Writing stuff and mango snowballs


I STARTED THIS website in mid-2011 with the intention of writing stuff. It replaced the six-year-old Zapata Tales, which was also written stuff, but that stuff was mostly about my living in Mexico, a topic that had begun to bore me, so I was branching out.

I’m good at writing stuff, far better than average. But I’ve never taken a class on it. I’ve never attended workshops. I don’t worry about themes and structure, nor am I interested in the slightest in trading tips with other “writers.” I fly entirely solo.

When I do write stuff, I just wing it. I prefer fiction, but there have been periods in my life that were so wacky that they’ve provided real-life material. A couple of examples of that are Victoria and the cowboy and Swimming with the fishes. Yes, I’m plugging myself, drumming up traffic.

The fiction that I’ve written in recent years now rests on my other website The Pearls of Zapata. I have some favorites. More plugs: The broken staircase, which I’m particularly fond of, The old wolf, and then there are the relatively brief Waco spaceman and the demented Sunny side up.

Some things never landed on The Pearls of Zapata. Instead they got their own websites. There are links in the right-side column. Two are jungle-themed. I think strange things tend to happen in the jungle because it’s hot there, and people go wild in heat.

One is Dark girl in the blue dress and the other is Last night of the iguana.

For many years I’ve wanted to go deep into the jungle, perhaps in Ecuador, and eat ayuhuasca while lying naked, but I never did and cannot imagine that I will now since I’ve gotten rather long in the tooth. Some things are best done when young.

* * * *

My father was a writer, a very good one. He and I shared many traits. He was a newspaper editor, as was I. He retired early, as did I. He was a rather serious dude, as I have become. He drank too much for a long time, as did I. He quit in his mid-50s, as did I. He spent his post-work years writing poetry, settling at last into haiku, where he became quite well known.

He was a life-long left-winger. I am a right-winger. He had no adventuresome spirit while I have lots. His politics were shaped by the Great Depression and witnessing — as a newspaper reporter in the late 1930s — violent, machine-gun-involving, union-busting by fat-cat corporate types.

mugThe 1930s made him while the 1960s, to a lesser degree, made me. The 1930s were miserable times and, looking back, so were the 1960s because they created the self-absorbed, clueless American culture we now see spiraling down the drain hole.

My father died of a heart attack at 75. I am 70, but I feel real good.

How did we wander off to my father? Oh, yes, I like to write, and so did he. Plus, I confessed up top that I never studied structure nor attended writing workshops that might have focused me better. My father did attend workshops and studied structure. Haiku is very structured.

Some time last year, I stopped writing fiction. It was unintentional. The muse deserted me. Perhaps it had something to do with age. Maybe the little gray cells are drying up. I wonder if it’s permanent. Concurrently, I notice that living in a foreign country has ceased to amaze me.

But I still like it very, very much.

We’re going to the Pacific coast tomorrow for a few days. It will be very hot. Perhaps I’ll find some ayahuasca, but I doubt it. I’ll stick to mango snowballs and fried shrimp.

* * * *

(Photo notes: The mugshot is my father though it could almost be me. And what does the photo up top have to do with the post? Nothing at all. Those masks hang in the Hacienda hallway.)

28 thoughts on “Writing stuff and mango snowballs

  1. Like father, like son. I am glad you are appreciated for the fine writer that you are. There’s a snowball stand just 2 miles from here. Another one is even closer but it’s not as good. I thought of walking to the main part of town, but I may drive since rain has been plenty.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. From what I have heard, the snowballs of Louisiana, especially in the New Orleans area, are the best due to the Italians who first peddled shaved ice and syrup here. There’s a great place, name escapes me, that manufactures and sells shaved-ice machines for this purpose on the bend of the river near Oschner hospital, just west of NOLA.


  2. I find the female images in your stories interesting, mostly because they are never real women, rather they are fantasies, mystical creatures that cannot be fully known. Or, perhaps you don’t wish to really know them because then they would lose their mystique. (Yes, I took a lot of literature and literary criticism courses – not everyone is as pure as you are). I think to be a good writer you have to read a lot of good writers. I would guess your style is inspired by Castaneda – your writing reminds me of his, something about your voice that is similar. Call the muse while you are at the beach. We were just there, the hot black sands of Cuyutlan burned our feet, but the shrimp served on the beach while watching the famed Ola Verde was superb. I am still amazed that I live here.


    1. Bonnie: The woman in “Victoria and the cowboy” was real, and she haunts me to this day. As for literature and criticism courses, I took just one English course over the basic requirement for my degree in history. It was some sort of literature class, and I got a dang C. Overall, my grade-point average was spectacular, but not that C or the D I once received for a geology course.

      Strangely, the prof in the literature class went on to become a friend of mine (our ages were not that distant), but I never forgave him for that C. I wonder where he is today and how he’s doing. He was darn near beaten to death later in a love triangle that went bad.

      I don’t feel my writing style, such as it is, is inspired by anyone, certainly not Castaneda because I only read one book of his — Teachings of Don Juan — and I read it decades ago. I remember virtually nothing of it, but what little I do recall could explain your thinking he made an impression on me.

      If there was any specific influence, I would vote for the mind-altering materials I ingested a time or two or three in the late 1990s. Now that did make an imprint on me, but in a good way.

      As for living in Mexico, I am not amazed though I was in the past. Now I’m just grateful.

      It was a very wise decision.


    2. I do not analyze things I read. Same for music. I like it or I don’t. I’m a simple man. I recall you left a comment on “Last night of the iguana” in which you read intentions into it that I did not intend. You lost a bet with your brother who intuited correctly that I am just skin deep.


      1. Do you mean that after making a living as a writer, you do not have a standard for determining what is good writing and what is not? Of course you analyze what you read. You analyze structure, the author’s use of words and dialog, the development of the story. As for music, you also have a standard for determining what you like — style, tempo, instruments, melody, lyrics. Some people have more sophisticated “palates,” based on their education and experience, but we all judge, analyze, sort into categories. And, when you write, you do so according to your own criteria for good writing — and not because of mind-altering substances — though those substances may explain all the phallic symbols in your stories.


  3. I very much enjoy your writings, not so much the political stuff, but you have a quick and an imaginative mind, and I like that. Your musings about life and the people about you are really interesting, a little deeper as the years age along, more introspective. Keep it up, enjoy your holiday, best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Bob. Of course, the reason you do not like my perceptive political stuff is because you are a collectivist of the Canadian stripe. I forgive you that, mainly because you are ineligible to vote in the nation to your south, and thank God for that.

      Our holiday will be relatively brief. Heat oppresses me, but the beach is great, the hotel is air-conditioned, and there’s a pool just outside our door. Our personal jacuzzi too!


  4. I had to look up “ayahuasca”. This is some of what I read on WikiPedia.org:

    Author Don Jose Campos claims that people may experience profound positive life changes subsequent to consuming ayahuasca.[5] Vomiting can follow ayahuasca ingestion; this purging is considered by many shamans and experienced users of ayahuasca to be an essential part of the experience, as it represents the release of negative energy and emotions built up over the course of one’s life.[6] Others report purging in the form of nausea, diarrhea, and hot/cold flashes.”

    Sounds like fun! Vomiting! Diarrhea! Purging! Gotta love it.

    Don Cuevas

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I guess being a longtime reader means I like your prose. Save for the political stuff, which I find to be rather typical of the genre these days. You seldom if ever argue policy, preferring instead to simply demonize the left. As such it’s annoying and unpersuasive.

    Now someone like George Will or Robert Krauthammer can write about policy in a way that I find both persuasive and enjoyable.

    Perhaps you should read some of those guys some more too.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we think this whole demonization thing distracts attention away from serious matters that need bipartisan solutions, not name-calling.


    1. Kim: I’m not interested in “writing about policy.” Sending darts at collectivists simply causes me glee. As for name-calling, for the umpteenth time, I do not name-call. And I do not rant.


      1. You just called me a “collectivist.” I reject that label. How is that consistent with not name-calling? (Something, by the way, which I did not allege in my initial comment, but now that you’ve brought it up, I’ll comment.)


        1. Perhaps Señor Zapata has absorbed the tactics of Alinsky, mentor to Obama and Clinton, and has decided that ridicule is his most potent weapon. Someone once likened arguing with a Progressive to playing chess with a pigeon. You may feel that you made some good moves, but in the end the pigeon knocks over the pieces, craps on the board and frustration is the end result. Life advice: avoid pigeons and Progressives.


        2. Kim: Just got home from a couple of days on the beach at Zihuatanejo. I don’t travel wired, which explains the delay in the response, which is …

          I do not consider collectivist to be name calling at all. I consider it to be a political stance. One for all and all for one, that sort of thing. It has a long history. I, of course, do not subscribe to collectivism, but I sure wouldn’t call it name calling or an epithet in the slightest. I think it’s correct. This reminds me of my labeling a commenter here a left-winger two or three years ago. She was, and likely still is, a die-hard Barry fan. I also do not consider left-winger to be name calling. It’s a political stance. The woman I was referring to is definitely a left-winger, but of the go-along-to-get-along variety. She does it because she thinks it’s “nice” and “fair.”

          She immediately sent me an email calling me an a-hole, which is definitely name calling, and she did not abbreviate it as I did because I maintain decorum here, a pretty classy website. Alas, for that, I had to put her on permanent moderation. I really wish folks would not fly off the handle.

          As for your being a collectivist, you may deny it, but I think you are at least a half-hearted one. It’s no mortal sin. I forgive you.


          1. You can certainly redefine anything to be anything you want, but if you call me a collectivist, particularly *after* I say I reject that label, everyone else will consider it name-calling. And I suspect that many others to whom you refer as “collectivists” would feel the same as I. So believe what you want, but I think the rest of us consider the broad use of collectivist to be name-calling.

            That said, I don’t particularly take personal offense, but did find it ironic that you were the one to mention name-calling by asserting you didn’t do it, and then promptly did it.

            And it’s laughable to call me a collectivist anyway. I’m a free-market capitalist, economically right of center, though socially very liberal, which some might well call libertarian.

            However, the pack of right-wing politicians making the rounds of the country lately calling themselves “conservatives” are anything but. They don’t want to conserve anything. They want to remake the country socially and economically, and remake the world by military force. They have no desire to preserve the current order, which is what a true conservative wants. Reactionary might be a better word, IMHO, but some might consider that name-calling.


            1. Kim: Obviously, my definition of name-calling encompasses far harsher terms than your definition. Stuff like left-wing, right-wing, socialist, collectivist seems pretty tame to me. And were you to call me a left-winger, though I certainly reject the term, I would not think of it as name-calling. I would think of it as an error.

              I am delighted to hear of your libertarian side. Keep it up!


              1. Felipe: you are a well-educated, well-read fellow with the added bonus of having been a big-city newspaper editor for much of your career. In short, you are far too smart to not know that the term “collectivist” has a very negative connotation in American politics, and as such, should never be applied to people who have not first applied it to themselves.


            2. Kim: Barry is an undeniable collectivist, and you voted for him twice. I’m sorry, but the collectivist label therefore must be applied to you to some degree. You can deny it till the cows come home. But let’s get back to the definition of name-calling. If you read comments on conservative news sources like Breitbart, Fox, etc., my people are lamentably fond of calling Barry things like Obuma and Obozo and those folks who support him as Libtards, etc. Now that is name-calling, and it serves no good purpose.

              On the other hand, if you read the feedback on left-wing news sources like Huffpost, they often refer to those with contrary opinions as racist and, uh, racist and, you know, racist. The left is far less imaginative, stuck really on just one “name-call.” You’re with them or you’re a racist.

              But that sort of thing is what I call name-calling, and both sides do it. And I do not. I am a fan of decorum.


    2. Of course, if you were not the collectivist that you are, you would find my political observations right on the money and entertaining. By the way, Krauthammer is Charles, not Robert, but I will not report you.


      1. Writing can be taught. If a student is motivated, he can be taught to write following some simple rules and formulas. Then, if he continues to write and accepts constructive criticism, he can become a good writer. Maybe not great, but acceptable. Besides working in a college writing lab, and supervising grant writers, I also homeschooled my children and taught them to write. One became a newspaper editor, another won best brief in law school moot court competition and the youngest had her MA thesis placed in the Illinois State Archives. What is difficult to learn is how the creative process works – how to “call the muse” and then what to do once she shows up.


        1. Bonnie: When Ray says writing cannot be taught, what he is thinking about, I am relatively certain, and I totally agree with him, is writing that touches the heart. Of course, the mechanics can be taught. Most people can be taught to communicate clearly in writing.

          But that other thing, nah. You got it or you do not. Ray’s got it, and I got it too.


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