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Societal Barriers, part one

While there is not much in the way of polite society in New Babbage, it does exist in various pockets around the city. I had grown up within its genteel embrace, but after my family died and I settled here, I neatly sidestepped rejoining the NB clan, as it were.

I grew up believing my class was superior and the privileges wealth and station brought me were simply my due. What child questions the world view espoused by one's family? Our staff were honored to be employed by my father. Merchants blessed our patronage. Events were made brighter when those of my class attended. How could charities exist without the assistance of the upper class?

Enough. Gentle Reader, perhaps you have never questioned the social order and assumed that is how civilization advances. I am like you; I am not wise enough to propose a better system. I do not condone an overthrow of the privileged classes.

The events that led to me being without family and making my way in the world in a new, rather dangerous city have caused me to question the assumptions of class and privilege.

I must put down my pen for the moment, but I will continue.

A New Opportunity

Last evening I became the owner of the R.F.Burton Library in New Babbage. The founder, Miss C, approached me with the offer last month. Amazingly generous, she gave me the land, the library, and all its contents. I "just" have to pay rent.

While it's nice to spend my days lazing around in New Babbage, pursuing hobbies and putting in a few hours working in the library, I now must get focused.

An exhibition at the Burton, something literary or mechanical, should do it. Perhaps tie it in with a mystery. Will need to ponder this idea.

Tea first.

Planning a Trip

Traveling to other towns involves thought. Especially if one is an independent female traveling alone. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to come and go in a large city, such as where I live, and if one's family is no longer alive. I don't normally consider the last part to be an advantage, but it is nice not to have to ask permission from parents nor to answer questions from siblings. Furthermore, since I am unencumbered by either spouse or offspring, what thought I put into planning a trip involves where to go,what to pack, and what method of transportation will be preferable.

I am aware that my household staff regards me as eccentric since I refuse to conform to their notion of a sad,lonely spinster. Seeing how most women in service are unmarried, I find their ideas paradoxical. Just because I am well bred, does not mean I must marry the first gentleman I see. I prefer to view myself as an example of this progressive age, and if I decide to travel, I will jolly well do it alone if I wish.

Stepping off my soapbox for the moment, I return to the task of planning my trip. I would enjoy a trip to Paris or Prague, but I do not want to spend that much time away from home and job. Friends have talked about the healing powers of sea air, and I would like to view the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. So, I will travel south and perhaps I can spy France if the weather is good. It is a beautiful city, I am told. It will be nice to escape the soot and smoke of the city for a few days.

Hired coach and train will get me to the seaside, assuming I time my departures correctly. My quite competent ladies maid packed my valise with sufficient clothing to cover a variety of social requirements and changes in temperature. Secretly, I am pleased that I can carry the packed luggage without too much difficulty.

At the last minute, I slip a bathing costume into the valise, check my reticule and latest Trollope novel and head out the door to the waiting coach. Ah, yes. The freedom of an independent female on what surely promises to be an adventure.

This Wonderous Age

I was determined to master the machine. My fingers curved in the correct position over the keyboard, I laboriously punched the levers that corresponded to letters that would form words on the paper that I had ratcheted into the depths of the new typewriter. The advert which enticed me to purchase this machine promised faster work and easy of copying material. Faster? I grimly laughed.

"The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."

Carefully, I examined the sentence. While I did not honestly care if it was a brown or red fox nor if the dog was truly lazy or merely asleep, I did like the look of neat black letters on the cream paper.

"She sells sea shells on the sea shore."

Now that sentence was much easier to type than to speak aloud, I admitted ruefully. Maybe I am getting used to this machine. I punched out a few more phrases and then sat back to survey my work.

The shiny black machine looked smart and professional sitting dead center on my desk in the library. Correspondence, card catalogs, as well as notices would convey the library's progressive embrace of new technology.

The typewriter would enable my left hand to remain free of ink, not to mention my shirtsleeves. I resisted my teachers' attempts to make me write with my other hand. Unnatural or not, I did not care to conform to the right handed majority. Another compelling argument for this so-called liberation invention, I admitted. No longer would everything have to be either hand written or typeset

"The very clever dog ignored over the lazy brown fox."

Fingers, arms, shoulders tired from practice, I was happy to have given the poor dog a small revenge upon the bouncing, annoying fox.

Don't delete my entries

Please don't delete my entries. I promise to resume writing. Promise

State of Being

Who am I? What am I now? What is my purpose? Why am I here?

These questions whirled about me as I worked in my greenhouse next to the Burton. Usually, tending to those exotic plants we love in this magnificent century is a calming, almost meditative exercise for me. Not today though.

Today I was questioning my existence in New Babbage. A spotlight shone on my current endeavours, and I was intensely uncomfortable at what it revealed.

Like many of my fellow citizens of this city, I was running to a haven that Babbage represented. I settled into this dangerous, dirty city, making friends and a new life for myself. I did not realize then that I defined myself by what I was escaping. The violence that led me to Babbage was resolved and the assassins punished. So, what next? Physical recovery took a few weeks; psychological recovery took longer. Emotional identity? Well, that is what I was surprised to discover I still needed to settle.

Miss Capalini offered me a job at the library that initially consumed my time, but nowadays, my duties are minimal. Working as a Fire Mistress kept me busy until the need for a fire militia withered. Aether salon duties are episodic.
Is my identity based on my jobs? My friends? I have no husband or children to tend to, nor am I seeking such entanglements.

While I used to spend hours maintaining my skill with the bow, I rarely get it out nowadays. I attend such public functions as I am able and mostly listen to the conversations, only occasionally joining in.

Refusing to dwell on what talents I lack, I take inventory of the skills I possess. Mentally nudging aside the spotlight for the moment, I try to find a solution.

No luck.

35 things about me

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 35 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people be tagged.You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you. To do this, go to"notes" under tabs on your profile page,copy and paste these instructions.

1. I was born and raised in Indiana.

2. Attending the Indianapolis 500 is a family tradition, and I started going to the 500 when I was 12. My brother got to go when he was 9 and that still makes me mad (just kidding. . . kind of).

3. I am not athletic. It just is not in me.

4. That being said, I was a runner for a long time. Never serious enough to be competitive; my goal was to not embarrass myself.

5. For some unknown reason I am fascinated by birds.

6. I have a degree in English and a master's in Speech Communication.

7. I enjoy learning.

8. I enjoy listening to people and prefer to get others talking about themselves as opposed to talking about me, which is why sharing these 35 things has been challenging.

9. I am a voracious reader. Always have been.

10. Love to travel and to discover new places.

11. The United Kingdom is my favorite foreign country to visit. Would move there if I had the money. Have been friends since grade school with an Irish woman who now lives in England. She is my oldest, continual friend, and I am hers.

12. Of Scottish-Irish background, two of my ancestors who were brothers came to America in the mid-18th century from Dublin.

13. I wish I had stick straight hair. My hair is thick, brown, curly. Every morning is a challenge to wrestle it into shape.

14. My eyes are blue.

15. I am 5'3" and of slender build.

16. I hate shrimp. No, you cannot convince me that it is not the nastiest thing ever. Don't try.

17. When I finish at a machine at the gym, I always set the weight heavier than what I actually used so I don't look so girly.

18. I own a Welsh Pembroke Corgi (looks like a collie with the legs cut off).

19. I am loyal.

20. My parents worked hard to give my brother and me a good, loving home. I will honor them always.

21. I love my family and hold them dear.

22. I am allergic to cats. Because of that, I don't know much about them, and they are mysterious creatures to me.

23. Liberal Christian. I accept that there are things in this world I cannot understand and leave it up to God.

24. I run lights at the large non-denominational church I attend.

25. Love going up onto the catwalk to move lights at church.

26. Enjoy movies.

27. Hate stories that bend the rules of the universe they create. No one can fly in your story universe? Fine, but don't have the hero flying at some point in the story.

28. I enjoy Second Life as an escape from my real life. Nothing wrong with my real life, thank you, but I like the pretend Sera and the freedom it provides. I choose not to share details of my real life since they do not affect my second life.

29. Artsy, creative sort. Would sell my work if someone would do it for me.

30. Not a math bone in my body. Come from a family of engineers, bankers, math teachers & profs, interestingly.

31. Have a strong independent streak.

32. Love listening to music. Love it.

33. Also love scary movies even though I spend half the movie watching it from behind my hands.

34. Terminally naive.

35. Meiers-Briggs test revealed I was borderline extrovert/introvert.

Deadwood backstory

It is interesting how one’s life is not what you think it will be when you are a child. I was born into an upper class Boston family. My father is a successful, high-powered captain of industry. My mother is a well-bred Boston socialite. For reasons that will become apparent later, they shall not be named or further identified.
My childhood was one of privilege, and I had everything a child of wealthy, socially conscious parents could provide. My life from a young age was planned. Educated at home, attended the right finishing school, I made my debut into society at 18. Everything was arranged. Everything.
I do not know when I became aware of the strictures of my life, a life without want, to be sure, but a life without my say so in any form. It began as the slightest irritant, like a noisome fly just at the edge of my vision. My female friends did not possess this sense of confinement, this sense that there could be more to life. They were happy with new gowns, the social calendar, and never ending plans to land the right husband. I tried to quiet my growing restlessness.
I believe I was fairly successful until one afternoon when I was summoned to my father’s study. There my father announced that I was to be betrothed to the son of a business associate of my father’s. He sat back in his leather chair, pleased with himself. It would be an excellent match. Once the betrothal was announced, he and my future father-in-law would sign papers joining their businesses. They would make money hand over fist. I was told I could leave his study.
There was it. My life. I had no say in the matter. My wishes were not considered. I was merely a bargaining chip, an offering of my father in a business deal. I was given no more thought than one would to a piece of choice real estate or a racehorse.
Somehow I made it through the evening, but once alone in my rooms I began crying nonstop. Through that long night, an idea slowly formed in my head. I would leave Boston, head out West, make my fortune.
Looking back, I see how how naïve I was. My plan seemed simple and rather easy to implement, I thought. I could lay a hold of money, but cash made me a target for thieves. That much I knew. Those hours at hand embroidery gave me the skills to sew coins into the hem of my skirt and petticoats. Hanging around the kitchen enabled me to secret a small knife and lucifers. I traded some petticoats for a carpetbag with one of the understairs maids. The carpetbag I planned to pack a few items and food.
Of course, these preparations took weeks. I returned the knife after I overheard a whispered conversation between two servants that a kitchen maid was getting the blame for the lost knife. My skirts were too cumbersome with all the coins so I had to remove some so I could walk. Eventually I found an old knife in the potting shed and worked to sharpen it late at night. I could have completed my preparations sooner if I did not have to pretend to my parents that all was well.
On a calm night in early spring, I made my escape. After days of indecision my parents decided to attend a dinner party in a nearby town. I waited an hour to make certain they would not return, then changed into what I thought of as practical, sturdy clothing, grabbed my carpetbag and slipped out the study door.
I did not know then how much I did not know. Boston debutants may know an impressive number of dances, how to host gatherings, and the latest fashion, but they know nothing about how most of the country lives. I made it to St. Louis but I used up a lot of my money. I slept on trains and wagons when I could not find lodging. For the first time in my life I was hungry. I didn’t like being dirty. I didn’t like being scared.
It was late afternoon six weeks after I had left Boston. I think it was six weeks, but I cannot be sure. The adventure of being on my own had worn thin, and I was acutely aware of how alone I was. I didn’t know what I was doing or where I was going. The train station somewhere in the middle of the country marked the end of the civilized world as I knew it. What now? Could my father track me here? Would he still be looking? I stood out in the crowd since I was by myself without the requisite maid accompanying me.
I doubted my decision to leave Boston. Should I try to stay in a city? My money was running out and I had no ideas how to get more.
A foreign looking gentleman on the other side of the track platform caught my attention. He carried two battered suitcases and a rug rolled under his arm. He was made taller by the large feathers on the crown of his hat. Looking around and checking a piece of paper in his hand, he seemed as lost as I felt. I decided I needed a friend, and I did something I never would have done in Boston. I walked over to him, and when he saw me he sat down one suitcase and held out the paper toward me.
“Help please,” he asked in a heavy unknown accent.
I leaned closer and saw it was a train ticket he held out.
“Oh.” I stepped back, unsure. He seemed harmless. His large brown eyes stared guilelessly at me. His ticket was for the same train as I planned to take. I held my breath, then said, “That’s my train. Follow me.” Now why on earth was I helping this gentleman? I can only guess that I needed someone to talk to. My father would never hire a foreigner so I knew this gentleman would not return me to Boston.
“You go to Saint Louis, too, Miss?” he asked hopefully.
Hesitantly, I nodded. What was I doing? I stopped in my tracks, suddenly, causing the gentleman to stumble. “I apologize, sir. I do not know your name.”
“Solution, Miss.” Sitting a suitcase down, he pointed to himself and proudly announced, "Halo Miss, I am the Gatsby Szuster My name in middle is Andrezej Bolus.” He waited.
I have learned many new things since I left Boston, but the most useful to date is not to act like the stuffy well bred young lady I was raised to be. I can make friends without the proper social connections. It’s done all the time here in the West. I can do this.
“Miss Puchkina, sir. I am pleased to make your acquaintance,” I replied a bit too loudly. I held out my hand.
A whistle blew. “Our train!” Grabbing our bags, we hurried to the train and found seats across from each other. The train lurched and slowly picked up speed.
Mr. Szuster settled his suitcases next to him and leaned his rug against the outside wall by a window. My battered carpetbag rested on my lap as I quietly looked about me. Elderly couple across the aisle, some empty seats, two families, some traveling salesmen with large sample suitcases, and a lone man sitting 3 rows behind me. He was staring out the window. I leaned back and closed my eyes.
“Pardon, Miss,” Mr. Szuster whispered some time later. I sat up, blinking and slightly confused. “You have friend? Here? Not me?”
“No,” I replied. “I am traveling alone. Without a servant. I am fine by myself.”
He shook his head and whispered, “No, no. Man behind you. Keeps looking at you. He’s walked by one, two times. Why?”
Oh no! As I set the carpetbag on the seat, I tried to get a better look at the man. Couldn’t see much with the other passengers in between us. Hired thug sent to return me to my father’s loving arms? Perhaps.
“Where are you going, sir. May I go with you?” Mr. Szuster seemed safe if somewhat old. I had to trust someone and this was a big foreign someone who could throw off the thug’s suspicions. A couple traveling west would be a perfect disguise for me.
“I go West. Far west. To ranch and raise horses. I start new life.” He looked at me suspiciously.
“Lovely, that is lovely. You misunderstand.” I waved my hands to show I did not suggest something unsavory. “May I suggest a business relationship? I need someone to help me get the same place you are going.” Thinking fast had never been my strong suit. The train slowed down as it approached a station. Passengers began gathering their belongings. A baby cried at the front of the train car.
Mr. Szuster considered my offer, thoughtfully pulling on his beard. He was quiet.
“Miss, I do not tell you where I am going. Just west.”
“That man you see might try to do me harm. Please. I will pay.” Engaged in our negotiations, neither of us noticed that the suspected thug was standing behind me.
“Well, well, well. Miz Puckina, I thought that was you. Not many fine ladies out this far west,” a deep voice drawled. “You and me have some business.” The stranger we’d been watching laid a meaty hand on my shoulder.
I yelped, surprised.
Mr. Szuster stood up and took a step forward. “You mistake. Miss have no business with you. Leave.” He glared at the thug. “Now. Go.” The entire train car was dead silent, families frozen in their efforts to disembark. I didn’t know if Mr. Szuster had a gun, but I was fairly certain the other man did. I sat stone still.
The two men stared at each other, not willing to give ground. Matters might have ended differently had not the burly conductor made an entrance.
“Final stop, ladies and gen. . .” he began. “What’s going on? You two break it up,” he walked closer, threatening. The baby resumed its crying. Spell broken, I spoke quickly.
“Nothing is wrong, sir. This man has mistaken me for someone else. I am traveling with Mr. Szuster here.” I grabbed my bag and stood between the two. “Let’s go. We have a stagecoach to catch.” I pulled at Mr. Szuster’s coat sleeve.

And this is how a well-bred Boston lady got to Deadwood, to start a new life, what ever that may be. Safe. For now.

The Science of Cooking

Today was Thanksgiving. That means food, and lots of it.
I gave the household staff the day off so they could be with their families. I am struggling with the need for domestics and what I am learning about the women's movement. For this holiday, my suffragette feelings won over the practical needs for Cook to make the traditional feast. She felt guilty, despite her barely suppressed joy at a day off, and prepared as much as she could for us beforehand. Without means to keep food fresh, we have to go to the store daily. So I left before noon for the store to pick up the few fresh supplies I needed.

Cook had plucked the turkey and readied it the night before. She left it on ice in the cold house. Side dishes were mostly ready to go into the oven which I had stoked before dawn. Setting the table the night before saved me precious time.

It took longer than I wished at the general store. Crowded and noisy, the place was jammed with servants and women of breeding, but I located the food I required. Walking home took additional time because I was laden down with my purchased goods.

I didn't notice how quiet the house was as I set down my bags. Typically I can hear him in the study working or parlor playing music. First order of business was to get the turkey in the oven. I realized the turkey was missing when I entered the cold house. Missing? How could that be? I searched anyway, knowing in the back of my mind that it was gone.

Maybe my Dear had decided to help out and had started the turkey, but when I opened the oven door, I saw that was not the case. Missing turkey. House empty. No Thanksgiving meal. I spun around the kitchen in frustration and that's when I noticed the note.

In his careful script, the note told me that he had tried to start the turkey cooking but did not think the oven was sufficiently heated. He took the turkey to his factory. What?

The man is a genius, no doubt, but not always practical. I dropped the note and raced for his factory.

Before I reached the door, I could smell something metallic and unidentified. Pulling open the heavy door, I was thrown off balance for a minute but in those few seconds I saw a horrifying sight. No, he surely didn't.

But yes, he did. With a sheepish grin, he pointed to a large lump, suspended in the center of the a large bowl like object. I stepped closer. It gleamed and reeked of burnt flesh and metal.

"What is that?"

"Well, my idea didn't work exactly as I hoped. The plan was to rapidly cook the turkey by pouring metal around the flesh of the bird. It, ah, coated the turkey instead. The idea is solid but I will have to adjust the flow of the metal," his voice trailed off as he caught the horrified look on my face.

"You mean our Thanksgiving turkey is now covered in metal?" He nodded.

Speechless, I turned and returned home.

Nothing At All

Awakening early, I slip out of bed, put on a robe, and pad quietly to the kitchen where I fix a pot of coffee. When it's ready, I pour myself a cup and sit on the front porch.

Living outside the city walls afford me privacy; I prefer to think that the walls contain the soot and danger.

Birds eat at the feeder. A breeze cools my coffee.

Not yet fully awake, I sip my coffee and watch the birds.

The morning air is cool. My thoughts wander, much like the birds flying around. Thinking back to the newspaper, I wonder that the city is filled with mystery and danger, yet I am able to move about uninvolved.

Is that good?