Friday, November 02, 2012

Building Iquitos, Peru: What the fire...

The concrete bricks that comprise the majority of commercial buildings in Iquitos, Peru look so fragile that I am almost tempted to try punching holes in the walls with my bare fists just to prove that I can do it. The concrete looks crumbly, and the mortar than slops down from the joins bears a creepy resemblance to crusty porridge. I do want to punch holes in walls here. Then again, I probably can't do it; and even if I could, I'm sure I'd break my hand just for the sake of vanity. But it's tempting just for the sake of the challenge, maybe for the sake of making a statement about myself, i.e that I can do such a stupid thing to prove how strong I am and how weak is the cement in Iquitos. Such thoughts run through my mind for no particular reason, especially when I see conditions that I wouldn't tolerate at home in America, work places so dangerous to men inside that I want to shout out to them to flee before they are killed somewhat accidentally, as if such conditions could be accidental at all. But this is Peru, and though I like it here, this is still Peru.What holds it all together is something of a mystery and a temptation to test the strength of. But I live with what is and want it to be better even if I could wreck a lot of it easily simply because it's not qualitatively equal in most ways to full Modernity. Some of what I see pisses me off because it's shabby and sometimes dangerous and too often ugly. I have high standards that I don't see attained here so much. I purse my lips and pretend not to notice. Or, I sometimes look at conditions in Peru and think how lovely it is to have the freedom to make do without having to fear the wrath of minders who won't allow anything but the standard. I can sometimes even like the Blakean hellishness of a welder working in the dusty dark of a building that might well collapse on him and his mates if the timbers holding up the roof crack.

I don't know that anyone is forging a dynamic nation here. I suspect that no one thinks much about that here. I think more likely that individuals are trying to get by making do with what they have so they can make a bit of money to live another day. Day by day that might someday build a nation stronger than steel. It's enough of a thought to make me go inside someone's workplace to shoot the breeze for a few minutes with a welder. Then I find out that yes, it is strong enough, this whole place, to last till others come with another layer of effort and money to build it all up further. Welding a world two pieces at a time.

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Thursday, November 01, 2012

Iquitos, Peru: Exilic Art Between the Selva and the Plant

A problem one finds traveling is that the first and sometimes only people one meets in a new city are those who prey on tourists, the disoriented and lonely and sometimes enthusiastic wannabes who have no one they know and can trust for information about just about everything a local takes for granted. Thus, one finds many people either using Lonely Planet Guides to anywhere, or one finds the more affluent relying on tour guides booked through reputable travel agencies. The so-called independent traveler, men such as me, go with native cunning, as a rule, having been around much and long, instinct honed by years of dealing with the local lowlifes who hustle the bewildered out of change and gifts. The more or less affluent backpacking tourist often meets and is instantly befriended by a person back home the traveler would avoid at all costs; but being on the road and alone, being indoctrinated into thinking all things foreign are all things superior to all things back home, and that even the slightest hint of dislike of locals is racism par excellence, one finds some travelers putting up with the most egregious near-criminal bullshit imaginable, and finds the basically angry tourist smiling and wondering what went wrong, why the lovable natives aren't adding up to the stories one hears tell about back in Anthropology 101. Welcome to the world. Often it sucketh. Sometimes it's even fatal. I live because I know who to avoid, and I live because if I can't avoid trouble I know how to deal with it. I run away, I think. Whatever, I survive. But sometimes I find myself too suspicious of lowlifes, and I miss out on people whose bullshit is sometimes not so bad once I get to know them.

There's a crowd at the Plaza de Armas in Iquitos I generally avoid, though I come into contact with them often enough because I live in a hostel where others are befriended by this group, and the group members show up at my residence as guests of my fellows. That's how I met the very pretty but otherwise revolting Caroline, tattoo pimp and general lowlife scum bitch I wrote about earlier and in a fit of good taste withdrew so far from publication. The street hustler crowd are almost harmless when one compares them to genuine and serious bad people, such as the psychopathic school teachers who became the leadership of the Sendero Luminoso, the Shining Path terrorists who murdered their way across Peru for 20 years as political killers before giving that up to turn to trafficking in drugs now. I'm more likely to meet those psychos than I am to meet street level criminals. And because I am fearless about barging into offices and demanding interviews with "important" people, I am also likely to meet other psychopaths like the corrupt politician who actually works the system successfully and makes himself loved by the very folks he screws, sometimes to death. No names. I intend to survive a lot longer yet. Street hustlers, I avoid them. Except when one of them turns into my buddy's boyfriend and I can't.

Lambda, which the educated among us know as Λ or λ (Λάμβδα) is one of those who has much ability as an artist, a natural, one who gets it and does it well. He uses cans of spray paint and paper and a lighter and scraps of cardboard to make scenes that make me cringe, high-school science fiction graphics of swirling stars and double moons above a desolate planet with stones that look like skulls, and so on. But, if one doesn't look closely, it is beautiful in a cheap kind of way. It's literally lifeless and cliched and boring and embarrassing, but it works at its own level very well because the artist is highly talented. He is also a clever salesman, auctioning off a piece by (and this is too clever to ignore,) passing out for two soles [about a dollar,] ten tickets to each buyer till he's made 20 soles for whatever painting he has on offer if he hasn't interested anyone during the course of his performance as creator. And he is a performer. That, more than the painting, is what he sells. That, more than the paintings, is what pisses me off about what he sells. I hate the hustle. I hate the cheap manipulation of the gullible. I would avoid this guy at all times were it not that he's my buddy's boyfriend now.

Λ hustles tourists by doing portraits on the sidewalk.
Getting one picture taken is nothing much interesting now, though when my great grandparents posed for the rare shots I have of them it was a moment, and a long one of stand still or else, importance for eternity, a portrait of the living that would never be again, a miracle of technology and a gift from Modernity to the poor who had at last a chance to attain to the glories of the rich: portraits of themselves as portraits done of kings and the haut bourgeois. I could weep for joy when I hold the tin plate pictures of my great grandparents standing rigid and dignified for that once in a lifetime pose in front of a camera that would capture their images forever, giving them something like eternity on earth that previously was unattainable to such poor as they. Now any idiot can post his image on the Internet and look as good as Brad Pitt-- or even me in an ugly hat. So, vanity being what it is, a photo has now lost its value, and a portrait done by a human hand, a man who actually has to look at one to see the real person to render a good likeness, good or not, is an occasion of wonder, and worth paying for. To make ones portrait, Λ puts on his glasses and looks deeply at the person sitting in front of him. It makes the sitter feel like a king, a crowd gathered to watch in wonder as the portrait develops by the hand of the artist, the crowd in awe, the sitter exalted.

I wouldn't want such a picture of myself, frankly, but for many it is as great an occasion as was standing for a photo over 100 years ago for my great grandparents. Λ has more talent than many artists I know and have known over the years, and those are many; but he's not someone I would want to do my face forever. Yes, I'm a snob, but I've earned that over decades of careful study. It's not the medium and it's not the class, it's the end product. Spray painters of this sort do shit work, even though it's light years ahead of most art school MFAs. It's a step up from tattoos, which says little. It's somewhat better than cartoons, though often not better or as good as comic book art. It's mindless, soulless, and cheap in all senses.

I was walking down the street a while back with a fellow, and he wanted to turn the corner. I said, "No, let's follow this lady for a while." He said "She's not worth looking at; she's not pretty." I said, "I don't care. She's attractive." Somehow that had never occurred to the guy. Never mind that I struck out with the lady. She was attractive, and I tried to meet her up, as it were. Attractive.

Λ is not someone I find an attractive person, he being a lowlife street hustler who cons people out of money by trickery and manipulation, though of a cheap but sort of honest way. He draws, he paints, he fakes his art. I'm sure that prisons in America are filled with men with as much or more talent than he has. But Λ isn't in prison and isn't likely to go. He's just a lowlife hustler. I'm a snob. We don't have much in common.

Well, we have in common my buddy Paula. And we have in common our friend Yvonne. So, we have a lot in common; and in common we have some important common concerns. Specifically, I find Yvonne very attractive, and I can hardly keep my hands off her when I see her. This is a problem because Yvonne lives in the jungle by herself, a Prussian girl who brings Bismarck to the wilds of the Amazon and tames it. What does she need me for? Nothing, as it turns out. Λ is as close to this girl as I am. We are both as close as the other guy who hung out with her when they and Paula spent a week at Yvonne's house in the jungle. Yvonne doesn't need anyone. But we have her aloofness that passes for friendship in common, Λ and I.  They three stayed with her for a week in the jungle while I stayed in town and sulked. Yvonne is a girl I find highly attractive. Seems that, in his own way, Λ found something about Yvonne attractive, too, and it makes me rethink my feelings toward him.

Λ is a man barely out of the jungle, a man living on the margins of Modernity in a jungle city that caters to tourists. He's figured it out in a cunning kind of way, and he uses his talent to survive at a marginal level in what most would consider genuine poverty. He does better than most people just out of the wilds and now bewildered by the new life they find they don't get and are lonely within, alienated, as lost as the tourist backpacker kids longing for friendship and the authenticity of the primitive that they are promised in Sociology classes. There is a tentative meeting of aliens here, and one must admire the attempt to like each other, even if some on both sides are scum, the disgusting hustler Caroline not coming close to the creepy child molester who flits around the park hustling little girls with promises of ice cream cones and ribbons and bows. Λ's meeting in the jungle with the Prussian loner Yvonne is some kind of turning point for him, if not for her. I think it's Yvonne, rather than the selva of his youth and heritage, that makes this journey so... something... for Λ and me. We are now closer by far, and it is the melding of the Modern with Λ's abilities to grasp at least some of both, whether it develops or not into anything greater.

Λ returned to the city from Yvonne's house in the jungle with a new vision of art for the masses on the sidewalk. There is the same cartoonish and teenage machismo of earlier work, but this time the theme is of the selva, the gratuitous anaconda thrown in to hook the unwary with excess for the money. What catches my eye is the detail in the middle ground tree trunks. There is a concern there for attraction at the expense of prettiness. Λ could have, and in most cases does, added more snakes. In this instance he opted for something like feeling, capturing Yvonne's jungle landscape with a feeling all of his own.

Λ studies the selva under the influence of the Prussian loner Yvonne.
Λ is an alien in this city as much as I. I have been on the road many decades now, but I too am from a forested wilderness still, and I am in many ways as attached to my past as Λ is to his wild-land past.

On a bridge between Modernity and home long lost.

It is natural that an expat Pied Noir would find solace of a sort in the Peruvian jungle with an expat. American and a solitary Prussian and a city dwelling Amazonian street painter. It's not so natural to see the Amazonian turning to European still life paintings from the 17th century to find solace in the strange land of his birth. Here we see what the ideologically indoctrinated idiots of Modernity would dismiss as cultural imperialism in art, a derivative piece by an
Amazonian they would prefer to have making pictographs on rocks in the jungle, no doubt. But Lambda gets it. He sees the unity of colour and creation in the mind and hand of the individual as he reifies the order of synthesis of our exilic time together. I come to like him. We meet half way; and in time we might become friends, he growing into his own expression of the land we left, our rugged homes, our poverty and ignorance of the world outside, of our loss.

The melding of Modern industrial capitalism, the selva, and the classical expression of man-made beauty as earth is turned to world by exile from all. 
That damned candle ruins this otherwise beautiful attempt, in my humble but educated opinion. The medium argues against quality. The whole effort is probably a grotesque failure in terms of lasting art for the ages.

But now I know a man who is not the man who used to be the lowlife street hustler he was a few months ago, though the change is slow and maybe will never be full enough to satisfy me. An exile among exiles has come to know something important about others and the world. It's tentative, and it might not last long. Maybe, though, if we come to know each other better and our world, we will come to know our own lives better and deeper to the point we can see clearly who we are aside from our assumptions of what we think others want us to be. Maybe we can someday be the exiles we are and we can be true exiles together.

To update a bit, I hear that Lambda had a fall from a second story and landed on his head, being in a coma for 15 days and then was pronounced dead. The doctor refused to sign off on that, even though the heart monitor was flat-lining, because Lambda's body was still 98.6 degrees. Now, the story goes, Lambda is blind in one eye and colour blind in the other, creating pictures by intuitive mathematical calculation.  I've read some books by Oliver Sachs, so I don't discount even the most outrageous bullshit about people anymore. Who knows what people can do. They often surprise me, sometimes frighten me. Mostly I'm simply amazed.

Because people are so strange and unpredictable, in spite of leftard determinist pseudo-thought, I got a copy of Lambda's Still Life with Candle to present to the German girl I like. I told her I would bring her flowers and chocolate, and she didn't barf, so I thought about what kind of flowers one gives a woman who lives alone in the Amazon jungle. I think a painting of flowers will do as well as anything that would wilt to death long before I got through with the four hour bus ride and hour long walk to her house to present them to her. If we were in a city and I were meeting her at a restaurant, then cut flowers it would be. For now, it's a painting. If I strike out here I'm blaming Lambda for being a hack, and I'll take consolation by eating the chocolate I intend to give her otherwise.

If I survive the anacondas and don't eat the chocolate, I'll be sure to let the world know.
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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Iquitos, Peru: Eat 'em Obama's mama's chocolate cookies

Now that I've seen Mrs. Obama up close and semipersonal I have a whole nother idea of what our president is all about. It took time for me to have a second look at him as a man married to a lovely lady who makes cookies and complains about fat people. But now that I see how pretty she is, how genuine is her compassion and shit, I feel that I owe it to Obama himself to see if I can find the man beneath the psycho persona he shows the public. Maybe-- and I'm just sayin'-- maybe he's a human being like the rest of us, like his lovely wife; and maybe I should vote for him even though he decided to get some sleep before flying off to Las Vegas to raise money for his reelection campaign, leaving American men to die at the hands of jihadis in Libya. Hey, he married a babe. If she were a dog, I'd give her a 'dog whistle' as she waddles past the construction site. But she's hot, so I give her a Dag whistle. "Hey, mama, I like your chocolate cookies!"

I mean, any man married to such a lovely lady as this can't be all psychopathic, can he? And even if he is the psychopath I think he is, how could any man resist eating his wife's chocolate cookies? Not me. I say, "Yummers."

That's about the worst I can do. I'm faking it. For some real hatred, see the Democrats on Palin. I should take lessons if I want to be a total scum bag, and Democrats are the ones I'd turn to first.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Iquitos, Peru; Roman Holiday: Snakes

Those ladies was nervous in the snake pit getting eaten.

From a distance, without knowing what was taking place inside the compound, all of it looks pretty tranquil. We, of course, know better. The chickens found out too, to their dismay.

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U.S. Election, 2012: Men Who Would Shoot Liberty Valance (Part Three)

Our nation would seriously suffer from leaders such as Oedipus or Macbeth, and we can be thankful that even in this period of low character in our political leaders we do not have to endure the tragic figures of men who are in their own ways great. The deep pettiness of our current leadership is almost a relief in comparison to what we might have in higher figures, even such heroic men such as those who would shoot Liberty Valance.

As our election approaches rapidly we can hope to lose the disturbing and vile character now sitting as our president, the repulsive sociopath, Barak Obama. Clearly there has not been in our history a president as amoral and weak as this man who is driven by the spirits of the age of Post Modernist idiocy posing as intellectual sophistication. Our intellectual elite, a failed herd of mindless conformists to the utopian day dreams of the German Revolution and the eternal longing for fascism, are at this time emoting in frenzies over his disintegration as a public intellectual at their head. The so-called Left intellectuals are imploding emotionally and personally in public due to their lack of individual character, their entire world-view of political nature being based on a dead construct from the 19th century that is still a major element of the common mind, i.e. that man is a farm animal that must be herded by the wise master to doom. The intellectual Left is imploding simply because they lack individual character, having given up all pretense of self and concern for a magical remedy to fill the vacuum of their inferior vision of life. In short, the intellectual Left have found themselves personally incapable of forming positive character and of achieving intellectual mastery of the polis they seek to rule as Philosopher Kings. Our intelligentsia is one mass of second rate minds who have substituted intellectual rigour for cheap and easy ideology to make up plastic world-views that have no success in the world. Because the intelligentsia of our time comprises fools who would rule the world according to pre-made ideas, and that those ideas have no success in the world, we find ourselves with the greatest fool among them as our leader at this time, Barak Obama, President of the United States of America. This particular fool, mindless and filled with second-rate ideology, filled with vanity and petty hatreds of his intellectual superiors, this cheap loser in a nice suit, is the best the Left can do. Proof of the general failure and pathetic foundation of the Left is that Obama, their leader, would not shoot Liberty Valance. As a man, Obama is a failure. As an individual, Obama is a failure. As a person, Obama is a failure. Obama is a failure. Our nation fails because we have elected a townsman coward who would not, and who does not, shoot Liberty Valance. Obama cannot shoot Liberty Valance. He doesn't have the character to do so. He cannot rise to tragedy. He diminishes our nation and our people. We suffer.

In the gunfight between Jimmy Stewart and Lee Marvin on the dusty street of a western town in the night, Jimmy Stewart knowingly faces death by murder at the hand of Liberty Valance. Stewart has lost all things of the world that are to him meaningful, his wife, for example, and must then proceed to lose his life in a duel he knows he cannot win. His commitment to the right and the good drive him, if because of pride, to accept death over disgrace in his own mind. Such acceptance of death is heroic to some great degree. It is tragic in that he has no compelling need to sacrifice his life for others, they being cowards and fools, and he could easily justify leaving them to suffer tyranny at the gunpoint of Liberty Valance eternally. The towns folk do not deserve the sacrifice of a heroic man. Nor will his sacrifice improve the lot of the unworthy. Life will be as terrible as before, perhaps worse in that Liberty Valance will prove himself stronger than the one man willing to stand against his evil. Jimmy Stewart's death will prove to the cowardly masses that resistance is futile. Thus, Jimmy Stewart is more destructive of the public good as a hero than he would be as a coward who runs away from death, leaving at least some hope in the public sphere that another man could win the battle against evil. On 9-11-2012 Obama proved to the world and history that he has not even the egotisical drive of Jimmy Stewart.

On 9-11-2012 Obama had full knowledge that our nation was under murderous assault by the forces of evil, in this case, the rage of primitive Islam in Libya. Obama, seeing in real time via satellite our ambassador and other Americans being murdered watched for an hour before going to bed, and the next day flying to Las Vegas to raise money for his reelection campaign. Obama ran away from Liberty Valance. But, to make this disgrace all the worse, he returned and blamed his own cowardice on a man who had nothing to do with the attack in the first place, going so far as to imprison the man without hope of release. Such an act of cowardice will stain our nation's history for eternity. Such cowardice is the best one can expect from mindless conformist ideologues and self-satisfied fools as those who currently rule our nation from above, now they being in a state of emotional collapse in the bitter realisation that their theatrical performances of heroism are nothing impressive to the world of man. These cowardly fools do not even have the nerve to sacrifice their social standing, let alone their lives, to confront evil. They run from the struggle and they come back to blame an innocent man for the catastrophe of their cowardice.

At best America will replace the cowards and buffoons and mindless intelligentsia of our time with a man not much better, a man who might, if need be, stand up to be shot by Liberty Valance. This is not what our nation needs.

One must accept that the matrix of any nation is comprised of cowards and conformists who will submit to evil at any price rather than even so much as secretly support an honest man willing to sacrifice himself for the common good. The common man is despicable, indeed, in comparison to the heroic man who would shoot Liberty Valance. The common man is despicable even in comparison to the man who would vainly sacrifice his life for the common good of pride. But the common man is all we have, ultimately, the reason a nation exists, the matrix being the purpose the patrix exists for, the patrix being a bonus, as it were, a need one can live without, though poorly and eventually in a state of slavery and death. The town needs a man who will shoot Liberty Valance in the back in the dark. The townspeople will live without such a hero. But not well, and not for long.

As a murderous attack by the enemies of Modernity, i.e. our civilization, took place in Benghazi, Libya, against our embassy and our ambassador and his staff and as our president watched on satellite television, he got bored or discouraged or perhaps just plain sleepy, and he went to bed. Upon arising, he flew across the nation to raise money to finance his campaign to return to the job for another four years. What kind of man is this? This is not a man who would face the inevitable fate of an ordinary man facing a professional killer. Our president of this time is less than a coward. That he allowed our own ambassador to be raped and murdered as he watched, and then our president got tired of it and went to bed, this speaks of a nation that has collapsed and is sick to death from lack of character. That our people would even consider not imprisoning such a reckless and devious creature says more about our failure as a people than any of us should ever have to know about others, including our worst enemies with whom, ideally we should have some relationship of mutual respect for their courage if not their aims and goals. But our own people have brought to the pinnacle of power among us a vile little creature deserving of historical contempt eternally. There is a chance such a failing of the people will repeat itself in a matter of weeks. And even if such a travesty of life doesn't come about, i.e. if the heinous Obama is thrown from office if not from a high window, there will still be too many among us who would have him reign. The shame is ours that those among us would promote such an evil figure. But, we cannot rightly expel the cowardly from our nation, given that the cowardly have as legitimate a place as any good man among us. That all of us can be killed while the leader we chose chooses to sleep through it and that half the nation's people think this man is a sort of god is the pathetic nature of things that we must accept. There will always be cowards and fools among us, and they will likely always be the vast majority among us. That the lowest scum of our nation has a right to vote for their favourite scum leader and to foist such scum upon the rest of us is testament to our greatness as democrats and free men of worth. But we need not die passively while our president gets bored by it and sleeps it off. There are courageous men among us. Such men will never again be our presidents. But such men are among us, men we need, men who would shoot Liberty Valance.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Iquitos, Peru: Inca Cola Power to the People-babes!

I was at my office typing one afternoon in Iquitos, Peru when the cashier closed all the shutters and peaked out the crack in the door to see if the marchers were going to smash things. All the places around the area had been shuttered from early on, and I only got into my office because I go there every day to have a diet soda while I sit and type or sometimes just gaze into space wondering how to put into words my next masterpiece of prose about life and stuff. Others were shut out, including the protesters who might very much have enjoyed looting the ice cream palace I work inside of. And when I saw the girl peaking out the door I asked if she was expecting violence. She nervously said yes, which is why she and all the other folks in the area had locked up and turned out the lights. I took this as a sign from the gods that I should go out and take photos.

I had a handbill from the day before announcing the manifestation, but I forgot about it till I saw it happening. I had to chase after the crowd, all well-behaved folks from what I could see. I haven't got an stake in anything they do, so I simply took the best shots I could with my cheapy camera, hoping for some high drama. 

Clearly the demonstration is all about Inca Cola, which I can't really support, the general consensus, which I agree with, being that it tastes like bubble gum and too much sugar. But others like it enough to wave banners and tie up traffic in support. 

A demonstration here, usually, is a peaceful thing, fun for the whole family. Not always, as the history of the Sendero Luminoso will tell the careful reader or one with some memory of the time. This nation can be truly off the map when it comes to psycho violence. Today, Inca Cola for the masses. 

Or something. Maybe just laying back and enjoying a bit of festivity with ones mates. Serious yes, but social.Fun for the whole family.

Or something. The man with the best-looking flag kept getting it caught up in the breeze. I will keep guessing it's all about Inca Cola. 

As hyper-political as I can be about my own home, here in Iquitos and most other places in the world I really don't care so long as the soda keeps flowing. Thus, I notice the important things in life, like life.

The life of the living is so distracting from politics that I have to call this post to a close. It's time for a diet soda and some chat with the locals. Dos Inca Colas, por favor, girls!

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