Baja-flavored Zombies

NewSkinAndBonesAmazonCoverIf you’ve ever vacationed in the Sea of Cortez, especially sailing amongst the Midriff Islands, you’ve encountered bobitos. Yes, those annoying little flies, gnats, bugs…whatever you’d like to call them. They’re infamous for swarming in your face, getting into your eyes, ears and up your nose, any place there’s even a hint of moisture they can suck up. They don’t bite. They just annoy the devil out of you.

After a miserable panga ride (panga = Zodiac) one spring evening, inundated with the little bastards, I decided to write a story changing the tiny critters from nuisances into brain-sucking zombies. And thus was born “Zombitos” my newest horror short story which has been included in the 2nd Edition of my Skin and Bones collection now available on Amazon.com for just $2.99.

So if you like a variety of horror, dark fantasy, and science-fiction, most of which have been inspired either by my travels or my anthropology training, Skin and Bones is for you. Give it a try. It’s free if you’re an Amazon Prime member.

 

Skin and Bones: Where Anthropology Meets Horror!

Penguins, Sharks, Zombies, Shatner…and Crisis Management

Two weeks ago, I vowed to finish the first draft of my latest zombie short story. And I’m proud to say that I did! (I even finished it a day earlier than promised.)  It’s not quite ready for publication. I need to allow a little time for it to marinade…I suppose I could get gross and make some kind of zombie analogy about stewing in bodily fluids…but I’ll save that for the story. I did express concern to my first readers that the story wasn’t quite creepy or gruesome enough and was promptly informed “Oh, yes it is. Eeewww.”  What I need to work on, I’m told, is some character development. So I’ll be revisiting the story this coming weekend.

In the meantime I’ve started a new Twitter feed under @TheFarPlaces describing the adventures of #PenguinAboutTown. It was inspired by the humorous Twitter feed of @BronxZoosCobra and two of my fellow travelers in Baja during March who brought along stuffed critters for photo ops. So, last week when I needed to make a quick business trip to D.C., I took along Penguin (yes, my penguin’s name is Penguin) and took him barhopping.PenguinMetro Here he is hitching a ride on the D.C. Metro. After all, penguins can’t fly. They can’t buy Metro passes either (no pockets for money or credit cards) but I don’t think the station attendants noticed him sneaking on board tucked away in my bag.

Watch Twitter for future #PenguinAboutTown adventures.

And to further wake up my brain – dare I say celebrate the reawakening of my brain from the fog of migraines and pain killers – this week I am beginning a graduate certification program in Crisis Management. First class up: constitutional law. Yeah. Really. I’ll see if I survive the eight weeks without case law turning me into a zombie. Wish me luck. (But, hey, I might get inspiration for yet another zombie story! Do you think they’d let me write a case study of the zombie apocalypse?)

But before I delve into Marbury v. Madison and Jew Ho v. Williamson, etc., I gave my brain a break and thoroughly enjoyed “Sharknado 2: The Second One.” If you love cheesiness, this is the movie for you. I think it was even better than the first one. In the first 5-10 minutes alone they managed to parody “Airplane!” (itself a parody) and the classic “Twilight Zone” ‘Nightmare at 20,000 feet’ episode with William Shatner (who frequently parodies himself). I knew I was in for a great ride the moment I saw Robert Hays in the cockpit.

 

Circles

blogphototrackMany days you find yourself right back where you started.

The short story which remains unfinished; the screenplay which remains unstarted; the photo organization photo stalled; the kitchen still dirty.

Excuses are everywhere: too many projects, too many ideas, tugging you in different directions; or yet another migraine dragging your brain down into mucky pits of stagnation and dullness.

But sometimes excuses are good ones. Like friendship. Instead of spending yet another day at the computer trying to think of effective marketing strategies, I spent Saturday walking. And walking. And walking. In a big circle around a dirt track at a local middle school. One of my friends is a breast cancer survivor and every year she participates in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Since I can’t afford to donate money, I do what I can. I walk the track with her, supporting her in her goal to raise the much needed funds for research.

Amidst the sun, the wind, and the allergens assaulting me, I remind myself that migraines, debilitating as they are, aren’t cancer. And I remind myself that writer’s block, although it can be deadly to my career, won’t kill me. So I walk, and let my brain float free with no thoughts other than those of putting one foot in front of the other. If a cancer survivor can do this, so can I.

So, days later, I continue to put one foot in front of the other. And I continue to hit one key on the keyboard after the other.

Progress in defeating my migraines is slow, but steady. With the help of acupuncture, every week shows improvement. I can look at that bottle of pain killers and say, I don’t need one of those.

And I will (WILL) finish that zombie story which popped into my head during my Baja vacation (way back in March). I will finish a first draft by Sunday. If I don’t, you can scold me. The first draft may not be pretty, but it will be done. One stumbling zombie step at a time.

Fellow Travelers (Part II)

ImageKeeping with last week’s theme of introducing you to some of the folks I’ve met on my travels, this week I’d like to introduce you to Bruce Fryxell and his Flickr pages.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bfryxell/sets/

Bruce was one of the “Houston Nine” as I called us – the unlucky few to nearly miss catching our ship to Antarctica back in 2012. An accomplished photographer, Bruce also took the same Baja trip I just recently did, but in 2013. While Bruce doesn’t yet have his Baja photos up on Flickr, I strongly encourage you to check out his Antarctica work. And be wowed.

 

(That’s Bruce – standing – in action in the Falkland Islands.)

Fellow Travelers (Part I)

ImageTraveling is a joy. Not just for the places you see, but for the people you meet.

On my recent Baja vacation, I greatly enjoyed the company of several other guests on board the National Geographic Sea Lion, many of whom are photography buffs and even fellow bloggers.

I’d like to take this week to introduce you to retired school teachers Grace Pitzer and her husband Paul, with whom I shared several delightful meals and shore excursions.

They’ve traveled to well over 100 countries and can regale you with many more tales than I.

Please visit their website:

http://pitzertravels.com/travel/Welcome.html

and travel blog:

http://pitzertravels.blogspot.com/

where you can see additional photos from our Baja journey. Image

 

 

“For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.”

Image The Baja Peninsula is home to a variety of endemic fauna and flora, perhaps none more strange than the Boojum. Named for a mythical creature in Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark,” the Boojum (or Cirio, as it called in Spanish) is a tree like no other. And we were on the hunt for it.

Docking in the small town of Bahia de Los Angeles, the crew and passengers of the National Geographic Sea Lion piled into a motley assortment of cars and vans to head up into the hills in search of the fabled Boojum Forest. Our 66-year old driver, Mr. Smith (his great-grandfather was from England), was proud to tell us about his three-year-old granddaughter whose white baby shoes swung from the rearview mirror and, of course, how the Seri Indians – the original inhabitants of the Baja Peninsula – believed the trees had special powers and how the experts can not agree on whether or not the Seri deliberately transplanted the Boojums.

Several sources, among them Stewart Aitchison’s “The Desert Islands of Mexico’s Sea of Cortez,” report that the Seri believed the Boojums were once people: “giants who were overtaken by floodwaters.” Other Seri myths warn against harming – or even touching – the Boojums for fear of bringing on wind and rain.

But we did not fear the Boojums, as bizarre as they appeared. With pale green bark and yellow flowers on spindly spikes, the Boojums reached to the sky – their scarce branches twisting around one another as if they were the giants of legend beseeching the gods to save them from the flood, wringing their hands in prayer.

We ran around for more than an hour, searching for the weirdest of the weird, or the Boojum whose twisted arms perfectly framed the pale moon rising in the late afternoon sky. ImageWe ignored the spattering of rain drops and the itchy sand as we lay on our backs trying to get the perfect shot encompassing the Boojum’s height. (They are slow growing plants, possibly just a few inches per year; a fifty foot tree could be more than a century old.)

We even ignored the warnings. Okay – I did. Threading my arm through those spiky spindles, I touched the Boojum. Nothing terrible happened. The bark felt sort of like that of a birch. And it felt strong and sturdy.Image I told the Boojum it was beautiful. (Yes, I talked to the tree…call me weird.) I don’t remember all that I said, but I did ask if it wouldn’t mind sharing its strength and longevity.

Now that I’m back home in the midst of what’s promising to be the worst California drought, I’m thinking maybe I should have asked the Boojum for some rain too.

 

A Humpback Whale Swims into a Bar….

Image ….can you believe I couldn’t find a single decent humpback whale joke on the internet?

But who needs jokes when you’ve got the real thing surrounding your ship. Unlike the gray whales on the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula a few days before, the humpbacks in the Sea of Cortez had no interest in us. They were too busy feeding, playing, and – perhaps – vying to impress potential mates.

Most of their show was, of course, hidden from us below water, but no one seemed to mind. Every slap of a pectoral fin was greeted by an ooh or an ahh…and plenty of cameras clicking away. Believed to be a courting behavior, “pec slapping” as it’s called, can be quite impressive as the whale brings that 15 foot fin down upon the water for an explosive report and splash. And “lob tailing” (when the whale slaps its flukes against the water) was equally appreciated. But many of us seemed more impressed when the whales simply raised their flukes and, instead of slapping down, slid gracefully below the surface. That makes quite a photo op.

And what can I say about breaching? We all want to see it, right? And not just the side breaching, where they only come up just far enough to fall over on their sides. It still creates quite a splash and there are plenty of us who have pictures…of the splashes. Sound familiar? Try was we might, with our newfound knowledge of how to spot “whale footprints”Image (those momentarily still ovals on the ocean’s surface where the whale has just been), it was difficult to predict where the whales might next appear. I’m the only one who got a shot of this whale doing a side breach and, because I’m only shooting with a 200mm lens, it’s not that fantastic of a photo. Image (Anyone wanna start “Janet’s 400mm lens fund”?) Still, I happened to have my camera pointed in the right direction at the right time, and got a lucky shot.

The best shot, however, no one got. It was our last morning aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion as we headed back toward La Paz for our airplane rides home. I was late getting to the upper deck for morning yoga with Darcy, our wellness coordinator. Just as I was sliding open the door, I heard a “girly scream” (self-described by Jeff, the man it came from) and rushed out to see a humongous splash just off our stern. There was Jeff, standing upright in mid-stretch, staring out at the water, while the other yoga practitioners were all scrambling to their feet to see what they had missed.

It was a humpback, of course, the only humpback during the entire two week trip that did a full breach, pirouetting through the air before falling back into the water. No one had known the whale was there. Only one person happened to be looking in the right direction. Jeff was delighted, naturally. The rest of us, a bit jealous. Next time, however, may be my turn, or one of theirs, to witness that one special moment found in every trip.Image