Thursday, October 1, 2015

Croatian Chronicles

Posted by: Steve Vera
I wasn't planning on getting a concussion when I went on vacation to Croatia, but then again, who does? It's usually not on my itinerary.

I figured I'd take the opportunity to flesh out two kick-ass concepts (that my agent would very much like to see), jot down the synopses of both and plink out thirty or so pages for each. Badda-bing, no problemo.

Thing is, my journey to the other side of the pond, my first ever such foray, did not go exactly as planned. As epic as it was, to go into detail would require an encyclopedia or two and seeing as this is a blog and not a tome, I will refrain. I'll hit the bullets. Some of'em at least.

The plan was to escape, write, enjoy the magic that is Croatia in late summer, and console a dear friend who was having guy problems. The kind that end up with a black eye.

I probably should have done a little research on Croatia, at least learned a little geography, but why be wise when flying by the seat of your pants has worked so well in the past? As luck would have it, I was not met at the airport by said dear friend. Instead, because of car troubles, I was told to grab a train (which I nearly missed because lets face it, asking for directions and learning a new town in Croatian is a wee bit challenging when one doesn't do their due diligence and at least research the trip they're going on). I didn't even know how to say hi. So after 18 hours and three flights from La Guardia to Montreal to Frankfurt to Zagreb, I got the pleasure of yet another 5 hours on a train through the countryside of magical Croatia grating my nerves bloody because I couldn't sleep because I was too scared of missing my stop.

Unlike the subways in good ol NYC, there were no stops listed. You just had to rely on a staticy, warbled intercom system muttered by a bored conductor who spoke too quickly and in another language into a microphone that sucked walrus butt. By the way, I didn't know it was gonna be five hours, I figured it would be like a half hour. Not so.

When I finally get there, guess who greets me? My beautiful, 6'2 model dear friend and...wait for it, folks...her boyfriend! Yay! The one who gave her a black eye. The one I'm supposed to hate on sight. That was an interesting intro.

I chuckle now, but I'm gonna admit it, I was a bit miffed. We meet. Old cottage in the middle of nowhere, no running water, a well (that was kinda fun) and you could hear the sheep and wolves at night. Every single star in the Milky Way was visible. Good writing weather.

Long story short, I get to know not only my friend (who'd I actually only met once, we were more phone friends) but the boyfriend too. An argument could be made to say that he was a bit primitive, volatile, and...loquacious, but that said, we hit it off. No black and white here folks, just shades of grey. In fact, I really ended up being a therapist for them. They loved each other, that much was clear, and were trying like hell to phoenix-ize, to begin anew and learn from their mistakes in earnest. "Tell her, Steve!", "Right, Steve?", "That's bullshit, tell him how it's supposed to be!", "What do you think, Steve?"

There is so much more to this tale, personalities and fireworks and awkward positions and rivers and water snakes and Roman ruins and rats and scorpions and slaughtered lambs but after all that, on the last day on our way to go and check out the Mediterranean, we tried to dodge the cops. Thing is, because my friend is Serbian, and Croatian folk don't much care for Serbs, they just straight out refused to register the car, no matter how many times we went to Knin. K not silent by the way folks, which made for interesting language barriers. No registration means avoid cops at all cost.

While trying to put some distance between us and cops, well, inertia and gravity had a little something to say. 360 spin, a wall of rocks, suspended time and a collision that totaled the car and gave concussions to all. In the middle of nowhere. In the sun. Cops come, try to arrest my friend, (no registration and all) they try and forcibly haul her into the police van, she fights back, screams, boyfriend charges to the rescue, attacks cops, hands go to guns, lives flash in front of faces but in the end, an author's ability (that would be me) to see the whole, step in between and calm things down, well, nobody was shot. And that's good. In the end, we befriended the cops, they brought us back to the village, helped us sell our totaled car which allowed me to get back to the train so I could ride the five hours to Zagreb and sleep in the airport (last train out of Knin was 5:00 P.M. one day early) so I could go to Munich and then to Newark and then to NYC and then the subway and then my apartment.

Here's the kicker, the real magic of the whole situation. I never got to write much, but when I did get back, exhausted, delirious but thankful for the trip (we all bonded), I wrote for four hours straight and did some of the best work I've done in a year.

Magic? Nope, not this time. Just harnessing experience and pouring it into my craft. The moral of the story here, writers write. No matter what.

Thanks for listening. True story.

Steve out.

Steve's just a guy who wishes he could fire lightning out of his finger tips. He's lived in eight states, was a Pararescue trainee in the Air Force and has successfully evaded all UFO attempts at abduction.

His latest trilogy:

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