My previous post, “Another Fairy Tale” is now a feature of my art blog. The story started out as a drawing, developed into text and has become the basis for my painting, “They Played to Their Hearts’ Content.” For the pre-story (the actual drawings that led to the story), please visit my art blog at KayRodriques.com.
The wind rustled ever so slightly, gently bidding the little creature, “Come, come hither. Quick!” But the little creature was afraid to leave his hole in the canes. “Come on!” urged the wind. “Do you not hear the rumbling? Now’s the time to run. Run little one, run!” The little creature sniffed the air timidly. Something was amiss but he didn’t know what.
Story in progress … stay tuned for more in upcoming posts.
In the beginning, there was just the rain – rain all day and rain all night. Water ran along and beyond every hill and every canyon. On and on it ran until sea and sky merged together and became one. This is when Slender Bromeliad gave birth to River Mumma. Unlike her brothers and sisters, the ginger bromeliads, River Mumma, from her very inception, refused to stand still or to remain in one place.
When all of the ginger bromeliads’ water tanks were filled to capacity and brimming over, they would call out to one and all, telling us to come live with them in the cave. That is how I got there. Oh it was a magical place, filled with forests and rare understories. It was a perfect home for iguanas and mountain river fish and bromeliads.
Day and night, night and day, the ginger bromeliads and Slender Bromeliad collected rainwater. In the void, the chasm, the abyss of the caves, they all worked hard to keep Water Table level. While River Mumma roamed up and down the mountain and back, her mother and siblings stayed put, replenishing subterranean springs upon which Water Table balanced.
Life in Castle Cave
Rain collectors, as bromeliads are also known, arch their gutters into curves until they overlap to form tight, protective bowls. This is no easy feat and in fact, is really hard work. In a good year, they amass so much water that the creatures of the forest cannot help but find new ways to enjoy the bounty. Some of them even make their homes in the bromeliads’ slender stalks.
The first time Red Crab visited Slender Bromeliad’s castle, Slender Bromeliad was busy sunbathing. What seemed to be shutters to the castle turned out not to be shutters at all, but windows. And far from being closed, the windows were flung wide open. Red Crab climbed across the roof and down the wall near Slender Bromeliad. “Anybody home?” she called out. Slender Bromeliad ignored her. She inched closer sideways. “She can’t hear you,” came a voice from the gutters. Red Crab moved closer. “Are you a tourist or are you looking for a home?” “What?” responded Red Crab. “Are you looking to live here too?” asked Blue Damselfly, trying not to sound too hopeful.
The luxurious blue creature with iridescent wings was happy to see Red Crab. She knew she could count on her to provide nutrients for her larvae. She had, in fact, been waiting and hoping for company to arrive. When Blue Damselfly first made her way to the cave, Slender Bromeliad’s tank had been under the control of miscreants. Damselfly quickly put an end to that and all the miscreants disappeared. Now Blue Damselfly needed a new source of food for her larvae. Her host, Slender Bromeliad, was oblivious to all of this. She was too worried about her wandering progeny, River Mumma, who she heard, had taken the reflection of their cave and placed it firmly in Gold Mine for all to see. No good could possibly come of that.
River Mumma had become a main source of worry for Slender Bromeliad who no longer, if ever, had control over her last born. First there had been the business of all the fish children she spawned with iguana. Now there was the matter of her goings and comings and her late returns home. That had been okay during the rainy season. Now, however, a second season had arrived on the island and like River Muma, it too, seemed to be up to no good. The fish children that lived in the mountain streams were starting to talk. They said the sun was getting jealous of iguana and was getting hotter and hotter under the collar. They feared he might stop River Mumma from returning home one day. What they really were afraid of was that she would dry up, wither away, and then they too, would disappear. Worse yet, if she took the castle with her, the underground springs would dry up too.
They blamed it all on iguana for having tempted River Mumma to flow on out of the cave. They said iguana had tricked her into spawning fish in the lower rivers and even further below, in the salt laden sea. Lately, they claimed, he had taken to running pipes along her banks just to keep her close. It was he, they said, that kept her tethered to the golden table that shimmered and glowed and threatened to capsize any day now. He put her at risk and now she was in everybody’s crosshairs. River Mumma, of course, didn’t see any of this their way. She was merely charting her own course and beating her own path. And as for Pan, where would he find pipes in a land without pipes? None of this made sense, unless of course, the place ahd been bewitched by the fairies. Had it?
If you wish to read Part I of this tale, please click on this link.
Pan Tells His Story
Ford the river. Cross the Cockpits. Stop when you reach the fountainhead. This is where Fishman and Fishwoman hid the golden table and secured it for all eternity. If ever you should see a golden glow on the water, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s the sunlight glistening off the surface. It is Gold Mine, where Fishman and Fishwoman washed their gold and hid the golden table. Peer into the water and you are bound to see the empty squares, ruins from a world long gone.
Gold Mine is the section of the river that shimmers and glistens in the midday sun. It is River Mumma’s temporary resting place. Being part fish she roams from fountainhead to tributary, to sea and back, populating the river with her fish children.
At noontime you will find River Mumma reclining and playing with her many children. If ever you should see her sitting atop a large table in the middle of the river, beware. Do not look at her and do not let her see you either. Should your eyes meet hers, terrible things will happen. Most important of all, don’t ever try to capture her. If she is caught, the river will dry up. So please, forget I ever told you about the golden table, River Mumma and her beautiful, exquisite comb of gold. Follow me instead to the cave in the hill where Slender Bromeliad, River Mumma’s mother, lives.
I finished my story and read it in front of a live audience a few nights ago. Here is the revised and final version. You can see the draft here.
BART is crazy. You get on and there’s a guy with a knife frantically cutting up his backpack — with a knife, a short thick one like scuba divers use. You escape to the next car and find yourself seated next to a woman with no pants on! Just a top, with a long jacket is all she is wearing. You decide you had better strike up conversation with the crazy. You don’t want to anger her by leaving as soon as you get there. So you say hello, hoping she ain’t as crazy as you think she is. Maybe if you treat her like normal, she’ll act like normal. She asks if you have a cell phone she can borrow. Aww hell naw! If I give her my phone she may run off with it. I lie and say I don’t have one. She looks at me suspiciously, eyes narrowing. Aw shit, I’ve made her mad. “You must not have kids,” she says. “Cos if you did, you’d have a cell phone.” I lie some more and say I left it at home and only use it for emergencies anyway. That last part is true. The knife guy in the other car could be an emergency. Hell, this lady might be one too. You know what would be a real emergency? Being stuck on BART with no phone when shit goes down, and you just know shit’s gonna go down when you’re on BART.
Uhh, what is that guy doing, the one who just came from the knife car into ours? He is going straight for the red emergency button. Did knife guy do something even more bizarre than bring that knife out into the open on the train? New guy goes straight for the red emergency button. Is he going to make the train come to a halt like it does when you pull the emergency cord in New York City’s subway trains? If yes, that’s not too bright, because then we will all be stuck in an immobile train with knife guy.
Aw hell. I don’t believe what I’m hearing. New guy, who looks like he is as high as a kite, is asking the train operator for a band aid because he cut his finger. What kind of lunatic cargo is BART carrying this morning? Well, at least pulling the cord didn’t make the train come to a standstill.
Pantless wonder is still talking next to me. “I was in Russia. Got jacked every day. It’s worse there than here,” she says. Uh huh. Now I’m thinking, lady, why don’t you just get off this train already?
The train is pulling into a station. I look out. Fruitvale. I was planning to get off at the next stop and wait for another train. But Fruitvale? No thank you. I ain’t getting off here. A new set of crazies get on. One just plopped herself right down on the floor next to me, as if it’s a regular seat. Maybe I should have gotten off at Fruitvale afterall cos now that girl on the floor is starting to twitch and jerk like she’s crazy. Pantless wonder leans over. “She’s having a seizure,” she says. “Move over. I know what to do. I used to have them too.” “Lady,” I say. “This better not be more of your bullshit.” I yell for someone to pull the cord and let the train operator know we have an emergency. People are starting to stare at the girl and at my pantless lady. Aw jesus. I hope she didn’t come on the train without her underwear. She loosens the girl’s blouse and tells the people standing nearby to move over and give her room. I think she truly knows what she is doing. The girl is slowing down, thrashing about less. After a little while, she stops twitching. My pantless lady looks up at me and smiles. “Don’t think I didn’t see you pull out that phone just now,” she says. I respond, “I told you, I only use it only for emergencies.” “Well there’s gonna be another emergency if you don’t lend it to me now,” she threatens. Aw hell. I hand it to her.
I’ve been busy honing my creative writing skills at a series of free San Francisco workshops. Oh San Francisco, I love you! Free writing workshops and free art portfolio development workshops too? Oh, what with hiking and biking and writing and painting and work too, I’ve had little time to write for We Were Nothing. I apologize for the absence.
Currently I am working on two, maybe three, series of miniature paintings. “Girl” is one of my latest creations. This business of making art is time consuming but it is now a priority. I am planning to “get my work out there” by the end of this year/beginning of next year. That means that I have lots of work to do (like developing my portfolio, artist’s bio and statement) besides creating the art itself. I got off to a good start this year, having sold a miniature at a New York art auction and now have a second piece slated for auction this May at San Francisco’s White Walls.
Auctions are interesting places for an emerging artist to debut. If your submission to the auction is accepted you are happy. If it sells, you are even happier — Your work has gone from being worthless to being something of value, at least to the purchaser. Awesome!
All this work means that I will have to convert We Were Nothing into a monthly blog. My first monthly presentation is a short story about a ride on BART. I have also included background information on how the story came to be. I hope you enjoy it.
About the Writing Workshops
Over a period of five weeks (we met one night per week) the participants in my writing workshop were challenged to develop a story about the SOMA area, the section of San Francisco where the workshops were held. I wrote about the building with the furniture hanging off it (see my previous post), but failed in my mission. I was supposed to write a story, not a poem! Back to the drawing board, with just one week left to write the piece. While everyone else from the workshop was in revision mode, I was starting all over from scratch.
I wrote the story below about a ride on BART. It turns out that once again, I failed to write a story: my protagonist had not developed, had not experienced any change. Back to the drawing board one last time. I am determined to write a story. In the meantime, I submit the original story here and will present the final story in May. I hope you enjoy reading it.
The Things on BART Today
BART is crazy, yo! You get on and there’s a guy with a knife frantically cutting up his backpack. With a knife, a short thick one like the knives divers wear when scuba diving. When you try to escape to the next car, you find yourself seated next to a woman with no pants on! Just a top, is all she is wearing. You decide you better strike up conversation with the crazy. You don’t want to anger her by leaving as soon as you get there. So you strike up a conversation with her in the hopes she ain’t as crazy as you think she is. Maybe if you treat her like normal, she’ll act like normal. She asks if you have a cell phone she can borrow. Aww hell naw! If I give my phone to her she may run off with it. I lie and say I don’t have one. She looks at me suspiciously, eyes narrowing. Aw shit, I’ve made her mad. “You must not have kids,” she says. “Cos if you did, you’d have a cell phone.” I lie some more and say I left it at home and really only use it for emergencies anyway. That last part is true. The knife guy in the other car could be an emergency. Hell, this lady might be one too.
Uhh, what is that guy doing, the one who just came from the knife car into ours? He is going straight for the red emergency button. Did knife guy do something even more bizarre than bringing that knife out into the open on the train? New guy goes straight for the red emergency button. Is he going to make the train come to a halt like it does if you pull the emergency cord in New York City’s subway trains? If yes, that’s not too bright because now we will all be stuck in an immobile train with knife guy.
Aw hell. I don’t believe what I’m hearing, new guy, who looks like he is as high as a kite, is asking the train operator for a band aid because he cut his finger. What kind of lunatic cargo is this that BART is carrying this morning? Pantless wonder is talking next to me. “I was in Russia. Got jacked every day. It’s worse there than here.” Uh huh. Lady, how soon you gonna get off this train?
If you are interested in reading more of my short stories, try this one, set in Jamaica. It is from an earlier post.
Recently I received an invitation to attend Zoetrope magazine’s release of its summer 2013 issue. I was struck by the publisher’s introduction of “fantastic newcomer,” author James Brubaker. Perhaps the art world will one day follow suit and move away from its “outsider artist” descriptor. One can only hope.
Brubaker has his own WordPress blog. Check it out if you are interested in learning more about him. Anyone who loves R.E.M. is okay in my book! And speaking of books, his upcoming novel, Liner Notes, a music-themed story collection, should be coming out soon. I hope R.E.M. is featured in it!
If you are wondering what the photo of the hut has to do with anything in this article, the answer is, “Nothing.” When I visited Point Reyes I overhead a child saying, “Oh look! An outside hut!” He made me think of the name given to a San Francisco concert venue: Outside Lands. Strange. As if land would be anywhere else but outside.
Summer is upon us, and it’s time to eat, drink, and celebrate our SUMMER 2013 ISSUE guest-designed by Michael Stipe, the founder and frontman of the iconic rock band R.E.M.WHAT: Summer issue release party
WHEN: Monday, July 15th, 6-8pm
WHERE: Cafe ZoetropeWe are incredibly excited about this issue, which features work from Pulitzer Prize-finalist Karen Russell, the brilliant Chris Adrian, fantastic newcomer James Brubaker, and the short story by Jon Raymond that inspired the film Old Joy starring the incredibly talented singer-songwriter Will Oldham(Bonnie “Prince” Billy) who provides an enlightening introduction.There will be delicious food, exceptional wine, and great company. No RSVP required, no charge to attend. See you there!
Where: Danville, CA (approximately 31 miles east of San Francisco)
Note: This property can only be accessed on foot or by a National Park Service shuttle.
• • • • • • •
Take a leisurely hike through the Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. Follow either the Williams or Madrone Trail to where they junction at a fire road leading to the back of Eugene O’Neill’s old property. Enter the gate and walk past the final resting place of Blemie, O’Neill’s elderly Dalmatian.
The residence, Tao House, sits on a one-hundred-and-fifty-eight acre property that was once part of the Rancho San Ramon Mexican land grant. Many of the almond and walnut trees that Eugene and Carlotta O’Neill planted are still here. Except for Saturdays, entrance to this National Historic Site is by reservation only.
A black gate (pictured above) leading to the courtyard is decorated with four Taoist characters, Dao, Da, Bie, and Shu. Navigate the zigzag path directly beyond to arrive at the house’s main entryway. Inside the first floor guest room are two wall murals titled, The Mountains of Mist. Although they are representative of the Chinese countryside, they also remind me of the California mountains — Las Trampas Ridge and Mount Diablo — both visible from either side of the property.
ACTIVITIES: Hike, Art (Literature)
REGION: East Bay
HOURS: Varies: depends on whether you are doing a guided or self-guided tour. For details visit: http://www.nps.gov/euon/planyourvisit/hours.htm
LOCATION/VENUE: National Park Service, Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site, 1000 Kuss Road, Danville, CA 94526 Phone: (925) 838-0249
DIRECTIONS: Hiking: 5.9 miles (moderate, 3 hour hike) through the Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. Start your hike at the west end of Hemme Avenue in Danville. Take the Ringtail Cat and Madrone Trails to Tao House. Enter through the back gate near the barn.
Shuttle: The National Park Service’s shuttle picks visitors up at The Museum of the San Ramon Valley in Danville. For details visit: http://www.nps.gov/euon/planyourvisit/directions.htm
TIP: If you visit in the late spring – early to mid-May – be sure to catch one of the plays being hosted in The Old Barn/Playwrights’ Theatre. The 2012 lineup included a recently discovered one-act play, Exorcism, that was thought to have been destroyed by the author in 1920. It is based on O’Neill’s 1913 suicide attempt. Don’t forget to get a first hand look at the replica of O’Neill’s 1936 Nobel Prize before you leave. It is the only Nobel Prize to have been awarded to an American playwright. See the National Park Service’s Web site, http://www.nps.gov/euon, for more information on arranging a visit to Tao House, the home where O’Neill penned his final plays, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, The Iceman Cometh, and A Moon for the Misbegotten.
Additional: Here is a short video about Tao House: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMheCcsBYb0
A slightly different version of this hike appeared in my Bay Area Adventures Summer 2012 blog post.
All done! Now that the Christmas cakes have been baked, it’s time to start another batch of fruits for next year’s cakes. These fruits, soaked in white rum and port wine, consist of equal parts currants and raisins, and to a lesser degree, diced prunes. The suggested ratio is 1:1:1/4 of raisins, currants and prunes.
Douse the fruits in Jamaican overproof white rum and a good port wine. Put enough rum and wine to saturate the fruits and seal in an airtight glass jar. Keep in a dark area, away from sunlight.
A quicker method is to infuse the fruits in alcohol and warm in a covered pot over a very low heat a day or so before baking your cakes. I let my fruits soak for a year because that reinforces the tradition of baking these cakes at Christmas time. If they’re not soaking, I’m probably not baking.
The recipe below makes approximately 4 pounds of cake. I usually make 4 cakes: 2 six-inch and 2 approximately 3-4 inch cakes in round cake tins.
1/2 lb. butter (softened at room temperature)
1/2 lb. dark brown sugar
2 tsps. vanilla
1 tsp. of almond flavouring
2 tsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp. lime or orange rind
6 medium eggs
4 cups mixed fruits (raisins, currants, prunes, citron, cherries, dates)
6 ozs. plain bread crumbs
6 ozs. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. ground allspice
1 cup white rum (I prefer Wray & Nephew, Jamaican white overproof rum)
1 pt. port wine/brandy
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Prepare tins by lining the bottom of each tin with 2 circular sheets of brown paper (brown wrapping paper is good) cut to the size of the pan. Next, line the entire pan with parchment paper, placing it over the brown paper circles at the bottom of the pan.
- Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Mix browning, vanilla and almond flavors, lime juice and rind.
- Add eggs, beating in one at a time, until completely blended into mixture.
- Mix in breadcrumbs, flour, baking powder, salt and Jamaican all-spice (or other all-spice).
- Add alternately with rum and port wine.
- Add drunken fruits and add cherries (remove cherries from juice) and mix in thoroughly.
- Pour into prepared baking tins 3/4 full.
- Cover and bake, approximately [1 hour].
Baking time varies according to the size of the container. If you use 9-inch round containers, you probably need about one-and-a-half hours for baking. The thicker the cake, the more baking time is needed. You know your cake is done if you stick a fork or toothpick in the middle and it comes away with a slightly moist, not extremely wet mixture.
You can moisten your cake with more port wine after it has cooled. Enjoy!
In honor of the season, I’ve included two wonderful short stories about Christmas, one of which is centered around the ritual of baking Christmas cakes:
A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
This is a very special, true story, about a young boy (Truman himself) who is about seven years old and his older cousin who is, as he puts it, “sixty-something.” You can read it here: http://faculty.weber.edu/jyoung/English%206710/A%20Christmas%20Memory.pdf and watch the old black and white, original film here (the updated, color film is not as good as this): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0vjTfVyZco
Six to Eight Black Men by David Sedaris
The zaniest, craziest story I’ve ever heard about Christmas has got to be David Sedaris’, Six to Eight Black Men. It is the story of Christmas in Holland and it involves Santa Claus and you guessed it, six to eight black men.
and listen to Sedaris read it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UCUHTDrca4s
A very Merry Christmas to you!