Cigarette Smoke VS Cheap Perfume, No Rules Cage Match!

I guess I need to call Carlos and see what time he needs me to help him move on Sunday. He, Shelly, and Rockie have finally found a place. It's way out in Seguin. I'm not sure how much help I can be. My knee isn't getting any better. The good thing, I suppose, about living alone — as well as being currently unemployed — is no one else is subjected to my Tourette's-like outburst of profanity when I do seemingly benign things such as lift my left leg to put on my pants, or make a move to depress the clutch on my truck while driving. On top of that, a cold has settled down on me, and I don't expect it to moisey off for a week or so. Actually, I just hobbled in from a trip to the HEB where I got a fifth of generic DayQuil, and that stuff's pretty impressive. It should get me through Sunday.

Carlos and Shelly have been looking for a place out in the country for some time. One of the reasons is so that they can have enough land for the horse that Carlos' father has given Rockie. It's been at the family farm down in the Rio Grande Valley until Carlos can get a big enough place. Carlos wrote a blog about his new place recently. He recalled one of the preliminary visits before the paperwork went through when he walked to the dead center of the property and just stood there, letting it all sink in. “I felt a calm come over me for the first time in two years and knew this was it.” As I read, I was there with him. The sense of peace, and the chance to commune with nature. But I almost forgot, I was reading one of Carlos' blogs. The next sentence put me straight: “Any horror movie could be made here.” That bit made me smile. It reminded me of what I told guests who came to visit my loft on the top floor of the ancient, dilapidated Continental Gin Building I had in Deep Ellum over a decade ago. I would muscle open the huge horizontally rolling door, and when we'd stepped into my space, I'd let it roll back, slamming it's massive weight against the cement pier that passed for a door jamb. A thumb across a single light switch would cause over a dozen banks of fluorescent lights to shuttered to life, dimly illuminating the 4,000 square foot space. “You understand that no one can hear your screams now,” I would causally say sotto voce as I walked across to check the answering machine beside my fridge. “What? Pardon? What was that you said???”

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Yesterday I finally got around to putting a load of laundry through my washing machine. Phil had returned from his overseas trip, and I no longer have access to his washer & drier which, at least in my opinion, was part of the whole dog sitting contract.

As I was pinning the clothes up on the line, I heard some distant thunder. Not a dark cloud in the sky. It was one of those cinematic moments. Some far off rumbling can do a couple of things well in a films soundtrack. It's great for foreshadowing — even if all it's foreshadowing is a thunderstorm. It can also give a sense of the prevalence of the natural world; it may never rain, but there is the potential chaos of nature still out there. I made the latter interpretation. This is common in San Antonio (though more common in the spring, but the weather patterns this summer were so fucked up, that all bets are now off) — moist air will march its way from the Texas costal plains or up from Mexico (almost always coming in from the south) and the scattered clouds (huge, though often sparsely clotting an otherwise blue sky) will occasionally coalesce and let loose with a deluge which is only dumped on a fifty acre plot of San Antonio.

Yesterday, my washing line was on that fifty acre plot of land that got soaked. Before I could run out and pull the clothes off the line, my street had become a river. Nothing I could do. I left them out there. They'd dry one day … right? Ten minutes later the rain stopped. Blue sky, birds singing. I decided to grab a late lunch at a Mexican diner two miles away. There, the streets were completely dry.

I would leave the clothes on the line over night. Maybe they would be dry the following afternoon.

And so today, around noon, I was catching up on some podcasts, and I heard thunder in the distance. I craned my neck to peer out the kitchen window. Blue skies, tiny white puffy clouds. But there it was, thunder again. I refused to make the same mistake twice. I might never have any dry clothes.

And so I put on some pants and headed outside. My porch was enshrouded by a miasma of cheap perfume. My first thought was that the sporty red Miata convertible parked out front was a new purchase by my landlady's daughter-in-law. She sometimes comes over to work on the property. But I was wrong. The car belongs to my new neighbor. Hey, I have a new neighbor! I wish people would tell me these things in advance. She was sitting on her porch on the north side of my house, smoking a cigarette (the odor of which could simply not dominate that of the perfume).

The biggest innovation in smoking trends (beyond those places where you can and cannot legally smoke) is that so many people now don't smoke in their own homes, but step outside onto their porches to smoke. Strange, really. What do they care? But the last seven people who lived in the other apartments in my building all smoked, yet they never did so inside their apartments.

Anyway, my neighbor introduced herself to me. I've lately been pretty good with names. But … I dunno. Valerie? Vickie? Velma Vandermark? I'll have to ask again. She seems nice enough. 40ish. Psychotherapist. Fancy car and a crappy apartment. There's a story there, I'm sure. But, because we're sharing a wall, I hope to hell that her story is a simple and quiet one.

Good thing I took down my slightly damp clothes. We had another deluge today. A bit longer lasting.

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I stopped by Tito's Tacos for a late lunch today. There is a new waitress that looks so much like Catherine Keener that I was suspicious that Ms. Keener was in town going underground to study for a role (or, Catherine's look-alike kid sister, Elizabeth). I no doubt managed to freak out the woman by staring at her so much. Not only do I think Catherine Keener's one of the more interesting actors working, I also think she's very beautiful.

I hope I didn't scare her off — she was very polite and nice, but I got a sense she'd never worked a waitress job before. Older novice waitresses seem to have a high attrition rate. If you see her, be kind, tip her well. I believe her name is Karen.

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When I posted my last short piece of prose, I received a comment from Jennifer Saylor.

“OK, that made me think of Tim Powers and James Blaylock. Damn, I really wish you’d write a science fiction novel already. A kind of sci-fi answer to Blaylock and Powers.”

I often find myself encountering literary references on Jennifer's blog about authors I know of … yet whose work I've never read.

And, so chagrinned, I visited the downtown library yesterday and checked out a book each by Powers and Blaylock.

(I should point out that, at one time, I owned a quasi-steam punk novel by Blaylock (“Lord Kelvin's Machine”), but I just couldn't get into it at the time and I guess I sold it.)

So now I'm dipping into Blaylock's “The Last Coin,” and Tim Powers' “Anubis Gates.” I decided to first crack the Blaylock novel. His prose is playful and fun to read, but it's ultimately as soulless as that of Frank Belknap Long. And therefore I'm alternately reading R. K. Narayan's “The Guide” to give me something to turn to that provides a deeper nourishment.

I think I understand what Jennifer was talking about. Powers and Blaylock play around with what I call “hidden histories.” Like John Vernon's “Peter Doyle,” which mishmashes history to fit a more tasty matrix, Powers and Blaylock use verifiable historical tidbits to bolster their imaginative fantasies.

This is something I've been involved in for at least 15 years. My stalled historical novel set in the Big Bend region in the 1870s had a time travel element as well as a fantasy subplot involving a giant sentient spider who was vaguely connected to the local folklore reaching back before the appearance of the Europeans.

But, back to my San Antonio pieces. I want to bring these “hidden history” elements to the forefront. I'm currently working, through my little prose pieces, on a new mythology of San Antonio which pumps up the fantasy elements. This city is famous for its ghosts — they're everywhere. San Antonio gave the world the millionaire cryptozoologist, Tom Slick. We also must admit giving birth to Whitley Strieber, the most famous UFO abductee. There are Latino Cucuys all over the place. This is ground zero for weirdness, at least in the state of Texas.

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