Autobiography

A Week On the West Side

Show season is upon us.  In the business of creative communications it means that my boss (the CEO) has a lot for me to do. Unfortunately that means my chances to post are much less frequent, but on the upside the travel makes for some interesting stories and adventures.

2015-03-05 11.31.02So I spent a week on the west side of Washington state.  Mostly in Bellevue where our show was and then with a bit of touring.  The show was a typical mix of crazy circumstances and long hours that make up nearly every live production.  Though our sleep suffered, everything came together in the end and the client and audience were both pleased and impressed.  When everything was said and done, I was running off about twelve hours of sleep over four days, one of which involved a heavy night of drinking and dance.  Yes, dance.

So it was that we had a later call-time the next day (which my boss eventually sabotaged for me… more on that later) and found ourselves bar-hopping in downtown Bellevue.  Among our stops was a Karaoke bar called Stone, in which I encountered a strange, tall man standing before me and crossing his arms.  For a moment I thought I might have to fight somebody, but then I realized this was my High School best friend’s little brother.  I had literally known him since he was eight.  Now, he was huge and apparently helped run this bar.  Unfortunately we decided to leave before I could ask for any specials, but I said my farewells and gave my regards to his brother.  It was a pleasant surprise for sure.

Immediately before my move to Orlando years ago, I lived in the area of Seattle know as “Capital Hill”.  It has for a long time been called the “gay” area of Seattle as it is a very liberal and homosexual-friendly neighborhood.  Over the last few years, as our culture has evolved to accept more and label less, it has become less about “gay” and more about anyone.  It’s the place where you can simply be yourself and be accepted regardless of where you fall on the sexual spectrum.  That’s not to say that the rest of the city isn’t of that mindset anyway, but I would wager to say that Capital Hill is still one of the most open-minded places in the city.

One of my drinks at Q after many others that night...

One of my drinks at Q after many others that night…

When the bar-hopping eventually got boring and the night threatened to come to a close, it was decided we would take the party into Seattle by taxi.  And it came to pass that we found our way to a nightclub called Q.  I’m not much of a dancer.  Years ago I would go with my ex and her friends on the weekends… but you don’t have to be impressive when you’re taken (that said.. I think I did okay.)  I’m also not generally a huge fan of House / EDM music.  However, on this night, years after I moved away, I was back in my old hood and many drinks / shots past sober.  So we danced, and I danced, and had a really really really good time.  It was a good group because we were all just doing our thing (goofy or otherwise) and it made it easy to cut loose.  I looked terrible. I had worn my suit from earlier that day and since taken off my button down to reveal a grey tee shirt that showed every ounce of sweat on me.   Fortunately, I wasn’t trying to impress anyone and that in itself made the night.  I was in that perfect spot of intoxication that allowed me to let the music fill me.  I felt the bass in my chest and tones in my brain so that I simply moved with it… and let it move me.

The night ended fun and happy with me eventually escorting my sleepy boss back into the hotel before we retired for the night.  Call time wasn’t until two the next afternoon, but he insisted I be ready to go by 10 AM.  That gave me less than six hours of sleep to shake the night off.  It wasn’t enough.  Though I sobered up nicely, when I rose around nine in the morning, I had a near-deafening ringing in my ears that faded throughout the day but never completely went away.  The kicker was that my boss didn’t get in touch with me until shortly after one in the afternoon.  However, given the choice I would do it again in a heartbeat.  Sometimes you just have to dance.

The following days were a lot less party, a lot less sleep and a lot more work.  But when it was all said and done, the show was well received and our clients were happy.  The day of strike most of the crew flew back, and those of us that remained went out for a much mellower and still yummy night of dinner and drinks.  That night, finally, I got to pass out for a good eight to ten hours.

The mountains I miss.

The mountains I miss.

With the show over and the crew having departed I had the next 48 hours to myself.  I used the time to pick up my rental car and tour western Washington.  I refer to it as “ghosting”; visiting the sites of your past life(s) to remember and gain perspective on where you are now.  The power of place is important, and can reinforce memories that have long since faded.  I visited a hardware store where I worked retail for many years from cashier to various sales positions.  While there I messaged with a longtime friend of mine who, back then, had been a young, sassy girl I met at the hot dog stand out front.  She’s one of the few people who made it through some really terrible versions of me and found me worth keeping in touch with.  When I returned to Seattle after the breakup, she made a point to come and visit me and did her best to bring me back from a pretty dark place.

Then it was on to Burgermaster which is an old school drive-in that (obviously) makes amazing burgers.  That place has existed longer than I have and makes the same burger today I ate when I was in high school.  I traveled north to Juanita, where I had lived with my father after having been homeless with him for many months.  This place in particular has a lot of emotions attached to it.. it was the site of my first kiss and that of my eventual depression that lead to my near(ish) death (a long, wierd story in itself.)

Then a block away where I had lived with my mother before and after my time in Japan.  The preceded the time I spent as a furniture hauler traveling across the country as the co-driver of an 18-speed semi-truck.  Then I traveled north, the Snohomish.  The same driver of that Semi-truck had asked me to be a nanny to his then son-in-law.  By now I had been with my ex, and I put a major strain on our relationship with my lack of real income and uncertainty about wanting to be with her.  We eventually recovered, but not before I had put her through a lot of unnecessary hardship (and a crap-ton of shitty Jack in the Box meals.)  One great memory from Snohomish was the view of the mountains from the valley.  I had to show the people back in Florida what they were missing.  On that same note I needed to get closer, so I traveled east through Monroe and the fairgrounds where I had first seen my ex, on to Sultan where I got a great photo of the mountains that fed a river whose bridge I stood upon.

There is no way to convey the awesomeness in picture or prose...

There is no way to convey the awesomeness in picture or prose…

Then evening came and I got in touch with my father.  He wasn’t up to a lot of activity due to a back injury, so I resolved that this night would be my mizithra night! I was passing through Lynnwood on my way back anyway, so I stopped at the Old Spaghetti Factory and had the bartender whip up a Bailey’s Irish Creme shake to go with my Mizithra cheese spaghetti.  It was wonderful.  Full and satisfied I then traveled south for about an hour to my father’s home in Lakeland.  He was ready to turn in for the night, so I caught up on my shows using his fancy cable service and promptly passed out.  The following day was spent simply catching up with my father.  We watched some shows together, talked and he made the best wings on earth for me despite his back still bothering him (thanks Aleve!)  After dinner it was time for me to catch my red-eye back to Orlando and end my all-too-short mini-vacation from show season.  Though I planned to either work or blog on the flights, I found that I was indeed quite tired, and ended up resolving to sleep as I had both plans and work the following day.

And it came to pass that I returned to Orlando and resumed this life as it is.  I don’t know if I feel any different, but I remember wandering around Bellevue during a little time off and thinking that I felt better.  Maybe it was being back where I grew up, maybe is was the dance, maybe it was remembering all the versions of me that have come and gone.  But wether it has a lasting effect or not has yet to be seen.  I feel something.  Like a phantom tapping me on the shoulder.  In the meantime it’s show season, and less than a week until the trek to Georgia.  I’ll do my best to write before then.

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Into A City Called Bellevue

Early Tuesday, Somewhere Over New Mexico…

A major perk of my current profession is a fair amount of travel I get to do during show season. Probably the most exciting of said travel are the trips to Seattle that happen twice a year. Last time I had a whole adventure lined up – reconnecting with high school friends and seeing my father for the first time in a couple of years. This time it’s only been about half a year, there are no plans post-work other than a rendezvous with my father and eating entirely too many of those wings he makes. Some things have to change and though we can’t really go back to the homes we remember again, sometimes the small consistent things that endure through time can make all the difference.

The brief stop in New Mexico.

The brief stop in New Mexico.

So what to do? I’ve got a bit more free time with the team this round as well as some different and arguably more fun folks along on said team. I’m also better integrated with the crew having worked with them a more over the last few months, which makes it easier to spend some off-time with them. As an added bonus, instead of the heart of Seattle like last time, this show is across the lake in Bellevue, WA (it honestly could more or less be considered a very large “suburb” of Seattle.)

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but what’s special about Bellevue is that I was born and (mostly) grew up there. Though we did spend a fair amount of time moving around when I was younger, I was adamant about staying with my class from sixth grade onward, so even during the years of homelessness and living in towns that were an hour away, we did what we had to in order to get me to school in Bellevue every day.   In this manner I was able to hold on to some form of stability when there was otherwise very little.

So to be directly in my old stomping grounds will be fun, we’re very close to the city center mall named Bellevue Square (I visited with my high school friends last round) which is surrounded by an abundance of things to do. The shows / work wrap up on Saturday Morning, and then I’m effectively off after we finish striking the production, get everything packed and make sure everyone else has made their flights. I’ll likely pick up a rental car and spend that evening through Monday night doing my thing before I catch a red-eye at 11:59 PM, putting me back in Orlando shortly after 10:00 AM on Tuesday.

I have a minor itch to drive into the mountains and hike some. Florida weather is great and the beaches and oceans have a charm of their own (especially in terms of sunsets!) but the land is flat. No mountains, very few hills, just… flat. You’ve probably gathered by now I like elevation, and views. In Washington State I can combine that with nature for some pretty amazing scenery even it the weather is the typical grey sky. I spent quite a bit of time hiking, camping and climbing in the mountains of Washington as a young man. Perhaps I’ll find a companion to head up there with, or maybe I’ll make it a meditative solo journey. Granted this is all very stupid of me with my ankle still a bit out of whack (runner problems) but nothing I can’t handle despite the fact it would probably increase recovery time.

It will be mine!

It will be mine!

Another goal this round is to make it back to the Old Spaghetti Factory. Though it is a nationwide chain, the closest one to Florida is still nearly a thousand miles away. When I lived on the west side of Washington State (especially in the early years of my ex and my relationship) I would frequent there a lot and partake in their amazing spaghetti smothered in browned butter and Mizithra cheese. As a rabid cheese lover, this is a fantastic treat for a really reasonable price.   Though I have visited and been back since, it’s a special, nostalgic event especially because I haven’t been back to this specific location in over a decade (I went with my father a couple years back, but at a different location.)

But first I’ll have to make it through this show. The hallmarks of shows like this are early call times and long hours. I’m still tired from the past few days. Sunday I went in to work in order to prepare an important presentation (worth roughly $150k this year) for my CEO to present on Monday. With all the changes and updates it became a monster seventy-four slide multimedia PowerPoint presentation that kept me working straight through from Sunday afternoon into the early morning hours of Monday.   With our presentation happening Monday morning, I had time for a ninety-minute nap before I met my boss at headquarters to print all the materials a travel to meet our clients.

The presentation went great, and we’re optimistic about the outcome, but it was back to work from there with meetings and preparation for today’s travel. I left the office around six in the evening and had time to shop for various items (new shoes, cologne, cat supplies, etc.) before heading home to do laundry, pack, shower and take another nap for about three hours before getting up at 3:00 AM to catch our early morning flight. I was able to catch about two hours of sleep on the first leg of our flight putting me at a grand total of around six and a half hours of sleep since Sunday.

So, needless to say I’m still very tired. Tonight is a relatively laid-back schedule with a dinner and pre-production meeting before an early call time to set up our production tomorrow. If I can manage a decent amount of sleep tonight, I should be able to bounce back relatively well (praise coffee!) and keep myself in good condition for the rest of the show. If not, I’ll manage as I always have in these situations, I just might need a bit more time to sleep in on Sunday.

Forward Motion

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about today, I have a ton of ideas in my head but none of them are totally fleshed-out yet (that’s mostly “no pun intended”…)  I do have a concept in mind of explain how I tend to bond with people sexually (I know, y’all need a sex post soon…) but I want to think about that a bit more before I broadcast.  So instead I think I’ll give you a couple of “small” things that may or may not get bigger.  The lack of cohesion might not appeal to you all, but it’s my blog, so you get to deal. 🙂

Dream Girl:

The real one is out there... somewhere.

The real one is out there… somewhere.

I didn’t dream last night that I can remember, I got just under six hours of sleep which (I fairly recently learned) is consistently dreamless as far as I can tell.  I would imagine it has to do with when I wake up in regards to my sleep cycles, but regardless I tend to remember my dreams a lot more consistently at the seven and a half to eight hour mark.  Monday night I did indeed dream, but it was a sleep-deprived dream at only four and a half hours.  Normally when I dream, it’s lucid.  I’m aware I’m dreaming and reacting with that knowledge.  But this was one of the very rare ones; ultra detailed, specific and realistic.  I didn’t know I was dreaming.  Obviously the typical “dream fog” about how I had gotten there was in effect as I didn’t question it, but it got me regardless.  In this dream I was having a conversation with a girl I don’t really know (as in I know of her, and we’ve talked online and what-not, but have never met her in person…)  and we talking about “us” and confirming that we should be together.  It was a touching and kind of adorable situation that I’m not 100% comfortable describing because it was a but mushy.

What’s important about this though is that I had absolutely no reservations about this girl.  “It” was there and I was very, very ready to dedicate myself to her.  It reminded me of what it can feel like, what it should feel like.  It’s been a good fourteen years now since it felt like that, exactly right, and my subconscious still remembers it enough to recreate it.  Maybe that’s what fooled me, how easily we can be manipulated by the heart.  I woke up confused, disoriented and trying to figure out how I got to my bedroom after I had been spending time with her (sorry, no sex, this was a gushy dream, not a sexy one…)  For the first time in a long time, after a few seconds when I finally realized it was a dream, I was actually a little sad.  I thought about sending the girl a note telling her about this, but I don’t know her, at best I just know my idea of her based on limited discussion and social media.  Unfortunately, telling her something like this would likely just creep her out, and I couldn’t blame her for that.  She made an excellent dream girl regardless.

Unpause:

No.

No.

Every so often routine sets in and things just sort of freeze for a while.  While I understand it as a natural necessity of life and try to use it to my advantage, the truth is I find it very, very boring.  Me bored is bad.  Even though I have tons of things (like this…) to fill my days with, if I don’t feel like my life is in motion and things aren’t developing and growing around me, I tend to get very resigned and more likely to start reaching at things I probably shouldn’t.  Relaxing is a GREAT thing, and routine is beneficial when populated with good habits, but boredom with the state of your life is poison and needs to be fixed as soon as possible.

I’ve been in said routine for a while now.  Much of it was intentional as I had a bit to reconcile from the previous cycle to this one (probably not quite done with that… but more stable anyway.)  However, things are in motion again.  Spring is almost (literally) here and the world around me is beginning to shuffle and put things in motion that it’s been whispering about for some time.  In short, even if my life won’t dramatically change anytime soon, the state of my life and several factors around me have already begin to and will continue to.  All these prospects are the opposite of boring, and anticipating the shake-up is admittedly exciting for me.  It’s not that I crave chaos per-say, but I like renewal.  Change often sucks when you lose things, but the upside to that is that eventually new things begin to take shape and the potential they represent is exciting.

Fitting DMB Lyric. :)

Fitting DMB Lyric. 🙂

Is that vague / cryptic enough for you?  Well for instance, I have things to look forward to.  A week from now, I will once again be in Seattle for a week or so.  While I don’t have the exciting plans I had last time, after the show ends on Saturday, I will again see family, again eat far too many of my father’s hot wings and very likely find a few ways to entertain myself (though in all honesty I’ll also just be happy to relax and take in the Northwest again.)  Following that, show season is in full effect for Cybis until May, when “Dave Season” (Dave Matthews Band) begins with a concert in Atlanta on the thirtieth with some really great people.

So, in the absence of dream love, there may still be a few good reasons to peek outside of my cave.  I’ve been a little recluse on purpose, but the universe will only allow that for so long.  It is not my way to be idle and there are things to be done.

The Roar Of Silence

“You’re reaching.” she wrote.  A gentle reminder that I was once again allowing my desperation to influence my actions.  Eventually I cut myself off from her because I didn’t trust myself to not repeat that behavior.  I didn’t want to burden her and embarrass myself further.  She was actually much more irritated about it than I had expected and I may very well have damaged that connection permanently.  Such is price I pay for indulging what I know is foolish behavior, when I allow the emotions I keep so well in check to bubble through the cracks and control me.  That wouldn’t be the last time they would cause such damage.

Well okay, not *totally* alone. :)

Well okay, not *totally* alone. 🙂

So what happens?  How does the one who some say seems so strong and often emotionless crack and screw up like that?  As I’ve mentioned before, it’s because after so much time, desperation temporarily sets in and I start to really feel alone.  I say often that I am good at being alone, that I like being alone.  Everyone who knows me knows that I like my space, there are very few people I care to spend more than a day or two with, and much much fewer whom I can tolerate for more than a month.  But even though I actually do have people I could call, they are not really my people, at least not yet.

Allow me to try and make some sense of this.  I’ve spoken before of cycles and I know where I’m at in mine.  Before I was isolated following a major change and the same has happened again.  Those I was close to the during the previous cycle are essentially ghosts now (there are notable exceptions, but none are in the foreground due to circumstance) and though some who were previously in the background might be moving to the foreground, right now is a transition… a very, very quiet transition.  I have no room to complain, my life is good, my job is good and I have some really great people in my life.  But make no mistake that I am quite alone and sometimes, late at night or early in the morning when I’m starting or ending my day and there is nothing to distract me, I notice how very silent it is, and that silence is very, very loud.

So what did I do when this solitude began to set in and I wanted to reach out to everyone I could?  Well, obviously I became intentionally introverted.  For years I was one of those people at the center of the parties.  I would arrange massive gatherings, bring people from all walks of life together and usually serve them ridiculous amounts of alcohol until crazy shit happened.  It was great for a time, especially when many of those were my people.  But eventually the novelty faded and I began to question the point.  Most recently at the turn of the year I examined a similar event and realized that for what I put out, I wasn’t really getting much back any more.  Unless I actively pursued these people, I wouldn’t see them, hear from them and if I reached out and they responded, they were doing me a favor. In fairness some probably don’t even realize that dynamic exists, but then, that’s the point.  They don’t really consider it, they don’t really consider me.  So, I basically said “Fuck that.” and withdrew.  I made it a general rule that I would happily address those who addressed/invited me.  If they did not, then we all have our priorities, and I simply wasn’t one.  It sounds a little bitter, but it’s more a resignation that (especially for me) things change and nothing is permanent.

Not THAT silence... I need a marker...

Not THAT silence… I need a marker…

Understanding the way of things doesn’t always make it easy though.  My inner-voice tells me to simply be “patient” (wisdom springs from experience and patience after all…) but sometimes lately I like that word a little less every time it is whispered to me.  It is restlessness that sets in after a very long time of enduring something.  It will ebb and flow and fade, but sometimes it does get difficult, and that’s when I begin to reach.  That’s when I get myself into trouble.  But until the universe throws me another inevitable curve ball (it loves doing that…) I will remain withdrawn and selectively accept the company of those who seek it from me.  I don’t owe the world anything more than I am willing to give and the universe will put me where it needs me anyway.

It’s a fight though… to not try and shatter the silence with something, anything.  The last cycle I was put into a position in which I didn’t have a choice but accept somebody that I knew I probably shouldn’t have… and at the same time another far more important person was beginning to be alienated, eventually seemingly permanently (thus far anyway…)  So I will try not to reach and I will focus on not repeating my mistakes in whatever form they present themselves in this time.  I will wait and be patient until I can remember how to wake up and find my way out of the silence the right way.  I will be stronger, I will endure and I will try not to lose all of the person I was when I was happier.  Things change and nearly everything is temporary in this, so I will endeavor to control the one thing in this world that I can: me.

Rain

It’s Monday, but it’s mellow.  When it rains like this; casually, lazily, with no purpose other than to renew the land, nourish the life and make the streets shiny, everything seems to slow down just a little in order to receive it.  My hometown has more of these days than not (which explains the coffee obsession) so when it rains like this in Orlando I think it makes me a bit nostalgic.  Orlando gets it’s share of rain, but it’s more of the soaking, torrential, relentless downpour for fifteen minutes.  That has it’s place, and can be fun in the right circumstances, but today is a lazy rain, the kind you can walk in without worry of ruining your hair or damaging your iPhone.

As of now I’m sitting at my normal lunch spot watching the drops hit the glazed marble walkways as people walk down the streets with grossly oversized umbrellas.  In Seattle you don’t usually bother with an umbrella, the rain is more like a dense mist, but here if you’re caught without an umbrella in a downpour, nothing can save you from being soaked.  Those that walk without an umbrella today are fine, but they aren’t being as a Seattle native, they are simply unprepared.  Ironically I meant to write a slightly ranty post today, but it rained and I am calm.  If I’m not feeling it, I can’t write it.  Instead I am here, just being a part of it, soaking it all in metaphorically and feeling peaceful.

It was so, so sexy though...

It was so, so sexy though…

In essence the rain made today.  I spent the first part of the day driving and hanging around exotic cars as a result of my boss’s convertible top being stuck down.  This morning the rain had not yet come, but we knew it would, so I had to arrange for service.  At the same time, we were filming a promo spot for the the local Mall at Millenia which required the use of a high-end vehicle.  The plan was to use my boss’s Audi S5, but with it in service, I took it upon myself to convince the dealership to loan us one of theirs (I tried for the R8, but they weren’t feeling that brave.)  So, I got to have some fun driving these and checking out some other exotics while coming through in a pinch for my boss.  I call that win.  So thanks to the rain, today is mellow, pleasant, relaxing and productive.  But the day is only half done and there is more rain to come, so I’ll continue this tonight…

As the day went on the rain gradually increased, but never to the point of downpour.  As I left my office this evening I was greeted by another nostalgic sight of the city buildings piercing the fog with a majestic glow.  The unfortunate truth is that Orlando’s skyline leaves much to be desired compared to other grand old cities like Boston, New York or even a younger, smaller city like Seattle.  Orlando is great, I like it here and I like a lot of things about it, but I feel like it’s more a very large, spread out town than a real city.  Still, the few skyscrapers we have are relatively impressive and to see them bathed in glow of fog similar to Seattle is a treat in itself.

The evening was filled with productivity, but nothing exciting, nothing worth writing about.  Except that I like the glow of puddles reflecting the lights of the city and the ripples on the surface as the raindrops penetrate them.  During the day it’s reflective and meditative, at night I find it dramatic and thought-provoking.  It feels like it’s foretelling things, like little whispers of what’s to come ride on each of those ripples in the darkness.  If only we could listen closely enough, perhaps they would give away their secrets.  But then, would we really want to know?

All the possible ripples...

All the possible ripples…

I will admit my disappointment as the day came to a close and the rain let up.  If there’s any time I love the storms here in Orlando, it’s later at night.  Thunder and Lightning can happen whenever, I love it regardless.  But especially late at night, lying bed (with or without somebody there…) the sound of a downpour outside is especially soothing.  “White noise” some people call it.  Maybe that’s a good term for positive noise.  It’s probably got some technicality I could google, and I may actually be misusing the term in regards to the sound a storm makes, but for now it makes sense.  Positive noise anyway, noise that soothes and distracts just enough to relax you and allow you to drift away to much-needed sleep.  But unfortunately for now the weather has passed and the all too familiar clear sky will return.  It’s gorgeous of course, I’m not complaining, the exact opposite consistency of that which I grew up with on the opposite side of the country.  You always want what you can’t have.

There won’t be any more rain tonight.

The Double Stand-Up

-or- “How the universe saved my ass from the curse of Sea World.”

I make mistakes sometimes.  As I’ve mentioned before, one of my best friends observed that the worst thing I can be is alone for long periods of time, and bored.  When this combination happens I begin to reach, or at least occupy my time with things that are better left alone.  This is the story of one of those times, and how the universe essentially bailed me out of something that could’ve been so much worse.

In my endless search for “the one” with “it”, I pursue many avenues including a now well-known “dating” site known as “OkCupid”.  I’ve had a profile on there since before it had anything to do with dating, when it was a simple quiz site called “TheSpark” that evolved into “SparkMatch” and eventually to the “OKCupid” we know today.  Originally the appeal was takingthe many tests and seeing how you compared to other members, I suppose turning it to compatibility and dating was the next logical step.

No, I'm not linking my profile, go find it. :P

No, I’m not linking my profile, go find it. 😛

I’ve had very little success on the site.  Those I get messages from, I’m generally not interested in.  Those I am interested enough to put forth the effort of messaging respond *very* rarely.  In fact, I don’t recall the last time they did.  I have overhauled the descriptions on my profile many times, to no avail (perhaps because the information doesn’t change much, it’s just presented differently.)  But on VERY rare occasions, something worth at least looking into surfaces… or I’m just at the point where I’m feeling particularly… open-minded (aka alone and bored.)

One such experience happened a little over five years ago…  I had spent weeks corresponding back and fourth with a seemingly attractive and intelligent girl.  I don’t honestly recall if I expected it to go anywhere, but I can assume (especially considering my state of mind at that point…) not anywhere other than perhaps to bed.  Regardless I was interested enough to go and meet up with her.  The thing is, at THAT point I hadn’t got my shit together yet either.  I was either unemployed or just coming off being so, and I was driving a crappy, older VW Cabrio with a number of issues (and… standing water that later earned it the name “Swamp Car”.)  Among these issues was the fact that the breaks were all but failing.  They had been manageable but were getting progressively worse.

This + Florida Storm = Swamp Car.

This + Florida Storm = Swamp Car.

So the day came that this girl and I decided to meet up.  She was a manager at Discovery Cove (the upscale park owned by Sea World where you get to interact with dolphins and such) and offered to get me into Sea World for free as our first meeting.  I’d never been, so it seemed like a good idea whether the day went well or not.  From the get-go I was in trouble.  She wanted to meet earlier in the morning so we had time to do a full itinerary (she was an expert at catching all the shows!)  I arrived pretty close to on time, and was supposed to meet her in the parking lot, but my brakes had been really bad on the way there, and when I finally made it to my parking spot… I couldn’t stop.  Instead my car barreled over the curb and up on the dirt before I managed to use the E-Brake to stop it and allow it to roll back down.  Needless to say I was already embarrassed.  When I apologized to her and tried to explain, she said she didn’t see it anyway, but I think perhaps she was just trying to preserve my ego.  Regardless, off we went into the park.

Have you ever met somebody of whom nothing was wrong with them at all, they were perfectly nice and physically attractive, and yet you had absolutely ZERO chemistry?  To the point it made everything really, really awkward?  Well, long story short, that was this day.  We went from show to show, I got splashed by a Sea Lion as a volunteer to impress her, and I got a photo of it for free because she was connected.  But that was the only connection that day.  That night I think I recall sending her a message that essentially thanked her, and (from her reactions) said that I thought we agreed that nothing was there.  Naturally, I never heard from her again, but I still have the photo of myself and the sea lion.

If only I could blame this...

If only I could blame this…

Now, fast forward to about nine days ago, and a potentially bigger mistake.  It began similarly to the last one, but there were some notable differences.  I received a message from a girl on OKCupid.  This in itself is pretty rare, but then the message wasconfident, straightforward and articulate.  So, I was impressed.  I went to check out her profile and found very little to go off of.  A single photo that was… okay.  Physically she is in great shape being very athletic and vegan (there is nothing wrong with this.. but for me!?  Have you met me?!)  Her face was.. not ugly.  That’s about the most I could say.  Now, normally I’m honest with myself and know better than to bother.  Normally I would’ve simply not responded because of the potential to pretty much go nowhere.  However, this day was one of those days.. I was feeling adventurous and “open-minded.”  I was alone and bored.

I wrote a message back saying something along the lines of: “Alright, I’ll bite.  But to be honest I don’t know how we’re in any way compatible.”  This was apparently enough for her.  She suggested Gatorland (which was cool because I’d never been and frankly it’s cheap.)  Numbers were exchanged and plans were made for the following (this most recent) Saturday.  All seemed fine.  If nothing else it “should be fun” I thought.

But as the week went on I came to dread the upcoming Saturday more and more.  Her text messages came across daily with horrible shorthand writing (I hate that…) and she ended up applying to work for my company (she’s nowhere near qualified so it’s not a concern.)  Finally Saturday arrived and we had plans to hang out after she got off work at 2 pm.  At this point I was hoping she would be late, or stand me up, or something would happen.  But she did text, and I responded because I do try to do the things I say I’m going to do (I’m just usually better at saying “no.”)

Then came complication number one: she decided it was too hot for Gatorland, and instead decided (I bet you guessed it) we should go to Sea World!  Immediately I felt the irony of the universe closing in.  Things were different this time though, my nearly new Prius has no brake issues whatsoever and I had to pay my own way in.  I got online and ended up just buying myself an annual pass for $15 a month (resident special!)  My alternative was $90 for a day pass and not including parking, and meeting her just wasn’t worth that in my mind.  At least with the annual I can go back with friends of mine (or see the ones that work there!)

Siri.. this doesn't seem right...

Siri.. this doesn’t seem right…

Despite the purchase of the pass, my motivation was very low.  However, I managed to drag myself out and eventually was on my way… just a little late.  I had told her that the change from Gatorland to the farther Sea World would make me a few min late, but thanks to my lack of motivation, and (honestly) Siri deciding to take me a VERY out of the way route, I arrived about thirty minutes late.  I texted her and told her I had to pick up my pass and I would be along.  Fifteen minutes later I was in the park and sent her another text message asking where I could meet her.  She hadn’t responded to my previous text message, and now, after a few minutes I didn’t get a reply.  Obviously, I normally would be concerned… but in this case I decided to just let it go for a while.

I wandered to the seal exhibit and found a pretty bird to take a photo of.  Who knew seals could give such good puppy dog eyes!?  They are masters of their craft (suckering the tourists!) but the birds too are excellent goal keepers, capable of swiping feed out of mid-air.  I really wished I had a professional camera on me (thankfully I have a pass now!)  At least another half hour passed and no response came from my texts.  I resolved that I had done my part and honestly hoped she had simply stood me up for being late.  Next I proceeded to the sky tower and fourty-five minutes later the sun was setting with no message in sight. It was the happiest I’d been about being blown off pretty much ever.

Pretty Bird.  NASTY Goalkeeper.

Pretty Bird. MEAN Goalkeeper.

I DID get a message, but not from her.  It turns out another old friend of mine who is in the Blue Horizons show was performing and she wanted me to go see.  Finally, somebody I was excited about seeing! (To clarify she’s an old friend and it’s never been like that.)  I got a fantastic seat in the stadium and was snapping instagrams of my friend airborne when finally I got the call from the girl I was supposed to meet.  Well…shit.  Naturally I immediately ignored this call, because pictures, a live performance and loud music wouldn’t make for a good conversation anyway.  But I wasn’t going to just ignore her.  When I had suitable pictures I sent her a text message saying hello, and that I hadn’t been sure I was going to hear from her.  She explained that her phone had die and she’d been unable to turn it on to send me a meeting place.  Since we hadn’t connected she’d seen a show and then left, and was on her way home now. Yessssss!

Feeling properly off the hook I texted her lightheartedly that I had ironically bad luck at Sea World when it came to meeting people, but she was upset and replied that it was “really stupid, or really shitty of me to not bother calling.”   Unfortunately for her, especially at this point, I didn’t care that she was angry and sent a rather curt message back saying I texted her twice, and for all I known she was pissed I was late or gotten cold feet and chosen to ignore me.  Calling would do no good with a dead phone anyway. For a long while she didn’t respond.

In the meantime I met up with my friend after the show and traded stories with her.  She told me dating sites like that would probably never produce anyone worthwhile, and that I needed to get out, do things and meet people situationally.  She backed it up by telling me the adorable and serendipitous story of  how she met her current partner, whom she’d been with only two weeks and was uncharacteristically swooning over.  It was adorable.  I knew her message was pretty on point too.  After a selfie an some hugs I was off to see the penguins of the Antarctica exhibit (It was later and dark, so I was hoping for shorter lines.)

Because Penguins!

Because Penguins!

It was 10AM the next day before she wrote back.  A three-part tirade about how I was inconsiderate and hadn’t been thoughtful.  I didn’t respond to it until around four that afternoon. I was way beyond caring and was just happy I had escaped and had a good time without investing any more time in a situation I never should’ve gotten myself into to begin with.  The universe had bailed me out of this one.. and I was grateful.  Because I was feeling grateful I sent a friendly message back with the honesty I should’ve shown at the get-go.  I explained that after looking at her profile, I couldn’t imagine that we’d have been compatible anyway (had she even read mine!? It’s a NOVEL!)   I told her that I try to be open-minded, but our lifestyles were completely different and that she was looking for something long term that I couldn’t see happening.  I wished her good luck in her search thanked her for giving me a good reason to pick up an annual pass.  Overall it was an amiable message meant to leave things civil and straight forward.

Her response was three words: “who is this” 

Perfect.

Interlude: A Personal Fairy Tail (Part 3)

The Tale of Kaska-Ta – Part 3: The Enlightened End

(*Note: This is a continuation of what can be described as a semi-fictional history.  The settings/terms/names/periods are changed but the story facts are true.  In order to get the entire story it is suggested you read the previous posts first.)

Weeks passed and things seemed to return to normal for Kaska-Ta. It was fall now and that brought arguably the best weather of the year in the south. To strengthen their bond with both the local tribes in the southern topics and their tribe leader The King of Trees, the Prince of Stories would make many trips lasting several days. Sometimes he took some of the elder students with him, others he went to train with his seniors. The only way to become a king was to continue learning from those who were kings or were further along than he was. So he often had to make the trip to the north in order to be sure he was learning and growing properly. As a result, older warriors such as Kaska-Ta, The Lady of Diamonds, The Lord of the Butterflies and The Roman would take turns leading the younger warriors in drills. Sometimes this went very well for all involved, but the absence of the prince was missed in many ways.

It was said that to become a king, you would be judged by the quality of your warriors, and most importantly the leaders among them who make future princes, princesses, generals, kings and queens. Most who were present at the time believe that this pressure, along with a declining economy among their tribe caused a great level of insecurity that was taking hold in the Prince of Stories. The leaders in the north did their best to reinforce him by also visiting often (especially since the Gull General had fathered a child with one of the women of the southern tribe.)

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Ouch. Unfortunately it happens.

However, as time went on the insecurity in the Prince of Stories manifested in many ways. Some of the warriors, especially the prodigy Mockingbird, were coming very close to the Prince of Stories’ ability in combat. When they would spar in the circle as was the custom, it would start out beautiful and elegant as it should be, but the Prince of Stories would become frustrated when he could not clearly best his student (who was now, in actuality the student of the Gull General, and many others…) As a result he would change the tone of practice without warning and become overly-aggressive, ending the training with some sort of unexpected violence. Everyone could feel the mood of training drop, and as time went on, though he was not to the same level of ability that the Mockingbird was, he too was the subject of this aggression.

Rumors surfaced that the Prince of Stories was having personal issues with his wife. This was not the tribe’s business (though his wife also trained with them occasionally) except that many believed it was serving to increase the insecurity that was now blatantly obvious in their prince.   Some of the warriors had turned to the Gull General and the the King of Trees to speak to him about these things and find a solution, but whatever the meetings spoke of behind closed doors, they did not provide a solution. Kaska-Ta was becoming increasingly aware that the culture of Kappo Aera was not actually conducive to functional long-term relationships. During his time there he had seen some formed, but they all eventually fell apart. Indeed those that existed when somebody joined the tribe seemed destined to end. There were a couple of exceptions, including the Lord of the Butterflies and his would-be wife known as Dagger. But they were the exception and carried a different mentality than typical for the tribes of Kappo Aera.

Judgement Day.

Judgement Day.

And then everything escalated. One day Kaska-Ta was approached by his friend, the Red Lady. She had been the same friend who had been uncomfortable months before when they had made the pilgrimage to Krawen. After much dancing around the subject, she confided in Kaska-Ta that she had been talking intimately with the Prince of Stories. Kaska-Ta was by no means foolish enough to believe this was one-sided, and easily connected the events of this and the Prince of Stories’ marital issues. There was a long discussion that ended simply with Kaska-Ta advising against it and warning her that there was absolutely no possibility that it could end well.

In the weeks that followed things simply spiraled more out of control. His marriage issues became pubic and the Prince of Stories became desperate. It leaked into every aspect of the tribe. The elder students began to unravel and were pulled away from the tribe by both personal and professional reasons. One night, Kaska-Ta helped the Prince of Stories to his temporary home away from his wife and children, and they talked for many hours under the moonlight about how abusive and angry she had become. All the while Kaska-Ta (unbeknownst to The Prince of Stories) was aware of his quickly diminishing involvement with the Red Lady. He had used many sweet words to woo her, but he could not make a definite decision to leave his wife. The desperation and the situation were quickly causing her to reconsider her involvement. Regardless, Kaska-Ta didn’t care. Perhaps it was his experience in Krawen, or perhaps it was what he had seen from countless other elders and historical accounts, but the Prince of Stories was basically another book in that page. He was just a prince, a leader of a tribe, who had taken to a woman who trusted him as a teacher and betrayed both her and his wife.

Whether it was the work of the gods or simple circumstance, Kaska-Ta was seriously injured in a very simple training exercise a short while later. About this same time he was given an opportunity to study and work under a very different type of leader. He was called a Grandmaster, and he hailed from the lands far to the east. He did not leave the knights of Kappo Aera right away, but as the Prince of Stories became more and more desperate, the tribe fell into greater financial issues and many of the elder students whom Kaska-Ta had bonded with, were gone. While he was healing, Kaska-Ta could not train physically for a long time, and so he fell into visiting periodically, less and less frequently. His time was done… almost.

capoeira-por-do-solA few months later Kaska-Ta was able to spar again and was called to the ocean where the leaders from the north had gathered after the previous day’s ceremony (which he had missed because his new Grandmaster had needed him.) Because this event drew in those Kaska-Ta had bonded with over the years, Kaska-Ta decided to attend. At some point during the festivities a sparring circle was indeed formed, but Kaska-Ta was called out. They performed the rite of initiation that meant Kaska-Ta would receive a new rank. One by one each leader and master came into the circle to battle with an exhausted and rusty Kaska-Ta, and when all was said and done, he was publicly given a new rank, one that meant he was only one rank away from becoming a lieutenant, a true leader among the tribes.

But Kaska-Ta knew he did not deserve this new rank. He thought to himself that he might work hard to earn it, but he knew the truth. The tribe needed to expand in order to save itself from its economic issues. He, and many of the other elder warriors were being recognized in order to promote them to be leaders in hopes they would stay and draw in more people to the tribe. The King of Trees knew the situation was desperate. Later down the road, when the Prince of Stories was given the rank of General despite losing so many of his loyal warriors, Kaska-Ta was genuinely upset, but he was already gone.

That day at the ocean was the final day Kaska-Ta officially spent with the tribe. Though he would visit from time to time, he had a new journey and a new Grandmaster to attend. He kept in touch with many of the elder warriors that he had spent so many days with so long ago, but the more time went on the further away he drifted until he’d been gone longer than he was there. The integrity of the new, strict, eastern Grandmaster, and the Master underneath him reassured Kaska-Ta that this was not soley a warrior’s culture, but one that is perpetuated by specific cultures of specific people, many of whom were attracted to the history and ideals behind Kappo Aera. It was about freedom, and expression and far more sensual than other warrior clans, but unfortunately many twisted that to their own desires, and often to the detriment of the females involved.

History of Freedom

History of Freedom

The longer he was away, the clearer this was to Kaska-Ta. Even as some of his old friends asked him back, and the King of Trees himself migrated to the tropics and asked Kaska-Ta to return, he could not. He knew how the leaders of the tribe saw him, and perhaps a part of him wasn’t able to let that go, but he also believed he shouldn’t have to. There we some with a similar mindset in Grandmaster’s Tribe, but they were not typical, and were not encouraged to be as they were in the shadows. They would cause Kaska-Ta some level of conflict in the days that followed, but none had any power over him as the leaders of Kappo Aera had.

Years later the eventual conclusion Kaska-Ta reached is that neither philosophy was right. One used the concept of freedom to excuse that which should not be excused, the other was so strict it sought to strip away many things that made people individuals. Kaska-Ta, after many years and many stories with the Grandmaster’s tribe, would again become a wanderer. But he was not exiled, he was finding his own way. And that, is an entirely different story.

Interlude: A Personal Fairy Tale (Part 2)

The Tale of Kaska-Ta – Part 2: Tragedy and Doubt

(*Note: This is a continuation of what can be described as a semi-fictional history.  The settings/terms/names/periods are changed but the story facts are true.  In order to get the entire story it is suggested you read the previous post first.) 

The land of Krawen is a dangerous land often covered in shadow and inhabited by many kinds of demons. On this night, as it was well past the witching hour when the demons are most plentiful, it was foolish for Kaska-Ta and the Owl Princess to linger outside the protection of a palace. As they were speaking a band of four demons passed nearby, but did not to seem to take notice of the carriage or it’s inhabitants. As it turns out, that was only a clever act.

Choose... and act.

Choose… and act.

Before either realized what was happening, a loud smash hammered the side of the carriage where the Owl Princess was sitting, the four demons approached, each with deadly fire-sticks in their hands. These projectile weapons were known to give great and lethal power to those who otherwise had none, so, especially with the princess to think about and four on one, even a warrior like Kaska-Ta had no chance of recourse. The demons pointed the firesticks, at the two of them and commanded them out of either side of the carriage. Kaska-Ta was quickly thrown on the ground and a firestick put to his head while the other demon scoured his pouches for riches. Kaska-Ta had no intention of fighting until he realized the other two demons still had the Owl Princess on the other side of the carriage. In that moment, when he thought of what they might do to her, he resolved that he might die that night. He pleaded with them not to harm her, but they told him to be silent and dug the firestick harder into the back of his head. Despite that he knew he could not allow the demons to violate her and do nothing.

Kaska-Ta’s calm compliance turned to anger and his own inner-demon that he normally fought to restrain began to surface. He knew he had to surprise the one that held the firestick to his head, and that if he could not act quickly it would be the end right away. He was certain he had no real chance, and that he would probably be killed unceremoniously, but he had already resolved to act.  However, in that moment, before he acted, he heard the other two demons approach, and the Owl Princess was put on the ground next to him unharmed. Any resolve to fight faded, and after seizing what they thought were all their valuables, they jumped into the Owl Princess’s carriage and sped away into the night.

As Kaska-Ta and the Owl Princess picked themselves up off the ground the others made their way out of the palace. Mockingbird said he had seen them jump in the carriage and leave… but Kaska-Ta could hardly hear him. He was both enraged and defeated while the Owl Princess broke down in tears. They were separated and the city guards were called to investigate the incident. Eventually they went to the guard captain’s headquarters with the Gull General. He was quiet, but did his best to calm the Owl Princess and Kaska-Ta while she was recounting the loss of her carriage to the guards.

Sunrise over Krawen

Sunrise over Krawen

By the time they returned to the Gull General’s palace it was morning, and Kaska-Ta was scheduled to travel back to the southern region that day. It would’ve been a simple enough matter to have a member of the tribe take Kaska-Ta to the airship landing by carriage, but the Gull General could not be bothered to make such arrangements and none of the other Princes or Kings thought to make a point of it. The truth was, he was livid at Kaska-Ta for endangering the Owl Princess, and he had his own mission in mind that day. He dropped Kaska-Ta at the nearest transport station and left him to travel the long road to the airship landing with the masses. But before he left the carriage, Kaska-Ta said his goodbye to the owl Princess. He told her to be strong, and not let the demons win, and then he kissed her, briefly. It was not romantic, they had bonded through trauma, but at that moment they were close. The Gull General was certainly displeased, but neither of them cared.

The one fortunate turn was that they had not managed to steal Kaska-Ta’s money. Somehow, in their haste the demons had missed his pouch which contained an unusually high amount due to his traveling. So though he was exhausted, had no personal means to send messages and was still recovering from the situation itself, at least he had funds for the long journey. When he arrived his tribe was there, supportive and sympathetic.

The Castle of the Southern Kingdom

The Castle of the Southern Kingdom

Over the next few days after Kaska-Ta arrived back in the southern tropics, the tale became easier to tell and things began to feel normal again. He heard from the Owl Princess and she was having a harder time recovering emotionally, but she was getting better by the day. If anything her concern was to the many rumors floating around of what happened and why.   Many stories had been told, including recounts of how the Gull General had heroically set out alone on his mighty steed the same day Kaska-Ta had left. Scouring the realm of Krawen in daylight, he eventually found the cave in which demons that had attacked resided and had summoned soldiers to arrest them and retrieve the carriage.

Kaska-Ta had avoided mentioning the Owl Princess in his recounts because he also didn’t wish to perpetuate the spread of rumors, but those who were present (such as Mockingbird) also knew what had transpired, so it was impossible to keep completely quiet. Regardless, days and then weeks passed and the memory of the incident faded.

Until a private message arrived for Kaska-Ta from the Gull General, it read:

I wanted to wait a few weeks to make sure that what I wrote was free from all emotion. Initially I was nothing but anger and I needed to let that go. Your actions and behavior in my palace were the topic of discussion for days after you left. None of the men in the house could understand why you acted the way you did while you were here. So that we are clear I am talking about your leaders and kings. When you set your sights on the Owl Princess we were all just a bit confused. After speaking to her and hearing her side so that we were not just basing our judgment on what we saw, we were sure that we were confused about your intentions. It appears that you were interested in her and made some very bad decisions and actions.

To tell her that you were upset about the amount of time that she spent with me is an insult. You were a guest in my palace, and you were upset with a woman you had just met about how much time she spends with me, in my home. That makes no sense. If a woman spends time with a man who is your host, you back the fuck up. Under different circumstances, like had he not allowed you to stay in his home, do what you want. I take this as a personal insult to my kindness for allowing you to stay and you are not welcome in my palace again. After the Princess told you to back off and insulted you, you persisted in your efforts. Under the guise of asking for a short ride to an airship landing that is 90 minutes away you persisted in trying to talk to her.

You took her out of the safety of my palace to the outskirts at well past the witching hour. Even further you followed her to her carriage and stayed. In effect not allowing her to leave because you were in there, and still talking about a ride to the airship landing. You took advantage of her kind nature by continuing to ask her and sitting in her carriage knowing she would not send you away. Even had the demons not attacked, this is unacceptable behavior for a man. We wondered what kind of sex act you were hoping for her in the carriage. As men we know what we do, we persist until there is no hope of conquest. You never had hope in this situation, but you persisted until the end was past and tragedy struck. To say that you never should have shown romantic interest, weather blatant or covert, is an understatement. From the beginning she was not interested but you never gave up. As a man you broke a cardinal rule of manhood. Never put a woman in danger. Not even in the south would I sit unprotected in a carriage so long past the witching hour with a woman. So why do it in these lands with a princess as she is?

You asked to be attacked. Of course I blame the demons, but they only work on opportunity, which you gave to them. Take the following as lessons: Never put a woman in danger. Never persist where you are not welcomed. Take no for an answer. Do not take advantage of the kindness of others. And never disrespect a man in his own palace. When your prince left you here, you were his representative, so what he says to you about this incident has nothing to do with me. As a member of our tribe, what you do on a journey such as this reflects the rest of the group. What the King of Trees says to you about this incident has nothing to do with me.

As a General in this tribe and the man you offended I would never cross a line and use a training circle to show you my anger. My anger is gone, I will not go after you in sparring, I will not try to hurt you in any way. I told you what I needed to say to you, and now it is done. Reply to this or to just let it go. I will let it go and we do not need to discuss it further unless you choose to.

Again this was from me personally, I will visit your tribe in 2 weeks and I have no intention of discussing this with you or acting towards you with any anger.”

 

Kaska-Ta was shocked. Not so much by the Gull General’s anger or banishment from his palace (he had no desire to return there ever again anyway,) but by the statements made in the letter. He, Kaska-Ta, had persisted in his efforts? Unwanted!? He had taken advantage of her kindness!? He was “hoping” for a sex act!? This was simply not the case. He could understand the conclusion given his… liberal reputation among his tribe, but that had been the last thing on her mind that night, and he’s known it. The Gull General had a story that had not transpired, and this disturbed Kaska-Ta greatly. Now, the leaders of his tribe had this judgment of him, a judgment that was false. It was true that he’d had a part in endangering the Owl Princess, but he had not understood the danger, and his ignorance was indeed his fault. But the other accusations… they made no sense. Had the Owl Princess turned on him so easily? He supposed it was possible, she lived within the Gull General’s territory, and so it would be much easier to feed him a story in order to make peace there.

Kaska-Ta sent a reply essentially explaining that he believed there were many misperceptions, miscommunications and possibly two different stories being told. He accepted responsibility for being recklessly foolish about the timing, but also knew that was the only place that conversation could’ve happened as the Owl Princess did not wish the Gull General or any of the others to overhear her laments.   He was thankful, and hopeful that perhaps Mockingbird would back up his side of the story as he had been there for much of it. Still, Kaska-Ta had doubts. Many false stories had been been floating around now.

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The Sunset of the Golden Age

That evening, Kaska-Ta sent word to the Owl Princess of the message he had received. He asked her what she had told the Gull General and if the things he said were what she truly felt. When her reply came it seemed much as he’d expected. Immediately after his departure the Gull General had cornered her and demanded she explain herself to him. Though she denied saying the things the Gull General wrote about in his message, Kaska-Ta could easily understand her desire to protect her own situation, especially after a recent trauma such as she had endured. In the end, somebody was lying, and it came back to him either way. Kaska-Ta wanted peace, so he did not push her, nor did he instigate with the Gull General after he did not respond.

A few days later the Gull General arrived. It was exactly as he said it would be in his message; no signs of malice or unusual aggression when training. When not training he and Kaska-Ta more or less avoided each other. Neither the King of Trees or the Prince of Stories said anything further. The matter was done and Kaska-Ta had his peace. But in addition he had learned an important lesson about the mentalities of his superiors, and though he would continue with his tribe, this lesson would stick with him and remind him every time he saw similar situations transpire. This was the end of his golden age. The beginning of doubt.

Interlude: A Personal Fairy Tale (Part 1)

The Tale of Kaska-Ta – Part 1

(*Note: This is what can be described as a semi-fictional history.  The settings/terms/names/periods are changed but the story facts are true.) 

Long ago in tropical lands far in the south, there lived a warrior known as Kaska-Ta. Years before this story, he had been a lonely, exiled traveler going by a different name. But a group of knights had taken him in and given him a new name. The Knights of Kappo Aera taught him the ways of song and dance and war, and became his family.

Early on these knights lived under the rule of a mad king. This king was not evil, but arrogant and violent to some.   Thus, for this and perhaps some other reasons in the shadows, the Prince of Stories who led this particular band of knights separated himself from the kingdom, causing much divide and resulting in a feud that would be forgiven by many but never forgotten by all.

Tropical Lands

Tropical Lands

For a time these Knights of Kappo Aera remained autonomous, the Prince of Stories who now led them called upon some of the elder knights (including Kaska-Ta) to help him train the younger warriors properly. Overall their band was happy and Kaska-Ta enjoyed spending time with and helping his peers where he could. Often, when sparring with the Lady of Diamonds or the young prodigy known as Mockingbird, he could not help but smile. In those times there was synergy and peace, even in combat.

However, the Prince of Stories who now led newly separated tribe knew he was not yet prepared to be a king, and so over time his uncertainty grew until a general from a different tribe he had met in his travels invited him to meet his own king. This king was far departed from the prince’s previous king. Though a giant physically, he was calm and serene much like his name. This man was the King of the Trees. After much discussion an arrangement was struck in which the Prince’s tribe would join with that of King of Trees and his Gull General. Thus began the golden age for the knights of Kappo Aera who would now be recognized as warriors.

It was during this time that the Prince’s Tribe was the most active and many locals came to join the tribe of warriors in the tropical south. The King of Trees and his Gull General hailed from a much colder climate and so made the trip to visit the young warriors often. Kaska-Ta was happy, and enjoyed the company of his tribe both new and old. But as everything must, things would change.

Fierce! But...

Fierce! But…

The traditions among all the tribes of Kappo Aera carried heavy tones of misogyny and disrespect for the female members of the tribes. Though the more progressive members of the tribes didn’t believe in such things, and it was often brought up only in humor, the fact remained that it was very real occurrence as evidenced by behaviors specifically at social gatherings. There was a saying that a true lord among the warriors of Kappo Aera would have a woman in every land that they traveled to. Combined with that was the Kappo Aera tradition of deception as a battle strategy. It was very often said that the sparring circle in which they trained battle was a reflection of their outside lives. As such, this deception made it’s way into many of the member’s actions. Thus was eventual bane of Kaska-Ta.

Kaska-Ta was well liked by the tribe, and especially so by many of the female members. He was kind, flirty, and humorous and made them feel at ease, especially when others were far more aggressive and overbearing than he was. Though not initially problematic, Kaska-Ta began to hear whispers from other warriors (both male and female) that some of the higher ranking warriors were displeased at the attention he was receiving. Of course, Kaska-Ta knew not all of these whispers could be entirely trusted either, but among the many there was some truth he could confirm himself. He resolved though, as long as he had his people, he would simply carry on.

The time came to make a pilgrimage to northern climates. It was the summer months so the weather was very agreeable. One of the great kings from the far off lands in which the tribes of Kappo Aera had originally descended would come and bless all the warriors under the King of Trees.   The prince and as many of his southern tribe as possible made the pilgrimage in order to strengthen their union with the warriors under the King of Trees.

A Krawan Demon Prison

A Krawen Demon Prison

The Gull General existed in a dangerous part of the northern lands known as Krawen, but offered up his palace to most of the travelers from the south. However, Kaska-Ta was given different arrangements and was sent to be hosted with one of the students and families who trained under the Gull General. Though this family was very accommodating, very friendly and he had excellent arrangements, Kaska-Ta did not like being separated from the rest of his tribe. One of the newer females in his tribe had become close to him (intimately for a short time, but that time had already passed) and sent messages that she was uncomfortable among all of the generals and princes. Kaska-Ta expressed his desire to re-join his tribe, and the next day was allowed to stay in the Gull General’s palace (later he would learn this was much to the dismay of the General.)

The ceremonies began and all seemed well. Kaska-Ta marveled at the amazing talents the guest Kings, Queens and other royalty exhibited both in music and in combat. His extended family of warriors from the northern tribes of the King of Trees were equally impressive. It was an overall a joyous occasion filled with much learning and positive energy, which was what Kaska-Ta had always loved about the Kappo Aera tribes. In the evening he and some of his tribe-mates new and old were taken to largest city on the continent to marvel at the many towers and castles filled with mystic lights and great paintings. The day had truly been great.

The next day was another ceremony for another local tribe who was allied with the King of Trees. This tribe’s leader was a great scholar of his art named Onaib. Though not yet a king, he was well on his way and was truly a professor of the art and beauty that was the culture of the Kappo Aera tribes. Kaska-Ta was familiar with this teacher from a previous ceremony in which he had traveled south and personally tested Kaska-Ta (among other young warriors of the southern tribe) in combat. He was good natured and skilled while sparring and greeted each student with a combination of vigor and gentleness. He sought to test, not to punish the younger students and Kaska-Ta respected him greatly for it.

Her Namesake

Her Namesake

Transportation to Professor Onaib’s event was arranged for Kaska-Ta and his tribemate Mockingbird traveling in the wagon of a student of another small local tribe known as the Owl Princess. She mused that her and Kaska-Ta had similar hair color and they got along well early on. One of the wheels broke along the way, but Kaska-Ta and Mockingbird were both skilled at such repairs and before long they were traveling again having bonded some through the small circumstance. They made the ceremony right on time and all was well.

During the ceremony, the Owl Princess remained close to Kaska-Ta and would often mess with his hair or rest her head on his shoulder. He enjoyed the attention, but it drew the attention of both his tribe’s Prince of Stories and the Gull General, whom Kaska-Ta was unaware had their eyes on the Owl Princess. As the day progressed the ceremony completed successfully and after further celebration many of the warriors (including the Owl Princess) made their way back to the palace of the Gull General. Immediately after the ceremony, during the after parties and dinner, Kaska-Ta had noticed the attention of the Owl Princess was being intentionally diverted away from him, to some extent by the Prince of Stories and then aggressively by the Gull General.

Once at the palace, the Gull General disappeared to the tower, and so too did the Owl Princess.   During this time, the Mockingbird, who had long been adopted as a second son of the Gull General warned his tribe mate Kaska-Ta that the reason the Gull General had pulled the Owl Princess away was because she had long since been “one of his girls”. Kaska-Ta replied that she had told him she was without a dedicated mate, and was somewhat surprised because the Gull General had recently impregnated one of the southern tribe women, though it was not established they were dedicated mates either. “It matters not… you know this.” The Mockingbird replied. Yes, Kaska-Ta was familiar with the culture, even if he didn’t agree with or follow it.

69e8746bf35ce80eec33946f36cbb38141afaa66473df48c35c0f5fdfe727d32Later, after the festivities had died down, the Owl Princess approached Kaska-Ta, who had been distant and asked him why. Irritated at her deception, he asked her why she had not told him of the Gull General, but she did not answer and instead became defensive, denied her involvement and moved away again. However, when the witching hour had passed, he once again approached her to say goodbye as she intended to return to her home and kingdom. At her request, Kaska-Ta agreed to escort her to her carriage. When they arrived at her transport, away from the ears of the palace, she asked him to stay with her a short time so she could speak with him. Kaska-Ta agreed and for some time they spoke of her family and then her involvement with the Gull General. She was sad, and said that he confused her by sometimes treating her as a princess, and then other times ignoring or even berating her. She knew that he paid attention to other women, but sometimes when he was with her, he would be so tender that she felt he truly cared. Kaska-Ta was irritated by this as he had heard such things many times before.   But he listened patiently, trying to cheer her up and convince her  that the fault was not hers. Unfortunately, during this dialog disaster struck…