Writing when you travel, it’s freaking hard!

I am having a creative meltdown … or just a massive case of traveling itch, Blog Land. I’m off to Turkey, then jumping on a plane to Paris and then maybe doing a weekend trip to England. I have no idea what I am doing — I mean, technically some of it involves videography and art — yet I am concerned about managing my writing time. I barely did any when I went to see family for 2 weeks in March.

I head over to my laptop or bring a small notebook with me, the BLAM! – something happens. Sometimes I have to lock myself in a room, but then family or friends get concerned because I should be relaxing or in vacation mode…and they don’t understand sitting down to write. It’s quite impossible with Peruvians who want to feed and get you drunk all the time.

Also, when I travel – there are wonderful mundane things happening all around me. If my brain could produce bubble thoughts, it would be ongoing and non stop with – sunsets, dance classes, brunches, conversations with people who are not tourists, me trying to order croissants at a bakery, Metro riding, or seeing the moon from a different part of the world. Sometimes it doesn’t look like a man’s face…like in Perú, for example, the moon looks like lips blowing you a kiss, for example. And I want to write it all down, but sometimes just looking at something is enough. Other times there are no ways to describe the atmosphere, and you have to LIVE.

So how do I focus?

I don’t know. This is an experiment. I will try to make it my prerogative to not be such a creeper on this trip and actually try to make friends with the interesting people, I tend to just write about. Maybe some of them will be writers. Maybe some of them could give me tips. And then I can share these tips on this blog.

Only time will tell. Leaving in April, coming back in May. I should have something to share.

And to answer your question (the one I am assuming you are asking), I am going abroad because I am running away from responsibilities that don’t involve writing or art. You know, growing up, getting a real job, and etc. etc. etc. I think a workaholic who has been sitting behind a desk for a little over a year should be allowed to have a meltdown at least once in their lifetime – or at least once per decade. Here is my thirties meltdown!

I’m just lucky enough to have my meltdown be a creative one, and not…like…heroin. I’m also lucky I have family and friends in these places to house me. Otherwise that would suck. I’m going to destroy my savings and eat with my credit cards. Bring it on world!

#WritingAbroad

reporting from peru

I´ve been staying in Peru these past few days trying to figure when I can find a writing hole/escape in Lima, and so far Barranco seems the most fun. Why? There´s a cluster of all types there, thiefs, rich, tourists, weirdos, sex addicts, various generation, denominations, immigrants, artists, clowns, and finally damn good sea food. I found a hut on a hill, and I think maybe I will try and do some research online on how I can find me a two week getaway to focus on the novel next time I am down.

I don´t think one should wait to get invited to a retreat to start working hard. We must be proactive and Peru is pretty inexpensive.

It´s either Barranco or my grandmother´s house in Callao…but frankly, that place is full of nut jobs and I hardly have time to think.

We will see.

Returning to the states in two days. What a world!

Forgetting to love

Hi Blog Land.

I am having a bit of trouble getting my characters to fall in love, or to display “real” love…between “real” people. I don’t know if this is because my relationships have been precarious, or if it’s because I am currently riding on a different wavelength from my partner. We are going through a nasty hump, but it’s nothing to be dramatic about. We are both aware of it and just allowing each other to express the apathy that comes after being with someone for over six year. Ugh, you smell! Ugh, walk faster! Ugh, ugh, ugh! You know what I’m talking about; trivial situations that don’t really mean anything. Or at least don’t really amount to anything that means we are horrible people. Passive aggressive, yes. Weird, yes. Unwilling to grow up, definitely.

My poor characters meet in high school, and they have a child during their last semester. Although I know someone who’s gone through this situation –what I’m really having trouble is, getting into the mind of my male character. Why? Because he also will also enlist in the army. I have interviewed two veterans in this process, and quite frankly the military experience is a sensitive subject. Aside from there being a lot of different titles in the Army, there are also some topics that were really uncomfortable for some of my subjects. I wonder if this is the character I must let go of. It hurts me to say this, but he might be. Or maybe I can work more on my lead character, and focus on him afterwards. Right now, they’re not gelling.

They always end up in some argument in my head, or some dramatic situation that causes my character to do something extreme, which frankly doesn’t fit my current style.

Maybe I’m afraid to go there.

Well, we’ll see where it goes. If you have any good suggestions about the development of love – please share. I have a good idea of my experiences, but sometimes it’s good to get some feedback outside of my personal circle. Ugh, this feels like the time my male acting teacher stood in front of class and asked me to imitate his sexy walk. Apparently, I sucked at being a sexy woman. My life!

Alrighty.

Back to people watching and eavesdropping.

Welcome to 2014!

IMG_3120
My grandmother’s AGUADITO soup and Ceviche. A reason to LIVE!

The New Year! A metaphorical station in life where you can feel like you can start anew and everything in the last unlucky numbered year DOES NOT count. It just doesn’t! That terrible date you went on with that guy who ended up asking you for gas money – Forget about it! The money you let your cousin borrow before he left for Mexico with no word or update on his whereabouts. Forget about it! The extra pounds you gained after your neighborhood opened a new cookies and ice cream place around the corner. Forget about it! The overpriced satin sheets you bought at Bed and Bath thinking it was time to be mature and make a new change to find that have lost it somewhere in your overcrowded closet  —  FORGET ABOUT IT!!! This is no longer about those days, everything is now different because it is now 2014. Can I get a high-five? Ugh, I’m so 90s sometimes. But in all honesty, I had crappy last couple of months in 2013, and it was nobody’s fault but mine. That’s the truth, but it doesn’t change the fact that they were mostly crappy – that is (OF COURSE) until I made my way to South America for December.

Peru in December! I went to see my grammy and the rest of the fam-bam. The trip twas  fun, educational, and wild. But what else to expect from family? I guess since I’m a writer, I am like also the therapist in our family and I learned so much (too much) about my auntie’s sex life. She even modeled one encounter with her baby daddy using a toy from her son’s crib. I have never seen pornography be applied to a plush doll in that way before. I ended up crying from laughter while she demonstrated and her husband turned red from the very vivid descriptions. I also have a new cousin (as a result of her demonstration), and he was pretty awesome. He liked to pretend talk with me, and though most of the time he just ate and farted I knew that deep down inside, he was saying I love you so much cousin! 

I also went to see my uncle’s graveyard, he passed away recently. The family was really sad about the whole thing, and we paid our respects to him. Then looking back at our photos, I realized that the entire family was posing next to the wrong grave. : / We had all, for some reason, gravitated towards some dude’s graveside who had huge balloons and a cup of Cuzqueña beer beside him. We had a good laugh about it. Just another way our ancestors make fun, I suppose.

During the trip, I lost another family member in the states. Man it was a tough December, Reader. I carried on memories of my family, our loss, our memories, our new family members with me when I went over to Brazil.

Brazil shook my spirit up. Salvador, Bahia is no joke. I couldn’t believe the amazing people, the amazing food, the amazing hosts, and the amazing dreams I was having during my stay there. I went through a transformation that was both earthly and spiritual. It was an experience that allowed me to connect with my pain, my desire to learn, my connection with the earth, and with my family. Moreover, I kept being reminded that in the end all that matters is the time you are given and what you make with it. I mean, how are we using our time? Have you asked yourself this?

Are you spending it being angry?

Are you spending your time regretting the what if moments?

or…

Are you leaning over and kissing the one beside you?

Are you listening to your grandmother’s story? I mean, REALLY listening?

Are you reminding yourself of all your blessings? Asset, friends, business, travel experiences, food on the table, etc. etc. etc.

There are miracles everyday really. We just have to open ourselves to them. In Brazil I found out, that they reveal themselves often, but it’s up to us to listen – to open our eyes and to connect the dots. Everywhere we go, there are signs.

I returned home and boom – back to work! Though in all honesty, Reader, I feel as though the magic I was able to encounter in Perú and Brazil is still with me. I may not be a guru, or a priest or anything but I have learned a few things for 2014. You have one life in this realm. One life that you are fully aware of in this moment. One life to remember you as you are right now. What do you want to carry with you in your bag of life? 

Here are some things I don’t want to carry in my bag of life for 2014: meandering without reason, allowing people to say sexist/racist things in my presence, hate towards my soft soft skin, bullying, gossips, damage, rumors, second-guessing, and so much more.

I urge you to check out what you carry with you in your bag of life. The more you make it obvious to you – the more you can control it. Here are things I do want to carry this new year: sunsets, inspiration, laughter, friendship, creativity, good books, bacon cupcakes, forgiveness, family, love letters, saluting my elders and ancestors, and so much more.

But the number one thing I want to do this year is LESS TALKING AND MORE DOING. May you have fantastic adventures this new year, Reader. Write on!

Vegas Bound

Vegas Picture from Google

Tomorrow my family is going to wake up at 4:00am to make a four hour drive to Las Vegas, Nevada. My grandpa (who’s in town just for the holidays) picked Vegas over Disneyland.    I respect his decision, but I worry about the effect Sin City will have on him. He’s 78. The man has seen A LOT in his life, but nothing like Vegas. I hope the street advertisements won’t shock him too much.

Urgh….I just had some pollo a la brasa and inca cola with the fam. The soft drink has me a bit wired, and naturally I can’t sleep right now. Totally my bad.

I sit here in the small dinning room trying to collect my thoughts about our trip tomorrow, but realizing that I carry with me some anticipation/anxiety about Vegas. In the next room my sister watches Dangerous Minds, in the bathroom my little brother showers for the first time this week, outside my mother is doing some last minute laundry, and in the bedroom my stepdad just hit the hay.

I have to wake up in three hours and forty five minutes to wash up and drive the family in our caravan trip to Vegas. Wish me luck Blog Land, for I have a feeling I will have lots to report when I get back.

Going to be blunt: a failed poem because I am not a poet.

I am sick of your bullshit.

Sugar coating things that have to be said.

Putting me down, because you’re stuck in your head.

Balls to the wall, “I don’t mind…I can wait, (just breathe, I say:) it’s okay.”

                                                        I lied.

                                                                 I lied to your face.

                                                                         (Much worse) I lied to my brain.
I can smile through confusion and give it a go,

Everybody here doesn’t really have to know.

I somberly wait for a change in your mood,

but you’ll always see me as the girl from tha’ hood (wherever the frack that is)

                                        You’ve pegged me.

                                                                 I’m your recent charity-

                                                                           work, work, work even harder-me.

                                                                                                        While you collect your new subsidies

At times you deceive me with eyes that are brittle,

I’ve to remember you don’t think me as equal.

And yet here I am doing your bidding,

while pushing aside the things I am dreaming.

Here I go. 

Here I go, friend! You say—and you fly off so high!

In a bright red balloon: I painted with pride.

Above and away, on that balloon I inflated.

You forgot my ticket? (she must of forgot,)

                                                        for I refuse to be hated.

I’ll deny the face in the mirror her past:

When younger she knew that nothing could last.

The looks, the looks, the looks that they gave–

could, in just a second, tear down this brown maid.

                              She is so nice.

                                         She is so pretty.

                                                          She will do anything to rise with her city. 

                                                                     I carry it with me, wherever I go—-

                                                                             Bellavista, L.A., and the valley of San Fernando–BUT

Let’s be blunt.

 Meantime, far far far away, the traveler floats

Down from the ground, this brown maiden gloats.

The fruits of her labor can for themselves attest.

For her creative integrity cannot be possessed.

That is why in bondage will she always have freedom.

To know who she is because of where she’s come from.

This girl is no longer attached to a lie.

She sees who she is, and she feels so alive.

 

                     The the color of her skin

                                      The flavor of her food

                                                        The passion of her song

                                                                      Breaks down that bad mood.

                                                                                      Breaks it all, tired bones. 

                                                                                                        Brakes. 

I am sick of your bullshit, she heard herself say.

But thankfully the balloon was flying away.

Oakland Airport = So chilll…

I flew out of and into Oakland airport for the first time this past week. I even left my little tic tac behind (that’s my car) in their economy parking lot, just because I wanted to be an independent woman.

I have to say, Oakland Airport is one of the chillest (chill in that it’s relaxing) airports I’ve ever been too. My flight was delayed, which gave me enough time to notice/linger towards the nice little bar by my gate. I took some time to bond with Cardinal fans on Thursday night and watched their game while I sipped on something I let the bartender lady/queen give me because I was feeling adventurous.

I looked around at this small world, and admired all the interesting people around me. Here are some small interesting people observations. I couldn’t catch them all because I was too busy sipping on my brew:

– There is something primal about football fans. I find it beautiful when absolute strangers can bond over the color of their shirts.
– The woman who did a crossword puzzles at the bar mesmerized me, in a creepy way.
– There were two Latina/Hispanic/Brown ladies next to me while I charged my computer at the gate, and one of them kept looking over at my screen. The only interesting thing about her was that she was nosy. Other than that, I wanted to cough on her face to get her away from me.
– SouthWest is weird, in that they make you feel like cattle when you line up to enter their craft. Although we moo’d our way to the plane, I have to say most of the heifers around me kept to themselves. And I like that. Especially because I had been so stressed lately.

Life was just playing itself out in slow motion. And who am I to complain if the cosmos don’t want me to arrive somewhere on time?       Thank you, Oakland.     You forced me to relax on a stressful day. You said, “No Lis, you are going to sit your a$$ down, read that Creative Writing Magazine you’ve been meaning to crack open, and have yourself a nice cold beer. And you’re not going to complain about it either.”

And honestly, what’s to complain about? The best part of the night was allowing myself to accept the fact that dinner consisted of barbecue chips and beer.

Hollah!

Ernest Hemingway lived here

A few days ago, I wandered into a small town within the Latin Quarter of gay Paris. In that town, between a mosque and the Pantheon, I found Ernest Hemingway’s old pad.

Hemingway happens to be one of my favorite American writers—mainly because of his memorable quotes that are great for all writers (aspiring and/or experienced) to read. Have you read any of his work? His stuff is fearless, in a way, and it is also a complicated style that can be interpreted in multiple ways. Well, it’s complicated for a lot of other reasons. For one thing, some critics consider him to be a sexist writer; a male-chauvinist to be exact. It’s hard to dispute that argument because of the way he portrayed some of the women in his stories. However, (and this—I think—overshadows this negative perception of him) —- Hemingway was simplicity at its finest.

What does that mean? Well, Reader, it means that if at first glance his work might come off as repetitive, later it can reveal itself to be beautiful and full of technique. The man is memorable, quotable, and thanks to Woody Allen’s recent interpretation of him in Midnight in Paris — we can all imagine how incredibly charismatic and seductive he can be with his syntax.  Although, the character in the film was a satirical view on Hemingway, I tend to believe Woody is capability of grasping the essence of this man/writer/legend/person…etc. etc. etc.  Let’s not forget that he was handsome back then too.

All in all, the man knew how to tell a compelling story. In my imaginary world, if you were to cut Hemingway’s flesh he would bleed ink.     Okay, now I will stop drooling and admiring  and just say PICK UP  A BOOK if you haven’t already, and get to know this author.

Here are some clever Hemingway quotes.

* * *

Oh, Paris, you never disappoint. Ernest Hemingway lived in that building, he probably smoked a cigarette outside that door, leaned on that wall, took a leak somewhere around that corner, and walked up those stairs.   He was there, and, for a couple of minutes, I got to live in that space. I stood there wishing that I would somehow grasp onto one of his muses. Hopefully, she has been diligently waiting somewhere in that building for someone like me. Someone to latch onto. If I were Hemingway’s muse, I know I’d sure be missing him by now.

France

Dear Reader,

Above is a picture I took while eating dinner today. I am in Paris, and it feels like a city, any other city in the world.    Just kidding. No, it really does not. From the spunky waiter who gets frustrated if you don’t say “bonjour,” to the expensive cheese sandwiches — there is no place like Paris, France. I love it here. People won’t take your sh*t, and thanks to Polly Platt (writer of French or Foe?) I learned that a smile DOES NOT go a long way. What an obtuse observation Madame Platt.  Apparently, the French are not taught to smile from infancy. They are taught to work hard and be good citizens. A smile is given a lot of value. In fact, they believe Americans give away their smiles too easily. It’s something to be, how do you say, earned. Yes, Reader, EARN YOUR SMILING PRIVILEGES here in France. In fact, let me share some of Platt’s advice that has been helpful to me so far:

1. Say “Bonjour” at the beginning of your sentences when interacting with French people, and and “Au revoir” when you leave the conversation. They appreciate it a lot and give you better service.

2. If you use titles like “Monsieur” and “Madame”, you are treated better too. (Platt adds to never use messieurs-dames‎)

3. When you need help and you want to stop someone, just say–“Escusez-moi de vous déranger, M./Mme., mais j’ai un problem.” and if you don’t speak a lick of French say, “Je parle Anglais.” This basically means,  I am sorry to trouble you sir/madame, but I have a problem. You use their language, you do your best to be respectful, and you get results.

* When I left the airport on arriving here, I looked really desperate trying to find my way around.
People also notice you panicking, and a helpful person might stop to help you anyways.
Like yesterday, a drunk man got up from his post to point me in the right direction.
What an angel!

4. Kissing comes later, when you first meet people you shake hands.

5. They love conserving energy, which is why DIM LIGHT is the way to go in Paris.

6. Flirting is absolutely normal. In fact, you are encouraged to flirt in order to get what you want. It’s part of the culture! Oh, and she says to flirt with the EYES. Platt calls it THE LOOK. If you get THE LOOK from someone (some dude/dudette) staring at you in a non creepy way, but in a “There’s something about you,” way…take it as a compliment. I believe this is one instance when it is okay to smile.

7.  Okay, the smiling rule is kind of out of hand, in my opinion. I have encountered some of the younger generation in Paris, and I think some of them like to smile a bit more than the older generation. The thing is, culturally, when you smile at a complete stranger in France they are thinking the following things: (1) you are a hypocrite, (2) you are laughing/mocking them, and (3) you are flirting. So watch that smile! 😉

Read the book if you really want to have some insight on why Anglo, British, Americans and others believe the French to be rude. It’s not that they’re rude, it’s that we are different. Some things Americans do are considered rude. Like when a mess of us find ourselves in the Metro and decide to speak louder, louder and louder. Yeah, another thing you should know about the French. They are masters of whispering. They are soft spoken people. Which is why to them, we are screaming banshees sometimes.The book is interesting. I don’t agree with it entirely, but it has a good source of information.

I am writing next to a tall window in my hotel room. I can hear cars driving by, smog rolling in, people drinking and chatting away at the cafe across the street. Outside, people are saying “Salut” “bonne journée” and “Bonjour.”  It’s been absolutely amazing being here, the only buzz kill is this darn jet lag. Even with the lag, I can’t wait to leave my room again. The sun won’t set until 10pm tonight, and I am itching to go back outside. Thanks to Platt and the people around me, I am understanding the city its people. In the past, I always kept to myself and tried not to talk to locals for fear that I may butcher their language. Turns out, they’re going to hate you for being a foreigner anyways! Might as well practice your broken French and just mingle with some locals.

This is technically my first full day in Paris. What did I do?   I bought a baguette. Just a baguette. Then I rode the metro poking people left and right with the hard pointy ends.

Ah, it feels good to be here. I’ll keep you posted with interesting people reports. There are too many to focus on one at the moment.

A bientôt!

Waffle Hell House

A few nights ago I was in Tennessee with my bf and sister. It was one of our stops on our way back to California from our road trip.

We kept passing by big Waffle House signs on the road. They made extraordinary claims like, “BEST WAFFLES IN TOWN!” and showed images of nice fluffy waffles dripping with maple syrup. The smiling waitresses in the billboard promised a welcoming smile. I thought: Could such a place really exist?

We arrived in Nashville around midnight, hungry and tired. The Waffle House was the only establishment open other than McDonald’s. I’m not big on nuggets or burgers, Reader, did you know there’s ammonia in that food?

Anyways, so we go inside and the smell of fresh buttery batter infused our nostrils along with other amazing odors like sizzling bacon, fried sausages, crackling eggs, and the comfort scent of hash brown potatoes. All of these fragrances pranced about, and we delighted in the limitless possibilities and combinations.

The waitress looked over her shoulder because there were no tables available, just stool chairs, but we wanted to sit down and Eat—with a capital “E“, Reader. The road was long and hard (no pun intended). She takes one look at us and says, “A table should open up soon.”   And a moment later, one table does open up and an elderly couple quietly exit out with their canes. The table is wiped down, but when she finishes she forgets to tell us to sit down.

:/

We are tired from the road, so I ask the closest employee to me–the cook– “Is it okay if we sit?” He sneers at the waitress and responds with a heavy grunt, “Yeah it’s okay. Sit down.”

We sit down. My sister walks over to the juke box and inserts one dollar. An investment she would soon regret. Among the music collection, this rock enthusiast is able to find Johnny Cash and Oldies (songs from the 50’s & 60’s). She settles for Cash, in hopes that the six tracks she has picked will delay any type of Christian Country Music. Nothing against the Christians, but sometimes that’s all the radio would play on the road. So there we were, listening to “Folsom Prison” and waiting for our menus.

After a few seconds of awkward silence and a good staring from the locals and other like minded visitors, I decide to go to the bathroom. I hoped, like Uma in Pulp Fiction (90’s reference, if you don’t know it — WATCH IT!), that in my absence someone would order my meal, so that when I returned—a hot plate of waffles with eggs and bacon would be waiting to be devoured by ME. Alas, we did not even get to order.

The Waffle House, was a Waffle Hell House, Reader! All those amazing smells, and nothing for us lowly Californians to enjoy. We got stares from other tables, the waitress practically ignored us, the cook was so nervous an angry with the two ladies he was working with, that he wasn’t cooking eggs properly. Eggs, Reader! One of the easiest things to master in the kitchen (in my opinion anyways). An order from another table was returned, and we watched the waitress push the clear slime goo off the plate with a random fork in the sink. Where are we? Why are we being tortured? 

My boyfriend’s eyes were slightly glazed, he blinked and looked around — Was nobody going to help us? Why couldn’t we order food? The cook was yelling at the two waitresses, but they could care less. Something must have happened before we entered the establishment, something REAL bad. The mood in the room suddenly became clear: anger, disappointment, disagreement, miscommunication—etc. etc. etc. All those little dramas we all have in our daily lives in a nice package of three, and for everyone to see! I mean, the kitchen was the diner — there’s no way you could not see the mess.

That siren! That killer siren of a billboard!, I thought to myself. Where was our smiling waitress?  My Nashville waffle dreams were ripped apart. Right behind the waitress we saw waffles burning, the timer was ignored, the beeping noise resounded like a time bomb in the cook’s head–in all of our heads, the burnt eggs were scrapped off the flat burner with rough passive aggressive strokes, the flies collected around the trash (they received more pleasure than I did that night), the Tennessee Goth kids in the table next to us leered with disgust, a couple clutched onto their belongings on the other side of the room, a man who looked like a cowboy slept under his sunglasses (it was midnight!), the lights flickered from bad energy, Cash kept singing the blues, and the music weighed us down as if it was sucking our soul dry.

After the second song, we left. All my sister could say, “Well, there goes my dollar.”

That night, the food devil won, and we drove our tired selves to a McDonald’s and ordered chicken nuggets, or as I’d like to call it: food for zombies.