Archive Page 2

first southern thumb

Editor: my Ear and hitch partner – Alyssa Conley
Her YouTube page

“What a nice place to be buried,” she said, “among all the trees.”  Brightly colored adobe tombs wink in dappled sunlight on the jungled hillside facing a yellow strip of beach and the rolling Pacific. Wreathes of ribbons cascade over headstones next to homemade wooden crosses commemorating 3 months of life. Marble books are left open to pages with inscriptions of faith or adoration for loved ones lost.  A sunny yellow abstraction explodes next to a concrete mausoleum covered in broken shards of mirror. The shriveled long dead roses contrast the massive purple plastic blooms.

It was a nice place to be buried but we’re not dead yet. Though it might be soon. So buy the ticket, take the ride and laissez les bon temps rouler. We stick out our thumbs north.

It only took two different trucks for our entire trip across central Mexico – from the beaches of Puerto Vallarta to the cool hills of San Miguel de Allende. On the friendly truck of Mexico, I can only say: they may be uncomfortable but at least they’re slow.

Our first truck was a delightful old boy deadheading an empty rig to Guadalajara. He was sitting on the only seat and he shook his head in amusement as we tried to maneuver our bags into a comfortable seat in the cramped cab. We were not helped by Aly’s 15 hula hoops or my bag of 28 books but everybody has their little addictions. With wild gesticulations and a solemn voice, he told his story of crossing the border – three days without food or water in the desert, the bones of the unlucky bleached along the path. But he shrugged off the danger. He didn’t like the States anyway.

This was the most achingly slow part of the entire hitch. I look with longing whenever we passed over the long straight highway, almost empty of traffic because of the obscenely high tolls. The trucks stayed on the old road that wound through the hills that added hours to the journey. We groaned through the switchbacks and whenever we’d get stuck behind an overloaded inching truck, our driver would huff and puff in frustration. At the slimmest of openings to pass, he’d gun his rig into the other lane, throwing his head back with a guffaw as we cheered him on.

He made Aly laugh with his spitfire Spanish stories while I stared out the window at the eagles floating over the scrub and the many headed cacti, inverted green chandeliers. The dusty towns were broken up by the momentary jewels of the plazas –  red sandstone churches and old men playing guitars, the bright colors of the senoritas in full blossom.

As we approached Tequila, the spiky blue-green agave plants grew along the road, following the contours of the land in curving lines. The jimadores worked the fields, tending the plants with generations of wisdom untouched by modern farming techniques. They make the careful decision when to begin the backbreaking harvest, aiming for when the sugar has ripened but before the seeds have spirited it away. Then many hands hack it out of the ground for the dozens of distilleries lining the road through town.

At the first signs of Guadalajara’s sprawl, we bid a fond adios to our driver and have him drop us at one of the speed bumps that pepper the highway. They’re a hitchhiker’s dream, slowing the cars down long enough to read our handmade cardboard sign and check us for signs of sanity. I’ve never hitchhiked with a companion before so I’m delighted at how much easier it is with Aly to watch my back and help evaluate the rides. We trade tricks of the road to help pass the time, contemplating an illustrated “Guide of the Thumb.”

“There’s a good lesson for Mexico,” she says. “The rides pull over fast so we can afford to be choosy. We lost a lot of hours because of how much slower the trucks go on those lousy roads. During the day, trucks are a bad bet but they’ll run all night. I think we only have enough light now for one more ride so let’s wait for a truck.”
“You’re right. We shouldn’t have set our expectations so high – hoping to make an 8 hour drive in one day.”
“So it goes,” she says. I nod and turn to the highway with our sign.

The truck driver who stopped twanged our radar with imprecise words about his route but the sun was setting and we needed to cross the city. As we got in, he asked for both our passports and I went into bad cop mode. “Absolutely not. There’s no reason to see that and I’m ready to get out if he doesn’t like it.” I kept my hand on my mace until we figured out he was actually a good bloke, if awkward and taciturn – a family man with photos of his kids next to pinups of blonde porn stars and a calendar of the Virgin Mary in her blue robes. He just wanted to make sure he wasn’t picking up fugitives.

When it was my turn to stay awake with him while Aly slept in the back, he’d stop for piss breaks to disappear behind the truck and come back  with the coke sniffles. I don’t know why he hid it from me. After 18 years on the Baja to Mexico City route, I’m sure he knew how to use his stimulants well. The only time he scared me was when he pulled over to “pee” again with the cruiser of a federali parked only fifty feet up the road waiting for speeders. I thought that was pushing his luck. The federal cops aren’t nearly as crooked as the local boys but that’s no reason to do bumps right under their nose. Until we drove by and I realized that the cop car was a cardboard cutout.

He dropped us at a truck stop at 4 in the morning, only 50 kilometers from our destination but on the far side of a fair sized city. We chugged coffee until dawn while Aly canvassed the few cars that stopped for gas. It took a couple of cold hours to finally find a ride but it wasn’t bad because we had already resigned ourselves to a long wait at a lousy spot.

It made the appearance of our angel all the more holy – a smile as big as his cowboy hat and a heart as big as his trailer of BMWs (I know it’s a lousy line but you do better after hitching all night on bad coffee). He fed us granola bars and boomed forth with his enthusiasm. He loved Mexico “I tried Texas but it didn’t take.” He loved his wife (Into the phone he cooed, “Yes, mi amor. Muchos besos mi amor.” But most of all he loved rock music. The sun came up to an invigorating blast of Dark Side of the Moon followed by  Heartbreak Hotel. He beat the steering wheel to Crazy Train and motioned for us to listen closely to a solo by Axel Rose. He wished us ‘buena suerte’ at the highway’s off-ramp and we walked into the most beautiful city I’ve seen in Mexico, San Miguel de Allende.


Kittens! Get your hot kittens here! Fresh off the presses!

I’m currently disappeared in Mexico, holed up trying to write the first draft of a graphic novel about psychedelics in NYC. I’m about half done and it’s coming along pretty well. In the meantime, I write scifi short stories and erotica to keep practicing. Let me know if you want to see some.

When finished, I’ll be hitching back to Brooklyn to start working with my illustrator. My hitch partner is a lovely West Coast girl who hitched down here on sailboats. She’s been my best editor for writing down here and I’m sure we’ll be posting some road stories to the blog once we start thumbing north.

In the meantime, I’m trying to train these kittens to do a chorus line but its like … herding cats.

as you can image, Mexico is filled with pussy

I'm the one in the middle with the embarassing beard

advice to a young reader

A smoke and a swim in the midnight lake always start me pontificating.
advice to a young reader
If I could start my reading life over, here’s a few things I would tell to my young self:

1. Annotate. A lot. Write summaries in the back. Copy quotes of favorite lines. Dog ear pages. Star passages. Writes notes about how this rings true at this point in your life. ie: “Miller’s exasperation at not being able to write what he thinks rings so true now as I’m struggling through the Billie piece in Berlin.”

My personal method is an unobtrusive star and a dogearred page on the good lines. Then write all the lines in the back so you have a one page summary of your favorite bits. CS Lewis said ‘real readers reread.’ But I’ll never have time for that. If I spent the rest of my life just reading books recommended by friends, I could never get through the list. That’s my main motivation for clones with a shared memory database. Set one to the modern fiction and ancient mythology of Japan. Another to soak up every scrap from the Beat Generation. Two to read the Russians, “with that certain heavy tone people put in their voices when they say, ‘I’m reading the Russians’.” as Brautigan said. But the clones are a short story for another day.

2. In the back cover, write where you bought the book, where you read it. Write your feelings as you finish it. Make each book a walk down memory lane to be enjoyed in your sunset. Also for the notes about sex and drugs to be used against you by snoopy children.

3. Each book gets a permanent bookmark from the deitrus of paper that floats through your life – ticket stubs and event flyers. Little notes from friends. Leave the bookmark at a favorite passage so you can always open it right to a fine gem – useful for orating in your library at a captive audience.

Eric Miller adds, “I would say to keep in mind that authors, like directors, have distinctive styles, so if you find someone you like, read everything he’s got. Don’t feel obligated to hit titles just because they’re canonical.”
Do you have any advice to add?

short story contests

I’ve been working on pieces for short story contests to give myself deadlines. Here’s one for a contest that stipulated the piece begin with “The robot felt…”

Zeb the Memorious

borges google doodle

For the 114th birthday of Jorge Luis Borges, Google made a doodle. Here’s a link to one of stories of his with such a bewitching central premise: a library that has every configuration, permutation and combination of letters.

The Library of Babel

From a nonfiction essay, here’s his list of what you would find in such a library:

“Everything would be in its blind volumes. Everything: the detailed history of the future, Aeyschylus’ The Egyptians, the exact number of times that the water of the Ganges have reflected the flight of a falcon, the secret and true name of Rome, the encyclopedia Novalis would have constructed, my dreams and half-dreams at dawn on August 14, 1934, the proof of Pierre Fermat’s theorem, the unwritten chapters of Edwin Drood, those same chapters translated into the language spoken by the Garamantes, the paradoxes Berkely invented concerning Time but didn’t publish, Urizen’s books of iron, the premature epiphanies of Stephan Dedalus, which would be meaningless before a cycle of a thousand years, the Gnostic Gospels of Basilides, the song the sirens sang, the complete catalog of the Library, the proof of the inaccuracy of that catalog. Everything: but for every sensible line or accurate fact there would be millions of meaningless cacophonies, verbal farragoes, and babblings. Everything: but all the generations of mankind could pass before the dizzying shelves – shelves that obliterate the day and on which chaos lies- ever reward them with a tolerable page.”

Personally, I want to read the rest of Coleridge’s Xanadu – to see the rest of that opium induced dream interrupted by a annoying neighbor.

dostoevksy – now with animation!

Dostoevsky’s short story “Dreams of a Ridiculous Man” illustrated by Alexander Petrov:

Part 1

Part 2

ah, to be a forger

Just found ‘The Songs of Bilitis‘, a cult classic of lesbian literature from a contemporary of Sappho around 600 BC. Famous for its frank and tender portrayal of Sapphic love.

But the best part, it’s all fake. The poems are the invention of a clever forger named Pierre Louÿs who fooled most of the experts with his “big find” in 1894. Once finally found out, the fraudulent origins did little to lessen the impact of the poems. In 1955 San Francisco, the first lesbian organization founded itself as the Daughters of Bilitis.

The tantalizing talents of the an art forger. Paul Auster laid them out in “Brooklyn Follies.” How do you find old paper to fool the X-rays & ultraviolet scans? Were the ingredients in your ink available at the time of writing? Do you know all of the tics of your writer? That Hawthorne always wrote sloppy and consistently spelled  “cieling” & “stedfast” incorrectly. The perfect work comes only from a mountain of research and preparation.

The great shame is that these masters of trickery have produced fakes, copies and missing originals so perfect that they currently sit in museums and private collections around the world. To be the master of your profession is to be completely unknown for it.

an image from one of the many illustrated editions of the “Songs of Bilitits”:


Lex Pelger

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