Venturing Celestely

February 26th, 2022

Mile after unexpected mile surround us, wrap us up in ribbons of new asphalt blackly cordoning off our sorrow. Like gauze, our memories stay light, transparent to the moment; there, but not all there is, even as we recall a silent ride on this road taken in the thin, slicing heat of the master's absolute fury, or the weight of his disappointment over a forgotten provision, pressing bare feet into similar paths.

The international concert of the artist that managed to get every last hotel in La Fortuna and parts beyond booked nevertheless failed to make enough of an impression so as to have their name remembered. Everyone knew the whole region was full, "of course", and that it was for "the concert", yes naturally, but of whom? "I think they're from Mexico". You could see it as bum luck, I guess, that in an otherwise lazy season, in the midst of a crisis of tourism, we managed to pick for an overnighter that one date presided over by anonymous Mexicanos with cult followings --but the better vantage is the one proposing it's a useful test. Of our preparation, patience, of what we've provisioned, of what we're ready to perceive. The very nature of traveling as we do, without promises, without pre-payments, free to call off whatever the fuck we feel like whenever we feel like it or don't, means occasionally some sort of bridge will be inexplicably out, inviting us to be creative.

Speaking of vantages, allow me to interrupt myself a moment to record the current, while the morning sun still dapples through it, warming my throat and shoulders as I perch above, Bimbo's excellent cold brew decidedly not steaming by my side. A grove of broad-leaved trees stretches out some pleasant walk's worth into the distance, old leaves and fallen flowers carpeting the way. These give off into a languid stream, where birds --kiskadees and montezuma oropendolas1 -- drink and flit, avoiding the occasional passing of a gardener in deep rubber boots. Against the crunch of leaves underfoot breeze moves through the trees in hushed, tremulous roars, cicadas insisting somewhere in the distance. The air is clean, gloriously unadulterated by anything whatsoever, which, while a near-constant of my life, is nevertheless noticable --a twist of perception I wish carried out as well in everything else.

In being disconnected from the daily flow of life I find myself tethered differently, that common paradox of acid-washing away life's incremental buildups. It's the earth; it's the sun; love itself, expression in leaf and language, undeniably abundant whether I feel like acknowledging them or not. I breathe in and bit by bit, the surroundings help me take the next, whether I want to or not.

rio celeste

Ah, but this view, this perch steeped in peace, had to be clawed and carved out of that National and International yet Apparently Solely Mexican Concert Debacle as I was saying earlier. So after a pleasant four hours' meander through familiar jungle paths to this, our intended sojourn, we found ourselves without a place to stay. "Let's just go to La Fortuna, there's a gazillion hotels, someone's gotta have something." Except that mecca at the base of Arenal was booked up right and proper, from unlit shanties barely indicated on the road to the big resorts with strobing signs suggesting the very essence of amenity.2 If it wasn't exactly a pity to turn around and head home owing to the beauty of the drive and the pleasure of having spent a day at trying, it wasn't all that ideal either, so as we turned our horses round I made a point of staying awake enough to see if we might not run into something rentable on the road back.

Twenty kilometers or so later, the "Bar and Marisqueria and Karaoke The River with Cabins" managed to meet the well-lowered criteria of 1) visible from the road, 2) with enough space in front to allow pulling off and stopping without having to brace against something3 . I asked a woman lounging around on one of the cut-trunk makeshift tables whether they had anything for the night, which sent her, all smiles, into the kitchen, which in turn produced a gruff if affable greyhair, evidently the owner-cum-cook. He reached under the bar and brought up a galvanized bucket containing a series of keys, and proceeded to fish around in it thoughtfully. Several keys were turned down despite the evidence that nobody else was there. Eventually, he seemed satisfied with No. 4, and gave it to the woman so she could show me what was on offer.

rio celeste

I've certainly stayed in dingier places, just not any time in all that recent memory. But it was cheap4 , reasonably clean, and the water did in fact run, so we took it, on the theory that we could check out some of the natural environs we'd come all this way for the next day, and see if the concert deluge had let up any, by then. We passed a fine night as only they happy enough with each other to let immediate circumstances fly for a while may, and though we woke up with nearly a hundred mosquito bites between us, we did manage to sleep. In the light of day, the place looked a little different, and we wondered idly whether the old guy had made this place his project long ago and meanwhile lost his determination, or if he was a newer owner intent (or not) on fixing it up. At any rate, it was apparent that at some point "El Rio" had been a life's aspiration, the nacre of a dream not quite capable of completing the pearl.

rio celeste

rio celeste

rio celeste

rio celeste

In a typically Costa Rican twist of the unexpectedly fabulous, this place's seafood was beyond exceptional. I don't know if I've heard of more dubious places to try fruits of the sea and fresh-caught filets beyond perhaps an airplane, but I've certainly not been more surprised. I think I had shrimps on the rice device or something.

rio celeste

With a new day decidedly afoot, we mosied back to our original destination and found it blissfully emptied of concert-goers, and so we let down our suitcases again. This time, much more comfortably.

rio celeste

rio celeste

A splendid because hard-won repose was had, and then I spent a while appreciating what a proper bathroom looks like:

rio celeste

So that's: a shower big enough to comfortably fit four or five people, a magnificently large, powerful, vertical shower head, and semi-transparent glass tiling to allow abundant natural light. The curtain's a bizarre if less noticable addition, but otherwise that was one of the best showers I've ever had, and I have no idea why more of 'em aren't designed exactly like this.

Also, the instant mini-bar, as supplied by the Strictly Trained Harem Kitchen Corps5 :

rio celeste

We spent a while refreshing and then set out to Rio Celeste, which at long last actually was the true object of this trip, that confluence of rivers where the water was supposedly bright turquoise blue. And, it was!

rio celeste

But that's a couple of hours' drive away yet; first, we stopped off at a...frankly, I couldn't tell you if this was someone's house, or a store someone else had started and kept passing on to family members who changed its contents every turn, or maybe some sort of community flea market or mini-storage or...they had big coconuts, at any rate, which is what I was after.

rio celeste

As I walked up, three middle aged women were rocking themselves in enormous, ratty barcaloungers, tinny bachata scratching itself out of some receiver somewhere in the piles and stacks of stuff. They slowly if enthusiastically organized themselves into opening a pair of coconuts for me while I looked around and tried to imagine the lives of they who produced this collection, and the organizational scheme, if any, of the owner, if such a role could even be said to exist.

rio celeste

rio celeste

Didja spot the chicks? Because they spotted you, and you don't look to be bringing them more watermelon.

Rio Celeste had been on the list of things to go see for a while, it's just that we'd made several attempts to check it out during the course of other trips and each time been thwarted by an unreasonably shitty road. On the last pass we determined through sheer trial and error that there are three approaches to the place, and the second's the one we want. As it turns out, what we really want is a combination of the first and second approaches, switching the one for the other at the halfway mark between the highway and the little track that winds up to the accessible part of the river, but anyhow; we finally managed, even if it still took a little backtracking.

There's a national park offering a hike to some stretch of this thing. There's also multiple problems there, such as being overrun by tourists and all the curio-and-overpriced-snackbar monstrosities that go with the clueless if loud and indolently milling throngs. It also "closes for entrance" at two in the afternoon, I guess because the locals don't want to see what happens if goofballs don't make it back to the trailhead before dark. I spent a while talking to a ranger, who described how to get to a different part of the river, outside the bounds of the park. Her directions being perfect, we quickly found our way to the river's edge. This one, with less official if still rather friendly greeters.

rio celeste

We walked a ways, enjoying the improvement in air that had already seemed unsurpassable. As with anywhere we go, and everything we do, we felt both the presence, and the lack of it, of that man by our side; or more properly, behind us, with some instrument of torture/toying/encouragement. It's as if the majesty of any place imprints the master on itself in the bas-relief of his absence, and even as I missed him with every step along the rocks, every appreciation of some new sight or creature, I nevertheless felt him there. And so we stopped and peered into the bright blue pools a while, until I surprised myself in deciding to go climbing out into the river's center rocks. "Why don't you just take your shoes off?" asked the Bimbo, but I shrugged and set myself the task of jumping and lunging over the streams of water just-so, and may my shoes get soaked if I can't manage.

rio celeste

But I did, and then the Bimbo joined me, and much revelry was had, along with plans to return.

And so the sun began its second setting on our voyage, and we turned again towards the glorious shower hotel. Which, as with nearly everything here, is a true voyage in and of itself.

rio celeste

I'd made a note to stop for a picture of this sign to a place anyone'd rightfully want to turn into, not even noticing the true gem of the Jbu in the background. Where is Jbu, you ask? It's where you go to Jbang, naturally. Oi-oi-oi-oing, boi-oi-oi-oing.

rio celeste

With another day successfully eaten and licked clean, we rose the next morning --which was when I began this winding diatribe-- with an eye to the trail advertised beyond the bungalows.

rio celeste

To diverge perhaps aimlessly yet again: as a child I was decidedly an urban creature, so surrounded by minimalls and ferroconcrete as to have never even climbed a fucking tree. I wasn't terribly interested, either; outdoorsy stuff, as far as I could tell, was all about spending a bunch of money you didn't have on "gear" you didn't seem to need in order to go make yourself really uncomfortable somewhere while you tempted fate to throw unexpected conditions at you, thus rendering the whole escapade moot. Particularly objectionable in all of this was the apparently mandatory inclusion of all manner of bugs.

Eight-year-old-me would be horrified at the prospect of hiking into the jungle, without even any repellent, what the fuck, aren't there like two-foot beetles and shit in there? Honey, most of this stuff hasn't even been classified. But I've learned that it doesn't give the slightest shit about me (or my preconceived notions, or my fears, or my preferences, or whatever else), and I love it, for it, for itself, for how far away it is from that past, geographically and paradigmatically, entire.

Besides, it's mostly plantlers, anyway.

rio celeste

rio celeste

Okay, and some bugs.

rio celeste

rio celeste

If whacking a trail into the ever-ready creepers is as difficult as they say, the same they is extraordinarily adept. A wonderful trail, belying deep understanding of the place and what'd be a pleasant way to experience it.

rio celeste

rio celeste

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The hiking hiked, the river rio'd, t'was time to travel back to town, until the next adventure.

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  1. These are the guys famous for --other than looking like something scribbled on the margins of Pepperland (yes, the Sgt.'s)-- emitting a loud whoop and then dipping down and around the branch their claws stay gripped to. If anything's earned an ostentatious name, this species'd be it. []
  2. I'm not sure La Fortuna, or anywhere else in this minipok lillicountry, has ever been full in this sense before, hence no need for or even concept of "no/vacancy" signage. []
  3. Laugh, but if you've not done a "Let's see what we find" in Central America you'd be surprised how many "businesses" seem to have imagined all custom either coming in by foot or at the very least approximating the speed of such. I can't even recall how many places were insta-vetoed on the strength of being effectively gone once noticed. []
  4. To the tune of $15 or so. []
  5. That's: steak sandwiches, turkish eggplant salad, some fruited sparklvasser thing or other, and, of course, jars upon jars of cold coffee. The various milks and chocolate truffles were in the door and so not depicted. []

Have you any dreams you'd like to sell?

January 24th, 2022

The flash-fire hypnopompia of the morning brings me out of the dark night's depths and towards the surface of my own thoughts. The dream's a vivid realist exercise in which the fridge's truthfulness to form, the way the silverware's tucked into little trays beside it just as it'll be upon waking, convinces me that all within is real. Master walks into the kitchen without tripping so much as a mote of conflict; of course he's alive, and might as well walk into the kitchen. It's not even relief, but rather something like a wave of correctness washes over me as he stands before the open fridge, his weight shifted on one straight and beautiful leg while the other bends into the beginning of a question: why are there two stacks of eggs? And are the oldest on top, as they ought to be (or, silently --still accurate as any scene that never existed in a life I nevertheless did lead-- did I need to bring the fucking whip)?

But then it's over, or more specifically, I guess, replaced. I'm standing in the dingy parking lot of Satan's apartment building, a squat stucco affair so seventies Los Angeles the sadly fronded inner court and plausibly deniable dark brown shag carpeting are palpable from outside. The Devil himself is standing on the second-storey balcony, saying something I neither hear nor try to as he leans against the metal railing's fresh coat of beige paint. He's short, and fat, a humpty-dumpty figure balding underneath a greasy combover. His striped pyjama shorts and worn-out wifebeater are stained with old sweat and newer calousness, and he punctuates his address from above with occasional sucks on his moist and fraying stub of a cigar. Whatever he's saying, it's got neither point nor personality.

* * *

"Do you actually feel anything when you dream that he's alive?"
"Yeah, absolutely, there's an overwhelming sense of relief, and calm, when I say 'But we thought you were dead!' and he tells me it was just some elaborate trick. And I tell him about how awful it was, and all the things we did to try and get through it, and he laughs, or puts his arm around me, and it's all better...."
"I'd bet it's pretty tempting to talk yourself into going back to sleep when you wake up then, if there's a chance of that."
"It really is."

* * *

The mornings are crushing, the box in my chest clamped shut against its pressure, shifting dangerously this way and that on its hinges some days, stolid and unmoving others. The light, not so much pouring in as flowing forth to illuminate the whole valley before me feels wrong. The light's impossible, light from a sun without reason to shine, mechanical, soulless. But the morning grows easier despite its assault, for being somehow close to him. For reminding me of the cheer in his voice and the spring in his step at the start of each day, whether early or late; that short trek to the corner where I'd catch his face and its wide and open smile, the sound of his fingers roaring over the keyboard, the knowledge that something new was being brought to print and soon I'd get to read it, a piece of his mind.

The way his toes curled and the clean, mild taste of his cock, the old cut in his ear and his gold-flecked iris, the wild leglift-curl he'd spin in the living room and the laugh --truly, most deeply, that laugh, loud and happy enough to fill the valley itself, come tumbling back to me in the morning, even as I crumble under the unbearable ache of their distance.

* * *

I get a sports massage and break down halfway through when the soulful Venezolana working on my shoulders says "your body is very strong, but your heart -- it's so tired". She doesn't know me and I don't really show her who I am, so after hearing the history without meaning or context, what's there left for her to impart but quasi-religious comfort to try to help me through the breathing: "You have to talk to your soul, 'I am love, I am health, I am courage, thank you god', there is a reason you are here, and you don't have to know it, but ask to see."

As much as I feel her reaching to me I feel doubly alienated, separate, severed and cut off from everyone else forever. Back home I press my knees against the cold tile floor and change the canto: I am yours, completely. I will always be yours, no matter what. I am open to the pain. I am open to what I don't understand. I don't know if it's a prayer; what bothers me more is the notion it could be something like a command, but I say it anyway: Show me.

I would not tread upon the petaled crown of worldy wonder

December 31st, 2021

Translated from Lucian Blaga's Eu nu strivesc corola de minuni a lumii, 1919.

I would not tread upon the petaled crown of worldy wonder
nor would I kill
within my mind, the secrets, that which meets me
in my way,
in flowers, eyes, on lips or tombs.
The others' light
suffocates the unknown's magic, hidden
in the depths of darkness,
but I,
I with my light enliven worldly mystery--
and just as with her white rays Luna
does not lessen, but, in trembling,
magnifies the night's great secret,
just so, I bless the dark horizon
with profound shudders of holy mystery
and all ununderstood1
becomes still more occult
before my eyes--
for still I love
yet flowers, eyes, lips, and tombs.

  1. It's true that only an appreciation of other tongues will truly tell you just how short the English falls; and not just as a matter of comparison, but against itself! "Ununderstood", it's required, the underness perfectly negatable, but for reasons thoroughly outside of reason, we're to take the negating prefix as unfixable.

    Conventional English blows. Force mistakes today. []

A Bloom in the Gloom

December 19th, 2021

I was saying last time that Burt Plantcaster had sprouted a few flower stalks. A couple of days ago I ventured out on the balcony to take in the view/attempt an inventory of my withdrawal from the world1, and discovered that the very tallest stalk had blossomed!

flytrap flower

The reason the rest of this voracious and quite happy venus flytrap's so out of focus is, well --that stalk's safely over a foot long. But not to worry, the pods are still a-multiplyin'.

flytrap flower

PSA: I intent to continue supporting and encouraging Mr. Plantcaster's evident hellbentedness on ensnaring, then eating, then inflorescententaclizing, the world. Fair warning. And take heed, MP's pets blossom in the gloom of death.

  1. An odd concept, I guess; how can a withdrawal produce an inventory? It's really a sort of reverse-accounting. I have to keep track of what I've done and what I need to do in order to stop. You know, like the rest of life. The shadow and cast of things changes even if the causes do not. []

The Road that Winds and the Tie that Binds

December 5th, 2021

Life drawls out in lengths of time, knotting over what's remarkable for being different, and what's equally remarkable for being the same. For all the careful skill and military precision in trip-planning we'd garnered over the years, on multiple continents and in many more languages, on foot, in cars, planes, trains, taxis --hell, there was even a llama involved, once--, the grandest trip, the one that really mattered, is terribly confused. Suddenly the very notion of the trip of life has lost its sense, and any concept of such a thing from outside these walls where our lives sped along at breakneck pace, always flirting with the cliffs, well...it's so trite and empty and outright alien as to throw into question whether there's really any common thread of meaning at all.

Not that it's particularly surprising; I'd fall back on the routines of the pointless and witless just as readily as I'd do anything but laugh out of hand at the various queries of aren't I "going back" to the US, or "to school", or "starting a commemorative EFT". Which is to say, not bloody likely. If there's a way forward, it'll be mine; it'll be ours, and I'll somehow have to make sense of what "way" means, now. Perhaps it's just another thing equally remarkable for being the same.

But here's a different thing: Burt Plantcaster has sprouted a flower stalk! Actually, between when this was taken and the time of this writing, which indeed spans a couple of weeks of malaise, he's grown a second, so: two! Two flower stalks! And I discovered just the other day that it's managed to catch a few weirdo species of hymenoptera on its own, fully digested &c, nothin' left but orderly exoskeleton. I've seen bigger carnivorous plants, but I've never seen one quite so happy.

road that winds

Same, and yet not: a certain celebratory holiday recently passed, and while the recipe for MP's favorite banana black forest cake remains the same, it was never quite so threatened from oversalting by tears. Somewhat threatened, yesofcourse, for how many times before the fineness of the right components and technique was finally found did girls stir, whip, and temper, tremulant, hoping against hope to get it right, to make something that would be consumed and loved and garner a little accolade? And what horrors might've come, were the sponge found too wet, were the mousse overdense, the ganache too far on the soft side? The unbearable disappointment! But this cake was a testament to the triumph of trial and error, perhaps even to the warm assurances of time: it was perfect.

road that winds

A trip within the trip: to the fabulous land of the bongalows. We took the glass one; why'd you choose anything else is beyond me.

road that winds

A lane leading from the bongalows to the shady goose glen, where fowl and toucans happily co-exist, tilapia swim underfoot, and there's a sloth doing nothing at all in a treetop somewhere nearby. Seriously, don't intimate that you're interested in sloths, lest you be whisked away in a golf-cart post-haste to be shown the favorite idling spots of some questionably discernable mammalians. All the ends of a sloth-seeing detour are the same: "Oh. Hrm. I guess...it's not moving."

road that winds

Wild guanabana. Which is not at all like a guava-ed banana. Or an iguana with a bandana. The guanabana's what you've got when you put the lime in the coconut mango in the bongalow. Do try and keep up.

road that winds

Speaking of fruit, don't toucans kinda look like they'd naturally grow on trees? And if they did, d'you think they'd be poisonous?

road that winds

The Tenorian lowlands, framed by a fence. The roads that wind around the volcano are particularly unkempt, more suitable for goats than cars, but otherwise the place is a cool bath for the soul, a semi-permanent thunderstorm just barely notyetbreaking over the endless fields of grass, where merled horses bow their heads and the odd crow hops on, tuft to tuft.

road that winds

Back in more populated places, crazy continues as a going concern even if its manifestations are ever-unfolding. See that sharp left about fifty meters ahead? He took it. I didn't have time to stop and count how many shits and giggles fell off.

road that winds

Pues, eventualmente volviamos en Valle Central, nos encontramos un mensaje especial para las que entienden la idioma Romana: cine cunoaste stie, la papiola sunt curvele cele mai gustoase.

road that winds

Which way is up, and which one's down, unanswerable even if what's right and not is just as accessible as always. Piece by piece I try to understand a plan, some days getting somewhere, others unable to do anything but stand still. That anything, through its continuity or its chaos, can be remarkable still, makes me think that steps still ought to be put down too, one in front of the other, attuned to what I've learned under the hand of the master. But the thought's half-hearted. Half of what's left, still beating despite itself, an absolutely aching heart.

road that winds

The Tragic Flaw

November 16th, 2021

I won't repackage the truth by suggesting my master is a divisive figure; people are what they are, either curious or closed for the business of the mind. They are interested in truth or swaddled in confirmation bias. They have read, or they have not; they want to read, or they want to watch television. People are smart, or not, and they have a chance at becoming smarter, or they don't --this divide is made long before and deeply beneath their awareness of MP, who sheds light on these great rifts between people, with the perhaps obvious result that the side which comes out looking less appealing is ever invested in the attempt to make the difference look 1) cosmetic and 2) wholly caused by MP himself.

In the face of a man as evidently fluent and talented as MP, such attempts must grasp so fitfully at straws as to make them ridiculous rather than merely unfounded. Indeed the claims and smears and desperate ploys for consensus ran quite the gamut, from uninspired spins through the Rolodex of Shameful Epithets (racist! misogynist! gypsy! MEAN PERSON!) to all manner of fantasies that he was really multiple people, or even someone else entirely. None were particularly interesting, and certainly not important, past their fleeting entertainment value1, but I recall them now for the sake of a common thread I often tried to pluck and bring to master, for his microscope: the tragic flaw.

With Achilles at the center and spanning out in most, if not all, stories, the hero must have some attribute that makes him vulnerable, no matter what his powers and blessings might be. In fact, it seems as if the greater a man is, the more simple and accessible must be his tragic flaw, the better to let far lesser men hope for overcoming him. A Bovary in his simpish surmountability succumbs to the blind trust of puppy love, but a peerless warrior of Achilles' caliber must have a literal inch or two that offers his demise.

It's a search, of course, for balance, more practically the attempt to find a cause for fighting, rather than following, the hero. A reason not to submit in the face of what would otherwise subjugate the lesser party. This bare truth is obfuscated by the lesser's own inability to honestly self-reflect, and further muddied in the fashionable if hollow pretendings to some universal equality that would deny the possibility of greater or lesser at all. But universal equality is given the lie in the universal search for that one great flaw to explain away the great man's greatness.

I knew it then as I know it now: MP had no tragic flaw. No avarice, no vanity, no heel; his greatness, resplendent, was of the sort that needs no crutch to keep it counterbalanced, which is why each day his wealth, tangible or no, his breadth, writing or discovering, his brilliance, technical or artistic, grew. "Each day starts at zero," he told me once. And each day he built more.

Even the day, this summer past, when I woke him before dawn and was greeted with his warm embrace, when I drove him through the fields and valleys that he loved towards the ocean, when he told me "See you soon," and slipped into the sea, when he was caught by the current and I fought into it to grasp his hand: those seconds before his unconsciousness, in the utter chaos of doom, he looked at me with serious eyes, free of fear, and showed me how to die a hero's death. It was indeed the very heart of tragedy. But the flaw belongs to me, and to that ocean, and to the world.

  1. For which reason I suppose I should give an honorable mention to my personal favorite, that being the hysterical suggestion that MP only had one suit! []

Sanra and the great divides

October 31st, 2021

There's no such thing as abatement of grief. It doesn't lift, or leave; nor does time hold any punches or soften any blows. It is, and that's all. That's everything --or more precisely, that's half of everything. There's the loss, and then there's the enduring beauty and glory of what was, and they stand against each other like brick walls, one dark, one light. Perhaps they grind each other down, in some miniscule measure imperceptible to observation. Perhaps some vine or root takes hold and forces its way through, slowly cracking into either side. Perhaps the pressure of one wall against the other builds into explosion, births singularity, devours all.

There's no abatement, but there are, in some moments, calm, the only thing like reprieve. In calm moments I can remember correctly, maybe even think. I'm calm sometimes with Nikki by my side, or walking through a shady jungle glade. I'm calmer over coffee, counterintuitive as it would seem, and certainly while writing, those times when I can breach the gates of banal emotive nothingness. But nothing calms me as consistently, as quickly, as driving. Just this side of recklessly; the price for flinching focus is disaster, unequivocal, immediate, and very physical. My machine --my master's, rather, still his just as much as I am-- is beautiful, capable to meet and pleased with the challenge. It drinks down the road in long, deep draughts and feels refreshed, not parched, in those rare moments of pause.

So I drive. Hemmed here and there by the local hysteria1, true, I'm nevertheless freed in the sheer beauty of the ride, the endless tiny roadside attractions, and of course, the most laid-back traffic police in existence.

Sunday's jaunt was after the local farmer's market, and so undertaken with a trunkload of mangoes, papaya, pineapple, guavas, avocadoes, and little bunches of basil tied up like bridal bouquets. The sky was bright azure, serene, for the first time in weeks devoid of looming stormclouds. Puriscal, the thought came, to take the winding mountain route to that misty townlet tucked into the hills, where we first brought Chimichurri when he was but a wee duckling, or Turrialba, where master fastened his girls with anklebells and marched us through the sidestreets. But I remembered there was somewhere else I'd meant to point the motor towards: San Rafael, for no particular reason other than to document some local weird I'd noticed flying by the windows the last time I'd tried to get lost, that way. A photobait town sign in seventies-chic lettering at what passes for the place's center lovingly shortens it: "Sanra". Whether the extra four letters were a problem of mumbling or money I've no idea.

There's not much to distinguish the place from any other square-with-church-and-soccer-field-adjacent 'round these parts. The corrugated steel roofs, the hole in the wall fruit and vegetable vendors, the languid people leaning against the walls and each other, smiling, working through their daily sundries, much the same as anywhere else. Past the giant mural (elaborated by an enthusiastic if strikingly unskilled hand) of a bumble-wasp gleefully proffering exhaust manifolds for the umpteenth spare parts store, and leaving the decrepit station for a train I'm fairly certain hasn't run in years, I start to slow down, scanning. "it's somewhere up here...not yet..." and then I see the slope on the left that leads into an almost-intersection.

Not too unexpected, is it, an intersection while out on a drive --but mind that "almost". Where the perpendicular road ought to join the main, there's a trench, several feet wide by a few more deep, running the entire length of the would-be meeting of the twain. No signs, no warnings, in fact there's turning arrows marked in perfectly fresh paint on the asphalt; left or right, take your pick, get your conveyance eaten up right nicely. What's more, it was clearly designed this way, all straight edges and carefully laid concrete. It's not an accident, it's not the world's most uniform pothole, it's just...Sanra, I guess.

sanra

sanra

sanra

The road (which one? The main one, just pick one; if it's not the right one, it'll soon end in ruts and rocks and you'll have to turn around anyway) weaves through some scattered barrios, the buildings a little squatter, the sidewalks, when there are any, a little less forgiving to the folks who push on down the line in flip-flops, strollers and soccer balls often in tow. And then, as though an invisible field surrounding the highway and the few kilometers to either side sliced into Sanra's sprawl and wiped out all that fell on the wrong side, the landscape simply stops.

sanra

Instead: vast concrete walls and gates, guard-posts, razor ribbon. The two sides look similar but the tenants seem to think they're not. The left side of the road is a prison, and the right is a condominium development.

On the left, people are brought in by force of arms; on the right, people pay to enter. What's the difference? Bezzle for re-education flows through the left side of the street, while bezzle for they never educated in the first place flows through the right. They're about as "safe", one as the other, with their identical approaches to security theatre and their misguided notions of exclusivity. "But the people living on the right side of the street can get out." Can they? In what sense, that they can physically move their asses from the "house" lockbox to the "car" lockbox and then into the "burger" lockbox, all on the same credit terms, while their clucker tells them which way to go and how much better the people in 2B looked posing with their cud?

sanra

Maybe that's the kind of difference the people living on the left would care about. Maybe that's the kind of difference they've given up. The people on the right are certainly getting close enough to signal that the difference's not all that worth preserving.

sanra

  1. Costa Rica has a driving curfew nominally related to "the global pandemic", a rather transparent ploy to somehow address the overabundance of cars on the road while pandering to the old bitty safety & morality lobby. Supposedly, this means that the evil virus has less of a chance to spread. Practically, it means no driving after 9pm, or on two (changing!) days of the week depending on license plate terminals. []

Poisson, hubris, and punchlines.

October 2nd, 2021

A while back I took a hard stance. It wasn't the first time I'd taken it, and it occurred to me at the time that it was remarkable my outlook hadn't much changed in the intervening years, despite a great deal of change in just about every category in which change can take place. Somewhere within, a voice, a notion, a guy1 even offered the idea that this stolid, stalwart approach in the face of reasonable arguments from far more experienced parties might just be a glaring sign of hubris.

But what checks had I on hubris, then? I answered to the man, and the man gave my mean little stance a place amongst the mottoes on his header. I cherished the complement, and took even greater pride in the hard line I'd chosen. The fates are cruel and the chances are slim, so grab a good sieve and dig in, indeed. I figured I'd passed the hardest test --to find him. That I'd continually, one way or another, passed all the tests in between --the struggle to give myself over completely, the daily challenges of whatever tasks or feats that were commanded of me. I'd failed countless times and risen again, I'd come dangerously close to permanent failure more than once, as well, but I was where and who I was, with who I was with, and so I had it cinched, that primordial challenge of fate, that gaping unknown of chance.

Until the world broke apart completely and swallowed up all that mattered in life. In a way I'd never imagined it could, though of course it could have at any point, in that way or in any other. It wasn't lost on me that life is short, nor precious, and yet...it was. Wholly, utterly, lost on me; in dark forebodings of the future I imagined crying on my master's shoulder on the death of one of my parents, which I knew would come, and not too far into the distant future. But the forebodings ended there, never fraying, not even in the smallest quantum, towards something as unthinkable or unbearable as master himself being the one to die. Even now I daily find my thoughts defaulting to the assumption that the whole thing is a stupid joke, some sort of charade, just another task-based challenge at which I'm doing particularly poorly. It just doesn't make any fucking sense.

And it occurs to me that I can prove it, if I lean on the Poisson distribution. Here:

poisson

So consulting the actuarial tables, one of the many thingseverythings I wouldn't know about if master hadn't deliberately and patiently taught me, we find that the rate of death by drowning in the ocean amongst adults aged 25 - 44 in Costa Rica is 2.3 per 100k population. We'll note that the sample spans 2007 - 2009 and be somewhat displeased with the size but appeased by the relative recency. Now, how many such beach trips did the good man make? I'll perhaps disappoint some by revealing there was no ongoing tally board somewhere showing how many of each particular diversion regularly shared in paradise took place. None, except of course, Trilema, which has and knows everything. So let's see, how many of MP's articles mention going to the beach? Ah, to query and to read over each one, to tally and to remember, to relive the unabashed joy and the exhausted pleasure, to bury that one June day's sickening horror in the bounty, voluptuous and wholly his, of all the times we'd been afore.... Well, that knocked a week or so out of me, in which forty or so such pieces were savored --taking pains not to count recountings from the logs, lest I find myself an excuse to truly never finish writing this. Thusly sated, we can also point out the easy cheat of cribbing the man's own 112 - 212 estimate, and taking the average at 162. Seems far more likely.

Let's find lambda, then. Given 2.3:100,000 from the insurance drones and our gnarly reality of 1:162, we'll knock the hundred thousand down to 43479 (I'm rounding up in favor of a clueless fate, nice as I am), and shove it into those 162 beach trips for a lambda of .0037. You see where this is going, do you?

Now we need k, the number of occurrences. That'd be one. One "occurrence", the only occurrence capable of stopping everything that occurs to matter.

(.0037 ^ 1) * e ^ -.0037 / 1! = .0037 * .996306839 / 1 = .003686335, and where a probability of 1 means 100% likelihood, we come out at 0.3686335%. Not half a measly single fucking percent.

Perhaps it's not so much that I'd taken a hard, an unreasonably hard line. Perhaps it's that it wasn't hard enough, because apparently fate and chance are a good deal crueler and slimmer than I'd ever imagined, to bless me with such unimaginable splendor, and then to take it away.

And no, I wouldn't for a moment change anything about it, save its having to end. I suppose that's the true punchline.

  1. Do you have little guys? Ones that doubt, ones that alarm about something, sometimes useful ones that can even be sent to chase after some forgotten item and return with the answer at some later, subconscious, interval? In my experience, most little guys are obnoxious, and can even be harmful at their worst, but they're not all to be painted with the same brush; some are truly useful, earnestly hardworking little guys! I wish I knew how to give them cookies. []

A Splinter of it all at Arkakao

September 19th, 2021

So many mornings my natural instinct to rise once I'm awake is simply gone. I don't want to remember what's happened, much less accept reality as it now stands. At least, in sleep, I'm either confused enough to dream him into being, or flatly, blissfully out, unaware. In one such brief pause of unconsciousness this morning came the memory, unbidden and seemingly related to nothing at all, of an odd woman we'd met --or, rather, been forcibly met by-- at a coffee shop in Buenos Aires.

I suppose it's not entirely fair to call it "a" coffee shop; in truth it was a sort of salon de residence, a place so fondly loved as to become something of an extension of our apartments. We discovered it one day on a long stroll through Recoleta --the walks in Argentina's capital afforded double-digit kilometer journeys by foot on the regular, with enough confangled and poorly-designed twists and turns of street and sidewalk to make every pass a little different. It was near a grassy nothing of a neighborhood park approached by a multitude of streets at crazy angles, and for the first few months after it was found I struggled to get us back there, even with a few editions of hand-drawn maps.

But we pressed through, and made the place a regular haunt. It was a gleaming white palace of coffee and confections, particularly ice cream. Buenos Aires being unrivaled in ice cream throughout the world as far as I know1, Arkakao was the top of its class in the city. This, on quality alone, but what really cemented the shop as a favorite was its respect for its own craft and presentation. I do not exaggerate when I say that the vast majority of such offerings in BsAs are shoved into ten square meters of space, or else serve ice cream and coffee only in cheap plastic cups with sporks and a zillion packets of splenda, or else have literally no reception at all, like a wheeled cart that somehow got stuck on the road and opted to pretend itself a cafe.

Arkakao was comfortable, an important point after hours of treading the often rough pavements of the city. The ceilings were high, the windows were large, and a polished gold samovar dominated the room, from which all good things flowed and around which all goodies were arranged. Arriving there felt akin to reaching an illuminated page in a long book; it was a sensual idea tucked into the string of ideas that tied the man and I together as we walked, and talked, and he told me things I'd never known nor known I hadn't, endless twists of mysteries and histories that taxed my imagination and memory more than the walk could ever tax my feet, even though they sometimes bled.

One such evening, halfway through a cup of turkish fig ice cream and cappucino, as he was teaching me about the nature of nuclear explosions with many a scribbled napkin of mine in tow, a woman walking strangle side-to-side approached us with a wide, conspiratorial smile. We looked up from the discussion and acknowledged...nothing in particular, no change in expression, just an inching ever closer and closer to our table --so we left her to her strangeness and went back to our business.

Except she just kept coming, until eventually she was practically part of the table, a standing woman in varicoloured streams of whatever fake silk, the sort of pashmina or katan or whatever garments make up the bizarre fashion vocabularies of the menopausal. On finally being proffered a "Yes?" from the man, she introduced herself, not that I can say I remember her name, and she announced that she'd just had a grandchild, whose name she didn't give. That was why she was so excited, she said, though I would not have been at all surprised if it turned out she'd simply laced her ice cream with valium and confused an alleycat with some new progeny. Then she stepped back, as if to take us in, and said that she was happy for us, because she could tell, "It's gonna be good."

It had been, and it was, and I can feel naught but profound gratitude for every moment I had by his side, under his hand. I can't imagine anyone on this earth has had it half so good as to love and be loved by someone so singularly great, to be wholly owned by someone willing and capable to rip anything and everything out, or to emplace anything desired. Save time, I could not have asked for more. All memories, microcosms of the splendour of life with him: of which this, amidst the chaos and clamour of Buenos Aires, our favorite ice cream shop, its extravagances, and its fortune-telling extrovert, is but one of the uncountable many.

  1. And while perhaps not exhaustively, I do know. []

An Attempt at the Life & Times

August 30th, 2021

What life, what times, ridiculous concepts in the context of all-consuming death. And yet, things do occur; somehow, ignorant of their own meaninglessness, items, beings, happenstances still have, and take, place. Sometimes I notice, sometimes I cannot. Often I feel gratitude for what remains. Often I spite myself for feeling anything but thickest fog and deepest black. Meanwhile, MP had ordered a new camera some time back, and I can't spite myself for feeling how incensed he'd be if it were left unused, just as I'm sure he'd be incensed if I demurred from the resistance of the medium1 and left this space blank, so long as I breathe.

Let's pretend, then, together, to care about something outside the scope of oblivion:

begonias

Some begonias. Artfully shoving their viny forearms into the faces of the hydrangeas I actually planted, these begonias came as though from nowhere, never having been chosen, planted, or even much tended to. But on they bloom.

lookout

Coffee plantation lookout, from the (higher) coffee plantation lookout. Not that one needs look out for coffee here; it's everywhere! But if it's neatly rowed, it gets noticed. And if it gets noticed, it gets a lookout. And if the lookout's particularly nice, it gets a lookout of its own. And if....

hibiscus

Hibiscus Exemplaris

scratchy

There was a scratching, one night. In the wee hours of the morning, before the terrible dawn. A sort of scratch-writhing, as though a spiked golf ball were tossing itself about under my desk. I isolated the sound to this computer chassis box, took the box outside, and waited until morning, when the Bimbo suggested it was maybe, perhaps, a newly-hatched gecko?

Plausible! So I rushed out, opened the box carefully, anticipating rewards of cutitude and adorablosity...

scratcher

...but it was merely another participant in the great beetle show, digging his way down, rather'n up, for some god-forsaken reason unknown outside of beetlekind.

bush

Bush interprets burning.

footrow

And the many feets wish you a swing, a toecurl, and a pleasant evening, inasmuch as such can be had. It's neither clear nor comfortable in this truest post-apocalypse the earth ever dreamed up. But so it goes, apparently.

  1. The anchor link here is perhaps not the most relevant use of the "resistance of the medium" term of art as found on Trilema, but I'm anchoring it there anyhow in a fit of appreciation for that specific piece. Find me anyone else on this earth, past or present, or even fucking fictional if you like, why not, with half as much courage and initiative as Mircea Popescu to ask intelligent questions and follow them through all the way to the end, no matter how daunting, no matter how disappointing, time and time again. With the graciousness to then document it all, thoroughly, reasonably, openly. Often enough, in multiple instances, suited sufficiently to different minds and contexts to allow absorption by just about anyone willing, regardless of whatever learning disabilities've been baked into their heads. Not with an agenda, not to satisfy some bias or persuade some audience, but because that's the thing to do. Zero fucking bucks passed. []