Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Best-seller!

I just wanted to say that my children's book, Wow Wendy Saves the World, is now available in Spanish or English, at Amazon Kindle store.  I hope you enjoy it.  Kevin.

Back When..., and Drunken Parrot


I was working on my first novel when I moved to my village in Mexico.  I wanted to find a place where my dollars would go far and I could spend each day editing and rewriting, not being disturbed with work and the bustle of city life.  I needed a place where my mind would be at peace to wander in scenes of literature and dialogue, and not be bound to rigid schedules and city fear.  So I started researching various countries and decided on Mexico to save on the cost of air fare.  The uniqueness of the Yucatan peninsula intrigued me with its Mayan ruins, unexplored jungles, and an infusion of Mayan culture, giving the region a unique flavor.

While shopping for snorkeling equipment I met a diver for the Mexican oil company, Pemex, and he said I should visit the village where he lived.  He smiled in parting, and said, “but once you drink the water you’ll always return.”
He has since passed in a diving accident, but I’ll always remember him as he was the day he took me on a tour of the Cenotes--the jungle pools.  To explain what a cenote is, let me give some background information.  Up until the nineteen sixties marine biologists believed that sharks had to perpetually swim to breathe, moving water through their gills.  But Mexican divers in the Yucatan kept reporting seeing sharks ‘sleeping.’  So, good old Jacques Cousteau went to the island of Cozumel to investigate.  He found that the entire peninsula is made of old coral, and that rain filters below the surface and accumulates in underground caverns and passages, and when the surface caves in, you have a cenote, around which the Maya built their cities.  Some of the passages come to the surface on the Caribbean floor, gushing fresh water in jets into the salty water.  On top of these jets the sharks position themselves, the water flowing through their gills and enabling them to breathe.  The underwater footage showed such a beautiful marine environment that it triggered a world wide diving exodus to the island, and insured the commercial success of the area.
Enjoying a dip in a hidden Cenote.

Juan Carlos guided me to many a remote cenote, and when I think of him, I’ll always remember the day he fought with the huge iguana.  We were hiking into a remote cenote along a jungle foot path, when suddenly he stopped and started talking to himself in lightening fast Spanish while he bent over, searching for a rock. 
“What’s going on?” I asked.
He pointed through the trees at a six-foot long iguana.  “That is my diner.”  But the iguana did not get that large by being stupid, and it ran away and left my Mexican friend cursing and telling me how his mother used to cook iguana in Veracruz.
It was Juan Carlos who first took me to Xcaret, when it was just crevice in a rock face and you had to look really hard to tell if there water  in there or not.  That was when you could just walk right in, and there was an American draft dodger living in a hut close by.  Yes, that was before the tunnels were dynamited so packs of sun screen covered tourists could float through the ‘completely natural’ passages, and still have time to catch the 2 o’clock show on the beach, and board one of the tour busses that fill the parking lot.


My girlfriend purchased Bogart from some Mayas in Cancun.  They had knocked the mother’s nest from a tree with rocks, and one of the chicks, Bogart, had been injured with a crooked back.  He didn’t have feathers when I got him, and I wasn’t real sure what to do with him.  But if I wasn’t writing or snorkeling for diner, I was holding the little guy, and he bonded with me quickly.  Parrots aren’t like cats or dogs.  They adopt one person and will barely tolerate others, making their disapproval know with skin-breaking bites.  Bogart was no exception.  Soon he was speaking words, calling the cat by name, repeating my name when I entered the room.  I remember once, after an eight month drought, when the crocodiles started leaving the dry swamp and walking through town, Bogart started imitating croaking frogs.  It was when the first rain fell.  Thunder sounded like the sky broke open, and an angry rain pounded the town.  Within a minute I could hear frogs croaking everywhere, and I heard it in the kitchen too.  I ran into the room to see if some of the animals had gotten under the door, and there was Bogart, imitating the frogs. 

Once at dinner when friends were over, Bogart imitated the moans of my girlfriend during an intimate moment.  That was when we decided to move his cage further from the bedroom.
One morning when I got out of bed I knew something was wrong.  Usually Bogart was going through his routine squawks, but on that day there was an ominous silence.  Immediately I rushed into the kitchen and pulled the pillow case from his cage.  The poor little guy’s legs were curled up beneath him, and he was holding himself up by clamping his beak onto the bars.
Well, I never did find out what had happened to him, but I took him to everyone I thought could help.  The drunken veterinarian thought it was a calcium deficiency, and when I was leaving his house his Mayan house keeper snuck around through the gate and called me over in secrete.  With whispers she explained that the ‘evil eye’ had come to the parrot in the night, and that I had to get a bundle of basil and tap him over the head with it eight times.
I did it.  Yep.  I tried everything.  I was grinding up egg shells and covering them with lime juice.  That dissolved the calcium.  With that mixture I added vitamins and garlic, and everything else I thought might help a parrot.  Every day I would take Vick Vapor Rub and massage the little guys legs after I’d force feed him with an eye dropper.  This went on for two weeks.
Then one day my friend came over with a bottle of anejo Cuban rum.  “Come on, man, we’re going fishing.  I got bait, gas, and the boat is waiting.  We’re going to anchor on the back side of the reef and shoot some bugs too.”  (Bugs was our slang word for lobster.)
“I can’t go because of Bogart,” I explained as I mixed up the parrot’s food.
“Man, that parrot has been sick for two weeks.  You have to get out and live.  Either that bird is going to live or die.”  He pulled the stopper out of the bottle and poured a generous amount into the parrot food.

I knew he was right, and injected the rum-laden mixture down Bogart’s throat, put him in the cage, his legs still curled up and locked beneath him.  Then I grabbed my equipment, fishing pole, snorkeling gear, spear gun.
I had a terrible feeling when I got home.  As I came though the gate I stained my ears for Bogart’s calls as I cautiously approached.  Then I heard him, squawking and singing like a sailor, happy as could be, going through one sound after another.  When I looked through the mosquito netting over the window opening, I could see Bird Brain laying on his back with his wings spread wide, singing away while chewing on a foot as the other waved about.  His ailment vanished with his hangover.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


                          DEATH OF A TOURIST

Back then my village was sweet and innocent as a four-year-old child.  The tin roof market was the hub of life.  Children would play in the sea and ride to the market to buy a soda.  The little Mayan girl behind the counter would pour the contents into a plastic bag and add a straw to avoid charging a bottle deposit.  

On Wednesdays every dog in town would be carried to the market by the scent of fresh meat, for it was on that day a quarter cow was delivered from Cancun and butchered.  And beside the market door I found a wonderful vantage point to watch the world pass.   It was just a widow covered with a shutter, but the market owner would open it during the day for

ventilation, and right inside the window stood the old coca-cola cooler filled with ice cold beers.  So I would spend the mornings writing Child's Play, my mind creating scenes in Germany.  And then I'd amble toward town to stand and drink a cold beer, staring out at the sparkling Caribbean, waiting for the fishermen to return with the days' catch.  It was the strategic spot to see any new tourist woman who might arrive.

But this post concerns a death, so let me get to that.   One of the hotels in town used to get groups of tourists from Montreal.  I used to spend time at the hotel because I was dating one of the daughters.  Often the tourists like to sun bathe nude.  So it wouldn't cause havoc in town, the hotel would drive the nudists to a remote beach.  Although no locals stood gawking, in that area the reef did not block the current so sometimes the surf was rather strong.  

One of the French Canadians was rather fat, and had been drinking that day.  And, of course, he was unable to stay afloat.  Now the hotel driver took off and drove as fast as possible down the dirt trail to the local police station.  Those local police were so happy to have something to do.  Usually they stood about outside, looking so important with their safety-pinned insignia, trying to determine where the smell of marijuana was coming from.  (The young woman who worked in the restaurant across the street would go up on the roof and hide as she laughed and blew smoke towards the police below.)

Well, the locals took off in their new shiny truck, got the body, and drove it back to the hotel where they called the Federal Police.  And that is when I entered the picture!  Wrong place, wrong time.  I had just finished a beer at my favorite market window and was feeling amorous, so I walked around the back of the hotel, hoping to find my girlfriend alone, but instead my worst nightmare happened!  I walked right into the middle of a circle of machine gun toting Federalies!

I felt bad for the local police.  The Federal guys were really letting them have it for moving the body.  They actually made them drive the body back to where they found it so they could properly investigate the scene.

Sometimes land crabs would sneak under my door and wake me up with their clicking noises.  And, sometimes the guests were silent, like this one.  

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Saturday, December 17, 2011


Blood in the Water!

The Caribbean was such a wonderful part of life in my village.  All night long I listened to it lapping the beach.

I have so many memories of spear fishing adventures, of being surprised by huge green moray eels, or a sea turtle, or a sleeping shark, but my favorite story is of a french man I'll call Jacques, after the famous diver.

I was very good at spear fishing when I met Jacques.  I used to swim out to the reef with my net fish bag and spear gun, and let the current carry me until I ended up at the ferry channel.  Often I forgot about time.  It was another world, a thriving under water jungle of vivid color.  Often I would relax and just 'hang' in the water when a ray approached and watch them swim right up to me with that little human like face, as if to ask, 'who are you?'

Anyways, I was hanging around one of the hotels in town because four sisters ran the place.  Jacques was staying there, and we started talking about spear fishing and decided to swim out together.  When I met him on the beach he was putting on a wet suit.  I tried not to laugh, and convinced him it wasn't needed.  I felt embarrassed because all his equipment was so shiny and new, from the trick knife strapped to his leg, to the high dollar watch and mask.  But I just ignored it and walked into the water.

I guess spear fishing is like combat.  What I mean is that you may think you know the person beside you, but until a bull shark swims past, or 100 angry looking barracuda decide to surround you, you really don't know what that person is going to do.  And that is the way it was with Jacques.  We had been on the reef for about an hour, drifting along, climbing into caves after lobster, when I noticed he wasn't close.

The reef is only about a meter deep where we were, and when I looked around, I could see that Jacques was standing up about 25 feet away.  So I swam over and raised my head beside him, pulling up my mask.  But as soon as I looked at him I could see by the look on his face that something was terribly wrong.  "What's going on?" I asked, following his gaze.

It was low tide and in the distance coral heads were poking out of the water, and the current rushing past created the illusion of movement.  And then that stinking Jacques said the forbidden word:  Shark!

"No," I answered.  "It's coral!"  I explained about low tide, but he wasn't having it.  The look of terror on his face became a horrible thing to look at.  I was staring where he was starting, thinking maybe he was seeing something I wasn't.  Then, to my surprise, he started climbing up on the coral as though to save himself from some rabid dog.  I could see his knees bleeding as he frantically climbed.

Well, that was it.  I just pulled on my mask and slowly started swimming for shore.  Now, you have to understand.  Anyone who spear fishes knows that when you're under water you move in a certain way.  Quick, thrashing movements make you look like a wounded fish, and that is the one thing you do not want to look like.  So, I was just swimming along, laying flat on the surface, spear gun in one hand and bag of fish in the other, kicking my fins with slow easy movements.  I made it about half way to shore when I heard this loud splashing, and saw Jacques come flying past me, arms and legs swinging like mad, as though trying to break a swimming record.  I think he left his spear gun out on the coral.

When I got to the beach he was no where to be seen.  He was so embarrassed he didn't even wait for me!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Writer's Dream

Note the candle in the Coke bottle.
                                   A Writer's Dream

Have you ever dreamed of selling everything and moving abroad to a simple village life?  Well, I did it.

My village was a sandy little piece of land facing the Caribbean,  surrounded by swamp and lost in time.  Families strolled around the square of a evening, leading children by the hand.  The one teller who ran the little bank came and went without explanation.  At night a Mayan man rode slowly through the streets on his three-wheeled cycle, holding a tray of pastries, and stopped at the huts and houses, clapping to attract customers. Of course he was known as 'the clap-clap man.'
I soon found an abandoned house and decided to move in.  But it had many other tenants as well.  Geckos darted around the walls and occasionally screamed like an old witch.  There was also a feral cat that would sneak in while I was shoveling sand of hurricanes past, and bound up a wall to snatch one of the lizards in her teeth and run out the door.  My feline friend would also tear open plastic bags and eat my bread!

Within a couple of days of moving in, a strange little Mayan visited me.  He was old and hunched over.  A tattered cap shaded his taunt face.  He just walked right in while I was working and cleared his throat.  When I turned he hissed out my family name, struggling with the difficult pronunciation.  I nodded and he handed me a letter.  I took it and was examining it when he said:  "Tip."

Once I got all the sand and land crabs shoveled out, and the deposits construction workers had left, I bought a couple of gallons of muriatic acid and flooded the concrete.  Then I reattached the front door and bought a padlock, nailed mosquito netting over the window openings.  With drift wood I made a little writing table. With a kerosine lamp hissing and candles glowing around me, geckos laughing now and then, I could type away into the night, mosquito coils burning close to my exposed ankles.  But I soon found that the insect population came alive when the sun set.

The first time I saw one of the black scorpions climbing up the wall I knew I needed to be alert in the house.  I always tapped my sandals on the floor before I put them on.  Whenever I walked in the dark, I lit my way with candle.  My introduction to the huge spiders came one night when I was standing at the toilet urinating, holding a large candle in a glass.  Suddenly the wall beside me moved and I was horrified to see one of the huge brown spiders right beside me and watching me pee.  Without thinking I threw the contents of the glass on the spider.  It fell and the light went out.  I shouted and jumped and peed on my feet, and ran to my hammock. 

The next day I walked into town and bought a flashlight.  When I came back to the house, I opened the front door and turned to hang the lock on the door, and suddenly stopped.  There waiting for me was my wax-covered spider friend.  This time it didn't end well for the spider.

Tomorrow I'll write about one of the greatest experiences of my life:  snorkeling in the Caribbean, being so poor that I couldn't buy new shoes, but eating lobster and fresh grouper every day.