Trailer Park Nirvana image created by Stefany Kleeschulte.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Author Crush - Pete Dexter

I could weep.

It's love. Unrequited love. He doesn't even know I exist (unless the postmistress forwarded my fan letter). And he's married. And his wife seems really nice. But still, just a few minutes alone with this man...would that be a blessing or a curse? Would my craving be satisfied or would I want more?

It's this that's got my heart a'flutterin' and my spirits weighted and soaring at the same time: A review in the NY Times of Jim Harrison's new book, The Great Leader, by Pete Dexter.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never been able to get through a Jim Harrison novel. Being from the Pacific Northwest that's kind of sacrilegious, I know. But when I saw that the review of his new book was written by Pete Dexter I headed to the NY Times website to give it a look.

Jesus, I love Pete Dexter's voice, his writing style, his humor, his point of view. I'd read anything by him - even a review of a book I don't think I'm interested in. And then there's this synchronistic bit. I'm reading William Goldman's book Adventures in the Screen Trade and I'm smack-dab in the middle of the chapter on auteurs and the whole concept of the director as creator/author of the movie and then - whack! - I read this in Pete Dexter's review of The Great Leader:

I know enough about literature now to foresee that Jim Harrison’s new novel, “The Great Leader,” will be easier than the Bible was to option to the movies. For one thing, there will be fewer producers claiming they developed the material, and for another the protagonist has a more accessible arc. Possibly you are thinking that I haven’t learned my lesson, but trust me: I don’t have to be at that meeting to know what everybody is going to say.

This is exactly the kind of stuff Goldman's writing about. And that damn character arc - the thing I've been thinking about a lot lately. Do characters have to grow? Can't they be just as fucked up in the end as they were in the beginning?

It's obvious that Pete Dexter is one of my soulmates (along with Ken Bruen and Luis Urrea). For instance, he writes in this review that he generally skips dream sequences in novels - as do I! (that's meant to be read like the Priceline ad currently running with William Shatner). (Shit, Mr. Dexter doesn't like references to popular culture.)

When I started reading the review I was too infatuated with Pete Dexter's writing to care much about the subject. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Jim Harrison, can't get through him, blah blah blah, but the reviewer (I'm trying to get away from using "Pete Dexter" three times in one small paragraph) managed to make me interested in the book. I may just give Mr. Harrison another try. It'll give me something to do while I wait for Pete Dexter's next book.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Kindle Verdict Is In

It took two things for my Kindle review to go from three to five stars. It took immediate gratification and a wonderful first book.

Before I could download my first Kindle book I spent more time browsing Amazon and Powells, more time reading book reviews, than I ever did when it came to buying real books. Why? Because the books weren't there in front of me to touch and hold. There weren't book jackets to catch my eye. No staff recommendation cards taped to the shelves.

What allowed me to break through the book-downloading barrier was the shortlist for the Man Booker Award and the book that caught my eye was The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. I couldn't pass up a western written by an Oregonian. Okay, so Patrick deWitt is Canadian but he lives in Oregon and the book takes place in Oregon and Northern California. I took a deep, calming breath and hit 1-click. Within seconds the book was on my Kindle.

The Sisters Brothers is funny and gruesome with an endearing and rather lovable narrator who happens to be a gun for hire with a romantic streak and an anger management problem (although his mother's tip for controlling his anger seems to work - when he has the time to do it). The writing style is sparse. I'm not into long and flowery descriptions; I want to get to the point of the story which is exactly what Mr. deWitt does. For the first time in ages I read a book I couldn't put down. What a treat for a bookworm!

The floodgates opened and I downloaded Patrick deWitt's first book Ablutions, a story told from the point of view of a bartender. As a barfly and bookworm, I had to give it a try, add it to my (now virtual) stack of books on bars and the people who love them: Paradise by AL Kennedy, The Tender Bar by JR Moehringer, Barfly by Bukowski. Another book waiting in the Kindle wings is Triple Crossing by Sebastian Rotella about the U.S./Mexico border, border agents and drug smugglers.

Because I like dark books with depressed and depressing main characters, I read The Devil by Ken Bruen. Talk about sparse writing style...this guy has it down. I imagine there are a lot of people out there who don't like one-sentence paragraphs and a main character - Jack Taylor - who lives on Jameson and Xanax. If Jack Taylor were a real person I'd advise staying away from him - even the briefest of acquaintances don't fare well in Jack Taylor's life, especially when his adversary is the actual Devil.

Having access to books has returned a bit of my old life to my new life - the life where I had stacks and stacks of books just waiting to be read. Where I knew no matter how worried or bored or isolated I may have felt, there would always be a story waiting for me on my bedside table or living room floor. And always a new author to fall in love with.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

One-Winged Angels

So, yes, angels appeared to help with home maintenance and in just about every case there was a glitch.

Before I left for Bisbee, Manuel said he would paint the rafters with a kerosene mixture to get rid of the termites. "Do not get paint on the picnic table," I said, "because it is not mine; it belongs to Roberto." "No problem, madre," he said. "I will be careful."

There is no kerosene paint on the picnic table. However, it is everywhere else: the backs of the white plastic tecate chairs, the walls, and the sides of my trailer. Fuck. Kerosene splotches and streaks all over the aluminum. Fortunately I was able to wash it off. I'd been meaning to repaint the porch walls so now I have an excuse to do so.

It's been weeks and containers of the kerosene mixture, tarps, buckets still sit behind my trailer.

Gordo did a beautiful job replacing the OPD valve on my propane tank. Someone who shall not be named (in case we become Facebook friends) offered to do the other. We discussed which direction the valve should be facing. Then he took off with the tank and didn't return for four days. I figured he had a problem getting the old valve off. As long as he didn't destroy the aluminum Worthington tank in the process, I didn't care how long he had it. Two nights ago he returned the tank and the valve was on backwards. It is still usable - the hose attachment will fit through the smaller backside opening - but IT IS BACKWARDS. I was most disappointed with his attitude, like, hey, it still works so what's the big deal? Had he done it for the gringo (emphasis on the "o") he's working for, he would've done it right. So now I have to wait until the tank is empty to take it to Gordo and have the valve put on correctly. It's an AIRSTREAM, for God's sake; it can't have a propane cylinder facing the wrong direction!

I love being able to walk into my newly organized bodega. But El Vikingo took two of my books - books I wanted to keep. One was on the wines of Italy and the other was on the flora and fauna of the desert southwest. (That perfectly illustrates my two lives. My old life - an interest in fine Italian wines now so out of reach - and my new - an interest in the creatures and plants in this still-new-to-me desert life). I'm not sure how this confusion came about. They were in a crate with other books to be thrown out like out-of-date Woodall's campground guides. Apparently El Vikingo thought these were trash too. When he walked to his car, I didn't know how to tell him I wanted to keep them. My bad. I really should learn Spanish.

Bug carcasses are showing up all over the place thanks to Victor the exterminator. However, there is one bug he missed - the one living in my freezer! I was totally freaked out - and confused - when I saw mouse turds on my ice-cube trays. How in the hell could a mouse get in - and live - in my freezer? Then Flo mentioned that palmetto bug turds are nearly as big as mouse turds and that made sense, that a cockroach could flatten itself to get into any space. And we all know those suckers can survive anything, even frozen temperatures. I guess I feel better that those turds belong to a cockroach and not a mouse but still....

One of the things I've learned living in Mexico is that everything is fixable - glueable, paintable, tapeable, wireable. The only thing I'm worried about is that pinche palmetto bug taking up residence in my freezer.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

New Men in My Life

When I first got to Mexico, snowbirds - retired experts in various fields - came to my rescue whenever I needed work on or around my trailer. Leaky faucet, water heater regulator, external water pump, all fixed or installed by bored retirees. Now I rely on the locals - good for them and good for me.

Since my return to Kino last week these wonderful men have come to my aid; I send out a vibe and they appear (in some cases they'll be sent by a friend but I like to think it's more ethereal than that).

Gordo installed the OPD valve on my aluminum propane tank.
El Vikingo cleaned out the bodega.
Victor exterminated spiders and scorpions.
Jose the tatooist fixed the pesky leaky faucet.
Manuel painted kerosene on the porch rafters to thwart the hungry termites.
During my stay in Bisbee, Laro camped out on my porch. No thieves dared cross my threshold
Right now I'm vibing on Miguel. After two years of a non-functioning fridge, maybe it can be fixed. At least it's worth a look.

A lesson I've learned: Angels may leave but new ones will appear to take their place.

Friday, September 9, 2011

James Low

Been busy working on my book. Now I'm going to be busy working on work. Just to let y'all know I haven't forgotten about you, here's one of my favorite Portland Musicians, James Low. Spent lots of nights at the Laurelthirst listening to James and the gang - especially in those months as I prepared to leave Portland.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

In Kino

Here it is too hot even for thieves.

(an old gringa saying...mine)