Friday, January 31, 2014

Is There A There Here?

Or is it the other way around?

No matter how long I'm here, I still get lost.

I suspect that businesses and landmarks move around randomly every time I blink my eyes. What else could it be, really? It couldn't be me. Not hardly, I think. It has to be them.

Where I'm from, and you want to go to the X Building, located on 123 A Street, you begin by locating A Street. Then you find a number on any building, and as the next step, you arbitrarily choose a direction and go that way until you find another number.

That tells you if you're headed the right way or likely to end up in the city dump, so you act accordingly.

Once going the right way, you keep doing that. For example, let's say you get to 100 A Street, then you get to to 120 A Street. The outcome is inevitable. By that time your target of 123 A Street is so imminent that you may bump into it and hurt yourself, and once found, the location stays put, both in fact and in your mind.

Here, not really.

Take my attorneys, for example. They're nominally at Luis Cordero 6 - 41 y P. Córdova, but you won't find them there, even when they are in their office and busy as termites. (Note: The "y" is Spanish for "and". I'm leaving it in for the sake of making this all sound exotic.)

Next up, the "P." in "P. Córdova" isn't "P.", it's "Presidente". You have to know that. I assume that the attorneys were intending to save business-card paper via the abbreviation but they didn't succeed — the card is standard-sized and has lots of white space available to comfortably house the possibly-optional-if-you-know-where-you're-going-anyway "residente", which would move the full expression up from simply "P." to the more-universally-intelligible "Presidente". I guess they ultimately decided that "P." sounded more fun than the longer but simpler "Presidente", but who am I to say? I know nothing, after all, really. (I can't even find my way around town, you know?)

OK, next.

"P. Córdova", or "Presidente Córdova" as it is actually known, isn't even in the picture. The way things work here, you give the street that the business or residence is on, the building number, and then the cross-street. In this case "Presidente Córdova" isn't it, I think, maybe, the cross-street.

I live at "Hermano Miguel 4 - 36 y Calle Larga". Calle Larga is to the south of my address. In the case of my attorneys, Presidente Córdova is to the north of the address. Consistent? No. Confusing? Yes. Maybe only to me, but that isn't the end of it. There's more.

The first time I got to Luis Cordero 6 - 41, there was only a shuttered doorway at that spot. A shuttered doorway here means a roll-up, roll-down steel curtain, something like a North American garage door. That's what businesses use here. When you go home, you roll down the door curtain and padlock it. The next day, there is still usually a business behind it. If the padlocks hold.

Well, when I got to Luis Cordero 6 - 41, there was a shuttered doorway. End of story? No. Not this time, not ever really — there is always more.

In this case, I went one doorway over, to the south, and that doorway opened onto a mid-block parking lot. When I say a mid-block parking lot, what I mean is that there was a parking lot inside the block. Lots of these are in effect inside buildings, though this one was open to the sky.

Inside the block in turn reflects on the architecture here. City blocks are hollow. You can call it that. The facade you see while walking down a street is exactly that. Architecture here is colonial style. Buildings were put up on a hollow-square pattern so that there are solid walls on all four sides and a square open space in the middle. Like ancient Roman villas. You may or may not get the idea, but that's OK. There is still a lot I don't get too. As when looking for attorneys the first time, I made it only so far as a parking lot, on my second try.

But I didn't quit even then. No.

I went yet one more door south, to the next even-more-wrong address, and found a barely-legible sign around eight feet up the wall announcing that this was the office of the two attorneys. Fine. Finally.

It wasn't where I had expected it to be, but I found it. I did. Then I looked for landmarks so I could find it again. Then I mentally plotted a route from my place to there. Half a block north. Turn left. Go two blocks to the "T" intersection. Turn right. Walk. Cross the next street and pay attention to what's on your left. If you do, you will come to the correct doorway. If not, you'll keep walking forever.

Coming to the correct doorway isn't quite enough either because you can't get in. Or out, for that matter. The door latch isn't. There is no latch, no knob. There is a deadbolt lock which can be opened only with a key, from either side, so you have to be let in, and then let out again, but that, as they say, is a rhinoceros of a different bra size.

The foregoing was all background, preliminary, introduction. That was easy, that day. There was an address and the two streets were signed. Many streets aren't, with any sort of regularity. You may find a street sign barely larger than an index card, and it may be informal, and hand-painted by a resident. If you are lucky there is a sign where you need it, and it is sheetmetal or tile, and legible, and you can't count on that, or on anything.

Many streets go around every whichway, unsigned and narrow, so the only landmarks you see ahead of you are the same sorts of landmarks you see behind you. Meanwhile, streets are so narrow that you can't see out to the left or right.

What often happens is that I notice an interesting shop or bit of graffiti and make a mental note to get back there, and can't. Worse, I go into a shop and buy something, or at least look at things, want to get back, and then lose it. One restaurant took me weeks to find again after I'd already found it the first time. Everything is different here. I mean unique, unstandardized, but at the same time built on an endless unending repeating pattern.

During a short walk you'll notice that every doorway is different, but there are so many doorways, and they are all so similar that they blur. Moving up a notch in scale, apply that to whole buildings, to city blocks, and then to entire sections of the city. It gets blurry.

I have been going to one panaderia, one small bakery, for over a year, and every time I go there I need to hunt for it. Even though I've memorized the landmarks and know exactly where to turn and cross the street. I can get there, in one try, with my eyes closed, but not, usually, with them open.

Someone is behind this, and eventually, in time, I will find out who, and I promise to tell you. I promise.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Talk To The Food

A laying on of hands, food-wise, the Bio-Schmetz Way.

All bacteria on deck, pronto!

So then, foodies come in basically two flavors, which are easy to determine early on if you don't mind licking strangers.

Flavor One: Those who like biting stuff to find out what's good, and who enjoy eating.

Flavor Two: Those who know what is right, and will force-feed you to prove it. If you only stop resisting.

Food is an issue for many people. Eating rules give them identity. The rules give their lives structure, then something to live for, and finally those rules take over and nothing else counts — it's obsession time.

Flavor Two people honk themselves hoarse about their beliefs, insisting that you do as they say, and are certain that they will reach God and live righteously forever. Because they have found the True Truth. Which works best if you buy a distributorship from them.

Personally speaking, I'm still trying to get that little plastic pyramid I bought thirty years ago to sharpen my razor blades. I'm not up to food yet, but.

You know?

To keep my mind in shape for the coming New Age Rapture, Dance & Winners-Circle Awards Ceremony, I went to Smilla Sensimilla's apartment for a class on raw food.

Partly I wanted to see what the inside of a classy, high-end apartment building is like, partly to meet some people if possible, and partly to learn something about different foods.

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And so on.

Actually, there wasn't much on the Bio-Schmetz Night-Time Nite Lite Therapy as such — mostly it was raw food, but I didn't learn much there either.

Well, another not quite true statement. I did learn that

  • I don't want to learn anything that they're teaching.
  • They aren't teaching anything.
  • I will never, ever eat anything that they've touched ( any of the people who were there, ever).
  • I was stupid to go.
  • Smilla lives in a rabidly killer expensive amazing apartment.

Some other things of note.

  • Probiotics, or how to eat bacteria and remain smiling is a big deal.
    • You want to eat lots of bacteria.
    • You want to eat 80% good bacteria.
    • The 80% of good bacteria "eat" the other 20% (the bad bacteria) and that is how you stay healthy.
  • Hygiene/sanitation are not that important if you have a strong immune system.
    • This was demonstrated by the way the food was handled.
    • No, I didn't follow up — I never want to go near any of them again.
  • Eat raw food to
    • Pick up fun enzymes.
    • Feel better.
    • Feel lighter.
    • Boost your bacterial load.
  • Raw meat is easier to digest, so Smilla cooks hers, but only on the outside. (Still red inside, so she gets to call it raw.)
  • Yes, eating raw meat is safe.
    • Smilla got her parasites from lettuce, not meat. (I don't know if she's going to keep them as pets.)
    • By the way, it's important to do a semi-annual parasite cleanse. (She didn't say if it's for them or for her.)
  • Dairy products are bad. (They make glue out of, you know, like milk, right?)
  • Gluten is bad.
    • Humans didn't evolve to eat gluten. (As substantiated by several consenting head nods.)
    • It's bad for everyone in every way and responsible for arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and almost all other diseases.
    • By the way, ALL grains are bad, gluten or no. (In case you were a loser not already hip to this.)
  • Ceramic knives are better because steel knives cause food to oxidize.
    • You can see it!
    • Food cut with steel turns brown!
    • True!
    • Yuk! Proof! Brown, etc.!

OK — cue the cymbals and gongs!

Time to see Bio-Schmetz In Action! Let's make raw food! (If you can actually make it, right? You really only handle it a lot I think. Or strangers do.)

First up — a mango puree (Raw Mango Chia Smoothie, Smilla called it). She had all kinds of ingredients (so very many kinds) laid out on a table in her living room, where we sat watching, and she hacked at them and stuffed them into a blender. Without washing her hands or the table or the ingredients. (Because that's the Bio-Schmetz Way™)

Then she added honey, which was too thick to drip off the spoon so she pushed it off with a finger, still unwashed, into the blender. Then she repeated this honey trick several times, and cranked up the blender, and poured out small glasses of the resulting goo. I was presented with a glass of it but still had half a glass of kombucha, so I was able to donate my goo to the woman next to me, who drank it down.

Footnote: "Kombucha is a lightly effervescent fermented drink of sweetened black tea that is used as a functional food. It is produced by fermenting the tea using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, or SCOBY. Drinking kombucha has been linked to serious side effects and deaths, and improper preparation can lead to contamination."

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Then we went hardcore — Raw Pad Thai.

Smilla needed help with this, so she farmed out the chopping and hacking to others. Others whom she had never seen before, who had come into her house from the wilds of Cuenca, known far and wide for its streets speckled with pigeon shit, smeared with dog shit, stippled with human shit, and sprinkled by various wild and domestic species of urine. All of which rides along on your shoe soles, is tracked in everywhere, and is of course accompanied by the standard repertoire of ordinary dusts and varieties of diesel soot.

No one washed their hands or cleaned their work surfaces. Really — who would have expected less?

One sacrificial zucchini went on a hand-cranked gizmo that turned it into a long spiral as it came out the other end, but it didn't work right, so ultimately all eight bare hands of four separate strangers participated in handling it, all unwashed.

By this time we were a hair past the halfway mark in our two-hour class. I, being allergic to raw bacteria native to dog shit, decided not to eat anything, at all, under any circumstances, there. Then, or ever.

But what to do?

There was a slight pause. I pounced.

Rising quickly, I pivoted, hit the back of the room and talked to Creepy Nat, Ms Sensimilla's pet poofy-haired ex hippie gray guy friend/lizard-being who was hanging out there, and I apologized.

I apologized to him for forgetting somehow, to tell Ms Sensimilla that I might have to leave early, gave him the $12 for the class, and skedaddled. Oh, God, did I, like no one has ever. Skedaddled. (Zoom!)

Before anyone could blink more than once, I was on the street, making a sharp turn around the corner, and then, safe and free, I had lunch at Good Affinity. Cooked.

Close call, eh?

So that was my day.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Poo In Paradiseland

Unwrapped urban gifts.

I think I've learned it by now, but who can be sure, really, when sidewalk-level poop is involved?

Learned what?

Well, for example, to watch where I put my feet.

Sounds simple, right? It is, really, it really is. But remembering to watch is harder. The remembering-to-watch part tends to escape and run off into fields of frequent daydreams. Or, in case you want to remain alive, it yields a close eye to traffic.

Poop disgusts but traffic kills. So maybe from time to time you end up with poo on your shoe, but you get home alive, which counts for something. Counts for a lot in my book.

And, truth be told, it isn't sidewalk-level poop that I'm usually watching for anyway — it's structural hazards. I don't know how to say it better, so, for example, what I mean is broken pavement, cracks, lumps, unexpected dropoffs, surprise up-steps — all that.

Watching for stumble bummers keeps a person alert. Alert enough to avoid incidental low-level embarrassments like poo. I've stepped off too many sudden drops to let my guard down now. Poo sightings have become ordinary, unsurprising, and expected, and they happen all day. Background noise. Because I've gotten enough hard knocks from local pavements not to trust them any farther than I can kick them.

Pigeons are probably the worst.

Where there is a shop, the owner usually cleans the store floor daily, sweeping small tidal waves of water out onto the walk, and then scrubbing that, and then sweeping the excess away. Where there isn't a working shop the walkway may be cleaned only by rainfall and shuffling pedestrian feet. Seldom to never in any real sense, which is where pigeon poo finds its longest-term residence.

Dog (and human) droppings come and go daily. A lot gets swept into the street. Some gets mooshed flat and smeared, and eventually all of it dries and powders and becomes invisible.

Yes, human droppings. It's all poop in the end. Poop you probably don't want to become intimate with.

The main point is that poo is ever-present and omni-present, even if powdered and invisible. Which is why I don't wear shoes inside — street shoes come off and stay in the demilitarized zone of my entryway. Inside, closer to me, in my actual residence, the floor is swept, scrubbed, and clean.

Which is better, by my lights, than taking street poo to bed on the soles of my feet. Don't you think?

Monday, January 20, 2014


Which tells you something. I fell.

What it tells you, the meaning of it, may require an excursion into applied philosophy.

I said caí because this happened, and it is now over. In fact, it has been over over a month. This is something which happened to me on December 6, my first full day back in Cuenca. I fell. Off a curb. Thunk.

Small potatoes, you may think. Tiny, insignificant horseradish. Minor league poop.

Sure — all of that, I admit. I am here admitting. I have hereby admitted.

Me to world — Hey out there! I fell off a curb! On my first day back in town!

And though I say it loudly, I do not say it proudly. No one should. Least of all me. Because I am so proud of my footwise nimbleness, my shoe-based agility, my knee-enhanced lightsomeness, and my general dancer-like grace. Yep, that's me, Mr Grace, who just fell off a curb, a mere six weeks ago, and is now willing to talk about it.

Mr Grace. I should have business cards printed, maybe. You think? I shall ponder the possibilities and the permutations thereof.

Among other hazards here, too numerous to mention yet too frequent to ignore, curb falling off of is barely a minor sport, yet one I have attempted, albeit inadvertently. It was how I knew I was back. It is one thing that gringos do. It B Us, gringo-wise

The locals? No. Nope. Nada. Nunca. Ni modo. Not hardly.

One day I'll figure this out, if I persist. But it may take years, and the assistance of several of those philosophers. Highly qualified philosophers. And even then some parts of not falling off a curb may still be a bit fuzzy to me.

There are so many things going on within the confines of the average impossibly-constricted Ecuadorian street that curb falling off of is generally lost in the noise, the way the jigs and jags of one jumpy molecule are lost in the background brownian bumping of trillions of its identical buddies. I fall, you fall, we all fall so get over it already.

Yeah, I guess, but it still bugs me.

It was such a minor thing. I just went Bump! and then it was over. Maybe if I'd broken a leg I'd feel better, you know? Have a better-developed sense of accomplishment, or feel more at home somehow, as though I'd survived an initiation. What if another gringo had stopped to take a photo of me to show the folks back home how truly dangerous South America can be.

Or a video. What if they'd made a video? I could have gone viral. That would have been something.

Instead — no one noticed. At all.

It was simply another stumbling gringo idiot.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Count, Pointer-Count

As if.

Have you ever stood in place and pounded your head against a brick wall? Voluntarily? Yes? No?

Note: I'm leaving out the choice of maybe because you'd definitely recall this exercise it if you had engaged in it even once. Unless you did try it, in which case maybe you don't remember so good no more.

But back to the topic at hand. Arguing.

It's a religion.

Not for me — I tend to walk away from such nonsense and then swear in private for a while to purge the bile from my system, but for a lot of people, you know? Religion. Way of life. Requirement. One hundred percent natural ingredients.

Not meaning to point fingers (and not being an expert on Latin America or anything, with my whole eight months of living here and all), but.


But there seems to be an ingrained belief that arguing over something makes something else better, somehow, whether or not arguing can possibly achieve any rationally-definable result.

OK, you already know where I stand on this issue, if you've been reading with your eyes open. So, not for me the arguing, but for a lot of people, yes — there is this hewing to the arguing thing.

Truly, I feel it — I am a guest here. That's where the First Rule Of Expat Club comes from. You don't set foot on someone's turf and then get all Bellig and Rant. But they can. And do. Those who were born here. It's natural, I think, for them. And it's their place to do so if they wish, since they own said place, and its accompanying culture.

Well, some people. Some of them do. The ones that do it. (Argue.) Not most people, but some, maybe a lot of them, and they do it with relish and vigor.

Be surrounded by, and then argue with police? Sure. Why not?

Sit on a plane that's sort of not going anywhere, and then tromp up front and ream out the lead flight attendant? Ditto. And find that you are subsequently joined by several other passengers? Yup. Keep it up for twenty minutes or so? Sure. In an attempt to make the plane move sooner? You betcha.

Run a business? Have a customer? Have that customer bring back defective goods? Well hey — time for a roaring argument. Let it roll on for many, many long minutes. Declare victory when your customer troops out and never returns.

What could be better?

Truth be told, I haven't seen a whole big lot of arguing myself. Mostly on that flight, and at the immigration office, where I sat all too many times, waiting my turn, and had nothing else to do but watch every single damn person who got there ahead of me go up front when their turn came, and immediately plow into a free-wheeling, half-hour-long argument.

About whatever.

Maybe about nothing.

In that situation, there, I simply had my stuff, had it sorted out, and in the right order, and completed correctly, and I submitted it and had it approved. Without argument. From anyone. Least of all me. So no need of arguing.

I could be wrong but I believed then and believe now that punching someone in the gut with endless arguments is not a good way to make them happy. Especially if you are soliciting their assistance, like, for instance, when you are applying for residency.

I guess I just don't get it.

So I'm kinda going to keep lying low and will continue to wear my happy-face and not argue. Even if it is what people expect. Until I learn a better way.

Meanwhile I'm keeping up my crazy-inscrutable gringo act. That seems to throw everyone off.

I like that in a way. My non-argument counter-argument anti-argument supersonic invisible unscented Tao.

Monday, January 13, 2014

High Altitude Arfing

Bite me not, bastard.

I gotta say it, dogs – I can do without them.

I do do without them, gladly and easily.

Problem is, I am immensely attractive to many dogs. Often as target practice. Frequently as an object of hatred. All too commonly, I suspect, because I am taller than even the tallest of them, and better looking, in my own ape-descended way. Possibly I am hated because I have no publicly-visible tail to wag. Or because I can't arf properly.

That could be it. Or it might be something else I am unaware of. Like the smell of my butt.

But who can say, really? All that even the cleverest and most knowledgeable of us can say is Huh... Followed by other words likely to set things afire.

However the mechanism of dog consciousness actually operates, I have learned a few practical things. One was to give up bicycling, which drastically reduced the number of chases, though even when I rode in the woods, on trails, and far from dogs, I had a problem or two, but cougar encounters are not what we're concerned with today.

Here, in Ecuador, things are a bit different. Lots of dogs wander loose.

I've found, so far, with a few exceptions, that loose dogs do not fret. Loose dogs do not break sweat. Loose dogs are usually loose for a reason – they are too old to do anything but sit still or lie down, and have trouble keeping their eyes open. Therefore they generally are not a threat to public safety (mine, which is what I essentially care most dearly about).

Loose dogs also have fewer frustrations. They are, after all, loose, and can do what they want, whenever. It's the penned-in dogs that scare me most, those who sit in front yards the size of throw rugs, completely alone all day and every day, watching the world go by, yet unable to participate. No butt-sniffing, no post-pissing, no aimless wandering, no meeting up with friends for casual humping – none of those are available to the fenced dog.

Fenced dogs can only listen and lie in wait. Listen for footsteps and wait to lunge and scare snot out of anyone walking by (me, for example).

Caged dogs care for naught. Except lunging, thrashing, arfing, and howling. That's all they got, and they have nothing to lose. They know that, unless.

Unless you are unlucky. And go through the neighborhood on that one rare day when the gate is open. Or on that hopeless day when several gates are open. Then you are fair game for all, and all those frustrations surround you in a pack.

Best advice: carry a stick. Or an umbrella. It'll do well enough.

Dogs in the U.S. are treated like babies, like toddlers, like cuddle-bunnies. Dogs here, no. Dogs here understand what's going down when a stick is raised. Or when a stone is stooped for – they get that too, since all have attended, at least for one semester, the Sticks and Stones School of Hard Knocks and Severe Thrashings.

But mostly they're on your clueless behind too fast for that, which makes you wish you'd never given up bicycling. Bicycling at least gave you a chance at outrunning anything with teeth, assuming even a modest head start, a bit of the surprise advantage, and strong legs. Unless it was a cougar.

Given the choice, I'd rather be eaten by cougar than slobbered by dog. But cougars, they are far too rare here, so my fate, she is sealed.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Biz In Alternate Dimensions

Guess what? No, guess.

I think I just saw nothing made out of something, in a business sort of way.

I'm renting a place temporarily. That's fine.

It's short-term. That's fine, and it's a good place, as places go around here, possibly a little on the uphill side of cheap, but I do have furniture, a sink, a little two-burner stove, and a refrigerator.

No private bathroom though, and that's annoying, but is a minor issue considering that I plan to be here no longer than a month or two.

Tomorrow I will see the end of my first month come and go. OK, one down, maybe one more to go.

Not wanting to find my room rented out from under me, I paid my next month's rent today, even though it isn't due until tomorrow. And, since handing over $350 cash is handing over a substantial amount in these parts, I asked for a receipt. Natch. Wouldn't you?

The owner doesn't speak English, and besides not speaking much Spanish yet, I have some ongoing but (I hope fixable) hearing problems, so the owner's eldest son functioned as translator. I got assurance that the owner would bring me a receipt when she came up to clean my room.

But she didn't.

I was in a hurry to get out of her way, and lunch was imminent, so I cleared out, expecting to find a receipt on my table when I got back.


Following that, insert long silence here, with possible minor grinding of teeth.

Later in the afternoon, the aforementioned eldest son was in the building (one of three non-adjacent structures comprising the one hostal)*, so I went downstairs and asked him.

Not so productive.

The stories I got (from this one person) were that...

  • They know who I am and how long I am going to stay.
  • This is a family business and not to worry.
  • They are out of receipts until this evening.
  • If they give me a formal receipt, then they'll have to charge me tax.
  • Although I registered as a paying guest here, and provided my passport number, if I register for a second month it will be extra work because they will need my passport number.
  • Everything is fine.

All within the space of half a minute.

In the other corner, fighting on my behalf is what? I have keys to the building and to my room.

I guess that means something, right? I hope so.

* You could say it's a hostel, or a small hotel, or both.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Well, It's Close

You know?

Experience pays off. The more you have the more things you know about.

In line with that, the more things you know about, the more things you know how to fix, or get around, or fudge into compliance with your needs, and the more things you can just put up with.

Take my shower. Please. (Just kidding.)

No, I'm not kidding – I don't like it. But I can get by.

What's the problem then? I hear you ask. Well, It's another example of Not Quite™. I'm sure that part of the problem, if I can really call this a problem, is that the building I'm living in is old. Maybe a hundred years, give or take a century. It's old. Fine. Old buildings are funky.

So the room I'm renting has been retro-fitted into this old building, which has been renovated into a hostel. Or hotel. Or hostal as they say here, which is more like a tiny hotel that is OK but not as fancy as a hotel, and also tries to lean away from the flophouse ambiance typical of hostels. Fine again.

But part of the retro-fitting was to add bathrooms, which are handy, no doubt. I have access to a bathroom and it works, which again is handy, see, but there's this thing.

The floor of the shower is not level, and it shouldn't be level. The floor should have a low spot in it, and the drain should be at that point. But it isn't – the drain, I mean.

See the problem?


When I take a shower, I like to run the water. Running water while taking a shower is kind of the point, right? So when I do that, the water puddles in the bottom of the shower because its muscles aren't strong enough for it to climb uphill to reach the drain.

Generally speaking, water loves to go down a drain any chance it gets, but since the drain in my shower is uphill, the poor water just can't get there. A lot of the water anyway, so it puddles.

Other than that, the shower is fine, plus one more thing. Which is that I have to share this shower with other guests here, and who knows what they do once they're in there with the door closed, right? Am I right?

OK, I'm right. And when they are done showering they leave a puddle behind, which sits for hours and hours, waiting. For me. And then I go in there and try not to stand in it, which is more awkward than I like, because, you know, when I shower I like to wash and go, not dance around the edges of a puddle left by someone else who might have been doing who-knows-what.

Which, to get back to the point, is the real issue with a lot of things here.

You buy a building, and renovate it, and turn it into a really nice little hostal, and then a bunch of details like this slip through your fingers like a slippery wet bar of soap that goes shooting across the room if you try to grab it, and you say to yourself Well – it's probably OK, but it isn't, really, so every day forever after someone has to dance around that puddle and all the other odd little things that you glossed over while saying, over and over as you committed your mistakes Well – it's probably OK. But it isn't, is it?


So stuff like that.

Not quite right.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Hey There


I always hated sports season. Still do. And it's worse than that, because it's always sports season these days.

And what happens during sports season? "Hey! How about them L.A. Lizards! Did ya see that play? Whudja think about that then?"

All too often this sort of thing happened when I was in the barber chair, wrapped, laced in, tied down, locked up, and the barber was only about to begin. Which meant that I'd be there for fifteen minutes if I was lucky, but probably longer – up to half an hour of imprisonment. With nothing to say, because I had no idea what the guy was talking about.

So I'd turn red and close my eyes and hope to die.

I'm not good on small talk. Of any kind.

I'll have to learn.

Because here you don't nod, or smile, or smile and nod – you engage. It's required.

Sit down for a meal and you're expected to greet those who came in before you, or those coming in after you. You are expected to greet them with the equivalent of "Good day. How are you?" or "Good afternoon. How are things?" And so on.

I know – easy for you, but with my sincerely inadequate knowledge of Spanish, my one deaf ear, and my other, failing ear, it's hard to follow just what's happening, and it is even, because the words fly so fast, hard to understand even these ritual phrases. Even though I've read them, and have heard them often, and have practiced them.

Mumble-mumble-mumble. (What?) Mumble-mumble-mumble. (What?)

I'm always caught by surprise, and am incapable of acting appropriately human.


I still haven't caught on. But I'll have to, to get by. To avoid offense. To be considered human. Which is a good thing if you want to get along, and I'm only a guest here. I'm always aware of that.

At least here no one is likely to ask what I think of the Houston Hubers, the Boston Blugos, or the Denver Dorks.

I can be grateful for that, and I am. I am.