Monday, December 17, 2018

Yule Go a-Viking

Hmmm, who would win?
A vastly misunderstood people, Vikings are often characterized as mere savages. Even the term ‘Viking’ comes from the Scandinavian ‘vikingr’ meaning pirate – so you can certainly see the parallel. But this term refers more to the time in summer when Scandinavian men would go ‘a -Viking’ and head out on a oversea expedition with the goal of trade or to work as foreign mercenaries. And, well, let’s be honest, there was quite a bit of plundered treasure, and a number of slaves brought back to the homeland for the winter, so we can only defend the characterization so much. 
Dublin - site of a Viking settlement
The Vikings were a sea-faring culture who thrived from the late 8th century through the early 11th century, establishing quite a legacy for themselves. They discovered the Americas centuries before Columbus was born and explored as far east as Russia. Honing their ship-building skills for more than ten centuries, they constructed everything from small fishing boats, to large cargo vessels (to carry all that treasure), and lightning fast longships, all of which were narrow with short drafts, making them well-adapted for use in rivers as well as on the ocean. The Vikings invented the keel, and though their boats were technological marvels, they paid as much attention to the art as they did the craft of the construction of their vessels. The dragon-head on the front of the Viking vessel, designed to keep away evil spirits, struck fear into the hearts of Europeans for centuries.

Viking town in Dublin 1014
The Scandinavian geography had a significant impact on the development of the Viking culture. The difficult location and terrain meant that, for the most part the Vikings were tribal; there was no unified Viking army. When they weren’t a-Viking, they maintained homes with their wives as farmers. The growing season was short and resources were scare, so most Vikings were actually smaller in musculature and stature than many of their contemporaries. 

So, what can modern man learn from the Vikings? Well, not to supplement your income by raiding; there is a limited amount of other people’s treasure – and it doesn’t make friends. No, in this season of giving, let us be generous to our Scandinavian ancestors and see what we can learn from the way they lived, a thousand years ago.

Lassies love a man who treats them with dignity and respect.
First, view, and treat women with dignity and respect, if not outright equality. There is evidence to suggest to Vikings fought beside their wives, sisters, and both sons and daughters. Evidence suggests that they trusted each other to take responsibility for leadership roles, and although there were indeed gender-specific roles (men went a-Viking, while women tended the children, home and farms), men and women often worked together on tasks. In the pantheon of Norse gods and goddesses, there is also quite an equitable distribution of power.

And speaking of faith…the Vikings were a very faithful people. Whether it was a commitment to a particular god or to the pantheon, life and activities were built around these beliefs. As Vikings encountered individuals of other faiths, this led many to a curiosity and later an adoption of a new belief in Christianity.
John with one of his Viking comrades
But the Viking man does this, without sacrificing what it is to be a man. The Viking Ideal man is still Alpha, yet in touch with art and emotion. Strong and sensitive? Sounds just about perfect.

Finally, the Viking loves to travel, to explore, to meet new people, and develop new relationships. We at J and L especially applaud this Viking attribute. We all benefit from the open-minded, open-heartedness we inherit from our Scandinavian forbearers. Especially in this age of partisanship, we can appreciate the Viking ability to survive and thrive as a culture for centuries despite their differences, traveling throughout the world, into the unknown, discovering people and places not even imagined, and managing to cultivate a kindred spirit. Enough that more than a thousand years later, we are still fascinated by them. 

A thousand years ago, the Vikings gathered in middle of January and celebrated Jol – or Yule. They exchanged gifts, and drank beer, toasted the gods, thanking them for the gifts of the past year as they welcomed the new. As you enter your yuletide celebrations, may we ask that you raise your glass, and join us at J and L as we toast the Vikings? 

Yuletide Greetings!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Plan 'B'

On a recent weekend venture to Newport Beach, California -  John had a great idea for how to spend one Sunday morning: visit the small but enchanting Balboa Island Museum and Historical Society located on Marine Ave.

The weather was perfect with highs in the low seventies, clear skies and just a slight onshore breeze. Not bad for November! Conditions could not be any better. The island is one of John's and Laureen's favorite haunts - an intimate setting with shops, restaurants and plenty of rental houses available surrounded by the gorgeous waters of Newport Bay. An ideal place to get away for a short period from the everyday hustle and bustle of life.

After a quick but delicious bite of late breakfast -  John and Laureen walked hand-in-hand through the quiet streets of Balboa Island, enjoying the beautiful surroundings. That was until they reached the museum. It had a 'closed for remodeling' sign plastered to the front glass door.

"What?" John asked. "The internet said it was open."

Hmm, what was the question?
"It's not," Laureen observed. "Look through the windows - there's a ladder, drop cloths and all kinds of construction going on."

"It's supposed to be open," John repeated, stunned.

Laureen nodded her head in sympathetic understanding of her husband's confusion. She can be very patient at times like these.

"Sometimes the internet is not correct. No worries, what's your plan 'B'?"

Silence hung in the air like water droplets on the top of a sunroof.

"I don't have a plan 'B'."

Of course, Laureen thought John was joking since a plan 'B' for any outings is a must to ensure a travel isn't ruined by unexpected consequences - like a museum that was supposed to be open and not being. J and L always have a Plan B, and often a Plan C or D, etc..

"Really?" Laureen asked.

"Yep, really," John replied.

"You're not joking? You don't have a Plan B? Well, let's find one."

When in doubt, ask Mr. Google, as our good friend Paul Bakas always says. We did and the rest of the day was nothing but adventure and exploration.

First, the dynamic duo strolled through the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve taking in sights such as the Egyptian knapweed, arundo, sweet fennel, and Algerian sea lavender as well as many more invasive plants. Sounds rather mean for these plants to invade this section of Newport, but they were pretty none-the-less.

An hour among the flora and fauna made us head indoors to the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center. The center was fabulous with interactive dioramas, question and answer boards about the coastline, massive fish tanks with rays and sharks, sea worm tunnels, and an assortment of other activities to keep both children and adults busy researching for hours.

It was well worth the visit and made a great Plan B. But we were not done yet.

A short drive to Balboa Peninsula brought to mind the idea of enjoying the afternoon by simply walking along the sandy beach and peering out into the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. Enjoying each other's company and then a splendid dinner.

That changed when a six foot poster near the parking area revealed a sale on whale watching by Davey's Locker located near the ferry on the peninsula. Sixteen bucks for a two and half hour boating adventure could not be ignored. More than half price off - Laureen and John jumped at the chance. No whales on our whale watch tour, but we did enjoy the pleasure of the company of perhaps two dozen so-called common dolphin. They stayed and played near our boat for nearly thirty minutes, using using the wake of the vessel to aide in chasing their food source. And, showing off a little for their human audience. Laureen took exception to the guide referring to them as common, as she found their sleek, rapid spinning movements to be anything but common. She is a sensitive soul when it comes to feelings, human or non-human. For me, they were indeed a sight to behold.

As the newspaper editor, Tess Flanders, once wrote in 1911 - "One picture is worth a thousand words."  Well, how about a few photographs?

When going out to explore your backyard, community, county, state, or wherever the mood drives a persons there must always be a Plan B. If there isn't one, make sure to research if something goes awry like a museum being closed for repairs. The day then is not ruined but only momentarily paused and that is perfectly fine - Plan B may turn out to be better than the original idea in the first place.

For further information when visiting Newport Beach, California

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Iquitos, The Past Will Kill

For any novelist, the toughest part or writing a novel, is sometimes finishing the work in the first place. The telling of the setting, characters and all of which make up the fictional piece seems easy at first since there is a story which needs to be told. But when is it time to leave the keyboard? 

The story is written. 

The work is finished. 

Let it be, as the Beatles once sang. 

After a year of writing a story involving two former cops from Riverside, it was time to put the book to bed. The adventures had been told. There were corpses littering the ground from Southern California to the hinterlands of northern Peru. Enough terror and sorrow for one book, but it did have a happy ending. Well, perhaps that is up to the reader and not the wordsmith to decide. But was it done?

These were some of the 'hinterlands' to reside while doing research
The best thing when a novelist thinks it may be ready for readers is to send it off to the editor. Then, wait to hear back. Finally, when the writer receives something like the following from their publisher after a submission: 'John, I do want it. I have sent the attorney a memo to get you a contract.' it makes all the hours alone behind the keyboard worthwhile. Of course, it took many years to receive a contract for John's first novel, 'Hunted', but it has paid off since this is his fourth with Black Opal Books. He's hoping for a long relationship with this growing publishing house in the state of Oregon.

And here it is!
John R. Beyer's fourth novel with BOB
The work will be released this Saturday, the 17th of November.

As any fictional writer realizes, there has to be a lot of truth to a piece or it will sound like fiction. That actually does make sense since it is the job of that very same fictional writer to make the story believable. Fiction, even science fiction, isn't fun if isn't at least plausible. The relationships must ring true. The science must work. And in any work of fiction, the times and places must have a feeling of reality. John knows to make a story feel real, there must be sound research and exploration, and that is reason our intrepid trio took three separate journeys to Peru, including a month-long trip deep into the Amazon jungle. Iquitos to be exact -- where much of the novel takes place. John wanted to research, explore, and live that life...and drag his loving wife and best friend along with him. So the author and his daring team, Laureen, and Paul Bakas suffered mosquito bites, heat stroke, suffocating humidity, and generally had a great time gathering the information John needed in order to put pen to paper and bring life to the story rattling around in his cranium.

Along the way, we met some characters, some of whom appear, in one form or other, in the novel. We played with rescued sloths and monkeys, fed orphaned manatees, swam with pink river dolphins, fished for piranha and generally had the most wonderful experience my wife said she'd never want to have again. And, in the silence of the jungle night, we heard the unmatched cacophony of life end so swiftly with a deafeningly silence that inspired a scene in the novel (spoiler alert).

Some of the following photographs may look familiar to regular followers of our blog, but a trip down memory lane is sometimes good for the soul.

Cooling off with a breeze in a covered dug out on the Amazon

Nothing better than a couple of  lukewarm beers in the jungle
John and Paul with Ademir - our guide for a couple of days
The author with his number one Editor in Lima
The work is done, edited, printed, and soon on the bookshelves for readers to enjoy, but the memories of the research and exploration will never be forgotten or completed. There is always the next book to write. Perhaps one or two have already been started.

To purchase 'Iquitos, The Past Will Kill'

And at other book sellers around the globe...