Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Monte de Alduides and Medilaz

The Maquisard
Monte de Alduide and Mendilaz are not great mountains with granite escarpments that attract climbers. There is nothing special or dramatic about their contours except that they are a part the Basque Pyrenees serving as God’s fence between Spain and France. Their nude meadows are so gentle that sheep are pastured on unimposing contours that drop down into beech forested folds skirt northward towards France. Over that side of the fence their voluptuous bodies undulate into runlets joining the streams Lohitzeko Erréka with Egurtzako Erréka. These streams braid themselves across the frontier into France, splicing into the rivers La Nive des Aldudes down through the communes of Urepel and Aldudes and onto Banka becoming a steady flow that rolls across a rich green landscape.
            On the Spanish side their pastoral vales are deceptively passive. On this verdant landscape, eleven hundred years before on Roncesvalles Pass, Basque warriors waited with little more than spears and knives in ambush against the retreat from their homeland of armed and armored Charlemagne’s knights. Orreaga is the Basque name for the pass where the Roman road crossed into the Aquitaine and this was where the knight of the troubadours’ song, Roland, his lance and steed useless, died. It was on these same hills Napoleon’s invincible Grande Armée was harassed and needled into retreat, where the Spanish Maquis held out during and after the Spanish Civil War, and, as Basque Separatists, well into the seventies against Franco’s tyranny. If the Pyrenees are the hartz baten hortzak, Basque for the teeth of a bear, then this part of the range has been the bear’s molars that grind down armies of occupiers and tyrants. Armed only by the tenacity and perseverance of the Basque language and culture, banned by Franco and revived after he died, the Basque have always been the last thing oppressors confront as they are swallowed into obscurity.

            From the east of Monte Alduide, and beyond the Roncesvalles Pass, the peak of Mendilaz rises up to where La Nive d’Arneguy Riviere and La Nive de Bethéroble are fed. These are Basque streams that wind down through these creases in the earth towards France, their dells flanked with ash and birch, as rich with history as their Basque names. Descending further they tumble over weirs to become La Nive until its progress flattens out, but still embraced, by low and verdant hills almost all the way to L’Adour and the port city of Bayonne.

            Mountain rivers roll and the river La Nive rolls and twists its way skirting past the east bank of the Basque commune of Itxassou. On one of those verdant hills above, a complex nestles within a hundred acres that was once a modest house with a rich history of its own. From the road nearby it would appear to be a typical French farmhouse hidden by hedges on a narrow lined lane. It had been remodeled and expanded from the inside out after The Hungry Years by the investment banker, Marcel Fournier. Predawn, a light radiated out of the second story window above the garage. It was the light from the window of the former Basque Maquis, Alesandro Gotson Otxoa. In his small quarters he prepared for the day ahead by meditating for a half hour and putting on his work boots as he had been doing from the same quarters since the winter of 1957.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Tegucigalpa/Safe House

   Max usually needed to have extra fortification just to board a normal flight. This one warranted more than a shot or two. The rickety Taca Airliner was a sheer horror and Kuka’s supervision forced him to fly dry. Pride kept him from the airport bar and Kuka eased his fear of flying by holding his hand. Max was resigned to certain death by the time their plane careened into what seemed to be a crash landing approaching the airstrip.
   They were greeted by thick humid air at the Toncontin Internacional Aeropuerto in Tegucigalpa. Old military C-47s and C-123s were lined up on the other side of the landing strip from where a few civilian airliners were docked… well, not docked but parked. They walked across the dusty tarmac towards the small building. Kuka went through the turnstile first to a stand where a customs officer awaited like a hungry spider. 
   Several soldiers in pilots glasses loitered in the open air lobby and, though they would appear to be relaxed. Max sensed that they were watching the pair for reasons other than checking out Kuka’s body.
   Passport, a forged press card, and Max’s visa, were scrutinized by an intimidating officer in Gucci pilots’ glasses that Max supposed were Government Issued; those along with this guy’s perfectly tailored uniform. The officer was also as lean as he was stern. Max felt as though the fucker would just as soon castrate him and hang his balls on the wall, than to allow him into his precious country. It wasn’t much of a hidden fact that this was an observation grounded in a profound truth. Americans are not welcome in Central America, even by allies. From what Max could see from the airport and the rough landing, this country was a dump.
   “¿Qué va a hacer en Honduras, Sr. McGee?” Eyes he couldn’t see masked behind pilot’s glasses were scanning every tic and hesitation in Max’s reaction to the machismo of official testosterone driven intimidation. Max outweighed the officer by 20lbs and stood a good three inches taller. Common sense dictated that it would be a bad idea to try to play the macho card with this man.
   Max wasn’t ready to answer questions in Spanish.
   “¿Por lo tanto, usted es un periodista, Señor McGee?” Macho sneered the words.
   Max stood nervously, not knowing exactly what he was being asked but rightly assumed periodista meant journalist. 
   He was about to answer when Kuka cut-in to explain, “Él no habla español.”
   The officer tapped on the desk at Max’s picture on the passport. It seemed like an eternity, another Tibetan Bardo, before he handed it back. He then spoke in clear English, “Where are you going in Honduras?”
   Kuka explained that she had a letter, signed and stamped, from an official important in the government affirming they were connected.
   He waved them through. The other soldiers outside the small room that passed as a lobby, observing from behind dark glasses, undressed Kuka and castrated Max. A Volkswagen taxi pulled up and the driver swiftly loaded their luggage in the front with nearly one motion circled to the driver’s seat and slammed his door. The soldiers might have been curious because the luggage amounted to little more than a couple of small valises and an aluminum camera case. One soldier was about to approach.
   “Get in quick, don’t look back,” Kuka ordered.
   The driver didn’t speed but drove away as quickly as he could without drawing undue attention. Max could hardly bear the odor. The cab smelled of death. The soldier walked back to a payphone and dialed a number as they left.
   Kuka gave the driver an address. The driver, steering wildly through a zig-zag maze of side streets, made sure that if anyone was following they would have been hard pressed to tail them. He didn’t talk much… he just drove until he casually glanced back at Kuka and said, “It is plan B now, Si?”
   Kuka gave the driver another address. She put a hand on Max’s thigh. “Give me your note book.”
   She handed it back to Max. She had written on an open page and whispered in his ear as though they were lovers, “I’m going to give him an address. Let him go a couple of blocks and then give him this one. The phone number is for emergencies only.”
    “What, you won’t be with me?”
   “Maybe later. He’s with us,” She nodded towards the driver, “don’t trust him. Your contact’s name is on the table by the window. Ask him for his name in English. Burn the note and the page immediately. If he gives you any other name than that one, don’t go with him and get out of there any way you can. Call the phone number when you get a chance. Don’t worry, arrangements have been made.”
   “Don’t worry?” He felt like he was in a Woody Allen comedy.
   “Are you afraid?”
   “Fear, respect it,” she assured. “But keep your wits.”
   “I’m okay.”
    “You’ll have several other guides. The Bird Dog’s old but he is the best in the business, follow his suggestions.”
   “Bird Dog? I thought you and I… that we’d be together.”
   “Later, but not now. Honduras is a dangerous place. We have been spotted together. Stay inside. Don’t go anywhere. You will stand out like a sore thumb as the only gringo on foot if you leave the house.”
   “Spotted? How do you know?”
    “The soldier, as we left the terminal, is an officer from the UNO. We always have a plan B.” She was no school marm at this point.
   The driver stopped, she paid the fare, and Kuka kissed Max with a simple peck on the cheek before exiting the cab, “Ciao, Max.”
   “What is your name driver, ¿Cuál es su nombre?” Max asked in tour guidebook Spanish and slaughtered the pronunciation of cuál.
   “Luciano,” he simply nodded, “I speak English.” He continued driving with his eyes on the rear view mirror.
   Max didn’t argue. He gave Luciano the new address as directed and was dropped off after winding through some more streets, “How much do I owe you?”
   “La Señora paid your billete,” he said contemptuously and then added almost seductively, “but I have a pinta of rum to sell you if you want… for you, only cinco Lempiras.”
    “No thanks,” Max was glad that he only had dollars but he still regretted saying it. He was resigned to trying to stay sober.
   As if the driver read Max’s mind he offered his services again, “I gladly take dollars.”
   “No thanks,” Max said out of reflex remembering Kuka’s warning not to trust him.
    Max was the only occupant of the safe house. It was in what would be considered a good neighborhood. The fact that it had a toilet, shower, and a walled in yard, testified to that. Trucks with soldiers patrolling could be heard passing by throughout the night. 
   Max wondered, why all the secrecy? Wasn’t Honduras an American ally? A base for Contras? Perhaps not… not all the contras are allies. Some are enemies worse than the Sandinistas. He felt more ignorant than ever before. He thought of Kuka and lit a cigarette, staring out the window into the yard. Yes, he was jealous of Kuka. He felt betrayed and abandoned. He had to let go.
   Max checked the packet of Lempiras on the table by the window and looked for a note with his driver’s name. Wondering what the rate to the dollar was, he found the name mysteriously inside a message scribbled on the envelope: “Diego.” That was the only name he saw. Okay, if a pint of rum is 5 Lempiras, shit, that looks like a good rate of exchange. He played around with Kuka’s admonition in his mind, “Stay in the house…” 
   Damn, he concluded, a pint would never be enough.
   He wore, as a prop, one of those photo-journalist vests with all the pockets. He took out his wallet from the top pocket. The press pass in it, even though it was forged, made him feel like a “somebody”. 
   This kitchen table was a good place to set up for the night and become the fiction Max pretended to be. He opened his note pad and spoke into the tape recorder Kuka had given him saying, “I will write what I see and that is all: who, what, where, when, and leave out why.”
   Max was now, by or hook and crook, a journalist. He might as well act like one. He had no training as a journalist and only a rudimentary grasp of English grammar. It was worth a try.
   “I am alive and on an adventure. I am resigned to the understanding that nothing I believed or knew before this sojourn would amount to anything,” he recorded.
Leaving out the why would prove to be the hardest part as he filled two or three pages of notes.
   Max hadn’t even thought about drinking since boarding the plane until Luciano offered the pint. He couldn’t even get tanked up with rum before the flight. He tried explaining to Kuka that he needed it to fly. She insisted he stay sober and he was willing to appease her for the moment. She must have had some kind of magic because he hadn’t thought about drinking at all until that moment. Stay inside was Kuka’s command. He checked the cupboards and under the sink… nothing. He gave up and took a shower. He packed a spare pair of trousers, a few changes of underwear and socks, and a Berlitz Spanish dictionary, into the pack.

   The sun hadn’t risen when he heard the knock. He opened the door in his jockey briefs. A short stocky man dressed in a Hawaiian shirt stood there.
   “Who are you?” Max asked, as instructed but regardless, he envisioned being bent over and raped on the kitchen table, taken by the authorities, kidnapped, or otherwise violated. His sphincter clinched to think of it.
   “Diego,” the man answered.
   Max breathed a sigh of relief after Diego spoke first. There has been a change in plans. You have enough provisions to keep you a month.
   “How about cigarettes? And Kuka… what has happened to her?”
   Diego dropped a New York Times on the table. The front page covered an attempted assassination on Comandante Cero. Several top commanders and journalists injured or killed in a bomb blast.
   “What’s this got to do with Kuka?” then it dawned on him that there might be more to her than he’d imagined. “Where is La Penca?”
   “Don’t worry, she wasn’t there,” Diego assured, “Stay here. You can get sunlight in the courtyard but don’t… don’t under any circumstances, don’t go out on the streets. I’ll bring you a carton of smokes.”
   “How about some entertainment. I don’t have a TV or radio. How about a liter of juice… tequila, rum, vodka… even beer?”
   That afternoon Diego appeared at the door with a radio and a box containing a TV.
   “Anything else?” Max queried.
   “You mean booze? No.” Diego pointed to the New York Times that was still on the table, “We’ll see. But you need to be alert.”
   Max hadn’t heard a word from Diego about the bombing at la Penca. He didn’t like the idea of waiting without any way to pass time lacking some companionship or distraction from the obsession to drink. He felt a strong urge to delay Diego’s departure so he tried to strike up a conversation, “Who do you think planted that bomb, the Sandinistas?
   “I would put the Sandinistas last on the list of suspects.”
   “Who would be first?”
   “The Somocistas? Had him expelled from ARDE… one of Robelo’s, maybe CIA. It doesn’t matter. Some of the Miskitos have quit and it is clear that Pastora is marginalized.” Diego answered sadly and waved, “Adios. Hang tight a few more days, Max. Changes are everywhere. No one knows much of anything.”
  Max watched Diego leave and resigned to accepting his isolation. He knew as much from Kuka’s lectures that ARDE was a loose coalition of Contras and that at least two thirds were ex-National Guard or mercenaries. Eden Pastora was a thorn in the sides of those who wished to restore the Somosa family to power in Managua and had little concern for the Miskito tribes of the east coast.
   The TV had rabbit ear antennae and only one state run station in Spanish on which Max could catch a word here or there that it was news about the bombing in la Penca. A week passed with no word from Diego. No booze… nothing but his journal for a companion. He searched the AM radio airways for any English language stations and found a few; one from Costa Rica and one night he caught a talk show from KGO in San Francisco. He remembered listening to that station as a teen in Spokane. Les Crane and Ira Blue came through all the way to Spokane on his transistor radio and opened his mind to the big giant world beyond. He was delighted to hear it break through his exile twenty years later between waves of static in the middle of the night.
   Another week went by and Max was running out of cigarettes. The admonition to stay in the house grew weaker as time and tedium set in. He began to tear up pages of the New York Times to make cigarette paper and emptied tobacco from butts into an empty tuna can… just in case. There had to be a place nearby where he could find cigarettes and booze to help make the waiting bearable. Nightfall seemed the best time to venture out.
   It was quiet and eerily dark and there were no stores of any kind in the surrounding blocks of the neighborhood. A pickup truck approached and Max instinctively knew to duck behind a wall as it passed. Several armed soldiers rode in the back where a fifty caliber machine gun was mounted. It didn’t seem like a good idea to explore any further the neighborhood of his prison.
  Max had gotten up pre-dawn to roll a cigarette from the tobacco in the tuna can. A tall man, an older American, in a grey crew cut, sports coat and chinos came through the gate by the street. Max was still adjusting his eyes to the dark and didn’t see Diego at first. He began putting on his trousers before he answered the heavy knock at the door.
   Diego, along with the tall man, entered. Max stood at the opened door where, once in the light, he could see that the tall man’s crew cut was white and the lines on his face were well traveled. He had an aura of vigor that telegraphed he was one bad hombre that it would be wise not to fuck with even though he must have been in his late sixties or early seventies.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Taxi Romance: Inserted Chapter

Kuka and Jungle Love

"The first thing we revolutionaries lose is our wives. The last thing we lose is our lives. In between our women and our lives, we lose our freedom, our happiness, our means of living."
Edén Pastora
It was one of those wintery, but balmy (between Southern California rains), Saturdays on the beach at David and Michael’s blanket before the Beach Committee had dissolved that I was introduced to a woman from Honduras. Since my relationship with Katya had devolved into that miasma of just friends, I was available and David thought this dark goddess would do me good.
“Conveniently, Max,” David primed my expectations, “this woman is going to be leaving town in a few weeks. She’s coming over this afternoon and is interested in being shown a good time, you know.”
I watched her come across the sand, and stand above us with feet planted, giving me a once-over, as David proceeded with the formalities, “Kuka, this is the guy I’ve been telling you about. Max., this is Kuka. She’s leaving for Honduras in a few days.”
There was the usual chit-chat and laughter but Kuka had a serious demeanor about her. It was the way she talked about the Sandinista government of Nicaragua and the Contras, especially Eden Pastora, which was foreign to me. She was of mixed Afro/Miskito Indian decent. Her name, Kuka, spoke of her experience growing up on the border of the Rio Coco of Honduras, Bluefields of Nicaragua, and her native Miskito culture. She wore embroidered shirts emblazoned with wildly vibrating colors silk threads… … reds, greens, cerulean blues, contrasted by plain loose cotton shorts over the brown of her smooth skin. I sat in near rapture that any woman this beautiful and full of spirit was talking to me after Vacaville. Vacaville, where no one I hung out with cared about anything but getting, or staying, stoned.
Stoned, yes, Michael rolled a joint and passed it around. Each of us took a toke until it got to Kuka, she waved it off… passed it to me. 
I was puzzled… “You don’t smoke?”
“No, I used to but my job is too demanding… I need a clear head.”
“What kind of work?”
“I’m a teacher. It isn’t so much what I do, but where I do it.”
I wanted to impress her for some entirely unknown reason. This simple gesture appealed to me and I felt a need to let her know that I had a serious side along with a rudimentary knowledge of world affairs. I tried to be as erudite as I could and I was slightly embarrassed at the sound of my own voice laying down my usual stoner rap, “I find it a paradox that a peaceful overthrow of the Government of the Shah in Iran and was replaced by a worse oppressive and horrible theocracy while the much more violent revolution in Nicaragua is more favorable to democracy.”
I find it a paradox, eh? I thought to myself; I never used words like this in Vacaville the past nine months or so... after the spill on my bike… but it was a good word… an intellectual word… meaning very little to me more than blah… blah… blah. I had her attention but her reaction wasn't at all what I’d thought it would be.
            “You don’t get it do you,” she half accusingly snorted unladylike-like, “It’s damned near worse there with Ortega, and his Sandinista neighborhood watches, than when Samosa ran the place. I was there in Managua with my cousin, another Miskito, when the shit came down.”
            “I don’t know anything about that kind of mosquitoes. That’s a name for Indians I suppose?”
“Yes, the Spaniards called us mosquitoes but that’s a name for a bug… a pest. We have always had the name, Miskito. I’ll spell it out for you, M – I – S - K - I - T - O.”
I learned to listen and asking questions was a way of letting her know I was doing just that. The truth was, since the concussion, I didn't give a rats-ass about Nicaraguan revolution or the Iranians either. Clinical depression is an entirely self-obsessed dysfunction. It has to be so, I suppose. I had a theory about depression being evolution’s way of equipping us in order to survive serious trauma… trauma like cracking one’s skull from ear to ear. The way out of depression is to care about something; a cause, or something greater than oneself. It is as though I had been waiting for something like that since I lost it all. The way into suicidal depression is to be presented with a greater cause, a calling, and then denying it.
Her deep brown eyes and a face framed by thick-wavy-jet-black hair, with lips, opening and closing, to a cadence of words about tragedy and failed expectations of the Miskito tribes on the Gulf Coast of Nicaragua, held my full attention. Then, breaking through the hypnosis of her eyes, I heard a familiar name.
            “I was with my cousin in Managua when Edén Pastora took over Samosa’s palace in ‘78’. I met him in person after he returned from Cuba.”
            “Pastora, Commander Zero? Wasn’t he a Contra?”
I had no idea what to think. My idea of the Contras was that they were all reactionaries… death squads… mercenaries, bought and paid for by the CIA.  I’d read a little about the Sandinista’s and one of their military leaders, Commander Zero, (who had switched sides shortly after Samosa was ousted). Truthfully, I knew little of the inner workings, who’s in who’s out, of the mess in Central America except the President Ronald Reagan was for the Contras and Fidel Castro was an ally of Daniel Ortega.
“You Americans have this warped idea of what the Contras are.” She drew a rough map in the sand with her finger… “This is the North of Nicaragua… and this is the East Coast where the Miskito live. The Northern command is heavily armed and aided by the CIA but they mostly sit around smoking dope in Honduras… sending raids across the border to hit heavy targets: heavy targets like children in elementary schools.”
“The Miskitos are here,” circling the side of her map, “and many have fled to Honduras with Pastora or Bermudez. We are fiercely independent; the Spanish, the English, the Americans, Samosa, and now, the Sandinistas, have tried to co-opt, enlist, or erase, them from the Coast.” She slammed her fist down on the sand where I imagined people in grass skirts with spears scurrying into the forests to hide from Conquistadors. “But we are still here.”
The Iran/Contra Affair had been buzzing around the alternative press at that time… and, of course, anyone opposed to the Sandinista FSLN was considered to be the personification of evil. Among my liberal friends, myself included, there was a ready acceptance of leftist revolutionaries and, any contrary groups however slight the gradient distinction, were considered neo-fascists.
It made an impression on me too that Kuka didn’t mind sleeping with me in my VW van. She didn’t seem to mind at all, saying, “Sometimes we sleep on hammocks in the forest. This van is a luxury, you know.”

If I could have loved, I would have loved Kuka. I would have just as I would have, if I could have, loved anyone. I had to resign to not being able to love. To love was not an option as long as a crystalline pure hatred for Celeste, for her persistent refusal of any visitation with Ariel, bore my spirit. It was a hard realization that expressed itself first in Honduras.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Hunger Grows... from Adriane

She called Billy on his pager. Pagers were already old-school back then but Billy didn’t trust cell phones or land-lines. Before he called back, Adriane’s mind was made up. She wasn’t all that sure whether her mind had anything to do with it but just the thought of fixing awoke the hunger. Those vodka hangovers were getting worse and she needed something that could get her through the day. Letting go of resistance is a relief of sorts… Billy could fix that…
The hunger grows. That is what it does. It has a mind of its own and she was… her dreams… her hopes fade to black… black tar consumes what is left of them. It becomes what she was… a junkie… a tar baby. Adriane knew; so many times she’d gotten clean. Life began to look good again… the scars on her hips ankles hands and arms started to fade… but somehow that wasn’t ever good enough. There was this appetite that couldn’t be quenched. She often heard people say that all that was needed would be a good job, some meaning and purpose to a junkie’s life… a Hollywood love-life… a spiritual awakening… It didn’t matter to her… even God can’t do enough for anyone to relieve this craving. What is that? Where does a junkie go from where she dwells? She’d tried it all. One rehab after another... one spiritual path after another… anything to take away this craving…. What could she do but surrender to it?
She told herself, “I will just do muscle-pops from now on. I’m not putting tar into my veins. It isn’t as quick but it does the job and I don’t have to fumble around, probing for a vein that isn’t collapsed. I just put that spike in my butt and act as though everything is just fine. No tracks to hide; no long sleeved shirts; no rush either but that’s okay. No one can tell I am a junkie unless they get my pants off. Who is going to get that far with me unless they know already what I am about?”

Billy talked about old times and eventually they went to bed. After she got what she wanted she was done, she pushed him off… off and away, “You have to go now, Billy.”
“But, Adriane, why?”
“Because, I have other things to do,” she was transfixed on the tin foil that opened up showing the gooey tar. That alone was on her mind. She just wanted to have sex after they’d hit-up and Billy was compliant. He left the house disappointed because she wouldn’t let him stay. It is always that way with sex. She wanted the fuckers to go away no matter how close they’d been.  After all, she paid for the shit with cash and not her body. Sure, she had sex with him, and that was for herself, but after that she wanted nothing more but to get with it on her own.
She hit up again; heroin came on to her at the cellular level. It didn’t talk to her brain… it talked to her body… relaxed the muscles… it hummed through the blood stream… a gentle orgasm… “Here I am, dear one… you have been waiting so long for this… I am here.”
And her body answered …. “Aaaah.”

Abscess & Abuse from "Adriane"

Adriane sat on the stool in the studio again after lying in bed for an hour. She got off it... taking to the easel with renewed energy. The blank canvas held no fear for her as she swathed it in blues, blacks and greens… framed by zigs of yellows… and zags of red energy… another portrait but not exactly angry… more of an agitated distance with a hint of pathos. The conflict was gone and she was no longer suffering. Yes, a junkie doesn’t suffer addiction. Up to a certain point addiction is the solution to suffering for the likes of Adriane. When heroin leaves the body it exits the same path that it entered… only it leaves with a vengeance. Every cell, muscle and nerve-ending cries out as the hunger makes itself known.
The sad fact for her was that she needed to paint and heroin helped her do that. “Why did I need to paint? It certainly wasn’t for the fame or fortune of selling any of these paintings.” She did have a dealer in Paris but, “that fucker didn’t think I was doing anything progressive or avant-garde enough by painting…” she thought again, “Or by painting at all.” Painting on a canvas with oils was more of a fetish to her than it was a devotion to art. “Is it a fetish for retrieving something of the past, perhaps?” After all, she’d heard them expound from the cafes and bars that painting was obsolete with the first Daguerreotype. It was obsolete until Braque and Picasso blasted our perceptions. After the Dadaists and surrealists took art out of the studio and onto the public stage this action made the idea of ART to seem somewhat silly and arcane. When Jackson Pollack came along and splattered his canvasses with action paintings, it made the act of painting a self-obsessed hobby for the moronically elite that would be better off if all the painters went to go get a job in a factory than to toil away trying to find relevant meaning with oil on canvas. Andy Warhol didn’t mistakenly call his loft The Factory. He made it clear that the highest purpose of art in the latter half of the twentieth century was to make money... an investment like a stock certificate. The cathedrals of this religion became the auction houses where the works of dead artists were celebrated with astronomical bids. He made himself even clearer if ever it was posited, “My five-year-old can do as well as that!” His answer could have very well been in a spaced-out tone, “Oh, that’s interesting.” That was all he would have had to say but that was enough to imply, “Can your five-year-old make the kind of money I make with it?”
“And, art schools! Psshhhaw!” Art schools had become to Adriane, places where semi-affluent parents put their kids before finally making up their minds, before going out into the world to get a real job. These places create in each student the delusion that there is a wall... a ceiling... somewhere (a holy place... a Sistine Chapel) to put their self-indulgent scribbles. The big secret is that the “Art World” only opens the window of opportunity to a few selected artists each decade and then slams it shut. These artists are touted as the winners of the lottery and are encouraged to believe that what they do matters somehow. Artists who stumble or get diverted… loose interest… or see through the guise… are pushed aside for the next crop out of New York, Berlin, London, Paris, or Los Angeles.
Why then should anyone have imagined that painting was any more important than keeping a personal diary? Either desires, intuitions, experiences, are universal and have an appeal to other people; or, it is all a vain pursuit and the painter was just spending time between birth and death, pretending to be more important than all that.
She wrote in her journal, “Between birth and death… between one fix or another… I no longer wonder what it is that I am doing here. It is a dreamscape I occupy for a spell… a spell cast by an illusionist… the master illusionist… you call it God? Max calls it the Great Whazoo. How many theologians can we count dancing on the head of a pin? But in the dreamscape something else is going on. Angels or Demons, I can’t tell which”

The doorbell chime broke the reverie. She descended the stairs, pulled her robe over the purity of her nakedness…. ala Duchamp… and closed it with a strap. She opened the door. Two police officers stood close, noses nearly touching the door, trying to peek in through the peep hole.

They stepped back startled, “Eh hem, I’m Officer Dan Richards. You are Mrs. Adriane Baker… Nicholas’s Baker’s wife?”

Thursday, April 17, 2014

About Adriane

I had no idea what I was getting into when I started writing this historical novel. I had no intention of diving into the pool of the past and I certainly had no idea of how little knowledge I had of the Spanish Civil War, the French Maquis during WWII, the Basque of the Atlantic coast of Southern France and Northern Spain. Nor was I aware of all ethnic groups and languages (other than Castillian) in Franco's post civil war Spain. I.e., the Basque, Gitano (gypsy) and Catalonian languages, dances and customs were outright banned by Franco! My whole view of that war came from skimming over stories of the Lincoln Brigade and the writings of Hemingway and Orwell who'd all left Spain to the Spaniards when the war ground down to defeat.

Adriane was supposed to be a continuation of the love interest in A Taxi Romance and about her bad marriage, struggles with alcoholism, drug abuse, and how wealth enabled her inability to grasp recovery. The story began with a subject I was quite familiar with and based on a wonderful woman I count as a friend. I departed from what I knew of her and began creating a family background. It all came from a picture she had framed, mounted and hung on the wall of her living room as a teen bathing nude in the surf. The picture was so innocent... arms lifted skyward waist deep in the surf... The snapped by her uncle who was a monk and a writer.

I created the character, Alesandro, based on that idyllic picture. I had no knowledge of her uncle (other than a theological dissertation he had published) so I made him up. I didn't know how her father acquired his wealth either but I did know he'd risen from poverty and became a successful broker after the war.

Another photo, of an abstract sculpture depicting a Basque Maquis in a beret on the lawn of the estate, provided inspiration for the rest of the story. It turned into two books at this point as I became further intrigued with the part the Basques played in the Civil War and the Resistance during WWII.

So now, Adriane is two books. The first is about Alesandro and the Basque woman, Iniga, as Spanish Maquis during the two wars and Basque Separatists afterwards. The book, Adriane, was put on hold and had to come later as I dove into research. At first I was only going to skim Wikipedia but found I had to go further... hitting the UC library and, finding little in local bookstores, I resorted to Amazon. To my surprise, You Tube has some interesting films on the subject.

Comically, I even started wearing a beret with the excuse of "getting into my characters!" I do have to laugh at myself now and then. So, that's where I am today. The book is rolling out and I love writing it. The subject is so much more interesting than drug addiction and alcoholism.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Blank Page

Writing... Ahhh, the tyranny of grammar wandering around words... then plucking them from the tree between my ears... pounding the keys until they are packed into the mold of a paragraph... arbitrary emotions distilled... nowhere to go but to the end of the page... another sheet... another look at it and wondering how I could have ever made that mistake or used that word or put it in that order and rereading it as though it wasn't written by me but some stranger that sat here yesterday. 

I'm not afraid of the blank page. You know what they say about fools rushing in where angels... fuck angels! You timid invisible androgynous messengers from on high... gimme inspiration from something earthier than ethereal babel. Gimme something real on the page... an emotion... an action as plausible as nonfiction fiction... as beautiful as J.K.'s prosey. 

C'mon, Muse, you're supposed to call the shots here. Fifty years ago I might have called out to you and exclaimed in the dark by the light of a single bare bulb in a cheap hotel room but these days I am a slave to spell & grammar check on keys I touch gently lit by the screen of the monitor into the night with no need for white-out and run-on sentences go wild that will never get past, or passed by, the editors. And, besides,there ain't no such thing as a cheap hotel room in this town.

Now please, I'm asking politely... Don't tame my pen... Don't call it to order! Let these words come up from the earth where human beings live... Please, don't get in my way with your high-minded literary posh academia piffle. I'm weary of editing and rewrites capping the volcano inside my heart just to please you. Let them rage... let them cry and laugh... let them be! Tell ole Pharaoh to let my words go!

There... I'm going to get back to work on my novel... thanks for listening.