Saturday, March 28, 2009


a ship arrived in valparaíso
dropped its anchor in the bay
her name reminded me of kingdoms
sunlit countries far away

come along with me she whispered
far from cloud and mist for you'll
find beneath the andes mountains
an awesome city - bright as a jewel

but I was young and would not wander
with hope and youth i chose instead
the promises of verse and fable
from the wondrous book i read

the ship sailed off into the vapour
shining like gold its mast so bright
it wrote its story on the parchment
high amidst the stars that night
An Dr Pádraig de Brún
(1889 - 1960)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Yesterday morning a pair of ants made the unfortunate mistake of vacationing in my cup of coffee. I hope I didn't slurp down any of their friends before realizing that those black specks weren't in fact coffee grounds.
The woman who brought my cup of coffee is Maria. And she does make one good cup o' joe. It may be because of the three spoonfuls of sugar and plenty of whole (yes WHOLE) milk, but I actually love Nescafe. Yum. Anyway, Maria is our 'nana' here at the Paloma residence, an occupation landing somewhere between nanny and servant. I forgot to mention that my coffee arrives at my room on a tray, no less. She does the laundry, makes all the meals for the day (serving us as well), and cleans the house. I find myself quite often debating the pros and cons of the nana profession. I must admit Maria is like the Jewish grandmother I never had. And I love the way she calls me 'mi amor.' Though, I still find myself conflicted: At one moment I feel quite like a princess, but then reality and a touch of humanity steps in and I start to feel a bit uncomfortable. Maria genuinely seems to enjoy what she does and there is no way she will ever allow me to help her wash the dishes or mop the floors while she's present. She always serves me more than I can eat, she constantly asks me why I'm so skinny, and she never forgets to show me the massive pills she takes to keep her diabetes in check. I love Maria.
But then I wonder, what would the American version of Maria look like? The relationship between nana and employer would be completely different in the States. Or so I think. In this household here in Chile there is no real social or socioeconomic barrier between Maria and ourselves. We treat her as we treat each other. From what I have experienced growing up in the U.S. there seems to be an obstruction between those receiving pay and those doing the paying. And I guess that's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Perfect High

There once was a boy named Gimmesome Roy... He was nothing like me or you, 'cause laying back and gettin' high was all he cared to do. As a kid he sat in the cellar, sniffing airplane glue. And then he smoked banana peels, when that was the thing to do. He tried aspirin in coca-cola, he breathed helium on the sly, and his life became one endless search to find that perfect high. But grass just made him want to lay back and eat chocolate chip pizza all night. And the great things he wrote while he was stoned looked like shit in the morning light. And speed just made him rap all day, reds just laid him back. And cocaine rose was sweet to his nose, but the price nearly broke his back. He tried PCP & THC, but they didn't quite do the trick. And poppers nearly blew his heart and mushrooms made him sick. Acid made him see the light, but he couldn't remember it long. And hashish was just a little too weak, and smack was a little too strong. And quaaludes made him stumble, and booze just made him cry. Til' he heard of a cat named Baba Fatts who knew of the perfect high.
Now Baba Fatts was a hermit cat who lived up in Nepal, high on a craggy mountaintop, up a sheer and icy wall. "But hell," says Roy, "I'm a healthy boy and I'll crawl or climb or fly. But I'll find that guru who'll give me the clue to what's the perfect high."
So out and off goes Gimmesome Roy to the land that knows no time, up a trail no man could conquer, to a cliff no man could climb. For fourteen years he tries that cliff, then back down again he slides, then sits - and cries - and climbs up again, pursuing the perfect high. He's grinding his teeth, he's coughing blood, he's aching and shaking and weak, as starving and sore and bleeding and tore, he reaches the mountain peak. And his eyes blink red like a snow-blind wolf and he snarls the snarl of a rat, as there, in perfect repose and wearing no clothes, sits the god-like Baba Fatts.
"What's happenin', Fatts?" says Roy with joy. "I've come to state my biz. I hear you're hip to the perfect trip. Please tell me what it is. For you can see," says Roy to he, "that I'm about to die. So for my last ride, Fatts, how can I achieve the perfect high?" 
"Well dog my cats!" says Baba Fatts, "Here's one more burnt-out soul who's looking for some alchemist to turn his trip to gold. But you won't find it in no dealer's stash, or on no druggist's shelf. Son, if you would seek the perfect high, find it in yourself."
"Why you jive motherfucker!" screamed Gimmesome Roy, "I've climbed through rain and sleet. I've lost three fingers off my hands and four toes off my feet! I've braved the lair of the polar bear and tasted the maggot's kiss. Now you tell me the high in myself? What kind of shit is this? My ears, 'fore they froze off," says Roy, "had heard all kinds of crap, but I didn't climb for fourteen years to listen to that sophomore rap. And I didn't crawl up here to hear that the high is on the natch. So you tell me where the real stuff is or I'll kill your guru ass!"
"Ok, ok," says Baba Fatts, "you're forcing it out of me. There is a land beyond the sun that's known as Zaboli. A wretched land of stone and sand where snakes and buzzards scream, and in this devil garden blooms the mystic Tzu-Tzu tree. And every ten years it blooms one flower as white as the Key West sky. And he who eats of the Tzu-Tzu flower will know the perfect high. For the rush comes on like a tidal wave and it hits like the blazing sun. And the high, it lasts a lifetime, and the down don't ever come. But the Zaboli land is ruled by a giant who stands twelve cubits high, with eyes of red in his hundred heads, he waits for passersby. And you must slay the red-eyed giant, and swim the River of Slime, where the mucous beasts, they wait to feast on those who journey by. And if you survive the giant and the beasts, and swim that slimy sea, there's a blood-drinking witch who sharpens her teeth as she guards that Tzu-Tzu tree."
"To hell with your witches and giants," laughs Roy. "To hell with the beasts of the sea. As long as the Tzu-Tzu flower blooms, some hope still blooms for me." And with tears of joy in his snow-blind eye, Roy hands the guru a five. Then back down the icy mountain he crawls, pursuing the perfect high.
"Well, that is that," says Baba Fatts, sitting back down on his stone, facing another thousand years of talking to God alone. "It seems, Lord," says Fatts, "it's always the same, old men or bright-eyed youth. It's always easier to sell them some shit than it is to give them the truth."
Shel Silverstein 

Monday, March 2, 2009

Because ingredients are fairly limited here in Vina..

I'm dreaming of the following possibilities:
Chile carries curry powder in its supermercados, right? As well as avocado (otherwise known as palta in these parts) and mantequilla con sal, if you please.

:Curried Carrot Soup:
. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, one turn of the pan
. 2 tablespoons butter
. 1 medium onion, chopped
. about 2 lbs carrots
. 6 cups chicken stock
. 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
. 1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
. coarse salt
. sour cream

Preheat medium-sized pot over medium high heat. Add olive oil, butter, onions, and carrots. Saute for about 5 minutes. Add 4 cups of chicken stock along with curry, cayenne, and 1 tsp salt. Bring to boil and cover. Cook until carrots are very tender (about 15 min). Process soup in food processor. Or use a handy gadget like an immersion blender until soup reaches desired consistency. Return to pot and place over low heat. If the soup is still too thick add more stock. Adjust seasonings. Depending on my mood I add a little cream to the mix. So good with a dollop of sour cream on top too.

:Open-Faced Avocado Sandwich:
. avocados
. salt
. watercress
. good crusty bread
. butter, unsalted

Toast a slice of the bread. Apply butter. Slice the avocado and place onto toast. Salt to taste. Cover in watercress.

It's strange, the things you start to miss when you go away. 
It probably goes without saying but once you have had the pleasure of laying your eyes upon the pigment of my skin in summer and you have begrudgingly allowed me to borrow your sunglasses due to my lack-there-of, you will have realized that I am a native of the Pacific NW, webbed toes and all. Now that I have begun to extend my radius of travel, I find myself missing things I so take for granted when I'm home: 

+ those special sunny days in Seattle
+ the cherry trees that seem to be absolutely everywhere 
+ not to mention peeking in the windows of bakeries, eventually making my way inside to sample their tasty treats. I always secretly try to concoct the recipes in my mind. 

Both semi-sunny days and cherry blossoms are something of a rarity in South America. And I find myself walking past bakeries here with wide eyes, though I'm not quite sure why just yet. I feel a mixture of disloyalty and over-excitement at tasting a new culture. Looking at those plump empanadas I think, "I don't know if I trust you just yet." But I end up buying one anyway and my taste buds are so pleasantly surprised. 
I know I sure don't mind the change of weather in the meantime.