Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

viernes, diciembre 30, 2011

Happy New Year/Prospero Ano Nuevo!

Felices Fiestas! Queremos tomar esta tiempo para ofrecerle nuestros mejores deseos a usted y sus seres queridos. Esperamos que su hogar este lleno de gozo, cordialidad y buena voluntad durante esta temporada de fiestas. Que usted y su familia gozen de paz, felicidad y buena salud durante el nuevo ano.

Seasons Greetings! We'd like to take this time to extend our very best wishes to you and your loved ones. We hope your home will be filled with joy, warmth and goodwill during this holiday season. May you and your family enjoy peace, happiness, and good health throughout the coming year.

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sábado, diciembre 17, 2011

An Extremely Brief Hiatus

Punta Bahia Soliman, Tulum

Today's local paper reports about Sonny Rollins, one of my favorite musicians, and his recent presidential honor at Kennedy Center. The important part of Rollins's story to this post is that from 1959 to 1961, he took a famous "sabbatical," a hiatus from performing and recording, and he worked on his music by himself. Privately. And he didn't play for listeners. It's told that he practiced in this period on the Williamsburg Bridge. And it's told that he was "frustrated with what he perceived as his own musical limitations."

Asked about this hiatus by the local paper some fifty years later, Rollins said:

“I took a break because I felt I wasn’t playing as well as I could. I had a lot of people praising me and I felt I wasn’t able to live up to it. I have pride in what I do. You have to have strength with your convictions. When I came back from hiatus, people said I didn’t sound any different. That did not matter to me because I did learn something whether or not they heard it. I listened to my inner voice and that was the main thing,” said Rollins.

Put another way, Rollins took some time-- for him it was about 3 years-- to recharge, reorient, resuscitate, restore his edge.

Which brings this post to me, your humble Bloguero. My present judgment, that I'm not writing as well as I can, that my writing is getting stale, formulaic, tired, seems to have been coming out lately in my projections, specifically, that not enough people are reading me, that not enough comments are made, that not enough clicks are received. Habla bla bla bla. This feels like whining. Or whinging (thank you, Xanthe) as one astute reader recently pointed out. The most recent example is here (a special thanks to Diane). The problem, of course, as usual with projection is that it's not the readers' problems. Not at all. Never is. It's not you. It's not outside of me. It's me. So I have decided to ask myself, "You talkin to me? You talking to me?" Well, yeah.

There are two parts of this. First, after a five year slog, Tulum has finally been published. I can write post after post after attempted cleaver post asking people to buy it online at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and iUniverse. I can tell you what a great gift and stocking stuffer it is. But let's face it, I don't like being stuck on that topic for long and using my keyboard as a blunt instrument of book marketing. No fun. Stale. Second, and maybe this is part of the first thing, the space that launching the book into the world might have created in my inner world, space to think about new things, space to dream up new ideas, space that is empty, space that is fresh, seems to be cluttered. With commerce. And work. And fatigue. And cobwebs. Again, no fun. Not for me, and definitely not for you.

And so, I've decided to take some time, a very little time, just from here to the end of the year, benignly to neglect this blog. To assume blog silence for a couple of weeks. To travel into the darkest, shortest day of the year in silence. To be quiet. To be still. To rest. To see, whether with some silence and soon the lengthening of the days, my edge is burnished. And my fatigue is banished. And there is more light and heat and creativity. So I can come back in 2012 restored, rested, renewed.

That makes this, as I walk away, a great time to post this blog's annual greeting:

Felices Fiestas! Queremos tomar esta tiempo para ofrecerle nuestros mejores deseos a usted y sus seres queridos. Esperamos que su hogar este lleno de gozo, cordialidad y buena voluntad durante esta temporada de fiestas. Que usted y su familia gozen de paz, felicidad y buena salud durante el nuevo ano.

Seasons Greetings! We'd like to take this time to extend our very best wishes to you and your loved ones. We hope your home will be filled with joy, warmth and goodwill during this holiday season. May you and your family enjoy peace, happiness, and good health throughout the coming year.

Hasta pronto.

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viernes, diciembre 16, 2011

This Week In The Dream Antilles: The Polar Express

A gray December afternoon. 4:30 pm. Your Bloguero sits near the fire, and his eyes slowly close. The galaxy of bright dreams just under his eyelids begins to shimmer. He can hear his breathing deepen, his chest is rising and falling. Soon there will be bright lights, magical thinking. There will be dreams. Maybe it will be the Polar Express. But something’s wrong. He wonders what it could be. Something is not right. “Oh,” he thinks, “It’s Friday. You forgot the weekly digest, the one you’ve been writing for all these many months. This must be the one you don’t write.” This wakes your Bloguero up with a start. The dream journey is aborted. The Polar Express isn't coming for him. Your Bloguero begins to ponder.

There ensues a debate. “Nobody reads it anyway, nobody cares, you see, virtually no one comments or recommends. It won’t even be missed. Let the dreams begin. Forget that post.” This negative, critical, disparaging thought is of course opposed. Your Bloguero is adept at having contentious debates with himself. Especially if the choices are dreams or writing, his own sloth or productivity. “It’s not so hard, and it’s good to have a weeky practice, and who knows what you’ll write, it’ll be fun. And if you do it before Friday is over, you will have completed this task and will be able to pick it up again next week, when, hopefully you’ll feel more like writing.” This chatter seesaws back and forth for a while. Yadda yadda yadda. Habla bla bla bla bla. It disrupts the incipient nap. Your Bloguero finds himself at the keyboard instead of the dreamy pullman. He just wants to check in, insert a place mark on Friday, December 16, 2011.

Chanukah is next week; Christmas, the week after. Solstice is next week; Kwanzaa, the week after. And Festivus is next week. ‘Tis the season. Your Bloguero dispenses with his usual remarks about the pernicious Festival of Capitalism and wishes each of you and your families and friends a very happy Holiday. May it be a day of comfort and joy. May you be happy and find delight.

Your Bloguero would be remiss if he didn’t repeat, given the season and its expected shopping behavior, that his new novella, Tulum, is now available, and you can should buy it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and iUniverse. This would make a perfect stocking or Kindle stuffer. It would make a lovely gift. Your Bloguero thinks you would like to read it. No stocking should be without one. And lest he not admit it, it will profit your Bloguero.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest. Usually, it appears on Friday. Sometimes, like now and for several of the past weeks, it isn't actually a digest of essays posted at The Dream Antilles. For the essays you have to visit The Dream Antilles

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h/t Robert Horn, Mark Horn

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jueves, diciembre 15, 2011

Selling Tulum (the Novella) in Tulum (the Pueblo), How to

The question for today: There is no bookstore in Tulum (the Pueblo), so how can I sell Tulum (the Novella) in Tulum (the Pueblo) where it takes place? I need ideas, suggestions.

I really want to sell this novella in Tulum (the Pueblo) in Mexico. I think people who love Tulum (the Pueblo) will love this book. And also, without giving a spoiler here, since Tulum (the Novella) in a sense begins with selling a story about Tulum (the Pueblo) in Tulum (the Pueblo), it would be really cool if this book could be sold there. And maybe I can even figure out how to sell the novella in the same place the story in the book was sold. I'm thinking about that too. I just love those kinds of repetitions.

So I'm soliciting your ideas.

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miércoles, diciembre 14, 2011

Now I'm Ready To Be Santa Or A Salesperson

Oh happy Day!! Our friends from UPS just arrived in the muddy driveway, and they brought some boxes with them. I was hoping for the sled with reindeer, but alas. And the boxes weren't wrapped with gorgeous paper and luscious ribbons. No such luck. The boxes were brown cardboard and they had white labels on them. There were four of them. And this is the good part: in the boxes were fresh, clean, new copies of my novella, Tulum. So at long last, finally I have copies of my book in my own hands. Let me say this. This is a good deal different from having them be a click away or having photographs of them. This book seems to me to be real and to exist in the material world.

What will I do with these lovely, new books I find so exciting? First, I will spend some time admiring them, holding them, feeling them and all of their wonderfulness. Smelling them, letting the pages slap each other. Riffling the pages musically. Reading from them at random. And I will also play the two dramatic, archetypical roles in the title of this post.

I will play Santa Clause, and I will write dedications in some of the books and give them as gifts. I will get some of them ready to be stuffed into stockings (forget you read this if you are one of those people). And I may wrap others in gaudy paper. How wonderful is that? I am neither fat nor jolly enough to fulfill this role perfectly, but do not fear. I will make a wonderful, jovial attempt at it.

And I will also play the role of salesperson. No, not Willie Loman. Nothing so full of angst. Not like Mr. Whipple. No. No grouchiness. This role is far simpler. It goes like this:

If you're near Chatham, or in Columbia County, New York and you want a soft cover copy of Tulum, you don't have to go online and click on things and make the postal service bring it to you. You are, of course, welcome to do that, and I love it when you do, but there's now a more personal alternative. You can email or telephone me, or most unusual, talk to me when you see me, and I will arrange to deliver to you from my ungloved hand directly into yours, gloved or not, copies of the book. I will even write in them or not, or dedicate them or not as you may wish. To do this and foster spontaneity, I will put some of these books in my car. That way I will have a few of them with me when you see me live and in person and the many doing mundane and often meaningless things that people do.

I will also reach out in the next few days to some booksellers in the area and see whether they are interested in taking a few copies of the book. That should happen this weekend. So that will be yet another way you can get this book before the Holidays.

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lunes, diciembre 12, 2011

Stocking Stuffer

How wonderful it is to launch a complete crapvalanche of commercial crassness!

As my dear friend, Strongbad, would put it, "Stuff alla those stockings with a crapvalanche of zawesome li-ter-a-ture! And buy this here book right now, reader-atis!" Or is that too millennial a reference? Prefer staid public radio to wild Internet animations? You may consider this shameless commerce.

Either way, here's the thing. Apart from pron, the Internet is really a good way to buy things. Everybody knows that. You don't have to go out. You don't have to touch money. You just look it up and type it in and presto chango! our friends at UPS and FedEx deliver it to your doorstep. Pronto! You've been doing this with books, and shoes, and appliances, and everything else for years now. Great. This may be destroying small stores across the nation and turning downtowns in wastelands, but nevermind that for a second. My just released novella Tulum can be handled exactly the same way. Just click and fill in the blanks on the forms and Whomp! There it is. Just like that. Or is that too '90's a reference?

It's like this. The Holidays are rapidly approaching. Every Holiday needs a stocking. And every stocking needs to be stuffed. I think stockings are best stuffed with Tulum, one beautiful soft cover copy per stocking. Don't have stockings? No problem. One beautiful soft cover copy per person.

And I want to make this as easy as I can. Here are the links to get Tulum in soft cover as a stocking stuffer or for any other reason.

Do it now while you can still receive it before the Holidays begin in earnest!

Barnes & Noble

Amazon(where they still don't have a cover foto)

iUniverse(where you can get the eBook in all formats)

And if, like me, you're horrified about the consequences of Internet commerce on retail stores and small towns and villages, and you're lucky enough to have an independent bookstore near you, please by all means go immediately to that bookstore and order Tulum. All of the book distributors can get Tulum for your bookstore. And if your bookstore is really, really special, it can order 5 or 6 copies and put it in the window. Just like that. If you're going the bookstore, just do it soon: this is a process that needs a little lead time.

One final thing. If you buy the book, and you want it autographed or dedicated and signed, I'm happy to do that. All we have to do it figure out the logistics.

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domingo, diciembre 11, 2011

Writers' Block, How To Escape From

by Claudia Ricci

Writing is just such a wonderful and amazing and fulfilling thing -- until one morning you wake up and can't find an ounce of motivation. You look at what you've written and suddenly it feels as dead as the heel of your right shoe.

That blank screen stares back at you, sticks out its tongue and makes funny faces. You freeze up and soon find yourself shrinking smaller than your pencil.

Then what do you do? You think about tossing your computer. Or worse, you contemplate the idea of tossing back a six-pack or a few cosmopolitans.

No. This is NOT the time to start drinking. This is not the time to start thinking dark and stormy thoughts!

There is hope. Lots of it. In fact, if you look at it the write, oops, excuse me, the right way, writer's block can be an opportunity to rethink your entire approach to writing. Writer's block can be a kind of door through which you pass through, becoming a kind of writer's revolutionary. Not only can you find new inspiration, but also, you can make some fascinating and exciting discoveries about who you are as a writer and a person and what you want to write.

If you're intrigued by these ideas, and if you want to spend a weekend by a cozy fire in a gorgeous Berkshire County inn, learning about writing from two well-seasoned fiction writers who are also both experienced college-writing teachers, then you're in for a big treat:

Please join me and my long-time writing buddy and college teaching colleague Peg Woods --otherwise known as Dr. P.M. Woods -- to get recharged. We are teaching a fabulous workshop that we're calling Writer's Bloc, a weekend-retreat February 24-26, 2012 at the very quaint Richmond Inn in Richmond, MA.

Peg and I have been college teachers of writing for almost 14 years. We've also taught a community writing workshop called "Write Your Heart Out." In both the university and community settings, we've helped many, many, many students to get started writing fiction. And we've also showed students how to get re-started and recharged, redefining what it means to have a writer's block.

You see, it's only a block if you let it stop you. We'll show you how to melt that writer's block, transforming it into an opportunity for rediscovery.

As Assistant Director of the Nationally-Recognized Writing Program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Peg teaches composition and experimental creative writing classes. She is the author of numerous short stories, as well as the extraordinary novel, Spinning Will.

My own writing background includes many published short stories as well as the novels Dreaming Maples (nominated for a Pushcart Prize) and the new novel, Seeing Red, which was serialized in part when it appeared in January, 2011. I have been teaching English, creative writing and journalism at the University at Albany, SUNY, since 1998. More recently, I've started to paint, and to incorporate painting with words onto big and little canvases (thus all these funny-looking collages.)

It turns out that I'm not the only writer who thinks and works visually. In a great piece in The Wall Street Journal a couple of years ago, about writers and their methods of writing, author Edwidge Danticat says that before she writes a novel she puts images up on a kind of "storyboard," just the way a screenwriter might.

The writer's retreat will include exercises that involve "art" -- but no, you do NOT need to be an artist! We will also take you on an outing Saturday afternoon to the wonderful Normal Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, where we'll discuss the way art and visual images can help spark your imagination and give you more inspiration for writing.

This is going to be a lot of fun! Hey, what could be bad? You get to spend a weekend writing and meeting other writers, at a gorgeous inn in the middle of the amazing Berkshires (where by the way a slew of famous writers have lived and worked -- how about Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Edith Wharton?)

The February "Writer's Bloc" workshop is limited to a small number of writers, so do get in touch soon. To register, contact Retreat Coordinator Jo Ann Losinger at Or phone 413.445.5874. We hope to see you there. It will be a wonderfully energizing and productive retreat, we promise you!

cross-posted from My Story Lives.

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Tulum, the Pueblo, not the Novella

(Click on this screen shot to make it big).

An amazing discovery. Want to see what my beloved Tulum looked like 2 or 3 years ago? Every single storefront on the Main Ginza? And some of the side streets behind the Main Street? To my surprise, if you go to GoogleMaps and plug in "Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico," you will come upon a map of the Pueblo. And if you then use "street view" -- the icon of the yellow person-- you can stroll up and down the streets simply by dragging the icon to the yellow street you want to views. So simple. What you will see is Tulum as it was about 3 years ago. Stores that are no longer there are in the pictures; the old Fruteria is there with it's pineapples (it is now a vacant lot).

You'll also be surprised by how many of the side streets you can wander with "street view." Incredible.

I know it's freezing winter outside in many Gringo places, including the one where I am at this moment, but you can leave that briefly behind and stroll the older Tulum on your computer. It's a sentimental walk through a town on the brink of huge global change. Do check it out.

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sábado, diciembre 10, 2011

The Belle of Amherst

Today is Emily Dickinson's birthday. She was born in 1830. I'm particularly struck by these two paragraphs in today's Writers' Almanac:

Over the years, scholars have done a lot of speculating about Dickinson, coming up with all sorts of theories. Last year, a biographer named Lyndall Gordon suggested that Dickinson was epileptic, and that her epilepsy explained her seclusion, the rhythm and content of her poetry, and even her famous white dress, which according to Gordon was white for sanitary reasons. Various critics have tried to prove that her seclusion was the result of a broken heart, and have offered up any number of men in her life as the possible heartbreaker. A few years ago, a scholar named Carol Damon Andrews published an article claiming that Dickinson was engaged to her brother's friend George Gould, but that her father broke it up because Gould was too poor, and that Dickinson's love poems are written to Gould. There is also the popular theory that she was a closeted lesbian, possibly in love with her sister-in-law, Susan. Other scholars have diagnosed Dickinson with SAD, seasonal affective disorder.

Many people think that there is no one answer for Dickinson's seclusion — but that above all, she was driven by a fierce desire to write poetry, and she chose to sacrifice everything else for that. Allen Tate said: "All pity for Miss Dickinson's 'starved life' is misdirected. Her life was one of the richest and deepest ever lived on this continent."

One of the richest and deepest ever lived on this continent. How about that as something to aspire to?

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jueves, diciembre 08, 2011

This Week In The Dream Antilles

Your Bloguero And The Book

You probably didn’t know that your faithful Bloguero was interested in commerce. Actually, to tell the truth, he really isn’t. But he can’t lie. Even though he has neither real skill for commerce nor any interest in it, even though in general he could care less about it, he finds himself now personally involved in it. Namely, selling his book, Tulum. Your Bloguero can hear his faithful but somewhat intellectually snobbish readers (and his many wise-ass critics) saying, “Selling? Ewwww. How could you?” Your Bloguero agrees that selling is often crass, sometimes beyond distasteful, and frequently involves prevarication if not outright fraud. But this, your Bloguero assures himself and you, is a different matter. This is something else entirely.

After all, your Bloguero is not going door to soon-to-be-slammed door trying to sell encyclopedias or Bibles. He’s selling fiction. Magical realist fiction. He’s selling a book he wrote. What, you might ask, is so hard about selling fiction? Isn’t most political speech in the US just selling fiction? Isn’t most advertising just selling fiction? My goodness, your Bloguero hears you saying, in this season, the season of vast capitalistic excess and unnecessary expenditures, isn’t the main activity selling fiction of various sorts? All right. You’ve got a point there, but your Bloguero will not be diverted by it. Your Bloguero is selling only his new novel, Tulum. And he’s not at all that committed to doing that in the tradition, shameless, well worn way.

There are obvious problems with your Bloguero’s selling this book. Your Bloguero thinks of himself as a writer (he hopes that is not offensive to you for him to say it). And he thinks he is a terrible salesman. He doesn’t like selling. At all. He has little or no positive experience with it. And to make matters worse, your Bloguero’s psyche screams vociferous objections to tooting his own schnozz. In other words, your Bloguero doesn’t want to pimp his book. Or himself. Or his "abilities." That seems unseemly. And as if that weren’t enough, there’s your Bloguero’s fabled and oft practiced sloth and indolence. These subvert selling and all other commercial activities. Put it this way to keep it simple: Your Bloguero thinks that if his book is any good at all, it should simply sell itself while your Bloguero returns to daydreaming and making up his third book. Your Bloguero shouldn’t have to occupy himself with the physical activity and mental exertions involved in selling his creation. Look. Your Bloguero writes magical realism. So if this book is going to sell, it’s logical, isn’t it, that it should only be sold magically.

Do you hear your Bloguero whining? Making excuses? Walking back the expectations? Your Bloguero is more worried that he sounds a lot like Ignatius Reilly. But no matter. Your Bloguero would like to sell many thousands of copies of his book through the magical reality of the Internet and through the magic of word of mouth. That is the sum and substance of your Bloguero’s sales business planning. Magic. When one writes magical realism, one doesn’t complete the book and then suddenly act like one just spent 5 years writing financial non-fiction. No. There has to be some consistency between what’s in the book and how it exists in the world, doesn’t there? So if the book is magical realism and fiction, it has to be sold magically. There. Your Bloguero said it. Your Bloguero doesn’t want to hear anyone criticize or analyze his motivations in making this assertion.

Anyway, that’s where you come in. This is really simple, and a solution beautifully fitting your Bloguero’s laziness and magical thinking. It is not a linear solution. It is not logical. But, alas, it’s your Bloguero’s magical solution. And his magical solution is his only one.

Here it is: your Bloguero wants you to buy a copy of the book (or more if you feel called to do so), read it, and write a short review at Barnes and Noble, or Amazon, or iUniverse, or on the Blogs or Facebook or wherever, and, whether you liked it or not, though the thought of the latter possibility disturbs your Bloguero’s feelings, tell your friends and family about it. And soon it will be, as Arlo once sang, a movement. And then, after a very short while,Tulum will magically be ubiquitous. Think of this: Your Bloguero will be lying on the floor with his faithful dog and staring at the ceiling and dreaming up something new, and as he does this, the book, this very book, will be selling effortlessly. Magically. Thousands and thousands of magical sales. An avalanche of books. And you dear reader will have made this possible.

One last thought. Your Bloguero would also like you to realize that no Christmas or Channukah or Solstice stocking is complete without a copy of this book in it. Yes, yes, your Bloguero knows that there are no Channukah stockings. Not yet. But he thinks there should be.

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miércoles, diciembre 07, 2011

Finally, Tulum, The Novella, Is For Sale!!

Today I was pacing the floor and staring at the ceiling (a small leak) because Tulum had not arrived in soft cover form for me to give a final approval, and the process of waiting for it by UPS or FedEx or carrier pigeon was becoming tedious. And I was getting impatient. And obsessing about whether it might be lost somewhere at UPS or Fed Ex or in the mail. But this evening things are much better. It is not because I had a glass of wine. No. A friend discovered that, lo and behold! and to my utter surprise, Tulum was now for sale at Barnes and Noble and that you could get copies to stuff into some hanging stockings delivered to you before Christmas. Hooray! Joy to the world!

Here's the link to Barnes and Noble. Buy as many of these things as you can possibly. Buy so many that the shipping is free. Buy them for everyone on your many lists! Hey, this is America! And Christmas. And this is a great book to give as a gift.

The eBook is not quite yet ready. It should be ready by next week, and will be sold at the killer cheap price of $3.99. But not to worry. Barnes and Noble is selling this thing at cost at the moment. It's not $13.99, it's $7.90. I have no idea how they do that, but if that's what they want to do, who am I to complain? You benefit because that is way, way below retail cost.

I wish this were a Monster Truck Ad with all that reverb. It's not, so you have to imagine it is. Or you could imagine it was a Corona beer ad from Tulum for Tulum. Whatever works.

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About Those Small Courts

So here are reasons #7282 and #7283 why town courts in New York State should be immediately abolished.

Reason 7282: I received notices to show up in town court (I am not disclosing which one, you could imagine that it might be any of a thousand) at 9 am this morning on two cases. I was early. The judge hasn't gotten on the bench yet. It is now 9:30 am. There are about two dozen people waiting for him. This does not count the four or five state troopers who are now lounging in the clerk's office since before 9 am. Or the prosecutor, who was here early. Oh. And the clock in the courtroom now reads 12:45. Nice, disorienting touch. The people who are waiting used to be strangers, now they're discussing legal issues with each other. Can anyone argue that this is an efficient use of time and resources? Oh. I finally got taken care of at 1:05.

Reason 7283: For the past three months I have been trying to get this very court to provide paperwork for an old case from 2001 or 2002. I spare you a precis of the fruitless correspondence between me and the court and my characterizing the court's responses. So today I asked the clerk who was there about all this. She says that only the other clerk can deal with it, and that clerk is here two days a week for three hours on each date. I have to deal with that clerk, who won't be in the court until tonight. Great. Is there something this clerk can do to help my client and help me get the needed paperwork? No, there isn't. You have to deal with the other clerk. She alone can do this. Well, I've been doing that for almost three months, and my client was doing that before I got involved, who knows for how long, is there somebody who can help me? No, there isn't. She'll be in tonight. Frowns all around.

Sure, I could complain to somebody about all of this. Right. And then I'd really have done it: next time I show up here I will be sure to receive royal treatment. It's a choice between being treated like an anonymous object or being truly reviled.

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martes, diciembre 06, 2011

Neymar Is A Wizard

And a special h/t to John who says, "I am agog at his footwork for this beauty..."

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domingo, diciembre 04, 2011

Michel Piessel, RIP

Today brought sad news that Michel Piessel, explorer, world traveler, and author of many books including The Lost World of Quintana Roo had passed away in October. He was 74. A long obituary can be found in The Telegraph. And there's one that doesn't mention Quintana Roo in the New York Times.

I find this particularly sad. I have written here often about his book. Here, here, and in my soon to be released novel, Tulum. He made that deep an impression on me. I have often walked in his footsteps on the beach from Bahia Soliman toward Tulum and thought about his trek. And I talked with my friend, Andy, about inviting Piessel to Bahia Soliman to see what had happened to the coast of Quintana Roo and Tulum in the half century since he walked our beach. I couldn't find a decent email address to make the invitation; I got distracted by other things. Andy reminded me to reach out; I still didn't find an address. And now this. Too late for his visit.

I've thought many times that the road in Bahia Soliman that runs behind the houses and parallel to the beach should be renamed for him. That seems to me to be a fitting tribute.

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Socrates, RIP

The BBC reports:

With an unwavering fondness for cigarettes and alcohol, the lifestyle of Brazilian football legend Socrates would probably be met with a disapproving eye from many managers in the modern game.

But then again they just might cut a little slack to the larger-than-life midfield maestro, who died aged 57 on Sunday.

For Socrates, with his almost-telepathic vision and ability to unlock a defence with either foot, is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.

Throw in his stylish Bjorn Borg-style headband and beard combos, the man born as Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira became the symbol of cool for a whole generation of football supporters.

But then Socrates was never a stereotypical footballer.

With philosophical views as strong as his famous Classical Greek namesake, he was never unduly worried about expressing his opinion and became almost as well-known for his political opinions and activism as for his football.

The two passions famously came together as part of the Corinthians Democracy movement in the mid-1980s, when towards the end of Brazil's military dictatorship, the Sao Paulo club became the only one in the world run on a democratic basis, as a symbol of rejection of the military regime.

Most Brazilian footballers of his age were likely to have named predecessors such as Pele or Garrincha as their idols. Not so Socrates.

His heroes included Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, the men who led the Cuban revolution of the 1950s, and ex-Beatle and anti-war protestor John Lennon.

He will be missed.

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sábado, diciembre 03, 2011

Santana, Willie Nelson, Taibo, and Me: They All Went To Mexico

First, the song. Willie Nelson with Santana:

Then, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, who writes in Four Hands (Cuatro manos)(1990):

There is a song by G. Brown on Havana Moon, a Santana record, that repeats the phrase in a country rhythm, "And they all went to Mexico," their friends went, their pals went, even their dogs went. I suppose that is part of the conjunction of two of the healthiest North American traditions: taking to the road (thank you, Woody Guthrie, Kerouac, Wyatt Earp, Bob Dylan, John Dos Passos, Calamity Jane, Spiderman, John Garfield, Ernest Hemingway) and crossing the boarder in search of the South (thank you, John Reed, Indiana Jones, James Taylor, Clint Eastwood, John Huston, Babe Ruth, Carleton Beals, Mike Gold, Burt Lancaster).

I suppose I'd gone south one time or another over the last few years, driven by those two national motivations. But it wasn't easy to go south. Every piece of knowledge brings a dose of guilt, equal in weight and importance to whoever acquires it. To be a U.S.-citizen-born-gringo in Latin America is a pastime for the unconscious, economic gangsters, commercial missionaries, radicals on the verge of jubilation, freaks, dreamers or crusaders. They all furnish the continent south of the border with their own demons. They travel with their ghosts. Then there are the others, us dreamers, those who believe there are no borders or countries, just landscapes and songs sometimes sung in unknown languages. Of all the monsters who travel south, we are the most dangerous because we believe we don't have the original sin that has to be forgiven; because we rationally think that we are not excessively different, that we can coexist with the natives on fair terms: You give to me, I give to you, you smile at me, I smile at you, even though at night we have nightmares in which half-naked, starving children, the live Latin American ghosts, point their fingers at us.

Going south is, as Malcolm Lowry and Joseph Conrad and Ambrose Bierce knew, a descent into hell itself. Leaving the deceptive North American Paradise, the true hell, the demons attack, they attempt to escape from the skin and gush forth. One knows it when traveling south, one knows the Martians who play Ping-Pong inside our heads. And in the end, one is grateful that it is so and not any other way. Anyone who doesn't have hells will be content to die kneeling in front of a television in a place as ludicrous as Indianapolis.

And then, there's me. I went to Mexico. My book Tulum, set in Mexico, is poised on a printers launch pad as I write this. I continue to be one of those dreamers who frequently crosses the border. Maybe that's why the song and PIT II's writing speak so directly and deeply to me. I know it's an essential step for me to go to Mexico. I suspect it's essential for others as well. I only wish everyone understood it as well as Taibo and Santana. And Willie Nelson. And I wish we could all work hard on learning that there are no borders or countries, just landscapes and songs sung in other languages. And that we would all do our part to assist the merging and blending of nations, peoples, languages, songs, and dreams.

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viernes, diciembre 02, 2011

Occupy Friday Night!

This Week In The Dream Antilles: Lester Maddox Edition

Oh please forgive your Bloguero his excesses and tantrums.

Yesterday your Bloguero was vexed and found himself exploding when Noot Gingrich proposed yet again that poor children (read: poor, urban children of color) work as assistant janitors and that they mop floors and clean bathrooms. These children, Noot told us, don’t have good work habits, and neither do their parents. They need to learn them, he opined, and that dollars must be earned solely by the sweat of their brows and not from engaging in the illegal activities that are so very pervasive in their neighborhoods. Your Bloguero imagines that this “idea” will eventually emerge in Congress as the “Poor, Urban Children’s Mandatory Work Act of 2012,” and that it will void child labor laws and make degrading manual work a pre-requisite to receipt of school nutrition programs if not elementary school attendance itself.

When your Bloguero was a child in Newark, his school didn’t have a course in brooming so that he could be channeled into a life of required, permanent manual work, showing up on Monday mornings for inadequate pay, and submissive obedience to the straw boss. Your Bloguero wasn’t asked to trade his pens and pencils and crayons for brooms and mops. No. Back then, it was a world of upward mobility. For everyone. And it was fervently asserted, everybody could become President, and the elementary school was everybody’s first station on the trip toward a good life. The good life, your Bloguero was always told, was built on merit. And education. And hard work. And desire. Your Bloguero notes that there could have been far worse things to tell him, including that he should start sweeping now because that was his station in life.

Noot is an experienced politician. He is far from congenitally tone deaf. And he knows how to whistle for the dogs. Let’s recall that he’s from Georgia. And let’s also recall that it wasn’t that long ago that Governor Lester Maddox was passing out ax handles in Atlanta. And so, dear reader, this ain't no dog whistle. It's blatant racism. Just look at Noot’s characterization of the neighborhoods in which poor children are raised. This isn’t code; it’s Noot mashing the black keys on the electoral piano with his elbow.

These neighborhoods and their residents, Noot would have us believe, are dominated by shiftlessness, by drug dealing, by welfare queens, by benefits fraud, by crime, by illegal activities of all descriptions. Your Bloguero spares you a repetition of the litany of historic grievances against the urban poor encapsulated in Noot's remarks. So Noot’s resurrecting the pre-integration Georgia of 1953. And he’s saying that the children who are raised in these ghetto neighborhoods need to be put in their place because their families won’t do it. And the rest of the populace shouldn’t have to pay for it. And the place where these children belong, less you forget it, is as assistant janitors while they are in elementary school. Who are they to aspire to be president?

Your Bloguero is enraged. He notes in passing that this isn’t the first, nor will it be the last time that a presidential candidate plays the race card before November, 2012. Your Bloguero just wonders why there is a storm about Herman Cain’s affair and his serial sex harassments, but so far blatant racism seems to be getting a hall pass.

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