Well Damn

I used to buy my books at a shop called W. A. Houben when I was a student at Richmond the American International University in London in 2003-05. It was our unofficial campus bookstore. I also bought a gorgeous 1906 edition of Don Quixote there.

This place was right down a pedestrial alleyway very near a war memorial by the medieval St. Mary Magdalene Church in Richmond, probably the first war memorial in the UK I’d really paid attention to. It had a Gothic shape much like the memorial in St. Peter’s Square in Hereford, where Jack lived.

If my memories of Jack’s life are the suggestions of a wild imagination (I never ruled that out), I have no doubt that the seeds of it were planted there; on the other hand, if Jack’s memories were real, then I have no doubt the area over by the bookstore was the start of a long, slow-burning chain reaction that led to my anamnesis. Either way, I’m absolutely certain my first trip to W. A. Houben around September 2003 precipitated the first episode involving Jack’s memories in 2012. I was dogged thereafter by that familiar sense of gnawing, fleeting familiarity, of things just on the edge of recollection, of buildings, signs, and items in antique shops raising the hair on the back of my neck a little. Within a year and a half I was searching for a village from the back of my mind; within 6 years I was ready to admit I felt very strongly that I’d lived around the turn of the 20th century. Within 9 years my memories had a name, rank, and serial.

I’m sad to say the bookstore that figured into all this is gone now. That bookstore and the quiet little nook in Richmond it was tucked into had a very special place in my memory, and now that corner of the world is just a little poorer for it. I wonder what other places I’ve loved are going to shutter?


“They Shall Not Grow Old” review

On the 27th I saw “They Shall Not Grow Old” at the Century theater at Clackamas Town Center. I was the brunette who arrived late without 3D glasses and had to dash out and get a pair out of one of the return bins.

First, let me get this out of the way: the technology used by Peter Jackson worked. Sometimes. Truth be told the clips from the trailers were probably the best of it. Much of it still had awkward in-betweens and dodgy coloring. Also, much was made about the film being shown at the “correct” speed but I saw several instances of the footage being slowed to stretch the time.

I should also say that this film would have been better presented in 2D. In the trailer everything looked crisp and sharp but the 3D conversion made things fuzzy and blurry. I didn’t like it at all.

Not all of the technical problems with this film could be prevented; the lack of footage from early in the war was especially noticeable for me (Jack Harris died in 1915, but most of the footage was from 1916 on) but as I understand cameras were banned in the early years and even stills from before 1916 are rare, let alone moving pictures.

There was also a lack of actual combat footage to contend with. I get Jackson’s reasoning for cutting in artwork from “The War Illustrated” but the overall effect of these low-res images on the big screen was underwhelming to say the least.

But for its limited scope (British ground troops on the Western Front) it was at least accurate. I found nothing surprising (no new discoveries or confirmations) but it represented this particular theatre of war faithfully.

Overall I give it a 7/10, but this score is largely because of the obvious effort put into the production.

For my personal experience (ie things not considered in my criticism of the film per se), it didn’t really bring back anything for a few reasons. First, for practical reasons they couldn’t make the artillery sounds loud enough to feel in your bones or give them that distinctive echo they get around built-up areas. Second, there’s the fact that people don’t act naturally when they know they’re on camera (how many Tommies saying “Smile boys! We’re in the pictures!” can you fit in one film?). This is as true today as it was a century ago.

That said, there was a brief moment that got my pulse going. It was when colorized stills of night shots involving star flares and barbed wire were cut in very briefly. That bit was close to home. But it was little more than a drumbeat.

Overall the film didn’t have the cathartic effect I had hoped for. I found the ending of “Oh! What A Lovely War!” had more impact on me (I am not the only WWI British past life claimant who loves that movie for its poetic honesty). But I can’t be too harsh about “They Shall Not Grow Old” because it at least told the story in a way it hadn’t before and it’s worth listing among the more notable WWI films for its technical effort.

Also, A Present-Life Update

It seems the novel I wrote very loosely based on my experience of recalling past lives in medieval England and WWI has finally gotten some interest from one of the queries. I’m still stuck writing in my confined niche of subgenre fiction though. I’m debating whether to try to get out of my subgenre or just damn the torpedoes and promote it to a wider audience with some explanation about this obscure subgenre I write in. A good book is a good book no matter what the core audience, right?

Still keeping my word not to promote my work using my claims. As far as the publisher I’m speaking to and most of my reader base knows, it’s just a clever work of fiction. I won’t use any claims to the contrary to advance my career. I remain committed to the premise that if I was who I say I was from 1928 to 1982, I can make it on my own talent without making some extraordinary claim about my prior identities.

Following Up

I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have been a pamphleteer. The details of that life don’t add up. If anything I’m increasingly sure that the life I think I may have lived in early America may be a phantasm because the level of social mobility I seem to recall looks more like a fantasy when I dig deeper. I can’t find a single instance of someone who began life as a criminal transported to the colonies who became a respected preacher and pamphleteer. It just didn’t happen. That kind of mobility is enshrined in the American myth but the research I’ve done doesn’t bear that out. I’d love to be proved wrong on this though.

Going to do my customary big Christmas dinner on Boxing Day this year, though it’s evolving away from a straight historic reconstruction and more just a mix of things from across lifetimes including this one, as well as a bit of wimsy thrown in for good measure. This time I’ll be cooking not only for myself and my husband, but also my girlfriend and her boyfriend. Yes, as 2018 draws to a close we’ve got a polycule going and things are getting interesting.

Also, I got my ticket to see “They Shall Not Grow Old.” I’ve got to go clear across to the far side of town to see it because the 4PM tickets at my local theater sold out within 12 hours of my discovering that there was a second chance to see the film. All the other shows were at 1PM so I had to snag one of the few remaining 4PM seats available.

Not sure what I’m going to make of it. I’m a bit apprehensive about seeing this film and how I might react. I’m sure crying a little is fine but if I’m there sobbing like a widow I might raise some eyebrows.

Notorious Scribbler

I had a flash just a moment ago. I was dwelling on some religious work I wrote recently and the way my husband had remarked multiple times about how I sound like an 18th Century writer when I get going on my lofty screeds about religion or society.

I had a flash of an 18th Century printer’s shop in vivid detail. I saw flashes of type being set, pages being laid out, and the press screwing down onto the page. I had suspected I was apprentice to a printer in that life but in this particular instance, I had the feeling that those were my words on the page, that I was a pamphleteer.

And considering the other memories I’ve had, of apprenticing as a printer’s devil and of being involved in the sort of fire-and-brimstone Evangelical churches that sprang up in the decades following the First Great Awakening, and of marching on campaign in bitter cold, I think I may have been writing about (what else?) concerns about religion and society.

Thing is, if I was a pamphleteer some of my work may have survived to the present! If I could dig up the biographies of early American pamphleteers, I might find there’s still scholarship to be done. I did it for Count William, I guess I’ll do it for the mystery pamphleteer.

Mental Health Stuff

So recently I had an assessment with a psychologist working on behalf of Oregon’s Dept. of Human Services. It was a vocational assessment, but I’m hoping to get the help I need. So I spilled everything. I told him how much the thing with Jack bothered me, how I’d spent so many years of my life and the bulk of my creative output trying to sort this all out in my head, and I’ve been a nervous wreck since about a year before all that happened.

Whether what happened was an actual paranormal experience or a nervous breakdown caused by psychotic depression, I may never know for sure. All I know is that there is a grave in France that corresponds all too well with what I thought I remembered that day 6 years ago.

Anyway, I don’t know what the final verdict is on my condition. What I do know is he nixed PTSD for the childhood stuff on some bullshit technicality that it wasn’t “one particular episode” but a domino effect that I’m still trying to recover from as an adult.

He also said he didn’t think I had ADHD based on the skills assessment. Nonverbal IQ of 110 (high-average range), verbal IQ of 127 (superior range) for a combined score of about 116. Slightly slow processing speed but no intellectual impairment to speak of. I still feel frustratingly stupid when I try to do math but apparently I completed or attempted problems at a slightly higher level than the average adult.

Most tellingly, he reported to me exactly what far too many doctors have already told me. I have traits of a lot of different conditions but no one condition stands out. I have always been completely inscrutable to psychiatry and usually anything in the way of medicine that treats one side of the issue aggravates another problem. Treating everything pharmaceutically involves being on so much medication that I can’t live independently.

I value my independence and I’m going to try to manage my condition as well as I possibly can without medication. For several years of my adult life I was very successfully balancing my work and life and paying for all my own expenses out of pocket so I know I’m capable of doing so when my condition is under control; a bad combination of factors caused me to decompensate and revert back to the emotional state I was in as a young child. I had almost built everything back up again several times but each time I had the supports knocked out from under me when I was still too weak to stand on my own. It’s hard, doing your damnedest to get better when you’re perpetually worried about losing your home or taking too long to recover. I’ve been on thin ice for so long it’s hard to cope with.

I’m trying to muster the residual agency within me and at least get started taking care of the trauma. I’ve heard very good things about EMDR and recently I was pleased to find out that I had been referred for this treatment. EMDR is a weird hybrid treatment for trauma and difficult memories that has shown great promise. It boasts effectiveness rates in the ballpark of 60% without medication. I’m impressed with the stats and hope it lives up to the hype.

I’m not going to bring up the thing about Jack though. Not right away. I need to work through stuff from this life before I even think about digging out past life baggage first of all; second I always felt weird and awkward about asking for those memories of Jack’s life to be treated like a legit trauma. To me they were as real as any memory from the last 34 years but I have a lot of shame for feeling that way. I’m going to ease into the subject and not press the issue if it’s not treated like something serious, though it will leave me wondering how I will find any way of coping with the things I saw, the emotions I experienced. Nothing in my current life has ever brought me close to those levels of terror. I can liken it only to that feeling of shock when you feel your car start to hydroplane on the freeway, only more intense and stretched out over minutes or hours instead of a brief instant. That’s burned into me, that feeling. I’d never had a single panic attack in all my life until those memories of Jack’s life broke.

I want my life back. My friends, my family, and my care team all say I have a brilliant mind. With my abilities and education, I should be earning $40K and living a comfortable middle class life; why can’t I? Why have I never been able to get it together?

I don’t feel brilliant. I don’t see brilliance in myself. I just see a perpetual loser who’s never been much good at anything but writing silly stories that nobody reads.

I’m going to possibly update more as I sort through the rubble of the first 34 years of my current life. I think healing might be a good focus for this blog. I so desperately need it, I need to not feel like my life is going to be cut short any day all the time, or like I’m surrounded by danger, terrified of open spaces, overwhelmed by human contact. I want to finally be able to use this supposed brilliance everyone says I possess.