Saturday, November 05, 2011

Dining in Lima: No reason to believe in God (!)

I had a late dinner this evening. I still have some white cheese, and to make a meal I got dinner rolls from Jimmy's bakery, then I went to the supermarket for fresh boneless chicken breasts, mixed vegetables, salad dressing, bananas, and two litres of drinkable yoghurt (coconut and peach). It cost me about ten dollars, and I have about $7.50 left for the next few days or so. I cooked everything on a hotplate at the little kitchen on the rooftop of my place. I sat down and dined, if not in style, then in lovely comfort. I found myself saying that there must be a god, for how else could I have such a wonderful dinner in the warm air with the lights of Lima showing off my meal. I was almost swooning as I ate. It was a fine meal. But, as happy as I was, it doesn't prove the existence of God. If my heavenly meal depended on God, then as soon as I don't have any food, and there have been many times when there is famine and I have been as starving as others, then without food, where is God? My meal was the best I've had in a long time, and as much as I like it, it proves and disproves nothing about God. It only proves that when I have money and access to good food I can make a fine meal. A genuine believer would believe in God even if he were starving. I don't see myself believing in anything during a famine but in the basic mindlessness of nature and the folly of men and their oft times evil ways. This evening, if not a belief in God, I do have a piece of heaven. I am blessed.

Friday, November 04, 2011

A slow day in Lima

I stop briefly in the mornings at the marketplace back behind the Congress building in downtown Lima, Peru where I go have breakfast before heading off to do whatever silly stuff occupies my day thereafter. It's a good way to start my day, having custard in a cup, often times two. I get a stool outside a little stall, inside of which are a couple of ladies serving through the window. I get a glass cup filled with custard, smooth and sweet and creamy, the yellow reminding me of the sun that has recently begun to appear in the sky here, the cream and the sweetness, the silky texture of the custard reminding me of home. There are a dozen shops all selling the same custards there, and yet this one shop is my favourite because the girl who hands me the custard is so beautiful. I'll say she's thirty because she might be twenty or she might be forty. I know for certain that she is beautiful, and that is because I can see her smile, right now, in my memory. She has a smile that reminds me of love.

[Market photo to come]

I'm not a love kind of guy, as a rule. Not a custard kind of guy. I like coffee. The best coffee I have found in the city so far, and no coffee would be better, only as good, which is about perfect, is at Cafe Victor, close to the market. Who'd know? This place doesn't inspire confidence from the outside, like so much of Lima's exteriours. But a cup of cafe american is as close to heaven as I am going to get. A cup of coffee...

I came down to earth during that final black coffee. Then I knew who I was, where I was, and what I was doing. Or trying to do. Caffeine restored my anxieties; I was my usual paranoiac self.*

This place isn't all wonderful coffee and beautiful women with heavenly smiles. It takes a bit of experience to come up with this idea, and not of it is based on smiling women.

I haven't had any problems here, and I don't expect I will have. My life here is good and easy, a matter of shopping for small things daily, like food and odds and ends I might need during the day. Most of my day is about walking around and speaking to strangers and noticing things different from me and places I have been where normal is not what it might be here. I have some time to sit and watch a lovely young woman take a bit of time to have her boots polished.

Sometimes I encounter things that I can't immediately identify.

I had no idea on first walking past Tottus that I was missing a store the size of Walmart. Among other things, Tottus is as supermarket, which I noticed from across the street, not as I walked past and looked into the front where all I saw were plastic tables and chairs with some office workers having lunch. It's a good find for me given that they sell mixed salads and vegetables for two, meaning I can have it twice. The custard girl does smile at me, and she makes my heart melt; but she smiles at everyone, and that is why I am so taken with her; and she's not coming to my place to split a salad. Tottus, unsmiling, stands imposing on the sidewalk an doesn't inspire much love, I think, till one goes inside and finds a supermarket at least as good as my current favourite, MiMetro, once again a store one can walk past without realising it's a food store.  I don't know this city or the country or the people well, but I assume that they are family oriented and withdrawn, leading even major retailers to hunch and turn quietly inward.  I'm sure something terrible has happened to these people, some massive horror that tops all others, and now they live in relative quiet and peace. I see almost everyone smiling, just a little, a hint of happiness. And sometimes, like the custard girl, a real joy in the smile.

I too find joy, though I am no part of Lima or Peru or South America or any place or anything at all. I find joy in a sewing machine at the front of a shop on a busy street.

And if you look closely in the background here at the owner standing back in the shadow you will see he too is smiling. (Or was until I took his picture.)

Peruvians smiling. That has nothing to do with dentistry, I can assure you. I came across, on Emancipacion Street, a block of store-fronts and meandering malls given over to dental supplies and workshops making dentures and plates and selling equipment and so on; and in one I found a girl working some minor detail in clay or plastic, and when she noticed me she smiled too, the light of heaven all around her, like the custard girl. One might guess that I like this city, if only because I like being around these people who can barely understand my Spanish, who have no reason to like me, who have no reason to smile at the sight of me. And yet, they smile at me and seem happy in themselves.  I sit and drink coffee and worry about this. Maybe I'm all wrong about this place and these people. They seem happy. How can such a thing be real?
*Lawrence Sanders, The Sixth Commandment.  1979.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Curbed his enthusiasm

I have word today of an attempted assault on a cathedral in Vancouver, Canada by leftards protesting against what comes down to their idiot lack of understanding of religion; and another report of presumed Occupy Wall Street imitators having fire-bombed a Mercedes dealer a mile south in the city.

But there is also good news, if not from Vancouver.

Gotta love Marines.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Yo Mismo No Sismo

I was at my desk on Friday typing when I thought there was a procession of electric powered gravel trucks driving outside my building. No sound; much trembling. At first I wondered if I was having heart problems, but I have so many ex-girlfriends who swear I have no heart that I had to dismiss the idea. My chair was vibrating and then I noticed the bottle of soda on the desk was making waves in a semi-serious way.The sloshing soda made me think of other than myself, in fact, of an earthquake, this being a likely place for such an experience. But after a good two or three minutes it settled and stopped. I noted it in an email to a friend later and laughed it off. This morning I heard that I felt the tremors of a quake about 50 miles away to the south at Ica.

Here's a generic link to the story:

Peru quake destroys 134 homes, injures dozens

Guess I'm not such shaking guy at all. Maybe I'll go in a day or so and take a look at the real thing.

I Tune Lima

I was having coffee on the rooftop of my place after mass this morning across the street, chatting about Georgia with a Croat, when he jumped up and leaned over the false-front of our building and called me over to see the procession from the church coming down our narrow little street. Suddenly there was a brass band playing what could be at a stretch tunes from a Spaghetti Western, brass and drums filling the air with sweet melancholy. I had to strain to get a view over the retaining wall, and below I saw hundreds of people, a band, priests and assorted officials, women walking backward in a cloud of incense, and people on both sides of the street watching, clapping, cheering as a float came closer, a Madonna. [Click on photos for enlargement.]

I have no idea what it's about, but I know that those who participated are joyous. It appeals to me immensely that church-goers come out for this event, and that many of them have spent their own money to buy instruments to play in the band. It's a substantial investment not only of money but of time to have, for example, a tuba and to be able to play it in a band. It's part of a life-long commitment to this community of believers.

Yes, I think immediately of Enrico Morricone, but that's me. I've been many places and seen and done many things, and I still filter much of my experience through my early life and standard understandings of things, but sometimes I can let go and take in things as unique to themselves.
I stood above the crowd and wondered what it is to be a member of a band of believers, so committed that one is in great part that identity, and that the band is what ones life is about in a significant sense. I'm just passing through. It could be a movie set or it could be the real stuff of life for many. I tune in, but the score is sort of lost on me. Life is a medley rather than a symphony. For some it's a passion. I am thankful to have even this bird's eye view and to catch the music as it floats upward momentarily and disappears into memory.