Sucre is the administrative capital of Bolivia, and if I have the hang of this travel writing genre, this is about the right time and place to interview a political giant in the land, someone on par with my status as a world renowned writer of pithy pieces; and it will be my exercise to ask questions of passing import of a deputy minister of wasted taxes about this and that, the real point being to show off my dry cynicism and cool indifference to the shadow of power, me being worldly and generally unimpressed by such petty things, having seen it all before. My goal in interviewing this titan of the twisting to his will the Public Good for the Nation, this Haephestes of Bolivian politics, would be to-- basically-- show off for my readers, lending this account a “You were there” significance that is meant to have us all feel superior to a mere mover and shaker in the Andes somewhere. But there is interviewing such a man, and then there is my other plan.
For close to three weeks I've been living in the cold, a room in La Paz in which I swiped the bedding from an adjacent room to add to my own blankets, tossing my leather jacket atop all that in my futile attempt to sleep warm. I turned on my laptop for an extra bit of heat, and eventually burnt candles around my bed to cut through the frost. My one and only shower during the time resulted in a severe case of bronchitis, which I still carry, and the thought of doing my laundry in the shower was out of bounds. So, Stinky Fellow tried to stay away from enclosed spaces in the company of others.
For close to three weeks I've been living in the cold, a room in La Paz in which I swiped the bedding from an adjacent room to add to my own, tossing my leather jacket atop all that in my futile attempt to sleep warm. I turned on my laptop for an extra bit of heat, and eventually burnt candles around my bed to cut through the frost. Y one and only shower during the tie resulted in a severe case of bronchitis, which I still carry, and the thought of doing my laundry in the shower was out of bounds. So, Stinky Fellow tried to stay away form enclosed spaces in the company of others. Yes, I could have gone to a laundromat but-- I couldn't find one. Nor did I turn over my laundry to the landlady to wash and hang in plain view of all in the courtyard, she, though I will never see her again, being witness to my personal person in the flesh, as it were, and my pride refusing to allow such a thing to be open to examination and inevitable horror. Dirty laundry? I think of it as something close to Medieval.
By now the astute reader will have gleaned that I hate hippies. This hatred is not due to their being stinky: it is due to hippies lauding a romanticised “authenticity” of the Middle Ages, “a thousand years without a bath” as French historian Jules Michelet puts it.
Two weeks without a proper shower is, I hope, my extremest limit. I look back to my ancestors and yours and see such things as a time when Jewish converts during the Inquisition were tortured and killed for showing up at church on Sunday bathed from the previous Friday afternoon. If the Jews had bathed, then obviously their conversion to Christianity was insincere, and off with them to the auto de fe. Not that a ritual bath meant much in the days, soap being unknown. My own, washing their woolens, used amonia, which is to say, urine. Silk and cotton having a tighter weave kept bug travel to a minimum, thus being a favourite of the upper classes, the rest of us itching to get filthy rich. The famous philosopher of his time, Carl Leibniz, finding himself at a wedding and being told he was supposed to give a gift to the bride, gave her valuable advice: “Now that you have a husband, don't stop bathing.” And we might well pass lightly over the bottoms of Dutch girls of early New York City, notorious for contextual reasons. Until recently mot people were filthy and stinking, even if they didn't really notice it among themselves. I do now, as do most of us today, notice stinky.
I could, because I'm a totally medium famous writer, interview some local politician and slyly humilate him on this page by portraying him trying to blow flourescent smoke up my arse, telling us how all his wondrous plans to transform the nation will soon come to pass if only he has more power. But instead I found a fellow who took in my laundry. I pass on the politician in favour of clean. That, dear reader, is cosmic progress. Long live that revolution.