Sunday, February 21, 2016

QUITO: la mitad del mundo

Today we complete our first week in Ecuador.

It seems like we've been here for a month, not just a week. When you travel to new places and see new vistas, time slows down. All appears in slow motion. And the hours and days last longer than normal.

In Quito the altitude - 9,000 feet - did a number on me. I knew it, I was expecting it, and took some precautions. Drink a lot of water they say. I did. Take an ibuprofen. I did. Yet my breath was so shallow every time I went outside the hotel, I had to walk very slow and wait a while to recuperate. The first day we took a tour on one of those hop on-hop off buses. Hoping off at El Panecillo to have lunch seemed like a marvelous idea. And it was: good food, awesome views of the city below. But when, after lunch, I had to climb the stairs up from the restaurant to the road where the bus was waiting, I thought I was going to die. I couldn't breathe. It was like a big rock sat on my chest. I barely made it to the bus and sat down, trying to catch my breath, a breath that was very stingy, very slow. After 5 days in Quito I still had difficulty with the altitude.

"La Mitad del Mundo" (The Middle of the World) is my favorite attraction - a museum where you can see how the water goes down the drain in different directions, depending where you are; where you weigh less because the Equator bulges; where you try to balance an egg on the head of a nail (I'm not sure what that proves); and, obviously, the line, the famous line, where we all stand with one foot in the Northern Hemisphere and one foot on the Southern.

We left the city for Manta, a port on the Pacific. I've never been so glad to be at sea level!
Here we stay with our friends for a couple of days before heading south to Puerto Lopez and the islands.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


     You eavesdrop on a conversation. Two young women are talking about a guy. Their voices are high and annoying, they whine. Both wear pink shirts and black pants. Young stupid women are the bane of your life. Never been able to ask one out. And the one time you did – she laughed in your face and left. Young stupid women who wear pink are the pests of society. They should be put to sleep. They should not be allowed to breed.
     You eavesdrop on a conversation between two young women who wear pink shirts in a café. The café where you come every day to read and write your stories. The same café you’ve been coming to for years. Where do these two get off – coming to your café and spoiling your afternoon? Don’t they know anything? Of course not, they’re stupid young women who wear pink. Who wears pink anyway? It’s disgusting. Like strawberry ice cream that melts between your fingers. Like bubble gum stuck under your shoe. Pink is the color of Pepto Bismol and shortcake and salmon. Pink is not a human color. Should be banned.
     You cannot help but eavesdrop on their conversation. They speak loudly. You become more and more annoyed. Angrier and angrier. You’d like to tell them: “shut up! You freaks. Shut up and crawl back to the hole you came out of.” You’d like to smack them and shut them up for good. The conversation drives you madder and madder. Until you have no choice. You have to destroy them. You have to bring peace back to the café. You have to do what’s right. No one else has the guts. No one else but you.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


            You’re surprised to hear church bells in the distance. You thought the church had been demolished a long time ago. In a strange way, the bells are comforting. Unusual for an atheist.  Must be the memories of church bells during your childhood. The neighborhood. The friends. Suddenly the memories flood you and you have to sit down for a moment, on a stoop.
            The church bells take you back to the old days when everyone knew everyone else, doors were never locked, you and your best friend Ralph were inseparable.  I wonder what happened to him you say out loud. Ralph was great. He had no fears. You liked to follow him around, imitate him. Your mother used to warn you about that but you never paid attention to her. You were spoiled, her favorite son. Her only son in a family of girls. Five girls…geez…you were the golden boy.
            You’re listening to the bells when the door behind you opens. Excuse me someone says. I’m sorry you reply and get up. I’m sorry. I felt faint for a moment you explain to the lady looking at you suspiciously. You start to walk again, down the block to the 711 to buy cigarettes and a six-pack.
            You walk out of the 711 with the six-pack under your arm and a cigarette in your mouth. Stopping to light it you realize the church bells have stopped tolling. You inhale deeply and blow the smoke out of your nose, cross the street, smile. You’re going home to drink and forget the neighborhood, Ralph, your mother.
            That’s what grown men do. They drink. They forget. They forget until they’re forgotten.