Decker tape measure.

The hand cleaner.

Gloves.

Safety glasses.

GhoStory Guru: “The Pool People” by Alison Lurie

It’s easy to get chills reading a ghost story that’s set in an abandoned house, a dark forest, a haunted castle—one of the keys to the great ghost story is setting. But a talented writer can give his reader as many shivers in Key West as he can in Transylvania through word choice.

At this, Alison Lurie’s “The Pool People”—about a Key West woman and her not-so-nice mother-in-law who treats the help pretty badly—excels. Lurie’s taken everyone’s concept of paradise and shadowed it up to prove you can still get the spook factor in a sunny environment. Read this and I can guarantee you’ll think twice before taking that dip in your friend’s pool.

“The Pool People” is found in Lurie’s 1994 collection, Women & Ghosts. Click on the picture to purchase.


THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 5–The National Geographics

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 5: OH, NATGEO!

Every Christmas, my Dad got a National Geographic gift subscription from his mother, so a closet in my childhood home museumed NG’s dating to the early 1950s.

When a new journal arrived, it was relegated to the back of the toilet—but each was a passport to new and exciting passions: sharks, volcanoes, highways I’d never traveled (somewhere in my basement there is a photo of me at age four sitting on the toilet “reading” the National Geographic). In some cases, the articles I loved most were compasses for major life decisions: where I went to college, what I was going to be when I grew up, how to process and survive injustices done to me by others.

Dad kept close watch on his inventory, but over the years, I’d absconded with a few of my favorites. These are the five I have left.

I decided I can let go of three. Oh, and by the way, if you are as big a fan of National Geographic as I am, yes, National Geographic is on Facebook! You can find them here: http://www.facebook.com/NGM

You can see how many of Dad’s issues I had here on this shot of my bookshelf in 1993.

VOL. 159, NO. 1: JANUARY 1981

Sunday, May 18, 1980:Mt.St. Helens erupted. The family was packing up for church and then my grandmother’s house. I don’t think we heard the news until later, and then I was upset I wasn’t home alone with the television. To make up for it, Dad let me stay home from school on Monday. This was before the days of 24-hour coverage, so to have news on all day, or even on-and-off during television programming, was a huge deal. I was nine when the mountain blew, but its story made me a regular 5 or 6 o’clock news watcher—at least for awhile.

Eventually, reporting on the event taxied to a halt. I was desperate to explore further, but there wasn’t much material available (for those of you who are younger, there was a time when no one had Internet and there weren’t such things as Amazon when you could get books on anything you wanted—you were restricted to whatever was on the shelf at Bradlee’s or Caldor). So when this issue arrived a few months later I was thrilled. At last, I was going to get the inside scoop.

 


I couldn’t stop studying this dead bird—I imagined its death throes. See the little bird’s footprints? It struggled to breathe before it keeled over. Even after I put this magazine away, I never forgot the photo of this bird and the impact it had on me…

…and it’s probably why, to this day, whenever I see a dead bird I photograph it. Here’s one in the Bronx Zoo parking lot, Bronx, New York, July 24, 2004.

This vista—before and after—was like watching a train wreck. I couldn’t believe how something so lush and green could turn into a moonscape in minutes. This would become one of the reasons, though, that my favorite piece in Disney’s Fantasia 2000 is “Firebird Suite,” which relies heavily on the Mt. St. Helens eruption for its inspiration.

A photo of Mt. St. Helens taken by an ex-boyfriend of mine as he flew over it back in 1999. He was, in all honesty, a selfish person who rarely considered anything beyond his own comfort, so I was surprised he’d even thought to do this for me. It created a bond between us for a little while, but still wasn’t enough to save the relationship—no shock there. Who’d expect that a photo of an explosive volcano would make a great totem for anything? I was dumb enough to try—at that time, the way to my heart was still through science.

At the time, our babysitter was Dawn Nagle.  She bought me an oil lamp crafted fromMt.St. Helensash. To this day it is one of my most treasured possessions, and I still light it once in awhile.

Here’s an excellent website which looks back at the Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage provided by The Longview Daily News (out ofLongview,Washington, which isn’t too far from the mountain).

http://www.tdn.com/app/helens/

The article following the extensive Mt. St. Helens piece, “Pompeii of Prehistoric Animals in Nebraska,” mapped a moment in time ten million years ago in which animals were engulfed in volcanic ash as they romped about in their water hole: “Death comes with agony in a rain of volcanic dust, causing the animals to suffocate.” This image captivated my imagination. Did they understand what was happening to them?

VOL. 1, NO. 5: MAY 1984

I remember the day this came in the mail; I was 13. I slid off the brown-bag cover (remember those?) and the sight of this terrified me. Then I saw “The Dead Do Tell Tales at Vesuvius.” I’m not even sure if I knew anything about Vesuvius at the time, but as you’ll discover in future episodes, volcanoes fascinated me. It never made it to the back of the toilet or the archives.

Before I read the text of “The Dead Do Tell Tales at Vesuvius,” I studied the photos and their captions. I recall being very disturbed by one photo of an empty cradle; from its caption: “Blow on a dead man’s embers and a live flame will start.” The thought, expressed by poet Robert Graves, holds true for Herculaneum…Fragile, too, was the life of a baby whose skeleton was found in the charred crib (right), rocking today as it did 1,900 years ago.”

The photo of the cradle that disturbed me. Although I’ll admit I was disappointed the bones weren’t in it.

At the time, my heroes were scientists: marine biologists, geologists, or volcanologists. I wanted to grow up to be one of those, but hadn’t decided yet. The first scientist depicted in the article wasUniversityofRhode Islandvolcanologist Haraldur Sigurdsson.

Haraldur was immediately added to my list of heroes.

After I came across his photo I read the whole article to learn more about what he had to say.

I was enthralled with the idea that it was possible to lay out an actual timeline just from looking at the layers of dirt. At that age, I’d never heard of such a thing.

Wow, I thought, I would sure love to take a class with that guy. I will definitely apply to go to school there.

Sure enough, in 1989 I did. Those of you who know me know that I embarked on my higher education at URI.

Years later—in 1998—I completed my first novel (it was terrible and it will never see the light of day, have no fear). It was a ghost story (of sorts) and was, perhaps, the first time I ever flirted with applying Poe’s triggers and the nature of haunting. I needed ghosts—but I wanted ghosts of a specific nature.

I wanted a common element among the ghosts—they needed to be burned, specifically, in their physical lives. I already knew I’d wanted to use Pompeii, and so I started digging through my massive Pompeii collection (more on that in a future episode) and read just about every book, but couldn’t get this article out of my head, because of its connection to where I eventually went to college and the book’s setting. I re-read it, and it became the map for a whole plot thread.

This is the paragraph that inspired one of the major plot threads in my 1998 novel.

This paragraph played a major role in one chapter’s dialogue.

This is the face of a toppled statue in Herculaneum’s theater—it was imprinted in the volcanic flow. This face became the face of one of the ghosts in my 1998 novel.

Now, I’d said the book will never see the light of day. And I meant it. But just for fun, here is the chapter that was inspired by the article. It’s a PDF. (Hey Dan Pearlman and Jerry Rivard—I cannot believe I used to be this “as-you-know-Bob.” Enjoy.)

13FugitivesGarden

VOL. 162, NO. 6: DECEMBER 1982         

This one comes second in the sequence because it was the May 1984 issue which led me to it—“The Dead Do Tell Tales at Vesuvius” made reference to “Buried Roman Town Gives Up Its Dead.” I descended to Dad’s archives and pulled it out.

I was forever highlighting information—mostly facts I wanted to remember—but the first line I highlighted on this page because of its forlorn quality. It brought a desperate image to mind.

That so many people died at Herculaneum was a shock to scholars, since before this, hardly any remains had been found.

I remember I couldn’t stop looking at this picture. It horrified me. Imagine, like the man in the forefront, diving head-long into hot ash and knowing you aren’t going to get up. Ever.

This article would also serve as fodder for the 1998 novel, but when I was reading it back when I was 13, I kept envisioning piles of people huddled in the boat bays. According to the story, they were instantly incinerated. The thought of that haunted me for weeks.

KEEPERS

VOL. 133, NO. 2: FEBRUARY 1968

The cover that kicked off my obsession with sharks.

I was 11 when I found this one in Dad’s collection, and the shark was so mean-looking I was sold—that old principle of being fascinated by things that we fear. I was done—sharks were the new love of my life. The copy I have isn’t my father’s original; it’s one I bought about 15 years ago at a tag sale. The original I cut up so I could tape the pictures all over the walls of my secret under-bunk-bed hideout (I am SO GLAD my father did NOT find out about that).

Years later, I was watching the movie Jaws, and there is a scene in which Roy Scheider is flipping through a book about sharks. Many of the photos from this article are in that book.

 

Anything about sharks—articles, photos, whatever I could find—I shoved into this notebook.


Here’s an example of the stuff I did in my spare time. I’m sure I traced this from some photo I found, because I couldn’t free-draw any better back then than I do now.

From left, my brother Chuck, my sister Missie, and me in the stream that ran through our five-acre property up in Salisbury, New York, in the Adirondack State Park. Each of the rocks had names. I am standing on my pet Great White Shark, “Cream Cheese.” Missie is standing on my pet Lemon Shark, “Crackers.” These sharks were the method of transportation for the character that represented me in my Underwater University series of stories, which were inspired by all of the science books I was reading and were about scientists of all kinds living in an underwater station similar to the one in the Battle of the Planets cartoon series. The character that was “me” in these stories was the Senior Ichthyologist. There were 26 stories; sadly, I only have 24, 25, and 26. I have no idea what happened to the first 23.

VOL. 182, NO. 6: DECEMBER 1992

Obviously, I took this one because it had an article on volcanoes I wanted to read. I got the surprise of my life when I discovered that “The Hard Ride of Route 93” was much more interesting.

I was home from URI for Christmas weekend, mostly because I needed to recover from a really screwed up pseudo-relationship with a person who basically had no relationship skills—I was confused by all the head games this person played, and really had no way to process it, let alone forgive it. Christmas weekend that year was a much-needed respite around normal people.

Enter the article “The Hard Ride of Route 93.” The characters who lived and traversed that desolate highway in Nevadawere romantic, intense, damaged, and off—just like the person I’d been dealing with. I read the article several times, took the issue back to Rhode Island with me, holed up between December 27 and 30 (yes, it only took me four days) and wrote the play Stranded on 93, which was produced at URI in April of 1993.

By the time it was all over, I hadn’t forgiven the person—but at least I could understand the problem wasn’t mine and could move on (and something tells me that person hasn’t changed at all, because people like that usually don’t).

A page of the Stranded on 93 script.

The press release for Stranded on 93.

Pages four and one of the program.

Pages two and three of the program.

The Cast of Stranded on 93 poses on my old 1986 Mustang at an abandoned gas station on Route 2 in Rhode Island, March, 1993.

So what am I doing with the three that I’m letting go? Well, I’m committing a sin: I’m ripping out the cover and the significant article. The two articles on Pompeii will go into the one Pompeii book I kept. The one on Mt. Saint Helens will go into my childhood save box (I’m allowing myself one tub of special keepsakes).

As for the other two, I can say I will never leave those behind.

THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 4–The Nancy Drew Collection

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 4: NANCY DREW

As a kid, I was a great escapist. I had two favorite methods: reading, and role-playing as my favorite television heroine or hero.

These are the kids in my friend Kristen Hansen’s neighborhood, which was within walking distance of my house through the woods. We weren’t playing Nancy Drew that day, I’m sure, but probably Dr. Who. Role playing was big in that neighborhood; we were all pretty creative. I’d have to guess this was taken in the early 1980s.

Nancy Drew was an exception: she was the only heroine of mine from books that I imitated (apparently frequently; Bill Buckbee recalls our entire third grade year recesses with me as Nancy Drew and he and Kevin Fuller as Frank and Joe Hardy). I’d get a new book and rip through it in less than a day or so most of the time.

My friend Sonja in my room, 1985 (she’s holding a cassette! Remember those?) If you look behind her and toward the left, you can see a small collection of Nancy Drew books on the shelf.

My friend Samantha Levin used to have awesome birthday parties—but hers was a winter birthday (in March), like mine (in February), so her parents always had to be creative. This book was the one I was reading when she had a pool party at the Danbury Y. Then we all went back to her house and had pizza.

One birthday, in fact—1981, the most magical birthday I ever had, because I got the Battlestar Galactica game and not one, but TWO Nancy Drew books—my parents were angry because two days later I asked them if we could buy another Nancy Drew book.

One of the books I got for my birthday in 1981. I read it that weekend, but have always associated it with going to my friend Carrie Geren’s house during a blizzard—Dad took me over in the truck—and watching Ice Station Zebra on Channel 11 that same weekend.

“Your father and I just bought you two,” my mother said.

“I finished them.”

She turned and looked at me. “Kristin Mary, you did not. You just opened those.”

“I did too, I’m a fast reader,” I repeated.

“Well.” She shrugged. “Read them again.”

Ah! A woman who didn’t understand anything about flaming passion. “Mom, you can’t read them again right away. There’s no surprise.”

“Too bad,” she said. “They’re expensive.”

Expensive. Bradlees and Caldor had them for $1.99.

This is the other book I got for my 10th birthday. I remember staying up all night to finish it, because it comforted me during a terrifying experience. I had, that afternoon, watched a movie called The Devil at Four O’Clock—I loved volcano movies. Unfortunately, the white bulb in the nightlight had fritzed that day, and Mom and Dad replaced it with a red Christmas bulb. I was too afraid to close my eyes that night because of visions of lava pouring into my room.

But you didn’t argue with Mom. And that’s how, at 10 years old, I discovered the shelves in my father’s den.

I read things entirely inappropriate for my age: Irving Wallace’s The Word, in which I learned that if you failed at your career you became an alcoholic and slept with lots of people in far away cities; Jaws, in which I got a clue about what goes into grass and gazpacho soup, how married people have affairs (it’s usually with someone from your past and you have to do it in shitty motels and shower after so you don’t smell like sex, whatever THAT meant), and erections. I remember wondering if my parents had ever smoked grass, or if they’d ever had affairs. I remember feeling really uncomfortable and kind of dirty after I’d read it. I was haunted by the sentence: “Ellen started to giggle again, imagining the sight of Hooper lying by the side of the road, stiff as a flagpole, and herself lying next to him, her dress bunched up around her waist and her vagina yawing open, glistening wet, for the world to see.” (That’s on page 170 of my Dad’s copy, which was from Bantam Books’ 18th printing, June, 1975).

I finally was able to get another Nancy Drew book a few weeks later, but found I couldn’t respect her. I was suddenly aware that she and Ned should be having a full-on sexual relationship instead of this namby-pamby flirting thing, that at their ages they should at least smoke a cigarette or two and drink beer, and that she should get pissed off at someone at least once in awhile and preferably use a curse word.

I associate this with hanging out at my friend Kristina Hals’ house.

And so, for lack of $1.99 two days after my birthday in 1981, Nancy Drew was buried under a pile of adult books: Catch 22, Ghost Boat, The Bermuda Triangle, The Ghost of Flight 401, All the President’s Men, The Anthrax Mutation, The Amityville Horror—whatever crappy paperbacks my Dad had laying around. I read them so fast he never even knew they were missing before they were back on the shelf.

But I kept my original Drew collection, took them wherever I went. Over the years, I’d let go of one or two that didn’t have any specific memory attached to them. Eventually, I got down to my last seven, because they were the ones that invoke a special time or place.

Today, I let six of them go.

I couldn’t put this one down, and so I sat in school and had it open in the storage area of my desk so I could keep going throughout the day. I never got caught. I was good at clandestine reading.

The only one I kept was my first, The Secret of the Old Clock. And that’s just because my parents wrote “To Kristi, Love Mom & Dad, 12/25/79” in the front cover.

They had no idea what they were getting me into, I’m sure.

The books will be donated to a library sale.

Actually, all I remember about this one was that it scared the crap out of me, and there was something in it about acid being sprayed on their suitcases. “They bought new suitcases and went from store to store filling them” was the sentence that opened the next chapter. (Persistence of memory, folks, I’m not sure if that incident was even in this book because I read so many, but for some reason, I associate that with this cover, so there you go). In addition, the skate’s “face” really freaked me out.

We loved the TV Show in our house, too. This book I got at a tag sale, so it really doesn’t have any special memory for me other than that my brother Chuck and I couldn’t wait to watch it every week.

A history book I got for Christmas one year. Totally fascinating and a must-read for any Drew fan!

If you’re a Nancy Drew fan, there is a LIVELY Facebook fan page called Nancy Drew!! here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nancy-Drew/363747038826?sk=wall

…oh, and if you want to know who my other childhood heroines/heroes were, here’s the list:

1. Princess (from Battle of the Planets)

2. H.M. Murdock (from The A-Team)

3. Kaye Morgan (senior biologist, Jaws 3)

4. Ellen Brody (Jaws)

5. Maid Marian (Robin Hood — the Disney cartoon version first; later, the Costner flick)

6. Lady J (from G.I. Joe)

7. Amy Allen (“AAA” from The A-team)

8. DeeDee McCall (from Hunter)

9. Penelope Pitstop

10. Nancy Drew

11. Daphne (from the original Scooby Doo cartoon series)

12. Lisa (from the original Robotech, Series 1)

13. Jennette (from Treme)

14. Dana Scully (from The X-Files)

15. April (from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

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