Beseeching the Ocean to Forget the Day

20180109_064218For two months, I resided at the Condado Plaza Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Typically, after a ten-hour workday, I would end the evening by sitting on the balcony of my room and watching the ocean.

In my humble opinion, one cannot simply observe Caribbean waters without rum, and no one in search of introspection should drink rum without a suitable cigar. I’d pour a glass of Ron del Barrilito. Neat. Since I didn’t care to find the ice machine on my floor.rb.jpg

I’d sit on the 7thfloor balcony, beholding the dark blue waves, aglow from moonlight, smash against boulders and reefs before the hotel lawn, below. The ocean formed another foamy crest, a quarter of a mile off shore. I was told that came from other shallow reefs, outward. I would light my cigar before stepping into the night air, because the wind felt so strong and briny that it became difficult to sustain a suitable flame.

Most nights, the ocean sounded like an aquatic lion in slumber. During stormy nights, the lion awoke; though I never experienced it at full rage, like September 2017.

Thought I was not a traditional smoker, I allowed myself to sample a variety of flavors: sweet, mild, or robust. I smoked El Cabron, Royal Challenge, Gurkhas, or Gurkha Cellar Reserve. Each a hand-rolled masterpiece, wrapped with a silver or golden label. I found myself particularly fond of the house-blend cigarillos provided by the Kuros Smoke Lounge of the Condado neighborhood.

The smoke and rum relaxed my mind and the dark blue waves freed my heart after a full day in a cramped, bureaucratic, obtuse office, where creativity was discouraged and inclusive planning became taboo.

puerta-de-san-juan-san-juan-around-7.jpgI sat on the balcony chair, barefoot and in my pajamas, thinking about the people I met while having dinner in a restaurant or the bellhops who greeted me at the elevator. If strangers beyond the hotel asked whom I worked for, I would be vague but pleasant. If a bellhop asked whom I worked for, I would always tell the truth, because I knew it wouldn’t take much for a Puerto-Rican bellhop to ask a desk manager about a guest who leaves for work 6:45 in the morning for six mornings a week.

It didn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to surmise what Federal agencies set up shop on the island. I’m sure you would know which agencies, without me having to spell it.

So to take the weariness from my soul, I’d finish a cigar that lasted about 30 minutes, and polish off rum that lasted less.

When it was time for bed, I slept with the curtains drawn open. The lights of a cruise ship would pass by on the edge of night; its lights became jewels on a black ocean. I’d rise before the sun arrived in the eastern waters. But just before I’d leave for work, I’d experience its warm harbingers: colors of orange, and yellow bleeding into a dark blue horizon.

“Goodbye,” I’d say to the ocean. “See you in about 11 hours.”

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Posted in Uncategorized, Personal Tales, Rural Customs, Travel Writing, nature, politics, Spirits | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abroad in Puerto Rico

20171225_141334Where have I been?

For the past 45 days, I’ve been in Puerto Rico. I cannot say why I’m here, but in my downtime I’ll try to best convey my thoughts and feelings about my experiences with the people and culture.

Although this won’t be a fully immersive cultural lesson, because frankly I barely have time to write, I guarantee that I’ll write with conviction and credibility about my time here over the next several months. I have always tried to write authentically, because with authenticity comes a visceral value in the tradition of storytelling.

There’s an irony to this passage, because when I began my blog in 2012, it occurred while in Micronesia. I’m beginning a new phase of this blog on an island again, but this time in the Caribbean.

I haven’t traveled outside of San Juan all that much, with the exception of ocean-based excursions and fieldtrips. My work schedule doesn’t permit a great deal of travel, but one can find little cultural jewels within the city, alone. I’ve visited rustic bars in Old San Juan, with pastel-colored plaster peeling from the walls, and bartenders that were more akin to pirates than servers of beverages. I’ve seen mass dance sessions in La Placita de Santurce, where men and women, young and old, twirled each other in exhibitions of dexterity, nimbleness, and passion. I’ve beheld massive Spanish fortresses, centuries old, with stonewalls designed to withstand the might of armadas.20180106_223751

I may reside here for about year, I don’t know specifically. However, for my own sanity and just to remind myself that I am a writer, I’ll tap the keys of my laptop to express the world around me; a world that’s technically American, but far from conventional America. A world where Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic are geographically closer to the continental United States, but this tropical world still manages to make the best Wendy’s hamburger in the Caribbean. And for the record, I prefer the local cuisine the vast majority of the time.

Overall, I sincerely apologize for my absence, and I look forward to making up for lost time. Once again, let’s enjoy the journey.

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The Ballerina of Glover Park

20170903_181346Dogs take a while to poop; old dogs take an eternity. I had indulged my friend’s dog Lucy with four blocks of walking in the Washington, D.C. neighborhood of Glover Park. I would stay at my friend’s condo for a few days and take care of Lucy and Liz, the cat. Lucy enjoyed her promenades just across the street from the National Cathedral; she received the greetings of random people as if she were a canine on her confirmation.

“Oh she’s adorable!”

“Thank you,” I’d say, as if I were Lucy’s biological father.

“How old is she?”

“Um, 14-years-old.” I wasn’t exactly sure. I remember my friend telling me a couple of times, with the age fluctuating somewhere between 14 and 16.

“What breed is she?”

“Yeah, I don’t know,” I’d say on some days, because I’d legitimately forget. “English Setter,” on the other days, when I’d remember.

Folks young and old would stroke her fur, the color of crushed Oreos and vanilla ice cream. Lucy is an exceptional wing-woman. If I were looking, I would have received four or five phone numbers, but instead I accepted the compliments with appreciation and continued our walk.

Summer held a few more weeks of life, so the afternoons were warm and sweet with pastel-colored skies and open-aired bistros. Satiated customers sat outdoors, conversing over stained wineglasses and dishes with small pools of olive oil and a piece or two of peppered penne.

Sometimes, I’d avoid eye contact with people to expedite the walks. I did so out of urgency to prepare Lucy’s dinner, or enthusiasm to binge on Netflix. I checked my phone: six thirty. I lifted my eyes, which then met those of an old woman in the middle of making a significant point. I assumed the point was significant because the old woman emphasized it with a flourish of her arm. The other arm held on to the handle of her metal cane. Her lithe body was adorned in patterns of silk and cotton; her grey hair was styled tight into a marble-colored bun.

She acknowledged me with a subtle nod, while stating her point to the other pedestrian. I find it patronizing when someone says another person was attractive “in their time,” but I’d go so far to venture that she was attractive in my present time. It wasn’t a sexual attraction, she looked old enough to be my grandmother, but more an appreciation of her style, her grace, her presence.

If humans could be acquired in antique stores, she’d be in the front window, sitting with her posture straight before a mosaic tiled table. A China cup of warm chai hooked into her thin fingers. She’d nod at passers-by, perhaps permit a modest smile to a customer.

I beheld the woman two more times; with her observing Lucy then myself, and once again the nodding awareness that my visit to Glover Park was not just a one-time event.

She touched my arm on the fourth time I neared her. “Is this your dog?”

“No ma’am. This is my friend’s dog. Her name is Lucy.”

“Your friend, or the dog?”

I smiled. “The dog’s named Lucy.”

The woman bent forward to caress Lucy behind the ears. She spoke with a cadence that wasn’t exactly foreign, but rare. A comfortable formality, which in turn compelled me to speak in a tone perhaps more respectful than usual.

The woman said that she was a dancer in her earlier years, a ballerina. Although reliant on a cane, there was still the hint of strength in her squared shoulders and her lean frame, despite her adornment in beautiful fabrics.

When she spoke, she entered my personal space as if to share a cozy secret that she kept warm just for my ears.

She asked me about my interests, where I typically lived, and what I thought of the neighborhood. I felt as if she were holding court without a throne room, and I were some kind of diplomat traveling from some foreign land. As I spoke, I noticed how she studied my eyes, my speaking, my posture, and general demeanor. As if my words were just a small component of my general message. I was a guest in her “kingdom” of Glover Park and the ballerina seemed sincerely amused. And in less than five minutes, she learned as much as she needed to know, wished me well and preceded on her way.

I would chat with the ballerina of Glover Park on several more occasions. Sometimes exchanging nothing more than a salutation, while other times we’d have a discussion as robust and brief as an espresso. I’d say her name each time we’d say goodbye and she would respond in her goodbyes by saying my name as well.

My friend informed me a few weeks ago that Lucy didn’t have much time left in this world. This saddened me, for not only possibly losing her canine companion, but also for not having a reason to visit Glover Park and possibly converse with the retired dancer.

Was she always an engaging conversationalist, or was this a byproduct of retirement? I’m not sure, but when I reach her age, I hope I have a similar level of curiosity and interest in talking with people, if only to expand my world one person at a time.20170917_153813

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Influenza for a Literary Agent…

 

Posted in comedy, Humor, Open-Mic Storytelling, Personal Tales, Truth Salad with Fiction Dressing, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Therapy for Damaged Creativity…

20171104_122340I allowed my creativity to atrophy, so please consider this the first step in my therapy. For the past three months, I’ve been quite busy. I cannot say with whom or why, but rest assured it is for a good cause. But that work came with consequences. Returning home tired. Maybe frustrated. Lacking the motivation to write, tell stories, and fulfill my passion for The Word.

I painted visions with letters on a palette of keys, sandwiched between cold metal and a black screen. Some visions were true, some were fictitious; some tales were joyful, while others were pearls pried from oysters of raw pain.

I wrote while alone. I edited while broke. And felt awash in wealth after every posted blog or manuscript chapter. I had the gratification of a blacksmith, a carpenter, or a mechanic.

20170606_124154I tasted the creative fruit of my orchard, harvested by ten rapid digits pounding the trees for nouns, verbs, and the occasional adjective. Adverbs were left to rot in the grass. No harvester worth their basket would bother with an adverb. Leave that for composting the soil for another day.

So I’ll give you a page at a time. One can’t sprint on a fractured tibia. Let’s take our steps together, for a day and then another. I’ll stretch before we go. I give my word. So seeing how we have less than a month left, and I’m not sure if I’ll still be on the continent by January, stay by my side as I create as many one pagers as possible. One day, I’ll spin a yarn of comedy abroad. Another day, I’ll produce a page of horror. And who knows, maybe I’ll write about Christmas, because that’s an obligatory topic for any blogger in December.

Yet all that ambition begins with commitment to The Word and to that uncharted place where ideas grow, mapped somewhere between the heart, the mind, and the soul. A perilous trip indeed in finding that peculiar soil. That place where every writer goes native to find his or her true self. Let’s go native, at least for a month.20170917_153813

Posted in nature, Personal Tales, Truth Salad with Fiction Dressing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Lumbee Tribe and The National Museum of the American Indian

20170909_152612Last month, I visited the National Museum of the American Indian, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This museum, along with the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture, is one of the newest additions to the Smithsonian Institute, offering a more inclusive depiction of American society across the centuries.

Now to be fair, I know very little about Native American culture. One of my best friends, an anthropologist, introduced me to stories about the Iroquois and Huron. While in college, I learned about the Inuit and other tribes in general during the three anthropology courses I took. And any fan of early 90s cinema can’t forget The Last of the Mohicans and Dances with Wolves.

In my most recent visit to the museum, I arrived for an event called Lumbee Days, a celebration of the Lumbee Tribe, from September 7th to the 9th. Based in North Carolina, the Lumbee are composed of various Siouan, Algonquian, and Iroquoian tribes. They were first “officially” recognized as a tribe by the State of North Carolina in 1885, and they’ve been seeking full recognition by the Federal Government since 1988. Although Congress acknowledged the tribe as “Indian” with the Lumbee Act, passed in 1956, the act withheld full benefits of Federal recognition. The Lumbee’s 55,000 members reside in North Carolina’s Robeson, Hoke, Cumberland, and Scotland counties.

20170909_145631I missed the first day of the festivities, but had the privilege to enjoy a River Cane Flute performance and a brief play about Henry Berry Lowrie, a mid-19th century hero to the Lumbee people and a pioneer for civil rights.Henry_Berry_Lowrie

Lumbee members also held exhibitions on quilt-making, pottery, and baskets weaved from pine needles; not dissimilar to the sweet grass baskets crafted by Gullah women, in the South Carolina Lowcountry.20170909_154653

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When possible, you should visit the National Museum of the American Indian. Their history is an essential component of American history, and worthy of great respect.20170909_155501

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To learn more about the Lumbee, please check out their website at lumbeetribe.com! Although the following images aren’t of the Lumbee, I still felt compelled to add them to further demonstrate the richness of various Native American tribes.

 

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Achomawi Baby

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Geronimo’s Daughter, Lenna, 1900

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Sioux Indian Chief Joe Black Fox 1898

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A Woman of the Lakota Tribe

 

 

 

 

 

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The Mushrooms of Fredericksburg, Virginia

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“The Ladybug”

I’m not a mycologist; however, I’ve beheld enough mushrooms during dog walks in Fredericksburg, Virginia to warrant input. The mushrooms I’ve seen grow in different places: vivid green lawns, tree-shaded yards of decayed acorns sprinkled across moist soil, and jungles of tall grass. They appear like odd-shaped sentinels, orange and beige ghouls no bigger than a can of soup.

With each variety, I observe it like Charles Darwin on the Galápagos: he studied finches and tortoises, while I see mushrooms and take samples with my phone. All the same, I’m enthralled by the little things, so please enjoy these lovely pics. I’ve taken the liberty of creating names for each form of fungi. And no, the names weren’t peer reviewed.

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“The Kardashian”

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“The Sunburst”

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“The Aunt Jemima”

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“The Bleu Cheese & Toasted Marshmallow”

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“The Peach Cobbler”

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“The Sea Salt Dome”

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“The Key West”

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“The Buried Clown”

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“The Asteroid”

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“The Egg Whites & Brie”

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“The Kentucky Derby”

 

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Bananas & Pie Crust

All jokes aside, if there’s anyone who can identify a few of these, I’ll post the answers in the comments section. And If you see any mushrooms on your daily walks, take a photo and send it to me! I’ll be sure to post those as well.

Take care!

Posted in Appalachia, comedy, Food, Humor, nature, Personal Tales, plants, Uncategorized, Virginia | Tagged , , | 2 Comments