Monday, February 29, 2016

Party like its 2017

Interesting article on leap years, and today without: July 15, 2017.

He speaks...

Justice Clarence Thomas speaks?!?  After a decade of silence.  He must miss his buddy Scalia.  And what does he do?  Defend the rights of domestic abusers to have access to firearms.  You know, I liked him better silent.

Antiguan lunch

For almuerzo I dined on homemade guacamole.  I had to, the avocado was so soft and ripe.  I had some fresh cilantro still on their roots.  I added a red onion and a giant hulking lime.  Also two tiny nuclear green chilies.  A little salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste.

It tasted about as fresh as it sounds.

I had it with some refried beans I cooked up (not me personally, but they did a far better job than I could), which I threw in some salsa and the tiny chili bombs.

I ate it all with some fresh, still warm tortillas I bought on the side of the road.

Sleeping as Pompeii erupts

Apparently, the volcano in my town was rumbling in the wee hours of the morning. I slept straight through it....

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Eating My Way Through Guatemala, Take One: Molletes de Miel


This was a sweet bread pudding like pastry filled with cream and raisins, swimming in a warm sea of honey syrup with a large poached cherry on top.  Delicioso....

The Passion Parade

Down the cobbled streets, a parade of penitents ("cucuruchos") in purple robes and purples hoods with white gloves passed by in a procession.  They carried long wooden crosses with pictures of the stages of The Passion.  The fading light was darkened further by plumes of incense emanating from silver holders being swung intermittently, lofting the frankincense to the ever-darkening night sky.

In the streets, colorful floral designs were created.  Patterns of white lilies on long green grass backdrops.  There was a rose petal Heart of Mary lined in white pistil strands and ringed with purple flowers.

Intermittently, phalanxes of Roman Legions with armor marched to drum and horn.

The piece d'resistance slowly made its way past: an enormous Passion Play diorama borne on the backs of a hundred young men, slowly passing to the sound of the band's crescendo behind them--a wailing dirge of horns, trumpets, trombones and drums.

A team of reconnaissance penitents led the procession with giant wooden eagles atop spears to moves the power lines out of the way of the procession.

Not far behind, a hundred young women in black bore a giant float of the Virgin Mary on their backs, while the processional band followed them.

And I was the only Hebrew around....

Settling in

I woke up as usual yesterday.  A bit later, but really the same time I always get up as I was now 2 hours ahead.  I made my way over to my new living space for the next few weeks: a small studio with kitchen and bathroom (and hot water!) at a guesthouse on Calle de Inquisición.

After unpacking, I went to get supplies for the new place.  I stopped in a traditional restaurant for some lunch because it is never good to shop for food on an empty stomach.  My lunch was a chile relleno--a stuffed, fried pepper, with rice, onion-filled chicken soup and a beet salad.  I sipped lemonade mixed with club soda to wash it down.

I made my way to the town supermarket.  When I say supermarket, do not imagine the wide, lined American supermarkets with bounding aisles and enough space between the cereal and soda to drive an SUV through.  Instead, more like a labyrinth of products.  Follow the labyrinth path down to the black beans, and you have hit a dead end.  The Minotaur was spotted near the cans of tuna fish.  I meandered through the packed lanes with my basket dragging my staples of vegetable oil, leche, mint tea and garlic salt.

I wandered through the city, looking for clues to find what I was searching for.

I made my way back to the market, and wandered into a market maze.  Old women in colorful embroidered cloth sat behind rows of carrots, dried peppers, onions, garlic cloves braided along their long stems.  Dried beans of black, red and white color sat full in their jute sacks.  Endless bushels of cilantro lay on top of each other.  There were alleys of charcoal sellers, their hands black with soot.  The afternoon light peered through the market, and lit up the squat faces of a blessed few.

I listened closely to the women speaking Mayan in its shushed tones--a language so dissimilar to anything else I had ever heard.  The women chatted in Mayan as they hawked vegetables in Spanish.  I smiled at the old women and young girls selling their wares.  I bought some cilantro, some of the spiciest peppers I could find and some peppers and tomatoes.   I will be buying all my produce here from now on.

That night, I made a spicy bean stew to go over my yellow-spiced rice.  It was a welcome start to my new kitchen, and new place.

Antigua Afternoon

I sit on the balcony, listening to the birds chirp in the courtyard gardens below.  
I sip mint tea and nibble at dried almonds, peanuts and succulent raisins.
I watch ants scurry in a line across the linoleum tile deck
while my lavanderia waves in the afternoon breeze like flags on a line
and Dvořák wafts in the quiet cool air.

As always, my fears unfounded 
and I surrender to The Muse.  
Her divine colonial empire
slowly unfurling before me
as I give form to blank verse
and shape to idea.

Trump/Stern '16

If Donald Trump ends up the Republican presidential candidate, I wonder if he will tap Howard Stern to be his VP.

Liberty, Freedom, Authority

It's a curious thing that those on the Conservative side of politics often bask in the rhetoric of liberty and freedom, and yet it is often the Conservative side of the political spectrum most drawn to authoritarianism.

The Immortal

"There is nothing very remarkable about being immortal; with the exception of mankind, all creatures are immortal, for they know nothing of death. What is divine, terrible, and incomprehensible is to know oneself immortal.I have noticed that in spite of religion, the conviction as to one's own immortality is extraordinarily rare.

Jews, Christians, and Muslims all profess belief in immortality, but the veneration paid to the first century of life is proof that they truly believe only in those hundred years, for they destine all the rest, throughout eternity, to rewarding or punishing what one did when alive. In my view, the Wheel conceived by certain religions in Hindustan is much more plausible; on that Wheel, which has neither end nor beginning, each life is the effect of the previous life and engenderer of the next, yet no one life determines the whole..."
-Jorge Luis Borges, "The Immortal"

Who watches the Watchmen?

"I prefer the stillness here. I am tired of Earth. These people. I’m tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives. They claim their labors are to build a heaven, yet their heaven is populated with horrors. Perhaps the world is not made. Perhaps nothing is made. A clock without a craftsman. It’s too late. Always has been, always will be, too late."
-Dr. Manhattan, "The Watchmen"

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Valentino's hair

One of the finest chapters I have ever read.

I probably wouldn't be hacking out verse in the highlands of Guatemala if I hadn't stumbled on this chapter some 18 years ago as I lazily passed time in a high school English class:

It's been almost thirty-five years.
I can scarcely believe it, nina.
Time trusts no one and so it disappears
before us like the smoke from my
cigarette.
In 1925 I was young, I was a part
of a world eating at its own edges
without being satisfied.
The Roaring Twenties didn't roar.
They swelled with passions.
They danced, and I danced with them.

I had a barber shop in a Manhattan
hotel.
It is not there anymore.
It burned down during World War II.
But in its time it was elegant, private.
My shop was small, only one chair.
Every comb, every lotion, every towel
perfect:
like the stars which burn in the sky,
everything shined.
The barber chair was gold-leafed
and made of the softest leather.
A man could fall asleep in that chair
with lather still fresh on his face.
There were four large oval mirrors,
two on one wall, two on the opposite
wall.
They faced each other like distant
lovers,
never permitted to kiss,
only permitted to greet each other
with their cool but receptive stares.
-Yvonne Sapia, "Valentino's Hair"

Coughing Horizons




As I watch the sun set across Antigua, I marveled at the pastel colors, and thought to myself how beautiful the colors of the horizon were across the Guatemala sky set.


Then I realized it was probably something to do with the fact that there is zero pollution control on cars, and that it has unbelievably polluted air.

The Road to Antigua

Nothing finer than the view out the window of a painted school bus. The beauty that is a chicken bus, and the beauty that is Guatemala. Then and now.







Viva Antigua

Most importantly, I found a place to stay.  After that came food.  I wandered through the city and to the market.  A smiling woman cooking lured me in for dinner.  I had some roasted chicken with aguacacito and frijoles.  And some homemade picante with fresh chopped pepper.

I had a gansita for dessert, it was surprisingly good and exceeded expectations for a latin hostess.

I wandered down to the wine bar under the pastel yellow arch clock tower.

I sipped Malbec while I read Love in the Time of Cholera by candle light.

The conversation in Sweden and English lilts at the other table sounded promising so I invited myself over.

The Swede was a ship captain of some sorts on a touring boat built in 1885.  I asked if Ikea constructed it.

The Liverpudlian was an engineer.  She reminded me of a doctor doctor I knew in Zimbabwe.

We chatted with a security fellow from the UK.  He had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He was now head of security at a silver mine not so far away.

A Salvadorian joined the conversation, as well as two Columbusians.

Last call was early and abrupt.  Called by a Pole.

I made my way back to my hostel--haranguing the old wood door bell to gain entry.

My walk up caught a faint whiff from the roof.  You have a good nose, said the girl with the small gold bull ring.

I met Jack from the UK and Natalie- from parts more familiar- on the roof under a bright green-white moon.  They made me want to visit Belize.  They said they wanted to read my book,  So did the previous short term friends.

I need to get writing.

I have good inspiration here.  I have much to write.  Many words to type on the blank canvas in front of me.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Mayalandia

No sooner did I leave Central America did I return.  Probably for the best, America was making me a little loopy.  After three weeks in America, spending time with family in Bethesda and old friends in LA, I trekked down to Guatemala.

I first flew from LA to San Salvador, and because of flight delays, had to hoof it to the gate to catch my connecting flight to Guate City.  But I did indeed make it, and settled in for a night at the Holiday Inn in Guate City, which was considerably nicer than my last experiences in Guate City--staying on Calle Purgatorio, which earned its name.

Last time I was in Guate City, I wrote of it:

"It is a city with more arms than charm, but it greets you with a barbed-wire smile."

I doubt the city had changed too much, but at least my real estate had.

I awoke this morning with an overzealous housekeeper entering at 8:15am, far too early for any maid to be cleaning.  I went running to three Sinnermans--my Nina Simone workout that spans about 5k of jogging.

I had a little kerfuffle with the hotel over breakfast.  I had booked a standard room on my bevy of hotel points.  I had been upgraded to an executive floor as befitting my stature as a well-kept vagabond.  When I arrived, I asked about breakfast, and was informed of the hours it took place--nothing more.

So when I came down for breakfast, I had a modest fair of a plate of frijoles and a boiled egg with salsa ranchera, along with some papaya and fried plantains. Nothing too ostentatious.  Then they brought me the bill for $12.  I explained that it was included in my room; they did not have it as such.

So I went down to talk with the front desk and the manager.  I showed them my reservation for a standard room, and explained that it was common for standard rooms to include breakfast--especially in their hotel chain which I had frequented in my travels.  I also explained that when I checked in no one had mentioned that the breakfast was not complimentary, nor when I came to the breakfast spot.  I said that I would have simply left to get coffee outside if I had known it was not included.

It surprisingly took a lot of arguing to get them to finally comp the breakfast.  Part of the problem was a misunderstanding.  The manager thought that I wanted breakfast to be comped after I went and ate (she offered me coffee and a pastry); I tried to explain that I had already eaten, and not enough to warrant the price of their expensive buffet.  Finally, when she understood that I was negotiating over an already finished fair, she understood and let it go.

Anyway, I packed up and headed out.  I grabbed a cab to Trebol, the area of chickenbuses.  I grabbed a colorful, packed chicken bus and sped out of the choked, sprawling Guate capital and on to the lovely Antigua.

I trekked over to the last place I had stayed in Antigua for New Years 2010, but Casa Amarilla was full.  I found a place across the street that was a tad cheaper.

I dropped my stuff and went searching for an apartment.  The manager of the hostel showed me a place nearby that was pretty cheap (350 Quetzales/$50 a week), but didn't really have the sufficient space I needed to get some writing done.  It was cramped and a bit dingy.  The woman also needed an answer this afternoon since she was going to leave for the weekend.  I didn't want to commit on the first spot so I left it, but was worried about what else I would find given that this was not expensive at all.

I had read that cafes had announcements for apartments and student spaces, so I went wandering around the city looking at announcement boards.  I found an old cafe called Doña Luisa, which had a number of announcements.  I stopped for lunch since I was famished from walking around all day, and had a plate of huevos rancheros--an island of fried eggs covered in salsa ranchera, swimming in a sea of black beans.  I sipped fresh-squeezed orange-carrot juice in the cool afternoon breeze.

I wrote down about 7 numbers for apartments on the board, and headed back to the hostel to call the places.  Over broken skype conversations, none came to fruition.  Now I was a little worried.  I checked AirBNB and it was all expensive.  Most things were about $450 to $500 for 3 weeks after all the AirBNB fees and charges.

I searched a few more spots online and ventured back out.  I decided to take a turn down Calle de Inquisition, and saw a guesthouse that had long-term rentals.  I went in to check it out, and it was lovely.  Through the gardens, I was led to an apartment on the top terrace that had a modest kitchen and a bathroom with a hot shower.  There was a nice view of the volcano in the distance.  I bargained the place down from 3,200 quetzales to 2,500 quetzales or about $325 for 3.5 weeks.

Pleased that I was to be no longer homeless, I grabbed my copy of Love in the Time of Cholera and made my way to the central park, where I read as I watched Mayan girls in rich, colorful fabrics wander through the park.

I grabbed a traditional Guatemalan hot chocolate and sat under some creeping vines at a quaint cafe and read Gabo's masterpiece.  Now it's time to write my own.

First he came for the Muslims...

I would like to thank Donald Trump for showing us the true face of the Republican base: morally-bankrupt hypocrites.  Bigots and racists.

Followers of a true golden calf; a true false idol it there ever was one.

Thanks Donald for showing us the true face of what passes for Conservative America: Suckers following a huckster in an expensive suit.

A wealthy con man as your standard-bearer for president.  If ever there was profit over prophet.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Life of Pablo

The Life of Pablo: drinking pinot noir and eating chocolate chip brownies in the Maple Leaf lounge at LAX.

Free

You are free, Genie.

There is a feeling I get when cross the security check point in an American airport.  It is a sense of relief.

A sense that I am now free.

Free to leave.

Free to move.

Free to explore.

Free of the endless election.

Free of Trump.  Free of Cruz.  Free of Republicans.

I hate to say it but nothing suits me in America so much as leaving it.

I cross security, make my way to the lounge and exhale.

I am sorry to say it but I find America oppressive to be in.

The Barberess

Off to Guatemala to write the Great (Central) American novel: "Love in the Time of Zika"

Monday, February 15, 2016

Hostage

After holding Congress hostage for years, if the Republicans fight an appointment to the Supreme Court, they will be effectively holding two branches of government hostage.

In the meantime, President Obama Compiles Shortlist Of Gay, Transsexual Abortion Doctors To Replace Scalia.

Invisible Cities

“With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.”
-Italo Calvino, "Invisible Cities"

 Picking through dreams of cities from Amsterdam to Zacatecas on a snowy white day. Cities of evocative names like Port of Joy, Abode of Peace and Savior.

"Cities also believe they are the work of the mind or of chance, but neither the one nor the other suffices to hold up their walls. You take delight not in a city's seven of seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours."


















Saturday, February 13, 2016

If you like Bernie Sanders, you’ll love this other longtime progressive

Another look at both Hillary and Bernie.

Snowy Morning Review

What I am reading on a quiet, snowed-in morning in Suburbia:

-Why fruits and veggies taste better in Europa than 'Merica.  Something I have long known but was always curious why.  I figured it was something to do with the pesticides or push for bigger as better. The article gives a good explanation of why the choice of logistics over quality affects the taste of produce.

-Visit Uranus, and other interstellar vacation destinations.



-The most famous of the world's oldest profession.