Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Okay. Here's a challenge for you. I'll give a rough outline of what is rather a typical script for a western-genre movie/tv show. See if you can translate all that action onto a beach along the great western coast of Mexico--a kind of Tortilla Western. See if you can combine both the world of surfers and of local Mexicans, and the flavor of the wild wild west. Email me your script and we can go from there!

So! Along the lines of, say, both Bonanza and Gunsmoke -- borrowing aspects from both, here goes:

A stranger blows into town. Hangs back to get a sense of the power structure, the social structure, the weak spots. He aims to make the place his. Ah! the most popular bar in town is run by the most popular/well-known Miss Kitty, a single woman. Great start.

He makes his moves on her, successfully, and thus he moves into the scene at that bar, and sets himself up as the Little Emperor. He picks out the locals among the clientele and systematically alienates them. He figures that they take up room, they are in his way. Get rid of them! Meanwhile he works on courting the passing-through travelers from the stagecoach run. They are the ones with money, of course. And he can charm them out of it! and then they're gone.

On the side, he starts -- oh I don't know -- continuing the alienation of the locals, maybe with the aim of controlling them or getting them to move on... Say, he does this by making a horse lame here and there, rustling a few cattle -- while doing his best not to be seen doing it!

His fatal flaw is his rage. Flies off the handle and seeks violent revenge if and when one of the locals challenges him. Beats up a few in surprise attacks when they are alone (but not always successfully...). He even threatens other business people -- especially other bar-owners -- claiming they are stealing his business.

A feud springs up between this loner and one of the longtime locals --some kind of power struggle-- and the Loner goes after him one night, but his would-be victim hears of it and is thus prepared. There is a stand-off. It seems to blow over, but of course it's just brewing....

This could go on ad nauseum, of course, but in the end --it just HAS to end in the classic western visual... You see, make that longtime local mentioned above to be one of a set of brothers, in a really tight family (Cartwright/Bonanza style). Threaten one, you've threatened them all. Hell, you could even throw in a little twist of lime and say that Miss Kitty is their sister. You could add that it was out of deference to her that they allowed this to go on so long.

One night, after this most recent and potentially violent confrontation, the brothers ALL come over to pay the Loner a little visit, together. Usually they do not brandish arms, but maybe there is one pistol showing. Use your imagination here -- the setting sun behind them as they walk up to the Loner's digs --big silhouettes, individually distinct. What would be the dialogue?

Whatever was said, these brothers oversee the Loner as he packs a suitcase, and they escort him to the edge of town with a clear understanding that he will NEVER return.

I guess you could tie it up with a scene of people happy and at ease once again, going about their errands and play...

End of story, yeah?

So! To switch it to the surfer/Mexico flavor /Tortilla Western -- this loner could blow onto a surf-beach scene, make the same assessments of where the power lies, and take the same actions including making the moves on a beach restaurant woman; maybe he could damage surfboards instead of horses of people who piss him off (specifically the gringo surfers who have made this beach their special regular beach). Maybe he could engage in a concerted and blatant act of stealing every wave in a set: get ahead of the first guy in line, take the wave and then abandon it just a short bit later, too late for anyone else to catch it -- and swing back to the NEXT wave and get ahead of THAT guy and steal/abandon it...onandon.

I could suggest a few other ideas, too, if you'd like... Court cases, testimonies, just more Interest.

Oh! Make the Cartwright-style brothers all local fishermen! In Mexico, ocean fishermen are strong, brawny, no-nonsense, direct men. Keep them as truly blood brothers -- family! That's a Big Deal here. You could have that setting sun scene be over the ocean when they walk up from their boats to finally END the Rule of the Would-be Emperor. I know the visual well, as I am often at the beach at sunset when these boats come in. It is truly a beautiful sight of strength and energy and beauty... A number of the fishermen are friends from our village, as well as..... well, it just so happens that there IS a set of brothers on this beach, and it just so happens that their sister DOES run a cantina on the beach, and... and...


Yeah! That sign greeted us the first day we walked "the back way" wading through the river and wending through the jungly fields to reach the ocean. Daunting thought that: "Be careful! Crocodiles in the water!" (I'll post pix when I'm back Stateside.)

But people were still bathing in the river, washing clothes while their little kids ran all around, so... ´what gives? We learned that there was a big mama croc and her 7, or 8, maybe 10 (depending on who is telling you) little ones. She was holed up in the freshwater pond alongside the river, not IN the river.

"Don't worry," folks said. "She'll stay in the pond." They are actually feeding her, to keep her there -- fattening her for a future pueblo-wide barbecue! We've heard of these barbecues... Guille himself told us how he waded into the water to wage a death-battle with a (purposely) fishing-net-ensnarled crocodile. The croc was rolling and rolling and enraged as he approached and encircled it by the neck -- and with an expertly placed hack of his machete, he dispensed with it.

Still, when returning from a great ocean day and tranquilly spectacular sunset -- as we did almost every evening -- yeah, still we would shine our little headlamp all over the river and along the banks, and the little trail beside the holding pond. We were looking and hoping NOT to see any glittering yellow eyes reflecting back at us. Never have yet.

But we've seen HER now. She is big. Looking like a dark log some distance below the murky water.... that is, until her nose slowly emerges for an exchange of air and then quietly slips back into the water without a ripple.

As for her kids... well, that is why we were walking around the pond that day. We heard that one of her kids was dead and Robert grabbed his machete. We found it -- by the smell of course. And Robert hacked off it's toothy head with a mighty machete stroke. In time, the skin will fall away and the skull will join the various others in our collection.

Clearly, we have lost our fear of the croc... not our caution, but we're not really daunted by them.

Speaking of mighty machete strokes... and of Guille. I wish I had a video of Guille's mighty slash and catch from this very morning! Upon his advice, we agreed to let him take down the 16-foot tall male papaya tree in front of our porch -- the one mentioned in previous blogs as being our "television." Male papayas put out endless quantities of flowers -- which attract a circus of flying creatures most notably hummingbirds. We would sip our coffee and enjoy the show. But after awhile, they grow too tall and that is all they do -- grow taller.
SO! This morning, Guille stopped by, stood next to the towering papaya tree -- drew his arm back and then in one mighty stroke with his machete, completely severed the trunk. THEN! with his left hand, he deftly caught the upper 12-foot trunk before it ever hit the ground -- and carried it out to our compost pile. So smooth.....

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dia de Los Muertos

In Oaxaca, when I visited there, the five days at the end of October/early November were deeply moving, personal connections with those who have died... Day(s) of the Dead. One day for children, one day for old people, one day for those murdered, and the like. On this, their special day, the spirits can return to visit the living.

Homes each had a specially prepared altar with memorabilia of the departed (their actual skulls, back when the Spanish first arrived--but the Conquistadores put a stop to that, so now you see small sugar-skulls with a nametag pasted on, instead). Offerings of the departed's favorite foods are placed there, as well.

It is a happy time. And marigold petals are scattered from the "offrenda" in the house, out the door and all the way to the gravesite when feasible. The spirits can smell the fragrance of marigold and thus find their way back home...

And their graves? They were the scene of celebration! Music, feasting, and celebrating on this one time in the year when all are reunited. All night long, the cemeteries are scenes of laughter, and happiness.

The most touching memory I have -- was when one of the Durango high school students I was shepherding around noticed a lone woman, perhaps in her 60s or more, sitting quietly on the cement grave covering of her departed husband. The young girl approached the woman, and as she did so, the woman's face lit up with joy and she held out her arms to welcome her. "Sit, sit..." she said in Spanish. As the young girl sat beside her, the woman gently reached out to hold her hand in a gentle but firm embrace... The young girl reported feeling such love pouring from the woman's heart. They sat like that, holding hands together, for quite some time.... til the woman felt fulfilled, I guess. In her heart... in that woman's heart... her lost beloved husband had come to her, through the guise of the young woman.

It is an ancient custom and it is primarily Oaxacan. Our villagers, here in the state of Guerrero, only passingly acknowledge the Day of the Dead (mostly simply putting flowers on graves -- I have not noticed an offrenda in any home, nor do they stage parties at the gravesites) And the days that fall on weekdays are holidays in town, such as today.

But they cannot escape the commercialism of America's bedraggled Halloween. The trappings of our Halloween are everywhere, and "Trick or Treat" is the theme of the day. They know nothing (nor do most Americans) of the Celtic origins of the tradition -- a tradition not that different from Day of the Dead. For the Celts there is that one day when the veil is thin and spirits can pass through. Ah, the tales I tell and most favorite is from the epic of Finn McCool. But I digress.

SO! Once again, knowing kids would be coming for sweets, we decorated our ramada with black and orange crepe, put on some sort of frightening attire that scares small children -- and sat beside a big bowl filled with American candies. It is always a delightful time of play with costumed kids and costumed gringos! (pictures posted when I return.. probably inserted here) Our house was always the most active, and favorite destination.

BUT!!! This year, we were trumped, and happy to know of it. Across our road, and down a short way, is a huge two-story cement house (built to house multiple families of the same lineage... that is to say, married brothers and married sisters each with their own families). Only one such family has moved in to a section of the ground floor so far...

....which leaves the entire upstairs available for a Ghost-House of Horrors!! We didn't get to visit it, being busy at our own place, but I was delighted to hear the screams and screeches as the kids explored room to room and got scared by ghosts and goblins. At least that is what we think was happening.

And all is well, and all manner of thing is well, and the waves delight, and the fruit trees abound, and friendships warm the heart.