Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
If you've read my books (or browsed this blog), you know how much I love libraries. In fact, I credit the library in my hometown of Sylva, North Carolina, with keeping me out of juvie for seventeen years. (When I get bored, I start causing trouble. Just ask my mom.) The subjects I discovered at the Sylva library are the same ones that continue to fascinate me. (Ghosts, reincarnation, Bigfoot, aliens, mythology, sinister secret societies.) Even the old movies they showed on Tuesdays have been feeding my imagination for decades. (Brigadoon, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Bringing Up Baby, and my all-time favorite . . . the original Clash of the Titans.)
These days, every time I step into a library, my brain begins to tingle. I can't help but imagine that there's some strange, magical book tucked away in the stacks, just waiting for me to discover it.
This morning, I felt a similar sensation when I stumbled across an article about an amazing organization/movement called Little Free Libraries. The idea is super simple. You build a little library (like the one shown above), fill it with the books you love, and let your neighbors borrow them.
Just imagine . . . You're young, bored, and up to no good. (As I often was.) You're wandering around, looking for mischief when you happen to spot an unusual structure just off the path, half-hidden by trees. Turns out, there's a library where you'd never have expected to find one. You have no idea who built it. (Book-loving wood sprites? A wise, cave-dwelling hermit? Aliens who happen to speak the same language that you do?) You take a peek over your shoulder. No one is watching. So you open the door and find the library is filled with weird and wonderful books that you suddenly can't wait to read.
Want to change a kid's life? That's one way to do it.
Maybe I'll build my own library. (This is my Year of Adventure.) I wonder what my Brooklyn neighbors would think.
In the meantime, if you have started your own Little Free Library, and you would like to include a copy of Kiki Strike, send a picture of your library to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll send you a book. (Offer only good until I go broke.)
Monday, February 13, 2012
(Above: Can you believe this picture was taken in BROOKLYN?)
A couple of weeks ago, I received a Facebook message from a pen pal of mine who lives in Toronto. She said she'd be coming to New York this month and asked if I'd be in town. I think she probably had a pleasant cup of coffee in mind. I proposed an ADVENTURE.
Only a gutsy individual would hop in a car with a crazy writer she's never met face-to-face and set off for a secluded site known as Dead Horse Bay. But Lauren is a true Irregular, and she was eager for a glimpse of the "dark side" of New York. (Although I bet she had a roll of duct tape in her bag, just in case I turned out to be even nuttier than my blog would suggest.)
In retrospect, it would have been cruel to take anyone but a Canadian. The weather seems to turn brutal every time I seek adventure outdoors. It was bitterly cold yesterday, and only a hardy soul from the frozen north could have enjoyed (or survived) a day at the beach.
Dead Horse Bay lies on the southeastern shore of Brooklyn. It earned its name back in the nineteenth century when the beach was lined with horse-rendering and fish oil-processing plants. Until the twentieth century, it was accessible only by boat. Not that you would have wanted to visit in those days. The stench was said to be nauseating.
When cars replaced buggies on New York's streets, there were fewer horses to render. (Yuck.) So the marsh surrounding Dead Horse Bay became a garbage dump.
Today, the beach is covered in two centuries worth of trash. (And horse bones.) So why was I so eager to see it? Well one person's trash is an amateur archaeologist's home decor. Apparently visitors find all sorts of interesting bric-a-brac washed up on the shores of Dead Horse Bay. (Creepy old dolls. Lovely nineteenth-century glassware. Horse teeth.)
The most interesting thing I found was the bottle pictured below. The red, gelatinous contents looked like something out of a mad scientist's lab. Not exactly the kind of objet that I'd want to display on my mantle. The horseshoe crab shell could have made a nice conversation piece. (It was HUGE. The photo doesn't do it justice.) But after I'd spotted some of the revolting 21st century garbage littering the beach, (which would make you think twice about what you flush down the toilet), I wasn't in the mood for gathering souvenirs.
Our visit took place during high tide, and the pickings are said to be better when the water recedes. Unfortunately, low tide would have been around 6pm yesterday, and Dead Horse Bay is not a place you want to be after dark. It has to be one of the most isolated spots in all of New York. It's quiet and beautiful (aside from the garbage). The only person we encountered during the visit was a park ranger at the Floyd Bennett Field parking lot. By the time we reached the beach, he couldn't have heard us if we'd felt the need to scream.
So if you go to Dead Horse Bay, wear thick-soled boots (there's broken glass everywhere), take rubber gloves, and don't go alone. (Even though the bench shown above seems perfect for solitary contemplation.) And if you go during the winter, be sure to haul a Canadian along for the ride. (Kidding, Lauren. Thanks for keeping me company! You are a true adventurer.)
Click here for more about Dead Horse Bay, and check out the video below.
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Friday, February 10, 2012
(Above: Not interested in helping your love life.)
I'm afraid I didn't experience much in the way of adventure Wednesday night. Though it was very cool to be inside the American Museum of Natural History after hours. I'm pretty sure I could have slipped off into one of the exhibits while no one was watching. (How amazing would it be to roam the dinosaur wing in the dark? Or sneak through the Hall of Minerals, with all of its glow-in-the-dark rocks?)
Alas, I am a law abiding citizen. Yawn. Maybe I'll go back for one of the private night tours they offer. (But I gotta say, the AMNH is expensive. I've been there a few times already this year, and I think I could have purchased my own dinosaur with the money I've spent on admission.)
The aphrodisiac lecture was interesting, and the woman who gave it (Francine Segan) seemed quite charming. They handed out wine and chocolate. So I'm not inclined to complain.
Most of the "aphrodisiacs" discussed were examples of "sympathetic magic." (Which would be a great name for a book.) If a food resembled something "naughty," the ancients often assumed it could work some magic when it came time for lovin'. I'd give you a few examples, but I'm pretty sure it's not necessary.
(Above: Sliced antler.)
Other "aphrodisiacs" (many still used today) are the organs or body parts of animals that are known for their vim and vigor. Rhinos, tigers, bears, sharks, and stags have all been sacrificed in the name of love. It's one of the reasons that rhino, tiger, and shark populations have been decimated in recent decades.
I guess I was expecting a little less magic and a little more science. I've eaten enough figs in my life to doubt their magical properties. (Though they are delicious. There's a fig tart in one of Segan's books that I must make and consume as soon as possible.) And if you've ever seen a picture of a rhino that's been killed for its horn, you know why I'd rather stick with herbs.
Of course if you go online, and you can find herbal remedies for any condition. Doctors in other cultures have been practicing herbal medicine for thousands of years. The first Chinese book on the subject may have been written as early as 2700BC. Thumb through a few ancient texts, and you'll probably find hundreds of "aphrodisiacs." But here's something to ponder: Most of those books were written by men. And men and women might expect different things from an aphrodisiac. (Just a hunch.)
However, in Europe during the Middle Ages herbal remedies were often the province of "wise-women." And I bet one of those ladies knew exactly what to sprinkle in the soup if you were keen to catch a certain gentleman's eye. Unfortunately, the "wise-woman" profession became much less desirable when its practitioners began to be burned as witches. Who knows how much knowledge died with them. A few of the old recipes must have survived, of course. That's why I wonder if the best place to look for a female-friendly aphrodisiac might be a "witchcraft" shop.
I don't believe in magic. (Although one of my female ancestors was hanged for witchcraft.) But I do believe there are many things that modern science can't yet explain. So maybe I'll check out one of the witchcraft supply stores here in New York. I'm not really in the market for an aphrodisiac, but I love an experiment. However, if I find a "potion" that works, I'll be far more likely to thank chemistry than magic.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
A Russian engineer claims to have filmed this creature last summer in a little populated region in Siberia. Is it a mammoth? Or a bear with a fish in its mouth?
I'll be honest. It would make my whole week if this turned out to be footage of a mammoth. (Though I'm not entirely sure that it is. The source was The Sun, a tabloid that isn't exactly famed for its journalistic integrity.)
I was recently asked to write an essay for an anthology, and I chose to argue for the existence of Bigfoot. The essay is quite humorous (in my opinion), but I do believe that there may be large creatures out there that we've yet to discover. I also hope, for their sake, that they stay out of sight. I bet there are thousands of rich guys out there who would love to hang a mammoth head on the wall.
More on the mammoth at cryptomundo.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
(Above: Collecting frog spit can be challenging.)
Yeah, I know. The Year of Adventure has gotten off to a rather slow start. Here's the problem . . . I may have mentioned that I recently had an idea for a great new book. Well I've been outlining the opus for the past week or so. And once I get into a project, I find it hard to tear myself away. Particularly when the project is as awesome as this one. Let's just say that I've always wanted to write a ghost/horror story. (I read The Shining when I was 10, and I haven't slept with the lights off since.)
But I have every intention of getting back on track with my YOA. So this week, I'm going to have TWO adventures. Tomorrow, I shall be attending a lecture/food tasting at the American Museum of Natural History (quite possibly the greatest place on earth). The topic? APHRODISIACS: MYTH OR REALITY. Questions I expect to be answered include: If I sprinkle a little frog saliva on my favorite recipe (tuna casserole), will I seem irresistible to my dining companion? When concocting a philter, are there any good substitutes for rhinoceros horn (since I would NEVER, EVER want a rhino to come to any harm)? And how can I use what I learn
Don't worry. I'll tweet the answers. (Though possibly after the lecture. Might be kinda rude to type when I'm supposed to be listening. And I certainly don't want to miss anything. We'll see.)
Then, this weekend, a friend and I will be setting off on another fabulous adventure. The details haven't been ironed out yet, but I'll be posting about Adventure #5 soon!