Coyote III

Location: San Jose California, USA

Each day I find new revelations about the Guadalupe River Walk. I have found a second statue of the old Coyote god, this time making the classic coyote howl. So if anyone asks me what do I think of San Jose, I can say that the Coyote still has a presence here, and if you are attentive, you can find pointers on walking the Coyote Way.

So was the convention successful? Yes by working the art show, I did not have to make a deep search to find my old friends and comrades, I met them through chance encounters when they came to view the art. As a program participant, I got to be behind the podium and pretend to be an expert. I also got to have a bio online, so I did not have to explain to everyone that I was now living in the Yucatan. And as an art show participant, I not only had the pleasure of having  people view my art, but also experienced the deeper pleasure of having my artwork purchased and finding a place in an appreciative home.

More Coyote

Location: San Jose California, USA

Further explorations of the Guadalupe River Walk. I revisit the Coyote statue and discover that it was erected in honor of the old Coyote god of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, the indigenous people who lived here before the Spanish arrived. The Muwekma are still among us and it is comforting to know that the Coyote is still revered in the area.

As I walked further along the river bed I discovered the the Guadalupe River emerges as a wild river before becoming a concrete channel. Here are un-manicured trees, rocks, and a free flowing stream. It is a wild area, but on the banks there are “No Trespassing” signs.

At the convention, I am working the art show. And today is the last day of art show bidding and a process known as the sweeps. Most of the art is for sale and has a bid sheet with a minimum bid listed, and room for up to six bidders to place their bids. If there are six bids, the piece goes to auction, otherwise the last bidder gets the piece.

Most of the bidders are hoping to get the piece they want for the lowest price, but there is always the danger that someone will outbid you. Here the bidding closes at noon, so just before noon, we have the spectacle of the bidders hovering around to artwork to protect their bids. When we do the sweeps, we shoo away the bidders and mark the final bids. Up until the final moment, there is high tension and sometimes high drama around the contested art.

Later in the day I do a panel on “Travel as Transformation” I am the only USA born person on this panel, and it is an interesting mix of cultural perspectives.

The Coyote Way

Location: San Jose California, USA

Each morning we make choices. Yesterday I wore a fancy steampunk hat, today I decided to wear my “Walker Lake Coyotes” T shirt.

My hotel is about a half mile from the Convention Center and I decided to take the scenic route along the Guadalupe River hiking trail. This sounds more bucolic than it actually is.  On the right, there is the river itself. I can see that they have engineered for a substantial amount of water flow, but now it is only six feet wide and runs in a concrete channel. On the left there is a modest homeless camp. For someone used to walking forest trails to get to breakfast, this is an interesting urban perspective.

But the highlight of my journey was when I got off the trail to get back to the city streets, there was a pillar with bronze coyote on top.  Perhaps this is indeed going to be a coyote day.

Indeed a few minutes later I stopped by a hotel for breakfast, and was invited to join an old acquaintance, Larry Niven, the science fiction author of “Ringworld” fame. I ordered a side of bacon and some coffee. The coffee arrived quickly, but the bacon, not at all. No problem, I simply went to the buffet, grabbed a plate and helped myself to the bacon. This is called doing it the Coyote Way

The artist’s life for me

Location: San Jose California, USA

I am at the artist’s reception for the art show. It is always fun hovering around one’s art, seeing people admiring one’s art, and announcing to them, “I’m the artist who made these.” It is not until much later I remember one of my photography instructors, who during one of his less than flattering critiques, recalled a time when his three year daughter, pointed to a pile of poo in the toilet and proudly announced, “I made that.” Nonetheless, if people like it, who am I to complain.

Is life science fiction or fantasy?

Location: San Jose California, USA

Science Fiction is about the future. But for me science fiction is about re-connecting with the past, where I spent a quite a bit of my time and energy organizing, running and participating in science fiction conventions. Indeed, there are quite a few people who know me in no other context. My goals for the World Science Fiction Convention isn San Jose, CA were to be a program participant, show in the art show, and help run the convention.

James the Tourist

Location: Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico

On most days in the Yucatan, I cater to tourists, but tonight I got to be a tourist myself. I stayed at the Hotel Luz de Yucatan. I got the last room available, and it seems to be the premium accommodation as it has its own roof garden. The hotel key ring has a beer opener and they offer two complementary bottles of beer (Montejo) with the room. This kinda sets the tone for the stay. I checked in at 8:20 and then headed down to the square to find the Noche de Leyendas (Night of Legends)  which commenced at 9 PM.

The Night of Legends is an event where tourists can watch costumed performers present some of the history of the Maya, Merida, the burning of the codices, and to walk in candle lit old passageways. There were about 75 in the group, almost all non-Maya Mexicans.  I had no idea that Merida was such a tourist spot for Mexican nationals. The tour was interesting with people in costumes keeping them informed and amused. I have admit that I did not get the full experience, as I only understood a fraction of the Spanish spoken. Still not bad for my first night of being a tourist.

May I have a word with you?

Location: Davidson, North Carolina

Poets and writers have a deep understanding of Mark Twain’s famous quote, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
But sometimes we have to make do with the language that we have available.

I am currently at a conference on the Maya listening to academics. Here many of the speakers use a language appropriate for their fellow professors, graduate students, and specialists, using such words as, phenomenological, and sociopolitical. Where I feel weirdly taken back in time to my grad student days four decades ago. Then words like lexicographical, where I am as baffled as anyone else and try to figure out the meaning by by inference and context. Then I had to look up the word nescience, and was sorry I did.

As the owner and host of an inn for world travelers.  I often end up communicating with people who have limited English. Here my extensive vocabulary can be a handicap. If the people I am talking to cannot understand the “right word,” then it is really not the right word at all.

When I am with the guests, I open my mouth and begin speaking as my brain forms a collection of words to give my thoughts and stories a voice. But, as I am speaking the first sentence, I realize that a word I want to use in the next sentence is not likely to be understood. Here my brain searches my vocabulary list for an appropriate alternative, meanwhile making eye contact with my listeners, keeping a conversational tone, and trying to look like I know what I am talking about.

I feel much like the proverbial intelligent millipede, who fears that if he pays too much attention to any one leg, he is likely to misstep and stumble over his own feet. Somehow I manage to finish the story and smile, hoping that my listeners have no idea of the convolutions my brain goes through to tell a simple tale. Nescience? Hah!

Departure from Guatemala

Location: Guatemala City, Guatemala

We have two full hours before our planes take off, and the group always tries to squeeze in an extra museum. We visit the Museo Popol Vuh.  Wonderful artifacts here, even thought they are not exactly sure where many of them came from. You can see some the ancient ocarinas and hear a soundtrack of modern musicians playing music from them. I am deeply attracted to an Early Classic stone carving of an hallucinogenic toad.

When I was a young lad, we used to refer to the kid who got to ride in the front seat of the car to the right of the driver as riding shotgun. Some kids felt that if they were the first to call out, “I claim shotgun.” it would better their chance of securing this coveted place. Sometimes this worked, sometimes it did not. But we never really asked why was it called riding shotgun  and no firearms were actually distributed. Imagine my surprise when I saw a truck in Guatemala City carrying choice cuts of meat with a driver on the left and a man carrying a shotgun on the right. Perhaps those who long for the good old days of Wyatt Earp, could find a home in Guatemala.

With this, my Guatemala adventures came to an end, then on the plane to Las Vegas for a different cultural experience.

A day of rest and recovery

Location: Antigua, Guatemala

We are still in Antigua. Several in our party have had a case of the runs, and last night was my turn. I take some Loperamide, drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest. By mid-afternoon I am back to my normal self. It is a good thing that today was a free day, so I just take my time exploring the city.

Street in Antigua, Guatemala

I saw some interesting craft shops and found some more masks. I visit the old public laundry where there are about twenty stone basins where the local ladies came to do their wash.

Public Laundry at Antigua, Guatemala

We spend our last night out at a fancy restaurant and get rowdy and tell stories and give our farewells.

Marta, our group leader, telling stories