Always-Living-at-the-Coast

Always-Living-at-the-CoastAlways-Living-at-the-Coast

Kwakiutl

Coyote was going to marry the daughter of Always-Living-at-the-Coast and was on a journey there. Each time he stopped and told people what he was going to do, they would tell him to be careful. No one told him why until he cured an old woman’s blindness in the woods in return for some food. The daughter had teeth in her vagina and they would eat coyote up. She told Coyote he had to knock the teeth out with a chisel.

Coyote finally got to Always-Living-at-the-Coast’s house. The wedding took place, as planned, but Coyote was prepared. He had a chisel and he knocked all the teeth out of the girl’s vagina and after that had a nice evening with his new wife. Always-Living-at-the-Coast heard laughter from his daughter instead of a man meeting his end and was upset. How dare Coyote come in his house and sleep with his daughter.

Along the way to the wedding, Coyote was given several animal masks, which came in handy, because Always-Living-at-the-Coast made challenges to Coyote. First, Coyote was asked to jump through the door into the center of the house, and unbeknownst to him, a snare trap, but Coyote knew something was up. He wore his deer mask and jumped through. The deer died, but Coyote was fine. This night he also had a good time with his new wife.

The next day the man tried to trap Coyote again, but Coyote wore a mountain goat mask and the results were the same as before.

The next day the man made another trap. This time Coyote had a bear mask and just went into the room and smashed the trap.

The man asked Coyote to go out with him on errands. They were going to chop down a tree and the man asked Coyote to retrieve something out of the split, but really he was trying to trap Coyote, but Coyote was prepared. He made it look as if he were dead, but then changed into a wren and flew out of the crack. The two men were then in the boat together. Coyote carved a killer whale out of wood and threw it into the water. Whales came up and snatched Always-Living-on-the-Coast away. Coyote went home to his wife who later had a son, which Coyote eventually took away.

Observations

Again, we have this fear of a toothed vagina. As I mentioned before, the concept is something that is really in folklore from around the world. People have actually told stories about scary toothed vaginas.

Themes

What was this guy’s problem? He invites people to marry his daughter, but then gets upset if someone actually consummates the marriage. I want to say that he probably had any father’s worry. Parents want their kids to move on with life and become adults, but they don’t necessarily want to know that their kids are having sex. For many parents, this probably isn’t a reality until said kid has a kid, then the truth of the whole thing hits home. Your child is not an innocent little child anymore. This is no reason to kill your child’s mate though.

Maybe this guy got a kick out of all these guys dying?

Whether he was evil or upset because his daughter was actually having sex, this guy still shouldn’t have been trying to kill Coyote.

Overall

Don’t try to kill your son/daughter-in-laws.

Weigh In

If you were in Coyote’s place, what would you have done?

Do you think this guy was just evil or was he upset that his daughter was having sex?

#665 Let Me Go by Helga Schneider

Let Me Go by Helga SchneiderLet Me Go by Helga Schneider

Helga is an older woman now and an envelope finds its way into her hands. It’s about her mother, the same mother that Helga assumed died years ago. Helga has not seen her mother for many years because her mother abandoned her and her brother when they were children to be a Nazi. Helga grew up without her mother and didn’t have an easy go of things, but ended up with a somewhat normal life.

Helga has a chance to talk to her mother one last time. She takes a cousin and makes the journey to Germany, where her mother still lives. Helga knows which woman is her mother when she sees her and it takes a little bit to convince the woman that Helga is her daughter, but she finally accepts it.

Helga asks her about life. She wants to know why her mother left her and her brother. Helga’s mother was devoted to the party and to the solution. She was trained to be desensitized. She sent people to their deaths. She thought some of the death methods were ingenious. Her daughter wonders how a woman could be immune to feelings. Helga’s mother did feel, just not as Helga expects. Helga goes to see her mother, hoping to find something a little different than she did in the past, but ultimately, Helga’s mother is who she is.

What I liked

WWII memoirs are always interesting. It’s an interesting, and terrible, period of history. It’s a period of history we don’t ever want to repeat again. As such, it’s important to remember what went on during this period of history.

What I didn’t like

I don’t agree with the entire idea of Nazism. I don’t agree with Aryan nations being superior. I don’t agree with genocide. I don’t agree with people being taken prisoner because of their religion or skin color. Here’s the thing though, Helga’s mother was kind of an awful person, but she didn’t deserve to be hounded by Helga in an old person’s home at such an old age. Both Helga and her mother were rude and manipulative to one another during this conversation.

I don’t agree with what Helga’s mother did at all, in the slightest, but she’s an old woman, leave her the heck alone. Old people deserve rest and respect, even if they don’t necessarily deserve respect for other reasons, simply because they’re so old. There comes a time in life when you just kind have to let old people be themselves and do their own thing. There’s no changing them and yelling at them and being rude to them isn’t going to change anything that happened in the past. You might get an apology for something done in the past and you might not.

I don’t like Helga’s mother, but I also don’t like how Helga treated her mother on a supposed visit. She demanded to know things about the camps and how they worked. She demanded details about things. Horrors from the past. She wanted to hear her mother speak of these awful things. There comes a point where a person likes to put things like that behind them, even if it doesn’t make them sad. That was an old life. It’s not their life anymore.

If a person makes it to ninety, or whatever, and they’re still the same old person they always were and that’s a bad person, you just kind of have to let it go. Get over it. They’re not going to magically change because you showed up to talk to them.

There are a lot of people who have a right to be mad at Helga’s mother, not just Helga. Helga’s mother divorced herself from the family and Helga doesn’t particularly have a whole lot of right over her mother as a family member as a result. Sure, things Helga’s mother did affected her life negatively. Things my mother did affected my life negatively too, but I don’t go and harass my mother about bad things she did in her past, that weren’t even done directly to me.

The whole story is like a woman showing up at an old person’s home and interrogating a forgetful old woman about something from sixty-seventy years before. There are just some periods in your life that aren’t going to be tied up in neat little bows.

Also, this book would wander from one scene to another without any warning. At one point it would be modern-day and at another it would be WWII and there wouldn’t be any warning that it would happen.

Overall

Old Nazis are not nice people, but just leave them alone. Unless you encounter some elderly Nazi plot to destroy the world, let the old people watch their Maury and go to their activities.

Weigh In

Knowing what you know about Helga’s mother, do you think there was any way she would have ever been more repentant during this time in her life?

What good do you think Helga expected to accomplish by visiting her mother?

Coyote Fights a Lump of Pitch

Coyote Fights a Lump of PitchCoyote Fights a Lump of Pitch

White Mountain Apache

Every night Coyote would sneak into a farmer’s field and steal the heads off of his wheat. It was a white man’s field. All the white men got together and decided to do something about Coyote’s thievery. They figured a little personage out of a lump of pitch.

Coyote came along, as always, on his path, and saw the lump of pitch. Thinking it was really a person, Coyote told it to get out-of-the-way but it didn’t. Coyote said if it didn’t move he was going to punch it and people who got punched by Coyote died. The pitchman said nothing so Coyote punched him, but his arm went in all the way up to the elbow and he couldn’t get it out. Coyote told the pitchman if he didn’t let go of his arm he was going to punch him with the other arm. So he did. That arm also got stuck.

Then Coyote was going to kick the pitch man, which resulted in the same thing. Then Coyote was going to kick the pitchman with his other leg, likewise with the same result. Coyote said he was going to whip the pitchman with his tail, which he did, and that also got stuck. Finally, Coyote was just going to bite the pitchman, but that didn’t work either. Coyote also got stuck there.

The farmers came and got Coyote and chained him up. They were going to scald him in a big pot of hot water to get all of his fur off. Grey Fox came along and Coyote told him that they were making all sorts of good things for him in the big pot and that Grey Fox could have some, all he needed to do was get in the chains for just a minute. The two switched places and Coyote ran off. The farmers saw Grey Fox and thought that Coyote must have shrunk. They put Grey Fox in the scalding water and took all of his fur off.

Grey Fox was let go, but set out to get Coyote. He met Coyote near a pond and told him that if they drank all the water in it they could eat ash bread. The two started drinking, but Grey Fox drank a lot more. Coyote started to pretend after a while. Grey Fox drank so much that he got cold. Coyote said he was going to go and find some blankets to cover up Grey Fox with, but he just left.

Observations

This is a story that is told a lot. Some of you might know this story, or something like it, as the story of the Tarbaby. In fact, this story is very similar to the Brer stories, Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear, and so on.

Yes, tar and pitch are both sticky and there are plenty of stories of people being tricked into getting stuck to both. Tar is not easy to remove from skin. It’s not something I’ve ever experienced myself, but I imagine, back in the day, if you got tar all over, it would be difficult to remove and that hot water may have been one way to remove it.

Themes

You shouldn’t really be so quick to anger. If Coyote had taken a minute and looked at the situation and sniffed it out, he probably could have figured out that pitchman wasn’t a real and alive being. There’s probably something wrong with a man of pitch in the middle of a wheat field, right? Coyote could have just walked around it and gotten all the wheat he wanted. Sometimes it pays to just take a step back and take in the situation before you start expressing all sorts of emotion.

Overall

If you see a tarman in the woods, don’t touch it.

Weigh In

Would you try to hit some strange person who was standing in the middle of your path if they didn’t move?

Do you think Coyote was tricking Grey Fox because he had been tricked?

Iktome and the Ignorant Girl

Iktome and the Ignorant GirlIktome and the Ignorant Girl

Brule Sioux

Iktome wanted to sleep with a pretty girl who was a virgin. He dressed up as an old woman and decided to cross the river the same time the girl was. Each lifted up their skirt, and the girl remarked how hairy Iktome’s legs were. Iktome told her that this happened to some old women. They lifted up their skirts some more and the girl remarked on how hairy Iktome’s backside was. Again, Iktome told her that this happened to some older women. The girl also remarked on the thing dangling between Iktome’s legs in the front.

Iktome told her that it was a growth, like a wart, that some evil sorcerer had put upon him. The girl asked Iktome how to be rid of it and Iktome told her the only way to get rid of it was to put it between her legs. The girl agreed.

They went on the bank, where it was grassy, and went at it. Afterwards, the girl noticed it had worked a little, but not more long. Iktome said they would have to do it again, so they did, but it was still there. They decided it couldn’t hurt to do it another time and it wasn’t that unpleasant after all.

Observations

I can almost guarantee you that this girl, if she had been a real Sioux girl, would have known what a penis looked like. In fact, most women, of any age, have known what penises look like, up until some of our current times when we became more prudish with some things. They lived in close quarters; they saw penises.

Themes

Sex education rocks. If by some unfortunate circumstance this girl hadn’t ever seen a penis, she would have known what one was if her parents had a talk with her. The birds and the bees, you know.

Honey, sweetheart, men have penises and they want to stick them in you sometimes, don’t let anyone trick you into it. You should only do it if you want to and you know what in the heck you’re doing.

Believe it or not, I have actually heard of women having sex and not knowing what they were doing. It’s just terrible that any woman above the age of eleven doesn’t know what sex is.

Overall

Sex ed, people, sex ed.

Weigh In

In your most ignorant days, do you imagine that you could have had sex and not known that you were having sex?

Even though this is a light-hearted story, who is to blame for this situation?

#664 Guests on Earth by Lee Smith

Guests on Earth by Lee SmithGuests on Earth by Lee Smith

Evalina remembers living in New Orleans. She remembers the sign that read, “Girls, girls, girls,” and that her mother was a courtesan. She remembers Bourbon street and a man who came to adore her mother. She remembers living in a big house after her mother dies, but then she remembers getting sent to Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina.

At first, Evalina just rests, but eventually she becomes a part of the community in Highland and that’s where she grows up, alongside the well-known Zelda Fitzgerald, who also lived at Highland. She learns to play the piano and goes to Peabody, which is where she meets a young tenor. They marry, but things aren’t good in the marriage.

Evalina leaves her husband to teach piano lessons on her own, but something terrible happens to her and she ends up right back in Highland. She grows to make friends there and even becomes part of the staff. Zelda shows back up. Evalina has always been fascinated by Zelda.

Life goes on for Evalina and she develops a couple of romances at the hospital, both a bit scandalous in their own way. Evalina is there at the hospital until one night when the fire starts. It’s the fire that would burn down an entire building and take the life of Zelda Fitzgerald. Life goes on for Evalina, but not in the way one might hope.

What I liked

Lee Smith write some wonderful books. They’re about the South and about traditions and people, who could very well be real, some of them are, or were. Zelda was a real person and she really did die in a fire at Highland Hospital. This place is actually pretty close to where I live, so I’ve seen some of it, although, I haven’t been inside any of them yet.

Several of the buildings that were part of the hospital are still in Asheville. They’re up on a hill, all supposedly haunted. The buildings serve other purposes these days other than a hospital.

I like that Lee spun this entire book centering on one event. It’s loosely a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, but our main character is still Evalina.

I liked that I was able to go and see this place; it lends more to the story when I can go see a place setting in a book.

What I didn’t like

I feel as if Evalina never overcame her mental illness. In truth, no one ever really gets rid of a mental illness, they’re only managed, but a person would think that Evalina could have gone out and been a normal member of society. She did this, to an extent, but she wasn’t your average member of society. She was part of society, but a part that there was something off about her. I don’t know how I can get this across any clearer. Her mental illness stayed with her, and although she was at a level where she could live on her own, she was still markedly mentally ill, in my opinion. I don’t think she reached that level that she should have to go and live out in the world on her own. Sure, she did it, but it would have been better had she reached a stronger point in her mental stability.

Mental illness is a weird thing though. It can come back when a person least expects it. Evalina may have never been fully a “regular” person. Her mental illness may have come back after the book ended, but honestly, I think she was still there.

Part of me, kind of wants to slap Evalina. She has a mental illness, yes, but the triggers of this illness weren’t necessarily that bad. I’m sure the things that happened to Evalina were awful to her, but people have been through worse and still been mentally stable. I guess the point is that everyone is different and mental illness still isn’t a well-defined concept. What makes one person go off the deep-end isn’t necessarily going to make another person go off the deep-end.

Overall

In a lot of ways, this story is sad and tragic, but for those who live, life goes on, mentally ill or not.

Weigh In

Do you think Evalina would have ever been “normal”?

What do you think was going on with Evalina?