Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chile Day One: Getting There

Yeah, OK, so no worries here. There`s not a care in the world. This is when I unveil the sword and prime it for the knarled jungle vines ahead. I hit Logan and Logan spit me off to Philly, and Philly spun me to Toronto, and I`m now circling Toronto and I want to see the CN Tower. But all I can see from here to eternity are straight lines of flickering lights intersected at ninety-degree angles by more straight lines that fade to infinity on this flat world, has no curves that I can see that bring all the straight lines beautifully together; there's just people going one way versus others going another way versus me rounding in the plane above them on my way to the straight runway below.

I`m disappointed by the grid streets. It`s something one sees when flying west where the bureaucrats became kings and the land was divided by their grand ideas of efficiency and planning. Vegas is wild with colors and lights, but it is boring as shit to fly over except for the mountains of lights that disguise the flaws of laziness. Toronto is an eastern city; it is not supposed to be this way. Eastern cities aren`t planned, they are built to grow with the hand-me-down clothes passed on from generation to generation. One gets lost in Eastern cities and their crooked roads that lead from village to village. One doesn`t drive straight to the edge of life in a straight line. That`s too fast, too efficient, too painless, and too, well, I don`t know what it is because I won`t see it coming around the corner when it is my turn to hand down my clothes to someone younger than me.

There is a two-hour wait in Toronto and I`ve asked Fernando if I can charge my MP3 player on his computer. Fernando from Rosario, Argentina, three hours north of Buenos Aires, travelling back from Canada for the South American summer after spending the northern summer in Quebec City as a waiter, which he`s done now for five years - six months on and six months off, now at forty-nine years old, with two grown sons in their twenties left behind in Canada, a girlfriend waiting for him in Argentina, a book on how to be a waiter on his computer waiting to be published with his paintings adorning the start of each chapter he has written on serving, talking, uncorking, and all the misadventures he has had. The man has lived in every country of the world except those he hasn`t been to yet or found the time to settle down for any length of time. He is multi-lingual several times over and he is flying home to rest for six months, showing me pictures of his home and all the places he has visited, and letting me charge my endless supply of music at the same time. He`s old though, and he pops a Tylenol PM for the overnight flight that lasts ten hours (and he still has another three to fly after that, and then another three to drive after that). We shake hands and go to our separate aisles, separated only by one row, six seats, and a central console where the flight staff prepares the warm meals. I hope he sells his book and the handbags he has painted. He hopes my books sells forever.

Sleep comes soon.

But it isn`t enough. If a man needs a thousand winks then I get five hundred, and this flight was twice as long as a normal night`s rest. This is not to mention that it was cold where I sat. I had to walk a thousand rows toward the back of the plane before I felt warm air melt the sheet of ice that had grown over my clothes and stuck to my skin. I had to circle the plane a hundred times extra after that just to get my blood pumping again so that my skin changed back from pure white to yellow to blue to my skin`s natural peach before I looked normal again. And even then I felt more like an oil slick on a cold ocean than I did like running water from a faucet. I felt worse for the crew because other than the pilots they had to stand the whole flight so that their knees stuck straight and they waddled through the ailes like penguins with stiff legs after a while.
It did not help that my luggage wanted to go see the beaches of Sao Paulo instead of Santiago.

I was accosted by a hundred mad taxi drivers who wanted to drive me to Las Condes, which is where I was staying. I chose the blue bus and was happy for it. The CH$1400 it cost me was mounds better than the price I was certain to pay under the heaviness of the black hooded cabs.
Jose Luis Barro was not home when I arrived. So I lugged my five-hundred pound carry-on with me to see El Muro - the climbing gym - and the Plaza de Armas for food. I walked too much for a man who had been in the same clothes for more than twenty-four hours. I was exhausted, and I looked forward to my Escudo beer and grilled salmon with rice.

Santiago is drab even in its nice neighborhoods. It is Thessaloniki, Greece with bigger mountains and no sea. The air is difficult to breathe. I can`t wait to get to Peurto Varas where the air is supposedly cleaner than here.

I may have a job already when I arrive. Diego needs routesetters at the climbing gym. Even if it means free climbing then it is worth it.

I am so tired right now. My feet hurt, and I have learned how to say, "Sorry, I don`t speak Spanish" by heart now, too. The mental fatigue weighs more than the physical curses, and I could carry only half a horse before I left; now it is half a midget`s limb.

The Union Bar on Nuevo York is a man`s kind of place: the floor is dusty, the paint peeling, there are holes in the table cloths, which are only brushed cleaned instead of shaken or wiped, and the food was simple and magnificent. I didn`t want to talk to anyone. I didn`t want to explain once again that I don`t speak Spanish. No pretext. I just wanted to fucking eat my salmon and rice and drink my god damned beer. And they let me, and after my sixteenth salmon, I finished. I had forty-five minutes to meet Jose Luis Barro. It was time to rest, because if I said "oui" when I meant "si", and if I said "Puis je" when I meant "Puede" one more time then I was going SCREAM! Thank God I only punched myself for my stupidity until my eyes fell out instead. Screaming would have been emotionally too difficult to explain.

One final story for today: I had an interesting end to the day before heading to Jose Luis Barro`s penthouse palace that overlooks the dry Andes. Earlier in the day I bought four Metro tickets, one for now and three for later. I used the second one a little while later to go someplace in between the restaurant and Jose Luis Barro's, and then I was heading back and put the ticket in the machine but the turnstile wouldn`t turn. Two people came up to me and said something in Spanish. I told them I did not understand, but they kept talking. It took about ten minutes before the woman showed me, not told me, but showed me that my ticket was for non-rush hour only and that a more expensive ticket was now required. They let me give back the old tickets with extra money, which made the ticket seller laugh, in exchange for the more expensive ticket.

Jose Luis Barro`s house is great. He is great, too. Tomorrow I`ll investigate a few of the neighborhoods so that I can see where I might want to live when I come here in February.

Click here for all 2009 Chile and Argentina Pics

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