Dancing with Gogos

Crashing through the Underbrush by Gary P Cornelius



Excerpt from...
Chasing Ivory

Will Mike and Penny and other authorities solve the mystery of the ivory-handled knife and the trail of death connected to it? Or will deadly and determined ivory smugglers have the last say?

“It’s a trap,” Penny yelled. “Let’s get the hell out of here!”

But it was too late. The sedan pulled from behind the old school, spewing gravel and dust. They could see that a woman was driving, the other occupant a man. Their car headed straight toward Mike’s small Volkswagen as fast as the other car’s driver could gain speed in the forty or so yards between them. Penny knew instinctively what the attackers were likely to do: slam into Mike’s car to disorient and injure its occupants, then finish them off with bullets before they could react. There was no time to escape by car, nor to mount a defense. Mike saw too there was no time to drive away from this predicament.

“The building!” Penny shouted.

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Excerpts and Reviews from
Dancing with Gogos

a first-person account of his 14 months living in Zulu villages with the Peace Corps

Review by Jack Allison, Peace Corps volunteer

Was I invited?

Excerpts and Reviews from
Crashing Through the Underbrush

Stories of struggle and perseverance in the world of disabilities

Pete Ruby for NAMI.org
Lauri G. Khodabandehloo at Amazon.com
L. Stanley at Amazon.com

Chapter Excerpts:
Rockabye Baby

Excerpt from Chasing Ivory

She opened the car door, jumped out, and Mike followed her from the driver’s seat, clamoring over the gearshift to avoid taking the extra two or three seconds he would have needed to exit on the driver’s side and run around behind the vehicle. But Penny slowed long enough to pull her .45 out of its holster, causing Mike, charging behind her, to knock her to the ground, where he then tripped over her. She hadn’t had opportunity to get the standard, firm two-handed grip and the weapon flew from her hand and skittered across the hard-packed gravel. It stopped spinning 10 feet away. She considered, for the briefest of seconds, going after the gun. She remembered the number one rule emphasized in weapons training at the academy, shared only somewhat humorously by the firearms instructor: “If you want to win a gunfight, don’t lose your gun”. But it was too late. The car had moved to its left and was now heading straight toward them, rather than at Mike’s car.

Penny estimated it was going 30 miles an hour and she could see there was no time to run 10 feet, grab the weapon, and still have time to take cover or enter the building before the killers‘ car would strike them both. She grabbed Mike’s hand and pulled him toward the entrance.

She could see the door wasn’t locked, but when she pushed against it, it didn’t open. Too many cold, wet Alaskan winters had warped the wooden door frame, causing the door to jam. Mike threw his shoulder against the door as hard as he could. It gave, but only a foot. It was enough. Both squeezed through the opening as their assailants’ car stopped and the driver fired two rounds at them as she skidded to a stop. The abrupt halt affected her aim and both shots missed, but not by much.                      

Just inside the entrance, across a hallway, was another room, what might once have been the main office, and beyond that a door to another room. Mike had a fleeting thought: looks just like the school I went to in fifth grade. Mrs. Farmer’s class. He recalled with clarity the most memorable day of fifth grade at Terwilliger School: November 22, 1963. President Kennedy had been shot in Texas and the principal had spoken over the intercom to announce the tragedy. Mrs. Farmer had turned down the lights and instructed all to lay their heads down on desks and take a moment of silence in honor of the dead president. Mike had said a quiet prayer for Kennedy.

Back in the present, Mike said another quick and quiet prayer as Penny pulled him through the office door and into the room beyond, closing its door behind them. They darted across open space, seeking cover. They couldn’t see this, but after sliding to a dusty stop, the man and the woman exploded from the sedan and the man came after them. The woman charged around the right side of the building, on foot, in search of another entrance in an effort to surround them or prevent their escape through a back door.

Dancing with Gogos review by Jack Allison, Peace Corps volunteer

"Gary Cornelius has written an inviting Peace Corps memoir in minute detail, interspersed with cogent quotes and anecdotes, including entries from his blog posts.

The first 130 pages of Dancing with Gogos deal meticulously with training. Cornelius  particularly had difficulty with learning Zulu, his least favorite aspect of training, yet the book is full of key Zulu words and phrases — as well as instructive commentary about South African customs and cultural differences. He also introduces the term “internalized oppression” as “the opposite of empowerment,” and gives brief relevant examples of that.

Cournelius’s final reflection is a profound “reality check” revelation for the reader, especially RPCVs:

While I was in Africa I read that Peace Corps’ entire budget for its first fifty years was an amount equal to what the U.S. government spends on its military/defense every five days. I read recently that we’ve spent  about $5 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Imagine what could have been accomplished if we had spent half that much on pursuing peace."

Read the full review here

"Dancing with Gogos" Excerpt:

"One Friday afternoon, early in my learning curve about Zulu custom, when I had no plans for the weekend, Sendile told me that there would be a “traditional” event that involved slaughtering three goats and serving other food and drink the next day. I was not specifically invited so I didn’t join the many people who gathered in the family compound. I stayed in my cinderblock house and read and drank instant coffee, listened to music, worked on a blog entry and played Solitaire on my laptop. About five o’clock Sendile came in and asked if I had gone someplace that day, since he hadn’t seen me. I told him I hadn’t come because I wasn’t invited. He expressed amazement at this, explaining that no invitation was necessary because it’s understood in Zulu culture that when someone in the village hosts an event like this, you just show up, especially if you’re a man, without being invited. There are certain exceptions, such as a traditional wedding celebration, perhaps, but for most events, no invitation is necessary.

I explained that in the U.S. showing up at a party uninvited is called “crashing.” It is frowned on and “usually, no good comes from that since it often means the host runs out of food and drink, people get angry and drunk, neighbors get upset at all the noise and chaos, police are called to break up the annoying party and, often, people end up going to jail for disturbing the peace, resisting arrest,  underage drinking or supplying alcohol to a minor. Everybody loses!”

It’s especially a problem in a college town like the one where I live, I told him. We both had a good laugh and I promised that henceforth I would crash his parties even if I wasn’t invited. A few minutes later Hlonie arrived with a big plate of food for me, including the last of the goat brains."

"Crashing Through the Underbrush" Review by Pete Ruby for NAMI.org

"Cornelius has taken on a difficult assignment. He has created a fictional story about his real life experiences while working in the mental health field. The ample dialog allows the reader to experience the emotions and caring manner of the individuals. The focus, then, is not on the textbook definition of what a mental illness is but on the human interactions of people who have mental health disabilities.

The NAMI library needs more fictional, mental health books; especially for people who learn more when they stay away from facts and figures."

Lauri G. Khodabandehloo
I read Crashing Through the Underbrush in two days, it was eye-opening and in some instances, I had to giggle...but it also brought out the truth of how those who are so voiceless and in many cases, so very misunderstood, live. I have an entirely new concept of the people I see who wander this world with less than most of us have, and deserve much, much more...a must read for many reasons...loved it!

L. Stanley
I purchased Crashing through the underbrush on Sunday and finished it on Monday. I found the writing to have a compelling quality to it, each chapter finished made me want to turn the page to the next.
In the end, what I most enjoyed about it, was the way the author, Gary Cornelius, took everyday people, people we would ordinarily in our own lives avoid having any contact with. You know the ones I mean. You see them everyday wandering the streets of your community: the wandering homeless, those camped under bridges, highway overpasses, or standing at freeway off ramps holding a sign.
What's your first thought, get a job, get a life, or something else equally as demeaning? What Cornelius has done is to take these people and presented them as people we have known: family members or friends, those whose own lives have been taken over by mental illness or poor choices. It reaffirmed my belief that we are all fragile creatures and often it takes very little to push us over the edge. It is definitely worth reading.

Chapter: "Rock-a-bye Baby":

. . . . . Other renters had heard or seen the police car pull up, followed shortly by my unmarked, but official-looking vehicle. It had screeched to a halt in a cloud of dust in the gravel parking lot. Some people came out on their porches to see what the ruckus was about; others were looking through their front windows.

Unger and I discussed how we would handle taking Linda into custody. Sometimes these things went easily -- those you thought would fight cooperated completely -- but other times they went sideways. People fought, sometimes viciously, and it took several officers to subdue them. Sometimes people got hurt. Unger said he could call for backup, but the nearest unit was 30 minutes away and was busy working a log truck accident.

We decided not to wait, but agreed Linda should be given the chance to cooperate -- even if it meant yelling through the door -- before we resorted to a forced entry and a take down. We headed for unit 8, not sure what to expect.

I stood to the side of the front porch while Unger opened the screen and knocked loudly on the wooden front door. There was no answer. He knocked again, louder and longer, and announced himself.

“Linda? This is deputy Unger from the sheriff’s office. Can I talk to you?” Still no answer. He knocked again and tried the knob. Locked. “Linda, you need to go to the hospital for an evaluation. I have an order from a judge that says you have to go. I have to take you there, even if you don’t want to. It would best for all of us if you come with me.” Still no response.