Candyman's Latest thoughts

Feb. 16, 2016
  
Jannelle Wilkins & Rick Mera

We are very saddened by the sudden death of our dear friend Rick Mera (age 67) on April 30.  In the February 2012 Newsletter we introduced you to Rick and his wife Jannelle.  Although they live in Monteverde, they came here for a week in January to house-and-dog-sit for us while Michael went to the States for Billy's funeral and Life Celebration.  On the day we arrived back in Costa Rica, Rick picked us up at the airport, cooked dinner for us, and then listened patiently and intensely all evening to me talking about Billy.  I will be forever grateful for his thoughtfulness and sensitivity.

Rick was a kind, gentle, and compassionate man who taught Buddhist meditation.  A mutual friend, Mary Newswanger, said of Rick:

"Two weeks ago, after our Mindfulness Meditation at La Colina, I told Rick how much I appreciated his gentle nature, his insight and wisdom and his skill leading the meditation.  He said how much he appreciated what I said and I'm glad now I told him.  He gave so fully to so many of us and created a space of loving kindness and compassion, peace and grace.  What a gift he had.  What a gift he shared!"

From mutual friend Jude Gladestone Cade:

When you met up with Rick, it was always his smile, the smile in this photo, that caught your eye first. There was a certain way in which he listened that made you know he was present and in that moment with you. Advice was freely given and thought-full. His laughter matched his smile and yet it was a quiet laugh, like Rick, sort of quiet in a very comfortable way. He was always ready to help and opened his home to friends.  

Fortunately, we had lunch with Rick and Janelle just two days before he died.  He was his usual pleasant and smiling self, so it was a shock and hard to believe when we received the sad news.  This was the third death here in three weeks among our friends.  It seems that loss is all around.  Rick would counsel that we accept it as part of life.

Feb. 16, 2016
  
Jannelle Wilkins & Rick Mera

We are very saddened by the sudden death of our dear friend Rick Mera (age 67) on April 30.  In the February 2012 Newsletter we introduced you to Rick and his wife Jannelle.  Although they live in Monteverde, they came here for a week in January to house-and-dog-sit for us while Michael went to the States for Billy's funeral and Life Celebration.  On the day we arrived back in Costa Rica, Rick picked us up at the airport, cooked dinner for us, and then listened patiently and intensely all evening to me talking about Billy.  I will be forever grateful for his thoughtfulness and sensitivity.

Rick was a kind, gentle, and compassionate man who taught Buddhist meditation.  A mutual friend, Mary Newswanger, said of Rick:

"Two weeks ago, after our Mindfulness Meditation at La Colina, I told Rick how much I appreciated his gentle nature, his insight and wisdom and his skill leading the meditation.  He said how much he appreciated what I said and I'm glad now I told him.  He gave so fully to so many of us and created a space of loving kindness and compassion, peace and grace.  What a gift he had.  What a gift he shared!"

From mutual friend Jude Gladestone Cade:

When you met up with Rick, it was always his smile, the smile in this photo, that caught your eye first. There was a certain way in which he listened that made you know he was present and in that moment with you. Advice was freely given and thought-full. His laughter matched his smile and yet it was a quiet laugh, like Rick, sort of quiet in a very comfortable way. He was always ready to help and opened his home to friends.  

Fortunately, we had lunch with Rick and Janelle just two days before he died.  He was his usual pleasant and smiling self, so it was a shock and hard to believe when we received the sad news.  This was the third death here in three weeks among our friends.  It seems that loss is all around.  Rick would counsel that we accept it as part of life.

Jul. 27, 2015

I’m not blocked. At least I didn’t think so until I read, “On Writing,” Stephen King’s memoir and instruction book on the writing life. He was talking about a complex novel in progress (I have a complex novel in progress), when the words just stopped coming. (Ditto.) How was he going to finish/rewrite it? (Yep, that too.)  He used this blockage to ask himself the question, What am I writing about? And all of a sudden he’s talking about “theme” in novel writing. It’s a pretty good question.

My conundrum is the novel El Peon, my first long story and the first one to be challenged for the use of so much Spanish. Unchastened, I left most of it in. Art is different than genre, I thought. If Cormac can do it…blah, blah, blah. There are a number of other writerly flaws in Peon, which I periodically try to chase down and change. But it’s not that; it’s the story. How can it interesting without any violence or war or torture? My wife thinks it is. She thinks it is my best work thus far. And some other early readers do as well. Thanks to all. So why am I still naggling over it?

Peon was the subject of an earlier blog in which I concluded that one of the major settings needed to be a character in the story. The place had an effect on the other characters that was too important and too under developed in the original version. I still think so. As a result, I sat down and wrote a chapter (El Prólogo) of which I am inordinately proud. It has gotten me to the point of simulating Gaby Garcia, something I’ve had in mind for years. But what is Peon about?

Here is what I think: Peon has three protagonists, each a child in a manner of speaking, of Eduardo. Two of them imagine themselves as Eduardo’s victims. Each grows up in a Central America of explosive change. Metaphorically but also I think, realistically, I use the Free Trade Agreements (FTA) to symbolize those changes. Coming from Eduardo’s house, these three grow up in a traditional campesino culture. As young adults, they are presented with the changes in worldview, values and opportunities. The oldest, Guito, chooses a non-religious but spiritual path rooted in his love of nature. The second, Rigo, chooses a modified-but-still-traditional campesino path, (which still exists). The third, Aurelez, embraces the new world and becomes a psychiatrist and feminist author.

They live their lives in tension with each other and the world around them. In the end, Eduardo dies forgiven and all works out for the best. Not bad but not done. Answer the question, Dude. What is Peon about?

On the surface it is about the challenges facing peoples who are literally driven from one cultural milieu to another. We arrived in Costa Rica a couple of years prior to the FTA referendum. (As far as I know, CR is still the only country to have held a popular vote on the matter.) We chose to live in a very rural (no-Gringo at the time) part of the country. The choice provided us with a view of people living with traditional values in a land that has become a cell-tower farm, replete with Walmart and an osmotic seepage of the rest of the world’s values through the Internet. Almost all of my early stories dealt with the resulting tension.

There is no remorse in this blog. What happens happens. But the central tension has been how does one accommodate traditional values in the face of all of the change? Or, put otherwise, are traditional values of any worth other than a nostalgic piece of the national identity? Aurelez, takes on this challenge in her career and in her writing.

So, I suppose that is what El Peon is about. People live their lives. They have their failures and successes but they do so in a cultural context that can be quite disorienting.

Get on with it Dude.

Thanks to Lynette Hunt for the look-of-writerly-quandry photo.

Jul. 19, 2015

I follow a number of people on FB who have strong political, and largely opposite ideals, from each other. I actually share a large part of both of their values and many of their beliefs. And they are mostly friends or acquaintances. What I don't share, with either side, is the unrelenting and public focus on their own narrative to the exclusion of the opposite narrative, which contains the other half of truth. My guess is that in private conversation we could easily come to an understanding.

But FB is not private. What we see is what we get. And that fact has implications for political discourse.

The latest (apparent) polarization occurs over the two Southern massacres in Chattanooga and Charleston. One side reports Charleston and is outraged; the other reports Chattanooga and is equally outraged. It is as though each is saying, "When you kill my people, it pisses me off. But when yours are killed, it doesn't matter all that much." I know that these folks are too reasonable for any such conclusion to be actually true. But it's FaceBook, for Pete's sake. If you have it, show some balance and compassion.

 Here’s my two-cents: A real problem is that we are moving toward a society in which murder can replace political discourse. Of course, public safety is an issue, and so is the bigotry of both extremes, which seem to quietly tolerate murder of the other side. Let's focus on a whole problem rather than half.

Mike

 

Jul. 12, 2015

Like thousands of readers, I riveted to the arrival of Go Set a Watchmanfrom Harper Lee. It was her first novel that, in its rejection, spawned the culture-rattling, To Kill a Mockingbird. Published in 1960, Mockingbird’s narrator is the first-person “Scout,” Atticus’ six-year-old daughter. The story is astutely framed as the memory of a twenty something returning in the 1950’s. In Watchman, Scout (Jean Louise Finch) does return as a twenty-something. She finds her father crippled with rheumatoid arthritis and possibly a touch of dementia. True or not, Atticus is different. Atticus Finch is now a bigot.

The first reviews are dominated by the difference in the two Atticuses. And so are the comments to the NYT. These comments range from the, “Yeah, no surprise here,” brushoff, to thoughtful reminiscences of people who react with degrees of angst to the change in him. Some see the reality of hypocrisy in most of us reflected in the reality of old-man-Atticus:

The "contrasts" in Atticus are surely the reality of most peoples' lives. What one "stands for" and believes in, good or bad, are not always practiced…. How many people harbor racist or other unacceptable views but never act on or reveal them? Life is full of such imbalance.” Ken Russell

In Mockingbird, Atticus was the epitome of manhood. The movie image of him, alone and unarmed, guarding the jail to prevent the lynching is indelible. He set a bar for civility that would cause men in any society to sit up and learn. And he was a perfect father. The only thing that could have made him more heroic would have been that he was willing to risk his life for a principle even though he was racist. Not. Not a gut racist, anyway.

My Atticus Finch is flawless. It is an aspect of Mockingbird that has led some critics to assert it is a masterpiece of children’s literature and a fairy tale.

I want Mockingbird’s Atticus. Yet I’m drawn to commentators who relate the changes in him to the reality of the South of those times and these. Some hint of complicated childhoods in the 1940’s and ‘50’s and what Mockingbird—Atticus—meant to them. My mother, both good-hearted and flawed, took me to a movie in Atlanta, 1949. Its subject was a woman, “passing for white.” I think—perhaps through a rose speckled memory—it was her un-heroic way of introducing me to the flaw in our legacy.

The reviews-of-Watchman brouhaha revealed my attachment to an Atticus that was more than he could really be. Unexpectedly, it illuminated my inexplicable refusal to change my character, William Hoffman Zelaya, in The Oligarch. Doctor William is a flawless human being, if an imperfect guerrilla. Like Atticus, he stands up to racism and political oppression. I’ve lamented his perfection publicly for some time but seem incapable of making him more realistic. My William, like my Atticus, serves an author who needs his idealism more than his reality.