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

 





Happy Birthday, John

18 10 2019

I write this on the eve of my 47th birthday.

Glad to be here.

It’s raining in the autumn in Oregon. We’re in the state’s interior for a few days. High desert country in the fertile Cascade Mountain range.

It’s a needed respite from city life.

Central Oregon features interesting buttes, forests, calderas and caves. There’s also powerful flowing rivers and breaktaking mountain top lakes all in a day’s journey. David found a condominium for rent on Airbnb in the Sunriver community. Sunriver — in a way — reminded me of Baypoint and the St. Joe Company developments in Northwest Florida.

The accomodations, however, would not be the highlight of this trip. No, this trip was more about to determine if David and I could travel together after such a harrowing crash in the Rogue river valley. Could we make the three-and-half hours drive from Portland and back safely and without incident or argument? This was the test.

I took the wheel leaving Portland. Going over Mt. Hood brought back memories for David as he shared stories of Timberline Lodge, Government Camp and Skibowl. We stopped at a roadside diner on the Warm Springs Reservation where respect was given and we were served an excellent breakfast. The Confederated Tribes’ fried bread was delicous.

After breakfast we crossed the Deschutes River and passed through Madras where we were surprised to find a major airport. The Central Oregon area is definitely growing in population and business. We ate dinner in Bend at a tavern along the Deschutes’ flowing waters. Temperatures were dropping. It was getting colder.

Crater Lake

The next morning we made our way to Crater Lake. The park was open but most of the offices and concessionaire operations had closed for the season. It was still an exciting visit as temperatures dropped below freezing and wind gusts picked up considerably. Just getting out of the car to snap a few pictures along the lake’s rim was a daunting task.

And fun. We were indeed lucky to traverse the east rim drive this time of year. The road provides access to those hiking Mount Scott (8,929 ft.), the park’s highest peek. Crater Lake is a beautiful example of nature’s fury. Almost eight thousand years ago Mount Mazama erupted. The volcanic mountain became the volcanic lake before us.

Coming to Crater Lake was an emotional roller coaster, the least of which being David’s driving. This was a park I had hoped to work for but the lodging concessaire went with another candidate. That stung. We got over it and moved to Portland where we find ourselves in year two. The challenges have been great and, for that, I remain grateful and cautiously optimistic.

I am learning and growing and, God willing, developing mature critical thinking skills.

On our last night in Central Oregon we went to the Pine Tavern in Bend for happy hour. We had hiked the upper Deschutes River trail eariler and visited the ski lodge at Mount Bachelor. It was quite cold that day with snow on the ground. The joy of traveling kicked in that night in the tavern.

There we were — finishing another great outdoors excursion in a cheersy bar surrounded by happy people.

Nice way to celebrate another year in the life.

 





Gratefully Injured

11 11 2018

I injured myself. It was bound to happen.

“You’re lifting too much,” Ani said. Smart kid, that Ani.

Yes, my housekeeping duties require extensive lifting and reaching. It’s a physical job and I’m grateful to have it. Aside from cleaning chores, the interactions with co-workers like Ani are important. After years of indepedent contractor work, it is refreshing to be a part of a company again.

Great cities are built by great companies, mind you.

Life in Portland is going just swell. I have been invited on two press tours since my arrival here — Long Beach, California and Puerto Rico. Long Beach was a solo adventure and Puerto Rico a group effort. Both destinations interesting in their own way. Long Beach, in the shadow of Los Angeles, is run by a young mayor. A gay man determined to improve living conditions by implementing new concepts in this coastal southern California port city.

Puerto Rico, still suffering from a barrage of hurricanes, offers beautiful nature and lots of rum. Bacardi is the major player there. I learned how to make a simple refreshing cocktail. Pronounced Die Q Re. It’s basically sugar, superior Bacardi rum and ice. It’s hot in the tropics and ice is a key ingredient.

My tour group in Puerto Rico was a lot of fun. It included seasoned travelers and newcomers. It was designed for the LGBTQ community. There were journalists from Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco there. I managed to connect on a personal level with some of them.

Our group sets sail.

Long Beach seemed to be this vision of what we can accomplish. Puerto Rico offered a chance to relax from the heavy work load, over-reaching and contenious mid-term elections. I knew I was hurt when the luggage became hard to handle at the airport. Perhaps I could have packed lighter. I did not use the laptop, but the sports coat was put to good use.

David gave his blessing on both trips. He stayed in Portland continuing to piece together our studio. We both received influenza vaccinations before I departed to San Juan. When I returned the doc diagnosed me with lateral epicondylitis, aka tennis elbow.

So I’m slowed down. Just in time for the holidays.

Time to reflect on the incredible year we have had. A cross country move. New friends and new challenges. A rennaissance of the soul.

I believe this injury is divine intervention to force my conscience into absorbing the events of the past year. To still be standing and breathing — much less working — is something to be eternally grateful for. I am in a good place in life. Time to cherish that and offer a rum filled toast to even better times ahead.

Long Beach stairs

 





Westward Uhaul: The Drive Begins

12 04 2018

With all our worldly belongings in the back of a Uhaul trailer we departed South Florida on the first of the month.

I do not think I was fully aware of the difficult driving that lay ahead. I was determined on leaving and pushed hard during those last days to meet deadlines while balancing the proper goodbyes. We left the apartment in better shape than we found it. Country club living could be checked off life’s list. We had successfully completed the gentrification process. Many of our neighbors said they would miss us.

“Good luck,” became a familiar send-off.

We hooked the trailer up to the ol’ Jeep. With close to 200,000 miles to her credit, the Jeep had made cross country treks before and she had four new tires for this trip. It was a full trailer and 55 miles per hour was the limit. David followed behind in his jam packed BMW. It was a challenge for him to drive so slow in his beloved sports car. We decided the southern route would be best to avoid snow, steep mountains and icy roads.

The route: Gainesville, Florida, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, San Antonio, Texas Fort Stockton, Texas, Lordsburg, New Mexico, Blythe, California, Bakersfield, California, Redding, California and finally our destination — Oregon. We stayed at the DoubleTree in Gainesville for our Florida finale. The bed was super soft. After weeks of packing and crashing on the couch this was a needed night’s sleep. We were also treated to a complimentary breakfast and, of course, those famous DoubleTree cookies.

We hit the road early the next morning as company buybacks dominated the economic news. Interstate 10 would be the route and soon Florida — and all of its tropical heat — would be in the rear view mirror. We pulled into Baton Rouge just after dusk and were given a handicap room at the Residence Inn. I don’t know why we got this room but it didn’t matter because we were exhausted and sleep was the priority.

The roads and bridges in Louisiana were by far the most scary of the trip. They are old and neglicated. There are long, extremely narrow spans over swamps with steep bridges over rivers and lakes. I spent the early years of my journalism career covering sports and entertainment in and around New Orleans. Some stories from the bayou I prefer stay buried in the muck.

The next day we entered Texas and made arrangements to meet with David’s friends in San Antonio. Driving through Houston was harrowing with the traffic, bumpy roads and shifting lanes that if you are not careful will shuffle you off in another direction before you can put on your blinker.

I called ahead and secured a room at the DoubleTree. We were given a penthouse room with balcony view on the rewards floor and once again those cookies were delish. The next morning we met David’s friends from New York, Joe and Andrea, and toured the riverwalk. David and Joe had worked together on design projects in New York. Joe’s wife Andrea is a credentialed artist and they were wintering in San Antonio where their daughter lived. They showed us some avant garde spots, including a gallery featuring some of Andrea’s work.

Remembering The Alamo, however, was not on the tour.

“It’s a little disappointing,” Joe said.

SanAntonioRiverWalk

San Antonio River Walk 

 

 

 

 

 

 





DC Crisis

7 06 2015
Chocolate growing on Trees.

Chocolate growing on Trees.

No park service this summer, instead I wait, interview and write about sensitive subjects and matters. Talking to people on background and trying my dead level best to avoid any form of controversy.

I know there are traps out there. Each story pitch is analyzed in great detail.

I have recently returned from Washington, D.C. where I visited my friend Horacio for the first time. It had been over a decade since I last stepped foot inside America’s capitol. Much has changed in the nation’s politics since 2005. Horacio, however, remains as sharp as ever.

I was thoroughly intimidated by his younger crowd of friends, envious of how openly the gays live their life there and saddened about my inability to relate. I suppose this is gay mid life crisis.

I was grateful to secure a Capitol Tour through Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office. Debbie is quite the champion for South Florida liberals and her staff reflects the diversity of the Sunshine state. I met with a nice Jewish young lady who had recently moved over from the State Department. She explained to me the details of the Congresswoman’s upcoming trip to Africa. In a sign of the technological times we are living in, I took no notes, instead recording it all on my i-phone.

I remain intent on discovering Africa. The destination, always, the last hurdle.

“The real value of taking this trip is understanding what the ground really looks like,” said the nice Jewish young lady whose name shall remain anonymous. She said the Congresswoman’s visit to hospitals in Kenya and Malawi would be for women only. This killed my buzz. After visiting with members of the staff and interns, I was escorted on a tour through the Capitol by a nice young man from Miami of Puerto Rican descent. He was very knowledgeable of the details regarding paintings, rooms, statues and other facts of history. The young man knew the rules and was precise in pointing out important areas of the U.S. Capitol.

For the first time, I was admitted into the House observation area. From this elevated view, we discussed how the Congresswoman came to the floor. My guide said seats are on a first come basis and that Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz typically moved around the room to, “make deals.”

After the tour, I thanked the young man and then ate lunch in the cafeteria. It was a beautiful day and I desired to go outside and walk about. The Capitol dome was going through a remodeling effort and, elsewhere, across the avenue was a stoic Supreme Court building bracing to hear historic arguments in our defining cultural times. All was quiet outside on this day, but protests were indeed coming.

Eventually, I found myself inside the botanical gardens. Horacio encouraged me to give it a look. The chocolate trees were interesting as was the apparant ability on the part of the curators to basically simiulate many different forms of climate. And as one walked from room-to-room, those climates, they were a changing. Zing!

My arrival in Washington was, for all intents and purposes, to set the stage for great things to come. I was grateful to be sleeping on a good friend’s couch in the district where power plays. Horacio would show me the way, but it would be up to me to fit in. After months in South Florida relaxation, this would be my challenge.

And, as always, challenge accepted.

Remodeling

Remodeling





Chocolate Surprise

9 05 2015

My conversion with the Cardinal reached many levels. It was a moment in time.

We spoke of the Church and its role throughout history, a dark role, particularly when it came to priests who had abused — in some cases, sexually – young alter boys. I found this part of the Church disgusting. The Cardinal acknowledged a medevial element to the Church and its archaic ways of only men serving in the priesthood and the elaborate outfits they wore and the fact the could not marry or have sex.

We also talked about AIDS and the disease that was taking a horrible toll in Africa and globally. He was working on a film project, a preview of which was presented following the mass we attended in Mayfair. In the film, many Church patrons and clergy speak of AIDS and tell their story of living with the disease. In Africa, sadly, there are many stories.

Some even produce tears.

I left the Cardinal’s flat and returned to the Underground, Oyster Card in hand and minding the gap. On the train back to Victoria station, a young man wearing a American Navy jacket sat across from me. He was younger than I and smaller. On his brown leather jacket was a patch identifying his fleet assignment. I wrote the number down and did the research. They were docked in southern Italy.

We parted ways at the Victoria station. I power walked down the Strand in order to meet JB at King’s College for our scheduled appointment. His office has an incredible view of London with an impressive collection of books and a detailed map of Europe that was distracting to say the least. We walked down to the ice skating rink and discussed Paris. It was cold but the spirit of the holidays made for a cheerful spirit, not to mention we were close to the theatre district.

058

On a previous visit, JB and I had enjoyed the musical Avenue Q, puppets and all. There was no budget for such a luxury this time around. I was reminded just how poor I was when we entered the Burberry store and none of the sales staff would look my way. Eventually, I was able to engage a young lady about the cost of a signature Burberry scarf. She quoted something absurd in pounds which prompted JB and I to depart rather quickly, JB with a subtle shot as we left.

“That’s half the cost of your airfare, John,” he grinned.

We joined Chris and David for drinks that night at the local cocktail bar in Bloomsbury. I explained to Chris the fascinating party I had attended in Paris as the guest of a Moroccan man. There were thousands of men inside the building and I had been privileged to a small sampling of how arabian men enjoy the nightlife. I was guarded with the details as this had been an entirely new experience for me and I was still unsure of what it all meant. I was, however, grateful for the hospitality Chris, David and JB had shown me during my visit to London.

In the morning, I would hop on an American flight back to Miami. First purchasing a gift for Mom at the Harrod’s in Heathrow. I had it wrapped by a local charity in purple colored paper and bows. In Miami, Homeland Security asked what the box contained.

“Truffles,” I said.

“What are those?,” he asked.

“Chocolates,” I replied.

Yes, the holidays in Alabama this year would be much sweeter.228

 

 





Interrogated and Admitted

30 10 2013

The bus driver stared through the glass doors at me, looking down every so often at his watch. He was waiting on me — and so were 20 some other people sitting on the Cantrail bus.

Meanwhile, the border patrolman continued his interrogation.

“John, you sell your stories, right?” he asked. “Yes,” I replied, and then I began to give him more background on my career before he stopped me again.

“And what are you doing in Canada?,” he asked.

Again, I had no plans. This trip was more of a whim. I was this close, staying with a dear friend in Seattle, why not? Actually, I had always thought my first excursion into Canada would be into Quebec or Ontario. British Columbia, however, was proving to be difficult.

I told the officer I was planning on seeing two new friends for dinner that night in Vancouver. I had never met these gentlemen and that was part of the intrigue. One being a Canadian citizen, the other from Indonesia.

“How did you meet them?,” the officer asked, now sitting down in front of his computer behind the counter, no friendly expression on his face. To my left, through the glass doors, the bus driver began to pace. No doubt pissed with this situation and probably hankering for a cigarette.

“I only know them through the internet,” I explained. “This will be the first time we’ve met.”

At the border

At the border

This ticked off the officer even more. He demanded the address of the restaurant and immediately looked it up on his computer. It was a pizza place near the bus station.

“You don’t have a hotel reservation, you can’t tell me who you are here to see and I don’t know how you are getting back,” the officer declared. “I don’t know, John, this all sounds suspicious.”

He wanted my airline reservation back to Florida, but I was not letting him into that e-mail account. He then went for the holy grail — Facebook.

“Let me see it,” he said, demanding the i-phone. “I have one of these too.”

Suddenly, the bus driver came through the glass doors.

“How much longer we got here,” he asked the officer, while another Canadian guard, a black man about my age, walked past me and into the office behind the counter. He stared at me while he passed. I smiled and he continued on his way, but I did not want to see where he was going and I had had just about enough of this situation.

“I wanted to write about your beautiful country. This is my first time here,” I said.

The officer told the bus driver a few more minutes and turned his attention back to me. “I’m sure, John, if I was to come to Panama City you would want to know about me,” he sarcastically said.

“I would welcome you,” I said. “We are allies, after all.”

This was the one time during the course of his interrogation where we agreed. Scanning through my Facebook account, he asked what I wrote about in Panama City. I recalled one of my last assignments at the News-Herald when I reported on a murder case at a bayside motel. I told the officer I had always maintained a professional and courtesy relationship with the police.

“Why don’t you join them?,” he then asked, again with a sarcastic, yet serious tone. I had no answer.

He didn’t need one.

“Okay John, I’m going to let you in,” he declared, getting up out of his chair and handing me my passport back. “But make sure you don’t miss that flight back to Florida.”

Some welcome.

He then gave me my i-phone back, remarking “It looks like you like to hike a lot.”

I felt so defeated. I met the bus driver outside and we walked to the bus together without uttering a word between us. I was greeted by a strange silence as I climbed aboard the bus again. Some glances thrown my way but no one spoke. Before I could take a seat in the back, the driver loudly announced, “Next stop, Vancouver.”

At the station, I waited for the driver to unload everyone’s luggage before approaching and giving him a nice tip. He smiled and shook his head, “That’s the world we live in, kid,” he said.

Politically, tensions abroad were running high as the United States weighed its military options on Syria while a covert war raged across Africa. My first order of business in Canada was to the Greyhound Bus terminal to purchase a ticket back to Seattle. I would have less than 24 hours to celebrate Canadian liberty and I was damn determined to make the time count.

Keep Exploring

Keep Exploring