Chapter 35::Table of Contents::Chapter 37

Chapter 36
Daze in Cochabamba


We spend a lot of time looking at old cars.

There’s a lot of fantastic old jalopies around. One day out walking around with Leslie we saw an old model - T sitting in somebody’s driveway. We went in to take a look. It was in prime condition. Most of them aren’t. The times we’ve ridden in taxis are a bit like a review of automotive history. The horns are the most important parts. Horns & Lights. The horns are re-wired to the gear shift lever. The bare wire is touched against the metal and off goes the horn. The corners are all blind so the only way to warn others that you’re coming thru is to toot. At night the lights serve the same function. Brights are flashed just before steaming thru the intersection. Walking the streets is an adventure in dodge-em-cars. Pedestrians have no rights. They scamper across the streets looking nervously from left to right. Reflexes become very sharp. Sometimes the bike riders are more dangerous than the cars. They have no horns. Or lights. Silently they whiz by a cunt hair away from your feet.

You don’t need a driver’s license to drive here. The cars are so expensive that to be able to afford one assumes you are bright enough to operate it, too. Only the military can buy cars without paying the 300% import duty. Thus a car is a once in a lifetime investment. Motorcycles are much more common. N and I tried to drive out to Leslie’s & Amy’s farm house one afternoon. The points had been recently cleaned but the bike was still operating poorly. It wouldn’t start unless pushed. On the way out we got lost. On the way back the chain guard popped off and rubbed against the back tire making a horrible noise. We had to stop in the middle of the “suburbs” and try and fix it. Once snapped back into place we couldn’t get the bike started again. Finally it got going and we putted back to the house, the chain guard alternately rubbing and not rubbing, depending on the size of the bump we had just gone over. N tried to fix the points but wound up breaking the plastic arm that rides against the cam. He went downtown and bought another set of points but they weren’t the right model. Then a few days later he found a worn set in the tool box. Once those were cleaned and installed he discovered he didn’t have the keys to start the thing. Gonzalo had the keys, getting duplicates made.

We spend a lot of time looking at tits.

There are a lot of lovely girls here strutting their stuff up and down the streets. Last night in the taxi coming home from eating silpanchos we sat in the back seat next to two real lovelies. They were going around the Prado and over to the Plaza Colon. We almost went with them. Mmmmm. But the most notable tits so far are Monica’s. Too bad she’s got no brains. For the last 4 days she’s been saying she’s going to get us some pot. She says “seguro” but nothing ever happens. We’ve been brought up and let down at least twice a day. She says she’ll call but doesn’t, says the stuff will be ready at 2:00 but when she comes by at 4:00 she’s empty handed. She says her friend has got it, but then later says she doesn’t want to sell it, she’s too afraid. But she’s got nice tits. She wears shirts open half way down her cleavage. We’ll be sitting at the table playing canasta or at the dinner table eating cookies and drinking tea with her tits hanging half way out. Very distracting. Her little kids come up and grab on to them, makes you want to scream.

She can’t be counted on. She’s going to college studying politics. One afternoon N told her he was an anarchist. She said all the anarchists should get together and form a party. She couldn’t understand that there’s no government like no government. But then all Bolivians are a little thick. There are something like 36 different political parties vying for the upcoming elections. No way can any one party win a majority, even if the elections aren’t rigged. It’s like dealing with a bunch of juveniles. The family is glued every night to the soap opera. Maria Inez is glued to her radio. Especially “Macho Man”. The children have no discipline, or when they are punished, they’re locked in the bathroom to scream their brains out.

But the girls have nice tits. Like Amy. We went to the market last Saturday so Amy could buy a new pair of pants. She tried on several pairs and kept turning around modeling them for Leslie and I. Tits moulded firm by a body shirt, ass packed into a too tight pair of jeans. “I’ve got a sway back” she says. “See the way my ass sticks out?” “It’s supposed to do that” I tried to convince her. And all the while Leslie making comments that her tits were not as big as Amy’s. But Leslie has the good head. A truly fine lady. She came over to visit the other day. We sat around talking (N was out) and when it came time for her to leave, I took the opportunity to kiss her good by. Severe horniness does not lead to subtlety. I kissed her a little too passionately perhaps. She hasn’t been back.

I did give her my worn out jeans. I was about ready to ask her to marry me. I still might. But she’ll refuse, probably for the best. Very mature for 22. Christ, that’s my sister’s age! But how long can one stand looking at fantastic tits and not want to fondle? Or asses. They look like the jeans are sprayed on. With those high heeled shoes the buns waggle from side to side. Enough to make you want to bun cup ’til next Thursday.

We’ve been sitting around this house for a month now. You can’t drink the water. We stopped going to the Pension because the food and service are so poor. We spent several days working on translating for Julio Guzman which killed some time. That guy is democracy and foreign enterprise overseas crazy. We’ve hit him up for $40 so far. Told him we were going to Chapari last weekend just to avoid him. He came by anyway. I laid in bed pretending I was in the jungle. But there’s nothing to do. I’ve finished reading every English book I can find. The T.V. is horrible. The tapes N’s brother sent are memorized by now. There’s no pot, no women. At least the weather is nice. But that almost makes it worse. Beautiful sunshine and warmth, nothing to do but stare at the walls. Nothing to eat. The proverbial Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard. I’ve gotten sick of chorripans. The restaurants serve the same old glop. And Aunt Martha (lord knows she tries) brings home more of it to be eaten while watching the novella.

We went out to play volleyball at 8:00 AM last Sunday. Only half of the people showed up (altho all said they’d be there for sure) and somebody had stolen the net. So we came back home and cut down a tree. But we’re not hiking anywhere, under the feeble excuse that we’ve no film. We’re dulled. Bored. Sleeping the day away because there’s nothing to do. The grand kids come over and scream, N plays guitar, Maria listens to the radio, Tia watches T.V. I look for silence. I want my bike! This isn’t traveling, it’s rotting. I’m ready to go back. Or am I? We got a card from Big Dan Friedman saying he wants to hike the Inca Trail in June. Is that what I want to do? Something tells me to leave this god forsaken country and go back to my friends, my home, my language, my bad habits. I’ve over 3500 pictures to go thru. I miss Dudley, Ed, & Hector. I’m in a black hole of my own design. Nothing works here, nothing is right. It’s not depression. It’s just, as Spazz says - “thinking too much”.

The air fare from Santa Cruz to Miami is $324. I’m sorely tempted. Given the unreliability of the Bolivian mentality, the possibility of a Bolivian Connection becomes almost nil. It would take years. N seems none too motivated but is always making plans for what to do with the $20 - 40,000. We look at 4 - wheel drive vehicles. Plan to build houses, bars, bowling alleys, import businesses, photo studios. These will not happen. As he said before we left “Only 2 things will keep me in Bolivia - a good woman or a good job and a good woman.” We have neither, nor prospects thereof. “If you go to a movie that bores you, you get up and walk out."

What’s missing here is a distinct lack of motivation. A reason for being motivated. Why am I here? When we left the states we had adventure in our minds. Far away places, faces, ideas, and things to do. I am here as a photographer. As a traveler, a tourist. I’ve brought my 25 years of experience here to learn, to capture the atmosphere of another continent... But the spark has failed to catch fire to the mind. I keep drifting back to another far away place - the U.S.

I am an outsider here, my vision is clear that I do not belong. I can take hundreds of pix of Indians, markets, llamas, hills, rivers, hovels. But what is my point of view as a tourist, as an artist, as a man? As a tourist I am intrigued by the strangeness; as an artist by the colors, patterns, faces, juxtapositions of “modern” vs. native; as a man by life, the stars, the earth and my own reflections. (Cozmic!) But to go back... is it going back? or ahead, to allow these sharpened feelings to be applied to my own land and people. Or do I slip into the same old rut? Life is easy in the states, I know the ropes. Here it is, at best, confusing. Confusion. As a tourist I am exploiting this continent. I am rich. I can go where I please. I see the poverty around me but am not affected. I take. I give nothing but a few dollars. My life is not here. My future is not here, my friends are not here. Every day reality and pettiness drags at my mind. My motives are not clear. My vision is clouded by longings and desires. I’m tired of moving from place to shallow place. I’m tired of sitting here with nothing to do but think.

Every day the Indian women are down at the river washing their clothes in the muddy water. The dogs pick thru the garbage. In the market women squat in front of their little piles of fruit or veggies, nursing their babies. Shoppers cannot help but notice that you are a gringo. You can never be more than a gringo. The cargadores make their living by hauling tremendous loads on their backs, as they’ve done for centuries. The past is present here. In the small villages the children cry when they see you. You are so tall, your hair is light, your eyes are blue, your clothes are strange. You are the “tourist attraction”. Little kids will stand and watch you make camp. Awe struck. This reality does not need the gawking, picture taking tourist.

I cannot live my lifestyle here. That is the problem. I am used to certain hedonistic luxuries. Here clean water is a luxury. Meat is a luxury. Birth control is unknown. Sex is catholic. Alcohol and coca leaves dull the dreariness. A drunk passed out face down in the street is left to awake to his troubles. There are levels here. Deep rifts between classes. Two or more realities occupy the same physical space. There are intersections, the pedestrians run for safety, the truck drivers close their eyes and blast the horns. Free thoughts and open minds are luxuries few can afford and even fewer realize exist.

Chapter 35::Table of Contents::Chapter 37