Everywhere we went outside of Havana we saw people needing a ride. Few people have their own vehicles and depend on the kindness of others to get them there and back. Our guide assured us it was safe to hitchhike in his country. It has to be as everyone does it. While hitchers were everywhere we saw gathering areas with dozens of hopefuls bound for home in the late afternoon or off to work in the morning. It doesn't matter what you have to offer, a car, a tractor, an oxcart. If you've got a spare seat or a place someone can hang on, you offer and it is accepted. Our bus driver,with our blessing, even offered a ride on occasion. An old women with an armload of groceries along a lonely road one time, a police officer the next. It is the upside to poverty, I suppose, people still help one another. We saw many examples a day of beggars not being choosers. I regret I didn't get a photo of these staging areas, but I did get the above picture of commuters sardined into the back of a truck at the end of a day. I wasn't quick enough to get a picture of them scrambling up the back and sides of this truck to fight for a place in the box. This was by no means full. I am sure a few more could squeeze in if they had to, and from what I known of Cuba, they do have to.
Another Tuesday where I get to talk about what writing-- such as it is-- I've done, and go on a bit about something I've read. It's one of my favourite days. I'm clipping along with the clean-up editing of A Fly on the Wall. I thought I'd be done by now, but life gets in the way. I'm not complaining. Hell, I'm glad of it. Distractions can be irritating, but they give me time to think and somewhere along the line I've realized that's good.
I've managed to get a fair amount of reading done. I have to admit something, though, I gave up on the book I mentioned last week. I'd read the info in it in other books over the years. Not only was it a rehashing for me, the type was really small. I sent it to its rightful owner and cracked the spine on a proper book: The Hound of the Baskervilles. I adored this book. I was riveted to the couch most of Saturday and rarely came up for air until it was done.
Here's a sample:
"The moon was shining bright upon the clearing, and there in the centre lay the unhappy maid where she had fallen, dead of fear and of fatigue. But it was not the sight of her body, nor yet was it that of the body of Hugo Baskerville near her, which raised the hair upon the heads of these three dare-devil roisterers, but it was that, standing over Hugo, and plucking at his throat, there stood a foul thing, a great black beast, shaped like a hound yet larger than any hound that ever mortal eye rested upon." - Arthur Conan Doyle (Red Classics, 2007)
I'm just at the two-thirds mark of the manuscript. I'll be done shortly and then I can take out a hard copy. The weather's getting warm enough that I might just stretch out on a deck chair on the porch to do the editing. It won't even seem like work.
Here's a two and some extras from AFOTW.
"She turned her head slightly and looked at the mirror and the reflection of her record player. Why not? Why not put on some Glenn Miller? Or maybe some Vera Lynn. 'The Songbird of the Blitz' herself. It was that kind of a day."
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We went for a drive out west to the mountains yesterday. I am grateful they are so close. The above scene is looking across Abraham Lake from Windy Point.
We roasted smokies over a camp kitchen fire and ate them with lightly toasted tortillas for a smokie wrap. Very tasty and so much better having worked for it. The day was blustery and it was rather cool in the camp kitchen. It made them that much more satisfying. I am grateful for campgrounds and camp kitchens and for a husband who can build a fire.
You may need to enlarge this pic to read the sign.
And I cannot help but be grateful to live in a land where firearms must be secured before one uses an outdoor toilet.
We saw some Trogons on our trip to Cuba. We'd been on a hike for most of the morning and were resting from having just climbed the steepest portion of the trail when we saw them. There are two in the tree although the second one, under the first, doesn't show up well.
I spent a good part of last week getting things ready for our weekend Christmas guests. Shoveling out the house, getting some fresh air in to replace the winter staleness, and assorted other bits including, but not restricted to, jumping headlong into the vicious, evil, closed loop of dusting.
I still managed to get some editing done as I got up well before six a.m. at least twice. My days go better when I arise early and face the day while it is still young and trusting. I even got a bit of reading done here and there.
My MIL insisted recently that I read a particular book and made sure of it by coming to the door with a copy of it. It's interesting although the type is very small and there's plenty of info packed into each sentence. That's great from a reading perspective, but lousy from a 51-year-old set of eyes perspective.
Here's a bit from the preface of Earth In Upheaval copyright 1955 by Immanuel Velikovsky (Dell, 1968) "The pages of this book are transcripts of the testimony of mute witnesses, the rocks, in the court of celestial traffic. They testify by their own appearance and by the encased contents of dead bodies, fossilized skeletons."
And from me, a little bit from A Fly on the Wall:
" 'We're looking for a physical problem. Maybe it's not a flaw in the wafer or an error in the calculation. Maybe it's time itself.' 'Help me out, Dr. Phelbos. Why would time cause a malfunction?' "
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We celebrated Christmas with our friends the Webjeks on the weekend. Between work schedules, assorted commitments, vacations, and the Olympics this was the first weekend available. We ate a lot. We had turkey, stuffing, salad, veggies, red cabbage, cranberries, potatoes, gravy, wine, and two kinds of pie. In short, a traditional Christmas meal on the first day of spring. We shared in the cooking duties as well as clean up. The next morning we ate again. Then we went out for a walk on a local lake under a glorious blue sky. We came back to the house and ate again. As my friend Sylvia said, "I ate so much I think I cracked a rib." It was good to see them and share the season. It was belated by the calendar, but not by any standard that honestly means anything. It is any day you chose to have it. I am grateful for the time with our friends, the food we prepared and enjoyed together, and for the wonderful weather that allowed us to spend time in the fresh air. I am stuffed stupid, and I am grateful.
This is on display in the toppled train at Santa Clara, Cuba. Che Guevara stopped the train to cut off supplies to the army. Three days later Castro took over the country. The train is still there, a sacred landmark of the revolution, and I couldn't help but be proud that Canada Dry was on the job.
I've started editing A Fly On The Wall. Some of the characters weren't named until later so one of the first things to do was replace the placeholders with the names. It gave me a sense of accomplishment. The first pass is for fixing obvious errors so I tend not to worry too much about Big Things Needing Fixing, but I've already spotted a glorious mess-up. I compromised by making a note of it to be dealt with later.
Reading took a back seat this past week. I have no reason, it just happened. The days may be getting longer, but they are also going faster. I'm still reading All Quiet on the Western Front (byErich Maria Remarque, First Ballantine Booksedition 1982). It's compelling, it's stirring, and it's grabbed my innards and will not let go. Here's a bit: "We bayonet the others before they have time to get out their bombs. Then thirstily we drink the water they have for cooling the gun."
This is my contribution to the cause this week from A Fly on the Wall. It's close enough to St. Patrick's Day that I thought I should include a selection involving a leprechaun.
"Parsley Wornstaff had not thought his life was going to turn out this way. He was a careful fellow and minded his own business most of the time. In all the hundreds of years of sitting at the end of the rainbow on a desolate hill in Old NewBridge-Barrowsmith he never thought anyone would actually catch him."
Thanks for reading me. For more or to get in on the fun please see the Women of Mystery.
** If you're wondering, the photo has nothing to do with the body of this post.
Panther's first appearance in our yard was about a week before Halloween 2008. Later when she got used to us and knew she was welcome she came over often. She liked to sun herself on the front porch in the afternoons on warm days. On hot days she went to the back porch and found a spot on top of a tote or on me if I was relaxing in a lawn chair. She occasionally helped herself to a bird, which we didn't like, but she took out a mouse or five and that was okay. She always seemed happy to see us and often came over when she heard the door open. Sometimes she'd be waiting on the back porch for us to come out. We called it "Pussycat Waiting" and we were tickled silly over it. She lived in the house next door, but from spring to fall she was over often. She found her way into two of my manuscripts and was the inspiration for "Pussums Manynaps." Panther went to her Great Reward recently. We are sad she won't be purring on our back porch anymore, or catching mice, or sunning herself out front, or bounding over to see us when the back door opens. We are grateful for the time she spent with us and saddened we won't have Pussycat Waiting anymore.
Some days I am convinced that my life is a train trip that keeps stopping to rest at the Absurdity Station. We returned from Cuba to face a few bills, as one would expect. One of which was from VISA. It was the usual follow up statement noting we'd paid off the bill in full last time, but it had an exciting twist. Said credit card company has changed the way it charges interest. I can't think how it put it and I refuse to look because it's annoying, but the upshot was that even though the bill had no outstanding charge on it, we were still dinged for interest. Sixty-eight cents. Yes, that's right. They spent fifty-seven cents on a stamp, plus two pages of the bill itself, plus envelope, and worker time and ink and dog-knows-what else to charge me $00.68. First I laughed. Then I realized they are so sticky about this sort of thing they'd send a collection agency after me to get it if I didn't pay up pronto. That vision made me laugh, too, as I could imagine the lousy publicity they'd get when word got out that they'd sicced the dogs on me. Instead I chose to fight absurdity with absurdity. I sent them a cheque for the full amount. Sure, there's a cost to me, but someone there will have to go through the trouble and expense of cashing it. Have a nice day VISA. Don't spend it all in one place.
I finished the second pass corrections of my vampire western the other day. My husband was away so I didn't have to stop and take care of any of that regular meal nonsense. I still ate as I've got a vague recollection of commercial pizza and some sort of accompanying dip in the fridge. He was gone for four nights. It got progressively easier to be alone at night although I wonder as to the wisdom of fixing vampire prose before bed. Today the husband is back and I'm letting my mind wander around on its own for a bit until it's ready to tackle the third manuscript and Mrs. Ingetuckle et al. Meanwhile, the recently corrected manuscript is resting comfortable in a dark, soothing corner of the hard drive. It needs its time alone.
Here's a bit from Biting the Dust: "A woman's scream shattered his thoughts. The hard laugh that followed it excited him."
Yesterday I finally cracked the cover on All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (this edition Ballantine Books 1982).
"What's more important still is the issue of a double ration of smokes. Ten cigars, twenty cigarettes, and two quids of chew per man; now that is decent."
The sun has been shining lately. It's been warm and bright and melty around town. It's a nice change after having everything locked up with cold. I enjoy the running water, the mud puddles, and the promise of life renewed. I am grateful for the change of seasons. I know many people who say they'd like to move to a warmer climate. Some days I'm inclined to agree though only briefly. I need a definite change in seasons. Too hot in summer puts winter in perspective. A too cold winter does the same. I like to see the ground covered in white as much as I like to see it covered in green. I like to see the trees turn to red and gold. I love the sound of the fallen leaves skittering along the ground on a cool, windy autumn day. Soon we'll hear the honking geese and the trilling cranes headed north for the too-short summer. Of course we're nowhere near done with winter. There'll be more snow soon and a few more truly cold nights. But that's okay. Winter's back is broken and spring is on the way. # The picture is from our trip to BC last Thanksgiving weekend. It's along the highway just north of Kaslo.
The view from the staging area for the trek to Che and Fidel's mountain hideaway. It was three km from our cabins up a narrow, winding road just to get here. The hideaway was another three km walk. I'd been sick and couldn't do the hike, but I went as far as here so I could at least see something of the area.
Che and Mike at the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana.
Che Guevara is everywhere in Cuba. He's a revered hero. His bones are in a mausoleum in Santa Clara and a museum is attached to the mausoleum. Guevara toppled a train outside of Santa Clara cutting off supplies to Batista's army. Three days later Fidel Castro took over the country. Visitors to the mausoleum/museum have to surrender their cameras so you're going to have to take my word for the following. Whatever else Che did or is reputed to do in story and song my lingering memory of the hero of the revolution is in a glass case in the museum dedicated to him. It's his Zippy Zither and the music for "Home on the Range."
On the way to Che and Fidel's mountain hideout high in the Sierra Maestra mountains above Santo Domingo.
I've managed to get a bit more done on the manuscript cleanup. I get distracted quite easily and by the time I get back to it the day is over. Normally I listen to music when I write and I hadn't been doing that lately. The music I use has nature sounds in it. They relax me and elevate my mood. The Solitudes (R) series by Dan Gibson is about the best for me with his "Algonquin Suite" CD being my standby. If I'm stuck or can't harness my wandering mind and need to get something done, then that's what goes in the computer's CD drive. Yesterday I treated myself to "Harmony" with its cloudbursts, loons, and more than five minutes of howling timberwolves. That may not be to everyone's taste, but it sure is to mine. From the CD's inside:
"Timberwolves atop a lakeside cliff howl inexhaustibly through the night. Their calls filter through the still air of distant hills, leaving a wild and haunting trail."
It helped a great deal. I got several pages corrected in between checking my email, checking Facebook, checking for new LOLcats, and randomly looking things up researching on the Intrawebz.
But what did I do? Can I actually back up the wild claim of getting some work done? Well, here's a sample from Biting The Dust:
"Night songs filled the air. A snipe laughed and dived as coyotes spread the news."
Thanks for reading me. For more or to get in on the action please see the Women of Mystery.
Oxen are commonly used to work the fields in Cuba. Farming is hard work. This makes it seem that much harder. Cubans are allowed to kill their own chickens and pigs to feed themselves, but not their cattle. Our guide told us that cattle are too expensive to be killed by regular people for food. When an ox can no longer work the farmer is obligated by law to sell it to the government. Said animal is then butchered. I am grateful for the chance to see and photograph this way of life. I am even more grateful that I don't have to work like this, and that cattle owners here can butcher their own beef for their own use.