Sunday, December 10, 2017

Comforts of Night


Comforts of Night
By Armando Ortiz

Moon rays bombard
the anchored boats

Off the coast
they sway

We follow owls
through the night

Evening desert winds
pass through the canyon

Blowing out
to the silent bay

While your hand
feels my back

Rustling leaves
flood the arroyos

The cool oven jet streams
feed our burning fire

We sleep naked
warming each other

Mocking birds
cut across

Manzanita trees
surround us

We embrace
under a blanket

The night is a starry splendor
sleepless but fully awake

We enter each other’s eyes
and find comfort

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Camping in California: Montana De Oro State Park

Morro Bay at a distance
Camping in California: Montana De Oro State Park
By Armando Ortiz
Watching the sun go down.
I drove through the area where this campsite is located a few years ago. It was past midnight and I was coming from Nor. Cal., the sky was onyx, and the moon’s light reflected on the coastal waters, like an old Mayan carving made of obsidian. At times I could see the white of the ocean water that was crashing onto the coastal crags. The tree groves seemed to just grow wild along the side of the road. This time around I came here to camp and to do some hiking.
Montana de Oro State Park is a very beautiful park that has lots to offer to any visitor. This park is located along the coast of Los Osos, which is about ten to fifteen miles west of San Luis Obispo. Along the way to the park one can find convenient stores and grocery stores where you can stock up on goods. The park gets heavily visited by day hikers, college students and people that are into outdoor sports.
My camp at Montana De Oro
I camped on the Environmental Site 1. Finding parking lot where I had to leave my car was not difficult, but the spot where I’d set up my tent was initially tough to find, but eventually I did. Initially I was a bit unsure of the location where I’d be staying for the night. My site was a quarter of a mile away from my car, and I seemed to be unprepared for a hike. After setting camp, and relaxing I discovered that there was a trail to hike right next to my location. In addition, the coastal sand bluffs were a few minutes away walking. I’d never been or seen such a place. The sand bluffs were new to me. I’d never been to coastal dunes, which make for some majestic photos.
Wild buck at a distance
As I climbed a dune I saw a wild buck. I tried getting closer, but still keeping a fairly good distance from it and took some photos of the wild deer. After having a light snack, and seeing the sun set, I began making my way back hiking around some more and once the sky began to darken returned to camp.During the night coyote visited me, it was outside the tent, all I could see what the shadow that its body created after I turned on the lamp. The rustling eucalyptus trees had woken me up as the midnight wind blew. Nights speckled with shinny pearls and owls watched my every move. Throughout the night coastal waves said, everything would be alright.
Morning at Montana De Oro State Park
In the morning I had instant oatmeal with a packet of trail mix. The tweet of fly catcher families greeted my morning walk.  As I headed towards to my car I saw butterflies float bye. They seemed to be following the northeastern sun. They seemed to be fluttering their wings, like black eyelashes on mocha skin. They moved gently, as if following the push of the breaking wind.

While I hiked the cliffs, a Condor glided bye and followed the edge of sand cliffs. I couldn’t help to imagine an aged corselet protecting a soldier from an old armada galleon setting foot on the coast. Climbing these sand dunes for god and glory and finding maidens sitting, watching the sun go down. The smell of wild sage and sweet blossoms mixing with the desperate sweat of danger and opportunity, for a moment a flash crossed my mind.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Camping in California: Leo Carrillo State Park

The sun sets at Leo Carrillo beach.
Camping in CaliforniaLeo Carrillo State Park
 By Armando Ortiz
Camp site 59, at Leo Carrillo State Park.
Its Thanksgiving break, the weather is cooler, and during this time Angelinos tend stay indoors. So I decided to see if there were any campsites available. I logged on to the California state parks website and found site 59, which was available for the night.
            Leo Carrillo State Park is at the edge of Malibu, so it took about an hour to get to the park when coming from Los Angeles. Right before arriving I stopped by the Pavilions up the road and bought lunch and dinner. I arrived at the park, checked in and went to my spot. Lots of squirrels scattered as I got out of my car, and scanned the area. I sat on the wooden bench and ate my lunch. Then I set up my camp, and went for a walk. The sites to the left and right of me were empty though online it appeared that they’d been reserved.
Leo Carrillo tide-pools.
            The state park is filled with old California oaks, making the walk to the beach a pleasant one, which took about 10 minutes. The sun was setting, and rocks jutted out of the beach creating a large area of tide pools. A few minutes later I headed north, trudging through the sand, and sat on top of a cliff and saw the sun set.
            At night the neighbors across from my camp were loud; a lady’s laugh sounded like a scandalous parrot, and didn’t stop talking till around 11pm. People shatter doesn’t compare to the sound of cars speeding up the road that borders the park. Mullholland Highway is next to the park.

            Overall, this is a nice place to visit and camp. It seems more family oriented than other campsites, since there are tide-pools and beaches, being very kid friendly. To wrap things up, I highly recommended for families and for a nice romantic outing with that special someone. I imagine that in the summer nights are long and the park is always filled to the brim.
California oak at Leo Carrillo State Park.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Latin Quarter, Paris


Norte-Dame de Paris and the Seine River.



Latin Quarter, Paris
By Armando Ortiz

St. Michel station area.
Evenings in Paris are an extension of summer afternoons, there is still plenty of sunlight even at ten o’clock in the evening. So when I arrived in Paris at around 6pm there was time to go to my room, wait for the host that showed up about an hour late. They offered me a sampling of French cheese, and was still able to get on the subway and take a 30 minute ride to the St. Michel station, which left me at the edge of the Latin Quarter and a few feet away from Norte-Dame Cathedral.
First meal spot.
I recall stepping out of the station at around 9pm and seeing the old church. It was lit up with florescent bulbs shooting light upwards. It looked serene. I walked towards the structure, and to my right was the Shakespeare and Company book store, where Woody Allen had appeared on one of his latest films. Numerous tourist roamed the church square. Norte-Dame de Paris was built over a two hundred year span, and completed in 1345, though additions and updates have been made since its beginning as a holy shrine. I came to church area and saw the statue of Charlemagne, King of the Franks and the Holy Roman Empire. The barbarian king had converted to Christianity and adopted old Roman ways. Napoleon Bonaparte had been crowned King of France in that Medieval Hall. I sat on the concrete benches, and saw other foreign tourists and young locals pass bye. I also watched the local grey rats run across the walkway and sprint by the edges of sacred sanctuary, roaming its perimeter collecting left over food or loose paper to insulate their nests.
After a while I decided to walk around the paved alleys of the Latin Quarter. I leisurely started towards the bustling area, looking at all the different restaurants and the food being sold. That first night was exciting to say nonetheless. My first meal- a crepe filled with glazed pieces of chicken, mushrooms, and cheese was a good introduction to the local tourist diet. The cheese must have been good because it was strong and gooey, though coming from the states it might have been too much. In the states the strongest I have had has been sharp cheddar. The place was narrow and could seat ten people at most. I had the feeling of being in an old wooden ship, and was docking in Paris.
Pantheon.
For the next ten days that I’d be in Paris, St. Michel would be my destination, to take the red bus, to walk to other historic structures like the Orsay, to eat, to people watch, and look at beautiful women walk bye. But one of my more memorable treks after emerging from the St. Michel station was on my second to last day, and walking up the hill to check out the Pantheon on my. The subway stop is at the foot of the hill and along the edge of the Seine River. From the station its one long hike up next to paved roads and buildings belonging to the Soborne University cover the rest of the land that greet you like a stoic crowd silently paying respects to you. When I got to the mausoleum I was not allowed to enter. The bottle of wine that I had just purchased was not allowed into the premises since it a glass container. So the time that I had spent resting on one of the giant benches next to the converted church, opening the glass container and taking sips, turned out to be a bad idea. Once I realized that I could put the wine inside my plastic bottle the building containing the remains of famous people like Rousseau and Voltaire, was closed.

I looked at my map determined to do something and optimistic of the day’s unfolding. I decided to visit some historic places of the English literary world. James Joyce, Hemingway and Orwell had lived just a few meters away from the Pantheon. I headed there and wondered- how life there could have been in the early 20th century. I found their flats, which looked nondescript, but with plaques posted on the outside walls giving some quick info on their former occupants. I decided to walk further up while I stared and photographed the Hemingway apartment.  Soon, I saw people and lots of movement at the top of the hill, and as I got there noticed folks eating along the edges of street, the restaurants were full, and the patrons seemed more interested in relaxing than being inside. A lot of people looked like movie stars, writers, just a bit healthier and more alive with a definite hop to their step and ha to their laughter and completely comfortable with themselves. Children and adolescents ate ice cream and families rested on the shaded area at the center of the intersection. The leaves of the tree were light green and delicately let the cool afternoon air pass through like nets that let the water be forever free.
Evening meal by the river.
So after reaching the top and walking down the other side I was intrigued, this was the Latin Quarter and on my map it showed where Orwell worked as a dishwasher. I kept wandering through this labyrinth of segmented realities, where one way led you to another direction, showing you ways through Paris’ ventricles, arteries and veins- I was just checking stuff out. The number of bistros really surprised me because I’d never been to such a place. Being that I was on top of a hill the clouds looked like dough and the sky a rich indigo. I was definitively going to be spending my lunch money here. I ended up having Iranian food which had the tastiest kabobs I had had in a while, the last time being at a Jewish Iranian wedding. 
After finishing lunch, I walked around some more till I found a really nice bakery and bought a day old baguette at half price. Next, I wandered into a convenient store where I bought some Spanish olives and sausages. Know I was set for the coming hours and would be able to continue my walk about. Later, as I sat by the river, I couldn’t help to think of how when a door closes so many other possibilities open up, maybe my situation back in Los Angeles would improve and the outlook on love looked better than when I had boarded the airplane to France. I was in the same area the next day and had a classic French dish, and visited Voltaire’s resting place, paying my respects. I wandered around the same streets that captivated me the previous day, for one last time.
Voltaire.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Pieces of Light


Pieces of Light
By Armando Ortiz

The world is a jet stream that takes him to world divine,

and if he conducts with respect he won’t be condemning himself to die,

but if passing to the next life a condemned man,

then let that light hit like a bullet, as the first ringing of a bulls eye.

Walk and talk with truth and deep valleys with flowery meadows

will not only be recorded from his eye,

but that warm texture of soft hands that make ephemeral mudra signs

will guide the way, to the other side of the divine

that texture of time will be with him till eternity

and all that’s left is but a nothing dark night.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Montemartre, Paris

Sacre Coeur

Montemartre, Paris
by Armando Ortiz
Mars
            I’d gone to visit my friend, Scott, and sat on the couch, talking about personal matters –former lover contacting me, my current emotional state, and my overall state in light of many other concerns. Then I asked what he had been doing. He’d been watching some YouTube videos on the breakdown of Greek gods. I saw listed there before me, Mars meaning Ares, God of War. Then it hit me like a flash. I am an Aries, and was born in March. I’d just returned from a trip to Paris, and there visited Sacre Couer in Montemartre, where the church is located. Montemartre means the mountain of Mars. I had returned to that spot a second time before leaving the city the next day, to see the sunset. I’d read about its history in passing but never really made the connection. That last day though, I saw the clouds gently move and separate, like cotton candy being stretched with one’s fingers. The sky slowly turned champagne, rose and as the sun slowly sunk became a dark zinfandel.

Aries
            I told Scott that I was born in March, under the Aries sign. To make things more provocative I also mentioned to him that the constellation next to Aries was Persus, which was an eerie coincidence that my first name was Percy. I was a bit surprised to realize that Montmartre was my mountain. I was mostly taken by Sacre Coeur’s white washed dome and pillars. It was one of the newer basilicas, one a hundred years old, but being that it was on top of a mount, it gives great views of Paris. You can also see the imposing church from the Eifel Tower and other parts of Paris, so if it wasn’t the tower it was the church on mount mars that oriented me and in many ways reminded me that I was in Paris.

Eiffel Tower at a distance
            On my first visit to the church I’d wandered its streets and taken a multiplicity of photographs on my phone. I saw foreigners with “selfie sticks” trying haphazardly to take pictures of themselves. What has happened with asking a stranger for a photo? Not that I went out of my way to offer help. Many faces from different places around the world sat on the steps and just gazed out looking at the city, talking, laughing, and contemplating amongst friend, with an occasional sip of their beer or wine. Some people even had picnics happening in the grassy area of the stairs that lead down to Place Saint-Pierre. All was well on top of mount Mars, and for a person born in March under the Aries sign, things couldn’t have been better.


Sacre Coeur at a distance.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Roberto Bolano's Woes of a True Policeman

Roberto Bolano

Woes of a True Policeman: Review
By Armando Ortiz

In Woes of a True Policeman, Roberto Bolano gives the impression that he is beginning to develop ideas for his novel 2666, but the book itself gives a different dimension to the overarching story or theme of both novels. Woes of a True Policeman ultimately stands independent to the bigger novel because it includes or introduces to the read a new character- Padilla. In this novel, Bolano touches on the lives of characters that appear on 2666; Professor Amalfitano, the professor of literature that for the moment is a professor Santa Teresa. We then get a peek into his daughter’s life; Rosa Amalfitano who is becoming a young independent woman. Bolano moves on to talk about the illusive writer Archimboldi, whom we get a detailed bibliography of his work, and we finish the journey with the young and fearless officer Pancho Monje. Throughout the novel we find Padilla, Amalfitano’s ex-lover who is a writer and who might be suffering from a serious disease.
Woes of a True Policeman
The overarching story line is between Professor Amalfitano and Padilla, and they make their appearances throughout the whole book. Prof. Amalfitano is an accomplished academician who has taught in many parts of the Spanish world. He was once married to Edith Liebernam with whom he had a child. We see that he deeply loved his wife and was a committed husband, though with unusual tendencies, but nonetheless faithful. After he loses his wife, he loses his emotional and in many ways spiritual well-being. Finding himself in what others see as forbidden relationships. Through his travels we discover that he is a leftist professor. Being a revolutionary or leftist leaning has made it hard for him to maintain a lifestyle that he is comfortable with, so he is forced to resign from several posts, traveling from one Latin American country to another, and moving around in Europe.
            Next, we have a section on Rosa Amalfitano who is slowly coming of age. She spends time having conversations with Jordi Carrera with whom she’s struck up a friendship in Barcelona, and then exchanging letters after she leaves Spain and moves to Mexico. We get hints that she is becoming more familiar with her new home and its people. As she becomes accustomed to life in Santa Teresa she begins to find her path with every merging she does with the crowds. One day she discovers that her dad likes men, she comes home early and things get awkward. Furthermore, she starts being followed by a young officer who is supposed to be following her father, due to her father’s “suspicious” activities. She heads out of her home and walks down the tree lined streets, and like smoke disappears into the daily traffic of life slowly becoming her own person.
            Archimboldi, in this novel, is a prolific author and well written. He’s made it big in Europe and is making headway into the Americas. We get reviews of the novels, essays and stories that he’s written. In addition to his literary output, we get a glimpse into his hobbies and some of the things he spends time doing when he isn’t writing. Finally, we see the social network that Archimboldi belongs to and the enemies that he has made. In many ways we get more info on the writer, but the person himself, still remains just as elusive as in 2666.
2666
            We have the young officer, Pancho Monje, who has withstood the test of adversity. Being of a lineage of women who suffered from rape and poverty, but stoically have kept living their lives, loving their seeds and pushing forward in life has made Pancho both stoic with a strong work ethic. He is the first male descendant from a long line of women who have been born into the family. He grows up in a household of three generations of women. He is studious and brave, and soon is recruited as an officer. His recruitment comes after being a body guard to the wife of a powerful politician in the town, and saving her live in a shootout with assassins. He is a rising star within the force because he is both fearless and follows through the orders he receives, except that on his last assignment, he discovers Rosa. He is spellbound.
            In this story the one character that seems to be the most developed and makes a constant appearance throughout the different chapters is Padilla. We find that he is writing a novel, and Amalfitano is continually being encouraging him to continue working on the story. We see that he lives a life of a desperado, having fear of no one, wandering the streets at night, and meeting outcasts from all walks of life. He lives a destructive life, but makes up for it with his poetry. He is an ominous figure, who Amalfitano seems to obsess about. Communication between the two takes place in a time where the internet was just an idea, so the pauses and reading between the lines of letters is something they do habitually.

            The book is an extension or addendum to 2666 where the main characters of the novel appear there too. But now we see more detail on the characters, discovering the dangers and situations that they unwittingly put themselves in. The driving force behind all of this being able to develop one’s art, to meet likeminded individuals who unfortunately might be putting their lives at risk by losing themselves in the raw life of an artist/poet. In many ways Amalfitano’s lover is the main character of the story, because all the other characters are already familiar to those that have read 2666. He might very well represent an ominous precursor to all the events that later happen to the characters. Padilla, as it turns out, is dying of a terminal disease, which shakes Amalfitano, but then again we see that Pancho might have also caught a type of virus that those that discover true beauty in a being can catch.