Exploring With Jolene

Noel with her new skin
Noel basks in the sun wearing her new skin.

When I chose a mesh head for Christi, I looked at many and finally settled on LAQ because I knew that Christi would play many characters so there would be many heads in her future. With all of the heads available from LAQ, it was somewhat ironic that I chose “Noel”. Ironic because I knew that “Noel” would be the same name I would use for her first character.  It seemed fitting.

As time passed though, I began to wonder if I was just a little biased in my choice because of the name. Noel’s face was a bit younger than I really wanted it to be for this character.  Many more demos later, I settled on the skin/face named Jolene. It is still a (IMHO) beautiful face but slightly more mature.  I was so happy with it that I took several photos in search of one to use for a profile pic.

This was just after I had created a flickr page for Christi to post to that were not involved with the story I was writing.  Additionally, I placed one restriction on her – the images posted to her page would receive minimal editing unlike those on Aedan’s page.  Level/curve adjustments and repositioning for composition were all that I permitted.  Everything else had to be done in the viewer.  I think she did quite well 😉

Noel at the Farmers Market
Noel at the Farmers Market in Havana

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Aedan looked at the note passed to him along with the photo on the beach then looked back up to verify the address. He knew he was on the correct street. Now he stood in front of a movie theater. There was nothing on either side that looked like a better place to meet someone so he accepted this was the correct place but now what?

The bus ride back to Havana was without incident though he had stayed out in the sun a bit too long and his burned back refused to let him get comfortable during the entire trip. It was a 15 minute walk from the bus station to where he now found himself excluding a stop for a bite to eat along the way. Similarly, it was now fifteen minutes before 9pm when he was supposed to meet…somebody.

The theater looked as though it were pulled from the 1950s and stranded in that time. It was clean, well lit and according to the sign, showing only one movie which happened to start at 9pm. Operating under the assumption that whomever had asked to meet him here wasn’t planning on meeting on the street, Aedan joined the line to purchase a ticket.

Ten minutes later Aedan was handing his ticket to the smartly dressed young man controlling access to the single movie room. Once inside the room he was only slightly surprised to see the condition of the room. It was fresh and clean if a bit small compared to what he was used to but it also looked comfortable despite the smell of cigarette smoke. There was a decent crowd of people already inside but still plenty of seats available. He chose on that was in a more sparse area which happened to be near the back.

Aedan took his time sitting. He knew he was walking a fine line between being visible to the person he was meeting while attempting to not be too conspicuous to anybody else. He estimated that if their meeting wasn’t supposed to be quiet, it would have been in a different place but nor did he want to sit in the middle of a crowd of strangers. Once he was sitting and comfortable, there was little else to do but wait for the movie to begin. Wait to be contacted. He scanned the crowd around him but saw nobody that appeared to be paying any attention to him.

At 9pm the lights dimmed and the screen came to life. Aedan mused at the lack of commercials he was used to seeing for 15 minutes before a movie. He also mused that smoking was permitted here and hoped it didn’t get too heavy while he was there.

For the next 10 minutes Aedan focused on trying to keep up with the movie with his very limited grasp of Spanish while simultaneously maintaining an awareness of his surroundings. His attention switched back completely to his surroundings when there was movement and whispers in the aisle behind him. He turned slightly to see a young couple passing behind him and continuing to the center of the aisle.

As he contemplated his actions and how much longer he would wait, a masculine voice spoke quietly into his right ear “Don’t turn around, Mr. Charron. Don’t draw any attention to us.”

Aedan nodded slowly and whispered back “Of course, though maybe we could have met at a different..”

“No, this is fine. We’ll talk more later. Right now I just want to give you this. At 10pm tonight you will receive an email with more information about the contents.”

Aedan felt a tap on his upper right arm and without turning, reached to blindly accept what was being handed to him.  It was a small envelope. He took it and slipped it into his pocket. “I’d like to ask some questions after making the trip all the way down here.”

The man quickly responded. “Not here. Not until after you have read the email.”

The journey that brought Aedan to Cuba began with an email from a generic looking email address. After digesting the significance of that first email, he first wondered how anybody outside the legal system obtained his work address. That remained a mystery to him. That this person that he still hadn’t seen implied that he knew the address was now assuring to him that he wasn’t being lead on some wild goose hunt.

Still, there was some lingering doubt. “Can you at least tell me who I am speaking to?” 

“Good night Mr. Charron. Don’t forget to look for that email” 

The sound of the man standing and walking away before Aedan could get in another word was unmistakable. The temptation to turn and get a look at the man passed quickly. Obviously the man was concerned about being seen and with the envelope now in his pocket, whatever it might go to, Aedan too felt more pressure to be discreet.

For fifteen minutes he watched the screen but barely heard a word as his mind raced. He had hoped to have some answers after this meeting. He was promised something for the case he was trying and all he had now was a small envelope. It’s contents were as yet unknown to him.. What he did know that he had lost the plot of the movie but had thirty minutes to kill and this was as good a place as any to see it pass.

While watching the movie, like a kid Aedan slipped his hand into his pocket and squeezed the envelope between his fingers looking for a clue to it’s contents.  It was unmistakable. Inside the envelope was a key but to what He didn’t know.

 

As Aedan left the theater, the key in his pocket seemed to gain weight. He scrutinized each face that he saw looking at him. He was looking for something familiar or for some hint that they were aware of what he now carried but to his relief he saw none.

He guessed that the walk back to his room would take more than twenty minutes which would have him knocking at the door just when he would be expecting the email about the key.  Not knowing what to expect when the door opened or from the email, Aedan stopped for a drink at a place along the beach.

Right on queue, the waitress brought his drink right when his phone beeped.  He pulled it from his pocket and checked the time. His phone read 10:01pm. He recognized the sending email address as the same that he had been communicating with and eagerly opened it.

The email left him with more questions than answers.  It contained a website address with instructions to click on the link. It went on to explain that clicking on the link would identify his phone and nothing more.  The website would not be accessible to him until he left the country and would now respond only to his phone and no other device.

With everything work related achieved that could be at this time, Aedan set the phone down in front of him and picked up his drink.  A quick inventory of the people around him returned happy faces. The live band was backed by the sound of crashing waves and the moon was just rising above the horizon to light the night sky. The rest of his time in Cuba would be the vacation he had been waiting for. The rest would wait for him.

BTS – Waiting

Coming soon.  Though this wasn’t a particularly complicated image, it was made so and my plans were changed by a hardware failure and my insistence on moving forward.

Waiting

Waiting
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From the street below, Aedan heard the sounds of glass bottles crashing upon each other. It had grown from a barely discernible ringing and clanging up until now when it seemed to be directly below him. From the rhythmic repetition he guessed it was trash pickup day though he hadn’t heard the telltale stops and starts of a large truck as he might in Seattle. In fact he had heard no vehicle what must have been three stops prior to now.

Aedan had been laying there for at least thirty minutes now. Perhaps closer to an hour  He had always been a morning person and a few late drinks with the family that put him up wasn’t going to change that. Nor did the previous evening’s gathering seem to hold anybody else back.  From the comfort of his bed, Aedan listened to the banter around breakfast and subsequent opening and closing of the front door as a new day set in.  

Today would be Aedan’s first full day in Havana and the day was completely unscripted until 9pm. At 9pm he was expected to be at the address on the note that was handed to him. He was filled with anticipation because the real purpose of his stay in Havana was to gather more information about a case he was in charge of back in Seattle. However, the circumstances of this evening’s meeting were concerning. He didn’t know the person he was supposed to meet. He hadn’t been on the radar and the stranger made the first move by contacting him a month ago, promising to have important information while dropping just enough bread crumbs to get Aedan on the plane. The man insisted that he would meet only with Aedan.

Of course, Aedan couldn’t know for certain that the note given to him came from his contact. He didn’t know the man. He didn’t know why he insisted on meeting Aedan. He did know that the circumstances around the hat, though unlikely, seemed to go as planned and that he had worn it nearly every moment he had been outside. To get the answers he was seeking, he would be there though with an abundance of caution.

No longer hearing voices and the clanging of glass on glass, Aedan swung his feet to the floor, stood and stretched then headed for the shower.

With only a towel wrapped around him, Aedan stepped out of the bathroom with a toothbrush busy in his mouth.  More than once had he been told that he would wear the enamel off his teeth because he brushed for too long. Little did it deter him from following a set pattern of brushing that he had done since he was a kid. Then he couldn’t brush enough and with each cavity filled he was told he needed to brush more. Now it was just an old habit that he would walk around for an easy 5 minutes brushing. 

Seeing a note that had apparently been pushed under the door, he retrieved it. It was from Ms. Fernandez letting him know that she had to leave but there was fruit on the cabinet and food in the refrigerator for his picking.  The fruit might come in handy as he was contemplating taking a Guagas, or bus to a beach away from Havana. His evening plans were set but he had a full day to explore and walking the streets of Havana once again today wasn’t high on his list.

Thirty minutes later, Aedan was floating down the stairs, dressed for the beach. Passing through the kitchen he happily grabbed a couple pieces of fruit and put them in his bag for later, added a short note of gratitude to the back of Ms. Fernandez’s note and mentioned that he expected to be out late that evening then set it on the counter. He was headed to one of the beaches that she had recommended, some place off the beaten trail and away from the tourist rush.

The two hour bus ride along the northern coast out of Havana reminded him of how surreal this entire trip had been. Nearing the bus ride he had heard not a single word of English since an older couple stepped off the bus in Matanzas 30 minutes ago. He might have  been more anxious had Ms. not been so helpful with suggestions and detailed directions. When the bus driver called out “Veradaro” Aedan knew this was the end of the line for this route and gathered his bag and hat. 

As the bus pulled into the terminal Aedan glanced at the map Ms. Fernandez had marked up for him and plotted his path to the rental shop less than three blocks away.  Thirty minutes later, he was on the bike and headed toward the Reserva Ecológica Varahicacos. There were shuttles and taxis that would have taken him there faster but they would go right past the spot recommended to him and even then he would need to walk another 25 minutes. The bicycle was a perfect answer and would leave his options open.

The ride to the beach took a bit longer than expected. Not because Ms. had given him bad directions but because Aedan was engrossed in the sights all the way to the beach. He stopped several times to more fully appreciate what he was seeing.  He had all afternoon and no reason to rush as long as he was back to catch the 6pm bus back to Havana. It was barely after noon when he found the head of the trail to the beach and dismounted the bike.  

From the trail, Aedan could hear the waves breaking on the shore and nothing else beside the occasional traffic on the highway nearly one half mile away..  As he pushed the bike down the trail toward the roar of breaking waves, they grew louder and drowned out all other sounds. It was exactly what he had asked for.

Once he had reached the beach, Aedan used the cable provided with the bike and locked it to a palm tree. With the sun so bright, he removed his shirt and tossed it into the bag he brought with him which also contained water, towels, fruit and a book he had been toting around for months but had not yet started. He looked both directions up the near empty beach then opted to go east, away from the city with the hope that he would be less likely to find large crowds.

For thirty minutes Aedan walked the beach, inspecting interesting shells in the sand, trying to not disturb wading birds following the water line in and out, looking for anything interesting to photograph on his phone…simply enjoying the solitude and wonder around him.  Once he decided he had gone far enough, it didn’t take long to find a spot that appealed to him. The sand was white and the water had taken on more of a blue tint as he neared the river that fed into the ocean.

Aedan opened his bag and pulled the folded towel from the top of it. It was a huge beach towel that he laid down on the sand and then sat on the edge to wipe the sand from his feet before moving up. This would be the perfect spot to contemplate the upcoming evening or read or just close his eyes and again consider all that had happened to him since leaving on this trip though the latter he tried to avoid because it left him in an odd state of mind which he had no time for with the planned meeting with whom he hoped to be a valuable informant.

Over the next hour, Aedan actually managed to read the first chapter of the book he had brought, had called his assistant Cathy to let her know of his planned meeting that evening and went into the water several times to cool off. He had turned back to his book and had become lost in the plot when he detected motion in his periphery.

The number of people on the beach was sparse enough that nearly every person that crossed his field of view got his attention momentarily. Now approaching from the east came a woman wearing a black sun hat and matching sorang. The long blonde hair beneath the hat was the first thing that struck him. She seemed oblivious to the hair in her face as she walked slowly with her head down and stopping frequently to dig shells out of the sand.  She seemed to be in her own world and gave no indication that she even saw Aedan as she walked past him. Her hair and demeanor were similar to the woman from the diner but he couldn’t see her face and he reasoned that the chance of running into the same person at this remote location was slim and yet he had to know.

“It’s a lovely afternoon, isn’t it?” Aedan spoke up before she got out of range to hear him.

She looked up from the sand and back over her shoulder at him.  Aedan could now see that in fact it was the same woman. She looked at him puzzled at first but slowly an expression of recognition spread across her face.

“Hey there. Didn’t I see you in Havana?“ she responded with a smile.

In the thirty minutes that followed, Aedan and Noel had a relaxed and friendly conversation. He learned that Noel had come from California to Cuba to explore the possibility of a business partnership with the friend of a family member. She had also come to Matanzas to find a quiet place that was still easily accessible to tourists and was looking at a place later that evening after dinner with her friend. He learned enough to know that he’d like to talk to her again but she was guarded with her phone number and where she was staying. She did however take his number and indicated that she would contact him when she got back to Havana in a couple of days. Perhaps they could meet again then.

Time Off

Almost happy

When I scheduled some time off around my birthday it wasn’t because I had anywhere to go specifically but with work looking so busy through the rest of the year I wanted to use some days of my choosing rather than try to squeeze them in at everybody else’s convenience or lose them.

I figured I would get some things done around the house and perhaps get a couple images created in the two weekends that surrounded my week off.  Unfortunately, my 30 day old Veikk Pen Tablet which I have been very happy with up to this point decided that it too was going to take some time off.  The image I was in just beginning when this happened was going to require an abundance of hand edits that really required the tablet.  Sure, given enough time I might get them done with a mouse but I don’t think I could get the same amount of detail with the mouse.

Amazon, where the tablet was purchased has a 30 day return policy for this device. I purchased it on July 2nd and on August 2nd I found that it began editing when the pen was still nearly an inch above the tablet.  Sure, I should have called Amazon right then but not realizing I was right at the 30 days I spent a few hours removing and reinstalling drivers, doing windows updates and installing drivers again.  When this failed I installed it on another machine but got the same results.

Amazon did line me up with the seller of this device to request a warranty replacement (warranty is for one year) and the seller responded later that same day with apologies and the intent to send a replacement pen. Hopefully it is the pen and not the tablet itself since all of this waiting time right when I had hoped to used it the most is quite inconvenient. 

Standby for an update.

 

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