A Tale of Truth, Fiction and Crime

WINTER FORESTThe white, furry beast trudged through the forest, ahead of myself, who from time to time stopped to take in the icy scenery. The cold was bitter, to be sure, but it had not fully frozen the streams and ravines, so that their crystalline water sparkled as it flowed beneath imperceptible layers of ice, roaring gently, like a small sleeping animal. The rest of the forest, which in summer-time engulfed these sparkling waters with thick and lustrous flora, seemed to have a surreal, almost fairy-tale-like look to it in the winter, with icicles stretching from the tip of naked tree branches covered only by a white blanket of snow that sparkled as radiantly as the water; the slightly mountainous terrain gave the entire trip the air of a quest, as we trudged and climbed and even crawled at times; in the sun-light, which peered intermittently through the opened branches of the tallest eucalyptus trees, the entire thing felt enchanted behind an azure hue, though at night and against the bitter cold, the darkness behind the trees felt macabre, and you could almost hear whispers emanating from within the nothingness that seemed to lurk in there. But at this time we were safe, and practically felt serenaded by a concert only orchestrated for our quest – a mixture of nature sounds that seemed to still break through the bitter and lonesome winter cold in the humming of the waters, the guttural hollowing of the air and the rest of the subtle background full of hidden chitters and snapping twigs. But there was not much time to stay still, for my furry companion was still young and impatient, and he demanded that we carry on. Plus, remaining for too long in the same spot was an easy reminder to the bones of how cold it was outside, despite the breath-taking scenery.

However, despite moving quite quickly, by the time we arrived at the peak of the forest, where the little furry beast knew we’d set up camp, the sun was already slowly disappearing behind the trees at the western end, illuminating the sky above them a fiery purple and orange colour, which made it feel as if we were being set on fire. My wolf-like companion, full of energy and completely equipped to not only stand the winter cold but, indeed, to thrive in it, ran around frantically, barking and howling in a seemingly uncontrolled but elated fit. When I finished setting up camp, we played together, fighting as most brothers do – without a care in the world and full of confidence in the other. But as the night began to approach faster and faster, with darkness beginning to engulf everything like a gigantic devouring maw, we settled into our nest near the fire, and braced ourselves for the wonders and terrors that come with the night, especially under the open, vast and unforgiving winter sky. The cold was surprisingly tamed, so it was easier to stare into the nothingness without feeling assaulted at the joints. After a while, I realized I must have dozed off, or perhaps just lost myself in the night, because I suddenly became aware that the little furry beast had run off. I got up and began calling for him immediately but heard no response, so I started walking towards the thick blackness in front of me, where I was sure only trees and night critters lurked.

Nevertheless, as I approached the darkness, away from my camp-fire, I began hearing twigs snapping and a low growling that I recognized as that of my own furry friend. When I finally got near enough to make out a slight silhouette in front of me, with the aid of the beast’s white fur, I realized he was tugging at something that he held in his mouth, but which was attached firmly at the other end to something which I could not make out. I called out to the beast but he refused to come; he simply continued tugging and growling. When I got a little closer, and aiding myself with the scant moon-light that was sheepishly peering through, I realized it was only a tree branch. Relieved that it wasn’t anything or anyone else, I let out a deep sigh and rested my back against the nearest tree, still able to witness the scene. And that was it…The only thing that happened after that was that I watched the beast tug at the branch and pull it backwards until it snapped, making such a loud “THWACK” sound that it resonated through the hollow forest like a gunshot. I felt there was something sinister about that entire scene; that I was enjoying seeing the beast tear at that poor branch for no reason at all, and that I felt somewhat disturbed at that fact. NIGHT TREE

When it was all finished, a green scab covered what was now the stub of the branch, and the beast simply ran off with the rest of it in his mouth, happily prancing back to our camp-site. I was speechless, for I felt as if I had witnessed a crime, almost enjoyed it, and had done absolutely nothing to stop the perpetrator or even help the poor victim who, I immediately began to realize, had been utterly defenceless. I approached the mangled tree slowly, almost embarrassed to be in its presence and finally placed my hand on its wounded and severed limb. I began to feel infused with something; to feel something inside of me…Emotion…Yes, that’s what it was…I began to feel emotion for this victim, and I whispered, “I’m sorry…” I don’t know why. But I felt as if I were starring into the watery eyes of a bullied victim after the fact; as if I were responsible for not having stopped the tyrant when I saw what he was doing and had the chance to do so…

******

I realized then that all those fears of the night which I had held onto not long before, and the images of something horrendous lurking in there, waiting to snatch my soul or my mind away, were indeed unfounded. And not because they are impossible things, for the mind is powerful and can find any horror where it faithfully seeks to find one; but because what really lurks in the night in the deepest and thickest forests and jungles and parks and backyards are only Trees: Guardians of our most precious need – oxygen – and authors of our most coveted dreams – pure and awing beauty.

As we walked back the following night, now against a slightly harsher cold, the trek suddenly felt more alive…more holistic…more serious…more solemn. And the engulfing night no longer seemed tenebrous but rather tender, like a cozy and quiet womb inviting you to rest. However, what really felt different was the way these benevolent giant creatures, who’d never dare cause harm and who never speak a word, seemed to be watching over us, painting a picture of enchantment and reality far beyond the confines of our understanding.

Uprooted Memories, Vol. 2: “The Possibility of Physical and Mental Collapse is Now Very Real…”

PAIN, FEAR AND INSANITY INSIDE THE BOWELS OF HELL

485817_287026561383202_928552709_n (2) (192x217)The body and mind are truly fascinating things. Perhaps even more amazing, is how much shit we put them through…and knowingly!! They are often put through grueling tests that don’t always mean anything – tests which only seem to prove that we can in fact do it, for whatever that’s worth…

******

We’d been up most of the night, only crashing in the last two or three hours of the morning, once all the drugs and alcohol had been consumed. That was the second or third fucked-up night in a row. During the days, we’d been tooling around town in our little grey sedan, completely twisted but definitely on the calm side. I’m sure that everyone we interacted with was able to tell, too; if not from the glazed eyes and huge bags under our eyes – since at least we were wearing sunglasses –, or the rambling though lucid conversations we’d establish with them, the powerful odour of Rum and Sweat emanating from us like steam out of subway vents was sure to give us away. Luckily, our charming personalities seem to have gotten through to them, because no one dared call the police on us…and for what? What would they say? Officer, these gentlemen reeking of rum keep bothering the help, jabbering about music and other things. Sure, we’d probably get some Public Drunkenness ticket, but it wouldn’t go further than that; there was no reason why it should, and The Fuzz doesn’t appreciate being called to places when there really aren’t any emergencies…The only hard time we came across was at some strip-joint, where we were being forced to leave for being too drunk and “harassing the help”. I can’t defend or attest or protest anything, because, quite frankly, I don’t remember. But nothing else came out of that. Once all the bars were closed, we’d head back to their place to reload on whatever it was we were packing for that night. But apparently shit was about to hit the fan, and our luck would run out…or at least mine.

We opened our eyes to the rays of light coming through the wide-opened window, which felt like daggers piercing our faces. My eyes hurt so much, way more than my head and body, which seemed to be vibrating and twitching all over; they felt like the amps in speakers when they throb violently back and forth because of the booming bass. I felt dizzy and groggy, and it took me a few minutes to realize exactly where I was. Eventually, after much noise and shuffling, everyone was up and sitting dispersedly around the room, on whatever they could find that was not wet, dirty or stacked with all kinds of things, from clothes to electronics and even some cutlery. We were watching T.V., just flipping around to find something easy to watch; something that wouldn’t take much effort to pay attention to – something like a funny movie or some cartoons. The dog also seemed lethargic and somewhat hung-over, though he had only drunk a few sips of beer and hadn’t really acted drunk, as other times, when he’d roll around with his ear to the ground, as if trying to dig out a tick gnawing at his brain. We sat quietly for a long time, unable to conjure any energy to even say a word. Suddenly, my insides began rumbling and in that calmness it was easily audible to everyone so that they all looked at me curiously. I instantly got up and ran to the bathroom, which was directly across the room, and slammed the door shut. I got down on my knees and was suddenly looking at chunks of half-digested food twirling inside a thick black and red liquid – which I was convinced was blood diluted in alcohol – pouring like a mini Niagara Falls into the toilet. But I wasn’t necessarily worried at that point – we’d all done the “Big Spit”, as the Good Doctor once described it, and knew what it was like and what was to be expected. But I did begin to get worried after my third trip – which was just as vile, if not more, and which happened within six or seven minutes from the first one. Everyone was beginning to ask me questions, though their words sounded like muffled woooas wooas wooas or something else nonsensical. I could hardly gather the strength to respond, much less move myself between rooms so constantly and frantically, so I decided to stay in the washroom after my fifth or sixth trip, when there were no longer any solids coming out but only a slimy residue which I figured was bale mixed with other stomach acids. I was now beginning to seriously worry, and my immediate though was that I should get to a hospital as soon as I get up and cleanse myself. But that would never happen, because almost as if being punished for even thinking that by some higher power, I began a descent into a physical and psychological hell I had never until then seen or been a part of, and to which I wish to never return.

The washroom door, which was half opened, became extremely blurry, and the little bit of light that was coming through it finished blinding me. Nevertheless, I could hear the background noise – voices, the television, water running somewhere – just a bunch of noises that clustered together into a deafening and constant hum. I felt as if I was tumbling around violently inside a running laundry machine. I wanted to say something to someone or to call them near, but I was losing my ability to speak. But I quickly lost sight of those facts when I began throwing up again, though this time nothing was coming out; I was dry-heaving savagely, completely reddened all over and pouring sweat and, more alarmingly, I was beginning to feel numb. First it started on my legs: like a small surge of electricity beginning on my toes, it kept creeping up my feet, then my legs and finally onto my torso, where it felt as if someone had smeared nitrogen inside and it was now spreading. Then my hands, which were clutching the sides of the toilet, began to contort: my fingers were slowly becoming warped, like deformed claws recoiling onto themselves, so that it was impossible to hold anything. Unable to hold the toilet, I fell back onto the wall, with my legs spread out in front of me and my arms paralyzed in the shape of tree-branches and half-opened claws twitching like spider legs after they’ve been stepped on. My neck was also beginning to stiffen on one side, so that by the end of my transformation I was left looking a paraplegic who had fallen off his chair, or some kind of disturbing realist sculpture symbolizing the Pain of Man or something of the sort. It was a horrific sight, like something out of a horror movie. With the bit of strength I had, I yelled out something incoherent and someone rushed in. Upon seeing me like that, they called someone else urgently, which worried me even more. It was all noise in the background to me; just voices without bodies moving around like wind and disappearing just like the same. At one point I heard one of them say, “no…I can’t see that again…just take him to the doctor’s…” or something like that. I couldn’t understand, but later, when everything had calmed down, he had told me that he’d seen too many of his friends die like that and he himself had been too close-a-call to go through it all again. Anyway, in that state I couldn’t even make sense of what was happening; all I knew was that I felt as if I were dying. Then I saw the legs of one of them moving around in the room again, and before they could leave, I pleaded the only thing I could muster at the moment: “Could you please…uh…just turn on the cold water….and shove me in the shower…”…

******

When I came to, the shower was running at full strength and freezing water was coming down on my face. For second, I thought I was drowning at the bottom of the ocean: that’s why I’m still fully clothed and I can’t move or breathe, I thought. But after a second or two I realized I was in the bath-tub, and that my fingers and legs were finally beginning to loosen up. Though my arms and legs laid in front me in the exact same position I was in when on the ground, my fingers were slowly moving until eventually I could make a fist and open it back up. Then I began moving my legs slowly, pulling them back and stretching them again; though they hurt, it felt wonderful to be able to move again. I laid there, letting the freezing water hit me for a good 10 minutes before I dragged myself out. I was shivering from the cold, but I was actually moving again, which was the only thing I cared about. Everyone was asking me if I was ok and if I needed a doctor. In retrospect, I should have gone, but at the moment I figured I should just rest.

After an hour or so, continuing to shiver and feeling my shins cramped up, though still able to move, I got up and decided to leave. I sat on the passenger seat staring out the window the entire ride home as my girlfriend, who had been with us only the last night and was unaware of everything else that had come before that, drove the car, quietly sobbing and wiping away tears. I knew it was a terrible thing to have seen, and I felt the fear and disappointment that emanated from her as strongly as her delicate yet powerful scent. I felt guilty, but mostly I felt scared: scared that I had nearly died; but particularly scared that I had exchanged what was then one of the most important things in my life for an unadulterated and savage physical and mental test that in the end, had meant nothing.

******

…Still, in some sinister corner of my mind, there was a perverse sense of victory at having stood on the edge of some kind of hell that most will never experience, and having pulled back just before it was too late…Though, of course, after one visit, I vowed to never return.

…at a quick glance…

She has a “beautiful” face, but the word itself is misleading. It isn’t what first comes to mind when someone says it; it isn’t the normal, “shallow” sense of the word. There’s another kind of beauty I’ve been able to notice in some people, because it is more than aesthetic beauty. I guess it’s what people normally and rather mindlessly, I think, refer to as “inner-beauty”. But I’ve actually seen it, or at least i think I have…Actually, I haven’t really seen it, per se; I’ve just wished and desired to see it so passionately, that I’ve begun purposefully and consciously seeing it in any girl who I’ve felt fits the mold ..But this time, I actually saw it.

There’s a quiet, almost imperceptible sadness in her eyes, but it reads more like Quiet Dignity – Reserved Humility. Like a paradox, they shine bright and almost shimmer with intensity, and opened so wide as they are, her eyelashes curl at the tips, giving her a doll-like face…On the surface, they look anything but sad; Joy is what they say. Yet there’s something that the slightest moment of lingering reveals. Looking at them – I mean really looking into those Almond Shaped Pearls – is like looking inside a Halo: there’s something mystical, almost unreal, inside that invites you in as it whispers some kind of Divine Secret. And therein lies that sadness…or rather, that Humility.

She pretends nothing, and her Eyes tell you so. There’s pure kindness in there; Love; Empathy. She is unmarred by the colours that adorn other girls’ faces; she needs no decoration. Her eye lids are soft – they remind me of funeral palls gently coming down on her eyes to hold back tears…But she’s not really sad. her lips make sure of that. There’s a faint smile which, like her eyes, holds yet another secret.

She is untroubled by Pain, though; that’s important to remember. She is Pure. I see sadness because I cannot comprehend her simplicity – her willingness to admire the simple things: the birds’ tweets, the breeze’s swooshing, because I envy that ability.

Her voice is secure and reassuring. She says everything with poignancy and certainty, as if it is a fact. She is sure. But she never pretends to be right. Everything is a big Guess – She’s just an avid Guesser. She loves life. She loves the Real Life: The Sound, The Feel, The Touch of Things; The Patterns in the Sky; The Smell Outside; The Lack of Concrete and Steel; The Abundance of Green Meadows and Large Mountains; The song of Otters; The Dance of Lions; The Cycles of Butterflies; she simply Loves Life. And her voice always says so.

And all this makes her Beautiful. Her transgressions too. Her questions and her demands. Her risks. The way she dresses  – without a care; with no hang-ups whatsoever. Her Priorities: the Preservation of Purity and Beauty at all costs…

I’ve seen her. And she is Beautiful. Alas, Where has She Gone?

Uprooted Memories – Vol. 1 (The Eucalyptus Tree)

STORM BREWS AND TREEExcept for the obvious storm brewing inside his head, the day had seemed otherwise promising when it started. Morning had come wrapped in a blinding splendor, radiating the kind of confidence and grace only a clear sky could inspire. He stood up and parted the blinds, and his sleepy eyes automatically squinted so as to adjust to the glistening light now penetrating the windows and illuminating the room like an altar or podium of some kind. He stood there for a few minutes staring into the blue canvass before him, which seemed to extend for millions of miles, or just far enough to lose itself inside the shimmering horizon engulfed in an orange and yellow fire. He liked the image and felt a nostalgic tranquility at letting himself get lost in it; it was like staring at a beautiful painting where no single brush-stroke could be detected – it was Marvel and Perfection at its best. His lips slowly parted to let out a nearly inaudible “click” sound and he slowly winked his left eye to mimic the shuttering of a camera, then he moved away to begin dressing himself. But as he reluctantly put on the same white gym t-shirt that was part of the mandatory ensemble at his Private Elementary Christian School, his mind began drifting to an earlier and morbid time which violently shredded the picture he had just snapped. He continued functioning on a basic level, putting his green sweater-vest over the t-shirt and then getting inside his grey trousers, but he was no longer there: his glazed, paralyzed and petrified look clearly said that he had returned to that sinister morning when he had witnessed a brutal accident at the tender age of seven, or perhaps eight years old.

On particularly warm and sunny days when gym class was scheduled for his fourth grade class, the teacher would opt to have the class in a little park that ran adjacent to the east side of the school, only separated by a small street that rarely saw any traffic. Aided by one or two assistants, the teacher had a very well established system for crossing the street, where a chain-link of four or five kids interlocking their tiny arms with a teacher in the middle would look both ways then dash across the street; then the second team would go with one of the assistants and then third. Once across, the kids were always warned not to get out of the parameter the teachers had set for them, for there was a river that ran behind the woods which, although wasn’t easily accessible, could easily mean the death of any of one of them should they fall in, for it was a mighty river that was used to over-flooding in the rainy season and that roared invisibly behind the trees like some kind of hidden wild animal. But there was never any real danger of that, because the parameter was wider than the kids could actually reach, despite how much they’d run. In any case, the kids loved the place, which obviously made gym class everyone’s favourite. But on this particular day that had so callously intruded his memories – and from thereon, in fact – gym-class had ceased to be what everyone looked forward to.

Everything happened almost in sync, like it had been perfectly choreographed in a studio somewhere and was now being faithfully executed, step by step. Just as soon as he had finished crossing the street from the park, still holding on to the teacher’s hand, he turned around to see who his friend was crossing with. At that very moment, all his young eyes managed to see was his friend’s left foot take the first step off the sidewalk and onto the street when a whitish-grayish automobile zoomed by in an almost surreal speed, leaving only the faint trails of the backlights lingering and a white gym-t-shirt that seemed to hover weightlessly in the air for a few seconds before hitting the ground with a petrifying THUMP! The entire scene seemed to come to a standstill for a few seconds and the sound of everything around simply disappeared….it was a soundless and paralyzed scene that seemed to linger for minutes as he tried making sense of what had just happened. Then a sea of people suddenly surrounded what was now probably certainly a cadaver of a seven or eight year old kid, and a horrendous wallowing began to fill the air…There were savage yells echoing throughout what now seemed like a morose and desolate atmosphere, clamouring for “911” and “medics” and every other emergency responder they could think of. Soon thereafter, one of the assistants led him by the shoulder through the Big Metal Gates and into the school while the others scraped the remains of the poor kid off the side of the road. The rest of the kids who had already been gathered in the classroom seconds earlier were speculating about what had happened and what the fate of the kid could possibly be. By their comments, it seemed that nobody had actually witnessed what had happened…except our protagonist, who could not help but be surprised at how easily everyone else around him seemed to toy with the possibility this poor kid whom they had run around with just a few minutes ago might be dead. The conversation went on for a few days before things seemed to just kind of move on…

By now, he had finished getting ready and eating his breakfast, and was already walking towards the bus-stop where he waited every morning. He tried shaking himself loose of that dark memory but not before wondering if other people also remembered horrible memories like he did – so…vividly. And then he remembered that there were other things on his mind, or perhaps things that should have been on his mind, or perhaps things that were so ubiquitously on his mind that they made everything else as morose and tragic as they seemed to be…But why? He thought to himself. But he did not wallow, and instead he let the warm rays of the sun shower him, which seemed to wash away the lethargy of his soul as he waited for the bus. Moreover, despite the dark and obscure corners children are sometimes pushed into, they are resilient vessels with a kind of Inner-Light, and the inkling of innocence, joy, play and friendship often prevails in them like animal instincts, even if it is in short-dosages. So at school, like every other day, he played, and enjoyed, and laughed with his friends, knowingly distancing himself from the harsh realities of having to see one parent on weekends only and of going to a house which isn’t a home. But the faster his little legs ran after the ball, the more he forgot about it all. When it was his turn to wait on the bench, so as to allow others to play also, he sat back with arms stretched and looked up at the tiny birds dancing in the blue sky; then, feeling the Sun’s Warm Rays on his face, he gently closed his eyes, still seeing the Silhouette of the Heavens and the Tiny Birds above in a reddish hue…For a second, as the Sun’s Rays rained down and engulfed him like a sort of armor, he felt as if the Sun was actually watching over him, and feeling what seemed like the warmest feeling he’s ever felt, he let go of all those fears and worries  that had tormented him seconds before. The Morning came and went like that, slowly disappearing as he sat in class and day-dreamed staring out the window, into the sky full of birds soaring and singing freely. By the time lunch had come, he had forgotten about the Dark Clouds that followed him, and the storm seemed to dissipate.

******

By the time he stepped out of the final class that afternoon, the sun was only a specter of itself, still keeping a vigil on the day, evidenced by the melancholic purple and faint-orange sky, but no longer watching over him; the Sun had left, and even squinting, it was now only a Bright dot in space. Even the warm breeze felt chilly and cavernous to his tender body. He began walking towards the Big Metal Gates slowly and languidly, no longer enthusiastic about the day and rather pessimistic about its ending. But he knew he had to go on. So he did. However, when he finally crossed the doors, nothing was like he expected and, in fact, he felt shaken to his very core by an image he had never imagined he’d seen…at least not while awake.

There were two Black SUVs parked at the curb right outside the Big Metal Gates, and one or two men standing just outside the doors, dressed casually (with black sunglasses) but obviously in command there. Just outside the back passenger door stood the kid’s father, being half-covered by the presence of one of the other men standing by the front passenger door. In his hands he held what the kid immediately recognized as the same plastic, inter-galactic toy-gun they had seen in a window-shop weeks, or perhaps months, earlier. They had been walking along the street looking through shops’ windows and making noise and laughing loudly as always, knowingly but placidly hiding from the brutish toll a hostile separation takes on all family members. Upon seeing the gun on the shop’s window, the kid had immediately demanded it, unable to contain his love for anything that shot plastic bullets, made a loud noise or had bright lights shooting from it. But for one reason or other, his dad had said no; he had resorted to some logical argument, most likely surrounding financial issues, as to why he couldn’t get it at the moment….of course, the kid only heard a big, fat “no”, and disappointment and hate were the only things he could feel…at least for the next few minutes, or perhaps hours…and then, no mention of the gun was ever made again….Until that morning.

The kid knew exactly what the gun signified; what the entire scene yelled at him in the clearest and most direct terms. But it was his father’s face that most struck him. He had never seen something like that before. His father had always been a Eucalyptus Tree that stood high — far beyond the reach of everyday men, of Commonality, of Routine and, particularly, of Fear; and he had felt as being on top of such when he’d ride high on his father’s shoulders, defying the entire world together as one. Indeed, for anyone other than himself, this Tree had seemed un-climbable and out of reach, and certainly unmovable. But now he was privy to something he’d thought the world should never know or see: he had seen the Eucalyptus Tree Moved and Eroded by a Primal Fear – the Fear of being uprooted; of being savagely torn away from the very roots that kept him grounded. Now, the man who he’d though would Never Lose was trembling with fear and loathing at the sheer possibility of being severed from his Seed…Indeed, for the first and only time, he had seen his father Defeated: The tear running down his cheek, so out of place – so foreign to his old and hard countenance – pleaded “sorry,” as his trembling hands yelled “come here, my son!”

Was it me? The kid thought to himself, overwhelmed by sadness and fury. Did I cause my father so much pain over a stupid toy? Did he not know the toy did not matter? Why did he buy it? Did he think he Needed to buy it? Why does an Eucalyptus Tree lose its leaves? Why does it fall?

******

It was a special visit – unscheduled and allowed by both parties: the father and mother who, until then, had not been able to resolve their differences. They enjoyed the rest of the day together, probably shooting that inter-galactic gun at anyone they could aim….

The rest is History…

MY ADVENTURE IN THE BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA (INTRO: ROUGH)

INTRO: A QUICK GLANCE AT THE PEOPLE, LAND AND SEA; FULL SPEED AHEAD AND NO WINDOWS; THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN MAKES A POETIC DEATH-BED

It was a dream-turned-reality from which I could not awake. Every day was a unique and surreal experience – it was like being in a roller-coaster that took me high up as often as it plunged me downwards. There was madness in all directions, and I constantly had the feeling that at any point something could happen – be it an unforeseen trip to the beach, a drunken all-nighter at the Local Bar, or a political protest overtaking the streets. And it is this volatility that made the experience unforgettable and something to be woven into the quilts of time immemorial.

The everyday life of Venezuelans seems, to me, to be lived in a constant kind of tension and movement, except on Sundays, when after three or four in the afternoon most streets look like ghosts-towns because everything closes. According to what I was told, this is due to something called La Ley Seca (the dry law), which forbids any booze being sold on Sundays and most commercial activity ends extremely early. As always, however, the reality is different, and knowing how to look you can find what you need at any-time, anywhere. In any case, the whole Chavez Phenomenon, for better or worse, has created a transcending energy that has everyone on their toes and ready to give this or that opinion, about anything! It’s easy to get narrowed into a political debate, but it won’t always end nicely. However, despite the obvious political tension, there is also a pulsating alertness in every Venezuelan:  No time for the slow-walker, no time for the car fumbling with the signal lights! You hurry to cross and avoid the old, blue Chevy speeding down the curve, or the barrage of motorcycle-taxis cutting-off the Chevy…Learning to cross the streets is perhaps one of the first things you have to learn as soon as you get there – that and how to get otra cerveza, if you are not a Spanish-speaker.

It was these kinds of small details that made the trip interesting and exhilarating. Every-day life was a curious and fantastic high-speed experiment.

I remember the first day that I decided to move around Barquisimeto alone, without the help of Gabo, the kid with whom I ended up bunking (him and his family) for about two weeks before I found my own apartment. By this time I had already been warned about what areas not to visit because of the danger and at what time to avoid going out altogether (around nighttime, so between 7 and 9 pm, it was advised that I not travel alone, and that if I must, that I do so by marked taxi only). By this time I had also ridden in the taxis and carreritas – larger dilapidated station wagons painted a faint and rusting blue or green and running on fumes and good will. There could be up to seven or eight people jammed in there, sometimes having to leave the trunk doors wide open so that the people could fit a little more comfortably – and I use that term very loosely.  I had also ridden in the rutas – buses just about one and a half times’ the size of a large van, in the same pitiful condition the carreritas were in, and jammed to the very balls nine of out 10 times.

Riding these beasts is quite an experience for anyone who has never been in a Latin American country, or in any poor country around the world, for that matter. I’m not one of those people, but even I had to get used to it. If you sit at the back you will surely be breathing in fumes that will leave you disorientated by the time you get out; and that is if you manage to muddle through the sea of sweaty and noisy people that sway from side to side as the ruta violently avoids traffic jams by cutting in through wedges between cars and motorcycles that the regular, cautious and prudent motorist of even the smallest vehicle would avoid at once to wait instead for a clear and safe opening. The movements are brisk and violent, but even the oldest Venezuelan grandmother gracefully sways her body with the car without the remotest effort, all the while talking to whomever is beside her about this or that, whether they know each other or not. Even sitting down is an ordeal because you are so close to each other, that you can feel the fucking bowel movements of the fool in front of you holding on to the bars above him…Venezuela is, among the Latin American countries which are already known for their beautiful women, one of the most prestigious for having women that to us, regular folk, seem like they were chiselled directly by the hand of god; having them rub up against you isn’t the problem…the problem comes when the sweaty, 200+pound mastodon keeps shifting around and trying to get himself comfortable in the one place he is sure to sweat the most, perhaps develop a rash…But nothing, not even the looming possibility of being mugged, beats the candor and freedom that a bus ride is in Venezuela, with every window opened wide, the warm but powerful breeze hitting your dampen face and neck while in the background the bus dances to the beat of the streets, the constant chattering of the people, and the booming Latin music blasting out of the radio all the way up front but audible even at the back. (Almost everyone I met, Leftist, Rightist and the odd one that didn’t give a shit about politics, told me that mugging is a very real issue, but their accounts of the frequency and real level of danger all differed. Those who were against Chavez painted a picture of a Sodom or Gomorrah – I remember one day one of the kids I was traveling with quickly told the rest of the group and myself, who was lost in the scenery outside my window, to quickly get out of the bus; once outside he told us that he had seen that one of the two kids that had gotten inside the bus was wearing a gun under his belt, which became barely visible as he sat down. At the moment I was alarmed and relieved that we had escaped an ugly situation. But in retrospect, after everything I can now say I know or at least have a better, more personal understanding of, I wouldn’t put it far past them to have told me something like that to scare me and try to convince me of the hell they said they lived through because of the president; but I just don’t know either way.)

Anyway, the first time that I traveled alone was therefore obviously quite an experience, almost as exhilarating and frightening as the first day of junior high or high-school, when the voice hasn’t quite fully developed and the acne hasn’t fully cleared, but despite all the odds you are hell-bent on leaving your goddamn mark.  I had all my directions and numbers to contact in case of an emergency written down and tucked safely, as was the copy of my passport and money. I had a breakfast of arepas, a very traditional flour-based tortilla that Venezuelans seem to eat almost as frequently as they breathe. They were good but never my favourite out of the plethora of dishes that the best doñas, family-restaurants and sidewalk vendors had to offer. And unless they were fully stuffed with some kind of cheese, rice, meat, vegetable or all of the above, they weren’t that filling either. So I topped it off with a couple of beers and a smoke and went on my way to the corner to grab the carrerita whose number I now forget. Well, there isn’t much to be said about the experience itself; it was not much different than what I finished describing in detail above, but for the fact that it was the first time I went alone. It isn’t a big deal to the experienced traveller, and though I consider myself having some personal world experience to back my talk and walk, the first time that you get in the back of a taxi with only two working doors that have to be violently pushed open from the inside while the driver fumbles with the clutch to keep the car going, your very first thought isn’t comfort or safety. Though later, as you zoom at 130 km per hour down the highway with the back doors wide open at the top and bottom, your legs hanging outside and the car behind you coming so close before he switches lanes that you can almost touch; the music in the ambience so alive that you couldn’t believe it is 7 in the morning and that the sun could be this bright; the individuals in the car talking among themselves and including you in the conversation despite the fact that no one knows each other; the driver tapping his arm to the music and joining the conversation from time to time, if not with opinions then with obscene and hilarious jokes that relax the political tension behind the radio messages from the President or the Opposition parties interrupting the music; with the range of mountains adorning the side…With all this going on, you just tend to forget you are in a foreign country, supposedly at the whim of the criminal, one of which could be sitting beside you and you just…Let Go…

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Work was work and will always be work anywhere in the world. Other than over-stringent rules – most of which were broken daily – and occasional run-ins with the directors for a few minor infractions, work was enjoyable. So I did it with enthusiasm where it mattered, but at certain points every emotion ceases, and sometimes it was hard to draw more enthusiasm from a dry well.

Teaching English takes a real teacher – or teaching anything, for that matter. Someone who has a real gift for it, who has the patience and the charisma to get through to young and sometimes obtuse minds, and I wasn’t one of those persons. I enjoyed many of my conversations with the students. It was refreshing to see many people put in their hardest efforts to learn another language, something which I dare not do.  People of all ages, genders and professions – from young secondary students to Business men and women and absolutely everything in between – showed off their skills admirably…Yet, the job was simply far better done and enjoyed by other Profesores, both Venezuelan and interns alike, who seemed to have a better grasp on things of this matter and who seemed to excel at it. At first, almost with a cynical idealism, I was determined to get through to all these people, particularly because they were being duped, in my opinion, into paying ridiculous amounts of money for their kids or themselves to learn English, and they did it happily and on time because it was a private enterprise and therefore had to be efficient and worth it. When I came across the first stubborn minds I did not weaken in faith; I was resolute in getting through. I tried being as approachable as possible, as direct and articulate, and when I did not know the best way to explain something, I asked one of the better teachers. But alas, sometimes you need a bulldozer to crack open a peanut, and I refused to learn to drive one. I quickly found out that I did not have the patience to try to teach something to somebody who either doesn’t want to learn or simply cannot understand quickly; the same cynicism (or naiveté?), I believe, that fueled me at the beginning burned me out. So I learned teaching is not my thing and that if these people couldn’t learn – especially if they didn’t want to learn – then I wasn’t going to lose sleep over it, and that’s when I began having more fun at work, enjoying every second I wasn’t in those small rooms that looked like the interrogation rooms in the movies, with mirrors and everything. It would damage my reputation to go into detail regarding how I and the other Professionals enjoyed that free time…but imagination was always a better thing than reality…

The time away from work, however, the few hours we had to ourselves, were far better spent. No snow-blizzards like the one roaring outside my window [when I originally wrote this] stopped you from going to a party here or there, at this or that person’s house, in this or that park, at absolutely anytime and with no specific half-life. I met young minds like mine from all over the place, and a certain special thanks go to all those special ones who listened to more than I actually said, and who know who they are. Some of my most memorable and perhaps even criminal memories are of the many wild nights that were spent in hazy dances of Friendship and Lust, fueled by strong drink, powerful marijuana and an intoxicating sense of Freedom that left everyone feeling vulnerable and trapped in a state of Trust – in a Trance you could not shake yourself awake from…at least until the Music finally stopped. It seemed like the world was literally a phone call or a Facebook message away, always ready to enjoy Rum, Noise and an invisible but pervading Energy that seemed to emanate from the intestines of the City and inebriate everyone. These were definitely places to let loose and lose control – if only for as long as the moon stayed bright.

But there is so much more to Venezuela than its wonderful parties and invigorated and wild youth. There is a world to explore in this vast and mountainous land. Everything from the morning walks to work, stopping to eat Empanadas at any kiosk or small establishment, to trips to the beach early in the morning and back before the Sun hid as you enjoyed that last trace of a fiery and melancholic sky, to trips that took all night and half the next day, through mountains and valleys and dilapidated towns, to arrive at a place that looks like a postcard…every action and any opportunity sparked flames in all directions and you had a feeling that Freedom was something tangible, something to be held and clutched into Gold, or to see Glowing in the Night-Sky…

One of the most beautiful places I visited was a great canvas of golden sand as far as your eyes could stretch your imagination, only interrupted sporadically by what a dear friend told me was something she’d never seen in other deserts that she’d visited in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt – shrubs and small trees propping up from within the sand like slender fingers. Now this was a real desert: we walked a good hour or so into the bowels of the sandy oasis with no way of anticipating the end. There were huge sand hills erected like breasts of a Giant Golden Goddess lying naked on the ground, and every time we reached the top of we rejoiced as if we were discoverers…but there were many goddesses. About 45 minutes (North?) of the desert was a beach called Pedicora (pedicoda?). The water was a deep blue and amazingly tepid, and the sand white as paper. The Caribbean Sea, at that very moment and under that very Sun, became, to me, a monument to the Freedom and Fear I simultaneously felt; its seemingly endless waters were menacing but inviting, and I would not have cared if I had made a bed at the bottom of the Ocean for the rest of my days.

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“WHAT HAVE I BECOME?” ASKED THE BROKEN MAN

October 7, 2012

A Call to Action is one of those almost-legendary Callings that most of us may go a lifetime without ever hearing. And I mean a “CALL TO ACTION” – a real chance to be an integral part of something big, perhaps even bigger than ourselves. And the reason why most of us may never hear it is because those Causes are so radical and revolutionary by their very nature, that calling people into action often doesn’t happen with banners and fire-works, in public-squares, so as to gather all the Revolutionaries en masse.Just think about the cornerstones of our history that revolutionized the way of life for generations to come, often times, lamentably, through Violent and Armed Rebellions and Wars – and always with spilled blood from both Combatant and Innocent, who are always victims of even the most Just Causes. We’re talking about examples such as (among others) the French, Bolshevik, and Cuban Revolutions; not to mention the necessity for clandestine operations surrounding the birth and growth of Socialism itself. And not all these “cornerstones” have had to be benevolent – let us never forget Nazi Germany!

Life for people that lived through such momentous times as the few examples I’ve just given, must certainly have not come without tension and daily fear. But for those who were balls-deep within The Cause – not just the People, the common citizen, but the intellectuals, revolutionaries, thinkers, scientists, organized laborers, unionists, and even the parts of the People that had prepared either intellectually or by taking up arms in order to actively further or defend each one of those causes mentioned, which because they were so revolutionary and obviously critical of the status-quo were feared and always repressed, mostly violently – for those people, life mostly consisted of clandestine meetings in uncomfortable places, often distanced from their families and with the looming threat of imprisonment or death hanging over their heads with their every move like a Noose. When the Calling came for these people, they didn’t hesitate and at once they packed their things and left everything behind in search of their destiny. I’ve met many people of the opinion that these revolutionaries are “heartless” for leaving children behind to be raised without Fathers and without Mothers (because the reality is that Strong Women have always been behind Revolutionary Movements, even if it weren’t publicly known or accepted). But the True Revolutionaries knew, in their hearts, that the Cause is above all, and that the true and unconditional love they had for their children could most aptly be expressed through their own death for a Future of Hope and Freedom for not only their offspring but for those of the world…Or so I’d like to believe, anyway. I can’t, in good faith, ascertain that every Revolutionary and Comrade of The Cause never trembled when the Calling came; or that he never hesitated in leaving his/her family behind, possibly forever; or that they never waited for the “next Calling” so that they may go at it accompanied…But I’d like to believe that it weren’t so…

Today, with The Cause apparently reaching a Momentous Crest atop a Rising Wave, the need for clandestine operations among comrades just doesn’t seem essential anymore. I’m remembering an article I wrote for the magazine not too long ago where I cited something similar: streets flooded with Occupy Movements across world; Protests against tuition hikes, austerity measures and rampant unemployment by students, labourers and the working and lower classes almost quite literally in every corner of the world; Rebellion in the Middle East against tyrants and economic oppression (although the authenticity of all the movements and events that have transpired over the last few years in that Region must be analyzed closely and case by case, because they are not all Popular in the socio-political sense of the word – think Libya!); and finally, the 21st Century Socialism that is sweeping Latin America. Yes, these are all signs that The Cause is indeed on its way! And because of that, I think the need for activities of a subversive nature to be carried out clandestinely is simply not there anymore.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that it doesn’t happen and, more importantly, I certainly don’t mean to say that it shouldn’t happen. In fact, in many places around the world, such as in Colombia, for example, where the Revolutionary FARC-EP still operates, somewhat clandestine operations are still necessary in the face of the strong counter-revolutionary forces at work. But in the general sense – in terms of what the public has access to and freedom to do and even legal leverages to utilize if one is serious enough – today, there is no major fear of imprisonment for attending rallies or peaceful demonstrations. Actually, as I write this I realize that I have to be extremely careful with my words, because the only thing that doesn’t seem to happen anymore is the Open and Blatant Persecution of people of different Ideologies by purging homes, institutions and public places. Because as far as repression, imprisonment and illegal tactics used to quiet or discredit peaceful protests go, even Canada – supposedly the fair and less abusive cousin of The Empire (in this case I mean the USA, but in the rest of the paper, by The Empire I’m referring to all those countries, institutions, bodies, etc., that support and further Capitalism, including The United Nations) – has fallen into that hole. Let us not forget the very recent imprisonment of hundreds of people due to Protests in front of the White House stemming from Environmental Opposition to the Keystone XL Pipelines; and the legislative bullying the Conservative Stranglehold in Canada has demonstrated by passing such ridiculously insulting and unconstitutional pieces of legislation like Bill-C38 to strip independent Environmental Review Bodies of their authorities and powers to oppose Pipeline Deal in order to give those same powers to the Federal Government while masquerading them as “Budget Omnibus Bills.” Yes…I can’t believe I had already begun to forget this when I was typing, a few lines up, that there isn’t major political repression today. GODDAMN, I MUST BE LOSING MY MIND!

But that is beside the point, to be quite honest; a digression. What I wanted to get to was that today, the Communist Party in a place like Canada, regardless of the fact that it may be a bit weak in numbers, has full rights to demonstrate in the streets for causes it holds dear to its ideology, like for example The Empire’s Belligerency towards the rest of the world in an attempt to secure various resources – Oil, among the most important. And on Saturday October 6, 2012, The Party had organized a rally in Queen’s Park in Opposition to The Empire’s involvement in Syria, and to call for Peace and Solidarity with the Syrian people. There was to be a march for about an hour or so and then a Public Speaking at Trinity Square, I believe, or something along those lines. The Young Communist League was also to attend. Well, as a subscriber to the Communist Party, I received an e-mail on Friday making me aware of the event the next day. My Calling, as it were.

My first reaction was positive: I was thinking that I would pack a camera, a pen and a pad of paper, my voice recorder, a few beers and a couple of joints in my bag early the next day and head downtown. Since I live a bit far I’d have to take the bus, so I’d have to wake up a bit early, but nothing out of the ordinary, so none of that bothered me. But then, I’m sad to say, I felt that I would function better accompanied, so I texted a cousin of mine to see if he wanted to go. He told me that he would get back to me, because he had a date that night and did not know exactly where he would end up the following day. Well, of course, no problem at all, I thought; I would never get in the way of that pursuit…after all, even the Greats like Marx and ‘Che’ took time off from writing their critiques and fomenting their Revolutions to pursue the Other Great Cause: Tail. But he called early on Saturday and said that he’d come with, and so things seemed to fall right into place.

Unfortunately, a few hours later, as I was getting ready, he texted me again, telling me that his sister had woken up extremely sick, and that they were heading over to the hospital. My first reaction was obviously to ask how she was or if they knew what the deal was, because she is my cousin, after all, and we are all a Very Tight Unit. But they didn’t know; they were just heading to the hospital at that very moment, so we all agreed that they would keep me updated. After a few minutes, when the initial shock from hearing something like that about a family member had begun to subdue, I realized that I was set to go to the Rally alone…and then – just like the Worms and Vermin that I criticize for being Spineless and only doing that which is convenient to them, completely divorced from any Conviction that could move them to act in the Face of Personal Physical and Emotional Turmoil and Discomfort – I also folded and I stopped getting ready. I simply didn’t want to go alone.

I tried consoling myself by telling myself that it was better that I didn’t go anyway since we were going to have family over, including a few aunts and uncles and a little cousin, which all arrived not more than an hour later. And that since my mom was preparing a nice dinner for everyone, it would be better to stay here rather than go to the Rally, since afterwards, when it would all be over, the plan was to hit a strip joint and kill some brain cells with excessive amounts of alcohol and god knows what else (that’s why I was taking paper and pen to takes notes and a voice recorder to account for EVERYTHING when garbled memories and crude flashbacks would be all we had to help us piece that disjointed night together). So I told myself that it was a good thing that I wasn’t going; that it was better to stay here with the family, especially since my Father was so keen on me staying to talk with the adults and participate with the Family. Yes, I told myself all of this…but in the end I kept feeling like a Scumbag.

And I still do…somewhat. My opportunity to “Foment Revolution,” as I proudly state I want to do in my profile, came and went yesterday in the flutter of a bird’s wings…and I let it waft over me. All because I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable; because I didn’t want to go to it alone….But in the end, I regret nothing!

I remember that many people close to me and whose opinions really matter to me have, on more than one occasion, repeated those words (regardless of the fact that every half-wit and imbecile in the world can repeat it and pretend that they really believe in it and that they live their life accordingly). But the message isn’t lost in me. And although I did allow a moment of weakness to drown me in the Mud with the Worms and Vermin, my Convictions remain strong. I have myself to beat myself up for that transgression and violation of my Ideals. If my grandfather were alive, he’d be livid with indignation at such pusillanimity as I showed. But he would just as soon recover the color in his face and he would stop yelling and tell me, “Well, there’s one solution only…you stop your bitching and next time you GO!…THE CAUSE ISN’T DEAD BECAUSE OF ONE MOMENT OF WEAKNESS, SOPENCO!”

So here I sit, a bit disillusioned with myself because I thought I’d be stronger than that, but certain that my Convictions and Ideals have not faltered or even budged; that the only thing that I need to do is put on my big-boy pants, one Huge Testicle at the time, and continue Trudging Ahead for The Cause. And next time I receive the Calling, I will not think twice before Answering, even if it means I must Die Alone – or, less dramatically, just attend a goddamn Rally Alone!

That’s where I will leave it; with High Hopes for the Future…

SHALOM!

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HASTA LA VICTORIA SIEMPRE!

PATRIA, SOCIALISMO O MUERTE!