I do not know when I developed my glass fetish; it was somewhere over the last twenty odd years in sorting through hundreds of tons of brown, green, and clear bottles for the solid waste industry. I learned that some of them were worth more than a remelt into something new. Maybe the imprinting goes back earlier to when there were still deposit soda bottles, and I could make a little extra eating and drinking money off the streets. Beer distributors were paying .40 to .50 cents a case for returns as well. I remember when the quart pop bottles had a bounty of a dollar a piece toward the end. Then everything became disposable.
There was a lull in my love affair with glass along the way.
Now that I am old and working on myself, I know that there are collectors in the world of about anything, glass included. While I am out there looking for the gems in all that cheap industrial glass, there are a whole bunch of pieces that did not make it into the current century in one chunk . Even more of those formed glass objects did not make it into the previous century. They are lying around in pieces at dump sites all around the edges of our civilization.
There are crafty things to do with all those little fragments, much like those jewelers along the coasts who are making and selling beach glass as jewelry. Yes, I have an old zinc lidded canning jar slowly filling up with that too.
I started experimenting with old chianti bottles and came up with a study in light and color called “Broken Treasures, I”. It had this layered effect of purpled and blue glass. It went for $5 at a flea market up near Sandpoint. I hope it is catching the light someplace still. I am about to finish off number V, also in layers of purpled glass with cobalt blue and red. Need to go grubbing out in the dead vehicle’s piles for more purple glass.
Now my “Broken Treasures” pieces are $10 items, and I am willing to find the light source for you if you want. You pick up the expenses of course, they can run high. Workshop and gallery visits are by appointment only. I really need to put my calling card and mobile number up on the door. I am out in the field often.
I lost my larger gallery space when I retired, so I need to win the lottery soon so I can afford to have a bigger area to display art projects. I suppose writing a best-selling novel would be just as useful as winning the lottery and serve nicely. Those 100 plus degree temperatures are a really good excuse to hide in my burrow and write. Field work can be taxing on a body.
The oldest glass I can remember seeing in my life was in a museum in Seattle. It was made in the Classical Period of Greece, and probably dated from the 3rd or 4th Century BC. It reminded me of a bit of Herat glass I have in a display case between my reproduction of a plaster bigfoot print and my stuffed allegator (a caiman really). It is a pale blue about the size of a demitasse cup, no handle. It has lots of air bubbles and looks like a breath of wind would shatter it. It is one of my treasured possessions because it is so fragile and probably could never be replaced. Looking for glass in Northern Afghanistan seems a little foolish right now.
The move to my new workspace is done. The van becomes a nice tool for the treasure hunting, portable living situation, and flea market sales in my fantasy future life, but it can rest for a bit. It went through four starters during the three months of move. That is on top of the first failure. Apparently, the solenoid sits too close to the manifold and gets hot. It is a design flaw.
There is a starter button on the dash now, and all sorts of shiny copper wire around the battery. Turn the key, punch the button and it fires right up. I still have to crawl under the rig and see if the wires go anywhere near the old/new starter. My understanding of electricity is minimal at best. I sure am no systems analyst, but it seems that the electrical specialists finally got around to the system was broken so they changed the system ploy.
The storyboard is safely ensconced in my new digs. Storyboards can be a useful tools; they can also be a convenient way to waste time when you are not actually writing. Back in the days when I was working in solid waste to pay the rent and eat, I found the pieces for my storyboard. It is a fun toy now.
We were cleaning tons of paper out of the psychology department when I came across a box containing a story telling kit from the late 1940s. I promised myself that when I found a magnetic white board it would become a story creating device with lots of glued on magnets. The board finally came. It is 4 by 9 feet and weighs a ton (figuratively). I have to get a moving crew in to move the thing.
Just before I moved it, I put these figures on it as an example of a simple story. They are back on it now with lines and arrows and question marks. The story is beginning to unfold in one form or another.
One of the pieces has disappeared during the move. It was the figure of a naked little boy with his back turned. He seemed to be hiding his penis from view. I hope he turns up. I imagine psychiatry from the 1940s would have a lot to say about my noticing this.
In the summer of 1932, the magazine Weird Tales published a story titled “Wings in The Night” by Robert E. Howard. The story revolved around a Puritan adventurer by the name of Solomon Kane. In the end, Howard wrote about a half dozen Kane stories and at least one poem that I have seen.
I did not stumble across Howard’s writings about Solomon Kane until after his Conan stories came out in the late 1960s paperback edition by Lancer Books. Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp had filled in the gaps in Conan’s life with stories of their own in that edition. The covers were illustrated with the paintings of Frank Frazetta. The reality of High School was not someplace I wanted to be, so decamping into the Hyperborian age and adventure without too much risk to my physical wellbeing was high on my list of to dos. I imagine that the Depression had the same effect on a lot of people at the time that this story was released. Weird Tales was probably a welcome escape.
Solomon Kane did not come into my life until after a BA in English Literature. When I read the Conan stories, I did not realize that they were not all Howard stories. I just poured them into my brain with no discrimination at all. Real adventure had come and gone, and good riddance. As Bilbo would say, nasty uncomfortable things, make you late for dinner. But pretend adventures are always welcome especially if they are well written and can make you take that pill of the willing suspension of disbelief. Real adventures are kind of dangerous and sometimes the treasures are not worth it.
The brave adventurer Solomon Kane, an Elizabethan character created by a Texan, wanders East from the Slave Coast of Africa because the darkness of Africa has whispered into his soul. He wanders into a village that is being tortured by mythological creatures from the time of Jason and the Argonauts and the villagers are willing to let him be their god if he will protect them. It does not go well for the villagers. Kane goes mad and all the mythological creatures become history once again.
As an English Literature student that has made it through to the years 2021, having had my adventures with life and looking forward to treasure hunting once again with enough sense to avoid adventures that can get me killed, I get to dissect the reality that the world surrounds me with as if it was a piece of literature, and now that I am retired, the jobs I decide to do can be put together and completed with the same critical process. The gods know that my teachers and job supervisors tortured me enough during school and my day jobs trying to make me to do the job I was supposed to do without thinking about it too much about it.
We have not quite made it through Donald J. Trump in America, but the problems that sit in the heart of America’s soul have been fanned to a white hot glow. We still do not understand that all people are created equal and that we are working for the common good. We have gone through the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, the War on Terror. We have made it through WWI, WWII, the Korean War. We have made it through the Vietnam War (called a police action to avoid that title of War for many years), Falklands War, Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom also known as the War on Terror and the War in Afghanistan, which is still going on, and the Iraq War. Lord knows where the rest of the protections of US interests are.
I feel that out of all this the Christian Clerics in America have taken a page out of the Taliban’s book. They have become the enemy that they were fighting. The word war somehow morphed into a term about any kind of struggle in politics or a philosophical/religious discourse system. I would suggest we start thinking in terms of the term “struggle”. The struggle between good and evil, the struggle against poverty, the struggle against drugs, and the struggle against terror. The word struggle would not be as effective of a recruiting term, but it could be prolonged as a political argument forever because struggles never end whereas wars must end for political survival. Maybe there are not enough donations and taxes to be gained from struggles.
This is one of the interesting things about Howard’s characters. They are strugglers even if they take up civilization’s occupation of war. They are adventurers on the boarders between civilization and what is outside of it. They meet things that are beyond the knowledge of humanity, things beyond reason, yet they are products of their time just as much as the narrative voice in the story is a product of its time. Howard was a product of his racial belief system. It was a belief system than had never evolved much since the American Civil War. The all men are created equal goal was not going anywhere very quickly. Solomon Kane’s view of race was not much different than Robert E. Howard’s. They both accepted that ethnicity was a manifestation of evolution towards something better. In America today, we still do not grasp in a general way that evolution is simply change not in any way a matter of plus or minus. It is just a process that God (She, He, It, or They) uses to make things happen, and S.H.I. or They is an unknowable thing. I am leaning toward agnosticism at this moment.
There is a lot of this social Darwinism in Howard’s writings, things I did not even recognize when I was younger, things I did not have the experience to address on a personal level. I am trying to hope that the United States of America has matured enough to face these issues. The rise of Trump was a bad setback, but it is an ill wind that does not blow somebody some good. It was a real slap in the face of our complacency in the struggle of good over evil. It was even a slap in the face of enlightened self-interest. We have lots of work to do before the aliens let us out of the solar system.
Solomon Kane is not a bad man. He hates slavery and slavers. But it is not his Puritan leanings that keep him alive in this story. It is not some all-powerful God and reason that gets him to this anti-slavery stance. It comes from some place much darker. It comes from deep in the subconscious of his soul. He has been the captive of slavers and has the marks of the whips on his back. He has been in the inquisitional dungeons of Europe’s witch hunts. His hate of slavery is not reasoned, it is personal. His loathing of the forces outside of man and God are from personal experience. It is not reason and God that keep him alive; it is the struggle and madness deep in the nature of things that does. It is the little gods.
In the first line of the story, he is seen leaning on the magickal staff that his blood brother, a fetish man from the coast has given him. His musket was smashed fighting vampires in an earlier story. He has been saved my this magick a few times through Howard’s tales. In this tale, it does not. God with a capital G does not save him. It is insanity and whatever the gods with a smaller case g are. There is a whole chapter titled “The Madness of Solomon”.
“It was madness that saved him . . . god gave him a brain.”
God, in Kane’s mind, may have walked him through alive, but in the reality of the story it was god, with a small g that did. Solomon may not have believed that in his conscious thoughts, but the narrative voice seems to.
“The enraged Puritan charged forward seeking new victims, he was their god and he had failed them.”
“And was he not a symbol of Man (capital) staggering among the tooth marked bones and severed grinning heads of humans, brandishing a futile axe and screaming incoherent hate at the grisly winged shapes in the Night (capital) that make him their pray, chuckling in demonic triumph and dripping into his eyes the pitiful blood of their human victims.”
This is very much an image that could have come from Elizabethan thought, Shakespeare’s “flies to wanton boys, they kill us for their sport.” But it is filtered through a 1930s Texan mind who is wrapped up in the struggle of the Great Depression. There are lots of wings in the night that echo through Howard’s writings without a lot of God, with a capital G, as a reasoned architect of creation. For his Conan character the struggle is the center of his existence. Conan has a wine and women habit that is lacking in Solomon Kane. I wonder if Howard’s Conan character is not just a future version of Kane or what he viewed Kane as if he was born in a different age? We never do see Kane grow old through Howard’s stories.
Reading Robert E. Howard, with all the story’s flaws gave me two things that never went away in life. The desire to write pulp fiction and the desire to find adventure and treasure. The last two go hand in hand making them one thing in my fantasies. They teach a person to struggle because they both draw you to look over the edge of what civilization controls. Within the confines of what is known by society, most of the adventure and treasure has been eaten up by humanity. When that happens, humanity turns on each other trying to get their excitement.
His writing career was short, like his life. There is something very Richard Cory about my admiration of Robert. E. Howard’s short life and his getting to write so much published material. I wonder how many people went out looking for the weird because of his stories. I was a victim of circumstances in my early adventures, but those circumstances were pushed further than if I had not read Howard’s stories. I would not have gone looking deeper into the void if it were not for reading other people’s stories that were inspired by Howard.
Weird tales are good. They help us struggle and imagine, and like Solomon Kane, madness can help fend off the wings in the night. As Kane did in this story, we can silently recant our blasphemy when the madness ends, and we can turn to face the East again on our journey. Howard, as a Westerner used the East road to adventure in an Orient sense of the word. It a mystical place filled with the fantastic. Howard was born and raised in the American Literature West of what lies beyond civilization. East was where you go to get to the weird.
The wings in the night make great adversaries in stories of the East. The wings seem to carry devilry with them. When you are born in the West, it is the wings in the day that you struggle with in your day job all the time, so much so that they are just boring, dangerously tedious. Us average day laborers are mentally numb by the time the wings at night flutter. Night wings are the stuff of fantasy and dreams to our day job. We are mostly just trying to make it to the weekend and payday. Then our adventures could happen. That is how we wind up with the quiet desperation of our lives.
Pulp fiction, escapist literature, the movies, they keep us going in that desperation. If all of us taxi drivers, dish washers, janitors, and sanitation engineers went off to the gold fields the landed gentry would starve. Writers like Howard might have kept civilization from falling apart by helping the people in the trenches of existence to keep their heads down.
This is the year of the ox, a metal ox I hear.
The metadata from the above photo says that it was taken in the year 2008. I have some memories of that day. I remember driving into the falls that day looking at the hills to my left thinking, ‘Those are gravel bars from the glacial flood!’
The first time I went into that area was with a Geology 101 feild trip of the Channelled Scablands in the early 1970s. I did not recognize those hills for what they were then. Right now, winter is blowing her last white mantles across the Palouse before it is time to wander out into the Scablands again.
I found this older scan of a slide from my father’s collection in my file folder. I remember he mentioned a river trip up the Colombia from that time. It is strange how people seem to always forget about how things have gone before without having anything to do with you. But we all have similar impulses.
I was bound up into the Palouse and Eastern Washington when I stepped off the plane in Spokane and took the bus down to Pullman. When I look back at tendrils of my ancestors, they go back into the Fort Walla Walla region from when it was still in the Territories. I did not know that when I took that bus ride. I did not know many things then, and I still do not know enough.
If you fail being what you think you are, become what you want to be, if you do not know what you want to be, strive to be nothing. The world will eventually whisper what it wants you to be. If you stay nothing, you will do less harm.
fragment of Some Notes on 21 Century Sorcery
There has always been a cloud phase in stories.
Literary Analysis: Does taking apart a yarn, a story, and putting it back together give you a new pair of socks? No, but it tells you which lines have worn out. Then you can splice in a bit of new fishing line or something to see if the sock will keep you warm in the winter.
There definately was a reptile phase in learning to about stories. The Lost World and The Land Unknown were full of them.
I am pretty sure there was a butterfly phase in learning about stories that started somewhere around when Bilbo popped his head through the canopy of Mirkwood forest.