Notes From The Virus Front Lines

22 03 2020

Where does one start when seeking a literary agent? Who should I approach? Is my story even worthy of book status?

All valid questions. I do think I have lived a remarkable life and walked a different path. I have also enjoyed the privileges of travel and being in place for important happenings.

Mexico was another example.

Play ball

I had pleasant interactions with locals in Oaxaca. In a clothing store a few blocks from the Zocalo, a young man helped outfit me with some Guayabera shirts. He tossed a few compliments my way and we bargained back and forth over the cost.  I wore one of the shirts to church Sunday morning. Ron invited us to a tiny Episcopal congregation where we met American missionaries and Mexican Christians. It was a delightful service in a modest setting.

Unlike the grand temples and cathedrals constructed under Roman Catholic eyes, this tiny Episcopal church felt more like a small, nurturing school. Here, we climbed to the rooftop and got our first panoramic view of Oaxaca. It was a nice moment to share with David.

After a couple of days, securing a tour to Monte Albán became the prime objective. This ancient mountaintop site was Mesoamerica’s first metropolis. It was breathtaking and worth the process of ascending to these sacred grounds. That process involved paying for a driver and guide. We rode in a small van with other tourists up the winding, dusty road to Monte Albán.

At the gates of this world heritage site, we were split into two groups — one for English interpretation and one for Spanish speakers. Getting past some of the vendors was challenging. They swarmed David as we hopped out of the van. At the mountaintop a man appeared promoting his reproduction of an ancient artifact — an Aztec ballplayer. David purchased the little athlete as our guide explained the history behind this long ago community.

Danzantes

Disease eventually came to Monte Albán, our guide explained, wiping out the people of the clouds. Evidence of this suffering is depicted in the Danzantes or rock art carvings found around the temples.

Where did this plague start? Was there no quarantine issued? No social distancing practiced?

The disease apparently was stronger than any medicine. And just like that a civilization disappeared.

As I write this blog post — going back through my notes and photographs — a new disease has its death grip on the world. These are difficult times to say the least.

Trying to describe what I have experienced recently is a hard task. The range of emotions expressed in my daily interactions here at home include stressed out grocery stores, cavalier attitudes by twenty and thirtysomethings, anger from the marginialized, concern for the sick and vulnerable and a lot of fear both justified and irrational.

I have also witnessed hope and courage from heroes. Not the costumed variety of an over-manufactured Hollywood model, but heroes in doctor’s masks and nurses’ gloves. Heroes driving trucks of supplies. Heroes bagging groceries and heroes working in sanitation.

Our better angels are winning. We will get through this.

 

 

 

 

 





The Hunt For A Literary Agent

11 02 2020

The search is on.

If I am to discover the book publishing process, maintaining this blog is essential. It’s time to get some of these stories in print before I lose recollection of them. The adventures are adding up, you see.

We just returned from Mexico, a week-long excursion into the southern state of Oaxaca, a valley community known for its “Day of The Dead” celebration.

Boy, do I feel dead alright.

I’m not sure what I picked up on the plane but three days after returning stateside I felt like I got run over by a tractor trailer. This wasn’t one of those Moctezuma’s revenge illnesses, but more a long the lines of cognitive paralysis.

Couldn’t type, put thoughts together or even rise from my bed for that matter. I was in this state for three days. It was horrible.

And, of course, it was cold, windy and raining in Portland. This is, after all, one of the primary reasons for traveling to Mexico — to see the sun again, near its zenith.

So let’s roll out of bed and retrace our steps south of the border. I worked my tail off over the holidays in order to have a “vacation.” The old days of two to three weeks paid time off automatically are a relic of the corporate past, almost like a supermarket checker.

With time off secured after a busy holiday season, I booked the airfare and going by one simple presentation to a group of seniors, decided Oaxaca was the place to get away to. It certainly satisfied my desire to do something different. Often when you mention Mexico the first thoughts are of the coastal resorts where cruise ships docked.

No, I wanted to go somewhere not yet ruined by ugly tourists.

So off to Oaxaca we went. Ron, our guide from the cathedral, booked us at his hotel. After 14 hours and three flights we arrived late at night. There was a note at the front desk from Ron saying he’d meet us for coffee in the morning. The hotel was certainly not luxurious by American standards, but had cozy rooms with tall ceilings, running hot and cold water and a quaint hacienda style patio feel.  Most importantly, it was in a central location to museums, restaurants and other historical sites.

At coffee the next morning, Ron pointedHotelOaxaca out the important places from the lending library where Western ex-pats gathered to the pastery shop where you could score a delish chocolate crossiant. The Zocalo, he said, is where we would find a browner, more indigenous population.

Ron took us, via the side door, into Oaxaca’s magnificant Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman. A beautiful baroque style structure, the former convent would serve as one of our landmarks for the week, it’s bells often ringing in the dawn and dusk hours.

TemplodeSantoDomingo

Our size set us apart from the locales. Here, we were tall. Ron, a seasoned traveler, said I had the look of a southern European and I did my best to engage the locals in a Spanish tongue, sometimes pulling off the conversation and other times steering the dialogue to Francais, English or letting the local define it.

Wherever we went I never felt like there would be a breakdown in communication. The delicate dance was to be as respectful at all times of the Mexican culture and customs.

And to have a good time. This was our mission.

To Be Continued