Posts Tagged ‘photography’

My dad and I on the balcony of the Garfield Memorial.

So this past week I was in Cleveland visiting family, including my dad, and getting to see a bit more of Cleveland than I ever have before (when you have a car, planning your own leisure activities during your vacation is sooo much easier). Among other things, I got to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, get the best shave I’ve ever had, and visit a huge indoor marketplace. But the one thing I wanted to talk about in this post was something my dad did with me Friday morning: we visited Lake View Cemetery.

Now if you don’t know, Lake View Cemetery is a large, ornate cemetery modeled after the great cemeteries of Victorian England and France. It’s known as “Cleveland’s Outdoor Museum,” and is home to some very prominent individuals, including Eliot Ness, Alan Freed (who coined the term “rock and roll”), John D. Rockefeller, and President James Garfield, who has the most ornate mausoleum not just of any resident there, but of any American president. Amazing considering he only served for about 200 days.

Me being me, I’d been looking forward to seeing this place since I first heard about it. And of course, me being me, I brought my reliable dowsing rods with me, because they are so good at striking up conversations with the dead.

Our first stop was the Garfield Memorial, but even before we reached that place, I could tell this was a different sort of cemetery than any I’ve visited in the past. For one, it was so pretty. Cemeteries used to take the place of public parks in places that didn’t or couldn’t have public parks for whatever reason, and as I said, this cemetery was based on the kinds popular from a hundred and fifty years ago. So you had wide, sloping hills and fields of green, a lake with benches and geese and swans in and around it, and majestic lanes to walk upon (or walk your dog, as I saw one woman doing with her husky). Also, there were so many different kinds of headstones and grave markers! Look at some of the photos below.

I don’t ktow these people, but I love their tastes. Good kitty!

Alan Freed’s gravestone, front side.

Alan Freed’s gravestone, back side.

The Rockefeller Obelisk, or most of it. It’s a big monument.

As I said, our first stop was to the Garfield Memorial, this huge, ornate structure that was even more amazing once you got inside. A docent there told us how money was raised for the memorial after the president’s death and some of the features of the construction and artwork on display. For example, the glass in the walls were all inserted by hand, and the murals on the wall include goddesses representing the thirteen original colonies, plus Ohio and War and Peace, and the leaves set into the floor are supposed to guide you around the room, showing Garfield’s humble beginnings in Ohio and how he came up to become the President, a real American success story.

The front exterior of the Garfield Memorial.

 

The glass designs on the wall, from afar and up close. Imagine the work that went into all that!

Later we went downstairs to the crypt, where I got out my dowsing rods. Unfortunately, my dad forgot to hit record on my phone, so we didn’t have a recording of that conversation, but I did get into contact with James Garfield’s ghost. Apparently, while his family is buried with him, none of their spirits are with him, and he’s pretty lonely. I felt bad for him, and considering how many other spirits are in the cemetery, I had to wonder why he didn’t have many people on either side of the veil to speak to. The docent later told us that after his assassination, a friend of Garfield did engage a medium to speak to his spirit, and other psychics have been by the grave.

The Garfield crypt. It was a lot mores shadowy when I was there.

The balcony from the Garfield Memorial. You can just see Lake Erie in this photo.

After a quick trip up to the balcony, where we had a view of Lake Erie (hence the name “Lake View”), we checked out some of the other graves around the cemetery. One of those graves was John Rockefeller, and that was a conversation we did get on video. Check it out below.

Now, that was amazing. How many people can say they’ve had a conversation with John D. Rockefeller? And apparently death is treating him well. Not surprising, when you consider he’s got a scenic place to live in death and lots of people to talk to. And he may go visit Garfield, for all we know.

We left soon after that. We tried to visit the Wade Chapel, this beautiful structure with this Tiffany glass decoration, but there was a funeral going on there, and we didn’t want to disturb the grieving family, who seemed like they were going to stick around a while. But in all honesty, I really enjoyed myself. This trip played to all my interests, and I got to do it with my dad, who I don’t see often anymore and whom I enjoy doing most things with.

And Lake View Cemetery is just a beautiful place to go. If you haven’t gone and have the chance, I highly recommend you take a trip there. I’ll definitely try to go again the next time I’m in Cleveland and have a few more conversations while I’m there.

Have you ever been to Lake View Cemetery? Did you have any encounters there? What was it like?

And in the meantime, this is a reminder that anyone interested in being an advanced reader for my upcoming fantasy-horror novel “Rose” has till June 7th–this Friday–to sign up. The novel follows a young woman who turns into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). If you’re interested, please send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. All I ask is you read the book and consider posting a review after the release. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to have a few more posts out this week, including a review and some more of my recent experiences. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

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Back in December, I posted about how I was collecting dolls, figurines, and statuettes. Since then, I’ve collected quite a few more for my collection, so I thought I’d write another post about the collection and show off my new acquisitions (as well as have another go at giving my parents more grey hairs and making them wonder where they got such an unusual son. What can I say? I am a nasty little devil).

First, let’s talk about those Nightmare Before Christmas pixies. Remember when I said there were about four of them? Well, turns out there’s a lot more than four:

So apparently the line comes with its own little Halloweentown display. I got that not too long after the last doll/figurine-related post.

After that, they sent me Oogie Boogie’s character.

And then Zero the ghost dog.

And I thought that was it, but then they sent me Lock, the kid in the devil costume.

And then they sent me Shock, the witch girl.

And that’s where we are so far. I’m assuming Barrel, who I think is some sort of skeleton kid, is on the way at some point. I’m not really sure how many characters are in this collection, but I’m happy to keep paying for them and seat them in a circle in my apartment.

Also, I recently bought another, very special figurine from The Hamilton Collection, the company that makes those little statues. This is the Guardian of the Underworld.

Yeah, pretty scary. And I’m pretty sure that’s an old Rolls Royce hearse she’s sitting on. I wanted to bring that into work, but my supervisor put the kibosh on that one. Too bad, it would’ve been such a great talking point for anyone who came to visit my office. Then again, given what we do in my office, it might put people off and give them the wrong idea.

Of course, not all my new additions have been from The Hamilton Collection or look like pixies from Hell. Remember in my last post I mentioned that my very first figurine was one I made of the character of Zero from the anime Code Geass? Well, I finally got a real Code Geass Zero figurine!

This was one of my most anticipated acquisitions when I bought it. And it’s so cool! You can change heads and arms depending on whom you want to wear the costume (spoiler alert: different characters in the anime wear that costume at different points), and take on and off the sword around his waist. But I’m telling you, lining the real figurine next to the one I made all those years ago was a big moment for me. It felt like I was showing myself how far I’ve come in life that I can actually collect these things for myself, and I don’t just have to make them.

I’ve also made a few acquisitions that coincide with another love of mine, ballet. The first acquisition of this type is a figure of Asuka Langley Soryu from the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion (I already have two figurines of her, as she’s my favorite character, but this one is probably my favorite), dressed up as a ballerina. I absolutely adore this figurine. It looks like she’s about to break out into dance, which would be very cool if it could happen.

I also got two figurines based on Odette and Odile from Swan Lake. I was really psyched to get these, especially since I saw that ballet last November.

These figurines comes with their own individual stands, as well as a shared one for a pas de deux (not something that ever happened in the actual ballet, but whatever). They look so graceful and their eyes are so expressive, I just love it. They’re so wonderful, they gave me an idea for a novella a while back that I’d like to write at some point. They also came with a lithograph of an illustration that I believe inspired these figurines (I think that’s what the figurines are based on), which I hung up not too long ago after finding a picture frame that was the right size, right by where I keep the actual figurines.

My third ballet-related acquisition is a proper doll, a Liccca-chan doll. Licca-chan is like the Japanese equivalent of Barbie, and this one was so up my alley, that I couldn’t help but order it. The arms aren’t as movable as I thought they’d be (so no fifth position posing), but I still like it and I’m glad I bought it.

Of course, not all of my collection is so pretty. You guys know I’m a Lovecraft fan, right? Well, I recently acquired a Cthulhu statue from Chile. I’ve been wanting a statue of Cthulhu for quite some time now, so to finally get one was pretty awesome. I’m actually not really sure what this statue’s made of, to be honest: I bought it off Etsy, and it’s supposed to be made of some sort of clay, but at times it feels like wood, and other times like stone. Which, considering this is a statue of a powerful god in the Cthulhu Mythos, does not surprise me in the slightest. My supervisor may let me keep this one in the office, which I would find cool, but others might freak over. Of course, that’s the intended effect, so let’s hope he says yes.

Also, the store I bought it from included a free Cthulhu keychain because he’d been on a hike when I made the order and didn’t get it until when he came back a week later. I told him that wasn’t necessary, but he included it anyway. Such a nice guy, and I love the craftsmanship. Also, I’m not sure what this is made of either. Fuh-reaky!

And finally, we get to my last and possibly my favorite acquisition, as well as the one most likely to be haunted. This is a Pullip doll, which is a brand of South Korean fashion dolls known their big heads and equally big eyes.  This particular one is from the Alice du Jardin series, so I call her Alice, and she is the “Mint” version. Sometimes I feel like she’s really watching me while I’m writing or watching movies on the couch, and that she’s trying to influence me. If she is, I think she’s trying to influence me in positive ways though. Easing my stress and that sort of thing.

So that’s the latest on my collection. What did you think? (Yes, I’m aware that some people find my collection very weird, but since when have I ever been interested in being “normal?”). I’m personally very proud of it, and hope to add to it over time. I’d especially enjoy getting the entire main cast of Sailor Moon in figurine form, though that’ll have to wait until I get some new cabinets (someone’s letting me have his when he moves out of town). In the meantime, I love what I got, and I don’t ever want to part with them.

Do you collect dolls and figurines? What are your thoughts/suggestions on collecting them?

Today is my last day in Germany. It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been here for four months; it feels more like I’ve been here for ages. The day I arrived, all the way back in July, feels like it happened years and years ago. Heading home to Columbus feels almost a little weird. Almost like I’m heading to a place that only exists in my memories. I know that sounds weird, but after being away from home for longer than I’ve ever been before (the record before this was five weeks in Israel back in high school), that’s what it feels like.

I am looking forward to coming home to Columbus.* It’s where my family is, and where I’ve spent a majority of my life. It’s familiar, it’s got a lot of people I know. And our football team is undefeated this season, which is always something to be proud of. Go Buckeyes!

Still, I will miss being here in Germany. I’ve become so used to this nation, it’s become something like a really nice foster home for me. Every day there was something new to learn or see, and I got to go to all these wonderful places while I was here. Germany is filled with such history, and I was lucky to be able to explore that history in so many ways, from traveling to the many WWII-related sites in Munich to a Roman wall in Wiesbaden and everything in-between. I even got to see a castle, something no trip Europe is complete without. No matter what the cost, it was worth going out to see all these things.

The Roman Wall. I'm going to miss seeing stuff like this.

The Roman Wall. I’m going to miss seeing stuff like this.

And the people here are very awesome as well: more than once when I got turned around trying to get somewhere, I was able to find someone who was able to point me in the right direction. Even at the grocery store, people were more courteous than I could imagine: yesterday a woman at the grocery store saw I had just the one item (a bottle of wine for my dad and his wife), and she let me go right in front of her. I usually don’t get that even in the States, so I was very grateful for her kindness. When I heard reports about how Germany was the only European country willingly accepting refugees while other countries closed their borders, I wasn’t at all surprised, because that’s just the sort of country Germany is, a kind and accepting place where you can feel as welcome as you might in your own home.

Plus I got to watch Doctor Who several hours before my Whovian comrades in the Western Hemisphere, seeing as the show airs in Europe before it does over there. That was nice. I will miss that.

But yeah, I will miss Germany. My time here was well-spent and I learned and experienced so much, and one day I would like to return, see old friends and do some more exploring of the country if possible. If I could do that, I’d be one very happy horror novelist.

Here's looking at you, Germany.

Here’s looking at you, Germany.

So thank you Germany, for being my home away from home. I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve been here (even the more stressful minutes) and I can’t thank you enough for all you, your people, and the other guests who call your lands home have done for me. It has truly been a wonderful experience getting to know you firsthand. So auf wiedersehen, and I hope we can one day meet again.

Until that day comes though, you will be alive in my thoughts, my memories, and in my stories (horrifying as those are).

*And apparently Columbus is preparing for me to come home as well. Already the National Guard has been called out, people have been praying for salvation like mad. There’s even been strange activity reported amongst animals, like a bridge full of spiders (not kidding, it made the local news). I guess they know I plan on jumpstarting the Apocalypse, huh?

So in five days I’ll be getting on a plane and heading home (cue the patriotic Neil Diamond music). Since my time in Germany is running out, I figured that I’d go over the highlights of my trip, the things I’ll remember and talk about for years to come.

And that will make their way into a story or two, because that’s what happens when you’re me. Everything is fodder for my dark, twisted imagination.

So here they are, the highlights of my time in Germany:

Working for the US Army

Me at the office.

Me at the office.

Obviously this has to come first. It’s the whole reason that I’m here in the first place. I got to work for three months in the US Army Civilian Corps, working in the Equal Employment Opportunity office on a variety of projects, including a few articles and newsletters. I gained a lot of experience that will no doubt help me with future jobs (can’t confirm anything on that front yet, but I do think good news is on its way). I also made a few friends while on base, and I got to experience firsthand what it’s like to live and work for the US Army. Sure it was only three months, but what a period of three months! You can definitely expect a story or several coming out of this experience.

Living in Germany

Not everyone is lucky enough to live in a foreign country beyond a vacation of a couple of weeks. I got to do it for four months! And you know, it’s a lot of fun, as well as very educational. Sure, my German still sucks (though I find a lot of people here speak enough English for me to get by), but that didn’t get in the way too much. From trying the train and bus systems, to learning that bakeries here have a weird tolerance for letting flies or bees crawl over their food in the summer (yeah, I found it a little gross too), to even getting lost and learning to rely on the natives for directions, every week seemed to have some new adventure for me, and I can’t wait to tell everyone about some of those adventures I couldn’t talk about here in more detail, either in person or through stories.

My Trip to Munich

German silver mark from 1937. Cool, right?

German silver mark from 1937. Cool, right?

That was my first big trip in Germany. Before that I’d explored parts of Wiesbaden and made trips to Frankfurt and been to nearby Mainz once or twice, but this was really going out to see the country. And it’s definitely one of my favorite parts of being here in Germany, especially since visiting Munich was top of my list of things to do while in Germany. I was given a personal tour of Munich by a WWII scholar who showed me how Munich was such an essential part of the rise of Nazism and some of Nazi Germany’s most formative event. I had such a great time that day, and I would gladly do it again given the chance and maybe someone to share the experience with. In any case, I will have to look up my Holocaust Studies professor once I get back to Columbus and talk to her about my trip. I bet she’d be very interested in seeing some of my photos and souvenirs, including an actual German silver mark from 1937! Now having that is scholarly street cred right there.

For a fuller account of my trip to Munich, read my post here.

Seeing BABYMETAL in concert

BABYMETAL rocking it out in Frankfurt.

BABYMETAL rocking it out in Frankfurt.

If you have no idea who or what BABYMETAL is, they’re a Japanese pop-metal fusion band fronted by three teenage girls. Yes, it is kind of weird, but it is really awesome and they’re making tons of waves in the metal world (if you want to sample them and see what the big deal is, I highly recommend their Road of Resistance video). To say the least, I am a gigantic fan, and this was my second time seeing them in concert. The first time was at the Rock on the Range music festival in Columbus this past May, but they were on a smaller stage and allotted a shorter performance time, so it wasn’t as fun as I’d hoped. When I heard they were going to be in Germany while I was there, and that they’d be doing a full concert, I immediately got tickets to go.

And you know what? I had a blast! They did their whole repertoire (easily enough when you only have one album and a digital single) before a crowd of about a hundred and fifty people, and I just had the best time. I got really close to the stage by the end of the concert, which was good because in addition to tall fans seeing the show from several yards back is no fun, and I got to see a ton of the action up close. Honestly, when they played my favorite song, “Doki Doki Morning”, I nearly died from happiness. At the end of the concert, I felt drunk despite having not had a drop of alcohol all day, and couldn’t help but sing the tune to some of their songs for quite a while after the concert was over. It was just a magical night for me.

Me and my new friend Itamar.

Me and my new friend Itamar.

That concert was also special because, besides a T-shirt I got as a souvenir, I made a new friend at the concert, an Israeli named Itamar who had recently been discharged from the IDF and was traveling around Europe and going to BABYMETAL concerts whenever he could. To him, those concerts were fun and relaxing (considering my own experience and the studies that show heavy metal is a mood lifter for fans, plus the fact that plenty of the band’s songs feature positive messages, I didn’t find that too surprising). We started talking before the show started, realized we had a lot in common, including a thing for horror stories, and hit it off. After the show we found each other and promised to stay in contact, and he said he’d check out my books. The very next day we became Facebook friends. Isn’t that nice?

I also had a great idea for a novel while I was at the concert, but I think I’ll wrap up this entry in the list and say this was a big event for me and I had a ton of fun. And if I get the chance, I hope I can see BABYMETAL in concert again someday.

And I’m jamming out to them while I write this post, but does that surprise you in any way?

Wewelsburg Castle

Wewelsburg castle.

Wewelsburg castle.

A trip to Europe is not complete without a castle or two, in my opinion. Last year on my study abroad trip it was the Tower of London, and this year it was Wewelsburg Castle, a three-sided German castle in Paderborn that was once the seat of the local Prince-Bishop. During WWII, the SS used the castle as a training center, and some say it was also where they did mystical rituals meant to empower themselves as Aryan men (there’s both evidence to support and oppose this theory, but I wouldn’t discount it). Ever since last year when I did a paper on the connections between National Socialism and mysticism and I discovered the castle in my studies, I’ve wanted to check it out, and being able to do so on this trip was a very big deal for me. I learned a lot while I was there, and I even got a story idea while I was there. Wewelsburg is definitely a place I’d recommend anyone visiting Germany visit if they’re in the mood for seeing a castle with an interesting and dark history.

For a fuller account of my trip to the castle, you can read my post here.

German food and drink

Love that German beer!

Love that German beer!

Now, because I keep kosher and because I can’t read German, my access to German food was limited. Still, when I could have it, I found that it was pretty good. They definitely know how to make some tasty baked fish dishes, the Germans do. They use plenty of spices to give it flavor, I think.

And German beer and wine is definitely some of the best I’ve ever tasted. I know Germany is known for its beers, but the wine is pretty extraordinary too. In fact, Frankfurt and plenty of other German cities and provinces make a lot of money off wine, and there’s even a university in Frankfurt where they teach wine and beer making. If I wasn’t such a writer, I might consider applying to that school and started a winery or something.

Definitely don’t miss out on eating actual authentic German cuisine while you’re here. You’ll miss out on a central part of the country if you do.

And finally…

All the story ideas!

Last year when I was in Europe, I kept track of how many ideas I had while I was abroad and came up with 40 ideas. This year I did the same, and after four months and so many experiences, the amount of ideas I had was staggering. 81 ideas as of this past Saturday. Yeah, that’s a lot of ideas. Novels, short stories, articles, even a video game or two, inspired by anything from dreams to stories I read and shows or movies I watched, to all these experiences and several more experiences I had while in Germany. Yeah, it’s definitely been a good time for me creatively while I’ve been here. I just wonder when I’m going to write all these stories! Hopefully not never.

 

Well, that’s all I’ve got. I have to say, I’m going to miss Germany terribly. It’s been quite an experience while I was here, and I hope that maybe someday I can visit again, maybe see a few things I didn’t get the chance to see during my four months here (I probably would’ve seen more if I could, but time and money are always a factor in these sort of things). And who knows? Maybe in the future I’ll get that chance after all.

One can always hope. Right my Followers of Fear?

The Marktplatz farmer's market.

The Marktplatz farmer’s market.

This morning I got up a bit earlier than I normally would on a Saturday in order to go on a walking tour of my new home Wiesbaden. Unfortunately due to my own unfamiliarity with the city, the confusing directions from Google Maps, and the confusing language from the ad I got for the tour, I missed the tour. I did run into some folks from the base whom I’d seen around, and they were kind enough to help me look for the group before I concluded that it was too late and I’d missed them. And after talking with these people and parting ways, I decided to go on a walking tour of my own, visiting the locations I remembered mentioned in the ad. And you know what? It was a lot of fun.

Swear to you, this is an actual store.

Swear to you, this is an actual store.

I was in an area known as the Marktplatz which, as its name hints, is a market or shopping area with lots of different stores and even a farmer’s market going on. My first stop on the trip though was this really interesting shop whose front is a giant cuckoo clock. Inside were a number of English speakers who were very kind. We talked about me moving to the US Army base, about the American presidential elections, and about other stuff. I bought a couple of postcards and promised to come back sometime (and I intend to. That shop had curiosities that gave me an idea for a short story. You have to give them props for that). I then ended up taking a look around the Marktkirche, or Market Church, a huge cathedral of reddish bricks that apparently prides itself on its music and concerts, based on the CDs for sale and the fact that a concert let out just as I got to go in and see the place.

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You know, I may not be Christian, but that doesn’t keep me from having an appreciation for places like the Market Church. There’s a powerful history there, and you can feel it in the stones, like energy. It’s love and devotion to God, pure and simple. Sure, this church has probably seen its fair share of fiery sermons, but for the most part it’s love, and the architecture, lighting, art, and layout help to amplify all that. I spent quite a few minutes just sitting there and taking it all in. I also took a few minutes to figure out the identities of the five statues around the altar. I recognized Jesus, but it took me a little work to find out the other four were the Four Evangelists (did not know the Gospel writers had a special name). Then I got an idea for a short story, which made me happy. Two in a single day!

The Staattheater

The Staattheater

After that I grabbed a quick lunch and went to check out the Staattheater or State Theater, and got information on whom to contact to tour the theater (apparently it’s a really amazing interior, but they only do group tours on certain days). After that I checked out the Casino, which is not like your American casinos where anyone goes in to play a few games. Take a look at the photo: this casino was designed as a gathering place for the rich and noble to socialize and gamble. Even today there’s a dress code if you want to play at the roulette wheel, and they hold huge events there for big VIPs (the Dalai Lama is apparently in town tomorrow and speaking at the Casino. I’d go, but I don’t feel like getting up at the crack of dawn to get a good seat so his translator can speak to the crowd in German).

Yeah, the Casino looks like a roman temple or something.

Yeah, the Casino looks like a roman temple or something.

After losing my savings at the roulette wheel and slots (kidding!), I explored the park by the theater. And that was wonderful. In America, with TV and games and the Internet, we get so caught up on being inside and having fun inside and inside fake worlds. Rarely do we take the time to enjoy outside, and this park kind of reminded me of that, as well as wonder can be found in nature. The lake in the middle of the park with the fountain reminded me of Ohio State’s Mirror Lake, as well as the pigeons and giant ducks living around the lake having absolutely no fear of humans (seriously, one got within a few feet of me and didn’t flinch. I swear it wanted to either see what I was or challenge me to a fight). And there was this little creek right by the lake that looked so peaceful and pretty, like out of a fantasy story. It was really relaxing.

Like being back at school, in a way.

Like being back at school, in a way.

Well, after that I headed home. And while I didn’t visit all the places the tour group was going to go (I missed the Roman Wall, which I will have to find some time), I did get my own little tour and got familiar with the city I live in now. And when I get a chance, I’d like to go explore again and see what this city has to offer.

And next week, if I decide to do that tour of Frankfurt (and I think I will), I’ll make sure I have a much better idea of where it is before I go to it. Seriously, I’m not getting up early for a day trip not knowing where we’re meeting!

Anyway, I’m definitely enjoying being here in Germany, and I’m looking forward to doing and seeing more as time goes on. Heck, I’m thinking of taking some trips to Munich or Stuttgard one of these weekends. That should be exciting.

Well, until next time, my Followers of Fear. Guten Nacht!

A street in my new home.

A street in my new home.

Well, not really my first week. It’s been only four or five days since I arrived. But it’s Friday, and tomorrow I’ll be busy with a couple of things, so I might as well write about it now.

So what’s my first week been like? Well…a bit different than what I expected (or what my Tarot predicted, though that was referring to a longer period of time, so maybe the first week shouldn’t have that much reflection on the reading). While I am working and have my own office (and it’s big and cozy too, by the way), I don’t have an ID card yet. As this is a military base with security protocols and whatnot, I need and ID card to do anything significant. Unfortunately, the soonest I can get in to get one is Monday, so until then I’ve been busy with tasks that don’t involve computers or security clearance.

What sort of tasks are those, you ask? Well, I’m supposed to be, among other things, writing articles on behalf of the head Equal Employment Opportunity office of Europe, so in preparation for that I’ve been doing some reading about diversity in the workforce, something EEO feels strongly about. I’m going to be writing an article about implementing diversity to the fullest in such a workforce. In addition to that, I’ve been doing some work with the base’s personal EEO office.

My apartment building.

My apartment building.

Beyond that, I haven’t had that much time to do anything else. I’ve done a little shopping, and gotten to know the neighborhood I live in a little (I live not too far from base in an area full of apartment buildings housing mostly military personnel and/or their families). I’m also getting to know my roommate Ian, whom I have a lot in common with, including religions. And I’ve been adjusting, trying to adapt to living near a base and working on one. I’ve somehow trained myself to go to bed at ten and wake up at five, and be ready to leave the house a quarter to seven for work. How have I done this? I’m not really sure, even a year ago something like that would’ve been impossible for work or school.

Well, thank God it’s the weekend, and that brings it’s own adventures. I’m doing a walking tour of Wiesbaden provided by the USO tomorrow morning, so I’m getting up early (for a Saturday) to go on it. I’m actually pretty excited. I want to see what my new home has to offer. And next week there’s a tour of nearby Frankfurt I’d like to go on as well. We’ll see what happens.

My roommate and I grabbing some drinks.

My roommate and I grabbing some drinks.

The one thing I’m sad about is that I’m unable to continue my German lessons or write lately. The latter particularly upsets me. You know me, as a writer telling stories is my lifeblood. And with a busy life like mine these days, since Monday the most I’ve been able to do is usually very short posts, like the ones on From The Voice Of Common Sense. Hopefully as time goes on though I’ll be able to carve out time to write and edit. I’m trying to get through a new short story and finish editing Video Rage, so the sooner I get those done the better.

In the meantime, I’ve got a big day tomorrow, so I’m going to prep for that. Wish me luck, my Followers of Fear. I think I might need it.

Me standing on a stone walkway on Omaha Beach, looking into the distance and trying to imagine what the seas looked like on June 6, 1944.

Me standing on a stone walkway on Omaha Beach, looking into the distance and trying to imagine what the seas looked like on June 6, 1944.

While my study abroad trip was in Normandy, we visited Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, and Pont-du-Hoc. It was quite an experience. For one thing, except for the memorials at Utah Beach to fallen soldiers and the museum next to the memorials, each beach looked like an ordinary beach. You had to really look for vestiges of the war that had raged on the sands nearly 70 years ago. Whether it was the structure in the water meant to obstruct the D-Day boats, or the preserved (I assume preserved) anti-aircraft gun standing on a pedestal, or the set of stairs leading up to a bunker in the mountain, there were hints at what had happened there.

It was really weird. You stand there, and you’d think it was just an ordinary beach. It’s hard to believe that the things that happened there really happened. I wonder how it was for the veterans who were still alive and able to make the trip to the commemoration ceremonies (like this badass Ohio former paratrooper), to come back to the beaches all these years later and seeing bare vestiges of the war left. Must have been disorientating, to say the least.

At Pont-du-Hoc though, you could totally hear the echoes of the past. Pont-du-Hoc, if I remember correctly, is not too far from Omaha Beach. Scattered all throughout the area are rubble, the remains of German bunkers and weapons, and dozens of craters, varying in size from six feet across to twenty feet across or more. Don’t even get me started on how deep those things went! I was scared to go down into the deeper ones lest I be unable to get out again without assistance.

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My friend David Corrigan in one of the deeper pits. This one was maybe twenty feet deep and twenty-five across. It was quite the shock to see it for the first time.

It was easier there to get an idea of what the war was like. You could see evidence in the craters, from the huge blocks of concrete, and from the gun pits and passageways, that war had been waged in this area. And what an area it was! You get the impression from movies and TV shows that a battle, no matter the size of the army, is maybe contained to a place the size of a football field. Pont-du-Hoc was probably several football fields long and wide. It really redefined my belief on what a battle was like.

And when I closed my eyes, I could almost hear the sounds of the battle, echoing across the stream of time from seventy years ago. And I was awed by it all, by the magnitude of what had happened and the horrors the soldiers must’ve witnessed in the spots I stood on. It was so hard to fathom. Thank God I have a writer’s imagination, which made it a little easier, but what I saw in my mind’s eye was probably nothing like it really was back then.

Now, veterans, their families, and world dignitaries such as Obama and Putin and so many others are there to remember the fallen and the battles waged just as I did a few weeks before. It’s right that they should, because it was D-Day and Operation Overlord which began the destruction of the Nazi regime and helped to free so many people from the horrors of fascism and racism. And while technically it was the Soviets who really ended Nazi Germany’s reign of terror, D-Day had a large role in ending it as well. D-Day and everything after.

Me in an anti-aircraft gun pit. Trust me, I had to struggle to get in there.

Me in an anti-aircraft gun pit. Trust me, I had to struggle to get in there.

And I’m so glad I’m at least able to contribute something, even if it’s only some musings and a couple of memories and photos, to the celebrations and commemorations. I’m so happy to say that I was there and that I have more knowledge than I did of the invasion on this auspicious day. And I’m happy that I was able to reach back across time like that and get some sense, even if it was just a small one, of what happened on those beaches and in the surrounding countryside.

Thanks to all those who served in the war, who helped to liberate Europe from Nazi tyranny, and who still today serve to protect the ideals of freedom and peace. It’s all because of you that I’m able to write this. And I and so many others will never forget it.