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Mexico and SA in 65
Part III - Part V
9-05-11 - Real Cream in Rio -
Pat and I got off the bus in Sao Paulo (the song said a van but that was just for the rhyme) and walked swiftly away from the station. We were sure that Interpol was hot on our tail, Interpol or the army, or police. We didn't have much money so we naturally found our way to the lowest level, a neighborhood with women standing next to buildings and calling out, "Fucky, fucky?" as we passed by. "No thank you," we'd respond. We got a room in a cheap hotel. Breakfast was included. I can't remember anything about Sao Paolo except that it was huge and that we ate breakfast with a table of women much like the ones who'd called out "Fucky, fucky." Except now we were not prospective Johns but neighbors so we got to experience each other in a less commercial way more wholesome way.
It was not my first experience of hanging out with Latin prostitutes. In Mexico City, I'd frequently find myself late at night in a warehouse full of friendly young women who wanted to take me into little partitioned rooms behind curtains. There was booze and live music. The mariachis would share a guitar with me and I'd sing anything that came to mind - Elvis, fifties rhythm and blues, my version of Cuando Caliente El Sol, stuff I'd make up on the spot. Women would sit by me and put their hands on my thighs and bring me drinks. I would serenade them but not consummate the relationships. It was about the time I turned twenty and I had only had one experience of sexual intercourse with a woman, a woman more than ten years older, someone I knew, on the way to Mexico that January. I had enjoyed that very much indeed but didn't aggressively pursue such intimacy.
Back then I was with my friend Jeff whom I first went to Mexico with, who had been there before and knew some Spanish, my first mentor to all things Mexican. Jeff and I had been living for a month in San Miguel de Allende before going to the Distrito Federal (Federal District, Mexico City). He's the one who introduced me to the whore houses and seedy side of the city. I remember sitting with him and some Mexican guys in an alley smoking pot at night and Jeff pointing out that the name of the street off the alley was "Street of the Cutthroat." It did seem like that type of place. Anyway, Jeff had paid to have sex with a young woman and had immediately fallen in love with her. We returned the next night - not to the same place - the venues were always changing because prostitution was illegal in the city limits - not illegal in a lot of other places outside the city. Just have to ask around, taxi drivers were best. It didn't make sense to me that they'd move the locale around to escape detection because there were always police in there. And on the night that we returned so that Jeff could find his new love, two police threatened to arrest us if we didn't give them money, more than we could afford. Up to that point Jeff had done all the talking but he couldn't talk then because he was prone to tragic Beat existential psychosis to begin with and was distraught to the extent of delirium that the woman of his dreams was behind a curtain having filthy sex with another filthy stranger rather than the pure and beautiful love making he'd experienced with her. I'd been studying Spanish constantly and suddenly for the first time it flowed out of me under duress. I asked what we were doing that demanded a fine. They said it was illegal for us to be in this house of disrepute. I countered that it was illegal for anyone to be here and they (actually one of them) retorted yes, but it was more illegal for us since we were minors. I was indignant. I told the officers of the law that it was not right for them to hassle us, that we weren't like the rich capitalist gringos living up in Lomas and lording it over the common people, exploiting them and so forth, no, we were there with the common people not only in the night but in the day. We were one with them, unified, their problems our problems, their dreams our dreams. The policemen laughed, said they were just kidding, and walked off.
After Sao Paolo, Pat and I hitchhiked further south still wondering if we were the objects of a manhunt, menhunt. One test of that theory came when we slept at a police station. That was something I'd learned to do when hitching in the States. After we were already there Pat asked aren't we trying to avoid police and I said, oh yeah, I forgot. But they didn't seem to suspect us of anything. I don't remember where this was but I know I was wrong when I said I'd finished off the Panama Red back in Rio, because we still had some of it in my backpack. I used that backpack as a pillow while we slept in a room with a dozen policemen - all of us on thin mats on the floor quite close together not far from cells where people with contraband or fleeing prosecution for contraband could be held.
There were truck stops along the way south` where a trucker we'd hitched with bought us huge, sprawling meals. There's be steaks and potatoes, bread, lots of side vegetable dishes and other types of meat, fruit, coffee and desserts. Pat and I split these meals and could hardly finish them. The trucker went upstairs with a woman after dinner. We stayed in the truck and the next morning we took turns taking cold outdoor showers. It was July, mid-winter, at some altitude like two thousand feet, maybe thirty-five degrees. A man on the side of the road was roasting pine nuts under tall pine trees, a bag for a dime or so. Cheap, roasted pine nuts - ahhh. The trucker left us at an obscure intersection and went off into the distance on a side road. What great luck we'd had. We stood at that spot for forty-eight hours, a vehicle going by every hour or two.
We spent a week in a small town named Pelotas (balls). There we stayed with a couple of families and made friends with high school kids, played baseball with them, read with them at night. There were two Mormons stationed there, young guys who were converting teenagers and teaching them how to call black people niggers. The missionaries asked Pat and me to pay them a visit. They spent the time trying to convert us. We told them that what they were selling was a bunch of baloney and got mad at them for the negative way they were influencing the youth in the town. Later the kids asked us please not to criticize the missionaries or cause trouble because they were the ticket out - to America, to college. Time to go.
Uruguay was experiencing extreme deflation. We got a room in a nice hotel in Montevideo for something ridiculous. Pat bought a leather jacket for a dollar. We bought sixty-five bottles of Dexedrine for eight cents each. We ate steak every meal. That was his trip. I grew up in steak country and never was into eating lots of steak but joined in on it at that time. We'd get steak and eggs for breakfast, steak and salad for lunch, steak and potatoes for dinner. Everything was so cheap we didn't notice that we were running low on money until it was all gone - after four days. We told the hotel we'd wired for money and would pay when it came. It took a week. We walked around waiting for it, went to the bank asking about it, went to the Embassy for help but they were into helping businessmen, pleaded with the hotel management not to kick us out, walked around more. We had to walk around because we had to meet people who would feed us. We'd run into some US tourists and be friendly, inquire about their trip and where were they from, not act desperate and begging but would let slip what our situation was and would say we hadn't eaten in five days even though we didn't miss many meals, maybe some breakfasts. Not always US tourists. Sometimes Europeans - and Pat spoke some French which was helpful a few times. Sometimes locals. If we got too hungry we'd take some of the Dexedrine, commonly used as diet pills worldwide. All day we'd walk around, talk our way into museums for free, sit in parks. My favorite memory of Montevideo is that of sitting on a park bench when a man wearing a monocle, German Sheppard on leash, walked up. We talked for a while. He said he'd been there since 1945. Although he had a heavy German accent he said he was Portuguese. Got a free cab ride from a German who'd been there since 1946. He'd been in a US POW camp and had been treated well, tried to stay, but they wouldn't let him so he went to Uruguay. At night Pat would read to me from Lawrence Durrell's sad and dreamy Alexandria Quartet.
On the same day the money finally arrived the hotel staff had confiscated our backpacks and toothbrushes and so forth which saved us the trouble of packing and carrying stuff down from the second floor. With our newly arrived wealth, I fetched the Leica Camera, collateral that had been my father's, from a kindly bus driver who'd driven us there from Pelotas when we didn't want to hitch but also didn't want to pay for the bus till later. That was flexible of him. That was almost the only use that expensive camera was put to other than be a source of worry. Never traveled with a camera again.
We were off to Buenos Aires, flying a few feet above the water across the estuary Rio de La Plata (river of silver) on a hovercraft. We arrived in Argentina with enough money left for a few meals.
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