Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Where the Geckos Laugh


Where the Geckos Laugh http://amzn.to/KT0H77is a collection of funny stories, with photos, from a wondrous time in my life. Most of these tales grew out of moving to a village on the Caribbean. A few of them are taken from 10+ years of roaming the world with a back pack. In 1985 I sold everything and set out in search of an inexpensive area where I could write a novel that was churning within me.
     I found an abandoned little house 100' from the Caribbean, gathered driftwood to fashion a writing table, and on a manual  typewriter, with a kerosine lantern humming into the hot night, I sat and clacked out the first drafts of Falling Up. I carried water in a 20 liter jug, and set it in the sun for my showers.  A hammock strung beneath a mosquito net was my bed.  Geckos laughed like an old witch at night. A feral cat would sneak in during the day as I sat typing, and suddenly leap up the wall and snatch a lizard in her mouth, or rip apart a plastic bag on the driftwood table, and steal a piece of bread.  Occasionally a land crab managed to squeeze under my door and would wake me with clicking noises.
     Soon I was visited by a pot smoking neighbor who said he was watching the house for the owner and I should pay him $40 a month for 'rent.'  Not long after that, the self-appointed mailman, a bent-over little Mayan grandfather walked right into my house with a letter in his hand, hissed out my family name, and handed me the correspondence.  "Tip," he said.
     As my imagination toiled with my story set in Germany, an entire new book of characters and joyous life was unfolding around me.  I noticed how the power lines cackled and threw bright arcs of electricity during a rain.  That made me uncomfortable during my walks.  Often the power simply died, and restaurant and home owners alike sat out candles.  But more troublesome were the dreaded 'brown-outs.'  This occurred when the power level dropped to 60%, and the lights dimmed.  I remember being in a restaurant during one, and the waitress sprinted to the kitchen to unplug the refrigerators before the motors burned up.  And it was the same restaurant where the children slept above the serving floor on a kind of second story platform made of jungle poles and planks.  The little boy of eight years often wet the bed, and one night with the restaurant full of tourists, a trickle of urine splattered the floor beside my table.  The waitress/mother hurried over and blew a strand of black hair from her face, shoved hands onto her hips, and shouted her son's name, then turned and called with 90 mile-an-hour Spanish for the Mayan kitchen help to clean it up.
     In the center of town stood a tin roof market where children bought sodas and poured the contents into plastic bags to avoid the bottle deposit.  A straw placed in the bag and the kid ran out with sandals flopping, beach sand on their feet.  In the evening families strolled around the little square and let toddlers run free.  The one radio station could be heard coming from Mayan palapas and modern homes alike as I walked into town.  Often I would stop the Clap-clap Man, who filled a metal pan on his three wheel cycle and pedaled through the town, stopping at houses along the way.  His clapping let clients know fresh pastries had arrived.
     It was, after all, the perfect town for a writer.  There I was able to unplug from city stress, wander sandy streets in shorts and tank top, and let my imagination build an action novel.  I so needed to sublimate things I had experienced and witnessed in Africa, and that was what I did with Falling Up.
     While shoveling from my house the sand of hurricanes past, I found something that changed my life: the remains of a spear gun.  By carefully taking it apart and cleaning the mechanism and coating it with olive oil, I rebuilt it.  In Cancun I purchased surgical tubing for the band, and used a piece of a car antenna for the metal catch where the band is fastened to the spear.  I used a hack saw blade to fashion a four foot steel rod into a spear.
     Within a few days I was swimming to the Palancar reef, shooting lobster and grouper--FREE. Floating 200 yards from shore, I confronted sharks, huge green Moray eels, poisonous rock fish, and fire coral.  I was more alive than any time in my life.  Around me was a wealth of beauty and simplicity abundant for a writer, for anyone with a heart.
     I hope that in  Where the Geckos Laugh, I have captured some of the wonder and joy that was my village.  Kevin R. Hill.