Tuesday, August 15, 2006

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming...

I know, I know. What happened to you in the jungle, Millicent? I'll tell, I'll tell. But first, I want to discuss something truly grinding. That and give a shout out to Tom Harper over at Who Hijacked Our Country for posting today's parable that everyone should read. It relates to my next story. In an obscure kind of way.

On Saturday, Manpants and I were invited to an impromptu dinner party at a friend's. We offered to bring dessert and went to our favorite little cake place for a scrummy little light lunch, followed with our request to Uncle R. behind the counter for the dessert of the evening - a black-out cake with a layer of espresso that could put a person into a coma.

While we were there, a man comes in - very Beverly Hills Adjacent looks, harried, holding a cell phone. He proceeds to interrogate the owner about every single cake. The owner goes into the cooling room and brings out cake after cake after cake, explaining the fillings, the confection toppings, etc. . . After each cake, the man either says, "Oh that won't do," or he gets on his cell phone, says a few words and then says to the owner, "That won't do. What else have you got?"

Enter a Beverly Hills Adjacent harried looking pregnant woman with a 6 year old girl in tow. She approaches the harried looking man.

I'm thinking to myself, "Of course! She's pregnant! It's a Pickle Cake problem!" I'm guessing she is looking for something very specific, and I'm completely down with that. Hell, girl, eat the entire left side of the menu.

She speaks a few words to her husband, who relays something to the owner, who schlepps back to the cooling room for what appears to be the White Chocolate with Rasberry Filling and confection cake. Yummy. There are looks of concern on the faces of the family all around, and I decide to go back to my delicious turkey breast sandwich and stop spying on humanity for once in my life.

I look up just in time to see the whole family turn around and leave, with no cake, while the owner stands there with this funny look on his face that is sort of combined amusement with disbelief. Well, the cakes are pretty dreamy - how could they leave with no cake? Okay, just a side note here, the place is too crowded already so I'm not saying the name because I'm feeling ornery today. I picked up a little parasite in Peru that has left me feeling annoyed. But to borrow from The Devil Wears Prada "I'm one [parasite] away from my ideal weight!"

Where was I?

Oh yes. So, while Manpants has gone up to the counter to speak to Uncle R. about the cake, the owner (with the combination look on his face) plops himself down in the seat next to mine. I, being really nosy, say, "What was that over there?" It turns out, it was Pregnant Beverly Hills Adjacent's birthday and the cake was for her. She had her heart set on the White Chocolate Rasberry. The 6 year old girl, however, informed everyone that she wouldn't be eating that, so they were negotiating other possibilities with her. She wanted the black out cake because of the pretty toppings. The owner told them he couldn't sell them the cake if they were going to feed it to a child because they'd never get the child down off the ceiling if she ate any. After 25 minutes of back and forth and negotiations with the child, they gave up and left. Happy Birthday, Mommy.

And people wonder why we're calling it the "Entitlement Generation." Since when do we negotiate with children? Especially over a birthday cake that is not theirs? The kid will be a monster by 8 and in rehab by 12. If we don't teach structure, boundaries and respect for others when they are young - can we really expect them to grow into people who are anything other than lawless individuals with disdain for everyone around them?

Kind of like our current president.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Our Journey Begins

Our first stop was in Lima, Peru.

We were placed at an airport hotel which happens to be in the thick of the real Lima - the Lima that the travel guides, brochures and guides do not show you. The disparity between those with money and those without is on grand display in Lima, and it is not recommended that one venture far with a camera hanging around one’s neck - that is, unless you want it yanked off. We were instructed to be sure to not get into any cabs not arranged directly by the hotel. They said that the cab drivers or mini-van cabbies will simply rob you. The area we were in was rife with graffiti, bars on windows and doors, squatter constructions made of available materials like corrugated metal and amateur masonry attached to existing structures. Kind of like parts of East or South Central Los Angeles. Due to the fact that I live in a city where the grand divide between people with money and people without is growing daily, and the number of homeless people approaching me in my car has increased tenfold since I moved here - I wasn’t all that bothered or alarmed and my friend brought her camera anyway. We already have our urban training. I actually didn’t take any pictures of Lima out of respect for the people living there that might not want me showing their roofless, caved in, graffiti decorated dwelling. It was depressing. I show a picture here of the Plaza Mayor; an approved version by the Tourist Board. Add a thick layer of grime, and it’s closer. Add 8 million people and you’re closer still. I couldn’t help but think as we rode in our hotel approved transportation, that if the U.S. keeps going in the direction it is being led to go in, we are simply not that far behind.

There’s something we ordered at a café in Central Lima - a novelty of sorts. It’s called a Coca-Cola. You might remember it. It was a soda we drank as children and is no longer available unless one travels to a foreign country that doesn’t have a High Fructose Corn Syrup trading agreement with the U.S. That’s right. Actual cane sugar. That stuff they are selling here in the U.S. in a Coca-Cola can or bottle is something passing itself off as Coke, is much cheaper to produce - but it’s not it. The second I brought the glass of the real stuff up to my nose I could smell the difference and the taste was just what I remembered from my youth. The Coke we drank years ago was not the stuff one can chug - but was more a sipping soda. No chance a kid could down 3 of those in a sitting and then wonder later why they have juvenile diabetes, ADD and are obese. Oh wait - that’s right - they are using high fructose corn syrup instead of cane sugar in EVERYTHING now, including those Wheat Thins in your cupboard sitting there waiting to send your Liver into hyper drive. No high fructose corn syrup in Peru. And guess what? Despite the poverty and the diet high in white rice and pasta and eggs that are used as filler foods - there are no fat people like we see in our poorest neighborhoods here. None. Curvy yes, fat no. You got kids? Check your labels and if you have anything with it, including that Yoplait you like for breakfast, throw that shit out.

But I digress.

We didn’t have time to go to the areas that the Tourist Board would prefer the Gringos go to - the posh sections with miles and miles of flowers. I hear it’s quite lovely. But there are 8 million people already living there that generally don’t get to see it either.

When in Rome.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I Return From The Jungle

Allow me to introduce Martín. This little Marmoset adopted the very small camp of Onanyan Shobo (literal translation means Shaman’s House) where my friend and I stayed for 10 days. He would repeatedly visit our hut to kill bugs. He peed on my backpack before we left.

We also had the occasional bat.

It was a truly profound and enlightening experience that I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to show up for. We were among the indigenous Shipibo people, who are the most generous, kind and affectionate people I have encountered in years. Not to mention gorgeous. I have said many times over the years that I needed to get away to a place where I was fed and watered and had nothing around me to contribute to the everyday stress of life. This was certainly the place.

The following list is of a few of the things we lived without for the duration – not necessarily listed in order of importance:

flushing toilets
hot showers
tiled bathrooms
air conditioning
multi-thread count sheets
fluffy pillows
bubbly water
sourdough bread
soy milk
peanut butter
facial scrub
hair product
blow dryer
stable toilet seat
dryness of any kind
bug-repellant free skin
our loved ones
machine washed clothes
chemically treated bathing water
rude people
sales calls
people wanting things
gas prices
blueberry scones
olive oil

The day started at sunrise around 6 a.m. and ended when the forest became pitch black at about 6:15 p.m. There are more stars than the eye can take in. With nothing much to do after sundown, we went to sleep around 8 p.m. The sounds of the jungle are relatively quiet during the day because most of the animals, birds and insects are nocturnal, so at night the chorus was incredible – and sounded like any movie you have ever seen with the sounds of jungle in the background.

The spiritual healing ceremonies were profound, as were some of the day-to-day experiences, but to try to explain would sound nuts to anyone who wasn’t there. Suffice it to say, we were among a culture of people who live in a world where the physical world and the spiritual world exist on the same plane and things happen that cannot be explained – which they explain with frankness as it is part of the everyday world they live in and just the way it is.

I ate piranha and swam in the Amazon River. How cool is that?

There will be more pictures forthcoming over the next few blogs. It’s good to be home, but I do feel that I left part of myself there to make a home for part of my spirit.