ECUADOR 2001: mad in pursuit

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Saturday, 4.21.01

Early to bed, early to rise (more or less). The nights are soundless and cool, good for long sleeps.

Dream. Work, but I am in charge of changing oxygen bottles for a comatose patient and the instructions are vague -- I make a mess of it. But fortunately, the patient wakes up and is fine. But everything else is outta control -- no one is following instructions and my boss is angry and wonders who's to blame and doesn't see all those around him setting a bad example. I don't speak up.

pre-colombian spondylus beadsTaxi to Old Town and the cathedral in the plaza de San Francisco. We meandered a bit with no specific itinerary and J seemed disinterested. Snapped a few pictures then grabbed a cab to the Hotel Colón Hilton -- a high-class starting point for antique shops. After a coffee and a comfort call, we strolled through the Parque Ejido to see the craft booths. Nice oil paintings being sold along the sidewalk that's about all. Same for the market artesanias up on Juan León Mera -- aisles of cheap bead necklaces, tagua (vegetable ivory) knick-knacks, leather bric-a-brac, cheesy wooden parrots. Enough already.

On the other hand, the neighborhood offered the best antique shops so far. I bought a pre-Colombian necklace made from ivory-pink spondylus shell typical of the coastal cultures, plus some cool earrings made from old coins and red beads. Then, across the street I found hand-incised bone beads from a Amazon beadsmodern Amazon tribe. They were strung with seeds (red and brown ojos de cangrejos -- eyes of crabs) and tiny bird bones.

After a post-lunch snooze, we went to seek Oswaldo Viteri, but the gallery was closed, so we went to Olga Fisch Folkore, an upscale craft shop begun in the 70's to encourage indigenous arts. We spent a lot of time browsing among the artifacts and private museum while it rained outside. When the rain stopped we took a leisurely walk back to La Casa Sol, the air cooling, feeling good.

Buy at Amazon.comI have now switched my reading. Not sure where Sońar en cubano was going and feeling confident that my Spanish is as good as it's going to get this trip. Now I'm reading Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar. I've had the book for a long time -- ever since I suggested readers of Mad in Pursuit that they might approach reading my journal the same way Cortázar recommends reading Hopscotch: either straight through to "the end" after Chapter 56 or starting at chapter 73 and following his pattern to hopscotch throughout 130 chapters. I know I had the book in my hands when I was studying Latin American literature in college -- intrigued by the gimmick -- but I'm also sure I never actually read it. It's a major piece of Argentine literature, requiring the commitment of a vacation to get into -- so here I am. It seems like I should read it twice -- straight through, then hopscotched.

So far (I'm in chapter 12), it is about the bohemian life of Horacio Oliveira and his girlfriend Maga, living in Paris. He is an intellectual who hates intellectuals. They are lazy and slovenly and sensuous and drink a lot. Reinforces with me what color the haze of drunkenness can cast -- fuzzing over the edges of cold reality. Why not start drinking at noon -- who's to judge? The descriptions of his club of intimates reminds me of my current circle of friends, getting a little too intimate when the liquor flows... and yet there is a melting-together warmth about it all.

And yet I also see in Hopscotch a brutal truth -- or at least a nastiness with one another that allows no comfort.

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