Book 1 Chapter 13::Table of Contents::Chapter 15

Chapter 14
Quito

SAT DEC 2.

Awoke late after a beautiful night’s sleep.

N. went off to take a shower and upon his return told me that the police were searching the hotel. So what? We’re clean. [1] I went off to shower and while waiting in line met first a nice little Colo. girl from Medellin and then a guy from Ca. who told about backpacking in the lake region of Chile. He claims that you can carry 2 weeks of food in a pack weighing no more than 45lbs. Good luck.

After a luke-warm shower we went in for breakfast and met Paul again. We ate breakfast and then picked up D,B,&R and hopped the bus to the laundry mat. Not exactly your self-service variety. We had to leave the clothes and come back at 6PM to pick them up.

From the laundry I walked ahead of the rest (I’m getting tired of traveling with a crowd) to Ec. Tours. There I got a letter from Hec. and a notice that my film had arrived. All excited I strolled back to the P.O. but it was closed ’til Monday morn. Then back to the Fuente where I met N&R and later joined by D&B. After jugos N&I went back to the Casino while the others went to the book store and did other chores.

Back at the ranch we were told that we had to move up one floor to a different room. [2] We did. We never did get searched by the cops but did hear that 2 girls got hauled away for having some pot. I think we’ve moved into their room. It has a drawing on the wall of a black cat looking down a street towards the mtns. with the setting sun between the mtns. and the town. Underneath it says “I must be crazy”...

We ate lunch here, and afterwards I read the Miami Herald left in our old room. Then feeling the effects of the aft. I snoozed while N wrote. About 5PM Ben woke me up ready to go collect our clothes and eat at Hojas de Herba. We boarded the bus to go to the laundry mat.

While getting ready to go out - I inadvertently locked myself out of our room. The other key wouldn’t open the door. It took 3 people trying and failing to get the door open before some bright fellow realized they had the wrong key. With the right key it opened like a charm.

By the time we got on the bus it had started to rain. We got to the laundry, collected our clean clothes and walked 10 blocks in the rain to Hojas de H. only to find it closed. But a fellow there gave us a ride to another rest. in the back of his pick-up, in the rain. It too was closed. Finally he took us to a Chifa where we had a marginal $3 dinner. We enjoyed talking to Rich about everything from Cosmopolitan cities to fasting. After din. I rode the bus back.

Back at the Hotel once again I retired to write while N, B, D & R went out for a beer. It’s big party time in Quito this week. The market was crowded & colorful with Christmas trees, ornaments, and gifts. It’s hard to believe it’s almost Christmas. No snow, no carols, but there are Santa Claus Coka-Cola signs in stores and street decorations that add some atmosphere.

We finally were invaded by the aforementioned school kids. Probably 50 - 12yr olds yammering & gawking at the Gringos. What a town.

Sun Dec 3

Laying about in Quito trying not to listen to John Travolta and Olivia N. John sing the same song for the 30th time.

Reading Henry Miller my mind buzzes with thoughts too various to remember for more than an instant. My self has become no more than an intersection of lines of fate and protein. Sometimes the intersection is small, vibrant with a thousand different faces; sometimes it is tenuous. Only a few lines strung together like an old rug, pieces of myself dripping through the growing holes. Outside the Gringos sit in the courtyard passing the time of day.

I’m reminded of N giving 50 centavos to a beggar with no legs. Then he says “The guy didn’t even say God-bless you. That’s the last time I give money to the guy with tires on his knees.”

What am I doing here? I’ve fallen prey inspite of Spazz’s warning “Don’t think too much.” My mind is filled with worms of desire each eating in a different direction. The links to my past - LaCrescent, Mpls., Jan, Fred, Hector, Ed, all exist only in my mind. I’m a prisoner of my past. I feel a great need to shake off the past like a chick hatching from an egg.

Traveling with N. is reaching a strained point. His constant exaggerations get on my nerves. He’s always got something to say but it’s the same thing over & over... go here in Bolivia, go there in Colombia. He claims not to get pissed off but every day brings louder and less meaningful expressions of disgust or dislike.

Living cooped up in the Gran Gringo with all the other travellers makes me feel like one more sore on the festering face of S.A. The cultural exchange is stimulating only to a point. Slowly everything becomes the same. I think of myself as a photographer but for what? To impress Ed G. at a slide show or prostitute myself to some mag? I feel sterile and starving. All this stimulation, new places, new ideas, soon it fades away like cheap veneer leaving the same old shit. All the Gringos here makes me feel like a student in a dorm. People studying, talking slang, and trying to get high. It’s an artificial life. It’s like a big fantasy vacation that’ll all go away once you wake up and have to get back to the real world. But this is the real thing - life goes on with death, love, starvation and feasting all around us. Yet we’re not part of it. We live in an artificial and contrived world. Like a big Disneyland for Gringos.

N and I get along much better when we’re by ourselves. We can work things out. But he’s looking for the Gringa of his dreams and I’m looking for I don’t know what. There’s a buoyancy - a vitality pulsing around us but I feel insulated - like taking a shower with an umbrella. Everybody must have a day of feeling like the pits. Today is mine. I want to go out and experience yet I sit here motionless - all roads looking equally inviting. Put a mule equidistant between 2 bales of hay and he’ll starve due to indecision.

I need to straighten out my head and my act. I feel as tho I’ve been out of touch with myself for the last 2 years, and this trip is only adding to my disorientation. Maybe a few weeks without pot and getting out of this city will help. I need a long walk by myself in the woods. I need a woman when I get back. I need a transfusion of self-confidence to get me over the hump. I need silence and a backrub.

Well, after getting that off my chest - N & D & I went to the Korean rest. we'd gone to before the Islands. Ordered some rice dish with shrimp, chicken & beef chunks; very good (Chaulifan Especial) Came back to the hotel to try and find a chess match - none around.

Today N. has a mild case of the shits again. Between his back, stomach, balls and temper he’s a basket case. I spent most of the day reading Tropic of Cancer. After din. we sat downstairs trying to meet some folks but everybody seems cold. The only relief was a short bit of classical music on the radio. That and a chance to talk without lots of other folks around put both of us in better spirits. We’ll do alright. My optimism and enthusiasm are slowly coming back. Once we leave the noise and Gringos and get a chance to get back in touch with the natives I’m sure our drive will return.

Quito, as Fred would say, is a low energy state. We need an influx of motivation to boot us back on the track South. It’s too easy to lay around and live a Mpls. life style here. Once we get our thumbs out and get back on the road, our problems will dissolve like the morning clouds under the light of the sun.

Worth noting is the fact that since Dec 1. I have stopped smoking cigs. Since the beginning of our trip N’s smoking had caused me also to smoke about 5 a day. But now it’s cold turkey and I don’t miss them a bit.

MON DEC 4.

Got up late.

N felt poorly again this morn. When he feels bad he sleeps late and so do I. Today he felt shitty again.

I went out after a breakfast of coco cookies and coffee to claim our film. First I had to wait for a half hour while 2 #3 busses passed - too crowded to get on. Finally I got on one by squeezing mightily into the door. As I stood in the doorway the song from “Grease” played through the speaker right into my ear. The bus ride was an exercise in crowding.

Once out I checked with Ec. Tours - no new letts. Then off to the correo where I found out it will take 36 sucres and Spanish forms in triplicate to bail out our film. Of course I didn’t have 36 S. So - frustrated - I walked back by Libra Mundi and found out it’s possible to trade used books 2 for 1. I went to the Fuente for a cola. Across the street 2 natives were punching it out. A crowd stood and stared.

Then back to the Hotel. D & B were getting ready to leave, but first they brought by some home-made yoghurt. Pretty sour but not bad with bananas.

They left and I read & finished Tropic of Cancer this after. Once done with that N. & I sat downstairs socializing. Soon Rich came along with a proposition to hike to the top of the hill behind the hotel. I grabbed my camera and off we went. A nice walk and a nicer view of the city. Too bad it was drizzling.

Back at the hotel N. was still feeling poorly, so Rich & I went out to eat by ourselves. Wandered a bit looking for Chateaubriand, but settled for Bistec & Beer at the Korean place again. Afterwards we strolled around the town talking about photography & film, and looked at the decorations all around. Saw some fireworks inside a back courtyard. At one point a lady came up to us and asked for a hand crossing the street. I held her hand, and we crossed.

On a spur of the moment, I decided to try and call LaC. Off to the phone place. It was possible to make a collect call but nobody was home. So back to the hotel again. There N. was talking to a couple of ladies. One had been living in Oltavalo with little kid & husband, spending time at the Gringo selling jewelry. She told us we could camp at her house when we go there. Another lady named Diane who had lived in Mpls. and now in San Fran, also talked with Rich & I for a while. She’s a nice lady I’d like to see again. [3]

Then rumor had it that there was a chess game in progress. I kibitzed for a while and then played the looser. I fucked up early but my skill has rusted none the less. I lost after a long dragged out affair. By then it was time to retire. N. thinks he’s harboring some bugs. Maybe so but his constant illness is beginning to get me down.

TUES DEC5,

Awoke slightly earlier today.

Went down for a double dose of scrambled eggs and coffee for breakfast.

Off to the Correo again, this time with N to help translate. He was feeling slightly better. The first indication of things to come was waiting for the bus. Several #3’s went by, all packed to the gills to such a degree that we couldn’t get on. So we got on a #5 only because it was less crowded. It went towards downtown only a few blocks up from Amazonas. We got off and walked the 10 blocks or so down to the P.O. There the fun began.

First it cost us the 36S to buy the 12 forms. 2 had to be filled out in 4plicate and the others about the same. After filling out the forms with some confusion - we presented them at window #1. There we waited for some flunkey to find our package & bring it out. More waiting. Finally we were motioned to a desk. There sec. #1 took the forms and did her thing to them. Then to sec #2 where we found out that we had to pay 16S “rent” because the package had been there more than 8 days. [4] Off to the caja to buy 16S worth of stamps. Back to sec #2. While she was doing her thing - some fellow was taking photos of the personnel with a little instamatic [5] . After sec. #2 finished, the forms went over to window #2. There we waited while numerous people were waited on before us that came in after us. [6]

While waiting we were tempted to just grab the package and run. After more waiting the forms went to the desk of official #1. He couldn’t process them because the package wasn’t opened and only the official opener could do it. The official opener was down the street grabbing a sandwich or something. Finally opener #2 opened the package. Thank god Hec. had put in a note stating not to open the film package except in complete darkness. This undoubtedly saved our film. Finally official #1 processed the forms.

As this was happening, official #2 was talking to N. about the nature of our photos. He answered questions carefully - not wanting the film to be confiscated because we may have been taking undesirable photos. This wasn’t the case. Off. #2 was only curious.

The papers were handed to off. #2. He processed them and passed them on to official #3 - a geriatric case. A little old man who - upon getting the forms - proceeded to walk off to take a leak or something. When he returned it was 11:30. He made his little red checks and signed the forms. During this phase - music had begun playing in the back of the office and people were beginning to dance. (The beginning of a day and 1/2 off) The little old man made some comment about this being a post office and not a dance hall.

When he’d finished processing he handed some of the forms to N. and said he had to go to the Banco Central [7] and pay more! N. misunderstood about the paying but went off to the Banco. He had to take a taxi because there were no busses and we wanted to get the film before closing time (12). By this time he was very pissed. He went off to the bank and I went off to Ec. Tours and picked up a letter from Hec.

I met N. back at the Correo. By this time he was as mad as I’ve ever seen him. At the bank he was presented with more forms and a bill for 184S more! He didn’t have it - blew up - and fumed out. By now everything was closed and we’ll have to wait ’til Thurs, go back to the bank, then back to the P.O. to finally (hopefully) collect our film. What a lot of red tape. N. stormed off towards the park and didn’t settle down until we got to Perla Oriental, a nice restaurant, one that was closed the same nite we tried to go to Hojas de H. There we had a good lunch, a couple beers, and collected our cool.

Back to the Hotel where we organized our packs and figured out our money supply. So far we’ve spent 1640 dollars. The rest of the after was spent lounging. [8] About dinner time we went downstairs, ordered up some siete arriba (7up) and talked with Paul and Diane for a while. [9] Then back to the room for a short dinner of whole wheat breads that Paul bought for us, cheese, finger bananas, and oranges. Gary, Paul’s friend from Zurich, joined in. He’d purchased a beautiful Oltavalo sweater for 500S.

After dinner we went down to the telephone office and after an hour wait - got thru to LaC. Talked to Ma and found out BW had an operation same as Stymo had. Other than that all’s normal. While waiting for the calls to go thru we met 2 girls from the States who somehow knew that N. was from Duluth. He can’t figure out how. [10] He also called home.

Wandered thru San Fran. square and saw the crowds but neither of us felt like partying tonite. [11] Went to the liquor store and got some rum, grapefruit juice & coke, came back to the room to write & party a little here. Tomorrow, Sol willing, we’ll photo and write numerous post/Christmas cards.

The rum tastes like the cognac Catherine took to the Gal. Not too bad with coke or gfj. Also emptied out some cigs for pipe tobac.

WED DEC 6

Awoke early to baby crying and brite blue skies.

N took a cold shower and met me downstairs for coffee. There we talked with a nice Dutch girl. Sun shining - we grabbed cameras and strolled off to photo. First thru the market, then to San Fran square, then to several ornate churches. Walked the streets enjoying the scenery and the quiet. Everybody had the day off today. There was little traffic and the streets were almost deserted except around the market and for the tourists taking pics. At one point while strolling down the street, a fellow passed and greeted us with “Fuck You” Same to you, Charlie.

We came back to the hotel, dropped off N’s shirt & went back out and climbed up the hill behind the hotel. A long hot climb but a beautiful view. In the distance we could see a magnificent snow capped peak. Looked and photo’d for a while.

We came down and ate an uninspired dinner here at the hotel. [12] Met again the 2 girls from the States that we ran into at the Phone Office. They heard N. talking to the operator about Duluth which is how they knew he was from there. The afternoon was spent lounging about reading Brothers Karamazov. Had another dinner of bread, cheese, bananas and coke. While eating, Paul came in and said he had a line on some pot. He was to return with a sample but hasn’t so far.

Got no post cards written today. I helped a German girl ruin a roll of film due to both my & her unfamiliarity with her camera. Finally got it loaded correctly. N. is lusting after this one. A quiet eve of reading & writing and preparing to face massive doses of red tape again tomorrow. My phone call last nite cured me of any lingering home sickness. Just to know it’s still there, waiting, is enough.

We had a very good time drinking the Rum. Sat up ’til 3 shooting the shit. The first time in a long time N & I have had a real good talk. Discussed everything from pot to Henry Miller to Doc & Ed. Not to be done too often but a good time.

Thurs Dec 7:

Awoke early and went off to the Banco Central.

Got there just at opening time (9 AM) After standing in line, filling out forms, standing in another line, paying 184S and that’s it - we went to check Ec. Tours. No mail. On our way to Ec. T. we met again the Dutch (Danish?) girl from breakfast yesterday. She was on her way to Otavalo.

Then off to the Post Office. There N. presented his papers to Official #4, got some back, went around the corner and presented papers to official #5. He looked around a bit amongst shelves & shelves of packages and finally found ours. Would you believe it - we had our film in our hot little hands by 10 AM.

Off to the fuente for a celebratory cold coke. There we ran into Bill, the fellow from Denver who finally got his money (even tho it was sent to the wrong bank under the wrong name). Now N was determined to find pipe tobacco. We walked across the street to the super-mercado. There we found a $2 pack of Amphora and some slightly cheaper Lord Nelson or something for Doris, the girl from Otavalo whose husband is in jail for possession of rolling papers. If she can convince the cops he rolls his own ciggs - he’s out free. After scoring the tabac - we walked back to the hotel stopping to buy Christmas cards, a pound of sliced ham, a toothbrush [13] and more coka-cola.

We chowed down on bread, cheese & ham. Then came the long process of writing cards. We wrote all afternoon. Took a break to trim some weight from our medical kit. Earlier, coming from the Post Office, we stopped at the Air Freight Office and inquired about shipping goods to Mpls. It costs 36 bucks to mail 15 kilos. This will give us the opportunity to mail film, pared weight, and Christmas sweaters all in one shot. We cut more weight from the tool kit and odds and ends.

Now that we had tobacco, we cleaned out our pipes. In mine I found an amazing amount of resin. Once the pipe was cleaned & the cards were written, we toked up the last, very last, of our intoxicants. Then I wrote a memorable card to Fred, listing 69 lines of things we’ve seen. We toked a little more, choked a little more, and retired about 1:30. A long day.


[1] N. also found our posters stashed in another room. All present & accounted for.

[2] Because a load of noisy school kids was expected and they would be put up on the 1st floor.

[3] She’s a painter and legal sec.

[4] The rent receipt was dated from Nov 22-Nov 5.

[5] The package # was recorded in a huge ledger book that reminded me of the “judgement book”.

[6]   Other folks had packages of things from taps to baby food. After they were processed, the official opener would bind them back up and take them into another storage room until, we found out later, they got back from the banco.

[7] The Banco was only 20 blocks away.

[8] Somebody was playing Hot Rats and Jeff Beck music on the tape player across the hall. Beats the hell out of John Travolta disco.

[9] Paul told us about “Brewers Droop” N. told about tending Crazies in Sup City.

[10] N also bought some plastic cups to replace our ones left on the boat. Sawed the handle off one with the SAK so they’d fit together.

[11] Tonite is the big party nite & tomorrow is the recovery day. People drink hot aguard. and shoot off sky rockets. At the hotel some drunk natives offered us some Ag. I took a sip - others declined.

[12] Had some lousey peanut flavored gravy which we couldn’t eat.

[13] The house boy had thrown the brush for cleaning boots, thinking it was trash. N had to use his.

Book 1 Chapter 13::Table of Contents::Chapter 15