Author Archive
general
Legends
Narrative

Street of the Kiss

So, in Guanajuato, Mexico there’s a place called Calle de los Besos. Um, and it’s just translated to Street of the Kiss, where this couple lived on opposite ends of the sleep. The woman lived with her family, and the man was a traveler. And every night they would talk and then kiss good-night, and then one night the woman’s father came home from work late and saw that they kissed, and he was furious and he said :If you ever kiss him again, I’m gonna make sure he’s dead and he just freaked out, and so she promised to never kiss him again, And then some weeks passed and she didn’t keep her promise, and then again one night the dad came home late and saw that they had kissed and so he goes up to the guy’s room and kills him, and she freaks out, and she’s really depressed. And then she kills herself. And then now today whenever you cross that street, visitors or anybody, you kiss each other on the 7th step, because there’s like steps on the street. On the seventh step you kiss your significant other, otherwise it’s like 7 years of bad luck for you. But if you’re single nothing happens to you.

This legend tells the story of the town, and tells how the custom of kissing when crossing this certian street came to be. The story also tells us about the culture of the town. For instance, one might infer from the story that it comes from a culture where fathers have a lot of control over their daughter’s love lives, and the father’s extreme reaction, while drastically over the top, is considered within the realm of possibility. It also tells us that the town culture may identify as romantic and passionate.

Legends
Narrative

Queretaro’s Aqueduct of Love

In Queretaro, Mexico there’s basically a bridge with arches that runs from one side of the city to the other. And the story is that they used to be two separate cities at the end of both bridges, and on one side of the bridge lived a nun in a monastery, and on the other side of the bridge lived this really rich man and the really rich man lived, oh the really rich man fell in love with the nun, and the whole reason there is a bridge is that it’s basically an irrigation system, because the nun had to get water from the other city because that’s the only way she could because there was no water in her own city, and so, um, the rich man built this bridge that is an irrigation system that brings water from his city to her city. And that’s basically the story. That’s the story of why the bridge is there. It’s like famous. It’s in Mexico.

This is a really romantic legend that attempts to explain the history of the town’s bridge-aqueducts. The bridge is very long, very beautiful, and fairly unusual. Regardless of whether the tale is true or false, it is a lovely explanation for the construction, and reveals some information about the city’s culture and values. We see that the city likely values religious commitment (the nun does not break her vows), but people of Queretaro also seem to feel the love of a man for a woman (perhaps particularly an unattainable one) can inspire great and beautiful actions, like the construction of the aqueduct bridge. The extremeley romantic explanation for the bridge also clearly suggests the city’s prioritization of romance and beauty.

general
Legends
Narrative

Irish Banshee

The Banshee was another story I was told about, but not by my parents. My brother used to tell me this to scare me. At night we were outside and there was like a howl, or uh, something that I didn’t recognize, and um, he knew what it was but told me it was a banshee, which is . . . like a woman spirit/witch wanders about at night time crying out with high wails when there is going to be, like, a death in the family and whoever hears it, their family will be effected. Needless to say it scared the hell out of me and I was relieved when no one was dead the next morning! Ha, haha!

Legends about fairies and elves are very important in Ireland. “Believing” in the fair folk, whether you actually believe or not, is considered patriotic. Children raised in Ireland are expected to know of and participate in the belief of the fair folk, although, as is the case with my friend, they largely grew out of the belief of these legends as they grew older.

Folk Beliefs
general
Initiations

Cracking Jaw Causes Brain Cell Explosion

You know that crackling, snapping sound you hear in your ears when you yawn? When I was a kid in middle school, the other kids were always trying to come up with medical-sounding, crazy ways to explain normal things a body does. And everything you did seemed to cause brain cells to die, because that was the worst thing imaginable. For a while everyone was saying that when your jaw cracks, what you’re actually hearing is the sound of your brain cells exploding. Which was super bizarre and frightening. I think they knew that wasn’t true, but we all started freaking out about it.

This explanation the kids created to explain the sound their cracking jaw made, seems like an idea kids would tell other kids to scare them like they had been scared. These frightened children would then tell their parents, who would tell them this wasn’t true. This led to a cycle of initiation, as kids scared their peers with this pseudo-medial knowledge for status. As middle school kids are often told it’s important they develop their brains, and take drug education courses focusing on how drugs negatively impact their brain’s development, it seems natural that at this age there would be so much fear that they could be causing their precious brain cells to explode.

Legends
Narrative

Bermuda Triangle

So when I was a kid, uh, when I was like 4 or 5 probably, I first heard about this whole thing with the Bermuda Triangle? My brother told me about it, probably. And he told me that basically it’s this place in the Atlantic Ocean where if you fly over it you, like any of the planes that would fly over it would crash, they’d all crash, and like everyone would die. That’s like the 7 year old kid version, I guess. But . . . and then over the years I heard that it was more like there were mysterious disappearances and stuff, um. Wait, who was the famous pilot? There was a famous pilot, uh, uh, uh . . . um, Amelia Earheart, maybe? . . . There was a famous pilot who went down in the Bermuda Triangle. And there were a bunch of maybe World war 2 related things as well, where planes went down mysteriously, like, without any weather or anything, they would just go off radar, and then they would, the plane would disappear. Um, so a lot of people would dispute that it was like aliens or something. Some sort of mysterious energy, like magnetic energy over this triangular area of the ocean that made planes crash, and then the pilots were like abducted or something, or taken by, by the squid people of the Bermuda, I don—something like that.
It was kinda scary, cause we traveled a lot when I was younger. And we would fly over the Bermuda Triangle sometimes, and I would be like, “Uh, oh! We’re going to die! We’re gonna get captured by the squid people!”

The unexplained disappearances and technological failures of the Bermuda Triangle remain fascinating, because in a world where all seems explainable, all of us still feel helpless and ignorant in the face of the ocean, or when in an airplane flying across the globe. American explanations for the Bermuda Triangle tend to be exclusively scientific, or science fiction oriented. American is obsessed with science and the future, but when we were pushing the limits of technology during the time when circumnavigating the globe by airplane was becoming possible, planes, such as Amelia Earhart’s, would at times disappear without a trace. That mankind still did not possess the technology to fully explore the globe by air fascinated the nation. Even now the legend of the Bermuda Triangle is prevalent. My friend is particularly fascinated by it because he traveled as a child and was very frightened of their plane getting lost.
In this case his older brother, who did not believe the story, told him the story to scare him. When my friend grew older, however, he no longer believed the story either. Growing out of believing in stories like the Bermuda Triangle or the Loch Ness monster are signs one is maturing and entering adulthood.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Myths
Narrative

The Gray Man

This is an Icelandic folktale. There was a farmer and his wife who lived out in the countryside. They never locked their door at night. One night an extremely large, gray man appeared. Without saying a word he went to their pantry, sat down and drank their milk. He then left.
The second night he came back, drank the milk and left again without a word.
The third night he came again, drank the milk but as he was about to leave he turned around and addressed the farmer and his wife: You would do well to lock your door, there are a lot worse things out there than me.

This a myth about Iceland’s hidden people. It illustrates the relationship between the people of Iceland and these fairy-like creatures. The farmer and his wife know the spirit keeps returning to their house, but they allow it and see the visits as benign. However the story is also a cautionary tale, and could be a bogeyman-type story to caution or encourage children, or even adults, to keep the doors of the house locked. The myth observes the rule of 3, which is predominant in the West.

general
Legends
Narrative

Georgetown Chupacabra

There was a guy in Georgetown who heard noises outside of his trailer. He grabbed a gun that for some reason he kept in his run-down trailer, he ran outside to find a chupacabra. A chupacabra is like a goat-eater, is what it’s also called. I don’t really know what it looks like. But in this case I hear that what he shot at might have actually been a sick, hairless, bear cub, which is pretty sad. Anyway, the guy shoots at it and misses, then shoots again and kills the thing. He said when he shot it, it was screaming “like a four year old girl.” Which is a really disturbing analogy, because, how, precisely, would he know? Anyway, that’s what I heard. It happened in the town just over from ours. The guy was a big hick, and he went to high school, I think, with our high school economics teacher.

This is a FOAF story that happened in the performer’s hometown. It definitely gives a feel for the town identity. As the performer of this story lives nearby the town where the chupacabra was allegedly found, she knows the area and is familiar with what bear cubs look like. She is fond of the story, because it is quickly becoming a town legend, and has apparently made the town infamous, where before the town was too small to be of any note. The story has become part of the town identity.

Folk Beliefs
Initiations
Legends
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Walt Disney Frozen and Buried at Cal Arts

Walt Disney is buried under the unfinished, in, well, Walt Disney is buried in the unfinished sublevel. And frozen. Well it’s just gotten around. When I had the CSSSA students, I told them Walt Disney was frozen in the sublevel. And one night we found them downstairs trying all the doors, because when we took the kids and we took them to Disney studios, they asked the animators there, “Is Walt Disney really frozen and buried in the sublevel at Cal Arts?” And they all said, “Yes, of course he is.” And so that’s passed on through generation after generation. He died in 60, 67. Which is when Cal Arts started building, it was built, 69, 70.

CSSSA animators are high school students enrolled in a summer course at Cal Arts in the hopes of being accepted to the world famous animation school when applying for college. Here my professor told her CSSSA students that Walt Disney was buried in campus because they were uninitiated into the Cal Arts Animation family and couldn’t know any better. The animators the students visited at Disney backed up this story because they, too, were initiated members of the animation industry. The students eventually learned that their mentors were pulling their collective leg, and by learning this started the process of becoming indoctrinated as members of the animation culture, and potentially as future Cal Arts students.

Legends
Narrative

Adam Beckett, the Optical Printer Ghost

So this is the story of Adam Beckett. He was an experimental animator at Cal Arts, and, who did, do you remember I showed, no maybe I didn’t show you, but really important historically, he’s important as an animator, he did a lot of work with the optical printing, and step printing and things like that. And he would spend hours upon hours, and days upon days in the printer room at Cal Arts. On the first floor. Adam Beckett was an extreme person. And somehow he managed to electrocute himself in his bathtub when he was quite young. This was in the late 70s. And so at Cal Arts there were always rumors that Adam Beckett haunted the optical printer room. And many students of mine, at Cal Arts, came to tell me that Adam Beckett was haunting their films. Film reels were flying around the room. And so to this day, there’s still rumors that he haunts the optical printer room, but, the only thing is, the question is whether it’s the optical printer or the printer room, because they’ve changed over the years.

This ghost story is part of the Cal Arts college community. My professor told this story very dramatically, because she was actually trying to scare me and make me believe it. Perhaps this is because she believes the story, but it seemed more to me that she was trying to sell the tale to me because I am one of the uninitiated animators who don’t fit into the Cal Arts clique of the study and profession of animated film. Those who study Cal Arts might believe this story, or they might tell it as an inside joke to scare new students and outsiders, or as a joke or excuse to cover why they didn’t finish their optical printing assignment to their instructor. Whether they believe it or not, the ghost story gives Cal Arts students and staff a sense of community, and their school’s prestigious history in the field of animation.

Customs
Humor
Initiations
Legends
Myths
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Berkeley-Stanford Ax Story

In the late 1800s, there were two universities in the Bay area. One of them was the University of California in Berkeley and the other was a small junior college across the bay founded by the criminal Leland Stanford Junior. These schools had a sports “rivalry.” Basically, each year, Cal would Beat the junior college in track, football, baseball, and other sports. The Junior college were running low on money to fund their failing sports program. They were so desperate that they were considering cutting down their redwood tree mascot. However, before they could, a meteor came down and crashed in the sewage at Stanford. This sewage splashed on the walls of all the buildings of the college. To this day, the buildings are still covered with this excrement which give the buildings at Leland Stanford Junior College their distinctive adobe appearance and smell. The female college students decided to take the meteor to a blacksmith and have it shaped into an ax They would use this ax to rally around during sports games. Only the female Stanford students were strong enough to carry it, and to this day, any male Stanford student who is able to lift the as, all by himself, will be crowned King of Bowdell Hall ( the women’s dorm). Anyway, the Stanfurdians brought this ax to the Cal-Stanford games with no effect. During the first football game with the ax, which Stanfurd naturally lost, some Cal athletes watching the game decided to steal the ax for a trophy. They were pursued by Stanfurd students to San Francisco where the Cal students had decided to get the handle taken off the ax,. There was a crazy pursuit through San Francisco. The police searched all Cal students on their way back to Berkeley through Oakland but were unable to find the ax since a Cal student hid it under an old girlfriend’s skirt. The next year, Stanford almost stole the ax back. Cal was just about to catch the Stanfurdians as they crossed a bridge on their way back to Palo Alto, but the bridge was raised before they could cross it. It was later discovered that the bridge operator was a suma cum laude graduate from the Leland Stanford Junior College Engineering school. It was the best job he could find. Cal and Stanford continued to steal the ax from each other. The robberies grew so intense that the leaders of the respective schools decided that the ax would be awarded to whoever won Big Game each year.

This funny story is told to freshman Berkeley students as a means of initiation. The story gives a history of the school, the Ax tradtion, and it’s age-old rivalry with the nearby Stanford, telling how these things came to be. Any true UC Berkeley student or alumni would be intimately familiar with this story and able to recount it as a member of the Cal community. Often the story is recounted over a bonfire to get students excited for the “Big Game.”

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