X Marks the Spot

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X is for when I sought to find tracing paper and a calligraphy quill fashioned out of a crow’s tail feather from the backyard.

Oh the exhaustion of reaching X, be it in the alphabet or through perilous trials landing at the X of a pirate’s map. To be sure, you have arrived. But as of December 13th, you don’t have a map in hand, since it hasn’t been provided by that Gunmetal Pirate who’s been promising you a treasure hunt for months. When you do come back with a map, or rather, with the instructions and riddles whose clues lie in the treasure hunt posts, the above babble might make sense to you.

So yes, do ignore that April publish date, I’m a cheater. This post is actually being written in December, which means it’s taken your weary Pirate Geisha eight months to get here. Kill me — I’m incapable of making anything easy for myself. In the end, every cheating alphabet post took up hours of painstaking culling of images along with pertaining words — which still couldn’t help sneak in a bit of me and my neuroses.

Meanwhile, no one knows these posts exist, because they were privately “published” basically a year ago, only to be filled with content recently. For every week that it appears as if I’m not posting anything new, I lose about a thousand readers (yeah yeah, figuratively). Still, I tend to these April, read-by-no-one alphabet posts like they’re prisms in some torturous rainbow leading to a dubious pot.

Grates and Rails

Turns out there are X’s everywhere.


At least the treasure hunt I’m devising — to get you to meander through these effortful pictorials of mine — won’t be dubious. Why? Because it’s a treasure hunt inspired by this spectacular fairy party, and Tintin.

Wait, you don’t know Tintin?!

Allow me the pleasure of educating you in the elegant, eighty-year-old comic. Not only have I geeked over Tintin for forty years (I’m a vampire, dammit, just forget my age), but dream about it. By “dream” I mean during my nighttime sleep as a midlifey (but still alluringly youthful*) woman. (*It’s fucking true. That’s not my vanity talking, it’s my panic — I’m old!)

Anyway, here’s some Tintin math for you: Since I was seven, I’ve read each of the the twenty-four Tintin books no less than two dozen times in four languages (Farsi, English, French and Italian). My dreams consist of new or undiscovered Tintin adventures — a sort of involuntary slumberland fan fiction. Hence, they’re dreams of longing, like every other recurring dream of mine.


Tintin.com does a masterful job of defining the Belgian comic:

“The Adventures of Tintin were a veritable initiation into geography for entire generations. The international expeditions undertaken by the young reporter opened people’s eyes to countries, cultures, landscapes and natural phenomena that were still relatively unheard of. From the sands of the Sahara to the glaciers of the Himalayas, from the Amazon rainforests to the Scottish highlands, Hergé’s pictures overflow with details revealing a world full of wonder, danger and excitement – a passionate introduction to Planet Earth.”

“Combining breathtaking tales and clear linegraphics, Tintin is, of course, much more than the intrepid hero whose cause is just and whose heart is pure: he is the centre piece of a complex universe where we are placed face to face with our own reality.”


Incidentally, if you want to understand the extent of my “geeking over” Tintin, on the site’s not-in-English quiz, I scored 100% even with my shoddy, out-of-practice French.

Around the age of seven, I first read The Secret of the Unicorn, with its adventure trail of pickpockets, a trio of antique model ships, and pirate legends leading to three cryptic pieces of parchment. Uniting the three revealed a set of symbols joining into latitude and longitude coordinates — a treasure map.


Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 12.42.59 PM

Immediately after, I sought to find tracing paper, ink, a candle, and from the backyard, a calligraphy quill fashioned out of a crow’s tail feather. I wanted to recreate the riddles, overlap them and illuminate the result above candlelight.

The purpose wasn’t to find make-believe treasure, but to create a step-by-step puzzle.

Some forty years later (gulp), the brain shared by that seven-year-old is filled with the same “wonder and excitement” at possibility, and at creating a treasure hunt.


Courtesy of the wealth of resource that is the internet, and nothing to do with my (clumsy) attempt at the age of seven.

Some of you have signed up to receive instructions and a start date for such a treasure hunt. When it’s all set to go, you’ll be the first notified. Thanks for bearing with me.

In the meantime, let me continue the alphabet/pictorial tradition with a series of X’s. Yeah, they’re there. You don’t even have to look too closely:

Shadow and Light


Sky and Subway

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~ Part of the A to Z Challenge ~
A post a day except Sunday for the month of April to cover topics beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Events always real, names always changed.

Cathartic Monkeyism returns in May.

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  1. Something fun is lurking here. I’m aware of Tintin, but have not read him. The first real book I remember reading, with help (yes, that young), was Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo, followed by jules Verne (all), Treasure Island, and onward. Treasure hunt, you say – Hmmmm.

    1. I think the first book I read without help was Pippi Lonstocking.


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