“The book American Gods wishes it was.” --Despina Durand

Thursday, December 31, 2020

CHICANONAUTICA LURCHES TOWARD 20201 WITH TWISTED OPTIMISM

 

Chicanonautica wishes you a Happy New Year, over at La Bloga.


This last year was really something:



Who knows what the next one will be like:



Who knows what the next few weeks will be like:



Just remember, it’s not the end of the world:


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

PANDEMIC ODYSSEY: PART TWO

 


On first Day of the Dead 2020, the dead children were honored with Venus rising over San Luis Obispo that I captured before we took off for Morro Bay, past some plutons (“an igneous intrusion is a body of intrusive igneous rock that forms by crystallization of magma slowly cooling below the surface of the Earth,” according to Wikipedia), toward the Pacific Ocean that I hadn’t seen in years.

 

There were a lot of Mexican food places in Morro Bay, but then, this was California, Aztlán.

 

Cambria was still decorated from their Scarecrow Festival. Near San Simeon, and the Hearst Castle, fat, healthy zebras grazed along with horses and cows, putting visions of zebra burger stands in my head. Sea lions lounged on a beach.

 


Soon we passed the famed Esalen Institute and stopped at the Coast Art Gallery, where Mike sells some of his drums near a gallery of Henry Miller paintings. This was Big Sur, and there was no cell service, but my phone started chirping after we passed a sign welcoming us to THE OFFICAL BIG SUR.

 

Soon we were in a forest of baby redwoods.

 

Emily pointed out a grove where there was a house that she said had to belong to El Cucuy.

 


The combination of Halloween and the election made for a weird weekend. Roadsides along the Pacific Coast Highway near Carmel were clogged with parked cars, overflowing from beach parking lots. Not many masks or much social distancing--we stood in the car. Yaks grazed in the hills. A car flew a Trump flag. 

 

Went through Monterey on our way to Santa Cruz. Passed a town called Freedom with its own Freedom Boulevard.

 


We couldn’t stay at the Super 8 in Watsonville because it was still full of evacuees from a fire back in August.

 

The next day was the Día de los Muertos, when the spirits of dead adults are said to come back to visit the living. It was foggy--I couldn’t remember the last time we had fog in Phoenix. And we had trouble finding coffee in Santa Cruz.

 


As we left town, there was a demonstration at a church that was the opposite of the Trump patrol. Freedom of expression--it’s what America is supposed to be all about.

 


Half Moon Bay was pretty even in the fog that had burned off as we entered San Francisco. We took some pictures from the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

Near Stinson Beach, a  road sign was festooned with a FUCK TRUMP graffito. Good ol’ American free speech again.

 

 

We were long out of the desert, into the forest. Most of the time there was beach on one side and forest on the other. This was the far edge of Aztlán, a different climate, colder, wetter. Still most of the people working in the stores were Latinoid.

 

That night I dreamed that a classic lowrider with a dazzling purple paint job dropped off a box that was addressed to me. In it was a tiny snail that grew to twenty times its original size. Then it glowed and gurgled . . .

 

There were a lot of Black Lives Matter signs along the road, and one Trump sign at a beach.


We stood at the Ocean Cove Lodge, which has a spectacular view of the setting sun over the glittering Pacific.

 

The next day was Election Day. Sometimes this holiday weekend is Halloween/Días de los Muertos/Election Day. An extra long Dead Daze.



If I had thought of it, I could have had Smoking Mirror Blues end with an election, disheveled, costumed revelers lining up at the polls . . . maybe it’s better that I didn’t.


Voting was going well as we got back on the highway, and spent the day driving through the seaside forests. 


For miles and miles all the buildings looked like they were the work of the same architect. House and and other structures were all simplified, with geometric edges and a lack of details that made it all look like what we thought the future would look like back in the twentieth century. Bland utopia, decaying into dystopia.

 


Em and I masked up and got out to pick through the colorful, surf-smoothed pebbles of Glass Beach as ravens and seagulls fought a turf war. I had forgotten what beaches smelled like--salty, fishy, decaying . . .

 

The twisty, tree-lined highways along the rock-studded surf beaches (with surfers) took us to a lot of funky, little towns where you wander around and find homespun, found-object surrealism.



We stopped and took pictures of the Grandfather Tree: an 1,800 year-old living thing.


Then surfer country gave way to redwood country, and Bigfoot exploitation country.

 

“It’s like visiting Hobbiton,” said Mike. There was something Middle Earth-like about it all. Hobbits do have big feet . . .

 

That night we stood in Garberville, at the Motel Garberville. Got food from next door at the Humbolt Bar & Grill that had been converted to a Mexican food joint (also staffed by Mexicans). There is a fantastic thrift shop across the street.

 


And a local Trump patrol pickup cruised by, flying its flag.


It looked like Trump was winning when we called it a night. In the morning, Mike--who was pretty sure that it would be a landslide for Biden was pretty shaken up. Emily had to reassure him and her other brothers (over the phone). But the news started to look good. Maybe my snail dream was a metaphor for the election results. All those early votes being counted after Election Day, we could still have a delayed, slow-motion ass-whuping here.


Garberville is strange, arty, mountain town with lots of murals, boarded-up businesses, and Latinoid workers. In the depressed economy, the hippies are being replaced by Mexicans. This may be the future of rural California. I’ve got no complaint about it.



Again, we had trouble finding coffee. Funny, how in so many small towns nothing is open at eight A.M. We finally got coffee (I had to settle for regular, because they didn’t have decaf) at the Aztec Grill, another chain that is bringing La Cultura to the Northwest.


We went north on the 101. News from NPR about the election was encouraging. We stopped at Avenue of the Giants to see the redwoods up close. Saw Bigfoot statues. And elk. Went through Eureka and Orick. Crossed rivers.



I crossed more rivers this week than I have in my whole life.


After a while, Margaret, who had been tired and quiet for a couple of days declared, “ I don’t want anybody to win except Biden!”


There were lots of Mexican restaurants. I spotted more Aztec Grills.



And cannabis was big in these parts. In NoCal, but also as we crossed over into Oregon, there were signs advertising WEED and MARIJUANA.

 

And some TRUMP/PENCE signs in Brookings . . .

 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

CHICANONAUTICA SEES COVID-19 KILL X-FIC


Chicanonautica blabs about COVID-19 killing the 2020 Extra Fiction Contest, over at La Bloga.


It’s another 2020 tragedy:



Another victim of COVID:



But Somos en escrito is alive and well:



And 2021 is coming at us:


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

PANDEMIC ODYSSEY: PART ONE


The world was crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic and the election, do why not take my 99 year-old mother-in-law on an other road trip? It's crazy, but in this world, that's only a matter of degree.


It was Emily's brother Mike's idea. Our New Mexico trip with Margaret was successful, and he wanted to spend some more time with her, and show us some stuff he'd gotten to know from decades of driving around America selling his wooden drum boxes. And we'd become experts at pandemic travel, mask wearing, hand sanitizing, social distancing . . .



Of course, it started off with a mad dash. I was scheduled for a Zoom panel about Latinx science fiction, so I had to do that, then we got Margaret into the already packed car and headed for Flagstaff, still reeling from the panel. The word "apocalyptic" kept coming up, and it colored the way I saw things.


We dropped Margaret off at Mike's house, and Emily and I spent the night at Mike's studio--a converted barn filled with the machinery he used to make the drums, and other photogenic oddities. Was the painting in the bathroom supposed to be Luis Buñuel, and what happened to the homeless man who painted it?



Got up early the next morning, could see stars. It was 30, and we could see our breath for the first time in ages. Emily, I don’t think we’re in Phoenix anymore . . .


Soon we were heading to California. Mr. Trout, a plushie, sat on the dashboard to keep away evil spirits. I had my sketchbook on my knee, taking note of the Trump signs by the highway and cerchezing le weird.


The first stop was Barstow, as in, “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”


Or as Mike, but put it, “There’s nothing to see in Barstow.” 


On the way Mike told us which town didn’t give a damn about wearing masks.



Saw another Trump billboard while passing through Kingman. It was followed by another one about legalizing marijuana. Past Crazy Fred’s Truck Stop among the rock formations that got more complicated as we went on. A different state, a different landscape.


Mike is a master of the Neil Cassidy art of driving while delivering a nonstop monologue of tales of the road. He’d been on the road most of his life, and knew it well. No need to search for America, he knew it better than most people.


Now and then he would stir up some of Margaret’s memories, and she'd tell a tale.



There wasn’t much in Barstow. It looked like an extension of the Metro Phoenix Area, or a chunk of the SoCal sprawl dropped in the middle of the desert. Checking into the Day’s Inn was cyberkafkaesque. The desert stretched off into a seemingly endless two-dimensional void.


The next day was Halloween, and for some mysterious reason Margaret took a disliking to Mr. Trout.


She kept declaring, "I don't like that fish."


Later she switched to saying "Sally Restowski."


When Emily asked who Ms. Restowski was, Margaret said, "Don't ask."


When we passed through a huge windmill farm, Margaret thought we were in New Mexico, in the Very Large Array. Apparently, she had confused Sally Restowski with Jodie Foster.


Soon the windmills gave way to Joshua trees, and we passed through an airliner boneyard.


Mike said that these days, you see more Amazon trucks on the road than any other kind. Pandemic side-effect? World domination?


"Don't get out from under that mountain," said Margaret, and it seemed like good advice. 



After the desert gave way to farm country, there was a sign: CANNABIS DELIVERED. We were in California, alright. Heading for Bakersfield.


Mike had to hide Mr. Trout under the driver's seat after a while, so Margaret switched to talking about Sally Restowski, and the "international powers" she was involved in.


As we neared the coast the mountains looked like russet potatoes, and were shrouded in mist--the marine layer. We took the James Dean Highway--site of his fatal accident--entering wine country.



On our approach to San Luis Obispo, a caravan of vehicles flying Trump 2020 flags whizzed past us.


SLO (pronounced "es-el-oh") is another franchise wonderland, like a wealthy L.A. suburb with delusions of grandeur. The hotel rates were high--Mike said, "This is a hundred dollar town”--so we stood in a Super 8 just out of town, near where a 2Mexicans.com truck was parked. And there were homeless guys with signs asking for help at the intersections.


Vehicles flying Trump 2020 and the Stars&Stripes patrolled SLO like an occupying army.



On Saturday afternoon people were lined up outside thrifts shops that limited the number of people allowed in due to COVID-19. Young women wore flamboyant styles and wild hair colors--I couldn’t tell if they were dressed up for Halloween, or if it was just the current fashion. Or the current situation.


Soon the Trump patrols got Fuck Yous and middle fingers from the sidewalks. It got lively, but petered out before getting anyway near a riot. The Trumpers were off the streets by the time we were grabbing take-out from a place called Toñitas.


Ah, California . . .


Thursday, December 3, 2020

CHICANONAUTICA SAYS “2020 IS COMING TO AN END!”


Chicanonautica says goodbye to 2020, over at La Bloga.


A lot happened this year:

 


More than a lot of us remember:

 


And some of it ain’t over:



So remember the future!


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

ERNESTOIZE YOUR HOLIDAZE

 What a year! And now were hurtling into the Holidaze—today Día de los Guajoltes--AND the world is still stark, raving descompesto. As I look back, I made some progress, and got published in spite of the apocalyptic turmoil. So, I should remind you of this so you can participate in the annual winter consumer orgy that is just about all that is left of civilization on this planet.



Before we dive into the naked capitalism, here’s something you can read for free, my story “Tomorrow is Another Daze,” part of ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project, and an illustration done later by J. Schiek.



Then, you can check out my Amazon page, that not only has my novels (except for Smoking Mirror Blues for some mysterious reason—I should look into that, when I get some spare time), but some other goodies that you may not know about. 



American Monsters Part 2  features “Cuca,” a tale of female masked luchadora, who finds herself in the nexus of monsters of the North American continent.



In Latinx Rising, “Flying Under the Texas Radar with Paco and Los Freetails” tells of Paco Cohen, Mariachi of Mars, who left the Lone Star State for the Red Planet.



He shows up again in “The Rise and Fall of Paco Cohen and the Mariachis of Mars” in The 2020 Look at Mars Fiction Book. I really have to get back to that novel about him . . .



If that wasn’t enough, Nine to Eternity has “The Great Mars-A-Go-Go Mexican Standoff,” a surreal, slapstick space opera.


Am I obsessed with Mars, or is it just a convenient metaphor for my native Aztlán?



Spectulative Fiction for Dreamers: A Latinx Anthology will include the previously unpublished “Those Rumors of Cannibalism and Human Sacrifice Have Been Greatly Exaggerated” and is not out yet, but I’ll be shouting about as soon as it happens.


In the meantime, may your Holidaze be happy as we soar into whateverthehell lurks beyond 2020 . . .