Sunday, April 9, 2017
Sedona, Arizona. New Age Mecca. Home of the mysterious vortex.
After a day of hiking the red rock canyons, my wife and I went to investigate Airport Mesa, a local vortex site, to see if we could feel the legendary power emanating from deep within the earth.
Scorpions. Rattlesnakes. Black widow spiders. Coyotes. Wild boars. White women carrying babies on their backs and revolvers on their hips. Seems like everything in Arizona can kill you. Surely the vortex would offer some balance to the relentless assault of natural hazards.
After competing for a parking place with drivers who were less than mellow, we climbed up to the mesa and competed for photo opportunities. Nobody was meditating or doing yoga. No chanting. The closest thing to interpretive dance was a kid trying to bug his grandmother by doing the Gangnam Style dance. He seemed to be having a spiritual moment. She wasn’t.
I couldn’t feel any earth vibrations but the sky was darkening and the views were beautiful.
A storm was approaching so we stayed to watch it arrive alongside the frail old woman whose family and dancing grandson had already descended.
When the wind gusts hit, we were nearly knocked off the top of the summit. (The next day, I would learn that the gusts had hit 55 miles/hour up there. To get a sense of this, stick your head outside the car next time you’re driving down the freeway.)
My wife smartly dropped to her knees to minimize wind resistance.
The old woman was disoriented and her oversized jacket filled like a sail. She was about to paraglide off the edge when I grabbed her thin arm. Her jacket hood blew over her face. My face was getting pelted by the fine red dust that makes the region so beautiful when it’s not trying to kill you.
Both of us were in trouble until my wife grabbed the woman’s other arm and guided her to a cable that serves as a guide rail.
Once stabilized, I looked down the hillside and saw the old woman’s adult son or son-in-law watching the whole drama unfurl. I waved frantically, hoping he would come and help his scared and uncooperative old granny, but he just turned and left. Not exactly a moment of new age love and understanding.
The three of us we all inched down the hillside half-blinded by stinging dust, buffeted by the crazy winds gusting out of the canyon. It was really scary.
So, yeah, I got my vortex.
Truth is, it almost got me.
Saturday, December 10, 2016
After a grim and grueling year, our well-deserved December holiday is finally here. We will don pointy red hats, exchange gifts, and eat too much. Drink we must and drink we will. We will celebrate the Birth of The Lord on December 25th.
Time to party like its 123 A.D.
The festival of Saturnalia starts on December 17th and culminates with the birthday of our glorious Sol Invictus on the 25th. We pray and sacrifice for King Sol to light our benighted world.
It’s the most beautiful time of the year, the joyful season when both the poor and the mighty decorate their shops, homes and streets with brightly colored ornaments when. We light candles and hang lanterns to counter winter’s darkness. Our neighbors and co-workers wear outlandish outfits, and many enjoy the temporary suspension of public morality to dance, disrobe, and engage in acts that would be make a pig blush during the rest of the year. For those who need extra encouragement there will be mulled wine and spiced drink to lubricate long nights of wild irreverence.
Don’t hold back! What happens in Saturnalia, stays in Saturnalia
Every city, town and village will designate a “Lord of Misrule” to lead the way, encourage mayhem, and speak truth to power. Remember: short of murder, nothing you say or do during Saturnalia can be held against you. Bosses become workers and workers, bosses. The meek inherit the earth and turn it upside down, if only for a week. So stick it to The Man and enjoy it while it lasts.
Alas, no good tradition goes unpunished. There is a dark side to all the merriment. Prudish forces of political correctness are trying to co-opt our ancient ways. The holier-than-thou insist upon saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Io Saturnalia.” These self-proclaimed saints demand that the traditional week of debauchery be replaced with just one quiet, solemn day on the December 25th.
Don’t be fooled by these repressed pilgrims! The puritanical few should not be allowed to dictate morality over those of us who honor tradition. We true believers must hold fast to our lasciviousness and sacrifice. And when it comes to sacrifice, don't forget that the Gods prefer suckling pigs.
Want more? The first chapter of "Aqueduct to Nowhere" will transport you back to the Saturnalia festivities and chaos that follows in 123 A.D..
Saturday, November 23, 2013
It took four years and many re-writes, but "Aqueduct to Nowhere," the sequel to "No Roads Lead to Rome," is finally here! Given that "No Roads" took about nine years to get published, one could argue that I'm getting faster. Initial reviews suggest I might be getting better, too.
In blog post here, I wrote about how the "No Roads" story found me and how its colorful characters colonized my mind. Many of the bamboozlers, fools, heroes and sages who navigated the chaos and obstacles of "No Roads" have returned in "Aqueduct."
The saga takes place during the week of Saturnalia, a solstice festival that was wilder than the wildest Mardi Gras imaginable. Slaves become masters and masters, slaves. Anything goes and often does.
The action kicks off immediately when a low level security guard named Gaius Severus, the hapless conscript from "No Roads," is kidnapped for initiation into the mysterious cult of Mithras, God of Soldiers.
Severus would have liked nothing better than to forget his Jewish origins and assimilate into a comfortable position within the imperial administration. Unfortunately, his rebel brother Marius is hades-bent on overthrowing the empire with outlandish stunts and protests. Worse, his strong and psychic girlfriend Lena joins forces with a ship full of female pirates who came to settle a grudge with the inept bon vivant Governor Festus Rufius.
Gaius Severus wanted a quiet life and he's rewarded with the opposite. He didn't ask to be thrust into a world full of thieving politicians, rogue praetorians, assassins and rioting citizens but he rises to each occasion, survives, thrives and solves a few mysteries along the way.
The indie success of "No Roads" helped me develop a thick skin. When one critic said that he enjoyed the back of a Cornflakes box better than my novel I studied the cereal box for insights and posted a one-star review here and on Amazon.
That said, I appreciate the thoughtful reviews, good and bad, and tried to learn from them all. With the exception of a couple of excursions I couldn't resist, in "Aqueduct" I tried to avoid tangents that amused me but dissipated story momentum. I developed strong female characters and let them kick some ass. My people are more three dimensional, their internal and external conflicts more human. There's even a bit of romance.
Ancient Tarragona, Spain in A.D. 123 was an age where many Gods and cults were competing for one's devotion, a time when might made right and those with the gold made the rules. One superpower, Rome, ruled supreme but there were cracks along the edges of the empire.
As in our world today, corruption, incompetence, and self-interest competed with hope and idealism to drive history forward. Then, as now, people were still people--their pathos, quirks and foibles fertile ground for humor. Have we changed all that much over the millennia or is really our world I'm writing about?
There's no better time than the past to laugh at the present. Historical friction.
I hope you enjoy "Aqueduct to Nowhere." If you agree it was worth the wait, please spread the word by posting a review at Amazon, Goodreads, or elsewhere.