Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Memories Don't Keep You Warm Enough.

The neighborhood around the Los Leones Metro station in Providencia is full of second hand and vintage clothing shops. They bring stock down from North America and the neighborhood is  a godsend for those of us with rangy gringo builds that don't fit lines designed for the rather more petite Chilean figure.
            Right now, that's me.  I left my leather winter jacket in a taxi and I'm looking for a new one.
            There are a lot of really lovely leather jackets in Chile - but I'm tall, and broad across the shoulders, and if the jacket doesn't fit so tight across the back that I can't lift my arms, the waist doesn't drop below my bellybutton, and the zipper won't meet across my chest, and when I ask hopefully for a larger size, I'm already wearing XL and the line doesn't go any higher.
            Yesterday I went to Los Leones.  I started in a store called Vintage, just off of Calle Santa Magdalena, and deep in a rack of high-eighties leather (bat-wing sleeves, malignant shoulder pads, vented fronts, elasticated waists, studs, fringe, patchwork and brocade - and every benighted bit of it on each and every jacket) I hit the jackpot.  On my very first stop.
            You could practically hear bells ringing.  Because this was it.
            This was really it - a soft suede duster, with a flared collar, and a gentle drape to the long skirt and wide split cuffs that ran almost all the way up to my elbows.
            It was the sort of coat that Destiny's Child would have rocked if they'd dreamed that high.  My college-aged self would have given a half a point off of my GPA for a coat like this.  The Dixie Chicks would probably have thrown in a solid gold record.
            It didn't  fit me like a glove.  It fit like a memory, like a song, you know -  the one where you copied the lyrics into a notebook because they got you - got you in a way nothing else ever had before.  They laid it all out like it was, and told you who you were in a way you'd always almost known, but had never quite understood until you heard that song - 
            That's how that coat fit.
I stood in front of the mirror and admired, and I turned one way, and then I turned the other, and then I turned back the first way again  -

            and I suppose one day I will be grateful to the big burly fellow with the Harley Davidson beard who was put his hand on my shoulder and said, very gently, "No. This is not a winter coat. This is not 2003.  You are not buying that coat today."  


It could have been. It could have been 2003.  Because I have dreams.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Doors and Holes

Mr Tabubil is feeling peevish. That 8.3 earthquake last September knocked our front door out of skew. and we now have a one centimeter gap between the bottom of the door and the floor.  It's not much gap, but in cold weather it leaks heat like a broken sieve, and whenever there's a wind, the draft hits the far side of the apartment with a speed that makes one ponder more exotic aspects of physics and meteorology.  It's probably something quantum.*
            Mr Tabubil has bought a rubber weather strip to cover the gap. 
We didn't get one last winter, because most of the city was in our position, and there was a run on the hardware stores and by the time everything was back in stock, the weather was warm.
            This evening he took the door off its hinges, screwed on the brass plate of the weather strip, and spent three quarters of an hour fussing and straining and worrying and fiddling and putting a hold in his hand and hammering and crimping and bashing and pulling to get the un-skewed door back on its hinges.  Turns out a lot of things were out of skew.
            And then he closed the door - and the rubber bit of the weather strip, quite unceremoniously, peeled off.

Ow.

Right now he is browsing the websites of the major hardware chains with the request to be left alone please, and, at intervals, huffing hugely.

*(Sir Pterry - respect.)

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Flat Roof of the Shed

It is still winter, and the air is still grotty, and curling up with a book and being somewhere else still feels like Very Good Idea. Back in June, I wrote about Surf Sounds - a book of poetry by the Australia poet Roger Higgins. Surf Sounds is full of somewhere-elses.  This one is a memory.


The Flat Roof of the Shed. 

As a boy he would lie on his back
spread-eagled over the corrugated iron
on the flat roof of the shed.
He would look for familiar faces in the clouds,
his second grade teacher as she tried and failed
and tried again to make him a right-hander
leaning over his shoulder to gently take the pencil
from one hand and place it in the other,
and the long unshaven face of his grandfather
who kept a high gloss on the old green chevy
and sometimes let him ride in the rumble seat.
The boy would anticipate whether the next arrow head
would drag a contrail in from the north or south
turning the sky on a clear day
into an ancients’ map of the world with places
that were just names to him around the rim
and himself in the centre.
He did not feel the metal ridges
under his shoulder blades and buttocks
and easily filled in those aimless hours
between school and the family dinner
climbing down at the last minute to do his chores
chopping and bringing in wood for the combustion stove
or picking fresh corn and carrots from the garden.



Surf Sounds: Poems by Roger Higgins



Roger Higgins' poetry is both day by day and exotic. The poet washes his socks and jocks when he showers. He prefers description, narrative and irony to self-dramatization; there’s a lot more to Surf Sounds than ocean, beach and desert.
~ Graham Rowlands, Poet


Surf Sounds can be purchased through Liquid light Press , amazon, and Lulu.


Roger Higgins has been published in various magazines and journals.  He is an Australian who has traveled widely and lived in (alphabetically) Canada, Chile, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, and the USA.  Roger is an engineer by vocation, and has utilized his pen rather more than his camera on many of his travels, bringing together his physical and emotional responses to the environments and situations which he has encountered.  First collection Hieroglyphs, Friendly Street Poets 2008. Most recent collection Surf Sounds, Liquid Light Press 2014.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pirates!

It is cold tonight!  The air is cold and damp and I'm puffing it out in clouds. I'm rugged up - coat, scarf, gloves and a big pink wool beret.
            And as I headed out, a family walked in the door.  A small girl gasped.
            "Look!" she crowed, pointing at my beret.  "A pirate!"
            Her face had gone white and eyes were as large as stars.  Every storybook she owned had just come to life in the middle of mundane everyday-world Santiago.
            I grinned and said "That's right." and came very close to screwing up my face and growling "Argh."
            But I didn't.  I settled for a pirate grin, and walked out, feeling rambunctious and yo-ho-ho-y.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Copa América: Chile vs Argentina!

Tonight is the Final Match in the Copa América, and it's Chile  - vs Argentina!

We're the defending champions.  Last year we beat Argentina, so this year, there's honor on the line - on both sides. 

            The streets went through a mad rush of unseasonable traffic a little while ago (traffic jams on Sunday night of a long weekend?  Did the festival of Peter and Paul agreeably accommodate itself to a night when the whole country wants to sleep in on Monday morning?) as people rushed home to their televisions, but now the streets are so empty you could walk down El Bosque with your eyes closed from Apoquindo to Eliodoro Yanez and not meet so much as a shadow.
            It's so silent out there.
            So still.
            You can hear a pin drop -
            Until a Chilean grabs the ball and the cheering rises up - and the hooting and shouting and barracking and the choirs of men singing footy songs and the children who've been unwisely given vuvezulas stick them out of windows and set off the neighborhood dogs -  and we're only 15 minutes in to the first quarter.
            We're settling in for an amazing night.


Update:  Chi-Chi-Chi!  Le-Le-Le!  (We won.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Surf Sounds


Today the air tastes sour and smells like burning rubber.  We are on the fifth straight day of pre-emergencia, where the government tries to keep cars off the road to give the city a chance to breathe.  There's a rumor of mountains out on the horizon, but I'm taking it on faith because I'm straining to see the buildings four blocks over. It's winter in Santiago. On days like this, all I want is to curl up in bed with a good book that will take me somewhere else.
            Summer is my favorite.  Summer with a beach.

This post is about a very good book: Surf Sounds - a new volume of poetry by the Australian Poet Roger Higgins.

            Roger knows beaches.  Australia is  coastal country and summers are mostly spent by the ocean, squinting into the sun on the water and learning how to walk. You don't walk fast, or slow. It's a proceeding sort of pace - one you can keep up for hours, or the end of the beach, and in Queensland, where Roger was born, you will generally run out of day before you run out of sand. He has learned how to walk and he has mastered when to stop - for a good shell, or a jellyfish,  a crab or a cloud, a sunset, or a place where the tide is running out and braided channels form to carry the beach with it out to sea. Channels need to be dammed and new ones dug out with your foot.  You have to stay and watch the patterns change, the way the different sands settle out, dark over white, grain by grain, making little sandbars, marking little currents -
            It is good to have another person walking with you, to teach about tides and little rivers.  Alone, though, is better.  Alone, you don't have to talk to anyone.  You walk, and watch and you stop, and you think. Your stories are all your own.

Roger's first poem, Travels through Time and Place, was written in a Moscow hotel room - which admittedly is not a beach, but he has walked a lot of beaches since, traveling from one place to another place. Along the way he has done a lot of writing - on restaurant napkins and torn of sections of paper tablecloths, the back of airline boarding cards - even credit card slips, when he has needed to.

            It's amazing what you can find in your pockets, in a pinch.
            Roger writes about the places where he lives: Canada, Australia, and Chile, from the Atacama Desert in the north all the way through the Isla de Pascua down to Patagonia and Lago Grey. He writes about the places he passes through: Kazakhstan, the Cook Islands, the Congo, Mexico -
            A walking beach, Roger reckons, is a state of mind - you find it in long roads, long nights, long showers and the long flat roofs of sheds.
            "I write," he says "about the places that I love or have hurt me.  Places where words lead into emotions and points of view I'd never anticipated that they'd hold."
            Kitchens, late night bars, horse paddocks, bare desert mountains,  long roads, long nights, long showers and the long flat roofs of sheds.

            Little rivers that shift and reform beneath the weight of a toe -

            The drag of waves of your feet as you stand ankle deep in a rising tide-

            Waves that wipe the pattern clear and write it fresh - 


Surf Sounds: Poems by Roger Higgins



Roger Higgins' poetry is both day by day and exotic. The poet washes his socks and jocks when he showers. He prefers description, narrative and irony to self-dramatization; there’s a lot more to Surf Sounds than ocean, beach and desert.
~ Graham Rowlands, Poet


Surf Sounds can be purchased through Liquid light Press , amazon, and Lulu.
 


Roger Higgins has been published in various magazines and journals.  He is an Australian who has traveled widely and lived in (alphabetically) Canada, Chile, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, and the USA.  Roger is an engineer by vocation, and has utilized his pen rather more than his camera on many of his travels, bringing together his physical and emotional responses to the environments and situations which he has encountered.  First collection Hieroglyphs, Friendly Street Poets 2008. Most recent collection Surf Sounds, Liquid Light Press 2014.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Dogs in the Dark


Last night, being a crisp, cold, clear sort of night, I walked down to the park.  Wrapped in an aura of twilight and church bells ringing the local faithful to evening service, I wandered all the way down to the slides and swings, and was standing happily under a lamp post when two small dogs came boiling out of the dark. Their teeth were pinned back over their lower lips and in a torrent of snarling and snapping and loud whuffs, they were aiming directly for my shins.

            I shouted "NO!" in my biggest baddest "bad dog" voice, and to my extreme surprise, they actually stopped. The schnauzer subsided a lunge-length from my knee and with a filthy look, commenced to growling:
            "Boy oh BOY," it said.  "Boy oh BOY.  If you ever let me to get my hands on you, I'll, well I'll -" and it flung me a look of such furious passion that it brought him to its feet in another howling hail of barks. "Get you get you get you get you" - and the dachshund joined in  - "Yowowowowow!"
            From the darkness outside the cone of light came a voice.  "It's your hat."  The voice said.  "They don't like hats."
            Me and my winter hat stepped forward into the dark.  A man stood in front of me. He was wearing a hat himself: a woolly beanie pulled right down over his ears.  A cigarette flared.  A woman sat with her feet up on a park bench, nodding her head.  
            "They don't like hats."  She had one of her own as well - a wrap of elderly fur.  Behind them, another young woman - hatless - wrestled with something enormous - possibly a wolfhound - on a leash.  It leaped in silence, but the silence was pregnant with menace.  The little dogs boiled around my feet, yapping shrilly, telling me they wanted blood, - or at least a bit of skin from my knees -  and an enormous German shepherd looked up at me with liquid brown eyes and pressed her nose against my hip pocket.
             "Shut up, dogs." The man said casually. He aimed a kick at the dachshund and they subsided abruptly into silence.
            "That's Sofia" he said, pointing at the shepherd.  "She's a good dog." 
             Sofia sighed and looked up at me, and her tail thumped, once. I reached down and scratched her ears.  "GOOD Dog, Sofia."  I said. "GOOD dog."  
            She sighed again, and lowering her chin into my hand, sat down at my feet.  She was clearly ready to sit there forever, to settle in there with me for the night.
            Behind her, the little Schnauzer cocked its head.  He looked at Sofia, and he looked at me; you could practically see the little cogwheels working inside his little skull. Perhaps a different approach was in order?  With a short, conciliatory "gruff!" he trotted over and sniffed my trouser leg. 
            "Nothing doing, kiddo."  I said.  "After the way you carried on?"
            I bent and scrubbed at Sofia's soft neck, by way of illustrating what he'd missed.  Sofia got in on the game with gusto - twisted half on her side, she was leaning heavily against my legs and  banging out a tatoo on my thigh with her long brown tail.
           The schnauzer gave her a disgusted look and turned her back.  I stuck out my tongue.  Behind her, the dachshund made a spluttering sound.  The young lady with the wolfhound had clipped a leash onto its collar.  With one furious bark it leaped for the wolfhound, aiming for its belly.  The wolfhound yelled in shock and bit its own leash, and the schnauzer, yapping joyfully, leaped into the fray.  The wolfhound tried to eat its leash, the dachshund tried to eat the wolfhound, and the schnauzer was getting in a few good bites anywhere it could.  The man in the beanie was in the middle of the fray, bellowing and flailing.  The young lady tried very hard to go in several directions at once, and on the bench, the lady in the fur turban contemplatively extinguished her cigarette.  Fur was flying, sand was flying, and in the middle of the scrum, Sofia got up and lay down on the man's feet and rolled herself around on her back, tugging his trouser legs and begging for a cuddle.
            Very quietly, I tiptoed away.