Category Archives: Random writings

Incident at Caleta Beach – a persistent memory

INCIDENT AT CALETA BEACH

You tell me who was right – after twenty-four years the day is as clear in my memory as yesterday. And after all that time, I still don’t know what to believe.

Caleta* was Acapulco’s morning beach in my grandfather Papa Memo’s day. My grandfather was the epitome of the Mexican gentleman, warm, family-oriented, and a man of absolutely unwavering integrity.

In those days you saw everyone who was in town at Caleta in the morning. Then, at a suitable time, you went back to your house to bathe; to have that meal known as “la comida,” the food, which could be lunch or brunch or even an early dinner, and which was being prepared by the cook; and to lie in a hammock through the worst heat of the day. Late afternoons, you went to Playa Hornos. I barely had a few years to do this as a child transplanted to Mexico before my beloved grandfather passed away.

In our day, Bill’s and mine, Caleta had lost its uniqueness to population booms, but it was still close to Albemar, my family’s home. We settled on our small plot of sand, to people-watch, to keep our three small children from following the wavelets too deep, to watch for that occasional big wave which still washes up all the way to the base of the hotel which has stood, bare concrete, unfinished due to legal troubles, for as long as I can remember.

The umbrella was set in the sand. Our baby daughter dug happily with her bucket of ocean water to fill the hole. The white-shirted waiter with the rolled up pants and bare feet had brought us two white-painted slatted wood lounge chairs, and would come later with sodas for all, ceviche for Bill if he dared.

People walked by as they will on a beach, vendors of shell necklaces and mangoes dipped in chile piquín, waiters with coconuts. Not crowded, not empty. Just right.

A lone lounge chair twenty feet to our left, ten closer to the water’s edge, sat in isolated splendor – no umbrella, no beach table, no thatched hut – in a patch of sand. A Mexican family, father and three boys, moved decorously – in sand it is hard to do otherwise – between us and the water, and the trailing small boy sat for a moment on the edge of the chair. The father turned to hurry his brood on, the boy stood up and continued trailing along.

All at once, in the middle of this idyll designed to dull the mind to pure lazy observer, came shouting from the waves. Caleta is a tranquil beach, half of a tiny bay, divided from Caletilla by the causeway that goes to the island, but people still drown here. So shouts are heeded.

The words were unrecognizable, guttural, but it could have been the distance. The man charging out of the water had a big belly. It is hard work to charge out of the water. He came slowly until the water cleared his chest, then moved up the beach as fast as his bulk would allow, yelling all the time. He switched to English, and my ear pulled the sound out of the soft murmuring Spanish background. The word he was yelling was “Thief!”

My Spanish-challenged husband said “Stay out of it.” He went back to helping the baby dig to China.

The Mexican gentleman came to a stop, the very portrait of affronted dignity. The German tourist – for he could be no other – gesticulated wildly and switched to his limited Spanish, bellowing “Policía!” I see the small group yet, rooted unyielding in the sand of memory.

There is a tiny cement hut at the end of the causeway where a contingent of blue-uniformed policemen discretely supervise the goings-on of the glass-bottom boats bobbing along the causeway, and the occasional beach drunk. One appeared, notified by the grapevine. He attempted to calm the tourist, assuage the wounded pride of the Mexican gentleman called a thief in front of his children.

El policía had little English – and his set and the German’s didn’t overlap. I, born nosy and American and bilingual, approached, and gingerly asked if I could help. Bill, in the background, shook his head, and dedicated himself to keeping our boys, just as nosy, 3 and 5, but NOT bilingual, well away from the tableau we must have made.

The German tourist latched on to me, explaining loudly in his limited English. I translated. The Mexican father shook is head slowly, consented only to explain gravely, because he had been accused, that he was looking for a place to settle his brood, with their bags and toys, on the beach. The policeman looked baffled and attempted to be conciliatory: there must have been some mistake.

But the evidence was incontrovertible: the smallest of the Mexican boys, the one who had perched briefly at the end of the German’s carefully isolated chair, held in his hand a plastic bag containing the German’s wallet and hotel key.

The German gentleman’s story: he had come to the beach alone, and fearing thieves, had set the chair well apart so he could watch his belongings from the water. His fear had now been confirmed.

The Mexican gentleman’s story: he was looking for a piece of beach for the day; the children were dawdling; he had spoken sharply to the one who sat for a moment, to pick up his things and stop falling behind. The father was thoroughly mortified, but it was clearly a mistake, and his son would now hand the German back his property.

The policeman was baffled. I translated all into English for the benefit of the German gentleman, and his comments into Spanish for the Mexican gentleman and the policeman.

The child was admonished. The policeman clearly wanted the matter to disappear. The German was asked if he wanted to press charges. I was asked what I saw, which was very little – I did not notice whether the child had anything in his hand when he sat down, and I did not see him pick the bag up when he moved on.

The impasse settled like the baking sun on our little group. Finally, I asked the German whether he would be satisfied with an apology. He reluctantly agreed. I translated into Spanish: the dignified Mexican gentleman was affronted – he had already apologized, according to his lights. The policeman saw a resolution, pressed his co-national.

The Mexican gentleman, clearly unhappy, asked me to translate his formal apology to the foreign tourist. The German nodded his head brusquely. Neither man offered a hand.

The policeman went off, the matter dealt with to his satisfaction. The German tourist thanked me roughly, and went back into the water to our left, leaving his plastic bag now carefully tied to the lounge chair. The Mexican gentleman chose a section of thatched hut to our right, called a waiter, requested a drink. The three little boys dashed off to the water.

And so we sat in face-saving splendor. The German stayed in the water long enough to prove he was unbowed, then ostentatiously retrieved his bag and left the beach. A while later we gathered our children and their toys and sandals and towels, and headed out to get a taxi back to Albemar on the hill. We left the Mexican gentleman still in possession of the battlefield.

But I have wondered all these years whether the Mexican gentleman, so poised and so middle-class, and so offended, was not a Fagin with the perfect excuse for his small accomplices to pick up bags left carelessly unattended on the beach by foreigners, even in cahoots with the police. I don’t know why I think that.

And I wonder still whether I did not do the German tourist a terrible disservice because the Mexican gentleman, dark-skinned, balding, self-possessed, was the perfect reincarnation of my beloved Papa Memo.


*This image, courtesy of Wikipedia, is from 2009. In 1992, when this incident occurred, there would have been far fewer chairs and thatched umbrellas and people. There were fewer hotels, and an unfinished one behind the beach. Caletilla is to the right, past the causeway from which this photo appears to have been taken.

What the writer does when bored

HARD AT WORK. REALLY. MAKING PROGRESS. SLOWLY.

Cover design is fun. And hard exacting work. With pixels. And typography. And photographs.

It doesn’t look like anything until it’s done. You will see it then. Right now, it’s a pile of mostly things that haven’t worked. Yet.

If you want to see how it’s done by a pro, read JM Ney-Grimm’s posts: go to the site, and type ‘cover’ into the search box. Read everything.

For your entertainment, and because my eyes are closing and I can’t write a real post but I miss doing it, a blast from the rather recent past:

My notes dated March 18, 2015 at 2:58 PM.

I’m sitting in a doctor’s office, waiting for someone. Not for me – it is the someone’s doctor’s visit.

Me, I’m bored.

I just went through the process of finishing the most significant step of a project I was forced to undertake (civic duty and all that), and have gotten it to the point where I email the whole thing (in painful detail) to those who need the information to fix THEIR problem.

I was worried that I might be wrong – but going THROUGH the process and writing it all out showed me that not only was I RIGHT, but that the problem was way bigger than I had thought, and they had all the additional stuff WRONG, too.

So, vindicated for having undertaken the project, finally (it has been HANGING OVER my head for TWO YEARS), I feel pretty good – and I can get back to my writing.

Tools make it easier

Only all I have is the computer (no big external monitor), and the chiclet keyboard that comes with the MacBook (which I only use when FORCED to), and I can only see one page at a time or so, and that is not how I usually WORK, so I’m antsy.

I’ve done everything on the WIP that I can – and that’s saying a lot, because I’m writing/revising/editing the next-to-last scene, which is heavy. I need time, concentration, a nap first, and two hours in which I can let my brain assemble the pieces into a whole.

And I CAN’T do it here.

So I reread everything, and then put it away until I can get back to my desk.

I can’t sleep, work, go anywhere – and I will be interrupted in less than 15 minutes, so what do I do? I write this – and you guys get a post about what a writer does when totally bored?

The answer is: write.

If not on the computer, in a notebook.

I have been known to borrow paper and pens from a hospital nurses’ station and from the chaplain in a different hospital, to ask for writing materials in a hotel or a store if I didn’t bring anything.

Get the thoughts OUT of the HEAD, capture them on the PAGE, and the brain is happy and entertained.

The doctor comes out – I close the laptop. The doctor disappears again – I open it back up.

Really, this is a total core dump. And there’s nothing in the core!

Aaargh!

Normal people play games on their smart phones. I don’t have one, and I’m not normal!

What do YOU do when totally bored? Are you a reader or a writer?

Writing, death, intellectual property, and me

WHY THE FOCUS ON DEATH AND WRITING?

We are losing our older artists. Which means none of us is immune to Death. Fancy that.

Not that long ago, we lost both Elmore Leonard and Leonard Nimoy.

Sir Terry Pratchett, 66, just died of ‘complications of a chest infection and Alzheimer’s,’ according to the news, and was an advocate of the ‘right to die’ movement. May he rest in peace.

I am fast approaching the same age.

And we all know of writers whose fans are desperately hoping they will finish X before kicking the bucket.

So what do we do about it?

Other than not plan to die (I understand we are subject to the event, but had assumed, in my case, an exception would be made)?

In the same day, I run into, again, Neil Gaiman’s recommendation to write your will so it protects your intellectual property.

Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch have nagged unceasingly (thank you both) for having a tidy intellectual property disposal set up before you die, partly as the result of having had to deal with a huge estate, and partly because they will each leave a huge literary estate.

We need to update our wills. Most people do, even if they wrote one once. And many writer’s wills were written before they had much IP to protect.

I have no published works yet, so I have no actual intellectual property of that sort. But I am approaching publication for the first book of Pride’s Children, and I have a heck of a lot of notes.

What happens to an unfinished story when the writer leaves this mortal coil?

This bothers me, because I have barely approached the end of Book 1, and though I have a very rough draft of sorts for Books 2 and 3 (and 4, if you consider it separate), I worry about leaving people who like the story (a tiny contingent) and the characters without knowing what the end is.

Unless I get to write the remainder of Pride’s Children, it has no real value as intellectual property; it is unfinished, and not important enough to leave to someone else to finish.

Once it IS finished, it will be important for any monetary value my work has, to designate a proper executor for my literary estate, and have it managed to maintain any value it has.

If my disease progresses faster than expected, I hope to have time to leave things tidy.

But in between, if I get hit by a truck, no one will know how Pride’s Children ends. Worse still, I have promised a certain kind of ending, and it is not the least bit obvious how to get from where the last scene is, to this ending. I believe in happy endings, earned.

Solutions?

I have been thinking I need to publish a TV-synopsis-like list of the future episodes, subject to change as it is reworked, or give it to someone as the final post on my blog.

Or better still, publish it on my blog by SCHEDULING it in advance, and moving that publication date forward frequently, so that IF I die unexpectedly, and stop moving it forward, it will get published automatically before someone has the chance to stop my blog from going forward.

I am committed to the story – I know how it ends – what do you think of this idea?

What am I surfing for tonight, Internet?

Insomnia keeps me up, or  wakes me up after an hour or two. I ask myself what I am looking for as I go voraciously reading wherever I can.

There is no capacity for actually doing something useful right now. Trust me.

Answers

Someone to talk to.

Someone whose blog has interesting things on it – that I haven’t read yet.

Readers on WordPress or Wattpad who have read my stories and leave a comment, especially one that says how well I write and how much they love my characters.

There ARE a few others, but fewer than 10% are even partially negative.

But there aren’t enough to keep me in nightly happiness.

Something to read that I absolutely have to read right now, or the world will come to and end.

Something that will coax me toward writing or work during the day, sleep at night.

Reader love.

Intelligent co-stroking.

A place to leave intelligent comments that hasn’t barred me.

Funny stuff.

I have no idea.

I’ll know it when I see it.

What are YOU looking for tonight?

Unexpected writing gifts: blocked internet time

*

Are people blogging less?

I am aware that over the past month or so my blog posting has gone down in frequency, to the point where I’ve basically been putting up a post every Tuesday with a bit of a chat and the next scene in Pride’s Children, and nothing more.

Part of it is simply end-of-the-year-itis: there were a lot of things to do, many more than usual, including a trip to California to welcome a wonderful young lady into the family and celebrate with her and eldest son and lots of family. Add Christmas and New Year’s to that, and I defy you to continue exactly as usual.

But it’s been more than that. I notice far fewer posts on the blogs I follow, and far fewer comments, and wonder if the day of blogging is somehow taking its natural turn in the evolution of online communication: all things come to an end and are replaced by other things. Which begs the question: What will the new thing be?

What’s next?

There are podcasts and video blogs – I doubt I will be joining that revolution. For better or worse, I am of the print generation.

And as a raging aggressive introvert: ain’t gonna happen.

I do plan to try my hand at audiobooks – and give the weary world the ‘read by the author’ version of Pride’s Children. Why? Because I’m a ham.

But I’ve missed posting my thoughts and the things I figure out about my writing and my own observations of the world we live in. Heck, I’ve missed gathering the herd of wild sheep that IS my thoughts, and making it go into the corral one thought-sheep at a time in a line.

So I intend to do better, and spew forth more of whatever it is shiny that attracts my attention.

The unexpected gift of the day: blocked internet time

This morning’s gift was a 15-min. chunk of time in which my internet was not available, my morning B1 and caffeine haven’t kicked in yet, and in which, rather than get started on today’s writing (Pride’s Children, Book 1, isn’t going to finish revising itself), my brain decided to write about writing – and throw the results up for the world to see (‘marveling at’ is optional) JUST because I can. You don’t have to read – that’s the marvelous part – and I don’t have to do it, but we can if we want to, and I find that entrancing.

I can’t say what length will be natural for this Year of Our Lord 2015 – I suspect the pieces may be shorter – but I’m raring to go, looking forward to the end of the revising, and the work of finishing up and posting the first book of the trilogy, and exercising and eating right (okay, better) and reading and blogging and… whatever 2015 holds in store.

And that was how I chose to use my present this morning.

How about you?

*Thanks to Quozio.com for the quote software.

Spring story: a writing challenge

This was the challenge:

In 250 words or less, describe a Spring setting

But here’s the catch–you can’t use traditional Spring words or images. No flowers, no bright green, no new growth. Look for the unusual and personal way your character would describe the setting they’re in.

The result was… interesting.

Rather than lose these forever, I will throw them out to make a reader go hmmm and wonder about the way my brain works:

The rains came early that year – and stayed long. The river rose almost to the level of the 1936 flood, and hung there for days, taking with it the beginnings of the crops, seeds that hadn’t but set out the tenderest of rootlets: they were no match for the onslaught, were washed away in wide swaths. Blossoms that had started to open were knocked off their branches by a careless hand. We had no beauty that year. I don’t know how the birds made it, sitting waterlogged on bare trees. Their food must have been impossible to find, insects pounded by the driving rain as much as we were. Continue reading