Posts Tagged With: deranged granny

A matter of routine…

Oh my…. Three months since my last post…

It’s not that I’m being particularly lazy about writing something to put on my blog; there are at least a couple of dozen false starts for potential posts residing in my computer’s hard drive, posts that I began to compose but somehow managed to lose steam as I wrote them (this one almost went into the Recycling Bin).

It happens that I’m currently leading a lifestyle with only a few minor details to complain about (and I already did on an earlier post), and none of them relate to the The times and life of an author who lives in a rainforest motto, which is now a complete thing of the past.

To be honest, I don’t really know what to do with this blog anymore, as it was a way to vent my frustration of being stuck in the middle of a tropical jungle.

Anyway, my hands are full as I do my best to get acclimated to my new, more civilized life. Most of it is getting used to do things. My daily routine in the jungle was getting off bed at sunrise, go outside to either hit the road to scavenge metal or hack my way through overgrown greenery to see if I could find something to eat… then take a break when the heat was too oppressive to continue and then resume activity when the temperature reached more manageable levels.

These days my routine involves tinkering about the house, tightening loose screws, unloading the dishwasher, exercising, pulling crabgrass and try to grow some vegetables in the backyard (the soil here looks very fertile in spite of its desert-like qualities but I’m on a wait-and-see attitude here, folks).

Yeah, I know it doesn’t sound much of a routine but it’s a hundred times better than the one I was doomed to carry while living in the tropics.

One thing worth to mention, though, is the fact that I’m slowly adapting to deal with people again. This specially true whenever I go outside for a walk or with the goal of buying something in the supermarket. You see, while living in Cholondron, every time someone popped in my neighborhood, be it a stranger or someone I knew, it usually meant baaaad news.

Presently, whenever I interact with somebody, I keep telling myself: “okay, cool now… not everyone is a backstabbing sunofaB that wants to exploit you, like everybody back in the jungle… take a deep breath…”

What am I aiming for here?

Well, if you keep a car parked on your driveway for a year, you wouldn’t just board it and hit the road without first checking if everything is in working order, would you? You’d charge the battery, check the tire pressure and oil levels and that squirrels hadn’t decide to make a nest out of one of the back seats.

That’s exactly what I’m doing with my life at this moment; slowly revving up a piece of machinery that had been left to rust in the jungle for almost seventeen years.

Just be patient… the ride will be amazing once I’m done with my checklist.

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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One last remaining problem…

For the past month my life has improved exponentially; I came to the United States and married Kathryn. The food store is just a couple of blocks over, not a ten-mile walk away. I don’t need to ration anymore. I no longer need to extract coffee from a safe deposit box prior using it. I don’t have to reuse coffee filters at least a dozen times before having to discard them. Electricity is good and stable. The best of all is that I can walk in the streets without fear of being mugged, assaulted or bugged because of how I look.

You paranoids out there may think that sentence sounds silly; that every stranger you meet out in the street is a potential mugger, blah, blah. The problem in this case that was the absolute truth in my home country: due to the ongoing crisis that the accursed place is experiencing, every man, woman and child  is a prospective menace (even toddlers in baby carriage are a threat; one tried to steal my wallet at gunpoint a couple of weeks before I left the country). Scratch all that. Well, yeah, the enhancement of my lifestyle is vast. Of course, there is the huge responsibility of Kathryn’s kids attached to it, but so far we’re doing fine in that department (I think they kinda dig me).

However, one last problem weights me down sometimes; one last bit of a worry that still ties me to that Titanic of a country that Aleveznue is:

My mother.

She’s still on that sinking ship.

For the past six months before I left that accursed place, I tried to convince her to come along. First, I’d settle down and attain my permanent residency, then I’d get a job and then we’d get her started on all the necessary paperwork to follow me. Alas, she was adamant and refused. I kinda understand her decision; to her, bailing out from Aleveznue* would be conceding defeat and that there isn’t anything salvageable from the entire situation.

But she’s a 78-year old woman and she’s stuck in nearly the exact jam in which I was just a couple of months ago. Very, very stuck… which ain’t decent.

It’s not a topic I like to talk about much; every time the topic comes up in conversation, the general consensus is that hopefully (hopefully!!!) my mom will eventually change her mind and decide to tag along. It’s evident they don’t know my momma at all. She’s the kind of woman who would be up late at night, more than four hours past her bedtime, to fix a particularly pesky stitch that wouldn’t come right at the sewing machine. I mean it; she’s a very stubborn woman. Same situation here.

I know precissely what is necessary to be done to convince my mom to come here. Alas, it would be rather costly and probably fruitless, forcing me into more expensive and time depleting maneuvers to finally succeed. Then I have a look at my available funds and that makes me realize there’s no feasible way (not at the moment) to solve this conundrum.

I guess she’ll stay there for a long, long time.

Meanwhile, I worry incessantly…

Edwin Stark

Signing Out

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A short Photographic Tour (Part 1)

Ah, great! I finally managed to get hold of some fresh batteries for my camera, which had been sitting inside a drawer, gathering dust for the best part of a year. Or at least that’s what the expiration day of the pack says, which I hope is true (things like these are never a certainty in my home country, you know!)

Just a sketchy little map... not much to see here...

Just a sketchy little map… not much to see here…

So I decided to test my new camera, taking some pictures around… just in case. (It would be silly to drag the little gadget to Curacao just to discover it doesn’t work anymore, wouldn’t it?) And I think that a small photographic tour is in order. Fear not, it won’t be one of those endless slideshow session that your boring Uncle Frank seeems so fond of.

Of course, a little preparation comes first, so fewer explanations will be required later. I made a small map of the street where I live (portrayed here on the right) which shows the spots from which each of the snapshots was taken. Regrettably, I failed at showing the rainforest in each of the shots I tried to make, mainly for two reasons: A) It’s a bad case of can’t see the rainforest for the palm trees and B) Every picture I took didn’t really convey the feeling of big that your first impression of walking through the tropical jungle makes on you. Believe me, it’s one of those things you have to experience first hand.

Originally, I intended to make this just one blog post, but after making the initial layout, I realized it’d just become a big, unwieldly mess, so I decided to split it into two halves, and publish each one independently. So, here’s the first part of this blog post…

Looks normal... but so did Elm Street...

Looks normal… but so did Elm Street…

Now on with my first picture… The one on the left looks down on the street I live; it would be a great  spot to practice some radical skateboarding moves… if it wasn’t for the awful pavement conditions that would break your neck after just a few yards rolling on the highly irregular surface.

Does the sun glare bother you? Got a surprise for you; that’s glare reflecting into the camera… that’s the general humidity of being so near the jungle. hanging on the air 24/7.  It shows heavily in this picture because it’s early November and the air is cold enough for the humidity to form a constant light mist until it’s 9 or 10 AM. It’s not normally noticeable during the rest of the year but, believe me, you’d feel it on your skin the minute you walk in.

The street ends in a knot landing (which has frequently trapped unwary idiots in a mudhole for hours; people whought they could use the knot with impunity without realizing it was in reality a cul-de-sac.

Looks like a nice place to live in? Well, you’d like it… if you’re into being surrounded by another 12 empty houses, giving you the cringe-worthy feeling that you live in a ghost town.

Particularly recommended if you’re a hermit.

Ah... Home, crappy home!

Ah… Home, crappy home!

The next picture is of my own house. It’s humid, the walls are cracking, the roof is leaking and the paint is peeling. The two trees planted in front are its natural air conditioning system, as they keep the place under a shade all a year long. I live in a comfortable 70-80°F temperature range… while outside this natural parasol the sun blazes away at 110°F on every surface it shines on. While it’s shady, you can still feel the excessive moisture on your skin all 24 hours of any given day. Even at this nice temperature you’ll perspire and your sweat will have no where to go with all this water saturating the air.

Ah, and when the day is particularly hot, you won’t avoid the discomfort of experiencing the occasional hot air breezes casually drafting through the house, blasting away all the cool air out from the insides of the structure.

Also, electric power goes out  six to seven times a day, the toilets don’t work and it’s infested with all jungle bug that’s conceivable.

Soto1

Work never ends…

Now, this plot belongs to one of my “neighbors“. This is one of the few measly sources of income that I still have left since my business manufacturing school gymnastic mattresses folded for causes beyond any human control (that, and since no one ever buys my books, that’s about it).

Before I took care of the place, it was an impenetrable field of camelote, our local version of elephant grass. You could barely place a foot into the area without hitting an African bee nest or stumbling upon a snake.

Took me six months of grueling hard work with a machete just to put it in the condition that the place now is in. Notice the haze? The photo was taken near 10 AM and you can still see it. Also, notice this yard now requires a trimming as the grass begins to show 5-inch long blades just a couple of days after it has been cut.

Selfie time!

Selfie time!

Now, I’m not particularly fond of selfies, for I’m not a very fotogenic guy (one of the reasons I look like as if I had just bit into a lemon in this snapshot). Like my new look? I call it the shave-my-head-to-prevent-you-from-noticing-my-hair-is-thinning-on-top look.

You may wonder where’s the rainforest in this picture… well, this area used to be a thick jungle a few years back, until a raging fire killed all the trees in existence over that place. Now only elephant grass, brambles and underbrush grows there, turning it into a very impassable location… except maybe for the prowlers and opportunistic thieves that like to roam the place during the night.

There’s a lot of petty pilfering happening in this place, as a dozen abandoned houses are too much of a temptation for the burglars. Most of the structures present in the area are missing windows, light switches, toilet bowls and electrical wiring; you name it, it must have been stolen already. In other words, anything that isn’t nailed down is a target for these petty thieves. These criminals have created faint trochas (trails)  through all that mess, so they basically have the run of the place and move unhindered from this spot to their stinking hideouts.

Nothing can be done about it, except keeping your eyes peeled for their illegal activities.

 

Well, I guess today’s post sort of covers the first half of my little photographic tour of my personal hellhole.

Stay tuned for the second part one of these days…

Edwin Stark
Signing Off

 

 

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Mosquito Heaven

Ah, well. Things down here have been quite hectic with the oncoming launch of Xaman. My writing partner is quite enthusiastic about the book, but I still have a few reservations. Anyway, I’m doing a lot of work with my limited online resources, like trying to get some bloggers interested in interviewing us (their usual response is who the $#!&! are you!), having the book highlighted (very little luck) and getting us a few advance reviews (completely s*** out of luck there), so I’ve been neglecting to update this blog.

Not that there’s much to tell. Life is in a complete standstill in this hellhole. A couple of days back, a lot of hoopla was up because Our Fearless El Presidento announced he was going to make drastic changes to the country’s economic policies. Everyone’s breath was held, expecting some major amends that would save us from falling down the cliff of economical collapse but no such luck. The usual creation of additional bureaucracy was announced. Nothing else.

It still rains constantly (almost daily) since the dry season ended about three months ago. I’m writing very little these days, with the exception of all the e-mail queries to bloggers who don’t even deign to answer them. Whenever Fate allows it, I chat online with Simone, who certainly has become a very important part of my life and my only beacon of hope during these dreary moments.

The only major change is that I’m now spending three or four hours each days, walking all over my place with a flyswatter in hand and killing every mosquito that dares to rest temporarily on the walls. As I suspected, the idiots who razed an acre of jungle a block over have altered the local ecosystem and now the entire area is literally swarming with black clouds of the damned bugs.

Since the walls are (or were) an off-white, and the darling little critters have just bit me or someone else, their surfaces now look as if some deranged impressionist had decided to paint a mural on them, with only black and reddish brown spots as main colors

Ick.

I just called the hardware store and asked how much a gallon of white paint costs. The price was so staggering high (we have a crazy, runaway 80 percent inflation rate here in the South American boondocks) that I’ve decided I must live with this mess. Besides, it’s a moot point as the mosquitoes won’t go away until next dry season… which may be a couple of years away, anyway. It would only be a waste of good paint.

You know… it makes quite an interesting pattern… when you look at the walls with your head cocked sideways and squint a lot.

I wonder if I could sell the whole house to the Guggenheim Museum.

 

Edwin Stark
Signing Off

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A Self-Squeezing Parable

Once upon a time existed a fine group of Orange Juice Manufacturers, called the Big Juicers; they were six and they prized themselves of offering the Orange Juice Drinking Public only the best of the best that the Orange Juice Market could offer. This reputation had firm grounds to root in, as they only accepted for their manufacturing process the best crops that a select few Orange Farmers grew for them. Even so, every writer… erm… Orange Farmer that provided them with oranges had to have their fine products closely scrutinized for flaws and typos… ahem! Scratch that!… bugs. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Everything was nice and fine, the Big Six Juicers were idolized by the Orange Juice Drinkers, and they were so important that every Orange Farmer out there thought they had only made it in life when a crate of their hard-worked for products was finally accepted for sale with a big fat advance (and a seven and a half royalty check by the end of each quarter). Life was fine; Orange Farmers managed to sell a few of their Orange Crates: some just a couple of thousands of them… others (most of the Farmers) could sell ten to twenty thousand crates. Not much, but they could squeeze (pun definitely intended) a living out of their work. There were a few Orange Farmers like Steven Queen, who could sell a few million crates of his horrible oranges, but he was more like the exception to the rule.

One day a certain British lady came up with a brand of orange that caught the Big Juices with their pants down. Of course, like many other Orange Farmers before, she was rejected plenty of times before finally being accepted for publis… err… squeezing her fruits to make juice (now… why does that sound even worse and lewd?)

One of the Big Juicers took the risk with the lady’s oranges and, wouldn’t you know it, the juice that came out was a wild success among the Orange Juice Drinkers. Her oranges were so popular that the Big Juicer who took the chance saw his investment rewarded by big gains (the movie rights about the lady’s oranges were staggering high, by the way).

Problem is, the Big Juicers got greedy after that. They only began to accept oranges from new farmers who had the potential to sell gazillions of units from the word ‘go’. They even asked themselves: ‘Do this guy’s oranges taste like those from that lady’s oranges? Can we envision a line of easily breakable toys in the future?’ Well, yeah, they occasionally let some little guy in, especially if he or she looked as if he or she could sell more than one hundred thousand crates, but now it looked more as though they were making him or her a big favor instead of a business transaction.

The little guys who now couldn’t make it, simply because their Orange Crates couldn’t sell in the range of millions, went temporarily into a corner and grumble about their fate.

Then another big event happened, some guy known as Geoffrey Bozo, who ran one of the largest Orange Juice Distributor companies (and who consistently sold gazillion of Orange Juice Glasses coming from the Six Juicers every month) came up with a brilliant idea: how to electronically sell the Orange Juice without actually having to squeeze the Orange!

Yeah, that might sound crazy, but it’s the sort of idea that comes out from a man who names his company after the Aar River, so it will show up first on Google searches.

This was achieved by means of a little device called the Sparky; it could be easily held in one hand and it allowed you to experience the same, well, experience as drinking a real Orange Juice Glass. You felt refreshed and it left you with a tangy aftertaste in your mouth, but it was an electronic virtual experience. No need to move Orange Crates physically about. The era of the E-Orange Juice Glass had dawned.

By now, the Big Juicers were so used to their little corner of the world that they began to fear change. They shunned Bozo’s creation, paying little heed to it. But Bozo was quite a businessman; he offered his device, the Sparky, to all the little guys out there that couldn’t offer their oranges because they wouldn’t sell by the millions. Now they could reach the Orange Juice Drinker audience… directly! YAAAY!

This new form of business, which we will call the Self-Squeezing Orange business as to call it someway, became a wild success. Bozo was happy, the little Indie Orange Farmers were happy… everyone was happy with it, except the Big Juicers (which had become only five due to some terrible mismanagement). Reluctantly, the Big Juicers decided to jump into the bandwagon. But they made a nasty decision. They decided to sell the Orange Juice the Bozo’s Way, but they made the Virtual Orange Juice pricier than its physical counterpart.

“But… but… you’re only selling the experience without actually moving the Oranges,” a bewildered Bozo would exclaim, along with the irate Orange Juice Drinking audience. “The Virtual Orange Juice ought to be cheaper than the real thing! That’s insane!”

The Big Juicers were adamant; they would only sell their Orange Juice the virtual way if they gained more money than in the old-fashioned way. Bozo and his company Aar River, went as far as going to court to prevent Haatchoot! (yeah, I know it sounds like someone sneezing, but that’s all I could come up with on such short notice), a little branch of the Big Juicers from selling its Virtual Oranges at a higher price.

Well, that didn’t really go well, and then the Big Juicers organized a boycott against poor Bozo and his company, so they could teach him a lesson.

How do you think this little tale will end?

Disclaimer: Yeah, I know I should have put this at the top of the post, but it would have killed the parable effect: Any resemblance of this post to the publishing industry out there is the product of your own deranged imagination.

Edwin Stark
Signing Off

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The Dangers of Positive Thinking…

Are you an Optimist or a Pessimist?

Are you an Optimist or a Pessimist?

There’s a popular (and silly) philosophical test out there that shows you a glass half-full of water; if you say the glass is half-full, you’re an optimistic… if you say it’s half empty, then you’re a pessimist. This is idiotic.Recently, due to my outlook of life, someone tried to pose this question to me online, in the hope of proving that I’m a pessimist. “There’s a glass of water…” he started to type. I cut him short and stumped him at once by answering: “The answer is both, you moron: the glass is half-full and half empty at the same time. I’m a REALIST.”

You see, I have a problem with optimism; in my home country everyone is so optimistic about everything turning all right… that they don’t do anything to try to improve things. They just wait, completely paralyzed by hope.

You can beat them with a cudgel, rob them, make them lose their job, starve them, burn down their shanties, kill their children, rape their dogs… and my countrymen just shrug and smile, thinking that some day, somehow, everything will sort itself out.

And they continue their haphazard lives without taking the least precaution.

This is driving me crazy…

Therefore, I developed an allergic reaction to optimistic people.

You know, I noticed all these cheerful people share two common traits; they’re absolutely careless and are completely unaware of the intrinsic danger locked within positive thinking.

(All the positive thinking in the world won’t save you if you decide to jump from an airplane without a parachute or a safe place where you can land safely).

Stop singing that tune!!! (And the finger-snapping, while you're at it).

Stop singing that tune!!!
(And the finger-snapping, while you’re at it).

As an example… (no, make that two examples) I can present you Tony, the leader of the Jets gang in that fantastic movie, West Side Story. After the opening dancing sequence introduces us the gang, its members are wondering out loud where the heck their leader is. Well, he’s working (work is a four-lettered word to these young punks, you know) by stacking soda crates in some back alley, nonetheless.Cue to the scene of the back alley, showing us Tony stacking soda crates (duh) and discussing the plans that he has about his future with his new employer. Suddenly, Tony bursts into song and starts crooning “Whoooo Knoooows…? Feeling utterly positive over what the future might bring to him.

Well, that’s nice.

And of course, during the next 48 hours, Tony meets Maria at a dance hall, falls madly in love… and ends up pushing daisies before the final movie credits begin.

Example two: In Defending Your Life (1991), Albert Brooks just got a nice promotion. As congratulatory presents, his friends and colleagues have bought him a brand new CD player and a stack of records. Life is good to him; he’s on his way to pick up a spanking new sports car at the nearest Porsche dealership.

Can you picture him, sitting on his brand new car, rolling down the street? He notices that his new set of wheels has a built-in CD player. On a whim, he unwraps one of the CDs from the stack of records sitting on top of the passenger seat, and inserts it into the player. Its speaker burst into song; Barbra Streisand starts singing “Whooo Knoooows…? (Now… where I’ve heard that one before?). A driver from a nearby car hollers at him: “Do we have to listen that %&!&?!?!”. Albert Brooks just sniggers, quite pleased with himself.

Of course, our hapless hero’s careless driving causes some of the CDs from the stack to slide from the seat and fall to the car’s floor. He bends over to prevent this and… he suddenly becomes the hood ornament of a Mack Truck. (Ok, so I fibbed a bit there; it was actually a city bus, but you must agree that ‘becoming the hood ornament of a Mack Truck’ has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?)

Is there a moral to these two examples? I’m not quite sure; it’s either stop singing that fateful West Side Story tune and be more careful about what you’re doing… or maybe that you shouldn’t trust Albino midgets who come in riding on a monocycle.

 

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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A Jungle Cure for the Common Cold?

Well, now

Aji Pipi de Mono (capsicum microcarpium)

Aji Pipi de Mono (capsicum microcarpium)

It’s official. 104°F fevers, a sore throat, achy joints and a clogged nose; I’m down with the cold. In the past, I was a fervent believer of the Hungarian Dancing Hat Cold Cure: you just go to bed with a bottle of your favorite brand of hard liquor. Then you place a hat on one of the bedposts at your feet and you hit the bottle until you begin to see the hat start to dance on its own. By the time this happens, you don’t care a %$#! about the flu anymore.But coming with a bottle of decent liquor in the jungle is very difficult, indeed, so there’s always the need of an alternate cure. I was feeling miserable, especially since the part I hate the most of having a cold is the way how my nose clogs, as if someone had poured a truckload of hardening cement into it. Getting my hands on a jar of Vick Vaporum jelly was also out of the question, mainly with the way drugs and medicine are now hard to come by in my home country, all due to the chavenitas’ miserable politics (cancer patients are literally dropping like flies down here).

Then I remembered that I have a great solution for a clogged nose… growing right at my backyard. It’s a spicy pepper called ‘Aji pipi de mono’ (capsicum microcarpium). Now, don’t laugh; but it actually translates as ‘little monkey dick’ (see picture embedded at the top and I dare you to tell me it doesn’t look exactly as its name implies!)

I went to the place where my backyard ends, bordering the rainforest. There are always two or three bushes of this small wonder pepper growing at that spot. I grabbed six or seven of these things and promptly returned to my house.

Then, I put these peppers into the jar of my blender, along with half an onion, a sliver of sweet bell pepper for consistency, eye of newt, some vinegar and sugar. Well, if I must ingest it, the least I can do is make it palatable. Then I hit the ‘pureé’ button, proceeding to turn all this into a vegetable mash. The fumes of this mix knocked me back the moment I removed the lid of the blender.

I dropped half a teaspoon on top of a Formica top; the mash started to eat through the top like if it were the acid blood of those creatures in the Alien movies, which meant it was ready for consumption (for a few seconds I entertained the notion of just drying up the peppers in the oven, grind them with a mortar and pestle and then snort the resulting powder, but I didn’t like the way it would look like (Ooooh! The colors!!!)… and most probably would cause a paparazzi to appear in my window and snap a picture of me inhaling that stuff. I could almost imagine the National Inksmearer headlines next day; “Mediocre indie writer’s disgusting drug habit! Read all about it in page 4!”

So I put a whole spoonful of this stuff in my mouth.

YEEEOWWLL!

Forget all about Howlapeños; forget everything you know about those chili cook-offs you love. This is the real good stuff. Two seconds after I put that &%$! in my mouth, the insides of my nose were on fire; my nostrils flared, trying to expel the noxious fumes that were rising from my mouth. But it was working: the clogging snot was now running freely, and I wasn’t as nasally congested as before.

It also works great of sore throats. You let it mix with your saliva (carefully, now!), and then you do gargles with it. Make sure the bathroom is near… you’re gonna need it to spit the stuff out without ruining any rugs or pieces of furniture.

The point of this little take is that I feel a lot recovered, already. I’m still a little feverish, but the most annoying symptoms of the common cold are being kept at bay.

I wonder if I could get the people at Bayer interested in this stuff…

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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My Creative Process (#5) : The Love Letter Which Never Reached Its Destination…

Me and my Mexican Lady... a photoshopped picture of a dream which never came to be...

Me and my Mexican Lady… a photoshopped picture of a dream that never came to be…

It took me a long time to decide I was ready to write this post, so bear with me while I wring my heart of the remaining tears this one might bring out.

Every one (about the three of you, I guess) who has read the Author’s Note of my second book, Eco Station One, knows the main story about the gorilla surfing the Internet which inspired most of this crazy and bizarre book.

But there’s another side that almost no one is aware about. While I was writing Eco Station, I met this wacky, sensational and smart woman online. As many of you must know by now, women cease to communicate with me right after they find out that I live in the middle of a rainforest, so for some time I did my best to find love online… without any results.

Women were either too young or completely neurotic. And the ones in my age bracket… well, let’s not get into that…

Reasonably, I gave up after a while. But, without a warning, I stumbled upon this woman from Mexico in a chat room. She was trying to learn how to use the emoticons of that place. As a pro in there, I found this amusing and I spent the next few hours teaching her how to make smileys, sad faces and angry scowls with the least necessary keypresses as possible. She seemed to enjoy the process and, what’s more important, she seemed to enjoy my wacky sense of humor…

We met regularly in that chat room, and things evolved to the point when we switched to Messenger to continue chatting. This lasted for eighteen months. And it got really interesting when she was the one that proposed me to get involved emotionally with each other. Since I like slightly aggressive and forward females, well, it was obvious I was completely pleased and flattered by this. Our meetings became daily sessions, always around 1 PM, when she was just going out of the beauty school where she was taking a few courses. She was very insistent over the fact that we saw each other through the webcam (I suspect she liked the reassurance that I didn’t have horns growing out from my forehead; I was likewise pleased to find out that she was as pretty as the picture she sent me… and that she didn’t have three sets of eyes or something like that… She even asked that I photoshopped our separate online portraits together into one, as shown above… and we looked great as a couple, mind you.)

But during that same time I was well into writing Eco Station One… and my Mexican Lady was slowly turning into the Marina character that became so pivotal to the plot. The adventures that Eduardo Sinnombre and Marina, his paramour, were having together were an expression of my daily daydreaming whenever I was chatting around with this nice girl.

The novel had become my love letter to my Mexican Lady, in a fashion.

Things reached the point when I was more than ready to board the plane to Mexico and meet her in person. But then disaster struck, fatefully. The Venezuelan government suddenly devaluated the exchange rate of the Bolivar, the local currency, from 2.15 to 4.30 per US dollar. My plans collapsed, since the cost of the air tickets literally doubled overnight; Mexico, which was a rather affordable 2,500.oo Bolivares away, unexpectedly became a goal impossible to reach at the tune of 5,250.oo VEF. And that didn’t include lodging, food and transport. I had to cancel the reservations.

But there was a sliver of hope still glinting between the shards resulting of all this mess. A few people owed me a lot of favors; I could cash in a few of these, and then someone I know would see that she boarded the next plane to Caracas at just a fraction of the cost of my ticket to Mexico… And I had a few friends who would be quite glad to give her bed and board, just to wipe out the debt they had with me. She would be safe with them.

When I met her next, proposed her this reversal of plans. She suddenly muted, and thought it over. She shook her head sadly. Nope, no go. I worked very hard the next few weeks to convince her to come, since it was more feasible in economic terms, but she never yielded.

All the while, Eco Station was finally taking form, reaching the zany climax at its end. I kept telling her that maybe this thing would sell enough copies that I may resume our original plans of meeting at her home country. But as weeks passed, she just began to stare at me through the image of her webcam, not really paying attention to whay I wrote onscreen. She seemed to have lost a vital, vibrant spark, which started to show in our conversations. One day, she simply said to me: “Well, Edwin, seems that you’re only my unreachable daydream.” And she cut the connection. The image on the Messenger tiny screen became black as night.

Her words floored me. Our chats began to space increasingly from each other; our daily sessions became one each other day, then twice a week, then weekly: something had broken between us. I knew that I had lost her. One day, I found she had eliminated her mail account and that she had also deactivated her Facebook profile. She was gone from my life forever…

I was also just a couple of pages away from finishing Eco Station One, and I briefly considered the idea of deleting the file. But something forced me to keep going, and this crazy book managed, somehow, to get completed. Editing it was a veritable nightmare, since each line I read made me relive the dream; that I finally had found my dream girl… and that an event beyond my control made me lose her.

That was three years ago. Took me this long to finally tell the tale as it really happened. As you can see, Eco Station was a love letter that never found its way home. It was the most soul-wrenching book I ever wrote, since I had I had invested so much into it, on an emotional basis…

And that was also my last attempt to find love.

Never more, quoth the raven…

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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Two Rare Occurrences…

A house in Hell !

A house in Hell !

Two Rare Occurrences happened today in the jungle where I live. Without a warning, the sky cleared and the incessant raining customary in these parts stopped (as my favorite punchline goes, they don’t call this the rainforest for nothing, you know… drums roll, maestro! Badaboom! Crash!) I found myself thinking: someone’s coming today, as if I were a character right out of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Magic Realism novels.Which is usually the Truth; every time the sun comes out down here in the jungle, someone comes to visit. And when they ask: how’s the weather? I look as a liar when I mention it has been horrible during the entire month or so. My interlocutor will then look around, glance at the emerald green plains full of growing elephant grass and brambles, then they will look up at the merrily shining sun in a very brief way… and then stare at me strangely, as if I had just told them an untruth…

Guys and guyettes… Sometimes, I’m feeling like the Rain God character in that Douglas Adams’ novel down here! Sigh! That the sun was today in a clear, postal-card-blue sky was occurrence # 1…

Well, nonetheless, the half-expected visit didn’t delay long. I heard the screech of badly maintained brakes outside of my house. People were here! Down here in the jungle! Since I was having trouble with a rather stubborn chapter for my next book and I’m starved for human company, I said: “Well, F%&$! this” and went out to meet them. One of my neighbors (if you can apply that denomination to a guy who owns a house in this failed housed development and who hasn’t shown his face here for more than six months) came by during this wonderful, shiny day to show his property to a newlywed couple, in the hopes of finally unloading the place unto them. He complained bitterly in hushed tones how badly maintained the yard was (he pays me about $50 to keep a 150 x 90 feet land plot trimmed; he never pays me on time but, oh, how does he like to complain) but he quickly resumed his sales pitch, ignoring me from that point on. Well, I didn’t mind. That people were actually here was occurrence # 2.

However, I kept my eye in the young couple. The guy was the rather handsome lout type that the women down here seem to like; not too smart, but with an obvious big and fat wallet. His mate was more interesting, but for reasons I’ll tell you a bit later. While he was gushing at the slightly overgrown fields and goggling everything with eyes full of wonder, like if he were an excited child, the woman’s brow was clouded, looking every which way in a more appraising and sober manner. While his man was yapping eagerly about planting stuff here and there, the lady in question was staring at the rather barren clay soil she was standing on. While he was babbling incoherently about how they could do some remodeling to build a few extra rooms in the house he was planning to buy, this woman looked at the bad roads that had led them to this accursed place… the cracks in the house’s structure… the big hole some crazy moron had dug in the yard to fix the septic tank… you name it… Her face was a poem, as her frown deepened. The owner of the place was quite busy talking to his prospective male buyer, thinking he had clinched a sure deal… when it should have been the woman who required some heavy persuasion. Every good salesman knows that women are the real deal-breakers in anything. They are the ones who really decide, no matter if its an important buying decision or something as simple as choosing a prospective lifemate.

The visit ended very soon with the two guys shaking hands heartily. The woman was a total different tale, I tell you. I knew what the outcome of this moment would be, mind you, for I’ve witnessed it many times before. If looks could kill…

I really didn’t want to be in her poor husband’s shoes that night, especially if he babbled while they drove all the way back to Caracas about how wonderful this land purchase would be. Don’t you think so, honey? Honey?

I sincerely hope he doesn’t push his luck too much… If not, I hopes he enjoys spending the night in the doghouse for the next week or so….

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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On WHY I won’t self-promote again…

The reason is very simple: behavioral reinforcement. This is a branch of psychiatry that studies how the behavior of individuals can be altered. Case in example: you have a kid that behaves well, is respectful to his elders and doesn’t place his elbows on the table when he eats. Occasionally, you give him a cookie as a prize for his good behavior in the hopes he’ll stay in the good road with the right incentives. Then you have this bad kid that hits his little sister, is a complete jerk… and you suspect that he escapes home at midnight to drench old people’s homes with gasoline and then proceeds to torch them. This one is a candidate to have his ass beaten until you break something (your hand or his ass, whatever comes first).

This reward/punishment system can sometimes be twisted to some very strange ends. Take slot machines as an example. You keep dropping coin after coin into them and then you pull their levers. Dials will spin and after a little while you’ll be told you have lost. Of course, if you lost constantly to these one-arm bandits, pretty soon you’d end up walking away with a bad taste in your mouth and swearing you’ll never approach another of these infernal contraptions again.

And here’s the trick: every once in a while, the machine will cough up a few winnings and reward you for your efforts . That’s the way in which the manufacturer and/or owner of the damn thing does ensure that you’ll drop by and pour a few more coins into it.

Now, self-promotion of my books is like one of those Las Vegas one-arm bandits, merrily flashing their enticing promises: come… pour in some more money and time… come… come… you’ll win big if you do. I know that a few other indie writers out there have succeeded (somewhat) in this area and have managed to get back a few coins back whenever they promote their books.

Unfortunately, that’s not my case. Every time I spend my time in front of this machine, I never seem to get a sale. All I get for my efforts in self-promotion is that my pockets remain empty (ZERO sales and therefore no reinforcement reward) and that I leave the place with a very sour taste in my mouth.

By the way, if you’re a successful indie writer who has succeeded with self-promotion and you’re about to post a comment on how I got an attitude and that I’m doing it all wrong… well, I have two words for you, Mister or Madam: Screw You!

I don’t want to know…

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

 

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