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Wondering how anyone made those turns, they came to a stop at a banner, the start of the Baja 500.
“Crap, won’t be rooms.” Viajero looked to one of the buggies.
“Try that one,” Juan pointed to a building.
They owed their beds to last minute cancellation.
Families crowded the cars that would take the turns at five times their speed that scared the travelers. For Viajero and Juan, nothing was left. They consumed seafood, and beer occasionally a brown eyed senorita would pass. Another adventure ended. Tomorrow, they’d return to existing under the corporate beast. But for now, freedom.
The trip ended two day ago and he carried her everywhere. “It’s insane, was only one night.” He told Juan.
“Then don’t go.” Juan sipped on coffee.
“Told her I would,” he smiled because of her again. “Christ, I proposed.”
“She told you nothing would happen until she got married,” Juan laughed, “and that night proposed.”
“She laughed, until I promised I’d return.” He shook his head, “almost sold all I have already.”
“This is crazy.” Juan laughed.
“Crazier than now? I live on pennies from a greedy corruption corporation while missing out on life?”
He left and moved southbound.
A car roll to his boat and a
stepped out, “what’s around here?”
scratched his head, “not much use for them since the corporation moved in. They catch too many, throw some away, never respect life.”
pulled two beers out of an ice chest.
sipped ice cold beer. “Worry about my children so won’t buy these. One day the fish will be gone. What will they do?” He rubbed his
“What will anyone do?” The
searched the Pacific sunset as a hungry osprey flew without a day’s catch.
“None of your stories have women!” her face reddened.
“Rarely women don’t get involved,” he sipped his beer, “just aren’t interested.”
“Not interesting, you’re a sexist…” she stood.
“INTERESTED,” he didn’t react, “don’t participate. Hell, few guys do anymore. Fiction needs experience, can’t get that from books or universities. Modern literature suck as authors now are pseudo-intellects whine about life. Let’s be honest, if you were born in the US after the 70’s you probably don’t have anything to whine about. It’s pathetic!”
“What about equal rights?” she countered.
“Compare voting to starving to death or war.” He smiled, “Please.”
“Screw it, let’s go to Baja.” Viajero said as he motioned for another brew.
“Sure, too much crap here already.” Juan stared at the commercial for a local San Diego college. “Funny, don’t have money for classes but advertize like crazy.”
“It’s their business model,” Viajero paid the bartender, “make a demand, pay professors nothing but convince the states that administrators need more money.”
“You were a professor,” Juan sipped his beer.
“Adjunct,” Viajero said, “a whore of the academic system, the one who gets screwed.”
“Happier in business?” Juan turned.
“No, just better paid.” Viajero stood, "next stop Baja."
“Evil people just have better stories,” Jake stared at the paper. “Hollywood idiots think that,” Viajero downed his beer, “know what happens to drug-dealers, most end up live at home with their grandmothers.”
“Freakanomics?” Jake leaned back. “What about the greedy CEO’s?”
“They vacations at resorts,” Viajero looked out the window downtown, “you think that’s interesting? A plastic existence.”
“They have cool cars, boats,” Jake sighed, “and can do whatever they want.”
“Junk, and I can do whatever I want.” Viajero ordered another beer, “and don’t have to worry about having hurt anyone.
“But the cars?” Jake smiled.
“Should we pull over?” Viajero continued driving the carretera.
“Don’t know,” Juan measured the water, “could be a way to hijack. No towns or cars and he’s in the middle of the desert.”
The car turned around. “Ok, put the jug out the window as soon as he has it let go.”
They turned around towards the man with ravens. Juan dropped the jug and they were off again.
“Something was odd.” Juan pointed, “Look a town, he’ll make it.”
Muninn and Hugin landed on the old man.
“When I was thirsty,” the old man smiled, “you gave me water.”
“Yellow Wallpaper Gilman?” she asked, “but you’re a pig!”
“Never claimed that title,” he sipped his beer, “said most woman are not interested in doing things. Gilman was different.”
“What you mean?” she looked at him.
“Gilman wasn’t being published by men, so she made her own magazine, she did things” he looked at her, “she warned women and men against passive women, we need more like her.”
“She used herself as a model for Wallpaper,” how can that be a warning?”
“Jane was modeled after a situation but Gilman fought back.” He smiled, “Jane went silent into the night.”
“You can choose where,” Viajero smiled, “it’s just dinner.”
“Nothing more, just dinner?”
looked at him and smiled. “Nothing will happen unless I get married.”
“Who knows, at the end I may ask you to marry me.” Viajero put his hand on her shoulder.
“You laugh at me,” she turned around.
“No, just,” Viajero stepped closer but stumbled almost pushing her as he caught his balance, “if things continue as they are, who knows.”
“You know it will only be dinner,” she smiled again, “and you still want to take me out.”
“Great, just dinner.” He thought about returning.
It was probably not the best idea to leave San Diego so close to sunset but their vacation had to start. They saw a hotel just outside Ensenada and pulled. Her textbook was highlighted and notes were scribbled on the side when two men walked in.
“You have a room?” The clumsy one tripped at the door.
She giggled, “two beds?”
“Yes, just for tonight.” He smiled as the other man stood at the door, “heading to
She handed him a key, “There’s a five dollar deposit.” “Vacation would be nice.” She studied on as they walked up.
“Hell man most Latinos born in the US have never even seen a farm,” Viajero sipped on a beer looking out past the Sea of Cortez, “I work in Logan, most of the families there have low wage city jobs now.”
“What’s your point,” Juan took of his shirt.
“Pick up your average book about “Latinos,” they are still talking about the Chavez generation,” He finished his beer.
“It’s not important?” Juan opened two more.
“It is, and was, but that is not the Latino story anymore.” Viajero put a lime in his, “publisher are far behind they are lost.”
She looked out of the door as her boxing gloves and sweat dropped. Rosario was almost thirty and her professional fights had gone great. Still, people would not pay to watch her fight. Boxing would bring her just enough. She could train for free and get a little money to teach boxing but there was no future in it. Not for her but there was just enough money to go to college. Her dream had run its course and it was time to look to the future.
Rosario rubbed the Cristo de Misericordia hanging on her neck. It was over.
A saguaro forest flew past. Cynically silent, even the Spanish stations were static. Before the last fill-up, they had half a tank but didn’t want to mess with the desert.
“Should’ve brought the extra container,” Viajero sighed.
“There!” Juan’s smile faded, “more ghost towns?”
The gas light burned on, like another desert sun. Vultures circled landing on a coyote’s carcass. They held breath turning onto a dirt road. The engine sputtered near a roadside Madonna shrine rolling up then dropped only to stop after the hill. Two flat meters, they pushed, smiled only then, laughed.
Cortez’s Sea slipped onto summer dusk clinging to cold bottles.
“Your brother?” Viajero pointed to the dripping glass.
“You’re not sweating,” Juan put glass to his forehead, “why this trip?”
“Been doing stupid things,” Viajero sipped
, “roaming rough parts hoping something happens.”
“This isn’t rough,” Juan eyed the Hemingway-esque
“At home,” Viajero sighed, “lost my mind, I’m tired.”
“Anything happen?” Juan gestured for more beer.
“No,” Viajero opened another sweating bottle, “child asked if I’m a cop. Life just passes.”
Upstairs, their room was frigid. At morning, a scarlet desert dust tail trailed the car past Maria’s Shrine.
Crows circled the flaming sun over a Joshua Tree that pointed to what could be west. With the sun dead overhead, nobody could tell. The old man concluded his memories had left because of heat so followed the tree’s direction. The unseen town might know him. He started up a hill. Parched, he fell again and wondered if he would make it.
A car rolled to a stop, and hung a water jug out the window and it left. He drank recalling old words,
when I was thirsty you gave me drink.
He smiled at his twin crows, he was!
“Why not move here?” Viajero viewed the fishermen.
“And do what?” Juan dug into his shrimp omelet.
“Don’t know,” Viajero glanced at the waitress, “what am I doing in America? Working? Getting old?”
“Am I different?” Juan stared as the
took their boats out that purple morning.
“Why return, there’s nothing for us?” Viajero gazed at a vacant plot, “only work to for corporations.”
“They’re people,” Juan turned back to his friend, “in that land of freedom.”
“We’re free here, could just enjoy a simple life.”
Viajero gazed at the blue Baja sky. “Aren’t people meant for that anymore?”
From the window, dark eyes glared at the road. Why did she believe a tourist might return?
“No seas tonto!”
she turned away. “Stupid dreams,
Pendejadas de libros!
” She thought of Rosa now holding a child. “I’m too old,” she cleaned the counter again. “He was clumsy, nervous and… sweet.” She rubbed
pendent. “He’s 39, fat, maybe one who frequents…” Belle sensed then smelled him.
“Let’s do it,” his hands onto her nude tan shoulders, “get married and go,” then pecked her cheek tasting her day’s work.
On the dirt
smiled and desert bird sang.
Viajero sat at the café, the one near the Victorian homes and common skyscrapers. Alone in the crowded place, he collect his thought. His life had returned to that boring existence that human share with an ant colony. He sipped his cappuccino enjoying the burned aroma, the natural sweetness of the beans. Around him were other insects working to survive in comfort yet never accomplishing anything.
He was back and had written what he could remember of his trip but it was over. His inspiration was now on paper until the next trip. In his mind, he was a hero.
Pale, page punctured his eyes. All had been written, but he promised 100 words. Could inspiration come from his room. There was a world map, an Okinawan Doll, overhead, three diplomas in Kanji, his bicycle, used and broken in. He stared at the Japanese calligraphy translated to, “Though we are oceans apart, we are of the same heart.”
Out the window he saw sterling and elegant clouds on the indigo sky. Soon it would rain. The coral flowers, the golden poppies, and purple sages would return. Nectar would saturate the breeze with fairytales. When they did, he would be King.
“You cannot write a story in 100 words!” Jake’s raised his voice.
“Depends,” Viajero leaned back, “children stories are less than 100 words.”
“They have picture.” Jake pointed to a poster, “1000 words remember!”
“A story is an event told for entertainment,” Viajero smiled, “any event.”
“It needs conflict, characters need to do something?”
“Would you like a resolution too?” Viajero’s smile widened.
“Yeah, and don’t give me that “Baby shoes crap!” “Starving man fished,” Viajero ordered another beer, “at night ate.”
“Conflict, action, and resolution,” Viajero laughed.
“Bartender, another round,” Juan shook his head, “I’m still not convinced.”
The children got into the water wearing the white pajamas and colored belts. There were not a lot of them only 3 little girls and 2 boys that day. As their instructor kneeled, so did the students and in the San Diego waters, they closed their eyes and breathed.
They opened their eyes and stood. Training, early morning knee-deep in water is hard. Nobody complained. For three hours they moved in those soaked uniforms. As they closed their eyes again, Sensei proudly looked at them, they would always be interesting, they would do things, and become legends.
As a part-timer, you struggled to improve your life but you’re Sisyphus, pushing that boulder up the hill. Standing over six human cadavers teaching a class few qualified to teach you come to realize that it doesn’t matter, like the corpses you could be replaced tomorrow.
Your father dies and you place him in the ground of his birth-land realizing how much you will miss him. You return to the dead bodies.
Screw it, you give notice. Never again will you rely on an Adjunct professor’s pay. Never again will you grovel in safety. That began your great Karate Adventure.
“If there’s an afterlife,” the lobbyist cut into his blood rare steak, “think you’d possibly go to heaven?”
“Never did anything that bad.” The CEO coughed.
“Ha! We’ve broken every commandment of every religion,” the lobbyist smiled. “Not judging just honest, your only choice, become immortal.”
“But to eat people?” CEO sipped his wine.
“We started wars, famines, poisoned villages, forced people to work to death, coveted, stolen and how many times have you been married?” Lobbyist laughed, “you’ve already eaten many people.”
“Vampirism seems a difficult life,” he soaked the blood on his plate with rice, “what’ll it cost?”
“Sensei, when am I moving up?” Pablito asked.
“If you continue as you are maybe in two weeks.” Sensei cleaned his feet.
“Two weeks,” Pablito’s eyes dripped, “but you said I’ve done everything right this week.”
“This week, you have but it’s not about one week.” Sensei stood, “you’ve neglected your training up until now so have to prove to me that you will continue to improve.”
“But if I can do it, then why not move me up?” The little boy pleaded.
“It isn’t about the next rank but about improving every day.” Sensei wondered if that lesson helped.
A month after I buried my father, I gave my boss 2 months notice, maybe I would have done it anyway but the sudden death and the finding out he was dead three hours after he died made everything seem unimportant. I still remember returning and staring at the faces of the cadavers I taught anatomy out of. When the class ended, I jumped into my car and left. That was the beginning of a memorable odyssey. It took me to the shores of Okinawa where I found my sanity. Okinawa became a home and my teacher were my family.
I got off the monorail and walked to the Rutan pond. The scarlet Shuri castle reflected off of the water.
“Good, you found it, best view of Shurijo,” a man in a saffron happy shirt decorated with hibiscus and veraneras got off his scooter, "where from?"
“Konishiwa,” I smiled, “from San Diego.”
“American, you having a good time on Okinawa?” he leaned on a rail.
“A great time,” I said, “everyone extremely friendly. Unfortunately it’s half over.”
“Look at that flower, has it wilted?” he pointed to a small red bud. “No, enjoy it for the time you have.”
I looked at the picture of my teacher and remembered the first time I met him. He had taken me into his house and never held back information. My Sensei was powerful, much more than you would have expected from someone in their 70’s but even immortal leave this world. As I stood training under his friend and student, I realized how lucky I was to meet such a great man. He was always teaching always studying. He understood the science of the human body better than anyone I knew, he was a martial artist, I was a biologist.
As he slept, Raf recognized the floor where he was laying next to his parents’ bed, his first memory. The explosions weren’t fireworks and the evil sound repeated that repeated, rat-tat-tat-tat-ata, then again, and again. It now made him wonder how many people died. His parents and sister were on the floor next to him. His brother cried while nestled in their mother’s arms. Raf knew he should be scared but found comfort in the split tile. He traced it with his three-year-old finger. 36 years later, his life was still haunted by that scared child on a ceramic floor.”
Long ago, travelers set out trekking long and near and along arterial grooves of forest, forging pristine paths. No companions, even squirrels and birds hid. One figure viewed the cycads, pines, and jade banyans before a school.
“What do you teach?” he bowed.
“I am of this Ryu.” The Sensei smiled. “Come, we’ll learn together!”
During his stay, he formed familial bonds.
Under a sapphire sky, near the sparkling waterfalls, birds and many butteries fluttered. A polished Bushi walked carrying all he owned. A lone tear rolled, trailed off, a drop onto dirt. Feet fell heavy, crushing blades of grass.
My favorite café sat on the edge of a neighborhood crowned by the Victorian homes which defiantly stood surrounded by the pseudo-novo buildings, remade of disposable technology which littered the sky. Once they had been classic edifices, but had been “renovated.”
In Newspeak, “renovated” meant violated to a wooden skeleton. The fractured cadaverous remains were molded to twisted conformity.
Every shop and restaurant had converted to the cancerous conformity of a communist municipality from an eighties movie. With the gaudy facelifts, the ghost of gamblers and Madam Bailey and her girls remained, tortured by corporate lawyers and they purchased politicians.
The Tip Jar