Friday, February 13, 2009

Illegal Alien Learns About Plato and Writes Short Story

Being alone in the Big Apple and a lone wolf by nature, I was having a sad and melancholy 2009-new year's celebration by myself.

Mostly I was in my room studying English,but I decided to have a few beers and went to the Blue Room (at 60th and 2nd Ave), where the girl-bar tenders are not only good looking but also quite polite. I like that. In other bars barkeeps have the tendency to snub me, since my English is still quite crunched, and I look very Hispanic: dark-skinned and with untamed, straight black hair.

The atmosphere was pleasant, lovely, charged up with the expectancy of great dreams and desire; I could feel it. Yet friendly, subdue, not violent in any way.

With a quick glance, I spotted an empty chair next to a gorgeous Anglo lady whose white skin sparkled in the semidarkness (I don't want to use the word penumbra; it might be too showy). A book was sticking out of her bag and I asked her if it was a good book as I sat down. She looked at me as if I was an extra-terrestial who had just blurted out the oldest pick-up line in the book. But then she mellowed and said, "Terrific book, I will finish it soon--a great read...a business mystery."

"Oh, like that company Enron?"

"Yeah," she warmed up to me, arching her eyebrows, genuinely surprised. I gathered she thought that a guy who knows about Enron couldn't be such a loser.

"Buy it if you can," she said, "The Poison Pill--it is by a hispanic writer, too. My sister gave it to me for Christmas; she said college kids and people all over the world are reading. . . and if I don't read it I would feel out of the loop."

"Hispanic? And he writes in English? Oh, man. I will buy it for sure! I love to read and maybe one day I can become a writer."

"A writer?" she asked, as if convincing herself that she'd heard me correctly. After a few seconds of benign neglect, she said: "Get on the Web and search for Mary Duffy's Writing Manual--that's all you need; but you must study it. People in my Department where I teach use it as a textbook."

Stunned and yet gratified by her kindness, I said I would follow her advice, and thanked her.

Lovely Virginia happens to be a college professor. She doesn't smoke, but she likes her beer, and she loves chicken wings with guacamole and tortilla chips! Well, I do too (the hottest the better). So we became friends and had a great time.

Moments later, I put my hand on her thigh--palm up--of course, so as to not to appear too brazen. This is a piece of advice my uncle Ludovico gave me some time ago. Had I done it with the palm down, I'm sure the results would have been disastrous. Uncle Ludovico was right, for Virginia in response put her hand on top of mine and gently squeezed it.

Not to milk the story (I just learned this expression), I gathered enough nerve and in my half-crushed English I asked her to come up to my room. Wowza! After looking at me from head to toe, and much to my surprise she agreed and...oh boy, oh boy! No other illegal alien that ever cross (or is it crossed?) the Rio Grande, I'm sure, has ever felt the oceanic ecstasy of acceptance.

I was a little drunk but Virginia was sober--or so it appeared, I might be wrong--and hunger (or is it hungry?) for love. In no time she undressed and walked around in her high heels. To tell the truth, never in my whole life have I seen a white woman totally naked. And there she was: an inviting white Viking goddess, full-womanly thighs, throat sighing with desire, chilli-hot passion running in her veins.

In a way I felt inhibited and hesitated in removing my garments. But I did. And when I moved next to her the image of cafe-con-leche came to my mind: White milk and dark coffee.

Being a college professor she asked me if I had ever heard of Plato's Cave. But because I am an ignorant boy I replied with full honesty, "No, of course not...I only went to the third grade."

Lovely Virginia smiled with the sweetest and loveliest smile, and proceeded to give me a mini lecture of the Cave. She explained to me that our world is only a copy of an eternal, unchanging reality where Forms are the real things.

"Ah, much like illegal aliens are to citizens--shadows?"

Amazed and caught off guard by my question, she smiled in agreement and went on with her explanation, saying because I was a good boy she'd let me have the Good, which is nothing else other than pure love between man and woman.

Ah, lovely Virginia! Thanks for teaching me about Plato's Greek love and for letting me experience your forms and your goodness.

Now let me go on line and order the blessed books--the Poison Pill and Mary Duffy's Writing Guide, I think-- that Virginia recommended, and which let me start the year with such a great bang. . . or is it Big Bang?

You dear reader, might be wondering how I can write this short story, without any formal education and in a second language. Well, I followed Virginia's advice. I downloaded Mary Duffy's writing book and I studied it day and night.

Although I still make mistakes, I can now write plain, ordinary, unpretentious prose. Not only that, I learned how to insert dialogue, how to use Absolutes, how to begin my sentences (seldom using nouns or pronous), and other nifty rhetorical figures. If you find that I've used a noun or pronoun as a sentence opener, please leave me a comment, because I agree with Miss Duffy, who says that the secret of fine writing is watching this abuse.

Ay, que vida tan loca en este Estados Unidos!

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath

"An Obsession with the Wife of Bath," that is what the title of this article should be. As my college years recede into the past, the memory of my readings of the Wife of Bath, oddly enough, seem to grow stronger than in the past.

Why my fascination with such character? Aren't there others that are even more recent, interesting, and as critics call them well "rounded” characters? There may be, but The Wife is immortal and always educating and entertaining.

Here are my reasons for preferring the Wife of Bath to many other characters in any language. Two main reasons actually.

Virginity and Euphemisms:

In the first place, the Wife seems to be the first feminist character of all English literature. Despite having had five husbands─some of whom mistreated and battered her─she never denies her love for men. Furthermore, she questions the value of virginity; she uses ribald expressions and euphemisms (my belle chose) as well as erudite language to make her point. To wit: she mentions Dante, Juvenal, Seneca, Ptolemy’s Almagest, Solomon, and Ovid’s Art of Love. And I should also mention that she reminds the readers that Xantippe─Socrates’ wife─once poured a piss-pot on his head. Really? So much for Socrates philosophical head!


In the second place, the actual tale (not the prologue) is a study in equality. “What is the thing that women most desire?” is the theme, to which the only acceptable answer is equality:

A woman wants the self-same sovereignty
Over her husband as over her lover
And master him; he must not be above her

I can just picture her in gayest scarlet dress, smiling her gap-toothed smile, teasing people about her belle chose, enjoying life, breaking the rules, questioning and challenging hypocrisy and ill-founded morals.

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales have endured more than 600 years and will go on entertaining us and filling us with wisdom for many years to come. Always fresh. That is what a classic is all about.

The writing techniques I employ in this article are all explained in Mary Duffy's writing manual:

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