Saturday, February 11, 2012

Paraguay at No Dhimmitude (pts. 1-3)

Life after Ibibobo
[A brief reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at this link.] 

Life at Villamontes, Bolivia was slow for the folks, like the river that dries up in the rainy season, leaving old soda bottles in the rut to turn brittle in the baking sun, or an old greying tyre resting among parched weeds. Nothing much to do but wait it out and whistle a bit, something more than a sigh. It had been hard for me to get there, all things in the Modern world considered. I had a time finding a room in Tarija, the stop that would let me go on to Villamontes; and then the lack of a bus seat to the village itself, forcing me to blow a bundle on the only available hotel room in the city, a luxury room but a luxury I can't do often. And all that to get a room behind the bus station in a ghost town with electricity and some nice Japanese made vehicles parked in dusty patches by adobe houses and roaming chickens. My hotel room, which I got at 3:00 am was plain, as we say of unattractive girls, as I write of Villamontes. My room was way overpriced, and missed all the advantages of – anything. A bed, a broken door, four walls, a ceiling, a floor, none of which kept out the sound of a cement mixer and a re-bar cutter from grinding into my deepest slumbers. I did sleep, though, even when after the first ten minutes the fan sparked up and died in a burst of smoke. I woke at noon and looked through the bugs on the screen across my window to the bus terminal parking lot, bare of buses, abandoned by people, home to a million screeching birds I couldn't see. So, to face the reality that is Villamontes, I stood in a cold shower and woke to my own life, the toilet beside the shower coming clean, my feet doing a little fat guy dance, which I now think of as cheerful.

Day time in the city, lunch time for me, and my world opening up to a grand adventure, the lost land of Paraguay, of El Chaco, awaiting me later. I walked for two blocks in the dust of Villamontes in search of somewhere to eat, a few signs suggesting that food could be available if only one knew the occult secrets of eating there. I am a stranger and I know no such mysteries. In the cool of the evening people do venture out of doors, and they do eat. But at high noon, no, they remain indoors, maybe feasting on steak dinners with fancy French red wine, asparagus spears in butter, fresh rolls, red cabbage in cream sauce and herbs.... I was starving. On the main street I found a tienda behind a mound of litter where a lady sat chatting with two old men at a plastic table, they looking up at me like I would look up at space monsters arriving in my living-room, if only I had one. I was at The Intersection. I think it is an important place in the city, it dividing the streets there, one from the other. I could call it the high point of my visit. I write this sincerely because at The Intersection there is a 15 foot high fish statue in a round spot in the centre of the street. It's not a well-executed work of sculpture, but then I'm not really an art critic, so my judgement could well be based on philistine ignorance. The point of the fish, I believe, and this in a way atheists believe in science, is to remind people and to suggest to outsiders passing through that there is a river somewhat beyond The Intersection that probably has fish in it. I deeply fear that any fish able to live in such water would eat man as well as cattle; but nevermind, he says. Those living in Villamontes have a famous fish statue, and that, in the end, is all that really matters in an existential fashion.
So, returning to my surprised hosts at the tienda sitting in the shade of an overhanging tin roof, looking up from the plastic table, they allowed me to join them and ask directions to La Victoria, Bolivia, the last dot on the photocopied map I carried with me, as important and detailed as the treasure map I had as a child. O marked the spot. Had I but known I would instead have carried a map of Gondor to help me reach Mordor. According to my gracious hosts, who puzzled mightily to understand my Spanish, there is no “La Victoria.” I showed them the map, as proof of their ignorance, and they, like others before them addressing this question, insisted that there really is nothing there, no people, no nobody nowhere. Ibibobo is the last place on earth for people in Bolivia. I drank a bottle of orange soda and watched a pair of flies copulating on my arm. I was sure the heat would kill them faster than me trying to swat them. I was wrong. I am wrong often, as it turns out. The flies stayed, and I sat, too hot to move. Ibibobo beckoned but I just wilted. Over and over I heard that there is nothing beyond Ibibobo, and I was incapable of resisting this further. So I took such good advice as I could manage to understand and walked across the road to the cafe of sorts where I was under the impression that a bus would stop in front of at some undisclosed time and day and that this bus might take me to Ibibobo. My dream was to ride a horse across El Gran Chaco, living off the land, making my way through the world like a man on his own; but this is not the 19th century, and I don't have a horse. I had accepted my fate of bus travel, if only I could manage to find a ticket. But the lady who sat in the cafe was having none of that. One word from me in imperfect Spanish was enough to set her into a rage equal only to that of a Westerner hearing a hint of imagined sexism or racism. In a barren world of heat and dust, there was a sudden storm of hatred of all things Dag. My bus? It looked like a long walk to Ibibobo ahead.

I returned to the tienda across The Intersection and inquired about my reception at the bus stop. I had misunderstood. I was supposed to go to The Place Next Door. That, as I could see, was a matter of some boards over a wall, perhaps resembling a door if one tried to see with deep imagination. Having no options, I approached and knocked, waited, shuffled my toe in the dust and sat on a log. 'There are no people there, senor,' I kept hearing. I gazed at the clear white sky. The door opened.

After having gone from place to place in the heat and the dust for two hours in search of anything useful, and having found a bottle of orange soda, I welcomed the sight of the half-naked crippled and obese dwarf who greeted me like a lost brother. I would have liked him anywhere. He was happy to see me, full of fun and joy and smiled like sunrise over Arcadia. I soon found out why. There is a bus, my new host said, and though it contradicts the story of there being no people, I accepted this as gospel. I would have to return at 11:00 in the evening to board a bus straight through to Asunción, missing the adventures of lone Gran Chaco travel hitch-hiking with passing ranchers. “There are no people there, señor.” The last stop is Ibibobo. Then my heart stopped:

My host had the pleasure of the company of a young lady, perhaps not the brightest intellect in Villamonte but certainly built for the discerning male, she being his daughter, I assumed, who took a great interest in me, singing a Michael Jackson song in words of no known language, and then, tiring of that, charming as it was, she fell to playing with a puppet on strings and sticks, a metaphorical sight so right it should have been wrong.

I bought my straight-through to Asuncion ticket, a ways more money that I have paid for any single thing on this trip so far other than the visa to Paraguay itself, and I made my way back to my hotel to wait out the remaining hours till my departure from Villamontes. As the day waned people emerged from their homes, giving me energy to explore the city I had mostly ignored, me passing by the cement factory; seeing the main river at the far end of town; passing by a long section of fruit and vegetable vendors on the road side far beyond The Intersection. I had given up too easily earlier in the day. There must have been close to 100 people milling about the city when I actually took a closer look. One lady at a now-open tienda took time out to go into the back room of her place to fetch me a litre of milk. Commerce often knows no nationality. And to finish my beautiful day at Villamontes I made my way to a table beside an adobe place where through a cloud of flies I saw a lovely fat lady making hamburgers on an open grill by the dog. Hunger, too, knows no nationality. My burger-- medium rare. My tastes, as we say in Spanish, are rara.

At 10:00, me being consistently neurotic, I sat out front of the bus stop waiting for the 11:00 o'clock bus. Over the course of the hour a small group of locals joined me, all of them remarking that there are no people in the Chaco. My feelings became less mixed about having given up on hitch-hiking. So many locals saying the same thing so often made me think they might know more than I about the land. A bus trip is something of a defeat for me, but in this case it looked like the only possible victory to be had at all. There is no life after Ibibobo.

I've been to cities in Asia and Africa where the sidewalks are so crowded that people have to brave walking on the streets amidst the traffic, risking death, making their ways regardless, cars swerving and dodging like monkeys through jungle trees, cars bouncing off each other, into others, controlled chaos reigning until there is a mangle of cars and bodies and blood. And other places are less crowded, some in Europe still devastated by the Nazi attempts to exterminate populations of people they disliked the idea of. Even my own homeland of Scotland has wastelands and clearance lands where one can go for miles without a person in sight, peat bogs and dead land discouraging the sensible. And there are other places now or soon to be obliterated by abortion and hedonisms of other sorts, places not exactly desolate of people but often filled with hostile migrant invaders from savage lands who take no part in the new, excluding the original people, those who are dying. But our trip in the night toward Ibibobo was a different sort of emptiness in the land. It is not a dead land, nor a land vacated by those seeking better lands elsewhere. There is simply no one there within sight of the road.
The Chaco in the night is beautiful, and even moreso in the light of day, a green land of trees and bushes and small ponds here and there betraying some small hidden family, a herd of cattle in the distance, the land inviting to the likes of me as our bus rolled over deep pits in the hardpack road, stretching the abilities of our driver as he managed to pull us through hairpin turns in the mountains, crashing over rocks fallen on the roadway. Hour upon hour in the moonless night and the heat we rode on to Ibibobo, not another vehicle in sight, no lights in the distance.

I dozed off for a matter of minutes between crashing bumps on the road and awoke because our bus had come to a stop in the night, that darkness punctuated by the glare of six bare light bulbs hanging on a cord across a field, six tables attended to by fat ladies covered in moths and beetles, the fat ladies bellowing to change currencies, this being Ibibobo, last chance to make good on ones promises. I swapped my hundred bolis for a zillion iguanas and then stood in line to have my passport stamped out of Bolivia. An unshaven version of the son of Al Capone accosted me for my being out of line, and I made a mistake of assuming that a dirty and ugly fellow in a Donald Duck tee-shirt and purple nylon shorts should mind his own business. A Cuban, who must know about such things, told me the man is important at Customs. I smiled and apologized. There are people at Ibibobo. One is Senor Duck. He just happened to be the man who examined my passport, seeing my visa expired, puzzling over the undated extension, and, not having quite enough authority to have me shot, motioned me on, back to the bus out of Ibibobo, he still quacking unhappily as I left him. This story, I am happy to note, doesn't end with the duck in a bad mood. The last quack was on me.

From Ibibobo in the night till noon the following day I searched the landscape for signs of human life, seeing only the occasional hawk and scattered cattle in the distance. Here and there, sometimes hours apart, I did see a dwelling of some sort, but no people about. Land, land everywhere, and not a person to see but those of us on the bus.

By noon we had come to the Paraguayan immigration outpost where the police were as thick on the ground as the flies and the dust. I stood silently as some of my fellow passengers were interrogated and sent off to small rooms in the concrete compound by the trees. No screams, no gunshots, no sight of fleeing peasants chased by barking dogs; but the paranoia was dense. The official who searched my bag, a huge young man with pistols on each hip and glittering brass cartridges in little pockets all across his vest, was pleasant with me, in contrast to others who bullied and harassed the passengers around me. Taking out a bag of cocoa leaves in my pack he suddenly stared at me, “Cocaine!” he yelled. And then he laughed. And I laughed. And those on either side of us laughed. And then we waited.

“We don't deport drug smugglers in Paraguay,” he said. “We leave them in prison.” And then he laughed. I didn't know if I should laugh, so I smiled. My guard said he would like to practice his English on me, but that he knows only two words: “Death” and “Murder.” I smiled a lot, praising his pronunciation. He was, when the whip comes down, a very funny fellow. Not so those who dealt with the girl nearby to me who is, I suspect, a registered prostitute.

In our crossing El Chaco over the next few hours we were stopped six times by police who boarded our bus, took the girl outside for questioning, and when she returned to her seat it was to open her purse and take out money which she handed over to those outside waiting. Each time she would smile that smile that covers the close-to-tears humiliation girls get sometimes. Our last stop was by a white car, into which the girl disappeared, leaving us one person fewer on the road beyond Ibibobo. I have found out since that such a car is also one of the National Police. I know not what it means.

Welcome to Paraguay.

Asunción, Paraguay. Day One.

When I was 15 years old I tied my sleeping bag to the Army surplus gas-mask bag I used for fishing tackle, and knowing no better, I called it a backpack. With that, I began a long walk, with occasional pick-ups from passers by, to the Canadian border to make my way to a rock festival in Brunswick, a place somewhere north of New York State. In spite of my most imaginative lies about the glories of Canada, that, for example, it was legal to smoke marijuana there, I could not entice a friend to join me on this trip to a foreign land to see sights unseen by Modern man, to explore a place no one knew about, and to know the world in its larger and stranger aspects. No one but I was curious enough to go, or even to consider going. For my friends, our little town was world enough. For me, home was home, but the world beckoned and I heeded the toll, alone, like today, over 40 years later, this night in Asunción, Paraguay, as lost and alone tonight as I was as a 15 year old boy.

On that first trip I got to Canada by lying about crossing over to by exotic cigarettes to show off to my friends camping with me at a nearby river. Things were simpler then, and though they aren't too complicated now, they were almost pure in their simplicity then, a world we seem destined to forget and perhaps recalling, to hate. Or maybe it's just me. I crossed the border, promising the border guard I'd be back in the afternoon, and returned via Detroit and west five months later. I didn't know at the time, and perhaps others didn't know either, that there was no home to return to. I haven't had a home since, though I have tried, and others have tried to make a home for me. I think now there will never be a home. I live in the world.

I crossed out of the providence of Alberta, Canada, that nation having providences like Rhode Island, into the next providence, one I couldn't pronounce, and, one fine summer afternoon, had sex with Sue from Toronto. We thrashed on the river bank as a school bus came by, the boys laughing and cheering as they gawked while Sue and I groped and grunted. She was a beautiful girl and I promised to see her in her home town if I ever passed through. And I did pass through, many months later, amazed and disappointed to find that Toronto, a town I had never previously heard of, was huge, and that Sue was not so easy to find there as she would have been to find in my little town. Other surprised came, like the girl in Ottawa, a city I also had never heard of, her ultimate surprise for me being that she didn't speak English, being from Quebec, being a French speaker, and speaking sounds the likes of which I had never before heard or imagined. Luckily, young love sometimes has a language of its own. I became then a life-long Francophile.

But my goal lay ahead of me, in the providence of Brunswick, an open-air rock festival there, some tourist in my little town having left a hippie newspaper in the park, the ad. For it having set me on my journey. So on I went in search of Brunswick.

I arrived in Montreal, Quebec, and after having ridden with a truck driver all night I stopped in a park to sleep a bit, waking to a shock I had never experienced the likes of nor heard of: I woke to the sound of a man singing a song in French, strange enough for me, but worse, his hand was in my pants. I opened my eyes to see-- as strange as anything ever-- that the man was Chinese. Strange as all that was, I was destined to see stranger still: that terrorists had kidnapped a couple of dignitaries and, after bombings and ruckus of various sorts, the government responded just in time for my arrival, with a state of martial law, soldiers and tanks in the streets, civilians arrested on a whim, and the city brought to a halt by the military. I loved it. Terrorists bombing and kidnapping, the military controlling the streets, excitement and fear and wonder everywhere, it was my kind of place, one where the people didn't speak a language I could understand, where the girls were open and loving and fun, where life might end with a misplaced bullet fired by a nervous soldier on the street, a very foreign place, wild and dangerous.

But as I stayed and savoured the action of a city under siege by a hostile government I became concerned that the school year had begun without me back home, that I was falling behind in grade ten, and that the longer I stayed away the harder it would be to catch up to my friends back home. High-school beckoned. As well, I had come to the end of what little money I had, having worked odd jobs along the way to buy food and do laundry and survive. In Montreal I had nothing and no hope of making money to live. Winter was approaching and the call to return to my home and school turned my mind from the phantasy life I was living to my real home. I thus wrote to my parents asking for money. My father wrote that he would send me cash to the main post office in Montreal. I waited anxiously and when the money came I tore open the envelope and gasped. The $10.00 he sent, a week's allowance, was not meant to bring me home again. It had a different meaning.

This all comes to mind because this evening I met a lovely French lad, beautiful blond hair and clear blue eyes, an open and generous fellow traveling the world for a year at his parents' expense, his friend doing the same. I chatted with the lad for a while, much about Bolivia, and we sat among Paraguayans busy with family and community affairs, business as usual here. And then the boys left to catch a bus, leaving me to thank the gods I can be among such happy people. Tomorrow, perhaps, I will see more of Asunción.
Asucuncion: Day Two.

I woke late today, somewhat sick and very much depressed due to the rain of last evening and my thought that it had continued into the day, keeping me bed-bound and disgusted by the world and myself for being disgusted about a rainy day. I did, at noon or so, get up and shower. I'd been up earlier to use the washroom, the Latin sickness having hit me in the dark hours. So it was late when I got out of bed and cleaned up for the day. It was actually nice out once I looked, and thus, being who and what I am, I decided to walk downtown to see the sights, the locals all telling me not to walk in this heat. Take a bus, they all said. That is excellent advice for summer time in Asuncion. I walked. I paid for it.

I probably didn't make a mile before I was so dehydrated I had to stop for water, finding a department store along the street where the water is dispensed from a large cooler, a cup tied to the stand for customers and staff to use at will. I didn't have my own cup to use, so, considering that if I don't have any tolerance for the local diseases I might get by sharing a public cup, the locals are as much as risk of my diseases as I of theirs, a fair trade in my estimation, if not a matter of hospitality on my part. I drank deep of local waters. And then I walked again.

I stopped soon after and had a bottle of orange soda, not something I would normally do, but now something of a fetish for me, orange being the one thing that seems to satisfy my thirst at least briefly. I stood in the doorway of a supermarket under the cold blower and drank my soda and blocked customers and I don't care. I was sweating so badly I thought I'd fall over if I had to move from the chilled air. But it all did come to an end, my soda finished, the wine and liquor section holding no charms for me, and the idea of more orange being not too much to tempt me further. I walked another short distance and stopped, to hot to go on, and there I saw a motorcycle shop, a place I could feign interest in, and I asked there about leather gloves, one item I truly do have an interest in. I didn't stop for a drink only because the owner of the shop was so charming and friendly that I spent an hour of his time conversing about travel and roads. I was, as it were, thirsty for conversation. My host was a fountain. I have been to other nations and many cities therein, but only here, in Peru, Bolivia, and now Paraguay do I feel at home with the people. I'm no more used to the friendliness and decency of the people than I am with the weather, now too hot for me, though I used to love such heat. I love the charm of the people here instead. I can always take another draught. But that too had to end, my conversation having an end as surely as a bottle is drained. I walked again.

I was unsure of my route to the centre of the city but my worthless map was better than nothing at all so I continued in hope of finding a hotel more suitable than the semi-broom closet I have now. I walked for miles, at one point encountering a German couple, asking directions, only to be ordered to get on ze trai-- told to take a bus. I walked, and I walked, and I looked at homes and automobiles that show me the people here can succeed in the Modern world as well as people in any other nation, though here be bums as bad as any in Europe or America. I hadn't seen many of the worst in Bolivia or Peru, but here they are, noticeably so, and yet so few compared to Canada that I am still pleased with life, even in this early stage of my visit to Paraguay. I kept walking till a giant raindrop made me look at the sky, a darkening grey that demanded my immediate attention, just in time, as it happened, to reveal a coffee shop across the street, which I made a mad dash for just in time to escape a tropical downpour to shame the weather in Canada, some of the worst in the world. And thus, for the first time in some days, I had coffee, not much to my liking and too expensive as well. For an hour or two or so I watched the rain, men on motorcycles, pedestrians running from buses, children howling in pretend horror, everyone caught fleeing for shelter as well as they could. The owner of the coffee bar, the place mostly empty, looked at me and looked at his watch, over and over. I don't care. But I did care eventually, and thus I paid and left in the lighter rain. I made my way toward the city centre.
I had taken on a longer walk than I had assumed, leaving at 2:00 p.m. I got to the city centre around 9:00 in the evening, looking for a hotel that I can rent tomorrow to escape from the little place I crawl into now. Little did I realise at first as I entered a nice looking hotel lobby that my walk in the rain had soaked my shirt completely and that my walk further had kept my shirt soaked, this time in sweat. I said to the clerk how funny it was that I was soaked from the rainstorm earlier; and he looked at my sweat-drenched self and said he had no rooms for me, not this week but perhaps in a week or so or later. I left and hunted a dark side street where I took off my shirt and hung it on a chain-link fence to dry it out, my hair hanging down in clumps, all of me sweating and awful. Such is enough, but with my hair hanging down and this all being in the dark I attracted a discrete audience who wondered what the half-naked person, man or woman they couldn't really tell in the gloom, was doing there. Finally a courageous and curious group of six just happened to cross the street and pass me by, an elderly German woman stopping to inquire. I told her my shirt was so wet no hotelier would have me till I could present myself dry and at least partly respectable. It suited her sense of order, though she told me to flap my shirt in the breeze. I said I'd tried, but it attracted too much attention. Toros, I said. She might have laughed. I don't know how Germans do that. I dried for an hour or so, eventually walking around government buildings by the river, waiting for my shirt to lighten, the sweat drying slowly, ever so slowly, stiffening with salt. Then off to find a hotel. There were none till late in the night, one available perhaps tomorrow, though the woman in charge speaks a Spanish I cannot really comprehend. I might try again tomorrow to see if she said yes to renting me a room. If so, then I will be closer to the city than here in the far reaches by the bus terminal. If not, then I could well lose my room here and be stuck carrying my backpack from place to place in the heat. This is what I call adventure. In time I will tell this tale and make it funny and interesting, but for now it's merely tiring and uncomfortable. I'm lost and tired and at odds with myself. This is travel in a foreign nation for me.

Having perhaps or not found a new place to sleep for some days to come I found, to my delight, a McDonald's where I spent more than half a night's rent for dinner. By chance I had dire need twenty minutes later of the sanitario, me and three young women lined up for the same broken facility at a gas station, two men joining the line-up as I waited. It was after I had my turn that I realized I had forgotten my hat somewhere, probably at the hotel. The hat, if not the hotel, is filthy and sweaty, and I am now wondering if I should return for either. This is travel for me. It's not yet amusing. That takes some years to occur.

I walked back toward my hotel room, it coming on close to 1 am, my legs still strong buy my mind wandering, and me wandering, being lost, unfortunately. I was still an hour on foot from my hotel when I gave up and got a taxi, expecting this to be similar to Peru or Bolivia, and being shocked to find a greedy cab driver who demanded thousands more local dollars than his flashing meter had read. It cost me an extra real dollar, but the demanding turned me off all Paraguayan taxis for the duration of this visit. From now on, I walk or take a bus. That will never be funny. I took a ride, and I paid for it. Tomorrow will be a new day, and I can sort things out as they happen. For this night I am done for.

Paraguay (pts. 4-10)

2,000 iguanas in the toilet.

[A brief reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at this link.]

I broke the number one cardinal Dag-rule numero uno recently when I changed my pants and forgot to fill the new pockets with toilet paper. I often forget to take out the paper from the old pants, and I am guilty of gumbing up a lot of washing machines, but it's only when I forget to swap that I feel any pangs of remorse. I felt those pangs and more when I took a walk from the Asunción bus terminal up the back way for a few miles to see something new of the city, my marathon walk in the opposite direction some day or so before whetting my thistles for more fancy Paraguayan sights. Having fortified myself with a quart of soda and another of orange juice, off I went, chipper after a sleepless night of sweating and groaning in the heat of my broom closet till an hour that has a foreign number in my world. In that night I'd had an urge to use the bathroom, that being down a hallway and around some corners; thus, being a man of science, I decided to do an experiment, i.e. I peed in a cardboard container to see the difference between input and output, about a cupful to two liters. In the morning my teeth were stuck to my lips, sending me first to the supermarket for a litre of chocolate milk and another of peach juice, with which I washed down a tiny banana. I spent some time writing the compelling story of my life in Paraguay, and freshly dressed, showered, shaved, and so on, off I went, full of youthful vigor and bouncy steps at least two miles before I realised too late that I had forgotten to bring toilet paper.

Not to worry, I screamed, I can use a facility at the café across the street, the place with an outdoor deck that caved in and sent me knee deep into the sub-floor as the planks gave way. The stench got me out of that spot in a pronto big hurry, my leg scratched but not broken, the owner looking impassively at the hole in his floor, customers drinking quarts of beer, not bothering to laugh. I bought a litre of soda and asked for the men's room, which is generic at this particular establishment, around the corner and up the steps and around back on the hill, an outhouse, as it happens, that sort of eventually meanders under the cafe and the floorboards I caved in, scientifically explaining the odor I encountered earlier. These are things one finds in the life of avid world travel. As well, one finds resourcefulness in a life such as this, one suddenly lacking toilet paper in an outhouse in Paraguay, for example. Fishing in my pockets for anything at all in the pinches, I suddenly discovered a great use for the local money, hauling out a 2,000 iguana note, which I parted with more profitably than I had any other before or since. My day was saved, and perhaps the day of some terrible poor bum will be saved too if he ever finds those iguanas in a time of need. Two thousand iguanas? I laugh. I went to the bank and got a gazillion more just for fun. I thought about buying dinner with it, but I hate to waste money. Iguanas or no, it pays to be thrifty. It pays to pay attention too to rules. I will remember this from now on.

Later that same lifetime:

One has to have travelled from the Modern world to the less than modern and to have done so for a long while in less than middle-class comfort, like, say, Club Med, to know what it means to live a life without toilets of the genuinely functional kind we all know and never give a second thought. I have been and for long periods, to places where there just aren't any toilet. Hence, my seeming obsession with such. By chance I wasn't thinking about toilets at all the 100+ Fahrenheit afternoon in Asunción on F. de la Mora street where I was mauled by a drunk so happy to see me he had pee-ed himself. I might have been happy to see him too, if I could have thought of a reason. As it was, I just wanted to get away fast, so I reached into my pocket and pretended to take a picture of something, being anything at all, to distract him. Right in front of me, like a sign from above, was a sign above. I say, “Give it up for Jesus.” The drunk stumbled away, which is a miracle in itself, but the whole scene makes me wonder if this, if not life itself, isn't some kind of notice to me about reforming my evil ways and telling me to sit down and reconsider all that I am and do. This is so far my deepest thought about toilets.

Asunción (3:1)

Life for a Paraguayan is family: husband, wife, and children; his way of making a living; his belonging to a group of related people who share a language and customs and a past that stretches beyond his knowledge and imagination. Life is about man and his eating and sleeping and sitting around drinking beer and chatting with his mates; shopping with his wife and kids; going to work and making money; having a sense that his football team can win the big game; that the nation itself is where his life is right, even if it's wrong. This is so simple it should not have to occur to me. This normal does occur to me because I see it in people around me and hear it when I converse with them. I don't chat up political figures at the National Assembly, don't deal with multi-national businessmen, and have no contact with intellectuals here. I meet people like myself, working-class men and women who have private lives and small extensions into the world of work and neighbours. Like many other places I've visited, however briefly in this part of South America, this too is Sarah Palin world, i.e. a simple working-class land of men and women and children who do not obsess over the latest fashions of ideology with which to supplant underdeveloped character with alien identity. Here, folks just live.
My own 'area' is much different, and my life and the lives of those I know best reflect the sad time we live in, one of reckless pursuit of privacy as publicity, of career over family, of ideology over sense and sensibility. Here in Paraguay is the remains of the 19th century I so like. In the north my life is measured by my work, my identity tied to my public place in the social world, my private life being of little importance in comparison to who I am in the sphere of the General Will. Rather than who, I am what. So it is with those I know, mostly childless careerists who are something rather than someone. Those with children have something children, not someone children. Thus it goes (the pursuit of Modernity) to a dusty tomb prepaid. I am, as it were, a writer of fine books. Those books are about me and my time in some places. I'm an artist rather than a father and husband. In Paraguay I am not merely a foreigner, I am an alien. I have no one and do not belong even in the world, a writer of not much importance dwelling on fleeting pubic affairs of private others in flux. Few seem to notice.

I find it difficult to like Asunción, the city in these brief days of my visit being painfully hot and humid, making my life uncomfortable, to say little; and compounded with the general untidiness of an underdeveloped economy, a city unusually dingy even for a place of little wealth, it wears on me, even though the people here are often smiling and friendly and willing to engage in a chat about their personal affairs into which I am allowed as a man who is one man among men, an individual regardless of my social standing, sometimes treated affectionately, like a lost child, the maternal rising from women half my age, the paternal flowing from a calloused man on the street. In spite of my profession I am to most of those I meet, just a man, if one somewhat confused about the language, out of place for now but one who in the next moment or so will suddenly be like all others, a man of equal standing. Yet, I resist. I don't like looking at the people here, generally, the majority being obese and slightly off in features that make the smile beautiful. I am too equal in this way. When the locals smile and greet me and ask about my state of emotional well-being, when they shake my hand and look expectantly at me for happiness and well-wishes, I wish I were alone rather than surrounded by men and women all lumpy and sagging in faded stretch-pants and printed tee-shirts, beer drinkers slightly goofy and sort of grinning, toothless mouths full of starch, sugar, and fat, like a summer evening picnic by the railroad tracks at a trailer park on the outskirts of a small California town in the foot hills. My kind of people; and I wish often I were among others, slightly more sophisticated, those who would know about Nietzsche's sister Elizabeth and her Nazi commune in the jungle. I see instead whole families waddling together hand in hand down the rotting cement sidewalks, leather covered barrel jugs in hand, dripping soda and beer down their shirts, people laughing, mothers caressing and fathers adoring, children hugging and shiny-eyed with love. I'm uncomfortable here. I wonder where is beauty; why is a family so happy with such fat people as theirs? Where is that critical aesthetic sense that would allow such people to reject their families for higher forms of being?
Asunción (3:2)

In Asunción it is usual for me to consider life here as opposed to the Freak-Show Identity Performance Rage in the U.S. I don't see anything remotely like the Freak-Show here, or anywhere in South America that I've been, possible exceptions being the odd Argentine backpacker dressed up in ersatz “native” pyjamas and toting an embroidered bag from the local craft market. Locally there is no “Gay Pride Day” parade of old men having oral sex with each other daytime weekdays on public streets in San Francisco, as the writer/photographer Zombie chronicles on the Internet. There are no racially motivated rampages through commercial areas, looting, burning, and killing, as one sees in London, England or many cities in America. There are no semi-retarded demagogic politicians such as Shirley Jackson Lee inciting hatred in public. Nor does one witness outbreaks of mass hysteria over passing politicians such as George Bush, Jr. No mass campaigns of public sentimentality and sanctimonious preening to show the world that one is “sorry” that ones fellows have elected a popular politician rather than an unpopular one. Screaming women frothing like dogs do not march en masse demanding “the right” to access to abortion for children without the consent or knowledge of the child's parents. And nowhere in the Andean nations so far as I have seen do masses of people camp out in public parks demanding money to pay off student loans for Masters Degrees in Puppeteering. I would have noticed such things had they happened. They do not. There is no Freak-Show here.
Paraguay is just about everything the Freak-Show hates about America, only moreso. People here eat poorly, salt, sugar, alcohol, tobacco, fat, and endangered species, as well as the usual meat and poultry. There is little attention paid to environmental concerned such as littering. Building regulations are about zero, and union membership is about non-existent outside Communist hold-over groups. Racism is rampant in that everyone considers himself a normal person, oblivious to the privileged “systemic” racism implanted in the Whiteness of the ruling class. Nobody gives a shit. There are no spotted owls or delta smelts to destroy an economy over, and building dams here is a fine thing that provides money and electricity to this something of a back-water place of fairly contented people who love their country and think Americans are people much like themselves. No one I have met here thinks Paraguay is the worst nation in history, more destructive than any and all combined, the one nation that has taken over from the worst of the Nazi era, second only in evil to the Jooos. I have yet to meet an anti-Semite in this very Catholic nation. I meet mostly fat people who live quiet lives, people who like to go on short trips around the country to see things and have a bit of enjoyment of the scenery with family and friends. Not yet have I met anyone obsessed with the evils of Israel, no one yet who lauds suicide bombers in the Middle East, no one who thinks Shari'a is a good thing for this nation or that those who oppose such are fascists. Just ordinary fat people getting along.

In many ways I am an ordinary fat guy getting along. Before I became a fat guy with a limp I was a bicycle racer, moving like a strong wind across the land, up hills jeeps and motorcycles couldn't begin to make, that would wind most hikers, across miles of country that only a dedicated athlete could endure, and day after day for years. I was, as were my mates, a sight to cheer at as I rode my bike with them in perfect cadence and fluidity, marvels of the human body, elegant figures in shiny yellow Spandex jersey, Lycra tights, and muscle, man sleek and glistening and strong. Spectators cheered just from looking at me and my mates. We were a glory to behold. But that was then. A decade of sickness and injury and a sedentary life have wasted that state and left me sick of myself, old, fat, and ugly.
I used to despise fat people and those who could not, for whatever reason, compete with me and mine in attaining perfection in our sport. Those whose skill and equipment fell short of ours were contemptible in my eyes. I made it a point to humiliate each and every one, if only they knew, by being superiour as I passed them and showed it can and must be done. They were meant to see themselves in comparison to me and to be ashamed, to dismount their bikes and walk or take a bus.

I was also a well-educated book-reader then, having wasted perhaps a million dollars of the tax-payers' money on the study of poetry and world literature. And a world traveller, too, always having some fascinating and funny anecdote to tell at any given moment. More, I was dangerous. Filled with fears and hatreds then as now, I fought hard to keep my hellish nature from spewing onto the lives of others, destroying them emotionally as well as physically, sickening my self in the aftermath, seeing what I had done to those, even if deserving, not deserving of that. But it is that very madness that made me a winner in so many impossible races against younger and stronger men: no pain is worse than not winning. There was no pain I could not endure for the sake of victory, no matter how trivial the win. Such Berserker determination is frightening to others, as well as to me. Less obvious, my curiousity, even more dangerous than most can know.

We often play to our strengths, even if such strengths are destructive. Today a fat old man with limp and battle scars from too many scraps with desperate men, failing eyesight from an old wound, and sickness from a life of want and neglect, awful pains recurring from strange illnesses in exotic lands, a limp from one too many crashes into immovable objects, I look at those around me who, though often rulers of the status quo in our time and queens of the social scene, like the woman roughly my age, her grey-black hair chopped to the scalp, the mole on her chin sporting three braided black hairs hanging down to her open necked shirtfront, her black denim jeans and black motorcycle boots completing her “professional political lesbian” look. She stared at me, back then, enraged that I was so silently contemptuous of her but wouldn't make eye contact where we stood side by each at the second-hand store where she clutched a pile of kitch, didn't give her the opportunity she so pleaded for to vent her rage against me in public. I avoided her stare because I am cruel, knowing that she was desperate to be known as a woman despised by the likes of me; that she is a victim of my male oppression of females. The more I ignored her, the more enraged she was, wanting more than life itself to scream that she is someone to be noticed and feared and brought low before. Her companion joined her and they kissed deep and drooly in the line-up by the cashier, daring me or anyone at all to visibly recoil. This is the Freak-Show, and these actors have their hour upon the stage. I've had my hour too. In Asunción today it is the hour of the family, the hour of fat people laughing and eating, drinking beer and strolling together as families in the heat, sweating and smoking and smiling. They triumph in spite of it all, feeling only the glow of each other in mutual admiration and love.
Asunción (3:3)

On the sidewalk in front of my hotel there are from corner to corner at any given minute probably a thousand people doing something of personal interest, waiting for a bus, standing in line for a sausage from a street vendor, chatting with a friend, waiting for a phone call, and so on. Dostoyevsky might have written terrifying novels about these people if he'd met them and had a lifetime to write about them, and so too might have Faulkner, those specific thousand at one moment on this street. Shakespeare might have found in them universal passions and follies that could have kept his career going for eternity in a thousand people on this sidewalk in Asunción, and so too could Tolstoy have written grand scenes of their lives in the war and peace of the nation. But as the hour passes, so too do those standing by my window. A different thousand come and go, and so it goes through the night and into the next day forever, so far as I can guess. A great novelist can tell a few stories about a few people in the short time of his life, but the people keep coming and going, changing in some deep ways, remaining universal through the ages nonetheless. Here the people are Paraguayan, a meaningful thing at this time, on this day, on this street. The universal Paraguayan will be as universal and any man anywhere, but the Paraguayan will be today a man not at all the same as his counterpart next hour, next day, or next year. He will be as different in time to come as he is different from the woman standing next to him now. The pieces have value, the rules remain, but the game is always different, and far more complex than chess can ever be, the patterns not exiting in the human world. Basically, at least to me, men are as ultimately unknowable as the movement of Hume's billiard ball.

Today I speak to Paraguayans on the street, and tomorrow I will meet others, all of them similar in their Paraguayanness, all of them as different as snowflakes. What I don't know about the people today is profound, and what they won't understand about those to come is equally so, I think. These windows are closed, though we might imagine well what lies behind the shutters of another man's life. Having done so, there is the next man, and many are too strange to anticipate or grasp even in the best of clinics. How does one account, for example, for Stroessner or Mengele? And how does one account for the mass of men here who have heard of neither? How do we deal with those not having yet been born? We do not, even so much less as we do with those by our shoulders on the sidewalk. All is flux, and we can only know some small realities if we search hard.

I look for reality in the works of Sophocles, and sometimes I see the Sophoclean truth in a man standing on the street in Asunción at a bus stop. But I don't see the truth of a Paraguayan on a motorcycle seeing his grandfather pulling a plough across the scrub land of El Chaco, stooping in the sun to plant corn for the family who will not know motorcycles for a hundred years to come. The Paraguay I see today is a Paraguay that will not be here tomorrow. Some old bones will remain hidden in the depths of the body of men, but the flesh will disappear and be reborn as something other. I know so little, and yet, even those alive and Paraguayan today will know little more in time to come.

So, knowing so little of Paraguayans today and expecting to know nothing of those who will change the fabric of life to come I have to look for the basics, those things that will never change, here or there, ever.

Asuncion (3:4)

I have no idea whether this is a work-day or the weekend here in Asunción, Paraguay, it all looking pretty much the same to me everyday so far, which is to say scenes of lethargy, all too hot to move around. I got up this morning and began my day with a quart of hard stuff from the supermarket up the street, a box of chocolate milk to put my body in hyper-drive for the frantic pace I think I should have on a trip like this, seeing everything possible, doing daring deeds only a tourist on a tear can live with himself, having done it all beyond the view of his own who could be judgmental about such things; like being in Las Vegas only on a budget that includes such things as ice-cream on a stick and window-shopping at tourist places that sell leather covered water-melon size containers for drinks. But I feel I should tell the truth on these pages, no matter how poorly it reflects on me, so I confess that I also got with my chocolate milk a huge bottle of diet soda to mix it with. I like to think of myself as a happening kind of guy, and I am mostly very surprised that young women don't notice me, at least in a good way; but I sometimes see some geezer huffing up the street, and I see that he might well be ten years younger than I and looks, hate to say, probably as old as I do. I don't feel old. I feel pretty young. I miss the part that should tell me I don't have a clue about the rest of the world's vision of me. The world doesn't see me the way I see myself, nor do I see the world the way it so often is once I get a closer look at it. I live and learn some. Today, though, I haven't figured out so far what day it is. The chocolate milk didn't help at all. I am as in tune as today will allow for.
Whatever day it is, this is the day the landlady changed the sheets in my broom closet. I knew that when I saw her scowling at me. She was wringing out two sheets, and they happened to be mine. She hadn't yet washed them. I lose a lot of pounds in the night, and the mattress is maybe sort of ruined by now. The lazy fan above my bed is not going to help the situation. The good news is that few tourists actually come to Asunción. That's good news because... I forget why. We can skip that part too. If not for the heat here, the dust and the diesel fumes, the ubiquitous fat ladies in stretch pants and tight tee-shirts, and the beer-drinkers on the sidewalk making me nervous about a street fight I would likely lose these days even if I won, I still think it's a good idea to move if only to get away from the landlady. It might be different if me losing all this weight in the night added up to me losing some weight during the day, but I'm still a fat guy and the landlady isn't giving me the eye in a good way. That much I do know.

I did some typing in the morning to justify my existence, and while I was doing that and running off to the bathroom between times, the cleaning lady, she who likes me and gives me Spanish lessons, sat me down at the table in the courtyard and gave me a giant mango, bless her soul. I can hardly keep down chocolate milk and diet soda, so I played around the edges of the mango till the lady cut deep and wide, showing me how a man goes at a mango. I explained that I never had a mother. Sometimes a joke is not as funny as it is meant to be. Great mango, and much of it. I had to eat it or I was not allowed to have any vegetables.

Some urgent trips to the bathroom later I was able to stay at the bus terminal long enough to find the ticket office selling my passage to Nuevo Germania. I couldn't stay so long as to make a real inquiry, having to run across the street to use the bathroom again. But being a Man of Steel-- Stalinesque in my touristic mind-- I returned to the bus terminal and found that for a mere 60,000 million iguanas I can go the 300 or so kilometers on a dirt road to the jungle to visit the old proto-Nazi colony of Nuevo Germania founded by Elizabeth Forster-Nietzsche and her suicidal husband, Homer. Or Gomer. Or Fritz of some sort. The point is that he was German. The settlement, of whatever sort I might find, is, importantly, $10.00 north of here. That much I can say with some certainty. The rest is as hazy as a day in the rain here in Asunción. The word on the Internet is, like a Monty Python review of Australian wine, “Beware.” Or was that about mangoes on a sick stomach? One becomes the other in my mind, a trip to the jungle to see a Nazi utopian commune/home to Dr. Mengele and a trip to the bathroom.
I have no idea what day it is, no solid idea where I'm going in Paraguay, or what I'll do in Nueva Germania if the bus actually goes there rather than to some spot miles away from which I will have to walk in the hope of finding something like a fetid Valhalla in the jungle. Knowing not much of anything at all, I still think I'll find a village at Nueva Germania populated by drooling and blind German retards selling air-brushed “I Heart Mengele” tee-shirts at palm covered road side stands, old blond guys in sunglasses listening to Stevie Wonder tunes on ghetto-blasters, geezers in flip-flops selling beer in coconut shells, little plastic umbrellas to take home as souvenirs. Maybe some black and white “Hitler conquers Poland” postcards. Just a guess on my part. I'm so wrong about so many things that I won't even be surprised if I'm wrong about Nueva Germania. It could well be (and probably likely is) populated by strapping young German milk-maid babes in traditional Swiss farm-girl dresses that show off their boobs in delightful ways. Giving this some clear and rational thought I won't be surprised if the old Nazis had it right, and I'll find alpine yodeling uber-mensch in leiderhosen stomping their jackbooted feet in time to the flogging of the local peasant slave population. That's what I think is more likely than finding a group of degenerates descended from a group of Nazi utopianists. I'll survive that just fine.

What would kill me is losing my wallet, the only thing that keeps me from either prompt and efficient suicide or life sitting between the two corpulent but garrulous ladies on the sidewalk down the street from my hotel, those two who see me for the stud I really am, they calling me handsome and beckoning me to join them, which I might have to do if I were to lose my wallet, being reduced to becoming a male prostitute or otherwise to face death. It's the money I have that spares me from the worse of this life. Unlike Mengele, no one in Nueva Germania cares if I live or die. I'm an outsider there, one way or the other. I am under no illusions that the folks of Nueva Germania will feed me mangoes or drink me milk choco-la-tay. Some things I just do know. Life is hard, and dreamers die in bad ways, on Mondays as well as Sundays, even if I don't know which day it is.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Paraguay (pts. 11-12)

Paraguay: Livin' Latina NoKo

[A brief reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at this link.] 

When I was a boy in the 1950s and 60s tabloid papers often ran bold headlines announcing that Hitler is Alive and Living in Paraguay. Maybe not as dramatic, but certainly as creepy and definitely true as well, Dr. Joseph Mengele was alive and living there, in fact, at Nueva Germania, a little village in the San Pedro district about 300 kilometers from Asunción. In those early years of my life he might as well have been living on the moon, it being as remote to me. In fact, it was remote for almost everyone, no doubt even to those living in Asunción at the time. The reputation of a hellish backwater stuck, Nazis being somewhat at home in Paraguay, what with the German dictator Straussner in charge of a Latino fascist state, the military being as brutal as they wanted to be, and bananas being the currency of the land, well watered with peasant blood. We in my little town took it as the nature of things in such a place, shrugging it off as the life of those not blessed with being alive in America. Nazis lived in the jungle of South America, and they belonged there, living like animals, hunted and killed if possible, but if out of sight, out of our minds. Paraguay, though, was definitely the last stop for such creatures, it being the equivalent of today's North Korea, a hermit autocracy of no account at all. And now, here in Asuncion, I am on the edge of visiting the very place of Nazis in the Jungle. I am going to Nuevo Germania soon.

In the early 1970s Rolling Stone magazine ran a headline I will never forget: “Paraguay: the last place on earth for the worst people in the world.” My imagination has run wild since when I thought about Paraguay, which is, admittedly, not often. And now I am there, there being here. It's not what I had expected. It's not hell in the jungle. It reminds me in many ways of Vancouver, Canada, and moreso of Sophia, Bulgaria. Large areas of each country are empty of people, and in those places people are collected they are ordered by the state in petty ways to the point there is little free activity by choice. Not all, but many people sit all day drinking beer, chatting, wasting time and money in stale pursuits of passing the time. Others, being involved in a system the rest can't comprehend, make vast amounts of money dealing with foreign commercial figures, banking, exports, and so on, that allows enough cash to flow downward to keep people at a level of contentment short of suicide and murderous revolution. It's a stagnant place in the sweltering heat, a place of not much going on outside the realm of the internationalist hustler. It's not hell, it's just hot and tired. Living Latina NoKo is wearing. Yes, there are too many police for what there is to do here, but the police don't murder anyone in the streets with the impunity they do elsewhere. It's a grubby kind of police state, like Canada and Bulgaria.

I'm off to be disillusioned soon by the would-be utopia of Nueva Germania, Elizabeth Forster-Nietzsche's lost jungle commune of exiled Nazi war criminals. There is, as the tourist information office downtown informed me, a restaurant there, and the bus does-- yes-- stop at The Intersection. There is a hotel in the next village, about 20 kilometers away. It will be a fine trip, I'm sure.

Much of what I do in life is attempt to make up for the lost years of my youth, that loss coming from a lack of parents who could have saved me with some basic information about living in the world. I had little to no parenting, and my life was then and ever since a matter of finding out what others know and I to this day do not. I don't know what others know about living, and thus I go off to places in the jungle to see what they know so I too can know, and maybe so I can find out some way of belonging, as they do, in a place with others like themselves. I know my place is not in a grubby police-state like Canada or a defeated little rural backwater like Bulgaria. But I know these things because I have lived in those places and seen with my own life that there is more to life and more to know about success than they offer. I know that I don't know, and in knowing that, I seek to know more. In the coming days I might at last discover that one thing that will make all other knowledge sensible. If it worked for Mengele, it might work for me.

Raw Hide. Yee-Hah.

I was sitting at a diner outside on the patio some years ago, a lady on a cell phone at the table in front of me, all of us around minding our private lives in quiet contentment, when a bum showed up and went from table to table demanding we each give him money. My favorite brush-off is to slightly raise my hand and wave a couple of fingers slightly, just enough to catch the corner of his eye and acknowledge his ugly presence, enough to make it clear I don't want to be bothered. No eye contact, no hard words, no real nothing. It works most times. Once it didn't, and that might be due to me also telling a bum to … well, I can't recall what I told him. Whatever it was he became enraged and from his pocket somewhere he took out a metal pipe and swung it at my elbow. As it turned out, it was fortunate for me that this occurred in front of a large pharmacy during a busy period on a major street. It was lucky for me because two blocks away I was pulling a tooth out of the sole of my shoe when the police pulled up and started being hostile toward me. “You were just at the drug store! You knocked a man to the ground and stomped on his face. Do you know where he is now? He's in the hospital with a broken jaw.” I said something like: “He hit me with a lead pipe.” A second police car pulled up and the police had a chat with each other. There had been about a hundred witnesses, and one at least had allowed that the man attacked me. No, I shouldn't have put my foot on his face, I agreed. That was an over-reaction. One cop sniggered, and that blew the whole game for the lot of them. They lost the edge. They all walked away, knowing that they didn't care if I had stomped the guy who hit me, and that the crowd had seen him do it. Sometimes the law, even for the police, is an ass, and they just let it go braying. Not always.

Sometimes, such as the time I worked as a bodyguard for a lady taking large sums of cash to the bank frequently, the police play a greater role in things, like the guy working for my client's neighbor who caught a moron in an attempted robbery. He tossed the thief into a street post, headfirst, splitting the man's scalp in a dramatic and bloody but not serious way. This attracted the attention of two others in my business, and the three of them (me standing aside watching) beat the thief as he crawled down the sidewalk and around the corner. The three bodyguards beat the thief till he was incapable of moving, and then they dragged him back to the proprietor's establishment and called the police, the latter showing up quickly for a change. The police interrogated the thief on the sidewalk where he slumped against the bloody street post, handcuffed to it, dazed and bleeding. The police tore off his shirt to search for tattoos and identifiable scars. Seeing him beaten well enough, and the owner having recovered all that might have been taken, they didn't care to make a further issue of it. The policeman in charge leaned down and spoke loudly enough for all of us to hear that in many such cases they tell the thief he is now free to go, but, darn it anyway, they have to keep him there because they forgot to bring keys for the handcuffs. “You are having a really bad day. We usually make this joke, and then let the guy go free. But in your case, we don't have any keys. You have to stay locked to the street post till a squad car comes by and lends us keys.” We all— except the thief-- had a good laugh, and half an hour later a squad car did come by and let the thief loose.

But it doesn't always have a happy ending for me. The bum at the diner was abusive when I waved him off, and in a sulk he went to the lady at the next table as she spoke to someone on her phone. He demanded she give him money. She waved him away, thinking that would be it, but he began screaming at her. She, waving more and more frantically and shouting into her cell phone to be heard above his racket, was becoming hysterical. I moved into action just about then, charging at the bum who backed off and started running. The unhappy ending is that my knee gave out on me and I couldn't chase him and beat him up. I had to stand still and get over the nausea from the pain in my knee. It is a curse.

Next day I went to a tack-shop and asked the owner if he sold horse whips. He said no, but a friend in a small farm town not so far away sold bull whips. They are as long as 18 feet, he said. I can get a hand-braided 16 strand kangaroo hide whip used by lion-tamers at Las Vegas showrooms. But why, he asked, would I want one? I told him about the bum and my bad knee, how an 18 foot whip would give me just the advantage I need. Today at a tienda for rancheros in Asunción I got my wish at last. It's a farm implement, basically, and I am a farm boy, in spite of much about me. Nothing fancy, like Hitler or Indiana Jones, just your basic rawhide whip that will tear a chunk out of a bum at ten feet. Heaven.
And now, some days after my purchase of a beautiful and functional farm tool meant to dissuade a charging bull from goring his owner and then trampling his jelly to juice, I, having whacked all the leaves off the tree in the courtyard of my hotel, have terrified the resident cat into semi-permanent hiding in the laurel bushes. Oh man, I got this, and now I want to whip ever' f***in' thang!

Paraguay (pts 13-15)

Nueva Germania, Paraguay: Introduction

[A brief reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at this link.] 

There was a young man once who joined me and my comrades at our table in the public library for one of our famous weekly meetings in Vancouver, Canada, a table we sat at for four years or so weekly to meet with people from around the world to discuss the nature of things, particularly our developing struggle against Islamic supremacy and Left dhimmi fascism, the latter being the totalitarian Gnostic political religion of modern socialism. One such visitor to our table and discussion was a nasty little creature who was obsesses with a minor political figure in the George Bush presidential administration, Karl Rove. The young man was furious about Rove's supposed machinations against democracy and human rights in the Third World, particularly against so-called Palestinians, and Rove's sympathies toward the Jooos! It was clear the young man had little information about Rove as a person, his only grasp of the man being that of a devil of some sort. That sort of devil is common to the world in the Middle Ages. So too is the young man's presentation of the Jooos. All of it is magical. I insisted that Rove could well sit at the table with us and be as normal a man as any, and the young man would know that by speaking with him. I kept at this point till, as one could see on his face, he understood that Rove is, indeed, just a man. The awareness of my point was devastating to the young man. It was as if he had suddenly lost his faith in God. He knew no longer what his world was about. He was lost and alone in a way that I might have some slight sympathy for. His belief had been destroyed.

If there is one thing I love in life, it is destroying my illusions. I can be as dense as any peasant witch-burning lunatic in the Dark Ages, and pleased with my understanding of the universe in being so. But there are times when I do ask myself if the witches I might burn are really what they seem and what others say they are. It's not that I'm skeptical by nature, and far from it. I am as eager to believe the worse of others as many a nasty fellow. Worse, I often have no chance to actually find out if those I would burn are as bad as I think they must be. I instead allow my imagination to sink into the fever swamps of solitude, making my enemies ever worse than reality could allow for. My imagination is an awful place, and those who live there are terrible creatures of my own making. If I didn't know, for example, too may leftards, they would occupy the seventh level of Hell in my mind. But I do know too many, and I know they are not daemons from the depths of Hell, they are mostly just conformists and most not particularly intelligent. Most live in fear of original thought, clinging to conformity to save themselves from the torment of aloneness. I don't like such people, and I would cast most of them into Hell if I had a chance, being a nasty guy sometimes, but I can't see such people as anything more than weak-minded and cowardly. Those very few who are uniquely evil are very few indeed. But of those I do not know, those in remote places and times, they I can reduce to parody, such as the young man reduced Karl Rove to parody as daemonic.

To be fair, I had no such illusions of the people of Nueva Gemania, Paraguay.

Nietzsche, Mengele, and Me: Reversion to the Mean. (A Day in the Life of Aryan Utopia.)

Most thinking people in the Modern world think of Nazis as the most evil people in the 20th Century. But there are other thinking people, intelligent, articulate, and rational, those who write and comment at, for example, the web site Stormfront, a neo-Nazi organisation of great sophistication, who find in the Nazi attempt at utopia a highly sympathetic world-view, one which they cling to as an attempt at perfection in this world. To a great degree, and a degree most today will find abhorrent, the neo-Nazis are indistinguishable from the neo-Communists and leftards of all persuasions. The truth, dismissed uncritically and unthinkingly in total, is that there is little difference between the values of Nazi and other socialist, collectivist, utopian anti-Modernists. Nazi, old and new, are not people who see themselves as the world's most evil people. On the contrary, and clearly obvious to those who think it through, Nazis see themselves as the best of people with the best of intentions for people, if not for all people. Nazis see themselves as wanting the good for the greater people, much as do Muslims who want the world to be totally Islamic for the good of all; Communists who wish only to slaughter those who would impede the progress of Communism for the sake of all future generations, and so on. Yes, they will and do small many eggs of the sake of a perfect omelet, but this Utilitarian view of reality is what makes it possible to kill in the first place without much qualm about the morality, if one can call it that, of mass murder. If the purpose and the goal are so superiour to the continued degradation of man, then everything is permitted in the pursuit of a future perfection. Nazis, in short, are the best of people doing the best for mankind, in their opinion, not the worst of people doing the worst against mankind.

Nazis are in favour of, among many other things we all seem to think we like, a natural environment in which man is but one part of a greater unity, written of at great lengths by ecologists today, indistinguishable from earlier Nazi ecologists mostly ignored, not only Heidegger but the lowly civil servants of official Nazi Germany. [C.f. my forthcoming A Genealogy of Left Dhimmi Fascism, vol iii: Oikos I, Earth and Man.] In the Nazi state, one finds today's echo of the vegan, the tree-hugger, the anti-smoking lobby, holistic medicine promoters, hemp-wearing back-to-nature pagans, and so forth, along with guitar-strumming youth adoring hippie nudist hikers and communalist drum circle bangers, the Wandervogel of the early years of the Nazi movement. Nazis were the prime ecologists of their time, dedicated to the preservation of the Earth as a living being of its own self, the pre-Gaia worshippers so much alike to today's followers of an only slightly more sophisticated movement. Yes, there were the runists, the tarot-card readers, the wildlife preservationists, the whole of today's ecology movement, all of them as decent as ever, though Nazis to the core. They meant well.
That the Nazis are blamed for so many ills in our past is ironic in that the Nazis were doing what they saw as the Good, for example, eliminating the unfit from the earth, much the same as eugenicists today attempt to do in providing abortion in Black neighbourhoods in America, in women having abortions in preparation for that one special “designer baby” who will, when one is financially secure and established in a proper career, rise to be one of the elite in charge of engineering society for its perfection in the future.

The Nazis, in spite of what most think of them, were the Good people in an evil world. They did their work for the betterment of mankind and the earth itself. Today, under a different name, good people follow most of the same lines, without acknowledging or perhaps even being aware of their deep ties to Nazi-ism. How can yesteryear's Nazis be so evil when many today believe and act in the same ways for the same reasons? Today's Left is yesteryear's Right, as it were. The name has changed, but the plans are too similar to pretend they are not the same. The average Leftist is simply an old Nazi in new clothing. He is a good person who cares about the nature of the Good. He derives his understanding of the good from ideology, received from geniuses, just like days gone by. Nazis, good people doing good.
Nietzsche's sister Elizabeth went to Nueva Germania not to destroy the good but to create a better world, a dozen or so families from Germany, all good Aryans, intending to create a perfect home for themselves and their children. Her husband killed himself in a hotel room, she returned to Germany and befriended Hitler, and many of the descendants, through an accident of birth, were congenitally blind. One might fault the founders of this Aryan commune for playing at being God, taking it upon themselves to create a better world than the one in which the rest of us make do as well as nature allows. But such will to power in the world is not different in tone and theme from any utopian communalist movement, regardless of the Aryan nature of the hopes. The American thrust today to create a multi-cultural paradise through social engineering and publicising privacy is just one more attempt to do exactly what others have continuously failed to do since at least the time of Plato. [C.f. A Genealogy of Left Dhimmi Fascism, Vol. V.: Gnosis: Intellectuals, Nazi Intellecuals, and Plato.]

Knowing something of the attempt to found a perfect society in Paraguay's jungle at Nueva Germania, and knowing a little about its failure, I was also bound by imagination, trapped in my own thinking about what should be, that all Nazis must be evil, and thus, the settlement, what there is of it over 100 years later, must be the evidence of the worst people on earth in their final moments, evil so gross it could not live any longer than the day I witnessed it in person.
But really, I didn't expect any such thing, in spite of my mocking tones in earlier segments of this essay, and I did not go to Nueva Germania to hate its inhabitants of the tiny roadside village I found in the wilds of Paraguay. I came to see for myself the end of ideology and the reversion to the mean, the contraction of reality back to the norm, the stretching of the possible returning to nature, as it were. The extremes of ideology can only last so long before it kills its adherents or those remaining just sicken of the whole parodic extreme of living a false life. In Nueva Germania, Paraguay I found, I think, in some small way the future of 250 years of ideology, of life at the end of the era of Rousseau and the gnostic rule of intellectuals. In Nueva Germania I think I see a cleansing and a rejuvenation of the life of man, an end to the evil of murder as path to perfection. In Nueva Germania I think I see the future of America, a land rid of the plague of killer visionaries, no reversion to the meanness of man as demigod but a restoration of the norm of ordinary humanness.


In America today there are echoes of the Weimar Republic of the 1920s, its freak-show decadence and ours, if not exact, not too dissimilar. The spitting nihilism of the pseudo-intellectual elitists; the confusion and despair of the devastated middle-class longing for order; the strident conformist youth movement, then Wandervogel, today ecologists of the same sort; the Jew-haters; and the occultist cliques of hyper-rich would-be aristocrats financing private armies of storm-trooping thugs who terrorize the masses in the streets, in our case well-shown in Madison, Wisconsin, among other cities; the parallels are numerous, and if it doesn't repeat history, and maybe if it doesn't even rhyme, it's still pretty close to the same ugly scenes we see in Germany prior to the rise of the Nazis. This time, we are the bad guys, the leader-princip state-worshiping conformists who cannot stand the thought of an original thought or perceived deviance from the politically correct norms of the ruling clique. Book-burners, witch-burners, heretic-burners, arsonists burning ecologically unfriendly buildings, they abound in our Modernity today. They are the “progressive Left.” Like the progressive Nazis, they do it for the good of all mankind. If the innocent suffer, it is all for a good cause-- the future perfection of life.
Perfection is an idea of a sort, one broad and undefinable but defined nonetheless by theorists and engineers of the utopian future of social justice and the clerks who work with enthusiasm if not any genuine sense of more than the rules; the rules, yes, in myopic detail, but the game itself mostly escaping them. Perfection, the new man, the future. It all makes so much sense if only only. So some must die and some must be killed and most must suffer so that all will someday be happy. There must be order, there must be rules, there must be more regulation, all in the name of social justice and equality for all who are worthy of it. The masses. They are why the clerks of death do such work, sacrificing themselves for us all. For us, the mass-men. It is a religious calling, the work of the Moral. Those who resist, they are Satanic. They must be destroyed. Those sinners must burn.

America, known to the ignorant as the most evil nation in history, responsible for the annihilation of Native Indians, for colonialism in the Third World, for the bombing of Dresden, for the terror of 9-11, it is-- to the leftard of our time-- the worst of places in the worst of times, the authentic alternative being the purity of the Middle Ages, a time of genuine authenticity and true living for the communal man whose time is yet to come in the Post-Modern utopia of a Green World. That this is the same programme the Nazis attempted is lost on the Left today-- for the most part. That this is easily known is indicative of the aggressive idiocy of the intelligentsia and the innate fascist longings of conformity hippies who allow such anti-humanism to become and to remain the ruling-class ethos in the Modern world today. We've seen it all before, the philobarbarism of the Nazis and their adulation of the “Man of Action” who cares not for life itself but for the immediacy of the now in a grand gesture of death worship, in our case the Muslim homicide bomber who “uses his own body as a weapon”; the polishing of the fruits of decadence, the hedonism of the aborting classes, the wealthy designer-baby mothers; the privilege of the freak-show itself, its outcasts pretending to freakness in order to find a place within the norm, the metro-sexual who cries for acceptance, character being an unknown, and if known an unliked quality. The hierarchy of the freak-show too is set in stones one on the other as if building anew the Tower of Babel, light to dark, male to female, straight to queer, rich to poor, and so on. But to complete the freak-show one must acknowledge the elite themselves and their eugenic programme of superior man atop all others, a cleansing of the idiots from the earth, the purity of the human race forever rid of the Jooos, Christians, the rich, “traditional males,” the sexist, racist, homophobic, Islamophobic and rightwing conservative neo-colonialist “one percent.” That is only three millions, a mere half the number of Jews killed by the Nazis. Then life will again be perfect, man living in harmony with nature, communal, sharing, caring, and governed by “wise Latina women.” Rule by philosopher kings. Rule by those, and he, “A sort of god.” Imagine.

In the Paraguayan jungle distritio of San Pedro, north of Asunción by 300 kilometers, there stands on the roadside a tienda made of stone aggregate and aluminum and sparkling glass, cold soda for sale to thirsty travelers, candy bars for the hungry, all of this Modernity feet from a four lane concrete highway that leads to anywhere on earth a man chooses to venture onward into. This is Nueva Germania.

I could have accepted slack-jawed and rickety-limbed farm boys in blue denim coveralls patched with red on white polka-dot cloth; boys absently sticking a pitchfork into a rotting carcass of a dog hanging from a peg on an unpainted barn door; straw-haired, buck-toothed idiots in the shade of a weathered 30 foot high imperial German eagle carved generations ago by master craftsmen from wood from the surrounding jungle; faint music from a tattered accordion playing polka tunes in the distance; the stench of human flesh wafting its way across the fields from the smoke of a cottage stove. Yes, I averted my eyes from the sign seen earlier of the local dentist. And yes, I would have called the police had I witnessed anything like anything above. But no, such things are not possible outside my imagination. Not in Paraguay. Not now. Even then, not so much.

What I did not expect was the six foot tall 30ish beauty who greeted me at the modern tienda at the edge of the highway, her beauty being remarkable in the nation, rich brown hair and blue-grey eyes filled with warmth and delight at seeing a strange with whom to pass a few moments in friendly conversation. Thus was my welcome to Nazi-ville, Paraguay.

I had bused 300 kilometers to the interior of Paraguay to see for myself the remains of Neitzsche's sister's failed proto-Nazi Aryan commune in the jungle; past home of world-historic mass murderer Dr. Joseph Mengele; rest-stop of Dag Walker, traveler. I wanted to see for myself, to touch the ground and smell the air and know the land and the sky and the people there, however superficially, however briefly, if only for a day, to see what my imagination had created in contrast to what the world of the living actually made.

Religious fanatics, maniac visionaries, life-haters, Gnostic demi-god ideologues, fugitive murderers, wandering exiles, I had come to see for myself what kind of people would live in such a place and who they would be now that time has ground them into reality.

Mengele would be at home today in San Francisco, California. He could be a doctor practicing exotic experiments on rich patients who want blue eyes and twins. He could remove and preserve tattooed skin made into designer lampshades, and he could easily stand on the sidewalk selecting those who receive abortions and those who are allowed to have children, the modern eugenicist at work and play. He could rise to the top of his profession and conduct research into the nature of the Jooos and their noses and their natural inferiority that compels them to oppress The! Palestinian! People!, and he could organise boycotts of Israeli medical professionals world-wide. He could even join a death panel to announce that this and that person are life unworthy of life, euthanasia panels, limiting the sick and disgusting to those among his friends, killing the others, being rewarded for his efforts, lauded as a savior of socialised medicine, a scare resource meant only for the fit and super. One might go so far as to claim that today in San Francisco that Mengele could be a serial murderer and more or less get away with it, legally, by practicing Islam, sending young Muslim men to foreign nations to wage jihad against the Jooos. He could go himself, and the leftards might well cheer his internationalism and commitment to human rights. With minor adjustments of style, Mengele could well be a happy man in San Francisco today.

But he would not be at home today in Nueva Germania. How could he cope with dozens of boys and girls on Japanese-made motorcycles, an unshaven man on a scooter, two girls and a poodle behind him, all of them with their tongues hanging out, a cooler of beer hanging from the back, off to sit with friends in the heat of the night and the smell of cow dung thick in the air? Mengele could not easily torture the burnt-black town drunk passed out on the roadside by a litter of puppies as their mother forages for food down the track, a four-lane road used by farmers in Korean flatbed trucks bringing fodder to their cattle lazing by the lagoon, soaring bent birch trees filled with long-tailed birds chirping as the stars emerge in the purple-black sky? Someone would shoot him. Modernity cannot stand such a man, and would not allow him to emerge among men. Only in the realm of the post-modern could such a creature today flourish, hidden behind curtains of obfuscation and occult babble. He could not remain hidden in a world of international cattle markets and credit and loans payable at American-owned banks in debt to Saudi Arabians. In the jungles of post-modernism, yes, there he could survive and do nicely. Among working-class people, not at all.

In spite of the efforts of some of Europe's finest minds to destroy Modernity in favor of a neo-feudalist Order of philosopher kings ruling the masses for apanage, in a small town in the jungles of Paraguay there is no place for a philosopher king. Here, all the Nazis dies out or wandered off, hunted and killed by people who preferred a world of work and fair exchange, people tiring of the over-heated phantasies of Paradise, of the bloody visions and slaughter by religious fanatics. Once that fever had died, people re-emerged and worked again for a living, reverting to the normal routines of daily doings, unconcerned by the harangues of lunatics and the perfect world to come, the intellectuals and their visions falling on the ground under the feet of cattle and imported trucks on the way to the marketplace.

Nietzsche's Aryan utopia of blind retards? Gone. In its place I met a family, three generations, happy, obese, friendly, curious about me, skeptical about my intentions in visiting their little village, accusatory, hostile, angry, and relieved that I had not come to hate them, to accuse them of evils they have no part of, only distant memories handed down mostly by the likes of travelers such as myself. I didn't come to hate the people, I came to see for myself the reality of others I might have hated had I not met some of them and found them all too human, much like myself but settled and decent.
Ideas” died in Nueva Germania generations ago, and now fat ladies make dinner and sit smoking cigarettes in the evening while men drink beer and talk about cattle. Boys chase girls who pretend coyly to be uninterested. Babies wake up from sleep in the hammock hanging under the awning, look around, and cry at the sight of a stranger sipping coffee at a rough wooden table on the veranda.

Having come to such a place in search of reality I left behind the swamps of my imagination for the bovine air of the jungle, a sweet smell to back-woods boys such as myself. Though my own town is larger, its people are much the same here as there. I was as at home as I will ever be, unknown, unloved, alien and adrift among people who work and live in homes with families among friends, private lives lived in quiet isolation from the hurly-burly of the personal as the political, the state as God.

It could be that Elizabeth Forster-Nietzsche and Mengele have actually left their visions intact and flourishing in spite of all the normal small town scenes one sees at Nueva Germania. For every hard won pasture and carefully tended field where cattle graze and men toil for their living one sees two and three foot high, for as far as the eye can see, unmistakably successful and thriving, the perfection of the utopian collectivist order....

Ant Hills