Call it a week and a half that I’ve been back in Uruguay after visiting Texas. All the questions unresolved before the trip are still unresolved, but now they have focus and perspective.
While in Texas I managed to complete both a state sales tax return and my federal income tax return. I also bought shoes, shopped at Wheatsville Co-op, and suffered a “mild” case of Covid-19 likely contracted at a family dinner in a restaurant. The infection passed, but I’m still recovering. “Mild” in my case meant persistent, extreme chill, exhaustion, and acute loss of stamina. I was over the infection days before I got on a plane for Montevideo, but that lost stamina has still not all returned. Day by day, it’s hard to tell if it improves at all.
I received a booster (3rd) dose of Moderna vaccine my second day in Texas. As best as I can figure, the virus inserted itself into the program on day 3. On day 7, I woke with a very slight sore throat, a very slightly runny nose and a chill. I took a Covid-19 home test from what I imagined was an abundance of caution. Watching an unequivocally positive result form on the test strip was unreal. Here, the thing I struggled for two years to avoid, occurred. The indicator lines in the test strip were clear in less than a minute, and then just kept getting sharper. I got progressively sicker over the next few days, then stabilized for a few, then began the fits and starts of post-covid reactivation. At least I made it back to the southern hemisphere and this grand adventure.
WHERE ON THE MAP?
Since late December I’ve lived in Barrio Sur, two blocks from la Rambla, a waterfront boulevard that separates Montevideo from the Rio de la Plata. The Rio de la Plata, you should know, is either the world’s widest river or a vast riverine estuary. There are arguments both ways. The east shore is largely Uruguay, including Montevideo, and the west shore is Argentina, including Buenos Aires. That puts two of the cooler cities I know a ferry-ride apart. Astounding tidbit to share at social events: Montevideo, at a more southerly latitude than Buenos Aires, is the southernmost capital city in the Americas.
The apartment sits on the small side of quite comfortable, but the neighborhood is less prosperous and less attractive than Barrio Cordón where I lived before. As temporary housing, this place works well—fully furnished, excellent light, internet included, month-by-month rental—but as a permanent solution it’s not viable. Although many of the furnishings are useful, they are all someone else’s and there are too many of them. Too much junk. Almost, I am ready to hunt for a space with less stuff but all of it mine. Almost, because I still need to settle some residency matters, such as a local bank account. I also want to wait until after the current round of Spanish classes before starting a new apartment search. There isn’t enough time in a day to mix grammar exercises with apartment viewings. Not enough time and still not enough energy.
MAKING A GIG
When it comes time to hunt for a new perch, I’ll have a checklist of questions and options. High among priorities will be a large south-facing window. The current roost boasts exactly that, and the light is wonderful.
For reasons I’ll explain another time, a career change is in the works. I’m in the earliest stage of figuring out how to shift my official status from retired corporate functionary to semi-retired working artist. In order to move forward with making a life here, I need to work as a professional for a while. I don’t need to be more successful than required for meeting expenses, so I choose a profession I want to follow anyway. Fingers are crossed that I can build a small clientele.
If you follow my social media posts you know samples of the approach to illustration I’m developing for this line. The idea is to be able to knock out small, original pieces with regularity. I’ll make prints from the originals and sell both as collectibles, the originals as exclusives and the prints as a series. Ink, colored pencils and paper for creating originals are at hand. To go forward with prints, I need to invest in a printer/scanner soon. Major outgo.
This new activity will be Stikmantic, but it won’t be Habdvarsha. As a sem-retired working artist, I plan to give this enterprise about two hours a day. That will leave about two hours per day for projects already on the table, meaning all of Habdvarsha. Sometimes that will be more drawing; sometimes, more words. The rest of each day will sort into semi-retirement and learning to be Uruguayo.
It’s a plan for the long haul. The balance between engaging Uruguayan culture and the art of a lifetime is comfortable. More details will follow as they cohere.
Word practice right now is twain. As a side effect of immersive language study, I write poems in Spanish. They are small, homely things, imagistic with a dash of fantasy, observing these fresh environs. I write poems in coffee shops and cafes. At minimum intensity and later in the evening, back in refuge, I revise a little on Entranscing—assuming I have energy left for revision after finishing homework.
Entranscing, to keep count, is the second novel of the Habdvarsha narratives. The writing of the existing book is incredibly poor, so the work is hard. It progresses in chewable bites, sometimes only a paragraph. It will see light once done. The case of the poems is less sure. One of my teachers has been kind enough to read several of them, and she argues they are authentic poetry. Can they be authentic poetry in a language I know imperfectly? The answer to that question bears on how best to share them.
FINALLY, THE STATE OF STIKMANTICA
After an unaccountable bump in sales in autumn of last year, interest in the books of Habdvarsha has again flatlined. What to do? I have no solution, but I have an idea to suggest. It would throw a lifeline to Stikmantica while enlarging awareness of the Habdvarsha universe. Within the circle of each of us are social and cultural influencers. Maybe they’re podcasters, maybe they’re gamers, maybe they’re authors, agents, directors, actors or commenters of comment. Maybe they are libraries. We all know someone who resonates more clearly and profoundly than the rest of us. What if you order copies of a couple Stikmantica titles—Dvarsh, An Introduction and The Song of Worlds, for instance (both available in paperback!)—and send them to your most resonant influencer? A cover note might read, “This is something you ought to know exists.” You give a unique gift to someone you respect while supporting the project. That’s a double positive.
I WISH YOU PEACE, LOVE, JUSTICE AND COMFORTABLE SHOES!