Cheersfest for Arlee Bird

Cheersfest 2013

Following the success of last year’s Cheers, Cavanaugh roast, the tradition is continuing this year with Arlee “Lee” Bird, founder of the April A to Z Challenge and a prolific blogger. Once again, the hosts are Mark KoopmansMorgan ShamyDavid Powers KingStephen Tremp, and Ninja Captain Alex.

Lee will choose two winners to receive:

  • An autographed color photo of Arlee Bird appearing as the Court Wizard in the World of Fantasy Players. Also included in the first prize pack are an assortment of promotional materials from Lee’s show biz days with a personal letter and a brief history of his entertainment career.
  • A personalized blog graphics design from Jeremy at Being Retro. (Jeremy will design a header, badge, button, banner, or whatever might appeal to the winner.)

Participants simply answer four questions in no more than 20 words each, and write a flash fiction of 100 words or less, using the words

  • Bird
  • Juggler
  • Challenge
  • Brown Jacket
  • Tossing

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  • Why did Lee come up with the A-Z Challenge?

As a way to meet other bloggers, and motivate others to regularly find something to blog about.

  • If someone dreams about being a juggler, what does it mean?

Successfully, your life is in balance. If objects drop, we may be juggling more responsibilities than we should be.

  • Is a post by Mr. Bird worth two in the bush?

It sure is.

  • Who could play Lee in a documentary? (Living or dead.)

W.C. Fields

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I decided to make my flash piece a freeverse past life poem, which I haven’t done in years. The only time I ever touch first-person present tense is when I write as Oda.

Returning to the world of the living
is a challenge.
At times I feel like a juggler,
constantly forced to balance so many things
and surrounded by people
who do not understand.
No amount of words can ever transmit
the scents, the sounds, the sights, the tastes, the emotions.
If only I could be like a bird, flying free outside, unencumbered by pain and suffering.
Give me time to transition back to a world that will never be ordinary again.
Or will I be forever tossing about, a species apart,
huddled in a brown jacket’s symbolic embrace?

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For Bonus Points:

  • In +/- 40 words, can you come up with a caption for Lee’s Facebook picture?

Juggling

A vintage picture of a dapper juggler, appearing to be from the Seventies or early Eighties. He looks very pleased with his juggling abilities.

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Unrelated but important post-script:  On this day in 1979, nine days before I was born, the World Health Organisation declared smallpox eradicated. I’m so thankful my lifetime has never included this frightening disease, and hope to God it never finds a way to come back. Hopefully polio will be next to be eradicated, followed by diseases that were all but eliminated in the West until a certain science-denialist cult arose 10-15 years ago.

75 Years, 15 Years

In loving memory of all those who were murdered 75 years ago, on 9 November 1938, during Kristallnacht in Germany and Austria, and in honor of those who survived forever changed.

On 9 November 1998, the 60th anniversary of Kristallnacht, in Massachusetts, at age eighteen, I reclaimed my soul’s birthright. I chose that date specially because of the significance, both historically and because I absolutely believe I survived Kristallnacht in a former life, when my name was Oda Estermann.

Now 30 years later, I still vividly remember, in detail, the nightly nightmares I had at age three. Part of the nightmares included desperately trying to escape from a burning building, which may have been a school. When the dreams came back, this time complete with xenoglossy, on the penultimate day of 1994, I put two and two together. I just instinctively knew, and connected these dreams to the nightmares of age three.

Ever since I reclaimed my soul’s birthright and began living a Jewish life, the dreams (not just nightmares) about Oda gradually became fewer and further in between. As my first Albany rabbi said in probably 2003-04, that development felt natural. I resolved most of my lingering issues from Oda’s lifetime, and didn’t need her that much anymore. My soul had finally found peace. Oda had done her mission successfully.

Perhaps someday I’ll get back to those freeverse poems telling Oda’s story, which I began in 1997. The first poem in the hiatused collection won third prize in the junior class division in a poetry competition in my Pennsylvania high school, and was on display at the school/town library with the other school winners. I also had plans for a memoir called What Oda Remembers: My Hope Is Bittersweet.

The only time I’ve ever written in first-person present tense has been when I’ve written my freeverse poems, dream recountings, and fragmented memories in journal entries. Oda’s voice just belongs in first-person present. It makes everything so raw, immediate, and emotional.

And I did find my sister from before. My oldest friend, of 28 years now, was Oda’s sister Hännchen, which I discerned through the dreams that were coming fast and furious in high school. I told her about this awhile ago, and she doesn’t doubt it.

First-person present tense

(I wrote this in May and would finally like to move it out of my draft folder!)

To my shock, I recently remembered that I’ve used first-person present tense myself, in spite of how weary I am of it in today’s market. It’s just been so long that I’d honestly forgotten about it.

Billions of people all over the world, in all religions (not just the Indian and Eastern religions), believe in reincarnation. Many of them have past life memories. It’s a complete myth to claim that most people say they were famous people like Cleopatra or Joan of Arc. The vast, vast majority of people who remember past lives, either in fits and starts or vividly, remember ordinary lives. Even if they lived in extraordinary times, they were still ordinary people. One of my reincarnation books says that a large survey group, when regressed to the first century (forget if it were BCE or CE), primarily recalled lives in Turkey and the Indian subcontinent, and a few other places. That totally blew the researchers’ theory out of the water, that most of the people would claim lives in the Roman Empire or Israel, the two places most people associate with that era.

I began having vivid nightly nightmares about my past life at the age of three. When I was fifteen and the dreams returned (this time complete with xenoglossy, fluent dreaming or speaking under hypnosis in a language one does not know when conscious), it dawned on me that I had had a past life in Germany during the Shoah. Those nightly nightmares from age three, which I still vividly remember to this day, the nightmares that gave me such intense pyrophobia, were of Krystallnacht. And the second part of that nightly nightmare was of a concentration-camp. Tell me one good reason why a three-year-old would be having nightmares about either of those things, or even know they existed. And give me one good reason why a high school freshwoman would start dreaming in fluent German about life in Germany during the Thirties and Forties.

So in the fall 0f 1995, when I was starting my sophomore year of high school, I began writing down these dreams and memories, in fragmentary form, in my journal of the time, Cecilia. In my junior year of high school, I began writing past life freeverse poetry. The first of these poems, “‘Zug'” (“‘Train'”), won third place/honorable mention in the junior class division of a poetry competition at my high school, and was included in a school-published book of the poems and displayed in the school library, which also serves as the general library for that town. I also regularly did a meditation/regression exercise at night, which helped me to recover more memories, including my old surname, Estermann.

The poetry and the prose memories were all in first-person present tense. I admit I was influenced by the style of Isabella Leitner’s own Shoah memoirs, the most haunting, unforgettable book I’ve ever read. Isabella also wrote her memoirs down in short fragments, in the present tense. Some years later, I read Livia Bitton-Jackson’s several Shoah memoirs (including books covering her life after the Shoah, which unfortunately many Shoah survivors’ memoirs don’t cover in enough depth). She also wrote in the first-person present tense. Who knows, perhaps I’d come to associate that style with Shoah memoirs told in fragmentary or vignette-style chapters, as opposed to memoirs such as Aranka Siegal’s.

I think it works because the narrator is writing these events as though they’re unfolding right now and she’s reliving them in her mind, not dispassionately looking back on past events. Example:

We freeze. Someone has heard the tiny sound Lorelei made when she turned over in her sleep. Why couldn’t we just stay in Switzerland? Are we about to be arrested? Will They torture us by prolonging the attack?

I catch Lorelei’s eye as I walk with Dorchen, Bettchen, Ilse, and Erma to work duty. Can it be that only a week ago I had hair and was dressed in real clothes? Now I look like a hideous monster, a bald, ageless, sexless hag clad in rags and wearing wooden clogs, while our beautiful Lorelei gets to keep her hair. I will never forgive Them for turning my Lorelei into a prostitute.

Perhaps it feels more natural because the narrative is focused on very big things, and Oda only happens to be the one relating these haunting memories? It’s not a self-centric story. And when you choose first-person for fiction, as opposed to memoir, it can be self-defeating if there are high stakes involved. You know the narrator survived to tell this tale.

One day I’ll return to collecting these scraps of memories and put them all together under the title What Oda Remembers: A Reincarnated Memoir. My name was Oda Estermann, and I believe I lived from 1926 to 1953, dying in Australia shortly after childbirth. Oda was unable to overcome her traumatic memories. Only in this life was I able to heal and come to terms with them. Perhaps that is why I almost never dream of Oda anymore, since I’ve made peace with my soul’s past and don’t really need her anymore. I even returned to my soul’s birthright thanks to her.

What Was Your Childhood Monster? Blogfest

Christine Rains is hosting the What Was Your Childhood Monster? Blogfest in honor of the release of her paranormal romance novella Fearless on 7 August. Participants will write about what their particular childhood monsters were, because one of the inspirations for her book was childhood monsters.

The first part of my entry will be told by my 13-year-old self, in my journal of the time, Helena. Since this entry mentions all three of my childhood monsters, I figured it was a great opportunity not to be wasted.

August 26, 1993, 20., Thursday,

….When I was little I had nightmares every night. It would always be the same. It started the same way, a cartoon girl buying a ¢5 gumball. Then these huge rolling brown clumps of light I think would come. Then there were all these monsters. Now it’s so long ago I can’t remember what they did that scared me. And before I fell asleep, there was a figure at my door. A lady manequin [sic]. She started in a red dress, then kept changing to other outfits in split seconds.

When I was 9 [I think I was actually 8], on FOX, I was watching this movie about a martian. One of the commercials was for Time Life. It had 5 or 6 pictures of aliens. They scared me so much that when I was going to bed, I saw a real alien with red eyes in my room. He was real tall and wrinkly, and he was walking right toward me.

Right after that, I was reading a book on Lincoln’s murder. One of his pictures gave the illusion of him having no eyes. It scared me for months. I wouldn’t look at pictures of him for years after. I got slight nightmares from that (compared to my earlier ones). I would see his face for days after, or have a nightmare. Or see chanting Lincolns walking around a bonfire….

Even today I refuse to read books or watch shows about aliens, and I’m normally very into the world of the paranormal and unexplained phenomena, like the crystal skulls of Mesoamerica, Astrology, Numerology, time twins, caulbearers, ESP, ghosts, cryptozoology, Easter Island and Stonehenge, Voodoo, you name it.

I remember that Time Life commercial began, “A woman has a funny feeling that her daughter has just been in an accident.” I ran the hell out of that room at the sight of those alien pictures, and was freaking out for the rest of that night. I was screaming when I saw that alien (thank God, only a figment of an extremely agitated imagination) walking towards me in the dark in my bed, which at the time had a tent around it, light up by glow in the dark star and planet stickers.

The Lincoln thing was probably a blessing in disguise, since I’d been getting rather obsessed with President Lincoln at the time, and it put an end to my constantly reading books about him and thinking about him all the time. (As I’ve said, I was that weird kid reading several grade levels up, and reading history books for fun even in elementary school.) One of the pictures, since it was so old, made it look like he had no eyes, and it scared me so much.

The nightly nightmares at age 3, which I still remember vividly to this day, came back on the penultimate day of 1994, shortly after I turned 15. Only this time, not only was I dreaming about trying to escape a burning building, I was also experiencing xenoglossy, dreaming in fluent German. I also had a few dreams in Dutch and Polish. From these new dreams, and looking back on the old dreams, I came to realize they were one and the same, past life dreams, and that I’d almost died during Krystallnacht. The second part of the nightly nightmare was a concentration-camp. When I reclaimed my Jewish identity in 1998, I made sure to choose the 60th anniversary of Krystallnacht for my visit to the mikvah.

I believe my name was Oda Estermann before, and that after surviving the Shoah, I moved to Australia with some friends and died rather young, in 1953. I know reincarnation and past life memories are real, because I’ve experienced them, and so have billions of people all over the world, in all religions. It’s a complete lie that most people claim famous lives like Cleopatra and Joan of Arc. Most people, when regressed, remember ordinary lives, and many times in places not associated with famous events in those eras, like the Indian subcontinent, South America, and Turkey.

Information from Rabbi Yonassan Gershom on reincarnation and the Shoah (a not uncommon phenomenon)

ETA: Totally forgot about Cocoon, which freaked me out when I saw it in the theatre with my parents. I still have no idea why they took a kid that young to see something like that. I was so scared at the scene when the woman steps out of her skin and becomes an alien. Some years later, at age 12, while watching TV with the teen babysitter at my dad’s then-boss’s annual Winter holiday party (while the adults were out), that movie comes out, and the babysitter gushed about how neat it was. I meanwhile was scared all over again, but didn’t let on.

Return to Oz also freaked me out so much, with the decapitated heads, that I had to be carried out of the theatre. To this day I instinctively feel sick and look away at the sight of a severed head. That terror was only made worse in 1997, when my so-called Sociology teacher showed us Night and Fog without any warning of how graphic it would get, and refused to let us leave the room.