Friday, January 12, 2007



"Ah, Sweet Relief"

About six years ago, my dad was staying with us for a week. After a few days, I saw a post-it note stuck to the front of a book he was reading. Naturally, because I am governed by a set of conveniently-flexible boundaries, I went right over and plucked it off the cover.

In my father's handwriting, it said:

"What this house needs:

Kleenex
TV trays
Afghans"

This note is interesting for a couple of reasons.

First, it reveals a lot about my dad and his needs/values. Even four years after his death, I imagine him sitting in his big loung chair, an afghan draped over his skinny shoulders as a shawl, a tv tray next to him, supporting a box of Kleenex and the remote control. When it was time for Jeopardy, I was free to join him, but I wasn't free to interrupt or to lurch towards that remote on its stick-legged, blonde-wood island. His entire existence was predicated on the items in that post-it note list.

Secondly, the list reveals what was *not* important to me at age 33. My nose didn't run much; I didn't need small tables that could escort me around my house; and I was generally lit from within by a warm spiritual afghan.

Six years later, I find myself here, tonight, with a tv tray next to my bed (gotta prop the latest Ayun Halliday book on something), blowing my nose repetitively as I hack the last of Guatemala City's pollution out of my respiratory system, huddling under three fleece afghan-like blankets (our tv room thermostat currently reads 58 degrees. We are damn cheap, even when it's torturously cold outside).

At any rate, it would seem that my dad's post-it note was rather Nostradamuseun in its forecast of what I would need. As an homage to my dad, I give you now my post-it note for the country of Guatemala.

"What Guatemala Needs:

A few roads that aren't built entirely on a curve. The occasional straight bit of asphalt, allowing for speeds exceeding 45 miles per hour, might keep first graders from vomiting and turning pale at the very notion of getting into a vehicle that could, even by accident, start to move down one of those roller-coaster highways.

On a related note, some emissions standards wouldn't hurt. All those diesel fumes pouring into following cars are enough to make anyone take out an empty popcorn bag and hold it in front of him/herself for a three-hour drive, just in case of a fume-inspired yackattack.

Fewer firecrackers. I can tolerate the exhuberance for fireworks in general--heck, viewers never know what explosion of color will blossom forth next, and what is life without mystery?-- but firecrackers give no visual bang and simply serve to keep awake unwitting visitors to the country for hours and hours and hours. And then another hour.

Again on a related note, the country could use more rooster casseroles, liberally sprinkled with potato chips. Roosters, as a rule, should die. I realize most of them are pretty tough and sinewy, so the casseroles might involve some complex slow-cooking of the bird (flavored with a bay leaf) in a crockpot first, but such labors are worth the end result, which would be no more roosters crowing at 4 a.m., even though the sun won't arise for two more For-the-Love-of-the-Sandman hours.

Natives who do not worship all things American, and by this, I mean Folgers coffee and chain restaurants. Indeed, Guatemalans themselves do not think to purchase or drink Guatemalan coffee; Folgers strikes them as the prime choice. And we learned, when we treated a native preschool teacher who had showered us with kindness to a birthday dinner, that her reaction to our urgings of "No, really, you can choose any restaurant in the city. Whatever you like. Don't worry about expense or convenience" was to run through the posh-est possibilities ("Em, TGIF is good. So is Chiles") before landing on the best she could imagine, "Oh, yes, Pizza Hut for sure."

Drunk people who pass out instead of managing to hang onto consciousness all night long. Those who stay awake while inebriated feel compelled to crank terrible, bass-heavy music starting at 2:45 a.m. and ending half an hour before the alarm to get a travelling family off to the airport begins its beeping. Conscious Guatemalan drunks are unerringly able to choose music that is only heightened rather than diminished when an intrepid visitor goes so far as to turn on a fan and put earplugs in. Conscious drunks manage to sing wildly and off-key for a minimum of four hours, deaf to the sounds of the quiet weeping of the neighbors, audible through the thin walls. And without a doubt, as is the case in every reported story of conscious drunks in said country, such wired drunks have guns and love to fire them randomly...so protesting, banging on the wall, or slipping a note under the door is unadvisable. Indeed, dear Guatemala, my heartiest wish for you is that your drunks stop carrying guns and start passing out after three sips of your terrible 3.2% Gallo beer."

Photo: A Guatemalan Kleenex, which could be draped over an unconscious drunk

-----------------------------------

So would it really be so much to ask, O Hospitable Guatemala, that you straighten your roads, lessen your pollution, drown your firecrackers, kill your poultry, promote your tamales, and hobble your drunks?

On the other hand, if you did, you'd be a whole lot less fun. Uninterrupted sleep and functional lungs are the province of the passport-free.

21 comments:

Rocco said...

Good thing they make post-its in jumbo sizes now.

I can't believe you're hating on the roosters. They're God's creatures too, you know, and probably not very tasty, like you said. I think your piss and vinegar should be directed at the rooster owners.

I'd like to you see your post-it notes for Duluth, the US, and Minnesota.

Jocelyn said...

Rocco--You own a rooster, right?

Hammer said...

My grandmother made tons of afgans all my life until her arthritis prevented her from making more. Everytime I go visit her she is always sending one with me.

The closest I've been to Guatamal is Chizen itza. It was so hot that I don't believe I would survive more than one day before expiring. like a hapless rooster in a crockpot.

Dave said...

Kleenex, TV trays, Afghans ... I could swear you are speaking about my father!!! :-)

The memories we have of our parents!

mist1 said...

Do they still sell Folgers in the states or do we send it all to Guatemala?

Dorky Dad said...

I've lived in apartments that could have used more passed-out drunks instead of the stay-up-all-night drunks.

Stupid drunks. Not drunk ENOUGH.

Le Nightowl said...

It hasn't escaped you that, would the roads be straightened, the pollution lessened (well, maybe not this one), the firecrackers drowned, the poultry killed (not this one either), the tamales promoted (I vote for this one), the drunks hobbled (no comment on this one), Guatemala would lose a big chunk ot its charm.
Marie

choochoo said...

our neighbour had several roosters. For some reason. None of'em ever bothered getting up before noon, at the very earliest. That's my kinda rooster.

Glamourpuss said...

Thank you for this post - it engendered an epiphany: what Chez Glamour really needs is an afghan, a TV tray and a box of tissues. I'm sure it would be much cheaper than a new boiler and central heating system.

Puss

Rocco said...

You know, a rooster is actually one of the few pets I never had. But since you asked, we did have five ducks growing up. All they did was eat all the grass in the backyard, poop a lot, and quack at ungodly hours. So they provided a constant din and tranformed our backyard from a field of grass to a field of poop. Despite all this, they lived a full, happy, and very loud lives. Maybe they were so happy because they were safely free from your crock pot.

Jazz said...

Ah, but then Guatemala would become America and people would bitch because it's not folkloric enough. And you're 100% right, roosters must die. The ones in Vietnam started at 2:00 a.m. Imagine a rooster crowing at 2 in the hotel's enclosed courtyard. Enough to have you dreaming of coq au vin.

CSL said...

Mexico has those loud obnoxious roosters, too. Your fun list makes me wonder what Guatemela would write on their sticky note for us?

Also, liked the trip photos that preceded it. I just did the same thing with a recent visit to Australia and loved being able to vicariously have friends and family travel aliong with me.

emily said...

my sister used to live in spanish harlem in NYC and her neighbors had roosters. it was soooooo annoying! they would crow when the sun came up in the morning and the would crow when the sun came out from behind a cloud.

Steven Novak said...

Roosters are the sign of the coming apocolypse!

Or maybe I'm just being overly dramatic. ;)

Steve~

Odat said...

Ha...great post...nice lead in with the tribute to your dad....
Peace

urban-urchin said...

do you remember the old Folgers commercials with Rula Lenska? Why the hell do I know her name? That's disturbing.

Passed out drunks are way better than loud drooling incoherent drunks in my book.

velvet girl said...

Maybe the roosters were drunk, too. They just lack the thumbs to mess with the stereo.

-velvet

Dan said...

Oh no!!! You've turned into your father!!!

Hey! What you wrote is a lot to put on a Post-It note ... and just where on Guatemala are you going to post it?

Christina_the_wench said...

I need an endless supply of Post-Its. God help my family and home.

furiousBall said...

although Afghans require a lot of grooming and a daily brisk walk they do make decent pets from what I hear. I think your Dad had his shit wired tight.

Crankster said...

I enjoyed the end of the post--as much as we hate these irritating inconveniences, they are a huge part of what makes the trip.

Poland: needs central heat and more vitamin-C rich foods.