One question that writers often get asked is “where do you get your ideas?” This query can be a bit thorny at times and, depending on the current mood and possible medication-levels of the writer, the responses can range from “I did exhaustive research in the library for 17 years” to “I heard voices in the refrigerator last night”.
People are different, writers are different, and the motivations can come from anywhere. If the creative process was a definable and finite endeavor, we would all create the same things, and who wants to go to a bookstore that only sells one book? (Okay, maybe certain crazed right-wingers would like to make The Bible the only available tome in the land (edited to their specifications, of course), but any respectable publisher is not going to target a demographic that changes their beliefs every time Fox News airs a new entertainment episode.)
Personally, I have two methods to my madness. The first is that I simply sit down at my desk with a vague concept in mind, and then I see what happens. This is how most of my stories come to life. (And it’s also how many of my ideas never see the light of publication, resulting in clunky messes that do nothing more than eat away at the storage in my hard drive.) The alternate route is for me to actually take notes during a certain experience or journey, scribbling down tidbits that will later jog my memory and possibly result in one of my books getting out of the Amazon basement.
And in the spirit of that second avenue of creation, the note-taking modus operandi, I offer up the remainder of this post. It’s the contents of a file I just found in a folder on my desktop, quaintly named “Incomplete or Never Posted”. (This folder is brimming with rejects and ruined finery, a hodgepodge of “good idea but total failure on the delivery”, “maybe I’ll get around to it someday” and “was I drinking at the time?”) This particular document, christened “Notes from Cozumel”, involves digital scribbles from a family vacation. Enough time has passed since the sojourn that a few of the items leave me baffled now, but most of them make me smile and my mental gears start turning.
So this I proffer: An unedited, dusty list of what I found worthy of notation in a certain place and time. For some folks, this will be a revealing insight into what catches my eye, what makes me tick. For others, it will be just the confirmation they need that they have erred in deciding to follow my blog. In either case, I did it for the right reasons.
- Redneck on airplane. Just shoot me in the head, Wardell.
- Craziness of Cozumel airport, two baggage scans (why?), vendors not getting enough sex in their lives, humidity that will take down an elephant.
- Insane shuttle driver taking us to hotel. (License? Therapy? Have people died?)
- Massive room size. We could play volleyball in here.
- Little drink cups. But all-inclusive, so go with it.
- Creative ways of cooking. Do they have health inspectors on this island?
- The hammock of love. Watch out for the giant hole.
- Bikers in hot tub.
- Out of tip money, only pesos.
- Wheelchair breakdown.
- Ice cream snafu.
- Gunk on beach. What is that?
- Early end of evening. How is this possible?
- Wi-fi wacky, just go to bed, undrunk.
- Restless night, loud air conditioner conquers snoring partner, a first.
- Schlepping/begging for coffee. Trust the creamer?
- Morning on the balcony. Could live here, if people bring food.
- First realization that I am not living the life that I should.
- Need to go into town for tip money.
- Didn’t even notice TV in room till now.
6.5 Told front desk about evil AC. (Not sure they understood, this becomes theme.)
- Trip to town, alcohol while waiting on taxi that is poorly air-conditioned, thus justifying alcohol and confirming plans for additional drinking.
- End up in same city square from my Cruise Control book. Are those the same people in the vendor booths? Do they not have goals?
- Camera lost and then found (Tara tragic in hat, Dawn is hero.)
- Pepitos at (Palmyra?). Yum, want more, probably can’t find again, focus issues.
- Back at hotel, building sandcastles with niece Tristany, love this, love her. Love.
- Swimming in ocean. The fish are not afraid of anything, they’ve seen it all, over it.
- We got Roni in the pool! Major effort, worth it.
- Big wind, eventual loss of things.
- Tense dinner, sis and bro-in-law snapping at each other, conversation minimal, drinking maximal.
- More sand with Tristany (love the beach at night, live here I could).
- Only glanced at hot tub, another early evening. (AC suspiciously quiet, expecting vengeance at any second, doesn’t happen. Drift off clutching crucifix.)
- Do not eat the pork at breakfast.
- Strange woman proffering freebies. (Boundaries much?)
- No phone signal today, completely cut off. (Nice in one way, horrifying in anal-retentive way.)
- Another sand village with Tristany, complete with moat and fashion show on drawbridge, using stick people. Imagination will get you through the day.
- The loud American redneck hollering in the water / dumb-ass American kids throwing rocks at birds. All that opportunity in our country and still we produce idiots.
- Crazy, drunk bartender Alma (tasted everything).
- Dinner went from “oh, the wind is nice” to “we’re going to die”, dashing with wheelchair in rain and umbrella. (Pork way better than this morning.) The traveling picture-taking people and the thing with the hubcap.
- Dawn and Darrin find disco, but everyone seems out of energy.
- Attempt at excitement by checking email in lobby, only place with wi-fi, strange crowd is just too much (hollering of “I need to trim my toenails”). No, not here. I will take you down.
- Reading a book by EIGHT-THIRTY.
- Read until midnight, great fun, listening to the waves, lost in the words.
Add in: Difficulty of getting singles and fives, staff only has pesos or they are scared of big bills. Important that people know this, repost on social media. #word
- Another night of tossing and turning (evil AC came back to life).
- Slow wake-up on balcony. Decide to skip breakfast because lunch will eventually be served, sure sign of laid-back attitude. #jimmybuffett
- Mom and Tristany and painting ceramics by the pool. Did not see this coming, still fun.
- With Roni in her room, watching “Lost” with Spanish subtitles. (Surreal, especially the bit with Jack and what’s her name and the camera and the cue cards on the video tape that are still in English because you can’t dub visuals. No one cares about the absurdity but me, story of my life.)
- Very lazy afternoon. Possibly missed lunch as well, but there are vague memories of hotdog consumption. And French fries. I feel good, though. #jamesbrown
- More swimming, but wise Tristany proclaims that we shouldn’t build another sand village, because the last time we did that the gods were angered and pelting rains intruded. (Her thought process runs pretty deep for a pre-teen.) Good point, sage advice, but if you’re looking for the source of godly displeasure I’d have to finger the stupid American rednecks who are swilling Jack Daniels and peeing in the ocean from the dock. (Idiots + disposable income = still idiots. That’s gotta piss off a god somewhere.)
- 17-hour decision on whether or not to go into town for dinner.
- Complete asswipes in the adjacent hotel room keep slamming their front door, 5 times within 3 minutes. What the hell is going on over there?
- We drive into town, hunt for a seafood restaurant. There are thousands of them, but no one can make a decision. I weep quietly and keep trudging along, an endless string of disappointments.
- We finally decide to breach Pepe’s fancy dining emporium, the first place that we encountered as we piled out of the taxi centuries ago. The food is tasty and all, but the atmosphere is a bit too foo-foo for me. (Stop waving that 300-dollar bottle of wine around and bring me a beer.)
- On the way back to the hotel, passed what could possibly be the tiniest Hard Rock Café on the planet. The cramped lobby could only hold three t-shirts and a claustrophobic woman working her rosary beads. Of course, my perceptions could have been distorted by our taxi driver who was trying to kill us, careening down the boulevard like the Gestapo was in hot pursuit.
- Wakeup call from Mom requesting Immodium. Yay.
- Dawn rents jeep for day-long jaunt, with vaguely defined mission of “seeing what’s on that side of the island”. Sounds fun, still a bit of fear factor.
- Darrin maneuvering jeep. Fear factor increases, but glad he’s doing it, I would be reduced to a quivering mass if I had the dubious honors. And that would happen before we left the hotel.
- Stopped at Carlos and Charlies (is that the right name?) with vendors hawking homemade crap, coloring on the tables, line-dancing, temp tattooing, drunk people who want to be friends forever. Fun.
- Bee sting incident while driving. I didn’t see the bee or the sting, offered comfort and support anyway because not doing so could lead to me in the driver’s seat. Not happening.
- Cheezy place on beach where we only had one drink, fled as soon as possible, life is too short. (Quick peek into “kitchen hut” revealed potential crime scene, did not ask questions, kept walking.)
- Another fun place, possibly a tree house, there were a lot of stairs and copious foliage. (“Coconuts”, maybe?) Friendly dogs wandering around wanting pets, some very exuberant parrots, divine guacamole, confusing moment with possible lesbians being possibly kicked out for wanting to show ta-ta’s, lost in translation.
- Drive back across island.
- More pool time.
- Back into town. Margaritaville, chance meeting with Karen and Wade. Dancing with Tristany, appetizer kabob things that made me see Jesus. Issue with one of the bathrooms, didn’t have to go, didn’t care.
- Home and more reading, still hate that AC.
- Another trip into town before jeep expires, flesh out story of parking-meter thing where we were nearly arrested. Drinking way before noon, don’t judge.
- Bartering with a man in a little shop a bit off the beaten path, determined to buy a bottle of “margarita-flavored tequila” but not have to sell the house to do it. (Tequila is everywhere in this town, everywhere, but I wanted this particular concoction because a good drug dealer lets you sample the wares and he did and I lusted.) We come to terms. Three seconds later I realize the poor judgment of purchasing a sloshy bowling-ball-sized bottle that I will now have to lug through streets filled with vendors screaming in Spanish and tourists not understanding how to get out of my way, and everyone is sweating.
- Lunch at another place where the food is cheap and delicious, watching the birds steal goodies from recently-vacated tables, realization that I am not ready to go home, first time in many vacations. I’m usually ready to be in my own bed way before the departure flight, but something about this place, this island, that blue, blue water, speaks to me…
And with that, despite two more days of running amuck, my notes abruptly ended. I’m guessing I became much more interested in living the moments rather than recording them. Still, each little notation, despite the sometimes cryptic brevity, brings back a flood of imagery, planting the story seeds. And so it goes…