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.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Asturias, from Adrian: Book One


Sleeping… soothed by the lullaby of the chunk-chunk…clack-clack of steel wheels on steel tracks… then a whistle… awake… another town… another group of volunteers boarding… steam exploding from the pistons of the engine. Alesandro watched the eager new ones standing in the aisle… falling against each other as the train jerked to a start… then turned his attention to the changing Castilian landscape passing his window… images flashing by as the train wound its way towards Asturias; to another country on the far side of Spain. 

Alesandro was crammed into a seat on the wooden bench of the car, shoulder to shoulder, with young men… young or younger than he. Their voices were, from the start in Madrid, loud and boisterous… songs of the revolution… “A Las Barricades!” Bravado smothered fear and anticipation, driven by the cheers of crowds alongside the tracks waving red and black flags … the engine of fate tugged chugged their cars away from the station and from the safety of home.

 Some aboard were CNT labor unionists, veterans of street fighting , but most were volunteers: metropolitan boys with pink hands. The images on the posters were of men; masculine men with chiseled chins and muscled forearms, fists thrusted skyward over the barricades... men, not boys... boys who hoped to be greeted with cheers and welcomed by the rugged calloused hands of miners holding firm at the barricades of Gijón and Oviedo. The train left Madrid loaded up these untrained young and eager faces on railways controlled by the CNT armed by little more than the enthusiasm and the naivety of youth. Only a few had seen blood from more than a scratch before and were unprepared for what awaited them in the mining towns in and above Oviedo or Gijón on the Biscay coast. From Madrid the tracks crossed north through the heartland of Castile-Leon and into a region of rugged mountains, passing towns and stations that prominently posted the red and black flags of the Anarchist revolution. 

Next to Alesandro sat snoring the fledgling journalist, Marcel Fournier; his brother by adoption and Euskara blood.  Their bond was stronger than that of paternity, or patriotic zeal. Alesandro, orphaned at five, had been embraced and given a home near Biarritz by Marcel’s half-Basque father out of loyalty to the Otxoa family. Because of his secondary level education at the Lycée Militaire, Alesandro had an inkling of military experience and felt responsible for, and protective of, Marcel.

There is no irony greater than that the same cars packed with revolutionaries would turn back to Madrid as a symbolic act of co-operation with the Republic by the CNT that controlled the rails. These trains would then be loaded up with the troops of Colonel Yague and General Ochoa to deliver slaughter to the strikers. Veteran of combat, Moroccan troops, under orders of the Generals of the Republic in Madrid, Francisco Franco and Manuel Goded, were sent to quell the miners’ strike of Asturias. The storm clouds forming in the atmosphere of the Second Republic of Spain was dark with foreboding: a civil war that the life of Alesandro (Gotson) Otxoa would be entangled from his first taste of combat in October of 1934 until his imprisonment in Carabanchel in 1954.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Stae of Victimhood

How far back can we go pointing fingers of blame on the effed-up ethnic relationships of the twenty-first century? 

  Here is a brief list of the generations of abuses in the West (I’ve skipped several but, is there room?): 1. the city states of Mesopotamia did it to each other and when the dust settled 2. the Egyptians and Persians threw in to the bloody mix everyone and anyone in their way. 

   3. The Israelites are recorded in the Old Testament as doing it to the inhabitants of Canaan and 4. everyone else did it to the Jews. 4. The Greeks did it to each other and everyone between Pakistan and the Pillars of Heracles. 5. the Persians tried to do it to the Greeks. 6. The Romans had it done to them by the Etruscans so they did it to everyone else including the Greeks, Jews, Celts, Brits, Gauls and so on and on.

   7.  From the East poured into the West as the Huns, Visigoths, Vandals and Mongol hoards of the Khans sacked what was left when Rome and Byzantine fell.

   Skipping ahead a few centuries: 8. According to the Koran the Jews were the first victims of Islam, as Mohammed and his followers put the sword to anyone in their way. 9. Eventually the Moors did it to the Iberian Peninsula. invading Spain into France on one side and almost to Vienna on the other before the Crusades did it back at Islam. 

   10. Spain did it to the  the Jews, heretics, Basque and Catalonians in an inquisition there that lasted into the last half of the Twentieth century and, as if this didn't keep them busy, wiped out or enslaved whole nations of First People here. Spain had their hands in North Africa too.

   11. The Brits did it to the Irish, the Welsh, the Scots and the First People of America, India and Africa… 12. So did the French and some Germans. 13. The Dutch did it to Indonesia and the Portuguese messed things up a bit in Brazil. 14. Nothing can be compared to what the USA did to the tribes and nations of the First Peoples… i.e., the trail of tears etc. 15. Can’t leave out 300 years of the enslavement of Africans either. That is just a few in the West but I haven’t forgotten; 15.  the French in Southeast Asia followed by the Japanese....

   16. The atrocities of the Germans against Slavs, Jews, the Romani, and dissidents of all shades are still fresh in our minds. I haven't much room on this site to mention the list of atrocities imposed on each other in Asia. There are so many... the list goes on forever and NO ONE’S hands are clean. 

So, let us stop bitching and get our act together.