Trailer Park Nirvana image created by Stefany Kleeschulte.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Las Chuparosas

 My computer faces the window next to the door. Every once in a while a hummingbird hovers there, looking in at me. That little ruby-throated hummer makes me smile. What is he thinking? I know he's not in search of food because I filled the feeder yesteday. Is he as curious about me as I am about him and his buddies?

We have two types of hummers here right now, the rubies and tiny green ones that are much smaller than their ruby-throated cousins. The green chuparosas normally hang out at my neighbor's feeder which is empty right now so they've come to mine. They're gentle, less argumentative and territorial. Six of them sit and feed quietly next to one another. Not so with the ruby throats who fight, battle, lunge.

Yesterday the feeder was nearly empty and as I reached for it the green hummingbirds remained perched and sipping. I brought the feeder closer and closer to my face. They stayed, eyeing me but not removing their straws from their sippy cup. Finally I had to shake them loose so I could refill the feeder.

This morning I woke cranky, worried, dejected, possibly rejected. But then the ruby throated visited outside my window. As I watched the dance of the hummingbirds my mood lightened. According to Native American lore, hummingbirds bring joy and love. They're just what I needed.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Back to More of Them

Whaaaa! The Canadian guys are gone. They sure livened up happy hour. I see a period of depression and readjustment in my immediate future. But here's a website of their artistic endeavors and a blog about their journeys through Mexico. They're on their way to Oaxaca. Go meet Robert and William.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Guardian Books of the Year

One of my literary crushes selects a book written by one of my literary crushes as one of his favorite books of last year. Roddy Doyle picks Willy Vlautin's Lean on Pete. It's brilliant!!!

Roddy Doyle

Amy Bloom's collection Where the God of Love Hangs Out (Granta) is brilliant. The stories are shocking and lovely. Willy Vlautin's Lean on Pete (Faber) is only brilliant; I hated finishing it. Joseph O'Connor's Ghost Light (Harvill Secker) is absolutely brilliant – a beautifully written love story and, somehow, a chunk of Irish social and political history. There's a section in the middle of Emma Donoghue's Room (Picador) that reminded me of reading Catch 22 when I was 15 – the same excitement, the same "I've never read anything like this before". The whole book is absolutely f**kin' brilliant.

I wrote a review of Lean on Pete on my secret website. I'll see if I can attach it here.

Damn you, Willy, for making a grown woman cry. I mean, really, I'm used to your gritty down-on-your luck stories and songs but you've never made me cry. There I was, reading this book as I watched pelicans dive for fish and I've got tears running down my cheeks. I hoped no one would see me. Especially a Mexican or a Seri Indian because I'd have a hard time explaining those tears in Mexican.
I hated myself for rushing through this book. It was like sitting down and eating a whole box of Cheez-its when it's your last box or really wishing you would've made that bottle of Tangueray last a little longer. I didn't want the book to end but I was anxious to see how it ended. Please have a happy ending, I begged as I raced through the pages.
I was in Portland last year and I was planning on seeing you at Music Millenium because your band Richmond Fontaine had just released a new album. I had already seen Pete Dexter at Wordstock and so I couldn't believe my luck that within a matter of days I would meet two of my favorite writers. But you got sick and had to cancel the Music M show.
A friend of mine knows you, knows your girlfriend so maybe I'll get to meet you one of these days. In the meantime, I'll need some time to recuperate from Lean on Pete. Too bad I drank all my gin.

Us and Them

Finally! There are more Us’es than Thems.
We realized our growing number when we held our own happy hour Friday night. How many were at the original gathering site over by the sea wall? We figured only a few. So last night we decided to give the group happy hour another shot. We added to our numbers when I heard there were two gay guys in the trailer park. “Go invite the gay guys to happy hour,” I told my friend and she ran right over to their little camper. “I do love my queens,” she always says.
Big circle of people. Food in the middle. Dogs on the periphery. One small section of the arc held Them. The majority of the circle was comprised of Us. Which meant real conversations were held. This is in sharp contrast to the usual happy hour gathering wherein the men tell the same stories over and over, guffawing over their lame humor, while the rest of us feign interest. Not so this night. Canadians. A Brit. People who’d traveled the world. No one was bragging or showing off. People were sharing stories; not holding court.
As the Them numbers dwindled, the Us’es could be our intellectual elitist selves. It was freeing and such a joy to not have every comment turned into a Fox soundbite. Snow in Atlanta? So much for global warming. Gulf oil spill? You bleeding heart liberals only care about the environment and not the poor fishermen. President Obama? Someone should shoot that N_____. (Yes, someone actually said that.) One guy is fixated on dirty jokes, minorities and women always his target.
I was pretty impressed that one of Them stuck around after the others had left. He even tried to get a fire going in the pit but the wood was too green. Finally it was too cold to stay out so we gathered up our chairs and our empty glasses and headed back to our “wobbly boxes.” For the first time since being in this gringo community I felt like a part of the group. Not the lone bleeding heart liberal in a circle of teabaggers.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Luis Alberto Urrea

When I was younger, a teenager, I had movie star posters on my wall until my squirrel, Garfunkel, tore them down for her nest. Now if I had walls I’d tack up book jacket photos of my author crushes - Pete Dexter, Tim Winton, Colum McCann, Ian Rankin, Larry Brown, Nick Hornby, Charles Bowden, Willy Vlautin – to name a few. And Luis Alberto Urrea.
As my newest author crush, Luis should be grateful I’m too poor to leave Mexico thus saving him from a crazy stalker lady. With every book I read, my crush deepens. I’m liable to be thrown over the edge when book two of Hummingbird’s Daughter is published next year.
My first Urrea book was Devil’s Highway, the story of a disastrous immigrant crossing in the Sonoran Desert. I’d bought the book at 23rd Avenue Books in Portland for my southwest road trip. I was having lunch at a cafĂ© in Sonoita, Arizona, when I started Devil’s Highway. It is a terrific primer on the struggles immigrants – and Border Patrol – face in the Arizona desert. I was struck by Luis’ ability to write a remarkable story without glorifying or demonizing either side.
I’ve since owned and loaned three copies of Devil’s Highway including my hard cover edition. I guess some books are meant to travel. My copies have most certainly traversed the Sonoran Desert - and the border - many times.
Into the North and The Hummingbird’s Daughter followed. Then In Search of Snow and Nobody’s Son. I own Hummingbird’s Daughter in both English and Spanish (Hija de la Chuparosa). I had fantasies of sitting with my friend Edgar as he read the English version and I the Spanish. Never happened. Both books are above our abilities, even Edgar’s who speaks nearly perfect English.
Luis is my “friend” on Facebook. I love that he posts nearly every day. He also has a website I visit often. For now I am limited to cyber stalking.
When I have a house with walls his jacket photo will be there along with Willy, Pete, Colum et al. When I have a house with walls maybe he’ll come visit after a reading in Tucson. I can have him to dinner with Pete Dexter (who has a house in southern Arizona) along with Charles Bowden ‘cause he lives in Arizona too. Maybe Willy will stop by after a gig in Tucson with his band Richmond Fontaine.
You're never too old to dream. And you're never too old to have crushes.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Load of Crap or Tales from the Shitter

Jose, the tattooist, fixed my toilet. He is multi-talented, inking skin one moment, removing toilets the next, in between building a picket fence. He speaks English. He is invaluable.

During my three-month absence this summer the seals (flange, plumber's wax, whatever) dried out and so the toilet leaked. Some ugly rusty looking substance oozed from the base. I feared it was a dead mouse but hoped it was just the toilet parts rusting away. I couldn't bear to look so I hired Jose to do the dirty work. Then I went to visit with Edgar.

When I returned the job was nearly complete. Jose had so throughly scrubbed all parts of the toilet that it was gleaming white. (I think its true color is cream. Oh well.) Jose said, "I am so happy with this job that I will give you a year's guarantee." Great because he re-seated it at a slight angle and now the linen closet door doesn't have room to open. A minor problem.

But Charlotte's was a major problem.

When Jose poured her concrete patio (see how diverse his skills!) he noticed a foul smell from under her trailer and saw a sewage leak. The day after my job he went to tackle hers.

RV LESSON: The black tank.