Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bird is the Word

Once again, Doodles has enlisted me to make a piece of art for one of the silent auctions being run through the Electric Moustache art gallery at Krankies. So I put together two versions of this idea. Below is the version that I'll probably keep:

In any case, the silent auction starts at 6pm on Saturday, Sept. 6th, where you can see (and yes, buy) Version 2 of this fine art piece (?), as well as many other works from much more reputable people. I hope to see you there!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Goodbye, Breakfast Club

Despite the timely title, the title is hardly a tribute to the late John Hughes (although plans for a Breakfast Club party are percolating). No, this post is actually intended as a way to pay my respects to the passing of my own Breakfast Club -- a group that I regularly did brunch with here in Winston for the past two years. With JaryMane leaving town on Saturday for the bright lights of Chicago, and DJ Dan heading to the West Coast only weeks before, I have suddenly found myself the only Breakfast Club member left to roam our old stomping grounds in Winston.

Below I detail -- In Memoriam -- the members of my Breakfast Club. RIP.

DJ Dan. AKA, "the Athlete"
Earned his nickname through keeping a ridiculous pace during hikes to South Mountain or the Profile Trail around Grandfather Mountain and never breaking a sweat. Jerk.
J.P. AKA, "the Princess"
Earned her nickname through the fact that she was obviously worshipped by DJ Dan. Molly Ringwald had nothing on J.P.
"GED", AKA, "the Brain"
The ironically-named GED was the first one to leave, moving on to the rarified lands of New York City law schools, where she has already started her inevitable march to the US Supreme Court.
DW, AKA "the Criminal"
Oh yes, recently I got all my hair cut off. Arrrgh! I'm a pirate.
JaryMane, AKA "the Basketcase"
Earned her nickname through the fact that she is a vegan who kills rats (true! trying figuring that one out...) and the fact that she left Winston-Salem for Chicago. What is she thinking? That's right, she's crazy. But she will be missed.

My closing tribute to the Breakfast Club:
We accepted the fact that we had to sacrifice whole Sunday mornings eating brunch with one another for whatever it was we did wrong, but we think its crazy to write an essay telling you who we think we are. You may see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions: We found that each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a basketcase, a princess, and a criminal.

Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Peru in Review

I still have a couple things to remember from Peru, including what I've been calling the Swine Cold -- a nasty little bugger that I've had since two days before I left town.

In any case, I put together a little photo album of the trip, which can be seen at this link. !Salud!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Haggling in Peru

One of the sad things about Peru is just how easy it is to haggle if you don´t care about people´s feelings. I try here to get the essence of two conversations (conveniently glossing over the fact that I speak Spanish worse than horribly, and the other people involved speak very little English).


Story 1: Yesterday, while getting a shoeshine in Cuzco´s Plaza de Armas. Boy who appears to be about 14 approaches and since my shoes are being cleaned, I am sort of a captive audience:

Boy: Do you want to see my art?

Me: Sorry... I don´t want to buy any art.

Boy: Please, look. I painted these myself. My name is Mario. [Shows me his name in the corner of the paintings.]

Me: I´m not really interested in buying any art.

[Boy puts artwork in my hands... these are basically postcard-sized, but each one is handpainted. Eventually I find one that I kind of like.]

Me: How much does this one cost?

Boy: It is 20 soles for 1, or 2 for 35, or 3 for 45.

Me: I was thinking I would be paying closer to 3 soles.

Boy (stunned... insulted I think): 12 soles.

Me: I´ll pay 8. This is the most I will pay... [Eventually he agrees, and the 8 soles change hands]


Story 2: Today, on a guided tour through Chincheros (a very high mountain town). The tour guide has us pass through a market on our way to look at a church.

Girl: You want to buy a hat.

Me: I don´t need a hat.

Girl (whining): You want a hat... 15 soles! [note: a dollar is worth about 3 soles. So... she is offering me a hat that I would probably buy in the states for 15 dollars for 5 dollars]

Me: Maybe later.*

[About half an hour later I return to the bus... the girl spots me.]

Girl: You want to buy a hat.

Me: I don´t need a hat.

Girl: But you said maybe later! 10 soles.

Me: I really don´t need a hat.

Girl: But you said maybe later! 5 soles.

Me (trying to walk away, fruitlessly): No, I really don´t need a hat... I already have a hat.

Girl: But you said maybe later! 2 soles! [Yes, she is trying to sell me a hat that I would get in the states for $15 for about 60 cents]

Me: I´m sorry! I don´t need a hat.

[I walk into the bus and sit by a window. The girl continues to knock on my window for awhile, until the tour guide shooes her away...]


In my own defense, I would like to say that I was only able to get these poor kids to commit to these insulting prices because I really didn´t particularly want what they were selling... so they were basically agreeing that getting something was better than getting nothing. When I have been interested in the goods, I have usually paid fairly close to their initial asking price. But yes... you could easily take advantage of the extreme poverty out here. The Footprint guide that I´ve been walking around with suggests that you pay ¨fair prices¨ noting that people are so poor here and there are sooooo many people trying to sell things to tourists that you can often get people to agree to almost any price, however insulting. I've certainly seen this to be true, and it makes me sad...

* I don´t actually remember saying ¨maybe later¨... however, given the end result I would generally just advise against using these particular words)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Search for Warmth

I got back to Cuzco after a trip down the Rio Apurímac today, no worse for wear except for a couple bug bites and being quite sore from three days of rafting. More on that later...

One thing I had forgotten in getting back into town after being in down almost in a jungle climate for a couple days is how hard it is to stay warm in this town. Cuzco is about two miles high, and it is the middle of Cuzco´s winter, so when the sun goes down the temperature drops quickly. I decided to walk around the Cuzco´s central square, the Plaza de Armas, waiting for one of the seemingly endless masseuses to stop me on the street so that I could get a nice massage. The massage would be nice, but to be honest I was more interested in potential supplementary services, like a jacuzzi or a sauna so I could restore some body heat...

Finding this combination ended up being a little harder than I expected. I passed up several potential masseuses (?) because they didn´t offer these secondary heat-providing services. Ultimately, I ended up agreeing to go to a place where they offered ¨Inca Massage,¨which apparently means that they do regular massage and then put hot stones on you for awhile. The hot stones sounded like just what I wanted.

The location of the massage ended up being, as far as I could tell, a massage spa + travel agency + private home. (Not unusual... other stores can sell you groceries, change money, book trips, and allow you to make international phone calls all in about a 12x12 room...) The woman who enlisted me in the massage got me to the building and asked her son through the door to turn off the television before letting me in. Afterwards, she led me upstairs -- above the travel agency -- to a sort of rickety second floor with three massage tables set up pretty close to one another. And this is where I realized that the place was disappointingly drafty.

The massage ended up being pretty good, but the hot stones were not hot enough, and as soon as it was over, I laid on the table for a couple minutes, trying to avoid the cold that awaited just outside of the towel, and then finally dressed as quickly as possible. I suppose I will have to try harder next time. The going rate for massages here is about $8 an hour, so why not? Maybe I won´t even wait until tomorrow...

Current location: Inside an Internet cafe in the San Blas district of Cuzco. They are playing a version of John Lennon´s 'Imagine' on Peruvian pan-pipes and I am wearing a scarf and hat.