Writing

The content you’ll find here is from my old blog that I inadvertently deleted. Fortunately I was able to paste in this information. Not the ideal solution but better than losing it completely!

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March 31, 2013

easter-bunny-3-eggs

An Easter Twist

Mellie’s eight now, and that’s too old to still believe in the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and all those other guys that bring her stuff.

Hiding behind the blue striped hassock, Mellie Nichols wondered why Peter had said that. He was probably jealous because as the youngest child, she got spoiled more than he did. No way would she let on that she knew the truth about those pretend gift givers. She had a good thing going.

“Don’t you dare spoil it for her Peter, she has to hang on to her childhood as long as she can,” said Mummy. “Come on, sit on my lap and give me a hug.”

Mellie knew that Peter badly wanted to snuggle into Mummy’s comfy arms but Brian was in the room, and her middle brother never liked to look like a baby in front of him.

Brian, at sixteen, had his learner’s license. Mummy knew that he sometimes sneaked away with the car when Daddy wasn’t home. He’d drive round and round the lower field. He loved driving, Mellie could tell.

Daddy had been resting on the big couch right across from Mellie’s spot. He must have seen her pink slipper sticking out. “Hey you guys, keep it down. Mellie’s right here,” he said.

Mellie had closed her blue eyes, feigning deep sleep. She was really good at doing that.

“She’s knocked right out,” said Daddy.

“Poor little thing,” said Mummy.

“Good little actress,” said Peter, as headed outside.

What a pain that Peter is, thought Mellie. She would wait for the right moment to “wake up.”  She’d try to time it with a noise that Peter made. Then he’d get in trouble and she’d get a treat. It worked every time.

CRASH! Just outside the screen door, Peter slammed the basketball onto the backboard before it swooped into the net. Normally Brian would come out and congratulate him, but not this afternoon.

“Ar-ar-ar-gh! screamed Mellie.

“You scared her out of her deep sleep,” scolded Mummy.

“Take that damned ball over to your friend’s house,“ Daddy yelled.

“It’s O-K-ay-ay…” Mellie bravely whispered. “Tomorrow’s Easter; I want to decorate eggs with Peter!”

Peter hated crafts. Mellie smiled like an angel. Daddy brought the eggs. “Peter you blow them out so Mellie can paint them,” he said. Mummy got her camera and took video of: her children enjoying quality time together. Later on she’d ask Brian to email the clips to her mom who lived in Chicago. Mummy was not very adept with the whole email thing…

The next morning, Mellie’s pretty blue, yellow and pink colored eggs sat in a crystal bowl on the coffee table. Mummy worked in the kitchen fixing the glazed ham and hot cross buns. They smelled sweet and salty at the same time.

Daddy’s brother Paul had come over to the house, dressed in his Easter Bunny get-up. He had a Santa Claus costume too, but no Tooth Fairy finery (at least not that he wore in public!)

Peter watched him hopping around the yard. What a family, he thought.

Mellie skipped outside wearing her Easter bonnet, little white gloves and a frilly mauve party dress. Mummy had allowed her to put on a coat of clear lip gloss – it tasted like peaches. Her white wicker basket was tied with a bow that matched her outfit. She smiled happily,  knowing the basket would soon be filled to the top with yummy candy.

Once the hunt started, brother and sister both found lots of sweet stuff (and a few chewed carrots)

Uncle Paul, now de-costumed, sat with Daddy under the sun umbrella and sipped on an Easter brew. A few bits of something orange were stuck in Uncle’s teeth…

The phone rang and muffled conversation ensued. After a couple of minutes, Mummy said to Daddy, “I need you to drive over there and pick them up.”

“We can’t, we’ve each had four beers,” said Daddy.

“I could go get them,” said Brian. I can drive really well and my advanced L permit allows me to drive alone between 10 am and 5 pm.”

“Good plan,” Daddy agreed, and Brian shot out the door with the keys.

“Where’s Brian going?” Mellie asked.

“My cousin Dale and her twin girls are in town; I’ve invited them for Easter lunch!” Mummy answered. She sounded so excited. Mellie was not at all sure about this…

An hour later, Dale proudly arrived with Samantha and Regina – identical four year old freckled redheads wearing yellow Easter dresses even more lacy than Mellie’s frock.

“Oo-oo-oo-oo!” squealed Mummy as she bent down and hugged her nieces. “Dale they are adorable!” She turned and spoke to her daughter. “Mellie you have two playmates today. Aren’t they just darling?”

Mellie’s eyes narrowed. She had realized too late that she had better hide her eggs, bunnies and ducklings – those usurpers were already eyeballing the stash.

“Do you want some candy?” Mummy asked the twins, as she wrenched the still-full basket out of her daughter’s tightly clenched hands. “What’s the matter with you?” she hissed at Mellie. “Behave yourself!” She passed the basket to the four outstretched arms, “Your cousin has lots; she’ll be happy to share with you,” she said.

Red curls bounced and yellow frills fanned out as the two started in on the sweets.

They are discerning little brats, thought Mellie. They had wolfed down the primo milk chocolate bunnies and were now starting in on the cream filled eggs.

Mellie looked for Peter – she needed back-up! Where is he, she wondered. She finally found her brother behind the blue striped hassock.

Peter was rolling around on the floor, hugging himself and trying to control his laughter. The tears of joy ran down his cheeks.

***

January 24, 2012

Connecting the Dots

Molly paced just outside the back doorway, waiting for Robert to show up. He often arrived a few minutes late but never this late. What should she do? Stay home? Keep waiting? Or what?

Maybe her mother had learned about their night time strolls? And if that were true, Robert would try to protect her from Mama’s irrational anger and he’d not come tonight.

Molly and Robert had first met three months previously at a mutual friend’s birthday party.  Neither of them enjoyed dancing, and while the others did the shimmy-shake out on the floor, the two of them talked. That night, one story quickly led to another, and one dot connected to the next dot.

Molly felt the east wind blowing under her light-weight jacket and she looked again at her watch. Robert was now over an hour behind schedule. She needed to leave within the next fifteen minutes or she’d not make the bus. She had to catch it, with or without him.

Once the quarter hour had passed, she picked up her backpack and headed towards the gate of the one story brick home she shared with her blonde blue-eyed mother. Molly’s dark chocolate eyes shone brightly but her full lips quivered. She had no idea as to how she would get through the next few days, but she had no choice.

When she had been a little girl, Mamá told her time after time: “You take after your father.”

His portrait sat high up on the fireplace mantle. She could see that her skin tone matched his and that his hair was black and straight like hers. One afternoon her mother had gone out shopping, and Grandma had been left in charge. The old lady fell asleep and seven year-old Molly had the run of the house. She wanted to get a better look at the mythical Papá she’d never known; the brave soldier who had died in “The War.”

She climbed up on the hearth and took the picture down. She pried the yellowing image from its frame, but the words on the reverse side puzzled her. She couldn’t sound out all the letters, much less understand the text. Only one fact shone crystal clear: In her hands, she did not hold her deceased father’s portrait, she held a clipping from a magazine.

She could still feel how the fear had settled in her gut but she managed to get the fragile page back where it belonged and then put the silver framed piece of paper back where she’d found it. She never asked her mother about her discovery. In fact she buried it deep down in her subconscious with all the other fuzzy memories.

It hadn’t been until she met Robert that Molly had accepted the truth. Somehow it seemed possible to do so because he too had a questionable lineage. Had their respective mothers adopted them? Or were they illegitimate? Maybe they were the offspring of dead lover? She wanted to ask Mamá but that would be pointless. Her mother had told tales about her father so often; by now she surely believed them to be true.

Robert had come up with the only solution. They should go together to Merida, where he said there is a record of every birth in the state.

Molly told her mother that she wanted to attend a poetry workshop. After much arguing she received a full down-on-the-knees blessing. Mamá told her to go with God, but she wouldn’t watch her leave.

“Ay-ay-ay Mamá!  The poets’ meeting will only last for 5 days,” Molly gave her mother a tight hug, “I’ll be on my best behavior,” she assured her.

***

The town’s bus depot was unknown territory for Molly. Mamá had always said. “If we need to go someplace far away, we’ll contract a private car.”

But that had never happened; they never went anywhere. When Molly had been 15, her school had an excursion to Chetumal and after begging her mother for weeks, she had finally been allowed to go. That short trip had done it; Molly knew that one day she would escape Mama’s loving but smothering presence and go to live in a city.

Sensing her daughter’s growing frustration Mamá developed a new strategy. Using Grandma’s death as an excuse, her mother started having spells of melancholy. At first Molly felt great sympathy; she had loved her grandmother too. But after five years of the moaning and groaning, Molly bore such resentment. She figured that her mother reasoned she wouldn’t be abandoned as long as she remained unwell, and she continued to pine away.  Molly felt like she was drowning, but she stayed at home and cared for her grieving mother. What made Mamá so terrified of letting her daughter go?

Settling into a window seat halfway down the length of the coach, Molly wondered if Robert would somehow catch up with her. When he jumped on board just seconds before departure, she felt relief flood through every inch of her body and brain, He saw her waving and quickly moved to occupy the empty seat beside her.

She leaned her head on his shoulder and fell asleep. No words passed between the two; they had no need to talk.

In the morning, Molly and Robert arrived in Mérida. They could hardly make sense of the directions they’d been given, but by some fluke they realized that the hotel Robert had reserved was located very close by the Registro Civil, the government depository of birth records. “We need to shower before going there,” Molly told Robert. Even though it was early, the 9 hour bus ride left them sweaty and rumpled.

Molly looked around her sparse room. She couldn’t remember ever sleeping in any bed but her own. She had worried that Robert might book double accommodations but she was glad he hadn’t. While they were affectionate with one another, she had no romantic interest. Clean and fresh after her bath, Molly dressed with care. Today might be the most important day of her life. Maybe her questions would finally be answered.

Standing in line to request their birth certificates, Molly reflected that Robert looked as uneasy as she felt. He kept straightening his skirt front and glancing around. When their turn finally came, they gave their full names: Molly Anne Evans and Robert Michael Davies.

“You say you were born in Yucatán?” the civil servant asked.

“Yes, both of us have parents who emigrated to México from Belize.” Robert replied.

“Well I am sorry but there is no record of your births in this state; maybe you should look for more information at the Immigration office located on Avenida Colón.” The older woman added, “If your parents came into this country from somewhere else, there would be a record there.”

They decided to take a taxi and were surprised by the lush vegetation they found in the area surrounding the immigration office. This was like their home; they felt comforted by the profusion of bougainvillea, hibiscus and jasmine and the canopy of broad leafed trees. There were no other people waiting at the enquiries desk.

“No appointments are given on Tuesdays,” the bored security guard had told them.

Molly’s nerves were shot and she couldn’t keep her sobs of confusion, frustration and pain under wraps. She leaned against Robert as the now agitated guard looked on.

“Please sit here,” he said, “I’ll see what I can do.”

Three minutes later he returned with a senior official, Sr. Jesús Ramírez Ortíz who ushered the distraught pair inside to the waiting area. Robert summarized their predicament, and Sr. Ramírez requested that they once again give their full names. He asked them to wait and a female official asked if they wanted something to drink.

Molly and Robert gratefully finished their glasses of cool water, and waited. They watched as several other officers came in and out of the office of Sr. Ramírez. Several times they could hear him on the telephone, and they saw a lengthy fax document carried inside. Molly looked alarmed when she heard the group cry out:  “Well, that’s what happened!”

Sr. Ramírez quickly brought them into his office. A whole array of paperwork was spread out on his desk. “We have located your names in our system,” he said, “But the people who own these names are a woman and man in their 60s. These are their pictures from when they were granted political asylum in Mexico in 1982.

Both Molly and Robert nearly fainted when they looked at the faded black and white passport photos. “That is my mother’s picture!” Molly said.

Robert sprang from his seat. “And that man is my father!” he cried,

Sr. Ramírez watched the two with a trained eye. There’s a lot more to this story than I first imagined, he thought. He stood and addressed Molly and Robert formally. “Actually this woman cannot be your mother,” he said nodding at Molly. “Nor can this man be your father,” he told Robert. “They are Americans. He is a Franciscan priest and she is a Dominican nun.”

***

Robert looked stricken and the shock caused Molly to feel as though she had entered a waking dream. In her mind’s eye she saw flashes of long white habits, jungle paths, a crib with bars across the top as well as on the sides. She heard soft voices and a woman weeping. From time to time, these same images also made up her nocturnal dreams. She feared she’d go crazy if she didn’t get some answers.

“Are you alright?” asked Sr. Ramírez.

She put her head in her hands. “No I’m not. Not at all,” answered Molly. “None of this makes sense but I’ve often felt that I had a different name. I was not always called Molly.”

Sr. Ramírez left her and Robert in his office with the sympathetic female officer. Molly supposed he’d gone to consult with his superiors. He marched back into the office 15 minutes later.

“I am going to accompany you to Santa Martha. We’ll need to speak with your families and find out what’s going on.”

They left Mérida the next morning at 6:00. Traveling with Sr. Ramirez in an official vehicle from the Immigration Department made Molly and Robert realize how remote their home was. During the first hours of the drive, they had passed many villages with thatched roof chozas. But as they approached Santa Martha, the frequency reduced to every 30 minutes or so. Ramrod straight trees with criss-crosses etched into their bark lined the highway. This was former chicle growing country. Sr. Ramírez told them that ten years ago, no roads cut through this land and only strong men, and even stronger women survived.

The exit to Santa Martha appeared suddenly, forcing the driver to make a hard right turn. Robert and Molly fell to the side, and while they straightened up, Robert whispered, “Let’s go to your place first.”

Molly spoke up and directed the driver to her house.

Molly and Robert’s bodies felt stiff after the long car trip, and the scene that greeted them left them speechless.  Robert’s dad, “Father Rudy”, sat on the front porch with Molly’s mother, “Sister Loretta.”

“I didn’t even know they were acquainted,” said Molly.

“We have some explaining to do,” said Loretta, “But first come in and have something to drink. You must be thirsty.” She didn’t seem at all surprised to see the Immigration authorities. She took a deep breath and told Sr. Ramírez: “I have expected to see someone like you for years.”

Rudy began. “Molly and Robert you are both from Guatemala. During the terrible civil war, Loretta and I worked with international aid agencies to protect civilians from the violence. But our efforts had little effect.”

Loretta looked sorrowfully at the two young people. “Both of you were born into brave families. In an effort to stop the resistance, the generals’ troops kidnapped children from parents like yours and threatened to kill them if they would not surrender. Your parents turned themselves in hoping that they would be reunited with you. And then they disappeared.”

Molly and Robert looked at one another, completely uncomprehending of the astounding circumstances.

Sr. Ramírez cut in. “Loretta and Rudy. Are you still members of religious communities?”

“We don’t know,” said Loretta, “We’ve had no contact for 18 years. You see, when the fighting escalated in our area, we found one of the places where  children were held. Mother Superior told us to take them from their cribs and carry them to the Red Cross. Relief workers hid them until they could be spirited out of the country and adopted by families in the USA. But two were very ill and couldn’t make the trip. They were left behind in our care.”

Tears running down his face, Rudy said, “Son those two children were you and Molly. You were so young and so sick. During a bout of street fighting, Loretta and I got separated from the sisters and the other priest. We had no choice but to flee and we had to take you with us. By God’s grace you survived and we managed to get into México near Yaxilán. There were no border guards; we simply crossed the river. Country people helped us and we traveled north until we reached Santa Martha.”

Sr. Ramírez interrupted. “I think that you had best wait to finish your story in the presence of the proper authorities. I can see that what you did was your only option at the time. But in reality, you have broken many laws. You have misled the Mexican government; you have kept two individuals from their homes. God knows what else you could be accused of. You need legal counsel and you must speak with a representative from your government.”

Robert knew that all his questions would soon be answered, but did he want to hear them? He looked at Father Rudy, the man he’d always believed to be his father. He and Sister Loretta had given their lives to save him and Molly. For breaking the law, they would probably be punished. He couldn’t get his head around any of this. Robert could think of nothing else but to reassure Rudy, “There is so much to be cleared up but somehow we will work it out,” he said

For Molly, the confusion swirling all through her seemed unbearable. She turned her eyes on her mamá. Why did they call her Molly? Was that Loretta’s real name? Did she and Rudy contact their religious communities once they arrived in México? Who had Grandma been? Who were her biological parents? Why didn’t Loretta and Rudy tell her and Robert the truth?  So many inconsistencies, so much mystery, so much pain.

She and Loretta had a lot of talking to do but for now they found comfort rocking in one another’s arms. Loretta wanted to explain, but Molly placed her index finger over Loretta’s quivering lips. “Sh-sh-sh, we’ll work it out.”

***

A decade later, Molly recalled her hopeful words: “We’ll work it out.” Actually Robert had been the first to say them. They had both neglected to add: “but none of us will ever be the same.”

Following the discovery that she and Robert had been taken from the land of their birth and baptized with new identities, the Mexican authorities arrested their “parents.” Until some solution could be found to their predicament, the two “children” were left in Santa Martha, basically under house arrest. Overnight, they had become stateless and nameless. Both of them found it impossible to sleep. They took long walks around Molly’s property, wondering if their parents would come back.

Molly had read a lot about the years of civil war in Guatemala when thousands of her countrymen had fled the oppression to start new lives in Mexico. They had no documents either, no status of any kind, but at least they knew their names. She couldn’t understand how or why this particular nightmare belonged to her and Robert. She tried to keep him calm, but anger and resentment quickly settled into Robert’s heart. He wanted to return to Guatemala and find his home.

Molly would have liked that too, but she realized how difficult it would be. If she and Robert had been born to poor families during that turbulent time, she doubted that a record of their births had ever existed. And after so long, the chances of finding anyone who remembered them at all would be next to impossible.

Where had the names Molly and Robert come from?

Three weeks after Rudy and Loretta had been arrested, Sr. Ramírez made a special trip to Santa Martha and explained the convoluted circumstances.

“Soon after arriving in Mexico your “parents” reported to the Mexican authorities. Although they were American citizens, they successfully argued that Guatemala had been their home and political refugee status had been granted to them under their birth names: Molly Anne Evans and Robert Michael Davies. They kept the two of you a secret for fear that the authorities would take you away.”

He added that they managed to procure duplicates of their birth certificates and Mexican credentials. Coincidentally they had both been born in 1951 and they simply changed the 5 to an 8 on the documentation. It had been so easy; changing two little numbers provided an identity to the small boy and girl they had brought from Guatemala. They settled in Santa Martha where they could easily evade the eyes of the Mexican immigration department. In that tiny town, no one worried about formalities.

Sr. Ramírez finished by telling the distraught pair: “After bestowing their own names on the two of you, your parents elected to use the ones they had taken when they had entered the religious life: Rudy and Loretta.”

Neither Sister Loretta nor Father Rudy ever contacted their orders; their time in Guatemala had left them disillusioned with the Church. But Loretta did get in touch with her mother. Within a year, “Grandma” moved to Santa Martha and it had been she who placed the image of Molly’s “deceased father” on the mantel piece.

Rudy resented the arrival of Loretta’s mother. He had a bitter falling out with her and left Santa Martha to live in an even smaller town, taking Robert with him. The children were not quite two years old when the split occurred so they lost conscious memory of each other.

After thinking for many months about all they’d gone through, Molly’s head ached. She deduced that when she and Robert met at the party in 2002, the indelible bond they had shared as infants drew them together, and all too soon the drama began unfolding.

Rudy and Loretta were deported to the USA and Molly was allowed to take Mexican citizenship. She stuck with the name she’d been given when she first moved to the country. Robert went to Guatemala and claimed that nationality. Although he searched for his family, every trail he followed ended in disappointment.

Molly moved to Merida in 2005. After selling her home and the extensive property in Santa Martha to an eco-resort developer, she had enough capital to start a B & B in her adopted city. She rarely talks about her former life; secrecy is cemented into her soul. But once in a great while she meets someone who instills enough trust and she’s able to confide.

One night I watched a documentary about misplaced Guatemalan children. The profiled child had been adopted by an older American couple who searched for their daughter’s birth parents and eventually found them.

The film had impressed me and the following day when I ran into Molly at the library, quite by chance, I recounted the story to her. When I finished, I saw that she had tears running down her face. “Maybe I knew that girl?” she said.

I had no knowledge of Molly’s circumstances but I sensed she needed to talk. “Do you want to go somewhere for a coffee?” I asked.

For two hours we sat under a rubber tree umbrela in the central courtyard of a quiet downtown café. Molly wanted me to know all the details, and after hearing her tragic tale, we both felt emotionally exhausted. I asked if I could help her in any way.

“Yes,” she said. “Tell people about me and the other displaced children. Millions of people worldwide are homeless and nameless. Some live in refugee camps and some reside anonymously in every country of the world.

Have you met Molly?

Well maybe you have . . . you’ll never know unless you connect the dots.

 ***

The Little Gypsy

I cleaned out my bookcase today, and found a book that I thought to be lost; actually it had simply slipped down behind some of the bigger tomes up front.

The missing volume that I happily repatriated to the “México” section was “Peregrina,” Alma Reed’s account of her years in México and her love affair with the governor of Yucatán in the 1920s. I discovered “Peregrina” hiding underneath a big coffee table book, “Italian Painting.” If I didn’t know that books cannot teleport, I would suspect that Alma had decided to take a little holiday and placed herself there. Or maybe she had an argument with her shelf-mate Frida Kahlo?

In Yucatán, Ms. Reed is considered to be one of the classic femmes fatales. Governor Felipe Carillo Puerto, by most accounts, had been on his way to an assignation with her when he was ambushed and killed by political rivals. The story of Alma and Felipe can hold its own next to the country’s other mythical romances like: Frida and Diego, La Malinche and Cortez, and Carlota and Maximiliano.

Mexico’s history is peppered with women like Alma. Whether they were born in the country, or arrived as young women looking for adventure, they created a genre all their own. Passion was the warp thread, and bravery, the weft that wove their life tapestries. What made them this way?

I believe the culprit to have been the little gypsy – that quiet but insistent voice we all have inside… the one that challenges us to be more than we are. The little gypsy tells us we should paint, act on stage, or write books or learn to Tango. She doesn’t insist, but if we don’t pay her heed, she makes us feel dissatisfied with ourselves.

When we listen to her, she opens up our hearts and souls, and gives us the unique experiences that we forever after repeat, relive and relish.  For the rest of our lives, we are changed.

And the little gypsy loves México. Here, where its warm, where music swirls all around, where bold color is the only kind of color and sensuous textures surround us… she whispers and waits for us to listen and let her out.

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The Cost

Each December, Yucatan’s Secretariat of Culture honors the writers of the state

Before I began writing, I would look at books in the shops and think: Why do they cost so much?

That question referred to the monetary cost I’d incur if I purchased the book… I had no idea that any other cost could possibly be involved. I certainly didn’t think about what it cost the writer to write the book in the first place. Now of course, I know about such things.

Books published by Yucatan’s Secretariat of Culture in 2011                                         

Maricarmen Perez works for the Secretariat of Culture; she has given much support to the English language writers in Yucatan

  • First, the writer must come up with a great idea – a good one won’t cut it… it has to far surpass that
  • The plot must be given structure, and this involves a whole set of mental gymnastics. While the characters flit from tension point to tension point, the underpinnings must be rock solid
  • The hours involved are astronomical. Each page requires a huge investment of time
  • Writers forego a lot of sleep
  • They must often decline social events and invitations
  • Writers must develop thick skins if they want to keep their  self esteem  intact through the critique of the early drafts
  • And they must have hyper patience and consistency – for the writing, and more so during the endless editing.
  • On not-so-rare occasions, the writer loses his mind! Look at some of the great ones: Lord Byron, Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemmingway – did writing drive them to madness?

The writing costs are also high for the family and friends of the writer.  Writing is such a solitary occupation – done behind a closed door – phone and internet disconnected. And this goes on every day… I know that my family and friends sometimes wish I’d never got it into my mind to become a writer.

When the publishing process starts. Then a whole new ballgame begins: agent queries, publisher searches, marketing strategies, building a platform, presentations. The costs continue to pile up and up…

Some of the English language writers living in Yucatan

Maybe I’m sliding down that slippery slope towards craziness? Because to me, writing is worth the cost. And it is for my colleagues. The writing process is exciting… and publishing is a thrill… but when people read our books, and let us know they enjoy them… that’s the best.

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Back in San Miguel Allende

Feb 17, 2012

Here I am in lovely San Miguel Allende. The Writers’ Conference I am attending here is being called, “The Little Conference That Could” From the baby steps of 7 years ago, the event has hit full stride, and grown into a major annual gathering for writers of all genres and levels of expertise.

Last night’s keynote by Canadian author Margaret Atwood drew 800 attendees. The workshops, breakout sessions, and social activities have been expertly organized by Susan Page and her volunteer team. The conference theme is “Cultural Crossroads of the Americas” And it certainly is well-deserving of the moniker; tomorrow, we will have the great privilege of hearing from Elena Poniatowska.                                            

Anyway… I have to run! I have another workshop to attend

Photos: Yes the Cathedral really is pink! Yours truly with Patrice Wynn from Abrazos Boutique

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Meeting Michael Schussler in San Miguel

Feb 20, 2012

Have you missed me? I have not blogged for several days because the 7th Annual San Miguel Writers’ Conference has completely absorbed every minute of my time since last Wednesday.

At one time, I imagined that a writers’ conference would involve a bunch of highbrow types dressed in black… peering suspiciously through horn-rimmed glasses… manuscripts clutched to their chests…slinking around from one deadpan lecture to another…

Uh… wrong!!!  At the 7th Annual San Miguel Writers’ Conference: Cultural Crossroads of the Americas I have met vibrant creative people wearing very funky glasses, and dressed in colorful multiple layers (it is COLD in San Miguel…) And everyone is most eager to share their work and their knowledge. The workshops, keynotes, break-out sessions and socials have been as varied and interesting as the cast of attendees.

I would have to write pages upon pages to even list the activities that the conference organizers provided for us. I had the chance to meet crime writers, memoirists, poets, novelists, humorists, journalists, travel writers and even erotic literature writers.

At breakfast yesterday morning I spoke with one of the conference’s featured authors,          Michael K. Schussler. His adventure (the only word that describes his life in Mexico) began with a train ride from Nogales to Guadalajara… While still an undergrad student at The University of Indiana, he participated in a program at the University of Jalapa, and eventually received his Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from UCLA

And like so many of us, after his first trip to Mexico… he was hooked .

Michael K. Schuessler is currently a Professor of Humanities at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Mexico City, where he teaches courses dedicated to Latin American art and literature, pre-Columbian Mexico, and colonial Mexico.

At the writers’ conference he spoke about two U.S. Women and the Mexican Cultural Renaissance: Alma Reed, “La Peregrina” and Frances “Paca” Toor. However he and Iand I discussed his book, “Elena Poniatowska: An Intimate Biography”  © 2007 The University of Arizona Press. He explained that he used E.P.’s own technique so it would be, “a homage to her in both form and content.”

Elena Poniatowska is Mexico’s premier journalist and writer. Born in France (and a direct descendent of the last king of Poland) Elena Poniatowska moved to Mexico as a young girl. She was educated at a British grade school in Mexico and a Catholic high school in the United States. She speaks English and French as well as Spanish.  Her vast collection of published works began in 1954 with the publication of Lilus Kikus, a collection of short stories. And she is still writing today.

Michael Schuessler befriended Elena Poniatowska more than fifteen years ago while he was researching and writing about her aunt Pita Amor. She generously allowed him access to the family archives and albums, and of course he became captivated with her.  The biography is available in English and  includes 40 photographs and drawings and an annotated bibliography of Poniatowska’s works.

Photos: Michael with Elena, Conference organizer Susan Page, Yours truly with celebrated Mexican author Araceli Ardón, the biography cover, Mérida attendees Marianne, Deanna and “Moi”

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Room: by Emma Donoghue

Have you read this book? If so, you’ll know what I mean when I say:  everything about it is BRAVE – the characters, the plot, the language, the writing. You could never confuse this novel with any other.

The story opens in a 12-foot-square room. Since being abducted at 19, a young woman has spent the last seven years of her life in there. She now has a son, Jack, and it is his old-for-five voice that narrates the book.

“Ma” is devoted to creating a nurturing environment for her boy, and by doing so, she has kept herself sane.  Because there are no people for Jack to interact with, Ma has encouraged him to give personalities to all the objects in Room  – Wardrobe, Rug, Plant, Table. They have a TV with poor reception, and to Jack the different programs are planets. His favorite one is the Dora the Explorer planet.

The plot is chilling but the language is not graphic. Donoghue is extremely skilled at mixing the horrendous with the hopeful – but she never dilutes Jack and Ma’s plight. The reader knows exactly what’s going on in Room..

“Old Nick” is their unsophisticated psycho-pathetic captor, which makes him all the more terrifying. Jack and Ma are at his clumsy mercy. Ma knows that if he gets too stressed, he could just drive away and leave them – Some days Jack says Ma is gone. These are the times when she succumbs to abject depression. Yet she has taught her son to deal with this too. He simply waits, sitting quietly until her fierce, protective love pulls her gently back to Jack.

I became so drawn into “Room” that I read half of it in one sitting. I had to stop because I couldn’t focus anymore. All I could think of was getting back to Ma and Jack. While my eyes rested, someone moved “Room” from it’s place – I went hysterical… Emma Donoghue’s writing is THAT powerful.

Fortunately, the self preservation instincts of the whole household kicked in, and we searched until the book was found. I stole back under my covers to read through to the end.

Ma knows that she must get Jack out of Room. The way she does this is desperate. I thought she made mistakes… “This won’t work!” I screamed…  I wanted to jump into the pages and save her and Jack. But to my relief, Jack pulls through.

Imagine a 5 year old child thrust into the wide, wide world when all he’s ever known is a 12’ X 12’ one… He recognizes some things from the TV planets. What a shock to see they really exist.

For the first time Jack and Ma are separated, and he must cope with so much newness – all on his own. Jack is shocked to see the lack of care people seem to have for one another. Again I wanted to take him in my arms…

Of all the books I read last year, “Room” definitely stood out… it was absolutely my favorite…  Let me know what you thought of it.

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It’s a Mystery (Part 1)

March , 2011

At the San Miguel Writers’ Conference, I atended several workshops. One I particularly enjoyed was about Mystery Writing. The presenter writes under the pen name of C.E. Lawrence.  Check out her site: http://celawrence.com

And I hope you enjoy the first installment of my short mystery…

Puerto Paz

Michael’s berry-blue eyes snapped open when the bells began chiming in the plaza of Puerto Paz.

Peering through the louvered window, he saw that the shadows had snaked fully down the crumbling compound wall, and he heaved himself out of the hammock. The aroma of shellfish blistering on a hot grill caught his interest. But, nah… It would be a waste of time to order anything from the restaurant downstairs…he never managed to sustain an appetite in this kind of heat. Better to uncap a cold Corona instead.

Once he told me that because he grew up in California he learned street Spanish, and I guess he used it now to explain himself. The curious townspeople of Puerto Paz worried about him and his daughter Janet. “We’re searching for a place to call home,” he had said. When asked if his wife would be joining them; he simply stated, “She is out of the picture.” An uncomfortable silence followed, but then the locals smiled anyway.

Last Sunday, a neighbor had commented, “Janet is such a sweet little girl,” and in the next sentence, Señora Sonia invited her to her own daughter’s birthday party, just two days and two doors away.

He would need to go for the girl in an hour’s time. He sighed whenever he thought about his tiny, timid six-year-old. Here, no one had any idea what she’d been through – what the two of them had endured during the past year. This afternoon, for the first time in months he hadn’t felt the need to worry about his daughter. He imagined Janet at the neighbor’s place…a happy haven of a home.

Michael must be hoping that the fright of the past year would die away now… He looked wiped. Perhaps in Puerto Paz, he too would regain his former confidence and calm. Hard to say. Several times every day, he talked to himself… asked the Universe what cosmic mistake had made his family the victims of this complete deviation from normalcy? What drove his wife to such totally unexpected behavior?

Showered, shaved and dressed in light kakis with a matching checkered short-sleeved cotton shirt, Michael looked ready to go. No longer young but still decades away from old age, I thought that he looked good and I wondered about this Señora Sonia…

Ah… he has finally sensed the familiar but fleeting fragrance. He sniffed again but it had gone.  He had always loathed the cloying and sticky sweetness of “Anais, Anais…”

Freaked out, he threw the screen door open and lurched into the sandy street. A thousand tears welled as he looked up at the inky sky streaked with pink. There now… I knew that Michael would be unable to resist turning back towards the house.

Immediately he saw the silhouette in the window… Seeing my hands pressed against the glass caused him to hyperventilate. Although my features could not be distinguished, I know he recognized the tilt of my head and the long curve down my neck to my shoulder. He no doubt asked himself, how it’s possible for me to be in Puerto Paz? How long have I been here? How can he keep me away from Janet? Good questions…

The bells chimed again. No worries Michael, soon all will become clear. Clearer than you want.

Well, maybe it’s a ghost story… (Part 2)

It’s amazing how easily I can get inside Michael’s head now. When I briefly showed myself in the window last night, I could hear him so clearly… just as though he’d been right beside me: ‘She’s dead… I know she is. I attended her funeral… I paid for it!’

I had still been in high school when I met Michael, the experienced older man who swept me off my feet and away from all I knew. On my 18th birthday, he married me – he now had a license to maintain my indentured status.

He wanted to turn me into his version of the perfect wife. I certainly looked pretty enough, and in bed I kept him happy. But there were problems… “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” he told me.I knew nothing about the fancy cooking and the elegant decorating he wanted. I could not wrap my head around his system – he wanted everything lined up at right angles and polished ‘till the gleam hurt your eyes.

I didn’t know that I was pregnant until I started getting sick in the mornings. I didn’t tell Michael and he goaded me about how fat I was getting. I played dumb, but finally, I couldn’t keep the secret any longer and to my surprise, he seemed thrilled.

But two months later when Janet arrived, the New Order kicked up to hyper status. Michael believed that bacteria lurked everywhere – I had to clean still more meticulously and the baby could not be out of my sight for a second. By the time she turned six months old, I had reached the limit of my endurance. I took some clothes, diapers and the housekeeping money. Then I checked into a hotel.

He found us in just four days and hauled us back home. “We’re going to run away again,” I told him. In hindsight, that was my big mistake… my threat enraged Michael to the point where he lost his thin veneer of sanity.

He enjoyed hiking, and even though the May morning dawned damp and cloudy, he made me go with him. We drove silently to the state park. He put on Janet’s rain gear and lowered her into the Snuggie against his chest. He strapped on the day pack and we headed up the back trail. Once we reached the first plateau, the view across the misty valley seemed to thrill my husband. Although I carried nothing, I tired more quickly than he did. “Sit on that rock,” he commanded. As he walked away, I saw Janet’s little face, leaning to the right, looking back at me. When they disappeared from my sight, I presumed Michael had gone with our baby to the lookout.

Out of nowhere, a powerful hairy arm clamped a wet cloth over my nose and mouth. I had never smelled chloroform before but I knew that’s what I was choking on. Michael calmly sauntered back to where I lay, and from the steel in his eyes, I realized that he had planned this. He absolutely loathed me. Contrastingly, his arms tenderly cradled Janet, and he calmly told my assailant to carry on with the next step. Through the pounding pain in my head, I saw a fat envelope change hands.

The rough dragging deeper into the woods, revived me a bit, but I couldn’t speak or move at all. Without any fuss, the guy shot my poor body between the eyes and then right into the heart. He used a silenced gun and I couldn’t comprehend how those two whooshing sounds had ended my temporal life.

Immediately, I levitated out. It was pointless to stay in there and force the poor lungs suck in a few more breaths… It seemed beyond sad to unceremoniously leave the chilling, stiffening corpse lying there, but that’s what I had to do.

I felt myself floating over to where Michael stood shielding Janet’s eyes. I couldn’t make her feel or hear me, but on some level I could tell that she sensed my presence.

Michael calmly headed back down to the parking lot. He took some deep breaths, and dialed 911: “My wife is gone! She just disappeared! I can’t find her!” What an actor… even I nearly believed him.

There were some touch-and-go moments… Michael was nearly discovered but eventually he was exonerated of any involvement in my death.

I had a lot to get used to. I visited Janet in her dreams and I knew she cherished my memory. Michael treated her with love, but I knew that one day soon he’d start manipulating her as he’d done me. I did not want to pass over until I saw my daughter safely away from him.

After five years, I received permission to haunt. Things were about to change…

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The Conclusion (Part 3)

Becoming a truly effective haunt takes practice. When I first aimed my sights on revenge, I felt so much anger that I wanted to jump out at MIchael and make things go BANG in the night. “No-no-no!” my more experienced ghostly colleagues told me. “You want to be subtle and make him discount the possibility that you’re causing the disturbances… you want to make him think he is losing his mind. I accomplished this by making little things disappear; I sat on his chest at night and he thought he was having a heart attack! The smell of my perfume invading his nostrils drove him crazy, and I also used music to the same effect – I made my favorite songs repeat and repeat in his ear.

I kept this up for a year, and I almost felt sorry for Michael; he soon turned into a bundle of nerves. I also visited my actual murderer from time to time. He had done one bad deed too many and wound up in the San Antonio Federal Penitentiary – hard time. Through his dreams, I convinced him that confession would be good for the soul, and he told more than a few fellow inmates about what he’d done to me. Word travels fast in The Joint and before I believed possible, Inspector Robbins reopened my case.

The police had never believed in Michael’s innocence but they couldn’t prove anything. However, once the caged bird sang, they offered him special considerations in exchange for the skinny on Michael. Armed with new facts, the good inspector and my twin sister Rose began searching for my husband. It didn’t take long to locate a single male traveling with his daughter. He stood out like a sore thumb in Puerto Paz. On October 31st, the year Janet turned six, the two of them showed up to get their man and bring him to justice.

The birthday party had done Janet the world of good. She’d made friends with other little girls and Señora Sonia’s heart opened up fully to the motherless child. Janet spent more and more time in the cozy bungalow close to the beach. Michael meandered around town like a zombie. I had intensified my nocturnal sit-ins, and because of his sleep deprivation, he’d lost his edge.

My sister Rose became my unwitting accomplice. While Inspector Robbins stalked his target, Rose spent her time on the town beach. Michael eventually saw her and nearly keeled over.

Rose and I are identical but since he never spent time with my family, and he never listened to my stories about them, he didn’t know about her. Not bothering to take off his shoes, he slugged through the soft sand to where she lay sunning her long lean body. . She had undone her bikini top so as not to have tan lines across her back, and when she shifted, Michael caught a flash… She and I have the same cherry colored birthmark on the underside of our right breasts.

“What the hell are you doing here?” he asked. “You are dead!”  Rose knew what to do. “Obviously I’m not,” my sister said, “I want you to take me to see Janet.”

When my daughter saw her aunt, she ran to her. I had visited Janet every night, and she had formed a mental image of what I looked like. Burrowed in my twin’s arms, she said, “Mommy… Mommy…” I had been hovering on the perimeter watching the emotional scene. It seemed right that my daughter should substitute my sister for me. I summoned up my full maternal feelings and blew an intense love cloud over to envelop the two. I knew Rose would care for Janet as well as I ever could have done.

Inspector Robbins could not have arrived at a better time. Michael was half crazy by this point and blathered out the whole sad story. “I’ll be taking him north with me tonight,” he told Rose, “What are you going to do?”

I’m going to stay here with Janet and Señora Sonia; I’ll bring my niece home and catch up with you next week.

In México, on November 1st and 2nd all departed souls are invited back home to congregate with the living. I took advantage of the occasion to spend this special time with my loved ones. Señora Sonia possessed the spiritual sixth sense common in many Latin women. “Your sister is here with us, in this room,” she told Rose. She believed this, and yet I could tell she yearned for more. “I wish I could see her,” said Rose.

Señora Sonia spread her arms wide, looked around the room, and her eyes fixed on a spot beside the colorful plaster statue of the “Mother of Heaven.”  My spirit form jumped at the chance when the kind woman asked: “Do you want to use me?”  I slipped into her ripe brown body and I hugged my sister. I smothered my baby with kisses and told them how I now felt peace. Rose  promised to care for Janet and assured me that every year on Los Días de Muertos, they would visit Señora Sonia’s home on the Sea of Cortez and have a reunion with me.

Satisfied, I sighed and left the generous body that had allowed me to say goodbye. Finally I crossed over to where I belonged.

Zz-zz-zz-zz-zz-zz

Sleeping: that’s what I don’t always do so well. I fall asleep just fine, but after 3 hours or so, its touch and go. I often wake up and then, I have trouble going back to sleep.

I have tried most of the usual healthy aids: a glass of warm milk, light exercise, meditation, a relaxing bath, wearing socks to bed … I have also tried every sleep medication on the market. All have the same not-so-effective result: I wake up before I’ve had enough shut-eye.

A nice strong drink or “dot-dot-dot” will ease me into Dreamland, but as I’ve said, getting to sleep isn’t the issue – staying asleep is.

Counting sheep, visualization, biofeedback… none of that has worked… I even tried hypnosis. ¡Nada!

So, OK… what do I do once I’ve woken up, and I’ve realized that returning to sleep mode isn’t happening?

Sometimes I get up. Sometimes I stay in bed and listen to an audio book or music; I don’t usually check my email, I don’t work on my book or other writing projects. I try not to strain my eyes.

But once the ear buds start to feel irritating, I sometimes draw or I blog – like I’m doing now.

It’s 03:21 and I’m going to go brew some of that “Sleepy Time” herbal tea… whatever!

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Perspective

Last week I read a most interesting editorial by Carlos Fuentes in “El Pais” (a newspaper from Mexico City.) In this piece Mr. Fuentes gives historical perspective to the current situation in Mexico…

He begins with the French Revolution of 1779, explaining that while it sparked technological progress, the students, factory workers, laborers, and farmers were excluded from the generated wealth.

He says that in Mexico in 1810, similar discontent raged and led to independence from Spain.  In 1848, in France and Germany, the working class rebelled. In Austria and in Italy, the story was similar.

Moving forward through the centuries, we see many significant periods and events, most of them triggered by the inequality of society. Those that had… had a lot; those did not have… had nothing!

In 1968, all over the world, the same inconformity was expressed  (Paris, Tokyo, Kent State…) and nowhere was this more true than in Mexico. The country is still reeling from the Students  vs. Army confrontation at Tlatelolco.

In 2000, the right wing National Action Party (PAN) party finally triumphed over the  70+ year hold that the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) party held in the country. The citizens hoped for more equality but according to Mr. Fuentes, the changes affected by the new leadership might have been significant in the 1970s but  in 2011, they are laughable.

And now, Mexicanos  are once again claiming their rights in Mexico. More than 100,000 marched for 2,000 kilometers, from Mexico City to Ciudad Juarez – their message is loud and clear: ¡Basta! – Enough Violence!

Throughout the world, there is a demand for institutions, societies and lifestyles that meet the local culture’s needs but also contribute positively to the international panorama.

The article ends with an admonition that must be foremost in our minds during this time of change. We need to open our eyes and realize that everything we do today will impact our lives tomorrow. The “house of cards” we live in must be given more substance.

Carlos Fuentes (born November 11, 1928) is a Mexican writer and one of the best-known living novelists and essayists in the Spanish-speaking world. He has influenced contemporary Latin American literature and his works have been widely translated into English and other languages.

As a long time resident of Merida, I am amazed by the number of other nationals (mostly Americans and Canadians) moving to the city. The recent statistics from Immigration claim there are 6,000 permanent foreign residents (this does not take into account the winter guests and other part-timers)

My favorite Carlos Fuentes books is “Aura.” It is available in English. I feel that as international residents of Mexico, it is beneficial to read works by the country’s  writers.  It shows respect for our adopted country and the citizens appreciate it. (not to mention how much you’ll enjoy the books!) This website has a comprehensive list of Latin American works that have been translated into English.

*All images are from Google

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Two remarkable women…

You can read many facts about Leonora Carrington, the recently deceased surrealist artist by checking Wikipedia or any of the hundreds of news sites that featured articles about her this past week. But if you’re driven to learn more intimate details about her life and art, you need to read Elena Poniatowska’s  award winning novel “Leonora.” To do so, Spanish is a must because there is not yet an English language version of the book… although I expect that one will come along fairly soon. Leonora Carrington was after all, British born.

Ms. Poniatowska begins the biography by describing Leonora’s early years in her emotionally distant home environment at Crookhey Hall in Lancashire. The family wanted her to become a gentile young lady. She said she wanted to be a horse!

Leonora set her sights on becoming a serious artist but was thwarted again and again by her conservative family. She would not conform and her behavior became more and more erratic.  Her art had a decidedly surrealistic bent and she caught the attention of Max Ernst, who at the time was a well known surrealist – twice her age. Nonetheless, the two became lovers and returned to Paris together. He was married to another woman but Leonora and Max lived together. Political (and other pressures) split the couple and this seemed to be the final straw for her fragile equilibrium…The family considered that she had gone mad and had her institutionalized. Yet, despite her drug therapy induced stupor, she managed to escape confinement. Eventually she sought refuge at the Mexican Embassy in Lisbon.

Renato Leduc, a member of Mexico’s artistic community agreed to marry her, thus assuring her entrance into his country. Just prior to WW II the Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas and his wife were personally involved in the rescue of thousands of Spanish and other European artists, writers, philosophers,  other intellectuals and politicians, who with their families sought refuge in Mexico.  Once Leonora’s residence had been secured, she and Leduc parted.

Leonora Carrington said of this time in her life.”I didn’t have time to be anyone’s muse… I was too busy rebelling against my family and learning to be an artist.”

In Mexico, her artistic career flourished. In addition to her sculpture and painting, Leonora was a prolific writer. She later married Emericko Weisz. The couple had two sons. She has told many interviewers that the birth of her children was her life’s most significant and important event. It is to be noted that Elena Poniatowska has said the same thing. I would venture to say that this publically declared sentiment causes many ordinary women to feel an affinity with these two extraordinary female artists.

Leonora lived in New York City during part of the 1960s, but most of her life has been spent in Mexico City.

Hospitalized due to complications from pneumonia, Leonora Carrington died in Mexico’s Capital on Wednesday May 25, 2011. She was 94 years old.                                                                                                                                                                                                

In Merida, during the early part of this year, we were fortunate to have a visiting exhibition of her large bronze sculptures. Anyone who saw the pieces could not help but be impressed by her mythical beings – colossal but delicate – feminine and richly detailed. The elongated necks, limbs and beaks and hooves, featured on otherwise human forms, somehow reminded me of demi-deities of Mexican pre-Columbian imagery – feathered serpents, eagle and jaguar warriors, deer icons, and fertility goddesses Tonanzin and Ixel

Leonora Carrington is one of the many non-native-born Latinas who have enriched Mexico’s arts and literature during the past century. While Elena Poniatowska is the daughter of a Mexican national, Paula Amor, the family lived in France until political circumstances also caused them to flee to Mexico. Both women (along with “Yours truly” and a host of my friends) are heartfelt in saying, “It is an ill wind that brings no good.”

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PEN International Protests

PEN International delegates from the Americas, Europe and Asia have been in Mexico City this week to support the Mexican press in their struggle to speak the truth about Mexican political and security policies.

Between 2000 and 2011, at least 67 journalists have been murdered in Mexico. More have  “disappeared”, and 19 newspaper and media centers have been attacked.

Yesterday I watched Carmen Aristegui’s interview with John Ralston Saul on CNN. It was a very disturbing half hour.

As president of Pen International, a literary organization dedicated to the protection of writers and the defense of free press, he condemned the killings, and called for an end to the impunity.

The foreign representatives stood with Elena Poniatowska, Javier Sicilia, Laura Esquivel, and dozens of other Mexican writers and journalists and promised their support for a free press and freedom of expression in Mexico.

Prior to the gathering with Mexican officials, PEN International printed a petition in the Mexico City newspaper El Universal that had been signed by 170 leading writers from all over the world in support of the Mexican journalists.

When Ms. Aristegui asked Mr. Ralston Saul what would happen after the meetings had concluded, he answered that many articles calling for action by the authorities will be written and published in the world’s leading periodicals.

John Ralston Saul made a point of saying that corruption exists in every country. The difference in Mexico is with the degree.

No level of corruption is acceptable… but some are more damaging and have worse consequences

I applaud this action by Pen International. Pressure of this kind must come from sources outside the country.

However, the articles that will inundate the press in the coming months… will, as always, disrupt the lives of the common people in Mexico. Tourism will go down again. Millions of low-salaried workers will have new rocks thrown at their glass houses. I hope that the international journalists will poison their pens well, and accomplish what they set out to do. Because if they don’t, all the suffering that the population will endure, will be for naught.

All photographs of the journalists come from Google Images

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Dogs On My Heels

February 2012

Ed and Ursula Arndt with “Dogs On My Heels”

On occasion I facilitate workshops in Life Writing. This type of story telling is manageable even for the novice. It can take the form of a letter to a friend, relate an event from the past or it could even be a eulogy. Usually those who sign up for the course are not experienced; we work together to find their voice, and to outline the tale they want to tell.

However! Life hands you a surprise sometimes… Three years ago, my group included a trio with stories in their heads that they yearned to turn into books. Deanna Lagroix, Allison Morrill and Edmund Arndt all had set ideas , and all of them were ambitious. Especially Ed’s

When he told me about his challenge, I suggested it might be wise to start with something more “manageable” – his story covered five generations, life on two continents, and parts of it were so complex, that even an experienced writer would be hard pressed to convey the sentiment. But Ed would not be swayed, and in fact he had already written 60 pages!

After I had read his work, I was impressed with his passion for his subject, his ability to vividly portray an array of settings and circumstances that I had no experience with.

Ed’s book is called “Dogs On My Heels.” The name comes from a German expression that describes the way one feels when being perused by adversaries.  He traces his family’s roots back to 1774 when his ancestral German forefathers settled in Russian Poland. I had never heard of this forgotten ethnic group, or realized the privations they endured.

Ed painstakingly researched his family history in great detail, then set to telling the story with grace, wit and humor. The book reads like an exciting novel and once I had finished it, I felt profound respect for these resilient, determined, yet extremely loveable characters.

On Tuesday February 8th, at the Chicxulub home of Brenda and Lyndon Hastings “Dogs On My Heels” was presented to a group of 40 of the beach community’s residents.  Ed’s wife Ursula, Deanna and Brenda graciously prepared the food and drink that added even more enjoyment to the afternoon’s “event of the season”

Deanna Lagroix and Joyce Rynearson spoke of their role as readers of Ed’s early work, and I related my journey with him. We three felt such pride in his fine accomplishment.

“Dogs on My Heels” is available on Amazon at this link:

http://www.amazon.com/Dogs-Heels-STORY-FAMILY-ebook/dp/B004TMESGC

Congratulations Ed!

February 2012

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Here in San Miguel de Allende this week many questions have been asked about the place of writers in our society.

We are meant to tell stories, report facts and record history. But in doing so, many other issues come into play. Are our facts undisputable and fairly presented?

It has been pointed out that once an idea is written down, it becomes an opinion, and that can be a dicey thing.

Elena Poniatowska urged us to be more aware… At her keynote Margaret Atwood prompted us to be advocates for change…  We were also asked to use our voices effectively by Naomi Wolf.

These concepts swirled through my head: awareness, advocacy, effectiveness As a writer … how should I meet these challenges?

(Patience Little Grasshopper… put a query out to the Universe and an answer will soon come your way…)

Anyway our group of four dined at a popular restaurant and to my amazement, the party sitting next to us gave me a living example of what I pondered.

The adjacent foursome was discussing abortion (yes over dinner…) their comments were graphic, strongly right-wing and very loud. I wanted to turn around and tell them to pipe down. But in the spirit of “open mindedness,” I tolerated their behavior and “took it”… but really, what they did was equal to bullying… and I concluded that I should not write like that that group behaved.

I need to be aware … to observe reality and form an opinion.

I need to advocate for change when I feel it is needed

But I need to be effective… by writing with respect.

In this year of political importance, and in these times of insecurity, we need to think, not jump to emotional conclusions… our opinions will influence others, but if we are not judicious about how we express them, the effect will not be what we’re after!

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An Unexpected Afternoon

February 2012

Mexico City is chaotic, crowded, and confusing. The traffic is so congested that it can take hours to travel just a few kilometers by car. Frenetic drivers weave in and out, horns blare, and red lights are ignored in a desperate attempt to reach one’s destination.

But nonetheless I absolutely love this city. The energy is infectious and although I often think that I’m totally lost, I find myself swept along with the throng. Sooner or later I know I’ll get to wherever I need to be.

But yesterday I needed to be somewhere special and crawling through the traffic had my nerves on edge. My determined driver did his best, and finally delivered me to my destination just ten minutes late. My feet hurried over the cobblestones and I stood before a charming entranceway in Colonia Chimalistac. As soon as I rang the bell, the door opened and an energetic young dog rushed up. He gave me a good sniff, and then excitedly nosed me forward into a room filled with framed family photographs, Talavera vases, memorabilia and music.

I looked to my right and down the stairway came my hostess.  She had dressed in a comfortable pink and mauve ensemble that set off her fluffy cap of silver hair, sparkling blue eyes and broad smile. Taking my hand, she ushered me into her living room. Hand-embroidered cushions and sunshine-yellow covered chairs invited me, artwork hung everywhere… “Sit over here so you can see the garden,” she said.

The view through a large bay window delighted me: orchids, hibiscus, green vines and blossom of all kinds. Truly, it looked lovely, and I wanted to pinch myself… sharing an afternoon with Elena Poniatowska is not something I ever dreamed I’d do. “Una tequilita?” she asked as she poured from a decorated bottle into a faceted shot glass. How could I say no? I sipped on the smooth fire and we talked about the “San Miguel Writers’ Conference.”

Elena had enjoyed it immensely, and seemed to be particularly impressed with the organization and quality of the event. She takes pleasure in the opportunity to meet other writers – the famous and the unknown… Elena is interested in what everyone has to say, and this quality sets her apart.

We moved into a sunroom for lunch, where we were served a wonderful creamy soup, picadillo with dried fruit and rice and an apple torte for dessert. Everything tasted delicious and I had fun talking about recipes with the accomplished home cook who had prepared the meal. She said she wanted me to send her my recipe for Pork Chops with Figs and Chipotle.

I told Elena about an unusual photograph I took at the conference…

Several people had gathered ‘round for her autograph. One of the kitchen workers also wanted a remembrance of her visit but because he was working, he had no paper or pen…

Not wanting to miss his opportunity, the enterprising young fellow took a plate from the pile beside the buffet, and then borrowed a Sharpie pen. He passed both to Elena and she wrote a special message for him on the plate.

The preceding vignette perfectly illustrates why she is not only Mexico’s premier journalist, but also the most beloved. She cares about everyone and does her utmost to make them feel at ease.

Tomorrow I will write more about my memorable afternoon with Elena Poniatowska…

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Elena Poniatowska II

February 2012

I am back in Mérida (happy sigh).  It was wonderful to be away for ten days but as “Dorothy” said when she clicked the heels of her ruby slippers:  “There’s no place like home… There’s no place like home… There’s no place like home…”

However, before I get back into the groove here in Mérida, let me finish telling you about last Thursday with Elena Poniatowska…

At 10 years of age Elena moved to Mexico. WW II had made life impossible in her native Paris. She learned English at the British high school in Mexico City and a boarding school the USA. She says that she mastered Spanish through her heartfelt conversations with the people who worked in her home. In 1953, she took her first job as a reporter, and she also began writing novels.  She soon gained a reputation for her tenacity and honesty.

Elena spoke to me about her life in Mexico City as a young married woman. Like all working mothers, she always felt       stressed by the demands of her work, social commitments, writing and activism.

She became well known for her social consciousness, and she received threats. “It is difficult,” she said, “and you must be careful all the time.”

But she could not remain silent, especially after the student massacre at Tlatelolco in 1968. Her book gives voice to the everyday people who were involved in the tragedy. The book has been translated into English under the title, “Massacre in Mexico.” I highly recommend that everyone read this chronicle. Our knowledge about Mexico should also include the controversial and painful past.

As Elena and I sat together, other people drifted in and out… her son, a person for whom she’d written a prologue, a delightful physical therapist named Silvestre. She seemed so calm and receptive to all. I could see that her life is a series of days that are full of interesting people, good work, her family, and her causes.

Elena said that she felt this July would be critical for the country and she hopes that the public will inform themselves and then show up to vote. “Of course people feel dissatisfied but if they don’t participate and take a chance, there can be no change.”

She openly supports Andrés Manuel Lopéz Obrador (AMLO) because she feels he is the only candidate who offers any hope for transformation.

She opinioned that we need to concentrate on the present and the future. It does no good to look back all the time, we need to move forward.

“Will corruption in México ever be eradicated?” I asked. She shrugged her shoulders, “Who knows…” she answered.  “It certainly won’t happen if the people do not speak up. But protest also needs to be pragmatic; passion is a start but it has to be backed up with persuasive reason…”

When I glanced at my watch, I could not believe that four hours had elapsed. I must say they had been among the most stimulating ones of my life. Carlos had arrived to collect me and as I said my goodbyes, I felt supremely grateful.

I admire all that Elena Poniatowska represents. I applaud her bravery and I thank her for defending México during this difficult time. I will remember my afternoon with her for the rest of my life.

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To write or not to write… voila la question!

On the writers’ blogs and sites, we see plenty of advice…

Some advocate writing a plot-driven novel, others go for characterdriven…

The merits of writing in first or third person (a few brave souls go for second) past or present tense… are endlessly debated

Adverbs and adjectives… how many are really, truly, absolutely, totally and entirely too many?

Punctuation (so WHAT if I love the elipses…)

The use of “colorful” language always brings the freedom of speech fans into the fray.

To be PC is always desirable but oh… so tedious!

How can we banish writer’s block?

And ditto with the dreaded passive voice…

What is your POV?

Where should the conflict begin? How much should there be?

What’s the current hot genre? And what to do if you don’t want to write YA pieces about vampires?

Can you benefit from listening to music while writing?

Ah… how we writers love to debate these points (because after all, it gives us an honorable reprieve from the actual act of writing)

But rarely is the most difficult “issue” ever addressed… How do you hang on to your relationships and still keep writing as much as you need to? Like… what’s the  appropriate answer when you’re midway though a brilliant turn of phrase and one of the residents of your house (oops…I mean loved ones), plunks down and asks, “Whatcha doin?” or “How much longer will you be?”… “Are we there yet?”

I think it’s paramount to always remember we are writers… yes indeed, but we’re also moms, dads, spouses, friends, colleagues etc. We can’t create an imaginary world at the expense of our real one. Any comments?

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The BIG night is (almost) here…

Today is Friday and the BIG night is almost here!

Back in July, I wrote,

“Lately the posts on this blog have been about almost everything except my…  a-hem … writing.  Actually an email came in asking if I still planned to publish another book. If so, in what decade might that happen?

The fact is… I have been writing – a lot and have two books that are ready to go.  But those publishers are darn hard to pin down. Yes, sir-ee Bob!

When I first began writing, I naively thought the idea was to tell a fascinating tale. That done, I would send a legible copy to the publisher of my choice. He would in turn read it and be suitably impressed… Et Voila! The book would be edited, designed, formatted, printed, distributed and a book launch date would be set. I figured my role at that event would be to sit over to the side and write endearing dedications to my friends on the inside front covers. My final responsibility would be to laugh all the way to the bank!

Now let’s enter the real world… When I finished my first book, I couldn’t get an agent or a publisher to even look at it (or me for that matter). I wasn’t well-known; I had no platform, no track record. I was either too old to look like a sexy author or too young to look like a erudite one. In short, I did not have appeal and neither did my poor creation.

The new book is called ‘Magic Made in Mexico.’  It is all done but the publishers of the world are not pushing and shoving one another out of the way, desperately trying to get their dukes on my literary pearl.”

I had quite resigned myself to living with the fact that I would never be published. Then later that day, I opened my e-mail and read a message from Richard Grabman, Acquisitions Director for Editorial Mazatlan. He wanted to look at my manuscript! I went to the fridge for a glass of tinto… then (with trembling hands) I emailed my entire piece to Richard – 380 pages

Nearly five months later, my book has been published by his company  and Richard will be in Merida for the launch tomorrow. I am looking forward to introducing him to my friends and family.

Since learning that ‘a real publisher’ was interested in my work, I have thought of little else. The revisions and editing with David Bodwell (Richard’s partner) have been painstaking. Every detail was debated – endlessly!

Has it been worth it; would I do this again?

Absolutely! And I am so grateful to everyone involved with my project.

I hope to see you all on Saturday… As one of my very top favorite recording artists (Elton John) would say,

…Saturday night’s the night I like
Saturday night’s alright, alright, alright…

______________________

Update…

And a great time was had by all!

                                                                                                       

We all had so much fun!

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Two Nights Before Christmas

This is my adaptation to the classic Christmas poem, “The Night Before Christmas” by Clemment Moore

‘Twas two nights before Christmas, and here at our house

Our cat saw a prize – better than a mouse.

Hobbes smelled something avian, delectable and rare

 It seemed to emanate – from right over there!

No one was around… but they weren’t in their beds,

The “to do” list, still spun in their heads.

At any moment, disast-er could befall

But he felt that the bird was worth risking it all,

And at that very moment, there arose such a clatter,

All ran to the kitchen, to see what was the matter.

Away to the corner old Hobbes flew like a flash,

And ran through the cat door with his yummy stash.

The turkey was not on the table – oh no!

 It now laid in a heap, on the floor below.

How did this happen? It was immediately clear –  

Paw prints on the floor did immediately appear.

That twelve year old cat, still lively and quick,

Had brazenly jumped up and taken his pick

Of the succulent pieces we might have ate.

Maggie turned and shouted, “He’s broken the plate!”

I want to save this situation

But turkey with china shards, is beyond salvation!

Into the garbage can behind the wall!

I throw away! throw away! throw away all!”

As tempers tend to do, mine did fly,

Out of its confines and up into the sky.

Bad words and curses towards that cat flew,

In a fit of anger I even threw my shoe!

And then, in a twinkling, I heard at the door

Hobbes calling me with his lion-like roar.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

 In came that cheeky cat with a bound.

Turkey grease on his fur, from his head to his tail…

That silly kitty thought justice would not prevail!

I could see the evidence when he rolled on his back,

His fat belly protruded like a big, full sack.

His eyes — how they twinkled! His purring – how merry!

I was not much amused. Well… not very!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And evidence on his whiskers led me to know;

Any trace of doubt had disappeared for good,

“Oh I could strangle you – I really could!”

But the look on his face and his little round belly,

Turned my vengeance to a big bowl of jelly.

So contented and plump, like a fat Christmas elf,

And I laughed as I watched him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know we’d all been led…

To the magic of Christmas, when old rules don’t apply

When forgiveness trumps anger… I said with a sigh,

“Oh Hobbes you’re a thief,

But you’ve restored my once-lost belief.

Yes, we can find humor, no matter what happens,

And we must not let adversity dampen

Our love, our peace and our joy and delight.”

Hobbes closed his green eyes and he rolled up tight,


“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”

_______________________________

Hobbsie…

Hobbsie under the Christmas tree

Twelve and a half years ago, a “little bundle of joy” came into our lives. He weighed about a pound, had a long fluffy orange tail and ears that seemed far too big compared with the rest of him. He also had a loud, long, non-stop meow…

His favorite thing in all the world was raw meat. And so it should have been; he had been abandoned in the local market, and the butchers’ stands were good places to find a tasty morsel or two.

Stray dogs would also congregate near the meat area but as they weren’t as small and nimble, they rarely made it inside the inner sanctum to where the wee orange fluff ball dined happily on pork scraps, chicken guts and bits of beef offal. One of those scruffy canines decided that the impertinent cat had taken one liberty too many, and as the puss pranced past the pack, he was caught in the “jaws of death.”

Enter I… see what’s going down … and smack the mutt’s snout! Out tumbled the kitty. I stuffed him into my market bag for safety and he promptly fell asleep. I think he must have been exhausted by his brush with the Hereafter.

Well, there’s nothing harder to resist than a fluffy baby cat… and home with me he came.

The kids and Jorge were enchanted; we named him Hobbsie and he has been an integral part of our household ever since. He grew and grew and grew, and got fluffier, fluffier and fluffier. He knew he was beautiful and he lorded it over all the other cats; he even scorned us! He never was very affectionate, but he was funny! He was a great hunter and regularly brought me tokens of his loyalty: birds, snakes, mice, bugs, lizards… Once a day he’d jump up on my lap, allow me to pat him a few minutes… and that was enough mushy stuff until tomorrow.

As you’ve gathered… Hobbsie is gone. He died today at 5:00 pm. I watched him take his last breath and his eyes glassed-over. I don’t believe he suffered… he was just old… for a tropical kitty.

He’s already buried, underneath the palm tree against the back wall. There are lots of crawly things back there, and there’s lots of shade… I think it’s a good resting place. But I… I will miss my furry friend very much.

Maggie saying goodbye to Hobbsie as she left our home for her wedding

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In Other Words: Mérida

I have not been blogging too regularly as of late… there has been SO MUCH going on…

A couple of weeks ago, I met with Cher Bibler, the content editor of “In Other Words: Mérida” (IOW:M) This bi-monthly e-zine (an online literary magazine) offers a publishing opportunity for writers living in and around Mérida

Cher has been a resident of Mérida for several years now and has multiple creative pursuits, including theater and music. She exemplifies the ageless maxim: “Pursuing one creative outlet opens the door to the next.”

In the e-zine’s first post, Cher says:

“Bubbling under the surface of this colonial city in Mexico is a teeming mass of creative minds, some of whom create in the English language. So many, in fact, we thought it a movement that needed to be recorded as it progressed. Our steely tentacles have reached out beyond the city into the surrounding countryside and collected up the best fiction and poetry that we can find, and we encapsulate it for your perusal. And plan to continue to do so, on a roughly bimonthly basis, as long as the tentacles survive. Our reach grows ever larger – is no one safe? We look forward to the adventure, and we hope you do, too.”

In Other Words Mérida accepts submissions in the English or Spanish language. They welcome: fiction, poetry,        editorials, essays and interviews from Mérida area writers. The e-zine also showcases photographers and other artists. You can view the May 2012 issue: http://www.inotherwordsmerida.com There you’ll also find the guidelines for having your work included in a future issue.

Some new writers worry that they aren’t “ready” but… you have to be published to get published some more! Cher urges you to send your material.

The team at “In Other Words – Merida” includes:

Cher Bibler – content editor (English language)

Katie Brewer – managing editor

Fer de la Cruz – content editor (Spanish language)

Julie Stewart – interviews

*** The three images that accompany the text of this post are from the IOW:M website.

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Latina Writers

I have been asked to compile a list of Latina writers.

When one thinks of “Latina writers”, immediately names like Sandra Cisneros, Laura Esquivel and Isabel Allende come to mind. Women with Latin roots who write about issues related to their ethnicity.

Several well known Latina writers do not have Latin surnames: Elena Poniatowska, Denise Dresser, Veronica Chambers. But no one would ever describe them as anything other than Latinas.

Elena Poniatowska

A third group are authors like Harriet Doer. Leonore Carrington and C.M. Mayo. These women, while not born in a Latin country write powerfully and seductively about Latin cultures.

So what is the definition of LATINA? Merriam Webster’s on line version offers this:

“1: a woman or girl who is a native or inhabitant of Latin America

2: a woman or girl of Latin-American origin living in the United States”

Hm-m-m-m-m… no precise mention of foreign born, naturalized citizens of Latin countries or women of Latin-  American origin who live in other countries…

Maybe calling oneself Latina describes more than ethnicity? Perhaps it is a matter of sentiment and life experience?

Leonore Carrington

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Bob Dylan in Mexico City

I hope you’re in a comfy spot… link to this Bob Dylan song

Put on your earphones… and enjoy the music…

***

This ballad will always be special to me…

I heard it for the first time while waiting for a train in Cuzco, Peru:
Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed

I was way too young to be so far from home.

The strumming guitar and the sensuous lyrics

seemed like the most soothing sounds I’d ever heard…

Whatever colors you have in your mind

I’ll show them to you and you’ll see them shine

A dude sat down next to me.

He showed me the ultimate technology – a cassette player,

and he offered to let me hear the whole Nashville Skyline recording.

I fell totally in love – but with the song, not the dude.

Unfortunately the man and the music came as a package deal.

So I had to take to pass.

Lay Lady Lay, Lay across my big brass bed

***

Six weeks later, in a chic outdoor café on Buenos Aires’ Calle Florida,

A charming Porteño lowered his eyes, then looked up at me

and I heard it again – that song!

Stay, lady, stay, stay with your man awhile
Until the break of day, let me see you make him smile

***

Most tempting,

but I spotted a faint white line around the fourth finger of his left hand,

and my delicious desire dissipated.

***

A few years later, in another lovely Latin city…

An intoxicating Meridano and I had begun dancing around one another…

It all fell into place when I heard:

Why wait any longer for the one you love

When he’s standing in front of you

***

I’ve spent the ensuing 36 years in that man’s fine company

Stay, lady, stay, stay while the night is still ahead

***

Bob Dylan’s lyrics are like pearls on a linen thread,

and tomorrow, May 12th,  I’ll fly to Mexico City

to hear him sing them live… for the first time in my life.

***

I hope my favourite will be on the play list

But even if it isn’t, I’ll be hearing

Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed

***

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Dot. com

April 24, 2012

Often my pieces of short fiction surprise me… I have no idea where the ideas come from. Over the next few days, I am going to post installments of a story that I recently wrote.

DOT . COM

Before her debut in this new city, Molly had sweated as hard as a runner preparing for a marathon. She dieted and abstained from salt so that her belly felt tight, and her butt tucked. Her hair had been colored and cut at a top salon. She bought new clothes – not too racy but certainly not prim. Her manicured fingernails sported scarlet polish, and after the pedicure she asked for the same shade on her toenails.

It had been worth the expense and every effort endured. She faced the full length mirror and turned around so she could see herself from various angles. Molly knew she was hot.

As a final measure, she opted to have a studio portrait taken. When she told the photographer why she needed the picture, he suggested that she undo the two top buttons of her loosely woven dark sweater. She complied … after all he was a professional and knew about such things.

She felt ready. She provided all the information that the online profile sheet requested. She uploaded her photograph, paid the fee with her Mastercard… and pressed SUBMIT.

Two days later, she felt a rush when she saw her image and info prominently displayed on the site. Twenty minutes after that, the emails began arriving.

She pored over each one, studied the profiles and tried to glean a sense of the personality type. She decided that Letter Number 4’s sender was likely the type of man she was hunting for. Should she respond? Or should she see who else might write to her over the next few days. She didn’t want to waste time pursuing false leads.

The eleventh reply made her heart race… She stretched out on the chaise lounge so the sun could warm her whole body. Yes she’d definitely contact this one.

“The Internet is a marvelous tool,” Molly mused. “Imagine… ‘Marry-Me-Dot-Com’ has not only facilitated my next marriage, but also my next murder.”

To be continued…

DOT . COM (II)

He would be the third… “Third time’s a charm,” isn’t that what they say?

Molly sipped on a glass of water . In a few months time, the guy might not agree with that popular saying, but right now he sounded as excited as a boy with a new toy. “I really want to meet you,” he’d said. ‘Men are so predictable,’ she thought.

“I want to meet you too, but this is my first experience with on-line dating and I would feel more comfortable if we meet somewhere public,” she told her anxious admirer.

They arranged to meet the very next day at a well known restaurant by the harbor.          Immediately sparks flew from his blue eyes. Molly had never been at this restaurant before, but her date, Peter, seemed to be a regular patron.  This would be a mistake; she needed to isolate him from his world in order to bring him fully into hers. “It’s lovely here but so crowded. Why don’t we walk down the beach? I know a quiet oyster bar that I think you’d like.”

When their feet hit the sand, Molly bent over to remove her strappy sandals, and in the process gave Peter a fleeting glimpse of her well-shaped thighs. She suspected that from now on, her every wish would be his command.

Searching for something to say, Peter looked into Molly’s eyes… “The sunset will be gorgeous this evening.” She smiled and began walking.

Molly steered the conversation and soon had Peter talking on and on about his life as an airline executive. He’d traveled a lot and had become accustomed to an enviable life style. There was no ex-wife in the picture, and no kids. When he asked about her, she coyly told him that her life had been dull compared with his, but she so hoped this would soon change. He grinned and brushed his hand against hers.

‘Too soon for that,’ she knew and moved slightly away. He had to feel the thrill of the chase… “Look there’s the place I told you about; ´want to go inside?”

A twenty-something waiter led Molly and Peter to a window table with a panoramic view of the sea. The breeze blew seductively and the candlelight flattered them both. Slow Bossa Nova serenaded from recessed speakers, adding an exotic allure.  Peter launched into a long anecdote about his travels through Brazil…

Molly gazed at him with eyes that said: I’m – fascinated – with – you.“Now, what shall we order?” she asked.

“Oysters of course,” said he. She waited for a few breaths… she suspected he’d add a come-on, and he did. “You know what they say about oysters?” he asked her.

Molly was ready. “Indeed I do,” she purred, “Soon we’ll see if it’s all true.” Peter grinned when she ordered half a dozen on the half shell.

He got up eventually to visit the rest room, and Molly slipped a little Percodan into his chilled Chablis. As she’d planned, after the walk back to the parking lot, Peter seemed more pooped than primed.

“I think maybe you overdid the wine,” said Molly. “Would you like me to drive you home? You can pick up your own car tomorrow.”

“You are as responsible as you are ravishing,” he slurred, “I feel so sleepy.” Molly got in behind the wheel and asked him where he lived. He gave her his address and directed her towards a luxurious looking villa up in the hills above the bay.

Delivering her date to his door, she saw that he got safely inside before she drove back down the winding roadway. ‘This is getting better and better…’ she thought.

Peter watched her ease away. His head pounded as he picked up the phone. “She’s definitely the one,” he said. “But the little temptress is in for a surprise… not all men are as predictable as she assumes.”

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DOT . COM (III)

“Are you absolutely sure?” asked the voice on the phone. “How long have you been searching the on-line dating sites in hopes of finding her?”

“It’s been over a year now Mauricio. I knew she’d look for a new way to meet her next victim, and an internet hook-up would provide the anonymous identity she requires. Remember that the detective from Cleveland is also anxious to question her about the suspicious death of one of his city’s wealthy older men.”

Peter continued, “Even though she’s slimmer and wears a different hairstyle, when I saw her picture, I recognized Monica from the videos and photographs you gave me. She calls herself Molly now.”

“Well I’d call her by an altogether different name! Stay on track Peter. I want my brother Lalo’s death to be avenged. I want her behind bars.

The Panadini brothers had always been close. Growing up poor, they’d had to hustle since boyhood and their determination to see the family safe from poverty had been all-consuming. Neither of them had married but the two men felt content knowing that they’d made a rousing success of their restaurant chain. Their twelve large bistros had a steady local clientele and tourists also flocked to the “Bella Vita” locations close to the ski hills.

The opening of a high-end tavern had been the beginning of the end. Lalo had told Mauricio, “We need a classy gal to manage the new place… someone who can handle the snooty tourists from upstate.” Both brothers looked ecstatic when Monica sashayed into their office and applied for the position.

Every day Mauricio asked himself how he had failed to see that his brother had fallen like a stone for the long-legged opportunist. Lalo married Monica and almost immediately, his health began to decline. She put who knows what kind of drugs into his food and drink until poor the besotted fool was a hopeless addict. He died of an overdose and of course, his wife inherited half of the family holdings. Mauricio gave Monica a lump settlement and “the grieving widow” quickly disappeared.

Two months after she had been long-gone, Mauricio put two and two together. He hired Peter, who tracked down Monica’s dealer and collected other incriminating evidence. They had a case now, but no perpetrator! The search began… “Don’t let her slip away,” the distraught man begged. “I dare not,” the private investigator told him, “I didn’t want to tell you but she shook something into my wine last night, if I don’t stay on my toes, I’ll also be lying six feet under.”

The next morning, as Molly stretched and twisted herself into a Yoga pretzel, the phone    rang. She jumped up to answer… she knew it would be last night’s sexy suitor. Peter Brown was a handsome man… maybe she’d hang onto him a little longer than the other two?

“Molly, I feel so stupid for falling asleep in my cups last night; how can I make it up to you?”

“No need to feel bad; it happens. But here’s an idea… why don’t I meet you for lunch and maybe a drive afterwards? “Las Mañanitas” is a favorite of mine.” She knew just where she’d take him afterwards… to the mountains. he’d be excited… and she’d let one thing need to the next.

“Where do you live Molly, I’ll pick you up.”

“Not necessary Peter, I have some errands in town. I’ll meet you at “Las Mañanitas” at 1:00 pm.

They both rang off, and Molly smiled in anticipation of the game about to unfold…  But Peter held the trump…she had no idea that he was a player too.

DOT . COM (IV)

Molly licked her lips… she had landed ‘the big one’ this time. Three weeks ago, the long leisurely lunch at “Las Mañanitas had been the prelude to an unexpectedly ‘delicious’ afternoon. She decided she’d handle Peter a bit differently than the other two. The payoff could wait… she deserved to enjoy herself a little.

His suntanned torso glistened with sweat as they headed up the trail behind the ski hills. He said he enjoyed nothing more than a good brisk hike on a clear afternoon. She had to agree. When they reached the entrance to the chairlifts, he suggested they sit off to one side and rest amongst the trees. He took his pack off and brought out two delicate acrylic wine flutes along with a bottle of Pinot Grigio in a thermal pack.

“Wine?” asked Molly, “We still have to get back down…”

“But this is a special occasion…” Peter said as he rummaged around again in his pack and brought out a black velvet     pouch. He withdrew a two carat solitaire. “Marry me Molly. Make me the happiest man in the world.”

Caught off guard, she wondered if this could be the real thing. Had she found true love? Looking into his aqua eyes, she said, “Yes Peter, of course I’ll marry you!”

Her bridegroom reached for her, and wrapped in his arms she didn’t see him activate the tiny microphone that had been sewn into the seam of his day pack. She talked on and on about the wedding she wanted, the honeymoon and of course, the ‘Happy Ever After.’ The wine seemed to be loosening her tongue more than she’d ever allowed. He kept pouring more…

“I’ve never been married Molly. You’ve been widowed twice; can you tell me about your husbands?” He wondered if he’d gone too far when he saw the dark look cross her features. Her mouth turned down and her eyes narrowed. “Have another glass Darling, this is a day to be festive.” She drank up…

“My first husband had a heart condition and the second was a drug addict.”

Peter’s eyes glistened. “Why did you marry them?” he asked her.

She needed to be careful; the wine threatened to spill years of pent-up secrets. But she wanted to keep his trust and so she began an edited version of her ‘tormented life.’ Husband Number One’s health deteriorated before her eyes; Number Two had deceived her from the get-go. She had never dreamed he would debase himself as he did.

‘Now we’re getting somewhere,’ thought Peter. He continued to discretely pry details from her, and she kept drinking wine. “How did you stand it my Angel; two terrible marriages. I hope there was some compensation…”

“I suffered greatly; I felt relief when they passed on – especially the second one. But at least I inherited from both, and I have my jewelry.”

Peter knew he’d almost collected enough information to convict her. “Come on Molly, we’ve got to get back.” He needed to carry her almost all the way, but while draped across his shoulder, her incoherent mind verbalized still more details of her life with Lalo.

“He forced me to get the drugs for him. He threatened to hurt me if I didn’t. One night, I accidently left his bottle of “OxyContin”  on the bedside table… she shrugged and rolled her eyes: “I guess he took too much.”

“Did you try to revive him?” Peter asked.

“No I could see he was a gonner.” She told her fiancé she’d actually seen Lalo take his last ragged breath. “It was for the best. I put the pills away, and straightened up. Then I called his brother.”

Bingo! Peter lifted Molly into the car, and drove her to his home. Once inside he pried the ring from her finger and got   her into the shower. When she’d sobered up, he played the tape of her drunken confession. “I work for Mauricio, and unless you give me everything you own, I’m giving him this tape. The police will lock you up and you’ll never get out.”

Molly recognized the steel in his eyes; she saw the same thing in the mirror each and every morning. She had to think fast. “We’ll go to the bank in the morning.”

“No, no, no… a girl like you has a safe; take me to see it.” Peter whistled when she brought out the large attaché case filled with cash and jewels. There had to be $5,000,000 in there. Much more than he figured on… why get greedy? “I’m going to drive you home, but don’t you ever forget about the tape.

“Thank God,” thought Molly; she was down but not broke. There was still the bank safety deposit box.

She practically jumped from the car… “Never again!” she told him, “Never again will I let this happen!”

Ever cynical, Peter blew her a kiss: “Win some, lose some Sugar.” His Porsche tires spun on the gravel as he raced off. Once home again, he poured a large glass of single malt. He dialed Mauricio’s number. “I´m sorry,” Mr. Panadini… the resemblance was uncanny but the girl is not Monica.

“What about the drug she put in your drink?”

“It didn’t really happen like that; I have to confess I simply drank too much and my imagination got the better of me.” He spent a whole hour convincing the disappointed man that there would be no point in keeping up the chase. He hung up, poured another Scotch, walked to his computer and went on line… ‘Let’s see what we come across this evening?’

Six miles away, Monica-Molly settled into her bed with her HP on her lap. She booted up and typed: ‘Marry-Me-Dot-Com

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Happy New Year!

January 2012

Poised to begin the New Year, I realize that I need to pack the many wonderful moments from 2011 into a sunny place in my memory. I wonder what 2012 has in store?

I wanted to make my New Years greeting a little different from most of my other posts… Following you’ll find an A – Z account of people, places, sights and sounds  that made me smile this year.  The slideshow at the foot of the piece illustrates it all… I hope your screen is big enough to read the text and view the images simultaneously…

A is for the many angels in my life

B is for bride… my daughter was a beautiful one

C is for candles… I love them

D is for dancers… my son Carlos and his wife Jeanette

E is for our entrance into 2012… I hope it will be a wonderful year for you

F is for flamingos… they make me smile

G is for all the cute little girls in Mexico

H is for the helping hands that always show up at my house

I is for irises… they aren’t often available in Merida but they are lovely

J is for Joanna and Jorge… taken during our stay in Florence last summer

K is for kisses… enjoy them and return them as often as you can

L is for love… in all its forms is the most important thing

M is for my daughter Maggie and me… she is a joy

N is for niche… tucked into every corner of Mexico

O is for oven… isn’t this a beauty?

P is for pelican… not graceful, but much fun to watch

Q is for this man from Queretaro… his message is mine

R is for ribbons blowing in the wind… so elegant

S is for sunset… watching the sun go down is a wonderful way to each day

T is for tequila… I’ll toast with that!

U is for Uxmal… and its unequaled rain god masks

V is for Volkswagen vans… we had one but not quite as colorful as this

W is for wedding couple… Jeanette and Carlos in August

X is for Xochimilco… if you haven’t been there, it should be on your list

Y is for Yucatan… we’re lucky to live in this peaceful corner of the world

Z is for Zijuatanejo… not many words start with Z… last January I was there

Happy New Year to you all! 

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