Wednesday, February 12, 2014

the inevitability of surprise

If you have ever spent an evening with a life insurance salesman, you have had great training for attending writers' conferences.

Writers' conferences are the equivalent of the singles night on cruise ships.  If you show up at the event, you quickly learn you are doomed.

Take the lecture on "plot devices."  You will hear about shoulder angels and deus ex machina and the Hitchcockean MacGuffin.  And then there is my favorite: the "plot voucher."  Where an innocuous event or object allows a character to escape certain doom during a climax.

Good plot devices work because they seem to flow naturally from the context in which the characters live.  One scent of contrivance, and the house of cards will come tumbling down.

Whoever is writing my story provided me with a "plot voucher" yesterday.  Even though I had planned on spending most of this year in Melaque, The Great Author had other things in store for me.

Each year I await the electronic arrival of the Form 1099 for a family trust of which I am the trustee.  Without it, I cannot have the CPA draw up the necessary tax filings.  When the tax form arrives this year, I was going to fly up to Oregon to sign the documents and to see people I missed visiting on my burglarly-initiated early departure in December.

The only potential conflict was the Yucatán trip (working on my yucatán) next week.  Then my cousin Dan informed me our Central America trip is back on -- and he would be here in early March.  That would mean a very narrow window of a couple of days to get to Oregon -- if the tax documents showed up before then.

My experience with life is that everything comes out well in the end.  And I should have strangled that niggling bit of worry that showed up last week while trying to figure out if I could get to Oregon before Dan arrived.

I need not have worried.  I received an email yesterday that the 1099 will be on the way to the CPA tomorrow.  Based on that information, Dan informs me that our trip will start for me on 15 March when he and Patrice show up at my front gate in Melaque.

And what is the schedule of the Central America trip?  There isn't one.  We have an objective -- to get to the end of the Pan-American highway in Panama.  Otherwise, we are playing it by ear.

Along the way we will most likely stop in Lázaro Cárdenas, Acapulco, Puerto Escondido, Antigua, Guatemala City, Leon, Granada, Northern Costa Rica, the Golfito area, David, central and coastal Panama, Panama City, and Yaviza.

On the way back, we may take a different path, but there is an inclination to include San Cristobal Las Casas, Palenque, Oaxaca, Monte Alban, and Taxco,  I may make up for missing the Oaxaca bus tour earlier in the month.

A simple plot device.  A 1099.  And the rest of the pieces in this little action drama fall into place.

Of course, no good plot is worth its salt unless there is a major twist that leaves us all saying: "I didn't see that coming; but it was inevitable."  And you can count on seeing some of those cross our path on this trip.

You might ask, what was the purpose of this little essay?  It certainly has a Seinfeld aroma.

Easy.  I just saved you $500 and two days.  You can now skip the next writers' conference.

You are welcome.


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