Friday, October 28, 2011

Cerro San Cristobal

I walked over to the hill today and took a hike up. I wasn't expecting much, 409 meters not being a big deal. I did find myself stumped though, by a policeman when I asked for directions to the road through the barrio. He told me that it is very dangerous in there, and that I "have many years."I was puzzled because I wondered if he meant I look to old to take care of muggers or if he thought I'd have a heart attack. I hope I laughed it off, but whatever, I kept on going.

I was a good long way up when I encountered a rather large lady who panicked when she saw me, telling me that I would be robbed for my bag if I didn't take a taxi up. She said, "You are very old." OK, that's hard to mistake. So I kept on walking to prove her wrong. That lasted till I was too close to an on-coming contraption made of a motorcycle and a car axle, a local taxi of some sort. The driver stopped and told me it was too dangerous to walk up, which I assumed is a con all the taxi drivers tell tourists. But I decided it might as well give him a dollar and let him take me up rather than listen to how dangerous was my walk. I'm glad I did that. I found Jose to be a load of fun to talk to and interesting in his views of Lima, a kid who lives in a shack on the hillside.

We got to the top of the hill and walked around a while and Jose pointed out various things of little interest to me, and he told me about his family and his life in the city and so on, and I began to think that if I were 20 and staying here he and I would be good friends. I think that of many people here.

It's a nice place in many ways. It gets cold at night and not too warm in the day time, so today I paid about $12.00 for an alpaca sweater, and I had to exchange it because I wanted one of a different colour from what I first had, and the next one was, as I noticed in looking it over, not an alpaca sweater at all but one almost the same from the back room, this one in polyester. No deal, so I made the girl take it back and get me one I wanted. It feels beautiful. People here are nice, but one must pay attention to things anyway.

I did about 300 meters on foot, and next time, now that I know the whole route I'll go on my own. I went up this time with Jose and we looked over the city. I grabbed a shot of the cross just because and then shocked the lad by confessing that I am not a Catholic. He looked pretty puzzled when I told him I'm a Protestant, but he was pleased that even though I'm not Catholic I must not be a devil worshipper with so many crosses on my hat. forget about me being an atheist: Jose drove me down the hill in his contraption. I told Jose I am deeply impressed by the view. I was. Scared shitless. Much of the road is way too narrow and the drop is 408 meters till one hits the dirt.

No, it's not straight down at all. But from the edge it looks close enough.

I ended the daylight hours wandering through Rimac District by the river, and in time came across a crowd of close to 100 people watching silently as six motorcycle cops manhandled a petty criminal, the latter in handcuffs, a three inch gash down the side of his eye where a cop had hit him with a baton.

Yes, I am getting old, and I got this way by being careful in rough places, and more than that by being really lucky. I might have gotten lucky taking photos of the police and the criminal, but I hope you will excuse me for being careful instead. There is much to see here, and I hope in time to amass enough good shots of Peru to make visiting here worth your while. But I don't think I'm going to provoke the police here. Birds? Yeah, I can do that. I'll see about finding some meat to rot in the sun so I might have a chance of getting a shot of a condor up close. For now it's dinner time. More next time from Lima.

And more is from the far side of town: I was five or six miles out when I turned and saw the hilltop clearly for the first time. The curlicue on the hillside is a design ubiquitous in Peru these days, a "P" and the rest of "Peru." I see locals wearing tee-shirts and carrying bags with this design all over Lima. I assume it echoes on some way the geographs of Nazca. About halfway back from my walk I was able to get this long shot. Click for a blow-up.

Months later, as I up-date this post, here is a shot of the Nazca, Peru geoglyph that gives this some context:

About the pink houses on the hillside below Cerro San Cristobal. Who would paint his house pink? This is not Mexico. This is not machismo centro. A few days ago I sat across from a young fellow who looked like he could bend crow bars with his bare hands. Most of the time I can see most colours, and I saw flaming pink when I looked at his shirt. But I can be woefully wrong, as I know from people looking at how I sometimes dress myself. I asked to be sure. Pink. I've seen it a few times now on men who look particularly masculine. Maybe it's economy, maybe a challenge to the world they know most will never accept. I think it's a matter of the locals being pretty calm over all. This is definitely not Mexico, nor anything much like it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Paul Evan Lehman, found in Lima, Peru this day of

Mr. Lehman is no longer with us, but somewhere in the great blue yonder rides a man and his typewriter, I'm sure, and he looks down on me and waves his Stetson as I look up and thank the gods that I found his book, Texas Men (Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.: Graphic Publish co.; 1936; rpt, 1951.) This book is older than I am, and I am old. I'm sure that Mr Lehman is not entirely forgotten, but for me he will be a new acquaintance in the late hours of this evening. I have no ideas as yet how I will feel about him, though I am hopeful due to his work, a novel I would love to have, Idaho.

One of my great joys in travelling is to find old books in non-English language countries, books often left to die in heaps unread and arcane. I found this book today on a side street when I got lost in Lima on my return from a government office. I can smell a used book shop, the mould and mildew, of course, but also the hands and the eyes of readers through the years leaving a sense of themselves on the pages. So, I was drawn in to a seedy little doorway and I found inside, though I couldn't take a picture, a half dozen men sitting on folding chairs amid mouldering papers, likely unemployed men killing time reading comic books and old magazines. In the muddle of pages and covers and scaps of paper from torn magazines I found a half dozen books in English, Mister Lehman's book being one. I'll let you know relatively soon how I feel about it.


Oh. I didn't rush to review this book. That tells us a lot right off.

I think books often tell us about who we would like to be, if not about who we are in our lives as they are, idealisations. But that's not all: I think these idealisations do tell us who we are in that they we tell author who we want to be idealised so they can write about our aspirations and our phantasies of ourselves.

Yesterday's book was not so good, even though I like westerns as a rule. It was 187 pages that might have made a better short story in a magazine back in 1941 or so when it was first published. As is, the story carries on far too long to get to an obvious conclusion, not bringing anything new after the first 10-15 pages. I got it within the first paragraph, but my grasp of books of this nature is my only real talent, and I am way too good at it. So too with movies. I get it in the first few minutes and can then anticipate the whole thing in detail thereafter, making movies a miserable experience for me. And so with this book. Loyalty is admirable, and a man has to give his best friend every benefit of the doubt, even if he hates doing it. And a rotten friend must in the end sacrifice himself to redeem himself, after which the hero who has stood by while all others would not can claim the moral high ground because, like Gollem, the bad guy done good. It's lost on me. Maybe before we entered WWII this book could have hit some readers and made them happy, promoting the ideal of manly friendship and loyalty, self-sacrifice and stoic disregard for suffering when one loses to the lesser man. Maybe.

According to the leftard social scientist I cite often, Joanna Burke, in WWII those soldiers who read Look Magazine or Life Magazine were seen to be intellectuals by the majority of soldiers who read comic books. Today, those who read Chomsky or Zinn are seen by others as intellectuals. Nothing much changes. The point is that in the early 1940s in America there was no broad and shallow education among the populace as we know it today in America. My education, a generation after the war, is far superior in many basic ways to that of the average European of today. But it wasn't what I wanted. I do have more and better than most, however, and more than Obama. Of those reading Lehman's book, they would have been working class men who had little access to television. This book might have taken the average working man a week to get through, and he might have enjoyed it in its simplicity: Men are men and men are friends of men. Men love women, and they stand aside for a man the woman wants, even if they know they are the better man. It got me thinking about the book I read a few days ago, and how we see ourselves and what we like to think we think about ourselves. I read volume two of a book about an autistic girl, Stieg Larson, The Girl Who Played with Fire. (New York: Vintage Crime; 2010.) It's close to 900 pages long. It tells us much about ourselves, I think, and in a way similar to the way the tv series Dexter tells us about ourselves and the way the movie Shane tells us about who we used to think we were or would like to think ourselves to be. These books and movies are not too much different from comic books and magazines in the early 1940s, we just think we're more sophisticated, our books being longer, our details being more sordid.

I read all kinds of things, even, dare I admit, the Bible. I read pulp novels, Lehman or Larson, anything at all if that's all there is. Larson was all there was till yesterday. I'm not shocked or disturbed by what he writes, not even ashamed of our times. It's not daring, it's not edgy, it's not sophisticated. It's a comic book of our wishes about ourselves, about how we might like to think we see the world.

Close to 900 pages of social criticism from a Swede about a girl who was tormented by by her father as her mother was physically abused. A girl who was tormented and tortured by evil bureaucrats. A girl who was a victim. She is a bi-sexual who shares a book with a bi-sexual man married to a woman who has a life-long affair with a man who has sexual encounters with willing women. How utterly Swedish. But, like Lehman, Larson lays on the moralism with a shovel. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do; and if that means shooting it out ten to one against cattle rustlers while the bad guy steals his girl, such is a man's life. Or, if a man is a gangster raping young women and a woman is mentally ill, then a man must stick up for her as she goes for her revenge, taking time out to steal from thieves, to main criminals, to cheat and lie and cause harm to numerous villains and passers by. It's about the person who must have social justice, same as the range must be tamed for farmers and ranchers. It's what we all want, the sex tossed in because we are so cool.

Yes, our genre books today are better than they were in the 40s. Larson is a hack writer like Lehman, and Larson is dynamic and interesting, as 21 million buyers attest. But is says little good about us that we want to see ourselves as sophisticated when what we would probably prefer is to see ourselves as moral. Today, stoic men suffer because their lovers are married to bi-sexual men, and they go on to do the right thing in a world of evil while taking time out to screw any available girl. This is not the 1940s, but people don't change at all, just the attitudes change. At heart, men are still the same men they have been for thousands of years.

I prefer living among simple people as opposed to sophisticated people. I like Sarah Palin and I hate Obama. I prefer in many ways Lehman to Larson. I prefer Latin America to North America. What I like about Lima is what I used to like about Mexico City and what I love about Tel Aviv: that these are cities that are what America used to be when I was a boy. Lima is a Lehman city, as it were, and America is filled to bursting with Larson cities. The former isn't great, and it would improve with some severe editing; but it is at heart, far superior to Larson in the presentation of the collective expression of the point of the Moral. If we can think about it and see ourselves as losing what good we had in exchange for a lot of tinsel and flash, then maybe we can develop a simplicity again that will allow us to like the good rather than the poisoned pseudo-moral of today's Modernity. If so, we will see superior fiction expressing our best because it will be what we demand from writers, and they will, in turn, provide us with our best selves, however made up and improbable.

It's the small things that kill you

I was out for a good walk a few days ago, and I saw my next big hike in the distance, the cross at the top of Cerro San Cristobal, 409 metres high, which means nothing to me till I work it out in feet. The cross is a local landmark, and I use to to orient myself when I can find it in the fog. I need all the help I can get. I have some kind of brain problem that, among many other things, has left me with very little sense of direction. I have trouble distinguishing left from right, and in the dark, up from down. I live as a traveller, and this presents me with numerous problems as I go from place to place. Being colour blind and half blind on top of that makes my travels all the harder, though I think I have a number of good ways to compensate. Some disabilities I can do much about, and I travel anyway, in spite of what it means. It means that small mistakes might well be fatal. That's a price I am happy to pay for this life, though I suspect I am facing the cashier sooner than expected, if one can anticipate such things in a reckless life at all.

I'm going for a long walk soon, and I don't know how to go but by moving forward to a goal that I have no sense of. I understand there will be a rough neighbourhood between me and my goal, and I understand that well given that I stumbled into it recently and got out as quickly as I could. Lima has its poor and criminal class, and I fell into the centre of it without a blink between me and safety of a sort. But I know my way around the mind of the world to a fair extent, and I got in and out in one piece. Still, there is a ghost walking beside me now whose outline is becoming increasingly clearer as I see my life up-coming.

I came to Lima and to Peru to do some writing, to type many hundreds of pages of manuscript for my book, A Genealogy of Left Dhimmi Fascism. I am on schedule and a bit ahead, though I have come to see what I wrote as seriously flawed and in its current condition a failure. This is good in that I can save it now that I understand that I failed. To have gone so long without noticing this is what frightens me. How could I have missed the obvious for so long? This kind of failure in such a basic way undermines me. I have to fight myself to keep on smiling. I have many flaws that prevent me from being the man I would be. I have to struggle for the most basic things, like finding my way across town and seeing what it is I am supposed to see, like how to be alive in the world. I miss it mostly and must rely on experience and determined thinking. I seem to have been born in a deep hole and it is my life's experience to claw my way to hope of daylight. It will take me a lifetime to know as much as the average six year old. Mostly I am a deeply failed person in the world, and it is my hope to become at least aware of how to try to do some things rightly. I travel so I can see how things are done and how I might do those things as well. It's too late in life to apply much of it, but I will end with at least some knowledge others have taken for granted all their lives. I will, if I am lucky, know what others simply accept without having to think about it. That is my joy. I will be aware.

But I might not be aware enough to make it through this trip. I fear that my brain is not working as it should in basic ways. I'm forgetting things. Recently I lost my eyeglasses, which I cannot see without. I was lucky enough to be rescued by someone who found them for me. And too with losing my day pack. But yesterday I lost my passport.

It is a serious loss, and I am in deep trouble without my passport. I have to go to the embassy here and go through the process of replacing it. But the problem is far deeper than that. The problem is that I seem to be losing my mind.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Open Doors

Doors are specifically human, and I think they are great. Mostly, from what I see, doors are meant to keep out unwelcome company, meaning invaders with violence in mind. Doors are meant to keep out thieves, people and rodents and such. But in the past few hundred years man has honed a fine sense of privacy. It is recent. There were few doors in most buildings past times. Look at buildings, and even today the average office floor, and see that privacy is rare. It's for individuals, and communalists don't often notice a lack of privacy. I do, and its one reason I notice doors. But it's only one reason I notice them.

Doors keep out invaders and rodents and the cold, but they are also, sometimes, works of fine craftsmanship. Doors are sometimes carved and made beautiful by the labour of skilled artisans and thinkers and poets. I'm in downtown Lima looking at churches all day these days, where privacy is at a minimum, churches being communal spaces for the masses, doors being mostly for the mysteries of priests and officials.
I see one door daily that I like in particular. It's so high that I can't get a good picture of it standing across the narrow street. I'll try to do better from a different angle soon, but for now, let's look at a few details of this door.

It's not solid wood, being bolted together.

And it is old, having been patched over and over, as we see here.
The interior is worm-eaten. This is a 500 years old door, give or take. I think of it as a prize of humanness.

El Condor Pasa

It's not hard crossing streets here like it is in many megalopolises where there is no sense of over-regulating every citizen out of his hard-earned money to finance social justice in the name of safety. (Whoops.)

Here, like in most other cities where you live your own life as well as you can and the gods against us all but the rich, (Damn!) one walks across the street and doesn't get hit by cars. It's life. One does not require police to regulate traffic. People do that. One drives as one can and must and one does not slam into pedistrians and they in turn do not stupidly walk into oncoming vehicles, and all but the trial lawyers are pretty well served. (OK....)

Not everything here in Lima is Libertarian City. It's not perfect. The government does not post traffic cops at every corner to impoverish the people as they cross the street. Instead, governments are just as greedy and corrupt as in America but in less "sharing and caring" ways, the p.r. routines not being so slick. The government in many countries just plain steals without the "social justice" bullshit that makes people think they're getting a good deal out of it. So, the point is that politicians here are as bad as anywhere, and they are a pack of vultures.

I don't have a camera to do justice to this, but I was crossing the street toward the Congress building and beyond, minding my own business, I noticed a couple of groups of riot police in an armoured car with serious looking attachments and some nifty looking logos (pictures to come when the sun comes out) and I got there without being hit or ticketed for a mass of money, like a hundred other people crossing against the light with me. I started to cut through the Congressional building plaza when I noticed a flock of condors settled on towering flood light posts. Yes, it is the perfect metaphor for politicians everywhere, but this is the first time I've ever actually seen it. Vultures all over the building and looming above.

Yeah, you want to be a hammer rather than a nail, but in the end it's all the same.  You cross the street and the vultures are waiting. El Condor Pasa.

How do you know your child is Georgian?

Georgia on My Mind.

I was walking down a side street yesterday in central Lima when I spotted, of all things, a small cardboard display on a table at a shop front for souvenirs, one thing I never would have thought to see anywhere on earth, having looked, actually, in many places for many years. I saw, among other things, a flag patch of the Republic of Georgia. I was laughing. I bought two for a dollar or so. I asked the girl at the shop if she had FYROM, Jugoslavia, which she had never heard of. She knew nothing, unsurprisingly, of Georgia. She was happy, and I was ecstatic. Later in the evening I sewed on patch onto the crown of my new black baseball cap. I pricked myself a few times. Who would think I would find a patch of Georgia in Peru? WOW!

This morning I woke and went to the rooftop to make coffee on a hotplate there, and as I was boiling water I was joined by a Japanese lad who saw my cap and asked if I'm from Georgia. I said no, I'm from America, and then, to my surprise, he said he had been in Georgia last year. We talked about Georgia for an hour while I had coffee in Peru. This is pretty strange, or else I am way out of the loop in the lost decade of being settled down sort of. Ten or so years ago Georgia was a mountainous wilderness few people would venture to from fear, rightly felt, of being killed if not robbed on top of it by bandits. And it was difficult to get visa. But how things must change in this rapidly expanding Modernity. All morning I had Georgia on my mind, and part of the reason I find this so utter amusing is that in packing for this journey around the world, if I should last, I tossed, without thinking, a map of Georgia into my pack where it has settled to the bottom to be useless for a long time. I don't know what I was thinking when I threw it in there. I don't think I could be farther away from Georgia if I tried. And to meet, a matter of hours after having found a patch, a young man who had been there recently was some kind of wonder to me.

I left my hotel and went to buy a few supplied, mangoes and bread and such, and as I was crossing the plaza to the supermarket down the road an old man chatted me up in English. I decided that even though he was a street hustler I needed some time away from speaking Spanish, if only for a few minutes. He told me he has a school for orphans up the north of the country, which he eventually asked me to donate to, and which I politely declined, saying that I am working my way to an orphanage in South Sudan and need all my money to get there. The strange thing is that when he approached my and spoke English he asked if I am from Russia. He then chatted about Georgia, obviously something he picked up as a way to hit on tourists, street hustlers like him and Obama having a sack full of sly come-ones for any occasion. I had at that point spoken to four or five people in the day, and two of then spoke to me about Georgia.

To end this story on a note I think is amusing, I was coming out of the store when I bumped into an English couple in their early 30s, and I said excuse me (con permiso). The guy looked at my cap and whispered to his companion loudly enough for me to hear, "Bloody yanks."

Now, anyone who knows anything knows that I can pass easily for a Georgian. Why? Because my front teeth are gold.

It's an appropriate joke here: How do you know your child is Georgian?

His first tooth is gold.