Category Archives: performances

August 25: Dear godlings, the humidity! And Abraham Martin’s son.

I woke up to more than 100% humidity this morning.  Not all that hot, maybe 80dF by afternoon, but that wasn’t the point. I know more than 100% isn’t physically possible, but trust me, I think it was more like 142%. It did rain a bit, but mostly it was just air so thick you had to drink it. I sweated far more than I did in DC, and that’s saying something, especially since sweating in weather that wet does nothing but soak your clothing and drip into your eyes, making them burn.

Dear godlings. Seriously.

I went to the parking garage to look for my umbrella (no way could I actually put my raincoat on in this – it would be like wrapping myself in saran wrap or something), but I couldn’t find it, so I put my camera in a plastic bag and resigned myself to getting soaked. But by the time I came back out of the parking garage, the rain had stopped.

I had decided that today was the day I’d go to the Citadel and the Plains of Abraham, where British General Wolfe and co. fought French General Montcalm and co. to decide the fate of North America. Well, sorta. Or part of it. Or something. Anyway, I wound up in the Battlefields Park Museum (the official name of the Plains of Abraham is Battlefields Park nowadays – back about 100 years ago they turned the whole thing into a big, gorgeous city park). The museum about the battle was very interesting, but the bus tour through the park (the rain had begun to come down again, so a dry, air-conditioned bus was just the ticket) was what was worth the price of admission.

It was driven (he called it the Devil’s Chariot) and conducted by a young man playing the part of one of Abraham Martin’s sons (Abraham Martin was a local landowner the field was named after back in the 18th century), in full costume, and, yes, he was informative and interesting to listen to, but he was also fall out of your chair hilarious. His tongue was so far over in his cheek I thought it was going to come out of his ear. I really do wish I’d asked if I could take his photo, but I didn’t. That bus tour was one of the top five best things I’ve done on this entire trip so far. Seriously. I haven’t laughed so hard and learned so much simultaneously in my life before, I don’t think. If you ever get to Quebec City, go to the Battlefields Park Museum and ride Abraham’s Bus. It was so worth it.

After I caught my breath from laughing, and the rain stopped again, I walked over to the Citadel. Apparently it’s in dire need of reconstruction work or something, though, because the labyrinth to actually get through the equipment and stuff was quite the to-do. I did finally make it to the gate, however, and took a photo of one of the guards, but then the skies opened up again, and I was already so sweaty that I looked like I’d just taken a shower fully dressed, that I decided, you know, I’d seen the one at Halifax and I needed to call it a day.

Maybe tomorrow. Or maybe not. I’ve got another museum I really want to see tomorrow.

Along the wall between the parking garage and the  Citadel.
Along the wall between the parking garage and the Citadel.
Another view of the wall.
Another view of the wall.
I'd never seen a NW Territories license plate before, or a license plate shaped like a bear, for that matter.  This Transit Connect was just down the row from Merlin the Transit Connect in the parking garage.
I’d never seen a NW Territories license plate before, or a license plate shaped like a bear, for that matter. This Transit Connect was just down the row from Merlin the Transit Connect in the parking garage.
One of the gates in the wall.  There's a city street going through there.
One of the gates in the wall. There’s a city street going through there.
Battlefields Park.  This is roughly where the battle took place.
Battlefields Park. This is roughly where the battle took place.
One of the Martello Towers at Battlefields Park.
One of the Martello Towers at Battlefields Park.
Standing guard at the Citadel.
Standing guard at the Citadel.
This carving looks like celery to me!
This carving looks like celery to me!  Even though I know it’s supposed to be acanthus or something.

An homage to Shakespeare and teachers, among other things

And, no, I’m not going to write it in blank verse.  I’m not that crazy.

I had a terrific English teacher my senior year in high school.  I do so wish I could remember his name because he changed my life.  In addition to letting us watch Harold and Maude in class (and leading a discussion of plot and characterization afterwards) and having us read Pygmalion in parts (I was Eliza!), he cultivated an appreciation in us for Shakespeare, including taking us to a live production of Othello (I’d never seen a live play before except for high school productions), that helped me decide I wanted to be an English major in college.

Which might have been a mistake.  I had some of the world’s worst Shakespeare professors in my checkered college career (I finally graduated after thirteen years and five institutions of higher learning — purely because of life logistics, not because I was awful).  By the time they were through with me, they’d ruined Shakespeare forever.  Or so I thought.

Then, five years later, along came Kenneth Branagh and his glorious movie version of Much Ado About Nothing.  I have to admit the only reason I checked it out of the public library was because it was cataloged as non-fiction (plays — Dewey #822.3) and could be checked out for a week, as opposed to feature films, which only went out overnight.

I plugged it into my VCR (this was in 1993), and promptly fell in love.  No, not with Branagh, although I do consider him my oldest online fandom, since he and my first home computer arrived in my life almost simultaneously.  But with the play.  The movie reminded me just how much I loved Shakespeare, and how much I loved watching the plays as opposed to dissecting them like so many frogs.

I promptly bought my own copy of the movie (for a while there I watched it once a week whether I needed to or not), and went looking for more.  I found Branagh’s Henry V and the BBC canon from the seventies (the highlight of those was a very young John Cleese as Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew) and the Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet (and his Hamlet, although that was not a highlight, in my humble opinion).  And, lucky me, the next few years produced almost a dozen more excellent Shakespeare films, including the Loncraine/McKellen Nazi-style Richard III, and the Trevor Nunn Edwardian-set film of Twelfth Night, among others.  Not to mention Branagh’s own four-hour Ruritanian (or Barrayaran, for those whose fandoms overlap in the same odd ways mine do)  version of Hamlet (worth every single minute).

So, thank you, too, Kenneth Branagh and the rest of the film industry, for renewing my faith in Shakespeare.  And bringing back the joy of his language and his characters.  Life has been much richer for it.

Not to mention the novel I’m writing as an homage, but more about that later.

I would love to hear about your experiences with Shakespeare, with really good or really bad teachers, or with movies or actors that have inspired you.

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 36

Haines, Alaska

Saturday, July 21, 1973

On this day we drove back into Alaska for the last time, not north or west, but south from Yukon Territory into the panhandle.

It was still wet, but at least we were off the gravel for the last time.  Although, as my diary says, “the pavement was worse than the gravel.”  I’m presuming because of more permafrost heaves.  One thing about the Alaska Highway, it was very well maintained.  Which basically meant that they were maintaining it all the time.  Or so it seemed, mainly because there’s only a window of a few months in the summertime when they can maintain it.  The rest of the time it’s covered with snow and frozen solid.  The roads in Yellowstone National Park have the same problem, with the road construction and tourist seasons being almost identical.

Haines was where we caught the ferry south, but it wouldn’t be our turn to sail south until the 24th, so we spent three nights in Haines.

We spent our first afternoon there at a performance of the Chilkat Dancers, a group of Tlingit native children (my diary says the youngest was about eight or nine, and the oldest about nineteen — I don’t know if I was guessing or if I was told that or read it in a program).  They don’t appear to have a website — I hope the organization still puts on performances.

A Tlingit dancing troupe from my visit to the Alaska Panhandle in 1995, in Sitka.

I remember enjoying both performances that I saw.  And being quite amazed at the beautiful costumes and the talent being displayed.  And the stories that were told.  There was a Northern Exposure episode one year, that told the Winter Solstice story from the Native American point of view, that also featured a performance like these.  I liked Northern Exposure just on general principles, but also because the writers did things like that.

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords