Guatemala Days THREE & FOUR

It is my 64th birthday and the day when I am going to meet the team that I will be working with.

After I incinerate my host’s microwave, I bop over to Batman’s to see what she is doing as I have a lot of time to kill before I go to the office. She is serving coffee (thank heaven) to the cute guy from last night!! She assures me that he has just arrived but tempers that by saying he called her last night and that if she had had a credit card he would have spent the night. (Jah Jah) She gets testy/paranoid and throws me out; so, I walk into town in search of a microwave and breakfast.

As I am tucking into my eggs, guacamole and beans I notice that, yes, there is a geezer parade along with plenty of soulful faces trying to sell goods. Each vendor promises a good price. “No gracias; no; no; no; etc. I am not going naive today. I am sticking to my beige and deeper earth tone pallet. no gracias; no.”

The meeting is in the late afternoon and the scope of work is immense and the people a very sophisticated and tolerate my nonsense Spanish. Carlos is also at this meeting and after it we go for dinner ordering a ceremonial Malbec and steaks. We are in good spirits when we go to visit a sweet couple and remain so until we get to the PanaRock where it is kiddies night and the band is mediocre. We have one nice nightcap and a soulful if difficult conversation — me with no Spanish and him with his equally good English BUT I have and refer often to my Dictionary.
This morning it is Saturday and I decide to do laundry.. Carlos’ machine gets even for the burnt microwave by pulling the covered buttons off of my Brooks Brothers shirt. He is still sleeping but has let Renzo Alberto out. The dog doesn’t bark when the three local evangelicals come to the door to give me “good news” but goes wild when Batman comes to make nice-nice. She is very helpful in giving me the word for clothes pins … No sooner do I finish hanging our clothes than the moonsoon arrives and we go to the office..

Guatemala Day TWO

I have come to live el bario Jucanya known for gang wars, bacterial outbreaks and floods.

My mission this day is also simple: get a map and a dictionary. So, I am given my handful of keys and let myself out of the courtyard onto the tight street. The first person I see is a blond gringa and I track her down and introduce myself as “la neueva gringa.” This is Padme, who is known locally as “Batman” because nobody can pronounce her Indian name. Well, Batman is very helpful she shows me how to ride the “tuk-tuks” (covered three wheeled golf carts) into town, get me a xerox of her map and shows me to the tourist coffee bar with a bookstore attached. She chatty and testy- does not want to be tour guide- but she consents to join me for lunch.

Batman has lived in Panajachel for 14 years and knows everybody on the streets of the tiny lakeside town. She tells me that the place is usually a swarm with evangelicals, volunteers, old hippies and in the winter it abounds with U.S. geezers. She provides much useful information. For example, why all houses have exposed re-bar. “Because it shows the tax people that the house is incomplete and, therefore, not taxable.”
she is a character and after telling me that she wants to go home, insits on walking me down to the Sunset Bar on the lake. On the way there she motions to many bustrip vendors that are sandwiched between the food frying and the endless loud textiles on sale.

“Where is Tickle (TIKAL)?” I ask mispronouncing the name. This catches the ear of Marie from Australia and the three of us adjourn to the palm fonded patio for early cocktails.

Batman spies a very gorgeous young man who is nursing a small bottle of Johnny Walker and strikes up a conversation. (Earlier Batman has explained that the one family owns the brewery and all the distilleries so any brand liquor is very expensive.) She quickly deserts our table and joins the handsome guy from Guatemala City. He tells her that he is still heartsick after 5 years since his wife left him but likes the look of two young gringas who a inside. Batman hies herself off to hustle the two ladies over to their table and on the way back flirts with a hippish man at a nearby table — soon we are taking up three tables and having a screaming good time as Batman sucks down the Johnny Walker. Well the hippy guy has some pot so Batman invites herself to his room, where he tells us that he was asked by some one “Are you a hippy?”
he responds “What’s that?” and the questioner responds “That’s what they all say.” By this time it is about 10PM and Batty is rather a mess. So, we agree to walk Marie back to her hotel and catch a tuk-tuk back to our bario across the river.

Guatemala Day ONE

My whole mission for today is to get to Panajachel and to square away my international phone situation. With the phone ticked off the list by 8 o’clock in the morning, the day gaps wide open until my expected bus to lake Atitlan at 2:30. No sooner does this thought cross my mind, than a handsome Gringo greets the young man, who has been so helpful, and introduces himself…Jamie is living nearby and volunteers at the orphanage.. He is moving from one apartment to the next on this- day and offers to give me a quick tour of his orphanage. This institution is made of the ubiquitous cinder-block and exposed re-bar. Seventy orphans are cared for there the oldest are teenagers and they all require medical help for profound disabilities. As Jamie is moving, he has a rent truck and after he shows me both of his places all within a block of the hostel and orphanage and tells me about how much dust the recent volcano has heaped on his roof, he kindly drops me at the anthropological museum where I am ecstatic to gain admission to the place by joining a conference on methods of grinding corn — all for 25Q. (8:$1) This a small but delicious museum and I cover it in about 2 hours and notice that I am hungry.. My terrible fried chicken luch is brightened by meeting a group of US volunteers with their own crop of darling orphans in tow.

I return to the hostel to discover my bus will not be coming and use my new phone to alert the doctor who happens to be in the City and will pick me up about 4PM. I putter around the hostel and enjoy the company of Canadians and a nice guy from the Dominican Republic.
Soon doctor Carlos arrives in his official pick up truck and we begin our multi hour journey to the lake region. We arrive at about 11PM and there is a storm over the lake.. I see nothing then I see this vast silver water and valcanoes that look like Camelback mountain.  I am home.

DAY 5 Rice Fast

Sunday began with the UU Congregation of Sante Fe. Where we heard humanist words of Forest Church of New York’s All Souls. Singing those familiar hymns, I hungered for my old life.

This was altogether a tough and most frustrating day… Spent still trying to configure Arthur’s new BluRay system on a recalcitrant Apple. It took hours just to pair the Airport with the blu-Ray — Security settings for the router became giga-persnickety.

Much of the day was spent riding back and forth to Best Buy to buy/return the outboard hard drive that in the end loaded the Airport software on my IBM.

The goal of streaming Netflix still eludes me at this writing. Somehow Netflix wants to stream to the computer rather than to the video.. This tendency all but eliminates the need for that fancy player.

The day curdled along in a tech mired way.

Sundown evaporated and now, Sister Wendy is talking about the Impressionists.

DAY FOUR Rice Fast

There are no physical symptoms to report, today, except that my nose ran continuously all day  & Green Tea really works well when there is nothing but Rice in the system.  Maybe it is the altitude.

At ten o’clock, after breakfast (Rice, of course) we began to clean and move furniture around Arthur’s house.  This entailed shoveling mountains of decorative Buddahs, assorted chachkees and random paper from one corner to the next.  Then, came the chasing of dust bunnies with two vacuum cleaners.  After several hours of this, we clandestinely pitched out a giant arm chair into the dumpster and gathereed (not enough) objects for GoodWill.

About 3, we set out to replace Arthur’s old and very heavy television with the latest technology.  This is where my troubles began.  I was motivated by a not too secret agenda of wanting to go wireless so that I could sit and look over the grande valley whilst writing this saga.  Another smaller part of this agenda powered the rage for rearranging and clearing the table surfaces…I want to take out my water colours and practice that.

We gathered up a large screen, a blu ray box proper cabling (and, here’s where the trouble began) the creme de la creme Apple Airport to stream video from the internet —

By 6, I dispatched Arthur for more suitcases of water and began to configure the box on his dreaded Apple.  Well, the Airport required an upgrade in OS to Snow Leopard.  I phoned Arthur and told hom to return to the computer store.  They only carried the 49.95 version of this stuff so I told him to eat the extra 20 bux and come back.  Meanwhile I unpacked and hooked up the new boxes.  When he returned I raced up to install the Snow Leopard OS only to find that the machine had insufficient RAM.  this was very disappointing but not a show stopper.  After futzing with three clickers, we were able to accompany Sister Wendy to the Renaissance and Baroque sites.   Around midnight and after a fine bath to wash off the dust of the day, I  cuddled up under my warm red Pendelton blanket and was still wide awake.  Had to bore myself to sleep with a mantra while looking out on the clouded sky.

I am very excited for the Market to open on Tuesday and declared myself to be “a big swinging dick” because Fridays trades put me way out on the margin.  But, you can’t hurry love, money or a Rice Fast.

PS it turns out that it was no lesser light than Ghandi who said, “Eat your dring and drink your food.”

Venice Beach 1965 or something

“I’m hip to this,” he insisted, knuckling at the screen door.

The sound roused Big Lori enough to grunt and heave her pink bulk away from a spike of daylight.  Lolling in his floral chair, Sandy flicked away sweat. This couple had just barely sunk into the wooly shadows and independent dreams.

Still, the flimsy door quaked under the stranger’s fists that drummed away behind Sandy’s eyeballs.  The girl dove herself deeper down into the orange rug clapping dusty cushions over her ears.   She was tickled by hunks of fetid shag grazing her dimpled thighs.   At each knock, Lori futilely stuffed herself under the couch.  Only the French curve of thick arm and a disembodied frond of matted pony tail sprouted above the table-scape.

The fury of her scratching made a pea green rosette of mold cringe in its coffee cup lake and the chipped wine glasses trembled, too, setting off a cigarette butt tsunami.   Surrealistic Pillow wobbled ominously, shifting its payload.  Meanwhile among spent matches and a singed teaspoon the eyedropper rolled off and that propelled two needles and wads of spent cotton onto the floor.

Even if Sandy could not make out what was being said, he fumbled for his belt somewhere on the messy table’s surface.  It seemed the distant voice had alarmed Sandy although Lori dreamt on. He  hissed urgently at her to hide the “works.”

Lori could hardly see but vainly slapped after the singed teaspoon.  Detritus flew off of the Airplane. The belt slithered out of Sandy’s limp hand as he snuck a peek through the blinds.

Outside the flower covered bungalow, ”hip” guy appeared to be half passed perky in his seersucker suit and straw hat.  Paranoia flared and beat at Sandy’s sweaty temples and cleared his dull eyes.   The stranger looked too much like Bert Parks and to be cool.

“Shit.” he summised, “Narcs.”

“What’s the noise about, Sandy?” asked Roxanne nervously.  She had emerged from the ”counting room” when the pounding rattled the board and batten house.

“Dunno.   Maybe trouble…”  Sandy responded in his officious way.  But, now he was snatching up the “works” and stuffing them in the dead plant.

Sandy had somehow made himself important to Roxanne because she had misread his déclassé Bronx accent as “Eastern establishment.”  Despite his utterly grubby appearance and his being  “over 30” he had spoken about a New York she had never seen.  She fancied him a Yalie instead of the junkie he, was.   Roxanne was proud to have him around as he added a kind of gravitas to the otherwise very young house that she supported.

She stepped over to the door and listened for the knock to come again.

“I’m hip to this.”  The stranger pleaded.

“Hide the rest of your paraphernalia.”  Roxanne ordered, motioning to the “evidence” strewn on the floor near Lori.

“Lori? You okay?” she shook the plump, drowsy girl by the shoulders.

“Yeah. Yeah.”  Lori replied, hoisting herself on to the couch.  “What’s this is the ‘master bring-down.’ ”  she asked.

Roxanne opened the inside door leaving only the hooked screen door between herself and everyone else’s fate.

“What are you selling?” she inquired as straight as she could make herself sound

Bert Parks guy replied, “I am your neighbor and a hypnotist.  Can I come in?”

Rosanne appraised Bert and at once judged him both harmless and a possible client for her pot business.

“Sure, come on in.” she said cordially even though on second look he appeared to be way way too old.   But,  she knew too little about hypnosis to refuse such an opportunity to find out.

The seersuckered guest removed his skimmer and adjusted his eyes from the glare to the barely ambient light.

Outside, the Pacific shimmered less than a block away.  But while the ocean was waving in the California sun, inside of 39 Washington Blvd. was a floral draped eclipse.

Sandy had skittered away–probably out the back and, then, across the canals; leaving Lori and Roxanne to deal with the “bring-down” / “Narc.”

Roxanne had instinctive manners and so, she offered him Sandy’s vacated chair.

Lori had fluffed some grubby cushions on the couch and flopped out on it to resume nodding.  This guy was harmless; the danger had passed, again.

Roxanne was not seeking to make any “impression.”  So, she really took no notice of any chaos, filth nor was she particularly mindful  of the “evidence.”  She settled into the chair next to “Bert” and reached under it for the rolling tray.

“You want a joint?” she offered, scratching at the leaves and seeds hospitably.

“What?” he asked.

“Do you want to smoke some pot?” she clarified.  It was the early 1960’s and she understood that not everybody knew the language as it was spoken in the Albert S. Hoffman living-room.

“You want some Mar-a –wanna?” she inquired carefully enunciating every syllable.

“I’m a hypnotist.” he answered.

“Okay.  Do you want to hypnotize me?” she offered, playing along.

“I charge for that.”  He countered, lightly touching his bland bowtie.

“Do you want to trade?”  She countered, she was losing interest and fast.

“What do you mean?”,  he asked.

Roxanne was getting annoyed.  She was speaking California English for krisakes.

“What do you want?” she asked as politely as she could when triggered.

“Do you have wild sex over here?”

“What do you mean?”  Roxanne asked Bert in a sharp voice.

“I heard that hippies have wild sex.” He enthused.

“I gib jews a  blow job por cinquenta, Senor.”  Lori offered this service in all earnestness and in her faked Spanish accent.  She wasn’t kidding.

Letting the Cat Die.

Letting the Cat Die,

Once upon a time, when turns on the swing were precious and contentious you could have your airy moment of kicking and flying before demanding mates declared your time up.

Even so, the end a turn hardly dried-up like dew at noon.  No, there was one way to prolong a turn that even worked when Mom was calling you home.

To be fair, you would have to stop pumping skyward and use the gathered momentum to “let the cat die.”   So, it was acceptable to hang on to the swing until the arcing seat settled plumb.