Friday, May 23, 2014

Go, Gone. Zo!

Time to wrap.

I've tried twice to do this expat thing, and I'm not ready to die so I'm going to not-die.

I can't stand living around old people, much less living like one. Cuenca is fine, such as it is, but I don't belong here, don't have a life, don't want to be one of the gray potbellies sitting at a table.

Not one of those experiencing lunch, after a full morning of anticipation. Not one of those reminiscing lunch, during the long slow afternoon.

Don't want to wait for dark so I can sleep and resurrect and wait for the next lunch.

Won't post pictures of supper. Won't pose in front of the pool. Am not going to turn off my brain.

Don't care to act my age — I still have things to do, and as long as I can do them I will, since I have the time and enough money, and no responsibilities. It's time to be irresponsible and be irresponsible in a serious way.

Maybe in a month I'll be back, or six. Maybe when I'm still breathing but can't walk no more. Or maybe I'll die on the plane back here, or elsewhere. I don't care. No one cares.

I'm free. To come or go, and right now.

I go.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Step, Shove, Walk

We're all happy here, except some of us.

You'd think that with the typical sidewalk around four feet wide (1.2 m), there would be issues. This can go one of two ways. Either people go out of their way to accommodate each other, or they bump a bunch.

It's some of each.

I've been slammed from most every side, and had several of my feet stepped on, the latest incident being this morning. That's inadvertent, the stepping-on. No one goes out of their way to step on anyone else, not even on me, but you need to pay attention.

Walk too close to the curb and you're often only a foot from motor vehicles. When it's a 12-foot-high (3.7 m) bus you almost get sucked along, though after a couple of days you don't worry so much, but I'm still expecting to be brained by one of the side mirrors. Unfortunately, I worry about this only after the latest bus goes past.

Cabs? Almost unnoticeable, they're so tiny. Normally, but anyone can get killed by a cab as easily as anything else.

And then what?

Walk opposite the curb, and skim along the storefronts. This is probably worse. Get creamed by a cab or bus and it's over, at least the walking part of your life. Skip like a stone along the open doorways of hundreds of shops and you'll soon be t-boned by another pedestrian. Because no one looks.

People shoot out of shops at any time, at every velocity, and in any number. No one looks.

You're on an empty sidewalk and then someone's is on you — crash. If you're slow. And not watching. But you can't watch everything, and mostly you want to watch the pavement for holes, dropoffs, lumps, dog shit, curb cuts, random debris, and dog shit. Secondarily, as your mental processes allow, you watch for _Bumping Bennies_ bouncing out of buildings.

And no, you walk either along the curb or along the buildings. You can't walk in the middle or you'll never get anywhere at all — it's too crowded for that. Families walk in the middle three abreast, four abreast, in packs, and in small herds. The singleton walker must skirt them to get anywhere.

Still, no matter how careful you might be, you get sideswiped, especially at street corners. Come to one and stand, waiting for the light to change, or at least for the traffic to thin enough to allow a proper jaywalk, and you'll be bumped and jostled from every angle.

People want to get places, like getting to the next corner where they can repeat the process, as soon as possible. Anyone willing to preserve safety by not threading through moving traffic to get across the street against the light is not respected.

But the cake. It was taken one day, a few months back, as I was headed on my way back from lunch, by a local couple.

A circle of teenage girls was standing on a sidewalk, a particularly wide one. It measured five feet or so (1.5 m) across, and the girls took up all of it. I could have gone round to my left, out in the street, which was safe at that point (a parking lane with an empty slot at that location), but a man and woman were approaching from the girls' other side, making the scene even more congested, so I waited.

And I learned something.

If you're a suit-wearing, gray-haired man walking with your wife (or adult daughter, or mistress) and there is a group of girls standing on the sidewalk and blocking it, what then — What do you do?

  • Stop and wait
  • Ask them to move
  • Go around
  • Cross the street
  • Something interesting.

Of course the answer is Use your hand and shove one of them out of your way.

Yep. 'S what he did. Just shoved one of them about a foot and a half, and continued walking with his woman.

Conveniently for me, I was stopped, and was able to witness it all, and as an added bonus I was able to scoot around in the old gent's backwash, because the girls did not re-form their ranks.

They didn't pull knives either, or even say a thing. They looked at him, especially the one that got shoved, but that was it.

Pretty slick, but I'm not going to try it. Not this lifetime. No, better not.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Decorate Me A Mouse

I live around the corner from Cuenca's flower market.

This isn't anything like New York's Fulton Fish Market. That covers 400,000 square feet, and it's full of dead animals.

Cuenca's flower market covers maybe a tenth of an acre, roughly 4000 square feet, or 0.04 hectare. That's about right. And it isn't fancy.

It's an open-air place, on a corner, between the blue-domed Catedral de la Inmaculada and El Carmen de la Asunción, and is called, according to my map, either Plazoleta del Camen or Parque de la flores, or both.

What's notable about it is how low-key it is. There are roughly a dozen square white canvas pavilions, each sheltering one female vendor. That woman sits or stands in the shaded middle, surrounded by her wares. People go by. Morning arrives .The sun climbs into the sky, and again declines. Rain showers pass by. Day comes and goes.

At night the pavilions remain in place, some surrounded by fencing, and others seem to be bound by line. I'm not absolutely clear on this since I don't go out at night, but have been out early. Today I went by there within kissing distance of six a.m., a half-hour before sunrise, in the near-dark, and people were already at work.

Once they're set up, the place is a riot of color. Most flowers come in tight arrangements, in shallow bowls. A few are sold loose, but this is no slipshod operation — all the flowers are well-presented. The vendors know their goods, how to present them, and what their customers want. Each seller is solidly walled in by by her flowers, hundreds of them, professionally set out.

And there are a few benches there, and a few trees, a major park a block away, and a major market a half-block in the other direction. It is always busy.

I'm glad I'm here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Love Over Foamy Water

Lock it to the rails.

I guess it started in France. At least that's where I hear it's going gangbusters. On a bridge over the Seine. Which is about where everything happens, isn't it?

Once upon a time the gods decreed Carve your initials in a tree. And then they got chalked on sidewalks and spray-painted on buildings. Inside hearts.

It was hearts everywhere.

Now it's locks, and there are even a few here, on one bridge.

I gather that, to show one's true forever-love, it's necessary to buy a padlock and go with your sweetie to the designated spot (the place where everyone else is doing this), and then fasten that padlock to the bridge.

If this was an ideal world, the next step would be going for pizza and beer, but I don't know what they actually do. Après verrouillage. But pizza and beer has to come up every now and then. In an ideal world.

I guess people feel insecure in the world of ideas. They need to throw in a hunk of matter here and there to make their lives seem real. Symbolism I get but I've never quite understood that lust for relics and other lumpy stuff. Could be a lack of imagination for them, or maybe I really am from another planet.

You know, I could almost get it if they took not just the padlock, but the whole toolshed and put that up on the bridge with the lock still attached. Especially now, during the rainy season.

I'll leave a note, get back to you if anything happens.

For now, this is me, signing off yet again.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

What Color Is Your Pared?

See it? Right there. Look. Color.

Color is certainly different here. I.e., there is color here.

North America, you're way behind. Way, way behind, but you may not be able to do anything about it.

I was just thinking about this a few minutes ago.

For example, you build a house, or you buy an existing one — doesn't matter. Then you put up a wall, effectively putting your property inside a courtyard, with an opaque wall around it. And a locked iron gate to control entry. Or a solid iron door.

Done. And then what? Everyone would go nuts. They'd suddenly want to know what you're doing in there. Right? What it is you've got to hide?

Satanic rituals? Animal torture? Weird experiments?

Maybe you just like privacy, but that doesn't work in North America. Forget that normally you don't need eight-foot-high stone walls topped with electric fencing in North America to keep yourself safe, so you'd at least need a severe desire for privacy to do this. Followed within weeks of the wall's completion with you being run out of town for not being like everyone else.

OK then, skip the wall.

Instead, paint your house bright blue. Orange will do too. Or brilliant, screaming yellow.

No matter — you'll get about the same response.

Color isn't allowed unless it is dull brown or dull green, or slate gray or white. No crimson. No neon green with purple trim. None of that.

But here? Yes, it's OK here. Almost required. Something is required. Some color that indicates life and enthusiasm and a desire for celebration. No one seems to care how any particular building is architected or constructed, or whether it's next to an office or a junkyard, let alone what color it is, or used to be.

A huge number of buildings in the historic center of town even show, around to the side, where their weathered walls are visible, that they're made of mud brick and wattle, and they are still standing after 500 or so years. So that gives you some perspective. In the sense that those buildings just are. And so what?

If it's there it's OK, or you don't care, or if a building is especially noticeable you have a landmark.

But if it's colorful, in and of itself, then what?


Monday, May 5, 2014

Flowers For America

Stumpy The Patriot said, Simply eliminate the cut flowers coming from Ecuador (a country that supports the traitor-facilitator Assange) and replace these imports with American grown flowers. Why buy something from a country whose interests are contrary to those of the US?

I've often wondered why U.S. politicians spend so much time trying to fart themselves to death over what the Cubans do in their spare time, what Hugo Chavez used to have for breakfast, whether an elected government can be democratic if it doesn't look to Washington for instructions on every item.


Do you really care what clothes Iranian women want to wear? Was it really a good idea to spend a trillion dollars to take Iraq from a dictatorship all the way around the dial to a dictatorship before we once again declare victory and pull out for good?

But not a single one of them to my knowledge has ever proposed dealing with the vast commie conspiracy in China, the country whose economy will be the largest in the world by the end of this year. That's 2014.

Based on eating our lunch. Handed to them by BigBiz. Because BigBiz would rather use slave labor than have to pay for it.

Why not start another war and deal a deadly blow once and for all? Why give away everything we've ever built for cheap Wally World T-shirts? Anyone up for going over the top?

I'd say, given the lack of jobs for the currently unemployed, graduating college seniors, and the bleak prospects for succeeding generations, let's give guns to everyone over the age of 12 who is not currently working, and blanket China by air-dropping them into that dark and evil country to take it apart from the inside out. That'll give them a few lessons on free enterprise, fair trade, and democracy.

Meanwhile, what was that about flowers?


Right, Sparky. It appears that the U.S. flower market is now dominated by foreign people of dubious pedigree, shipping in thousands of tons of the soft-petaled, gently scented, herbaceous, purely-frivolous decorative items. Living as I do at the moment just around the corner from Cuenca's flower market, I have seen what they are offering, and I think we can take them.

If the Ecuadorians can plant flowers hardy enough to not only sprout but also to push up through several feet of drifted snow in sub-zero temperatures (Fahrenheit, no less), and blossom — well then, those same plants can make it in Ohio. We don't need no stinkin' imports. We'll do fine reducing our minimum wage to match Ecuador's $340 a month, and happy for it. (Better than working at Wally World, right?) Screw it. We're tough and we can do it.

But why stop once you get rolling?

How about the U.S. grow all its own coffee? Move off Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela, Vietnam, Brazil, and all the rest of those countries who are ignorant of our truth and beauty, and grow the pure rich stuff right in Kansas? Same with bananas. Plenty of room for them in Montana and Idaho, and they're fun to use for target practice. (Easy to sight in on with that clean bright yellow color. Maybe have a NRA brand with little target stickers?)

And where the hell did we get the idea to buy anything from Vietnam? Was that part of the unconditional surrender terms? I say go Kansas.

Then again, why not all U.S. grown for everything? On U.S. government plantations? True freedom. Totally free enterprise.

Ditto Julian Assange. He's a non-issue, serving a self-imposed life sentence. Until Rafael Correa leaves office anyway. Heh. Sorry about that, J.A. — asylum was only a gesture. Move along now, there's a good lad.

No one cares about him, certainly not here in Ecuador. No one has ever mentioned him. Anyway, he's not a traitor unless Australia gets into a snit and has some reason to engage in a round ankle-biting. He's just a guy, and Australia seems to have real business to take care of.

Meanwhile, Ecuador doesn't sell flowers or bananas or avocados to the U.S. Ecuadorian businesses do. Following a private-enterprise model. Like this guy: Ecuadorian rose exporter finds profit in mixing business with social and environmental consciousness.

Or this company: One of the world's largest orchid growing and exporting facilities is only 22 miles from Cuenca

Oops. I forgot chocolate. The U.S. can grow its own cacao, right? Sure, why not? Forget about Pacari Chocolate. Pacari is family owned and is a bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer, as well as fair-trade, Kosher, and Certified Organic. Family shmamily. Let's have the government declare that U.S. citizens can't buy from them because families are by nature communistic. (Your spouse ever charge you for sex? You ever charge your kids rent? Diaper-changing fees? Didn't think so. Join the club, commie rats.)

And forget about Kallari too. Same kinda commie cooperative subversive crapola. (When did that ever work?) The only native American chocolate. We are a cooperative of 850 families of the Kicwha Nation and our people have lived in the Napo Province for over a thousand generations.

So what does that mean?

One thousand generations. What if their tired old relatives invented chocolate? They don't even have a single toxic waste dump yet. No mass killings carried out by law-abiding citizens who love their guns and hate everything else.

One thousand generations. So what?

We can now make chocolate out of good old North Dakota crude. Any day now. We got plenty the stuff comin' out all over. As someone who grew up back there in the Land of the Frozen Dead before it got trendy, I can assure you that my people need work too and can probably figure out something that is both gooey and chewy and leaves practically no bitter aftertaste and is both brown and very seldom either immediately toxic or explosive. Just like the real stuff.

Sure. Let's do it.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Wicked Wallslicers

What's cheap and deadly?

Lots of things.

You can pound nails through a board and lay that on your outside windowsills if you don't want anyone parking their butt there. And you see this, even on windowsills five feet off the ground. Mostly it's more elegant — wrought iron spikes seem preferred in these parts as the proper reminder to keep moving.

And then there are other problems. Padlocks seal doors. Multi-fanged dogs discourage callers. Razor wire and high-voltage lines strung across wall tops attenuate the enthusiasm of most night-creepers.

If you have the money. Even dogs need to be fed.

Razor wire is a high-tech item here. Has to be crazy expensive. Electricity too, not considering the fuss of putting all those parts together after they've been bought. And remembering to turn the switch on when it needs to be on. Or was that the other way around? Let's see...oops — I guess I had it right the first time. Sorry, Alex. Alex?

To hit the high peak of recycling and the low valley of cheap, nothing can beat broken glass set in mortar on top of any wall whatsoever. I think. Probably so. Because the evidence is plain to see. It's used everywhere.

Have another beer or two and you've got your raw material. Put the bottles in a gunny sack, apply hammer, stuff your hands into work gloves, and pull the spears of death-dealing shattered glass out of the bag. Which cuts better than anything. Doesn't rust or corrode. Comes in colors. Is cheap.

Did I say cheap?

Can't repeat that too often. It's here and it's cheap. And the technology is well understood.

What could be better?