Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tulum Mexico - Mondays Suck


       

            I was limping. Something had popped in my knee in the Grand Cayman after snorkeling in choppy waters. It was close to 100 degrees with high humidity in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. It felt like 110 degrees. We had disembarked from the boat from Cozumel. It was a yellow and blue boat that was air conditioned. It looked very much like the boats I traveled on from Los Angeles to Catalina. The attendants were dressed in black pants with white collared shirts. They stood at attention with their hands behind their backs like military sailors when we boarded.
            Playa Del Carmen was just south of Cancun. It was a resort town and it seemed to be crowded with young adults on some sort of school break. It was October so perhaps it was fall break. None of them were limping and I felt withered in their youthful presence. Todd was bouncing around pointing at the clear blue ocean and the off-white colored sand. He was acting like he had never seen the ocean before though we had both grown up in Southern California. I tried to ignore him. I was miffed. I had a dream of trying to call him in my sleep. I was just in an explosion and somehow survived with my phone intact. I called Todd but he never picked up. Then the explosion was on the news and he knew I was at the mall that exploded. And he still didn’t pick up the phone. When the concierge on the cruise called for a wakeup call that morning, I was angry.
            “Why don’t you pick up the phone when I call?”
            “What?” He looked confused.
            “I was calling you in my dream. You didn’t pick up.”
            “Um…I will have to remember to answer your dream calls. Sorry.” He hugged me but I still felt frustrated.
            We weren’t staying in Playa del Carmen. We were boarding a bus to Tulum. A middle aged man in a small tan sombrero held up a yellow wooden sign that was etched with Tulum. He waved his arm and about twenty of us started following him. We weaved through streets and I hobbled along. Men and women kept approaching us hawking their wares. I was used to Tijuana. This was not unusual. But it seemed odd in such a perfect, pretty town. This was not the real Mexico. This was tourist Mexico.
            A man approached. “A hat for you lady?” He was dressed in an aqua shirt with a Calvin Klein logo and Levis. I had never been approached by a street seller in name brand clothes.
            I waved him off.
            “You’ll need one where you are going. Believe me.”
            I hated hats. I once made a New Year’s resolution to wear more hats. I wore one in January and then lost the hat. I stopped making resolutions after that.
            The bus was as large as a Greyhound and it was mercifully air conditioned. The man took off his sombrero and picked up a microphone. His English was superb though heavily accented. His voice added ambience. During the bus ride to Tulum he talked about Mayan culture. He said we would be stopping at a Mayan co-op for a bathroom break and to shop.
            “There is a toilet in the back of the bus. Only number one. No number two.” He chuckled. I wondered what would happen if someone went number two.
            The drive to Tulum was smooth. The highway was impeccably paved. No bumps or crumpled pavement like in Belize.
            I had dim visions of the Mayan co-op. The native population in Mexico were treated differently than in the US. They weren’t given reservations. The Mexican government acknowledged that their land was everywhere. They were granted land for co-ops but, for the most part, the native population blended with the new population. Perhaps because there are 15.7 million of them and they represent 14.9% of the population. There are also 89 indigenous languages spoken in Mexico and they are accorded the same rights as Spanish. Could you imagine Cheyenne being on par with English?
            The co-op was not as you might imagine. It was similar to a mall or high end business center in the US. The building was classically Spanish but was decorated with the Mayan language. Inside were clean toilets though lacking in auto-flush. The rest of the co-op looked like a high-end gift store you might find in a high-end hospital in the US. It was large, airy and riddled with local crafts. We selected a Mayan chessboard set. All the prices were in US dollars and were not cut rate as in Tijuana. There was also no haggling. It was orderly, clean and it felt a lot like going to Macy’s.
            Back on the bus the tour guide started talking about Mel Gibson. Apocalypto. I had porous recollections. I watched the movie in bed as I weaved in and out of sleep.
            “Oh, we Mayans nearly had a heart attack watching that movie. Mayans did not sacrifice people.”
            I perked up. “Yeah, they did,” I told Todd.
            “I know they did.” He was frowning.
            I flicked my hand. “Propaganda. What is he doing trying to rewrite history and subtly shove it down our throats?”
            “He doesn’t want Mayans to look bad.”
            “Wouldn’t that make the trip more interesting? And on your left is where blood gushed from captives in order to address a drought or, I don’t know, because it was Monday and Mondays suck. Can you just imagine the blood spurting from their arteries?”
            “Quiet.”
            I must have been getting loud.
            Signs welcomed us to Tulum. The parking lot was dirt but orderly. All the buses parked in the same area. There were more buses than cars. The guide took us to a shopping and dining area.
            “Here is where you can eat fajitas and drink margaritas.” It was an open restaurant that looked to be in the throes of a busy hour. We continued on. On the right was a Subway. I had seen one in Carmen de La Playa as well. I didn’t like seeing the strip mall American staple nestled in a Mexican national park.
            The path to Tulum was long and winding. I kept replaying the Beatles song in my head as I walked along, grimacing and limping. Tulum was a walking tour and my snorkeling bum knee was slowing us down. When we got to the park it was expansive. But I was gob smacked by the beauty of it. The ruins were worn down like dog bones. They dotted the entire park like massive tombstones for an egomaniac or a head of state. Half way through the park I couldn’t walk anymore. The heat and the pain in my knee was crippling. I sat down on a gray stone.
            “Todd, go through the rest of the park and take pictures.”
            “I don’t want to leave you.” He looked sad.
            “Just go. I’m done.” I had reached my physical limit.
            He left with his iPhone ready to snap photos. I sat on the stone in the shade of a palm tree. Occasional gusts of coolish air from the sea calmed my brow. I could hear the ocean waves beating in the distance. I could see swaths of cerulean sea. Flashes of white sand. And then the iguanas. One crawled near me. We stared at each other. The iguana didn’t move and I didn’t flinch. This went one for several minutes and then the iguana lashed out its tongue and then quickly retracted it. It must have caught a small bug. I turned and four had crawled onto the ruins to my left. I was wilting in the heat and they were flowering. They seemed powerful and in my pain induced state I imagined them as beastly gods protecting me from the ghosts of Mayans ready to lob off my head. I thought of my blood trickling down the stone. I shook my head. Vacation was not a time to think of mortality. That was for Mondays because Mondays sucked.



            

Sunday, October 18, 2015

#Readathon Wrap Up

Which hour was most daunting for you? Hour five, if you can believe it. I needed sleep and I ended up spending a couple of hours napping. I fell asleep with my Kindle open and two books spread out across a pillow.

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae. There is just so much information packed on every page and her style is innovative and hypnotic.

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Maybe more Twitter interaction.

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? The excitement.

How many books did you read? I read part of the Gray Notebook by Josep Pla, Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia, Che by Jon Lee Anderson, The Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliott, The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway, The Will to Meaning by Viktor Frankl, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. So 7 books that I alternated between.

Which book did you enjoy most? The Adderall Diaries.

Which did you enjoy least? None.

If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? I was not, but hopefully I will be the next time around.


How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I am definitely going to participate as a reader. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

New Books

I recently purchased several new books. Here they are:

The Gray Notebook by Josep Pla
He is a Catalan writer and I was excited to see his journal translated into English. He mostly writes in Catalan and Amazon doesn’t seem to have any English translations of his works.
The Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliott
The diary format is compelling and his addiction to Adderrall even more so.
Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia
Not sure why I haven’t read this before. I’ve read other books by her. Excited to dive into this one.
Hyper by Timothy Denevi
It’s about living with ADHD. I can relate.
In a Free State by VS Naipaul
He won the Nobel Prize but I never made a study of his work.
Guerillas by VS Naipaul
Another book to study.
Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon
He is the modern day Graham Greene. Espionage and exotic locales make for exciting reading.
Bitch by Elizabeth Wurtzel
The number one critique of me. The political and social costs of being a bitch are immense.
The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith
I tend to read less about African history than other histories. I intend to rectify this.


There is always too much to read. I’m glad I am not addicted to TV or I would never make a dent in my reading list. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Present is Always the Present - A Journey to Trujillo, Honduras



The last leg of our cruise was Trujillo, Honduras. It was a new destination for the cruise line. We were told by a waiter that the President of Honduras had sat at our very same table only a few months prior and negotiated with cruise executives to make Trujillo a destination spot. We were dining in the Brazilian churrascaria on the ship. We were nibbling on a plate full of grilled meat. I was spearing a piece of filet mignon as the waiter continued on.
“The president was polite and excited. After dinner he smoked a cigar.” The waiter poured water into my cup.
“What was his name?” I was clueless as to Caribbean leaders.
“Oh, I can’t remember. But he seemed nice.”
I didn’t think any Caribbean leader could be nice. Centuries of colonialism and corruption did not make for nice leaders.
The next morning we headed for the gang way to board a small boat that would ferry us to Trujillo. There was no major port in Trujillo so the cruise had to dock far from the coast and relied on boats to get the passengers to land. The Norwegian cruise used their own boats as Trujillo seemed not to have any passenger boats of their own.
The climate was steamy and hot. Hotter than it was in Belize.
“Did we pack sunscreen?” Todd asked.
I forgot. Staying up until 2am in the main bar had scrambled my brain. I had drank far too many tropical drinks with wistful names like Paradise Peach, Bahama Mama and Caribbean Bliss.
“No. We should be fine.” I didn’t think we would be fine at all. I already felt battered by the sun.
The boat ride was miserable. The plexiglass windows blocked the sea breeze, which forced all the crammed passengers to fan themselves with books or brochures as sweat glided down our cheeks and foreheads with the grace of a seasoned surfer.
When we reached the small port, I could hear the thumping of Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus. There was an open bar that jutted out close to the pier and it was dedicated to playing American pop songs, apparently. When I stepped out of the rocking boat, I could read the chalk board sign near the bar. Margaritas, $4. Domestic beers, $3. I assumed everything was in US dollars.
“Domestic to Honduras?” I asked Todd.
Todd, who loves beer and collects bottle caps, ran into the bar. He came back a minute later.
“Domestic to the US,” he said.
“Well, that’s disappointing.”
We were directed, amidst the chaos of disembarking passengers, to a covered bus stop several hundred yards from the small barely there port. There were giant fans hanging above the bus stop, attached to the caramel colored wood, but it was only moving the hot air and provided little comfort.
“You’re here for the tour of Trujillo and day at the Botanical Gardens, yes?” The man who spoke was tall, light skinned and had a melodic tone to his English. He was wearing khaki pants and a yellow polo shirt embroidered with ‘Trujillo, Honduras”. There was a banana in a dark yellowish brown right below the words. Trujillo was on the Banana Coast and the emblem of the curved fruit would pop up all over the town and beach.
There was about ten of us lined up for the tour. The bus was small and thankfully, air conditioned. When we were all seated the tall man introduced himself.
“I am Rafael. How are you? We are so happy you are here. So happy. You are the second cruise ship to grace our town. Just yesterday the Carnival Cruise was here. Oh, we were so happy. So happy.”
“I guess they are happy here,” I whispered to Todd.
He chuckled but I could tell he was worrying about the sunscreen. I patted his hand.
“We’ll find a nice bottle cap for you.”
The bus lurched and then pulled out of the space.
We were able to circumnavigate Trujillo in less than an hour and that included a short walk past the town hall and Catholic Church. Trujillo looked withered and decayed by the salt air and jungle rot. Old colonial houses, some small and some large, suggested a political and social past that was no more. The largest of the houses used to be occupied by a British admiral and then by an executive of the United Fruit Company (UFC). The UFC was an American corporation founded in 1899 and traded in tropical fruit, mostly bananas. It competed with Dole but still managed to seize a monopoly throughout Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala.
I heard of UFC in my readings of Che Guevara. He made a journey to Trujillo. He swam in the sea and made friends in the local bars. He was nearly penniless but always managed to find his next meal or next drink. Che was likeable and people were always footing his bills. In his journal he wrote about the “evil” UFC. The company was not kind to the local people they employed and they never paid a fair price for the fruit that Hondurans, including Garifuna, harvested in the interior. They didn’t have to. They had a monopoly. UFC pillaged Honduras.
There isn’t much infrastructure in Trujillo. The roads are mostly unpaved and the main roads that are paved are pitted and rough. There seemed to be one main market and it looked sad. The windows were grayish with dust and I saw shelves that were scattered with Goya products and bare in many spots. The buildings and homes were colorfully painted though. We were told by Rafael that the mayor had allotted everyone in town paint prior to the first cruise ship arriving.
“We wanted Trujillo to be nice for you. Si? Yes.” He was leading us past the town hall to a patch of grass overlooking the coast. He stopped suddenly and opened his arms wide.
“The mayor is here, ladies and gentlemen.”
The mayor was a shade darker than Rafael but had a large mustache that nearly engulfed his face. He was dressed in black jeans and a black and white check button down shirt. He was smiling and waving to the tourists. Three women dressed in shorts and billowing sun hats started tittering. They were in their 50s and looked to be on the verge of breaking into a dance.
“Yay, the mayor,” said one of the women. She lifted her slim camera while the other two took out their iPhones. “Can I take a picture of you?”
The mayor, in a relaxed pose, kept smiling. He made no move to shake hands. Odd for a politician. I couldn’t think of any mayor, anywhere, I would be happy to see. Now if I were in Toronto, I might snap a photo of Rob Ford, who was still being an ass at the time I was in Trujillo. Just for humor sake. I would share it on FB. ‘Hey, want to see what a butt hole looks like’ or something equally inane and snide (bordering on mean) comment.
As people took pictures, I wandered near the overlook. I could see the cruise ship near the horizon and below I could see tourists shuffling past bars with thumping music advertising domestic beers. Domestic to the US, of course. Swim access was further west. Where the sand turned powdery and the green water looked clearer.
The sound of drumming could be heard. I turned and saw a handful of Garifuna children giving an impromptu recital for the tourists. There were two drummers. The girls were dressed in red and white checked school uniforms. They looked enraptured by the music and were laughing as they danced. There has to be a reason to be happy. My philosophy. The children had a reason. They were given the day off at school so they could welcome the tourists.
The Garifuna are African descendants and escaped slaves who live in Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras. There are several diaspora communities in Puerto Rico and throughout the United States. Rafael said they were “spicy”. It was the best word he could come up with to describe the immensely robust culture of the Garifuna. They have their own language but many speak Spanish and English. Rafael had pointed out that the brightest, most colorful homes in Trujillo belonged to the Garifuna. I wanted to learn more but we were shuffled off to the bus so we could board another bus that would take us to the botanical gardens and beach.
The second bus had no air conditioning. All the windows were open and hot drafts of air thrust at my face. My sweat did not dry. The ride seemed too long for an American pampered by cruise ships and central air conditioning.
The Botanical Gardens were new. This was evidenced by the perfectly crisp and neat sign announcing ‘Welcome to the Botanical Gardens’. We exited the bus and then boarded a tram, which reminded me of visiting Disneyland.
“Hello Americans. Yes. Welcome to the Botanical Gardens. Yes. I will now take you on a tour of the park. Yes.” The new tour guide was petite with long plaited hair. Her voice was also melodic (was this a Honduran trait?) and she ended, nearly every sentence, with ‘Yes’.
“On the right are poppies. Do you like poppies? Yes. On the left are roses, do you like roses? Yes. On the left is a mango tree. Do you like mangos? Yes. On the right, there are dragon fruits. Do you like dragon fruits? Yes.”
And it went on. Every plant in the garden. Yes. Yes. Then the monkeys.
“Do you like monkeys? Yes. They are monkeys who were born in Honduras. Yes. You can visit their cage later. Yes? You can feed them a banana. Yes.”
The monkeys stared at me. One was nibbling on a mango without once moving his eyes from me.
“What’s with the monkeys?” I asked Todd.
“Maybe they want a banana.”
“Can’t they see I don’t have a banana?”
“Maybe they are bored,” he offered.
“And I’m the attraction? Creepy monkeys.”
The tram kept chugging at such a slow pace that I felt like I was in a cage.
“I want to get past those damn monkeys.”
Slowly. Slowly. The monkey stare.
“I don’t have any bananas,” I yelled.
The tram turned a corner.
Thumping music again. This time Kesha. The tram stopped at a pool, crowded with people lounging and standing, neck deep in the water. Past the pool was a bar, tables, chairs and then the cool respite of the beach.
We waded in up to our necks. My limbs were drowning in cool water. The water, unlike in Cozumel and the Grand Cayman, was green and not blue. It was hot on the surface but underneath there were currents of slushy ice. A bee kept buzzing near my head. I swiped and swatted and moved into deeper water. The bee followed.
“Todd, get the bee from me.” I turned but he was gone. I saw him trudging in the sand towards the bar. “I hope you get me a drink.” If he didn’t come back with two drinks, I would take his.
He came back several minutes later with two drinks in hand. The pale yellow and salty rims let me know he got margaritas, the ambassador of Mexico.
“There were so many bees at the bar. There are bees all around. Can you believe there are so many bees?”
“Yeah, one has been buzzing around my head.”
“But there are way more by the bar and pool.” As he spoke three more bees arrived and started dancing around our drinks.
My face and shoulders were starting to feel a little like what basted meat might feel like. No sunscreen. I stayed in the water because outside the heat was oppressive.
Eventually, I got tired of swatting bees and my drink was now nothing more than melting ice. I decided to head for the pool.
The pool was crowded but there appeared to be less bees. The water was colder than the sea. I sighed. Todd began to discuss time and how it’s not linear but most likely circular.
“Time is an arrow,” I said drowsily.
“Not really. It’s more like a loop.”
I nodded and then, for a few brief seconds, I experienced déjà vu. Had I been on his beach before? Did I visit Honduras before? Or was I tormented by bees before? Familiarity flooded me. Perhaps I was a monkey in the past stealing bananas from the United Fruit Company. That’s why those moneys stared at me. I was them. They were me.
“I have a dead jellyfish.” My meandering thoughts were interrupted by a woman in a bikini. She had a stick and on the end of it she had skewered a gray, dead jellyfish. She pushed it towards me. “You can touch it. It’s dead. It won’t sting.”
I recoiled. It looked like a giant alien’s eyeball.
“Cool.” Some boy in neon orange shorts jumped out of the pool. “I want to touch.”
“But you see,” Todd went on, “The past is never the past and the future is never the future. But the present is always the present.”
He was beginning to resemble a boiled red potato. Rosy and overdone.
“Let’s go find you a bottle cap.”





Sunday, October 11, 2015

TitleAuthorGenderDate StartedDate FinishedPagesGenreFormat
The Will to MeaningViktor FranklM9/23/2015132Non-FictionPrint
Hunting EichmannNeal BascombM10/1/2015606Non-FictionEbook
The DescendantsKaui Hart HemmingsF9/15/20159/18/2015320FictionPrint
ExpatsChris PavoneM9/3/20159/20/2015352FictionEbook
Enterprise Java BeansEd RomanM10/3/201510/10/2015500Non-FictionPrint
CheJohn Lee AndersonM10/2/2015672Non-FictionEbook
Post-Modernism for BeginnersJim PowellM10/3/2015176Non-Fictionebook
One Year to Writing LifeSusan TibergheinF10/7/201510/9/2015334Non-Fictionebook
The Martian Andy WeirM10/9/2015369FictionPrint

Here is my current reading list. My husband's reading is mixed in with it but we tend to read the same books. I actually haven't read Java Beans and don't intend to. Everything else, we share. I definitely need to read more women authors and expand beyond American authors. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Devil Chicken and Che

I just purchased Che by Jon Lee Anderson. It is an immense book and, so far, impeccably researched and wonderfully written. I am expecting the author to strip Che of much of his romantic aura while simultaneously asserting that he was a very complex and important person of the 20th century.

Chicken Chronicles:

I opened the back door and VeeVee was standing in the yard on one foot. He pulls the flamingo pose frequently. He stared at me and I could see his little chicken brain spinning. He then leapt and ran towards me faster than I have ever seen him run. I quickly grabbed the broom to shield myself. He abruptly stopped and then skidded. He did not look happy. VeeVee pecked at the feed bag and then ran off to the bush where, I assume, he torments Jennifer who likes to perch high in the bush. VeeVee is going as the Devil for Halloween. He doesn’t even need a costume.

Writing:

Editing. Very sad. It’s the hardest part of writing. Plus, Games of Slaughter is non-fiction so there is also lots of cites and facts to check. But I am definitely on schedule for getting this book done by the end of the year and then I can move onto yet another non-fiction book, Political Psychosis.


Happy Thursday!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Chicken Whisperer and Editing

I have a new idea for a book. It’s called Chickens in the Yard. It’s a biography of my four chickens. Ha! Just joking. I will keep the chicken saga for my blog. Our little chicken, Jennifer, is more skittish than usual. She hides in a box we put out in the yard, especially for her. She has been laying eggs in there but she is not brooding. The rest of the time she is perched in a bush. The rooster can’t get to her up there. Sometimes I chase her out of the box and bush so she can eat and drink. However, when I do the rooster, VeeVee, chases her and then pins her to the ground. She gets so afraid and still. I take a broom to VeeVee and he really gets mad at me. I think Jennifer has PTSD. If only there was a chicken therapist we could call. Does anyone know of a chicken whisperer?

Writing projects:

I am working with my husband to finish our book on Nostradamus. The editing has been slow. Isn’t editing always slow? Editing is the least fun part of writing. Writing is the easy part. Research is the easy part. Contemplating commas and predicates not so much.

Marketing projects:

Holiday Horror: Attack of the Zombie Elves

I finished Zombie Elves last year but didn’t really market it as I released it two days before Christmas. This year I am dedicating several weekends to pushing it. Since it involves Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas this is the perfect time to begin a campaign. This weekend I am going to attack social media, Fiverr and draft a press release.

Oh, it is available to Amazon Prime members for free!

Books I Am Reading:

I just got the Simone Weil Reader from the university library. I am working on her essay about the Iliad. Her analysis is so beautiful and on point that I am thinking about rereading the Iliad. I am also reading Viktor Frankl’s book The Will to Meaning. Frankl is an existential psychologist and was imprisoned at Auschwitz during WWII. His insights are always interesting. As for fiction, I just finished Expats. I really enjoyed it. It is an espionage story set in Europe. Most of the story takes place in Luxembourg and it is fascinating to learn about a country that doesn’t get much attention. The story started out a little confusing as it was moving in and out between the present and past. If you stick with it, it is definitely worth it.

I have been slow with my reading because I have binged watched Homeland and Masters of Sex. Amazing writing in both series. I learned a lot about how to move a plot forward and character development so it was not wasted time.

Goals:

Read more.

Get Nostradamus: Games of Slaughter published.

Market Holiday Horror: Attack of the Zombie Elves.