Monday, November 23, 2015

recent read; Borderland Noir

Borderland Noir, edited by Craig McDonald

Borderland Noir is an engaging anthology of short stories, novel excerpts, and essays pondering the harder edges of life on the border of Mexico. Coyotes (human traffickers,) wasted lives, murder, the drug war, banditos and echoes of the Mexican Revolution, and all sordid stops in between are examined.

The short stories are all engaging and take different directions. There are many, many stories to be told under the umbrella of borderland noir. DEA, ICE, prison guards, sheriffs, broken-down hookers, hit men, washed-up lawyers, life on the other side of the river and more.

McDonald's excerpts from his novel, El Gavilan, provide a poignant view of the illegal immigrant's journey through desert, coyotes, mad men with jugs of water and untold hardships - all for a chance - just a chance - of something better in the United States.

Jim Cornelius's essay on the the rise and fall of Pancho Villa, "Pancho Villa—Fourth Horseman of the Mexican Apocalypse," might appear out-of-place at first. But, in fact, it is a fascinating read when paired with the closing essay, "Where God And The Devil Wheel Like Vultures" by Tom Russell. The roots of bandito worship start with Villa and the Revolution (or perhaps, earlier.) The bad guys are the good guys because - for all their killing - they also help entire communities when it is to their benefit. It is chilling to see the same behavior and acceptance of drug lords and their wars. Also chilling - both items, separated in content by 100 years, give or take - mention Americans on the border watching warfare and gunfights across the river.

If you think the fictional body counts are unbelievable, just wait until you read the real statistics.

History repeats.

Borderland Noir is an engaging read. It drags you over the border and steeps you in sweat, beer, fear, revenge, smoke, jalapeƱos and blood. It is an eye-opening noir anthology about life in the shady world of the border.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month

I've posted before about my maternal grandfather and his service during World War I. As usual for me, on this day to honor all veterans I find myself gravitating toward the root in Armistice Day of World War I.

Another World War I veteran in the family tree was Joe St. George. I don't know much about him, though there are a few family anecdotes. He was nicknamed "the Count," for one, because he led a wild life.

Recently when cleaning out the house after my father's death, we found a picture of Joe & his wife, along with the certificate for his French Verdun medal.

Joe & Nellie St. George, year unknown (probably 1940s)

And last week, I finally found and visited their grave.
Amazing stuff to discover after all this time.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

recent read; Weird Menace, Volume 1

Quick post on this one;

Scary houses, mad scientists, insane monstrosities, pummeling fists, stalwart heroes, blazing pistols & spunky dames. This anthology delivers on its premise all the way through. Fun throwback, really feels like you grabbed a pulp off the rack in 1935.

If you like that sort of thing, this is for you.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Guerilla grave tending

It's been nearly a year since my father passed away. Damn but time flies.

The anniversary of his death, too near my birthday at the end of November usually means miserable cold weather. The weather between Autumn and Winter. Wet, cold and lacking both the cheer of snow or the beauty of Fall colored trees.

Rather than wait, I paid respects yesterday. It was cloudy but unseasonably warm, the day was open. Coincidence it came on All Souls Day/Day of the Dead/Samhain.

Turns out the spot looks lovely in Autumn. Next year I need to get down a little earlier, perhaps. Some of the trees had already dropped all their leaves, but there was still enough nice color to go around.

Lovely spot come Autumn.
Then I swung up to my great-grandfather's grave (same cemetery.) It is a shared plot with other past family members - great-grandmother, a grand uncle & a grand aunt. Unfortunately, their stone is a flat-in-the-ground style. Entropy had set in. Names were occluded by growth. (I need to come by more often. I probably will now that my father is buried there.)

Anyway - the humorous part comes here. I came unprepared for a grave cleaning. I had no gloves, and my pocket knife just wouldn't do the job. I could come back later, but I really wanted to do something then & there. I thought to myself, "Is there anything in the car I can use to take care of this now?"

Yeah. I keep an entrenching tool (collapsible spade) in the trunk for emergencies.

So, there I was, walking around the graves, with shovel in hand.

Glad no one called me out on it. Could have been awkward ;)

Sometime you bring roses. Sometimes you bring a shovel. Sometimes both.

I think I can generate a few short stories out of the experience. :)

(I'll get back in the Spring, bring a kit and do a proper job.)