Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Fin del ano

This is an early New Year's note.  

I am going off the grid for a few days in Parque Tayrona on the Colombian-Caribbean Coast. 

I am going to spend the last days of the year ensconced in a hammock on an empty beach, lazing away the last of the year.  

Even better, I will welcome the new year in my birthday suit on a playa nudista!

May the new year be filled with joy, happiness and peace.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Sancocho incident

One of the dishes Colombia is famous for is sancocho, especially in the northern part.  It is a chicken soup that I had wanted to try it, so I asked the guy working at the front desk.  He told me there was a cart not far from the hostel, near the cathedral.  I knew the area, I had been twice for dinner on previous evenings.

I wandered over to the area, and asked a fellow at a stand where I could find sancocho.  He pointed me over to the corner on the other side of the street where there were two carts.

I walked over and asked the first cart if they had sancocho.  There were three women there.  One said no; another said yes.  I asked again whether they had it, and one replied affirmative.

So I ordered a sancocho soup.  As the third woman was ladling it into a cup, I thought it looked like mondongo (beef-tripe soup).  I asked her again if it was sancocho or mondongo.  She said it was sancocho.  So I bought it and left.

I sat out in the church square and started on my soup. It sure tasted like mondongo (or, mierdongo, as a taxi driver remarked to me once).  It was definitely mondongo.  It was not good.  It was not the worst thing but it was definitely not what I wanted or asked for.

I walked back towards the stands, and I watched what the woman in the other cart was ladling.  Hers was different, with chicken in it.  It was sancocho.  I asked her to confirm, and she said yes.  I asked her about the cart next to her, and she replied that they had mondongo.

I was so annoyed that I stomped off.  Those mondongo ladies knew exactly what I asked for, and knew exactly what they did.

I debated confronting them, but figured it wasn't worth it.  But shameful business.  A crime against gastrodiplomacy.

But I will have my vengeance:

If one will stoop so low as to lie about your soup, the soup nazi will come for you....

stats

My Levantine PD website was viewed in 89 countries last year.  That is pretty amazing.  10 more than countries I have even been to.

Gabo's Banyan

As I was in the taxi back from the Santa Marta bus station, meandering through traffic, I was chatting with the taxi driver about visiting Gabo's house.  He asked me if: el valor era mas que la pena (if the value was worth more than pain; was it worthwhile?).  I laughed out loud because I had been wondering this morning if would be.  I had left Cartagena early, and had been kicking myself for leaving paradise prematurely.  And yet, as I shared with him the experience, I laughed and said that the value was far more than the pain:

I had traveled down from Santa Marta to Aracataca by bus to Aracataca.  To Macondo by other names, if more had come out to vote for it.

I walked through the hot, dusty town to the house of Gabo's birthplace.  The old home of Col. Garcia, his abuelo.  It was a world of Gabo.  Latticed chairs and old wooden desks used by the Colonel.  Old tables, beds and chairs that looked straight out of One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Then I saw it.

An ancient banyan tree covered in giant yellow butterflies.  The ageless banyan bore spindly long branches infinitely into the ground.  Like an alien lair.  It dangled large heavy moss hangings.

And ever so slowly the leaves would fall from high above.  I sat on a rock, taking in the tree and its splindly grace.  With deft concentration, I caught a leaf falling to the ground.  An audience of one saw my handiwork with a smile.

I could have happily watched leaves slowly fall to the earth from under a banyan.  Play leaf catcher under Marquez' banyan for eternity.

In a yellowing world, a butterfly the size of two hands fluttered by.

I even used my notebook to catch falling leaves--I think Gabo would have smiled at that.

Dark lizards slinked through the spindles of banyan roots.

-¿Te sientes mal? 
-le preguntó. Remedios, la bella, que tenía agarrada la sábana por el otro extremo, hizo una sonrisa de lástima. 

 -Al contrario -dijo-, nunca me he sentido mejor.

Acabó de decirlo, cuando Fernanda sintió que un delicado viento de luz le arrancó las sábanas de las manos y las desplegó en toda su amplitud. Amaranta sintió un temblor misterioso en los encajes de sus pollerines y trató de agarrarse de la sábana para no caer, en el instante en que Remedios, la bella, empezaba a elevarse.


Huevos Pericos

I found the most amazing Colombian dish ever: Huevos pericos empanada! Scrambled eggs, tomatoes and green onions in corn meal empanada shell. Incredible.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Hip Hop Tout Le Monde, cont

The b-boys dancing in the domed gazebo in Bolivar Square reminded me of this memory from the night prior:

I was out with a friend having a mojito at La Casa de Habana in the Centro Historico of Cartagena.  I had just finished explaining to my new friend what is was that I did with regards to hip hop.

Out of nowhere, a 10-year old kid comes up and starts rapping in Spanish at our table. Rapping and freestyling--trying to show off his skills to earn a few pesos for the night.  

He was freestyling in Spanish, and doing it like his life, or next meal, depended on it.  He rapped and flowed in Spanish for a few minutes while we cheered him on.

Finally, he finished his bars with a last breath and smiled.  We erupted in applause for him.

I laughed and told him he found the right person.  

I gave him 10Gs--a ten mil spot of Colombian pesos for his efforts.  He smiled wide--not a bad haul for 16 bars.

The b-boys practicing in Bolivar Park reminded me of the memory and I put ink to paper.  I watched the b-boys of Santa Marta practice their spins and flips until the music died.  Ever the hip hop patron, I left them 10k under a beer can as a reward for their practice and efforts. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Carta, por fa

It's a hammock and Cuba Libre sorta afternoon.

The hammocks are blowing like rainbow sails in the afternoon wind.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Zantagena

Cartagena reminds me of a pastel, Latin Zanzibar.

Said no one else.

Maybe ever?

Not even in Gabo's orientalist dreams.

-Marco Paulo


On Age

"Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth."
-Albus Dumbledore, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"

El Mundo del Gabo

In Cartagena, walking through el mundo del Gabo--through his pastel memories and dreams.

Pastel green cathedral and Bolivar riding high with pigeons down his stretched arm.

Gabo's old white arched memories.  His lush parks of black deco arcs of lights.

Banyans and bougainvillea. Gabo's Caribbean charm.

A feliz unknown.  Like a rolling stone through Gabo's memories.

The lights come on early;green-gold in the black deco cases.

100 years of solitude in love in the time of cholera.

A bit of an old-new Gabo dream; a Gabo crawl through Cartagena.

Gabo's whitewashed arches; Pablo's pastel arches.  Stone arches and doric columns in a soft pastel.

Gabo's pastel yellows.  Long pastel amarillo walls.

The general in his labyrinth, surrounded by stone sentinels that dot the city gates and white waves of crashing seas.

Gabo's setting sun into the pinkness of the day's fading light, and the hoary moon rising over tangerine pastel colonia houses.  Simultaneously, the sun slowly fades into the pink horizon light while the moon rises high and wide over the darkening night sky.

The longest night of the year has begun.

Ah, but my memories are my own.

Gabo could not speak of how Cartagena as a latin reminder of Zanzibar.  In crooked allies and whitewashed nooks.  In intricate wooden doors, studded with copper bolts.  In doorknockers of brass and bronze--iguanas as Cartagena's variation on Zanzibar's bronzed knocked charm.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

On adventure

"And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure"
-Albus Dumbledore, "Harry Potter and the half-blood prince"

Cartagena

After a week in Bogota, I was ready to get out of the semi-gritty, semi-glitzy Colombian capital. The city was fine, if surprisingly cold. I was comfortable and enjoyed it well enough—visiting Moneserrate, the Botero Museum and the Museum of Gold. I liked the city well-enough, but I didn't find that it was a city that especially inspired me.  It was simply another sprawling Latin American capital--although on the upper-echelon of such variety.

I left the cool air of Bogota and arrived into the warm night of Cartagena de Indias on the Caribbean coast. I was greeted with the sultry humid wind as I was dropped off in the midst of the walled city. 

 I checked into the hostal, and checked out the colonial charm of the little plazas and narrow streets. The humid night kissed me with a Caribbean-Colombian charm, as the midnight breeze tasted of rum and coconuts.

In a small bar on the corner of pastel charm, I sipped a cold Aguila beer as the fans clacked above and salsa music blared out of the speakers, punctuating the night. This was interesting; this had potential.

The next morning, I walked along the walled ramparts, watching the surf crash into the rocky shores. I listened to families of green parrots squawk overhead, and I found some shade near a security guard and her cat to read Harry Potter.

I wandered back down through the curving streets of the pastel colonial gem bathed in lemon, lime, tangerine and periwinkle. Creeping tree branches wrapped around the white wrought-iron bay windows and along the stucco tile roofs.

Banyans offered tropical shade in little plazas.

I found myself caught up in the dreams and memories of one Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It will be Gabo who accompanies me to the year's end. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Mondongo

From the "just-because-it's-a-delicacy-doesn't-mean-it's-delicious" files, I present: mondongo.

Mondongo, or Colombian beef tripe [stomach-lining] soup; it was both better and worse than expected and/or sounds.

Thankfully, it came with a lot of garnishes--both in the soup (carrots, onions, celery & potatoes) and outside the soup to put in (rice, avocado, fried plantains, salsa) to make it relatively palatable.

And some cold Aguila beer to help get it, and keep it, down.

Glad I can check that one off my delicacy list, and not return to it ever again. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Nec Plus Ultra

A year that started in West Africa ends in South America. After a year on the road, I am on to my last stop for 2015.
Hola Colombia!


First

Never again to say:

First he came for the Mexicans, and I did not speak up because I was not a Mexican.

Then he came for the Blacks, and I did not speak up because I was not Black.

Then he came for the Muslims, and I did not speak up because I was not Muslim.

Then he came for me, and there was no one left to speak up.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Making America great

Trump cannot "make America great again," because he does not remotely represent what makes America great.

America's greatness comes from its mosaic of diversity, and its tolerance.

Trump and  his racist ilk are the antithesis of what makes America great.

We, the people in all our varied colors and beliefs, are what make America great, not this belligerent and blatant racism and xenophobia.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

He-who-cant-be-named

I say to you all, once again--in the light of Lord Voldemort Trump's return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.  Lord Voldemort  Trump's gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

The Trump Wing

When can we simply refer to the Trump wing of the Republican Party as the KKK wing?

Still Life with Quixote

In the most dangerous barrio in all of Central America, I sit quietly reading a graphic novel of Don Quixote.  Having worked so hard to get to this point, things are now running themselves--that wonderful precision point of tranquility for me.

A cool breeze fills the afternoon air, and a quiet oasis of peace is filled with kids laughing, dancing and singing.

Things feel so normal, one would never know of the war zone beyond the iron gates.

Such is my Quixote life.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

The Gringo Judge Gives you a 10

Gracias a Dios: there is a Ms. Central America Beauty Pageant at my hotel.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

conferencia de prensa

Mi primera conferencia de prensa en otro idioma! (My first press conference in another language)