Synopsis of Tocayos and Resaca



What happened in the monster surf off Peru’s coast that changed the fate of Joe the American, Jose Miguel, and the spirited Milagros?  Set among Peru’s pastel-painted fishing villages, its barren Andean towns, and its old Spanish haciendas, Tocayos and Resaca tell a story of passion and betrayal, of rivalry and redemption, and of a boy who must choose how he will become a man.




Jose Miguel gets what he wants. By charming, persuading, conning, or bullying his affluent family and friends, as well as the dedicated teachers at his exclusive Catholic school for boys in Lima, he bends the world to his will.  Until he is frozen in place by the startling presence of Joe the American. Unable to dominate the combative New Yorker, Jose Miguel decides to unlock the American’s power by becoming his friend.

As Jose Miguel introduces Joe the American to the pleasures of his homeland, a genuine friendship forms between them. But when his hometown and the lovely Milagros fall in love with his American friend, Jose Miguel’s friendship dissolves into a bitter, but secret rivalry. Unable, at first, to check Joe’s growing popularity, he discovers a devastating secret about Joe’s father and sets in motion a plot to undo the American and recover what is rightfully his.

Tocayos and Resaca, parts One and Two of this story, are set in the monster surf outside the pastel-painted fishing villages of Peru’s coastline, in the barriadas that surround Lima, among the barren mountain towns of the Andes, and in the haciendas of its coastal desert. Together they tell a story of passion and betrayal, of rivalry and redemption, and of a boy who must choose how he will become a man.

I’ll be ordering hardcopies soon.

Rolling in the Sand


Photograph courtesy of The Journey of G

From the peak of the next wave he spotted the biggest waves he had ever seen, twin blue wind-whipped walls lumbering heavily toward him, one behind the other. A chill came over him. He plunged his shoulders into the water and sprinted madly toward the first one. He kept his legs straight and put his hips into his kicks, his torso into his shoulders. He glanced once at the wave to check his position. It was so far above him that he almost lost his sense of the horizontal. He would make this one, barely, but he had to get through it quickly if he was going to have any chance of making the next one. The base was too thick to dive through; it would stop him and turn him completely around. He met the wave at full speed and swam straight up its surface, becoming more vertical with each stroke. It began to curl. Before it could catapult him into the impact zone he lunged into it, clawed, kicked, and scratched his way through it, knowing before he popped out the other side that he wouldn’t make the next wave. He surfaced in a river of water pulling him backwards. A cold ball of panic settled in his stomach. Semana Santa.

The next wave was a stupendous manifestation of nature. It occupied the horizon. A kilometer to the South its shoulder dropped away. At this point it wouldn’t do him any good to get closer to the wave, but he did need some forward momentum. He swam with measured strokes, grabbing all the oxygen he could. The water was a deeper blue out here, and colder than his usual big wave spot. It was just water, he told himself. No rocks, no reefs, no logs in the water, no boats, no sunken tankers. Just water. He was strong. He’d make it.

The lip sprouted from the top of the face, curled angrily in the wind, and descended in slow motion toward the base. When it landed, the spray would blind him. He dove and hunted for the bottom. It was a fuzzy grey plane, and he’d found it much too quickly. Not enough water.  He plunged his hands into the soft sand and tried to lie flat against it. Boom! A crush of water slammed down, bouncing him off the bottom. He clawed at the sand and wriggled his body to stay flat, but the current tore him away. Suddenly he was bouncing around in a storm of churning bubbles, head over heels, up, down, sideways, twisting and spinning. He lost all sense of the vertical, and put his arms out trying to feel the bottom. How long had it been, ten seconds? Twenty? His lungs began to hurt. He opened his eyes and looked around for the light. There it was, on his right side. He rolled over, planted his fins on the bottom and pushed off.

On the surface he took a huge breath.  Foam covered the surface of the water, and it was hard to stay afloat.  Little eddies and vortexes still spun, denying the ocean its buoyancy. Quickly he checked the horizon.  No more waves.  Behind him, the wave he had just survived rolled toward shore, the spray flying furiously in all directions behind it.

Excerpt from Rolling in the Sand, Chapter 45 of Part II, to be published this Winter.  Part I is available from Smashwords.

You need a girlfriend, Tocayo


Painting courtesy of  Pinterest.

You must understand, in Peru during those years, there was only one phone for each house. And the maids answered it. And when a boy asked to speak to a daughter of the family, the maids had orders from the parents to say “Who? She is not here.” The only way to reach a girl was to go where she was.

However, you could not simply go to her house. No. “What are you doing here?” the parents would ask. “There is no party today. Come back next year.” You had to find out where her friends hung out. And you had to pretend you were there by accident. “Imagine that! Running into you by accident. What a pleasant surprise.”

“You need a girlfriend, Tocayo,” I said, looking back at Charly.


“So you can go places with Angelica and me.”


I nodded.

“What about Anna Maria?”

“Angelica is my real girlfriend. Anna Maria is only a diversion for Playa Sur. Even I am not crazy enough to have two girlfriends on the same beach.”

My friend from America, land of Calvinists, probably believed that my strategy was immoral, and secretly wished I would get caught. In flagrante delicto, as they say. Arms and legs entwined, rolling in the sand. Other girlfriend shows up. Screams “Bastardo!” Points the finger at me and turns on her heel. “Who’s that?” first girlfriend asks, untangling herself from Carlos, the Peruvian Don Juan. “But but but but but,” I beg, not letting go of her half-opened blouse until she slaps my hand away and storms off.

He would be wrong, of course. I would not stutter and beg. I would simply release a heavy sigh and fall back on the sand, slayed by my pain. And in time they would both come back to me.

Excerpt from Part II of Tocayos, which I will publish this Winter, a bit behind schedule.  Part I is available from Smashwords.

The Second Conquest of the Incas


Late that night a primitive urge to commune with nature made us grab our bottles and walk outside. We sat down on the front step. Charly leaned against the post and clutched the bottle against his chest. “This is good, compadre,” he said. “This is what I have always needed.”

“So you are happy, Tocayo?”

Charly sighed peacefully. “Everybody should feel like this.”

“Tocayo, I think everybody does.”

“They do?”

I nodded.

Charly looked at me, then took another swallow from his bottle and looked around. When he looked back, I wasn’t beside him anymore. In a sweet fog he wondered why. He raised the bottle to his lips, careful not to drop it, and took a great big swallow. I had gone somewhere. That was alright. Everything was alright. A little later Charly noticed that the noise level inside the bar had increased. I better check it out, he thought, and stood up.

He stepped inside. At the bar, I had a bottle in each hand and was pouring both of them down my throat together. The indians were yelling encouragement as best they could under their condition. Half the alcohol ran down my neck and into my clothes, but I kept guzzling.

From the door Charly chuckled. That was the coolest thing he’d ever seen. He turned around and walked unsteadily out to his step, then sat down carefully, leaned against the post, and cradled the bottle in his lap. The night was beautiful. So many stars. He sighed and took another swig. Eventually the bar quieted down and little by little the patrons began to emerge, carefully maneuvering down Charly’s step, sometimes using his shoulder as a guardrail. Glad to be of service, Charly thought to himself, and watched the indians walk slowly away, stumbling and weaving their way home, keeping track of the road by tripping against the rocks along the edge.

A little later the double doors opened with a loud smack and I came tumbling out. Just as I reached the step, I wrapped both my arms around the poles to arrest my forward motion and with a tremendous groan hurled a stomachful of vomit over Charly’s head in a fine arc onto the hardpacked mud of the street.

Excerpt from Chapter 42, Part Two of Tocayos.

Image courtesy of

The Irresistible Power of Hatred


The recent increase in both bigotry and unfounded accusations of bigotry compel me to point out that this essay is written using a rhetorical style that ascribes to me, personally, qualities that I see within society.  Therefore, when I say “I love to hate,” what I mean is that society loves to hate.  I wrote the essay in this manner to make its points more immediate, less theoretical, and therefore more poignant.  You would be incorrect to assume that I am referring to bigotry or hatred within me.

Having to clarify this point is as dispiriting as having to explain the punchline to a joke, but given the tenor of today’s political dialogue, I don’t have much of a choice.  


I love to hate.  God, what a rush.  What an overpowering, magnificent emotion!  No confusion about what is right or what is wrong.  No vacillation about whether I should or shouldn’t.  No need to muster my own motivation.  Hatred drives me forward like a locomotive.

If I’d lived in England during Richard the Lionheart’s reign, I would have joined the Crusaders to free Jerusalem from Saladin so I could hate Muslims.  Or sailed to France so I could hate the French.  If I’d lived in Virginia during the US Civil War, I would have hated the Yankees so ferociously I would have been willing to die for my hatred.  If I’d lived in Maine, I would have volunteered so I could give vent to my hatred of confederates.  And then it would have been the native Amercicans.  Or the Irish.  The Chinese.  The Japanese.  The Jews.  The Germans.  Uppity negroes.  Hippies.  War protesters.  There is always someone to hate, and plenty of reasons to hate them.

Unfortunately, I’ve been civilized.  And civilization has placed conditions on my hatred. I can’t just hate anyone, no.  They have to do something wrong, first. Doing something to me isn’t quite enough.  It might make me angry for a while, but civilization has trained not to value myself too highly, so I get more satisfaction from sulking and feeling sorry for myself than from hating someone who has wronged me.  If they do something to someone I love, that’s more motivating.  I can get pretty high off that.

But neither of those match the potential for hatred toward someone whom the people I trust have deemed worthy of my hatred.  Yes, please find me someone whom the press, political leaders, or anyone I respect believes has  wronged something I care about.  My school, my neighborhood, my town, my state, my country.  My beliefs.  My religion.  My institutions.  My values.  My sense of fairness.  If you can find such a person, they are, by definition, evil.  Wow.  Hating someone who is evil is like an entire train of locomotives on a track as long as Siberia.

Unfortunately, hatred makes me sick.  I can’t manage it very well.  A little bit feels good, but I can’t stop at a little bit any more than an alcoholic can stop at a little bit of booze.  I need more.  So I get more.  And soon, I’m sick.  I feel awful.  So I try to dial it back.  But I can’t.

Fortunately, I have learned a trick.  When my over-consumption of hatred makes me sick, all I have to do is share it with someone else.  I let them drink from the same cup as me, and if they start feeling my hatred, I suddenly feel so much better!  Brotherhood makes hatred much more bearable.  Plus, we can then stoke each other’s hatred.

Inevitably, we make each other sick.  But now we’ve learned the trick: get more people to share our hatred.  Get a dozen friends to feel what we feel.  A roomful.  Attend a rally full of people who hate what we hate.  That’s fantastic!  Fantastic!  And now that there are so many of us, we can’t possibly be wrong.  And, when our hatred has made us all sick enough, we know what the remedy is: we need to do something about our hatred.  We need to destroy what we hate.

How we destroy what we hate doesn’t matter.  Anything we do to destroy evil is, by definition, good.  Our destruction of evil not only makes us good, it makes us loyal to our values, courageous patriots fighting the good fight, willing to sacrifice our very lives if need be.  In fact, if we don’t seek to destroy that evil, we are supporting it.  We cannot, as we have been taught, serve two masters.

Once we reach that point, we will follow anyone and do anything.  And because the rush of destroying evil is a thirst that can’t be quenched, we will seek more evil to destroy.  And then more after that.  No amount of greed, lust, or other human need comes close.  And certainly not love.  The power of hate is overwhelming and irresistible.

There is a way for us reduce our susceptibility to this human frailty.  The world’s great religions, even though they are conscripted into the service of hatred, include many suggestions to help us avoid succumbing to it.  Here’s one from the Christian Gospels:

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Sadly, until you recognize how susceptible you are to the power of justifiable hatred, these suggestions make little sense and seem, in fact, ridiculous.  Since most of us can’t even imagine that we are susceptible to justifiable hatred, and are certainly loathe to admit it, we are vulnerable to its power.  We have a great big ring sticking out of our nose, just waiting for someone to tie rope through it.

Jonathan Liau explains this phenomenon in more academic terms in his essay, Words of War, which analyzes how the  rhetoric of Joseph Goebbels convinced good, loyal, patriotic Germans to hate “undesirables” with such fervor that they were willing to tolerate atrocities and even their methodical extermination.  The Holocaust Encyclopedia adds more insight in its piece: Defining the Enemy.

People accustomed to wielding power are very aware of that ring in our nose.  Fortunately, most of them recoil from that ring the way they recoil from using nuclear weapons.  But every so often, someone who craves power by any means comes along and, as Joseph Goebbels did, chooses to tie a rope through that ring, and yank.


Why I don’t care that Hillary lied


It’s not because I’m a Democrat.  Or even a liberal.  I’m neither.

Her accusers are assholes

The Republicans witch-hunting Hillary, different only in the shrillness of their tone from the Republicans salivating over each other to condemn and impeach Bill Clinton, are a bunch of sanctimonious hypocrites.

These are the assholes who lie, cheat, and steal from America to line their pockets, and whose heroes don’t simply lie when cornered, but carry out well-orchestrated campaigns of deception as fundamental strategy.

These church-going hypocrites claim to be good Christians, but don’t practice its most basic tenets.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

This is not a case of the “pot calling the kettle black.”  This is a case of a glowing nuked barren wasteland that was once a thriving metropolis with its mushroom cloud still billowing overhead calling the kettle black.

Much ado about nothing

Who got hurt?  What secrets were revealed?  She didn’t follow security protocol.  She lied.

If Hillary breaks a nail, the Chicken-Little Republicans in Congress and their cronies in the “press” will scream that she is the leader of a cabal to perpetrate violence against women.  If Bill belches, they’ll scream he is funding a secret organization to destroy America’s food industry.

In the big scheme of things

She didn’t follow security protocol.  She lied.  Compare those grievous offenses, those crimes against humanity against all her accomplishments as Secretary of State.  Compare them against her rating as one of the most honest politicians we have.

Compare them to W. and Dick Cheney consciously crafting a long-running campaign of deception so they could invade Iraq.  And what was the result of that?  Thousands of American service men killed, double that maimed, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed.  Oh yeah, and ISIS.

Hillary lied.  About her email server.  Bill lied about a blow job.  As a result, you think America is doomed and the FBI can no longer be trusted.

Get over yourself.



Peace of Mind

Inspirational blog by one of my favorite people.

surfing for balance in Silicon Valley

Prologue (4.3)

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.”        Coach John Wooden

I love basketball.

I don’t have many regrets in life, but quitting the Corona del Mar High School basketball team my junior year is one that has stuck with me through the years. I showed up late for a Saturday practice (in my wet suit of course…), and coach Tandy Gillis made sure I would not want to do that again. And I didn’t. At the end of practice I sheepishly told him I was done. Quitting the team. Enough already. I was 17 years old and didn’t need some basketball coach telling me what to do.


Coach Gillis was a bit of an icon, which of course I appreciate much more now than I did then. Tandy…

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