Music and whiskey

TWO HOURS after shooting the video above from the upstairs terraza, I was sitting on the Jesus Patio eating seedless green grapes and listening to the hog next door expressing displeasure with her situation, which she does often.

This is being written yesterday, Saturday. The previous night had seen a heavy downpour that lasted I don’t know how long because I went back to sleep after waking briefly to notice it.

Some things don’t change much in these parts, and the sounds of sunrise are one of those things. Roosters, tractor-trailer trucks on the highway up the mountain behind us, crickets, the loudspeakers of the house-delivery propane trucks.

However, some things do change, and they’re generally for the better. We got some great news recently. An international chain of movie theaters, Cinépolis, is opening here in our mountaintop town. Hooray! Now we won’t have to drive to the state capital for first-run flicks.

The changes that have occurred over the past 17 years that I’ve been here are considerable. There were no major supermarkets. Now there are two. There were no stoplights. Now there are many. There were few Gringos. Now there are way too many!

I wonder how they’ll react to the Cinépolis chain. Over a decade ago, the Mexican convenience store chain Oxxo opened its first store here, and the Gringos, many of whom are aging hippies, went bananas. Egad! Modernization!

We have numerous Oxxos now, including one directly on the major plaza. Another sits on the nearby smaller plaza. Their signs are subdued, not intrusive.

I’m praying for a full-blown Walmart and Costco.

Convenient shopping is a good thing, and it does not detract from the morning views I get from the upstairs terraza, something I love and that never changes.

* * * *

An old friend emailed me this week. I rarely hear from people above the border, so it was a welcomed event.

He and I worked together on newspapers for decades both in New Orleans and Houston. Like me, he is divorced more than once. Unlike me, he is not currently married. He’s three years older than I am, and he lives alone in a home he bought in Colorado after he retired from the Houston Chronicle.

I had sent him a note after seeing him briefly on a Netflix documentary of Janis Joplin who was a close friend of his in high school in Port Arthur, Texas, and later in her early years of fame and drug-addled degeneracy.

My friend is a much-published poet, but not in recent years. He said his life now is mostly whiskey and music. And that all his major life decisions were wrong ones. That last resonated with me because all my major decisions were wrong ones too. Till 1996 when my major life decisions did a 180.

What happened in 1996? I stopped drinking. My friend is 76 years old, and I doubt he will do that.

I didn’t even mention it.

Here’s to music and whiskey! And staying the course.

Fame at last

THE WAIT was long, but now I will be famous. Maybe I’ll be rich and invited to host Saturday Night Live.

TolstoyFor the first time ever, my fiction has been published. And I didn’t even ask for it.

There are three ways to publish:

First, you submit to places that publish. Though often encouraged to do that, I’m too lazy. Second, self-publish. This really does not count. Third, an editor spots something you’ve written, and asks to publish it.

They come to you.

The third option is what happened in my case. It’s the best option of all, if ego-stroking is the objective.

Paper books still are published in today’s electronic world. Two sorts of people purchase them. Luddites and folks who want something pretty on the coffee table.

Old-line publishing houses now publish both paper and digital books. Getting one of them to publish your stuff is difficult, especially in the paper versions. Proven authors are favored. Publishing houses are very risk-averse.

I recently opened an account on Medium, and for the fun of it I downloaded a number of my fiction pieces that have rested on links here for years, mostly on Pearls of Zapata.

Within 24 hours, an editor on Fiction Hub asked if they could publish The Dark Girl in the Blue Dress.

I’ve been entertaining and irritating people online since 2005, but it’s all been self-publishing, which doesn’t count.

Now that I am a truly published writer, my odd, sometimes cantankerous, personality makes more sense.

* * * *

(Note: Fiction Hub uses my real name, but you likely knew that anyway. The photo up top is not me. It’s Tolstoy.)

Passed lives*

MY OCCUPATION was, of course, newspapering. I never called myself a journalist. Sounds hoity-toity. Guys like Dan Rather and Brian Williams were journalists, and look at them now.

They’re bums.

I got into newspapering by fortunate happenstance. I was good at it — better than average — but unlike many people, I never choose a “life’s work.” It kinda chose me. Had I chosen, I would have chosen something different.

Jennifer Rose and Steve Cotton chose lawyering. My wife chose civil engineering. My daughter chose social work and counseling, as did her mother, and — rather late in life — so did my sister. My father chose newspapering, and Ray Clifton chose forestry.

All those people chose. I simply went along.

I got out of newspapering for a couple of years in my early 30s, but finances forced me back. Down through the years, three options — possibilities I never pursued — remained in my mind, a “life’s work” that I wish I had chosen … I think.

Sutherland1. Actor. Had I not spent my newspaper career toiling in the evenings, I would have joined a theater group to get my feet wet, but theater groups invariably work at night. They don’t do it mornings or afternoons. There was the fatal rub.

I would have progressed from local theater to Hollywood. I would have been rich and famous. I would have lived in Brentwood, dodged paparazzi and driven an Eldorado Biarritz.

I am not making this up. I would have liked to be an actor.

Lama2. Monk. A second field that has long intrigued me is the monastic life which is, of course, about as far from Hollywood and the Eldorado Biarritz as you can get.

I cannot explain this stunning contradiction.

On leaving the Air Force in the mid-1960s, I went immediately to Paramahansa Yoganada‘s Lake Shrine Retreat in Pacific Palisades, California, and asked to be admitted as a novice. They said no. Go home and study. I did go home, but I did not study. Not that, at least.

Monasticism has fascinated me since. If only I did not love women so.

Jones3. Archaeologist. I followed my father into newspapering, but we had another connection. My father’s dream was to be an archaeologist, but the Great Depression and distance from the nearest good archaeology school in those days squashed that ambition.

It is one I have long shared. And with a bit more focus, I could have done it, but I did not.

I picture myself brushing desert sands off the Egyptian crypt of some yet undiscovered Pharaoh’s 12-year-old concubine while keeping detailed observations in one of hundreds of spiral-bound notebooks stored beneath my wind-tossed tent. I am a detail man extraordinaire.

* * * *

But it’s too late for all that. It’s come down to this, a layabout atop a mountain in the middle of Mexico, wondering what might have been. It could have been far better — or far worse. You cannot know.

* * * *

* Get it?