“Holy fuck! Oliver. What the fuck!?! How’s it goin’?”
He nods, slowly, “now what, would you be doin’ ’round here?”
“I was hoping to find nice fertile cow shit.”
“No cow shit.”
“Day-amn!” I try to say as he does, stretching it out. I laugh. He’s here looking for the same thing that grows in cow shit, the mornings after it rains. I’m looking him in the eyes. We’re communicating, ‘yes, the ‘shrooms, dude, the ‘shrooms’.
He’s surprised me in the northwest corner of the CATIE agricultural land, off the west side of the highway that issues east north east from the south east corner of Montalba.
…for the Pacuare. There are cows there. “There are.” I nod, hinting at question of the precise method.
I straighten up and take the joint out. I add some fire and smoke appears.
“So whatchu been up to? I haven’t seen you for a few days.”
“I was up by the Nicoya. Yesterday, I came back and got caught in the bloqueo, outside of Cartago.”
“Well?” He takes a long drag.
“It was innerestin’, but I was glad to get home to the casa,” when I finally did.
He takes another long drag, and hands it to me. I smoke, looking around. There is a smattering of trees; it’s just mostly grass around here. “What do yuh think they’re plantin’, here?” I say it to myself, as much as to him. I take another quick haul, and hand it over; half gone, now.
“This must be fallow.” He smokes.
I can see the highway. It’s about a two minutes walk away. “I think I can walk now.”
We start walking. “Do yuh think he has any beer there?”
He hands me the joint. “I dun-no.” He says it stressing the ‘…no’, rolling his eyes. “There’s a bar at the corner of the street, at the highway.”
Oliver bangs on the open, ground floor door, as he pushes it open, “hello, yawl.”
Almost everybody calls him Goldie. He sits, leaning back on two legs of the chair, smiling. I remember the smile on his face as he pulled the raft over, to right side up, on the river.
“You’re fuckin’ cool, Goldie.”
Orin sits in an armchair, smoking the very fat joint that Goldie has handed him, so that he could shake my hand.
“Orin, you bastard. Did you really get that sweet gig, photographer!?!”
He nods, and grins a guilty happy smile. “Oliver, Dean, how are you?” He’s got an accent that very clearly cut words out, especially the harder consonants, “river photographer.”
“Cool dude”, I say to him while nodding to indicate ‘I’m doing fine’.
Goldie sits on a car bucket seat, now strongly drawing smoke from the double-length fatty. He offers it, “how yuh doin’?”
I take it and sit. “Bueno. Sympatico.”
I drag some smoke into my lungs, cough out uncontrollably, and hand it off to Oliver, still coughing. When I can, I ask, “bit uh tobacco in there, is it?”
“Yea-up. Roll up another, any way you want, if you want.” He nods to the full bag on the coffee table, between us. Oliver chuffs back a long haul, holding it, and repeating. The three of us look at him, after a few moments, I say, “Bogart Ironlung.”
Orin holds out his hand and Oliver takes another long drag and holds it aloft as he holds his breath. Orin takes it. I break up enough for a joint. Goldie says, “make a big one. Why mess around with a little ones.” He takes the joint from Orin.
“Dean got stuck in the bloqueo, yesterday.”
“What was it like?” The clip pronunciation accentuates the earnestliness.
Goldie laughs. Orin looks at him, then back to me.
“I dunno, maybe it was interesting?” I’m asking myself? “I was too tired to really care too much about it. I just wanted to get to my little patch, to chill, and sleep, eventually.”
“Yer fucked”, I say to him.
“Thanks for the hospitality, dude. Boys.”
I want to sleep. It must be four or probably five, maybe later. I get up, and wave, walking out the door. I stomp off, slightly heavy-footed.
About twenty feet away, at an angle that won’t likely be seen from Goldie’s place, I stop. I walk back, as light as a steady pace can be, at stealthy angle. I creep smoothly, and quietly, up the stairs.
* * *
I wake up. I’m feeling good. I make coffee. I have just enough for my second bucket. I’ll go and get some in San José, and look around.
I pick up the camera, and turn it on. I’ll take a couple shots, starting in the ‘backyard’, then shoot a role of my wanderings.
But, it won’t shoot. It’s broken. I got the battery tested; it was okay. I guess I got to get it fixed. I’ll take it and drop it off first.
Alura told me of a place. She wrote it down, but I lost the note. I’ll have to wing it; if I go over to the hotel, I’ll never get going.
I walk to the bus terminal, downtown Montalba. It’s not leaving for twenty minutes; so I walk down the street, and get a western sandwich. I munch it down, on the way back to the bus terminal. The bus is there; I’m on.
I’m prepared to go with the flow, and make due, wherever I find myself. Should another bloqueo happen, I’ll be ready to chill and get with it.
We pull into the corrugated roof of the Cartago-Montalba terminal building, Calle 13 and Avenida 6, after an uneventfully hour-and-a-half.
I walk the streets, zigzagging diagonally north and west, down Avenida Central to Calle 3.
It might be Calle 5; I go back a street. I walk up, past a big 1960-design hotel, to Avenida 3, and west along it. I go into a shop, and ask if they can fix it. The guy takes a cursory look at it, tries to turn it on, and says, <<no, I can’t fix it.>>
I continue towards the bus terminal. A man moves into my path. <<¿Excuse me señor, if I may trouble you for a moment? It just so happens that I find myself in difficult times. I ask that you spare what you can, in the name of Christ the saviour.>>
He looks to be in his thirties, well tanned, dressed in worn, soiled, but functional clothes. His shoes are recycled sneakers, with the uppers cut out, so that most of the foot is exposed, like sandals.
<<I don’t have any money.>> It’s not quite true, I’ve got just enough to get on the bus. I’m thinking I’ll get some dough at the bank in Montalba. I look directly into his eyes, “no tengo.” He nods resolutely, and holds out his hand, which I shake sincerely, “envío positivo.” As I say it, I try to send energy through my hand and in to him; I wish him well.
He smiles, and it looks, to me, that maybe he picked up a bit.
“Gracias, señor. Vay con Dios. Gracias.”
“Soy bien. Pura vida.”
I am impressed at how he’s adapted stuff to wear, so that his clothes function better than the upper-middle class, buying and wearing what they’ve been told to, regardless of how well it works. That kind of adaptability will come in handy.
People who adapt are cool.
I want to get back to Montalba, drink red wine and play guitar. Maybe Alesandro’s around?
I buy a ticket at the kiosk in the bus terminal. The bus rolls in. I sit across the street, in the sun, watching the passengers get off. It’s a hot day. The bus is one of the fancier ones; it looks like it has air-conditioning.
People start boarding. I get up and trudge over, and get on the bus. Blackness, for a moment, and I take a seat. The coffee falls out of the knapsack. I put it back in and take the book out, ‘Western Europe in the Middle Ages, 300-1475’. I open it randomly, towards the back, at ‘The war of the Roses in England’.
“It’s just like them to sit in the aisle seat, and the bags on the window seat.”
It’s a woman’s British accent; it sounds like she’s addressing someone. I look up. A middle-aged woman is looking at me. She nods at a middle-aged woman, seated on the other side of the aisle.
I nod awkwardly, and return to my book.
“I could tell you stories about it.”
I look up at the woman, again. She’s looking approvingly at my book.
“Are you a student of history?”
“Yeah, I guess; I like the stories. Though I don’t know how it is that I brought this book with me.”
“Maybe you know this one”, I say to her. “Page 600, line, one, two, four…”. I count down the line. “Line twenty. Here’s what it says, ‘In mid-fifteenth century England, there existed a powerful class of gentry and substantial groups of merchants and yeomen who were eager to see a permanent state of law and order established so that they could enjoy their peaceful and profitable pursuits without undue molestation. Above them stood a class of hereditary nobles who thoroughly enjoyed fighting and who stood to gain enormous wealth and power if they belonged to a faction that could seize control of the royal government.'”
“It’s so lovely to speak with someone about British history. I do know that one, quite well I assure you. It was a messy bit there until Henry Tudor came to the throne. He was a bastard, in more ways than one. Then Henry VIII came; he was a misogynist pig, though admirable at the same time. That was the beginning of the British Empire.”
“Is that a good thing?”
“Why certainly it is. All these things that we have in society today, all of the wealth, everything, he started.”
“I’m in a crisis of confidence about the goodness of it all. I came down here to get away from it.”
I look at her with nothing to say.
It’s sunny, now, as we got off the bus at the Montalba bus terminal. Valerie says goodbye and walks off, calmly, toward the bus stop for a local bus to Santa Rosa. I look after her. Is it fact or… something else?
I walk to the casa. I strip and take the guitar to the porch. I get a half a bottle of wine in the kitchen, and a glass. The floor is cool. The wine tastes good. I play my interpretation of the main rift in ‘Mouth full of cavities’, over and over.
I lie down on the chesterfield.
Fiction? Does it really matter? It was a good story.
* * *
I’m driving along a small highway. The sky is blue. It’s sunny; everything is very bright. I look over to the passenger seat, and see a boy, maybe eight or nine years of age. I look over his mixed features with a familiarity that fascinates me; the boy is from mixed heritage, but I can’t tell what. His skin is white. His hair is wiry, just off black. He is smiling. I don’t know how I know that he is my son, but there is no doubt. This is a revelation to me, but I’m calm and relaxed. The breeze blowing through the open car windows cools. We come up to sand, and a house.
“Let’s take a look at it.”
We get out of the car and walk around, to the far side of the house. It’s a beach. I don’t know where I am, but it doesn’t bother me. The kid jumps down the three-foot drop to the bottom of a retaining wall. Twenty feet further out, there’s another drop of four feet to the surf. The water advances as foam to our shoeless feet.
He looks at me, smiling.
“Let’s take a look at the place.”
I reach down; he reaches up and grabs my hand with both of his. I pull him, up. He’s heavier than he looks. “Thanks, dad.”
He’s so happy; it’s like I’ve never seen such happiness, but I know that I am part of it.
We walk into the white wood house. The trim is in dark green. Inside is rough hewn, like a cottage; but this is not cottage country. This is a house. We walk around the huge room in the middle of the house. This huge space is like a covered courtyard. A balcony, with wooden railings, goes all the way around on the second story of the house. Lighting comes in from translucent skylights. There are rooms on opposite sides of the space, on the second story.
It looks like two different buildings were put together around this space.
“Hey dad!” The kid is walking around the balcony on the second floor. “This place is great.”
Another child comes up behind him and they run and play tag. This second child is much less familiar to me, though I recognize him, from somewhere. He is smaller in every dimension compared to my son. His dark blond waves bounce on his cream-coloured skin. He has vaguely Mediterranean features.
A beautiful, fit-looking woman, with short hair comes in, “so what do yuh think, Dean?”
“Hi.” This must be your place. I see a man outside. He has dark hair, and olive-coloured skin. “It looks like I’m finally going to meet your… husband, partner?”
She laughs, “yeah, that guy.” She moves into me and gives me a hug. It startles me. She lingers in the embrace. I feel my involuntary stirrings against her centre. She looks at me and smiles.
We come apart, “well, Mr. Cassady, it’ nice to see you again, too.”
I’m waiting for the guy to come in. He comes in, nonchalantly. He looks up at me.
He’s about my height, thin and wiry, a plain-looking guy.
I hold out my hand.
“Dean. We finally meet.”
I hold his gaze as he looks into my eyes. What do you know about me, dude? Could it possibly be less than I know about you?
“So, are yuh gonna buy it?”
“I like it. I like the workshop. What do you make…”
* * *
Daylight blinds me. I’m on the couch, on the porch. What a dream!?! That was Jan. I wonder why she’s in my dream?
It’s bright; it hurts my eyes. I walk inside and make espresso and toast. …
“You’re gonna like this, Dean.” He’s got hand-wraps on.
“Milo and Gregor, are going to give us a lesson.”
I groan to myself, “ah fuck”, I don’t know if I feel like this, right now. Oh well.
He laughs, “it’s addictive.”
Here they come, up the long steps of the lane. I nod towards them.
They’d come around my place, after hearing that I had space. I’m glad I turned them down. Later, Javier told me they were both national kick-boxing champions in Croatia; Gregor held the European championship. Both had elaborate extensive tattooing on the arms to the shoulders, and covering their legs, as well.
Javier grabs his pack from inside the door, and shuts it. “Salud.” He walks over and gives each a handshake. I shake hands, in kind.
We cross east across a long footbridge over a tributary of the river running through town; it must be a hundred feet, or more; the rivers roars, white. We walk down a street. I look around at the unfamiliar scenery. Milo leads into an unmarked building, on a residential street. Inside the door, there is a room, the entire width of the building, with two story high ceiling.
There are some bars and weights, and three heavy bags. One guy works heavy, on the heavy bag, as another guy holds. They acknowledge Milo, Greg and Javier. I nod at them, as we walk by. At the opposite end, a curtain, dark maroon in colour, crosses the entire width of the room, to the eighteen-foot high ceiling. Though the place smells of exertion, but the air is fresh enough, and I don’t mind the smell of the honest work.
* * *
I smoke from the elaborate brass water pipe on the low table in the main room.
He brings out the food. “This is gonna be good, lentils and brown rice, mixed greens, and some corn bread. I got some chunks of tofu steak. Now, bloqueo.”
“Bloqueo.” I pause, how do I begin? “There were the things that happened around me, and the things that happened inside of me, questions framing the contradictions. Is it ever different at the different speeds; walking along the way, is a different planet from driving along the way.”
“¡Eso!” ‘That’s it’, he nods!
“I started walking along the way that the bus goes from the Montalba bus depot. I picked up a locale to Zapote, then walked through Curriabad, onto the highway, then I caught another local bus, to Tres Ríos, then jumped on the back of the second truck in a two-truck convoy, run by this guy called, ‘The German’, ‘El Alemán.”
“Yeah. Ça y est. They called him ‘El Alemán’.”
“Then, I met the motorcycle honey, Ivelisse, from Cartago, working in San José, travelling back to university courses, in Cartago. We tried up the back roads. She let me drive. I dumped it going up the disintegrating roads.”
“Yeah, yeah, I dumped it, twice. We glided back down and right up to the front. That would have been totally fine by me, except… well… you never know; I thought I’d hang out with her, as long as easy, and see if anything might happen, yeah. I parked the bike, where she wanted, right at the front. By then, I reckoned I could walk across, and then see if I could get a lift the rest of the way into Cartago, or keep walking’. All I could think about was getting to the cool floor and tranquility of the casa, craving it.”
“You were on the Nicoya?”
“Yeah, that morning… Oh what a fuck…uh, it’s another story. Let’s do that one, another time. So Ivelisse, that gurgle at the bloqueo, it didn’t seem, likely anyhow, that she was going to take me back to her place and fuck me on the cold stone floor. But we walked into the… the… like a big party, really; we ran into a group of people she knew. They were uptight. The politico-intellectual square-thing wasn’t working for me. I was hungry and tired, but surprisingly mellow, maybe just too tired to get cranked up, but I knew I didn’t want to be around that. So I sort of, like, wandered off when no one was looking; after a few minutes, taking some shots, I happened upon this one party. One guy, Jorge, surrounded by tasty ticas! He was cool; he invited in, introduced me to the two closest women; really brought me right into the party.” I snicker thinking of him pirouetting. “This guy was such a fucking clown, but good, and interesting. He explained it; the whole thing was an excuse to have a party at the expense of the squares. He was totally in. It was cool. I hung with him for a while, and mellowed down enough to just let it happen. I reckoned I’d find a place to stay, if I didn’t make it home. But then the thing broke up. I got a lift right away, into Cartago, by one of the politicos. He called me as I was walking down to the road on the far side.”
“People control the corporations. Is the question ‘who’s worse or better between the people running ICE and the people running the other company?'”
“I don’t know if it’s totally true that people control the corporations.”
“But the people make the corporation.”
“Show me a bee. You know, what is a bee? What defines the species of bee? Can you show it to me.”
He looks at me quizzically.
“The scientific definition for a life form, it can maintain its own environment, it responds to stimuli, it can reproduce. Corporations meet all of those tests. And, I think that corporations are self-aware.”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, the bee thing, if you say, look at that bee, buzzing around the flower, is that the bee? Is that the definition of ‘bee’?”
“But it can’t reproduce itself. It’ll die without the support of the other specialized activities conducted in the hive. It couldn’t exist outside of that larger composite, like the cells in our bodies. The queen couldn’t live outside the composite. She couldn’t reproduce without the help of all of the worker bees; she’d die too. The species is the hive, and all the component types of bee that work within that community. Corporations exist to acquire power. The first line in the value system of the corporation says, make profit. It says, for the shareholders, but I think the shareholders have been subsumed. Their power to affect he corporation is now less than the corporation’s power to affect them.”
“There’s no doubt about it. But we’ve been indoctrinated by the system to ‘not’ see it for what it is. Its self-awareness is so different from ours that we fail to recognize it. Humans become like bees in a hive, like cells in your body, controlled by the greater entity. I’ve studied it, from the inside. My job is figuring out how things work, how they actually work, then figuring out way to do it better. Better can be defined in a lot of ways, but it is almost always means less cost, and… and.. lower error rates, and, uh, happier customers, shit like that. There’s never, like… ‘better human dignity’, or, uh… ‘happier’; it’s not something the corporate awareness has to understand. They see it only as labour does the work, lowest cost. People are used like pawns, made needy, treated … fucking, shittier, and shittier. It’s getting more and more dehumanizing, that’s because the one calling the shots, ‘is not human’.”
The food is gone. “You are the maestro. That food was great!”
“Befitting the company.”
“Hombre…” I don’t know what to say in the face of such graciousness. “…¡qué buen hombre! Dude, you’re a true man, and a ‘real’ person. And red wine! Fuck! Where did that come from?”
We both hold glasses aloft, “Hope dude. You inspire by graciousness and sincerity.” I knock his glass with mine, looking him in the eyes. “¿Claro?”
He stares, unblinking, seemingly absorbing the depth of my sincerity, for I am, oh so sincere; I can hardly believe the niceness of Javier, and how decent it is to have somebody prepare and share food, having put the quality into it.”
“Bueno, if it wasn’t for the ranting…” He breaks into a sincere chuckle and hugs me to show me the lightness of it.
“Tu, hombre.” I pat him on the back. “I loved the work out, dude.”
“How’s the jaw?”
“Yeah, yeah.” I poke him in the ribs. “I gotta get all the whacks to the head I can to smarten me up.” I grunt a somewhat cynical chuckle. “I come out of my mother, getting it…” Then realizing who I’m talking to ,” uh, but you’re one of the few… Eh? Were you scrapping from the womb, too?”
He comes around with the right, stopping on my chin.”
“Yeah.” I grin broadly, “before I could form memories.”
He nods and laughs, “you are fucked!”
“I’ve heard that one.”
“Didn’t you mention you wanted to hear more ranting?” I chuckle, but I want to finish the thought, “corporations moderate what people see and believe through marketing, dude, but it’s more than that. The way people see things is being modified, starting in early childhood. People are being trained to see everything in terms of dollars as the fundamental unit. Everything is measured by that, including the self. People are being trained to value themselves in terms of dollars. How handy is that, if you want everyone to spend money? Spending money facilitates the power concentration.”
“But money isn’t power.”
“True. I know it’s not power. You know it’s not power. But if you view the world the way that is continuously bombarded on to the awareness of the citizens, if you live according to those rules, then it is the same thing. People voluntarily give up their power, for this abstract thing, that the system continually insists is so important, this paper and ink. It only works as long as a minimum majority of the citizens accept the view. More than the minimum majority believes.”
“People are so uptight about losing their stuff, as if their lives were threatened.”
“Ja. Even though the ‘stuff’ is totally for show, little or no intrinsic value. I think the entire system is now, systemically, actively changing the way things are perceived, to make it more like the way the corporate awareness perceives things. So they can download stuff better, to the humans.”
“A few things, the one I’ve been thinking about most lately, is the shifting of the focus of awareness to the future.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“I’ve been living it, and it’s a never ending treadmill; you’re never now, always going somewhere; never a break; always dismayed when things don’t go according to plan. It fucking sucks. Corporations know the past very well, and they have awesome capability for being aware of the future. But they are very weak in their awareness at the now. Humans can only be aware in the now. Corporations are obsessed with the future, because knowing what will happen in the future increases their capacity to harvest power.”
“Yeah, exactly, ‘harvest’. They eschew randomness, because it increases the risk of encountering something that they have not included in their forecasts of the future; something that may interfere with their maximum power harvesting. Eh?” It’s not really a question, as much as a punctuation. “So they teach people to plan everything in advance, and minimize random chance. People are trained to not pay attention to anything other than what we’re told. This not only minimizes risk for the corporations, at a macro level, but also the individual risk, at the personal level. Eh, can you see it? Less deviation from the prescribed path, equates to greater profit for corporations, and boring, predictable lives, for people. Boring and uptight is good for business. But for human, the lack of the resistance caused by random… challenges, means… the personhood is never exercised; it never grows; it atrophies. Is that the right word?”
“Yeah, it shrinks.”
I break into a laugh, “in more ways than one. Fear is good for business. It keeps people on the straight and narrow. It’s a new paradigm, the prison has been decentralized to each person. Like a compute program, prison-soft. People are trained to not get together.”
“But people are mixing, all the clubs and discos, and all sorts of shit.”
“Yeah, but they’re mostly really contrived situations, built around temporarily reducing inhibitions, drink more, and making money for someone or something, drink more.”
“I’ve met nice women at bars, and had nice relationships; there’s nothing wrong with that.”
“Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with that. But, fear is being inserted, so that people are herded to specific venues. Media coverage of crime and violent crime is disproportionately high, compared with how much it is likely to affect the quality of life of the viewer. But it gets the focus to keep the attention of the viewer, so the corporations will pay higher amounts for the advertising time. That’s the corporate logic for why articles that promote fear are disproportionately over represented in the news media, a profit-centric decision.”
“So, a future focus, fear, what else is being done to the way people perceive the world?”
“Well, a lot of stuff falls out of this. With fear and a future focus, people avoid novel situations. Novel situations call for people to adapt, therefore, learn and grow. Without this kind of thing, people don’t grow, right. If you never develop the skills to adapt and grow, then you’ll probably have a hard time figuring out what you believe in, eh? And if you can’t figure out what to believe in for yourself then you’ll have to believe what you are told.”
I can see him understanding it.
“What do you do when you are adolescent?”
“Sex and drugs and rock and roll?”
“Right! That’s what you’re supposed to do, try stuff. Making mistakes, and by doing it, learning what really works in the world, versus, regardless of what you’ve been told, what doesn’t work, is what it’s all about. Otherwise, without the risk, and facing consequences, you’re stuck as an adolescent, forever, trying stuff on; that’s handy for power-harvesting, by way of the consumerist society.”
He gets it. I got to get off this tangent. “I need espresso. Let’s go to my place and gets some.”
“I’m gonna pass, man. I have a guitar lesson with Manuel.”
“No, I’m done ranting. Is this the guy, I mean, could it be the guy, Andy mentioned to me?”
“Yeah, mismo. I told Andy. He took a few lessons.”
“When yuh goin’?”
“What time is it now?”
He looks over to a small clock on the mantle-piece, “I’m not sure.” He gets up and takes a pace towards the mantle, “it’s quarter to.”
“Okay. Thanks for everything.” I get up, and gather up my stuff. We shake hands and hug.
“Con mucho, gusto, hombre.”
“Con mucho gusto. Pura vida.”
“Pura vida, Dean.”
. quote from “Western Europe in the Middle Ages, 300-1475”; 4th edition by Brian Tierney and Sidney Painter copyright 1983 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. ISBN 0-394-33060-9; page 600 line 23
. Mouth Full of Cavities by Blind Melon © Blind Melon Capital Records 1995