Friday, December 12, 2014

Second-rate Holly Jollies.

I am trapped in customer service telephone hell.
            I wouldn't mind so much if the infinite roll of Christmas carols they're playing at me weren't buried in so much static.  Or if they chose versions that weren't maudlin and lugubrious.  
            Stop singing about holly jolly holidays with a catch in your throat.  And if you're going to hang a star upon the highest bough, remember that only Judy ever got away with quavering like that.  Your quavers, semi-quavers, demi-quavers and little achey-breachy wibble-wobble-whoopses will not be supplanting Judy as the lugubrious holiday queen anytime soon, alright?  Go try a jolly little jingle bells.  Throw in that perky decant about snowflakes if you want, but above all, sing it cheery!  
            I've got  long wait and an epic argument ahead of me and i want to be in a fighting spirit. Not curled up sobbing underneath my Christmas tree while a second-rate celebrity sings a mournful dirge about snowmen.
            Please.  Thank you.  Please.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Zephyrs and Divans and Ladies of Leisure

It's been a quiet few months here at Tabubilgirl. A medical situation has turned me into a Lady of Leisure, and I have spent the spring reclining genteelly on a sofa (proper divans being in short supply) watching the world turn green outside my window, while the Platanos Orientales unfurled their green canopies across the street -
            and coughing (genteelly) into a hanky as the year's first warm zephyrs drew the platano pollen from between those green leaves -  and then coughing less genteelly and with more steel as the spring winds grew and the damn trees dropped their annual load of toxic yellow fuzz all over the damn place -
            at which point, picking platano pollen out of my teeth, I decided that Ladies of Leisure were more inclined towards closed windows and television and Farscape marathons than quiet contemplation of nature's annual miracle.
            That particular miracle is a loaded one. Both barrels.

This past Sunday, when the zephyrs were turned off for the afternoon and the fuzz was away on half-holiday, Mr Tabubil took me for a stroll around our local park. As we progressed toward the children's playground, we noticed that the children we passed seemed to be all lightly tinted pink.
           Their mouths were sticky, their fingers were worse, and their little faces were either looking dazed and ill or carooming off the trees in some sort of hyperactive fit- 
            Knocking Mr Tabubil flat, I made a beeline for the playground. The Fairy Floss man was there!
            Our fairy-floss man pushes a hand- cart with a  treadle-powered fairy-floss machine.  Pumping the treadle with his foot, he dips a wooden stick into the spinning sugar vat, and neatly twirls you a cloud of pink sugar-floss larger than your head. 
            Mr Tabubil treated me to a stick, and I ate it, and life was very good.  We wandered back up the park, and I found a man with a hose who let me wash my hands and drink, and life was even better. Fairy-floss is fairy-floss, but sticky is sticky. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween in the Calle Rosas

This morning my mother-in-law  took a little trip into Centro- the old heart of Santiago -  to do a little Halloween shopping.  Our first stop was a little arcade just outside the Plaza de Armas- the arcade was mostly hairdressers and cell-phone-cover stores, but I remembered a little toy store in there that had a wall of boxes full of rubber animals. You know the sort of thing - rubber snakes and technicolor stegosaurus and wolf-spiders with fangs the size of hubcaps. I wanted to see if they had any plastic rats.
            Did they have plastic rats? Does New York have a Big Apple in it? Did Gustave Eiffel design some rather nice train stations in South America? Did they have rats?! -
            We left the shop with a bag full of big black red-eyed rodents, a handful of little black mice and a clutch of nasty rubber spiders. My mother-in-law was chortling. She insisted on carrying the bag.

On the back side of the Plaza de Armas is a street called Calle Rosas. Down the west end of the street there are shops selling sewing machines and fabrics and sewing machine parts, but what Calle Rosas really does is parties. Chileans take parties seriously. You need a pinata, for a start. And hats, lots of hats. Not the good old Australian party standby - the paper cone with an elastic band to go under the chin and maybe a streamer at the top, but crowns with jewels on, and policeman's helmets, and dragons to roost on your head and coil down around your ears, and Egyptian cobras done in gold lame, and pirate's tricorns, and veddy English top hats, and feather bonnets, and flapper cloches and green fedoras -
            Hatted out, you need your streamers and balloons. And your banners, done up in glitter with the name of the guest of honor written three feet high, and your horns and your hooters and poppers and silly string - 

            Imagine all that and add Halloween.  The Calle Rosas had gone bananas. There was no other word for it - the stores that normally can't breath for confetti and paper streamers were tricked out (see what i did there?!) in balloons and paper bats - there was so much Halloween dangling from the ceilings of the stores that you had to enter in a sort of semi-crouch and sidle past barrels full of rubber masks and plastic pitchforks with plastic blood on to even get inside. 
            We started in the smaller stores that exist wistfully on the fringes of things where Calle Rosas bumps into Veintiuno de Mayo ( 21 May 1879, the Battle of Iquique. Chileans like to name streets after significant dates) and, bent sideways between racks of vampire capes (all sizes from toddler to XX-Tall, regardless of whether your vampire prefers basic black, vampy red, virginal white, or cotton-candy pink) we came away with bunting and streamers and bags and bags of little black plastic spiders. 
            And we bought Mr Tabubil a hat. It has cobwebs and big round eyeballs on it, and dangling wads of grey cheesecloth. It is splendid.
            Our purchases were bagged by somber fellow in a cowl and a hockey mask, who moaned sadly when we said Gracias. He had coughed at us when we entered, liquid and hacking, and when we flinched, he had clutched at a plastic pike with plastic blood on the handle and reeled sideways into the arms of a dancing skeleton. He was having a wonderful day. 

            After that we braved the bigger party stores.  Who knew what we'd see?  
            If we could get through the doors.  It wasn't the flying bats or the whispering ghosts or the jiggling hanged men with battery-operated jiggles - it was the flying bats and the whispering ghosts and the jiggling hanged men.  But mostly it was the people.  I don't know if any stores made any money anywhere else in Santiago today, because the entire city was out shopping in Calle Rosas. The only thing that made the experience bearable was the army of pumpkin-shirted men and women that patrolled the crowd, looking to latch onto anyone looking sufficiently wide-eyed, and take you and your shopping list in hand and drag you bodily through the scrum.
            They abandoned us, occasionally, so that we could be menaced by men in hockey masks (clearly the spook-face of the year) and army jackets that looked as if they'd been shredded by claws and buried for a month. A man would come close - and closer, and we'd notice that behind the hockey mask was another mask - this one with scars and maggots and a reek of fresh rubber. Bending down, he'd shrug, slightly, and we'd notice that the clinking sound we were hearing was the chains that he wore draped across his shoulders and over his chest, and we'd see that his leather motorcycle gauntlets were shredded by the same steel claws that had done for his coat, and once he'd seen that we'd seen, he settled down to make us feel really uncomfortable. It was wonderful.
            Above us, the ceiling howled and cackled and laughed manically, mechanically, because every single square foot of it was occupied by the whispering ghosts and jiggling hanged men, and a little girl, screaming with laughter, was jumping up and down and setting them all off.
            We laughed too, and our hockey-mask maniac winked at us and shuffled off to menace someone else.

Outside the store, we walked to the end of the street and there was no more Halloween, anywhere at all.  It was a whole festival confined to that one street, and nowhere else in the city.  We caught a taxi and drove home and unpacked our loot on the kitchen ledge.
            It's all about context, I think.  Take our Ghastly Severed Hand.  At a Halloween party, no-one would look at it twice, but at mid-afternoon outside the Calle Rosas, when Mr Tabubil came around the corner from the laundry and saw it lying on the kitchen ledge, he hit the ceiling. 
            Literally.  He screamed and then he jumped.            

            It is a rather good severed hand.  
            Also, there is a small black rat on Mr Tabubil's nightstand.  My mother-in-law and I are trying a small psychological experiment.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Feliz Dieciocho!

Who says only humans and roosters dance the cueca?

Happy Birthday Chile!  The 18th and 19th of September are the Fiestas Patrias - a festival commemorating the formation of Chile as an independent state in 1818.  
One eats empanadas, attends asados (BBQs), and dances the cueca, Chile's national dance.

(If you're interested, metafilter has quite a comprehensive post on the cueca today!)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Today I saw -

- The most beautiful sight; a six month old baby being carried in a chest harness by her dad, who had his big blue down jacket zipped over the both of them. The baby was round and fat-cheeked, and I smiled and the father beamed proudly back at me, but what he didn’t see was that I was smiling at his daughter industriously spitting up the most enormous quantity of milk all over his jacket. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Curtains, Part Three

In which we meet the maestros. 

In which the maestros attempt to give us what we, in fact, didn't want and didn't intend to take.   

Someone at the curtain store must have talked to someone, because twenty-four hours after the maestro (workman) and his cut-price curtain rails had jingled their way out of my apartment, the curtain store went into full damage-control mode. They were terribly sweet. The bodega (warehouse) sent regular daily updates on the progress of my new curtain rails, and when, six days later, they called me to tell me that all was ready for a proper installation, they turned themselves into pretzel knots making it clear that they were completely and entirely at my disposal. Any time I liked.
            "Monday, for instance." They said. "Would Monday work for you?"
            "Lovely." I said.
            "Between ten-thirty and eleven in the morning?"
            "You will be home, won't you?" They said anxiously. "We're not putting you out?"
            "I'll be there," I said. "Between ten-thirty and eleven. "
            "Wonderful." They said. They bowed themselves off the phone and I looked forward to a nice job very well done.
            Accordingly, when the clock ticked round to twelve-thirty on Monday morning with no sign of the curtain people, I found myself feeling moderately miffed, and I called the shop.
            "Yes." The man on the phone said. "We thought we'd drop by around three.  Four at the latest.  Sound good?"
            "You said ten-thirty to eleven!"
            "Well we did say that." He said, as if it were all perfectly reasonable and obvious. "Yes, we did.  Is three o'clock okay, then?"
            "You've got to  give me a heads-up on this sort of thing " I said. "I can't be at home this afternoon.  I've got a dental appointment at three o'clock!"
            "You do?" He cried. "But we have a delivery!"
            "For ten-thirty this morning!"
            The voice on the phone sobered abruptly. "I'm going to have to talk to my manager about this." He said. And he hung up.

"I understand." His boss said portentously, "that there is an issue of a medical appointment."
            "No." I said. "The issue is that you were supposed to deliver my curtain rails this morning. And you didn't."
            "That isn't the issue." He said. "The issue is that we have a delivery to make and you have declined to be home at the hour set."
            "Set without discussion with me, and set an hour and a half after you were supposed to be here! I'm happy to be home for you, but you've got to let me know in advance. You told me you were coming this morning, so I made a dental appointment for this afternoon-"
            "Which is when we're delivering-"
            "Which is not what we discussed-"
            "And if you're not there, we can't deliver."
            "Right!" I cried. "Right! Exactly!"
            "Oh." There was a long, thoughtful pause. "In that case, we'd better reschedule for tomorrow."
            "Yes." I said.
            "Tomorrow." He said. "Right. Will you be home tomorrow between ten-thirty and eleven?"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Park When the Weather is Unseasonal

This weekend, the winter went on vacation. The temperature rose, and the skies turned blue, and Mr Tabubil and I took a nap on the floor in front of an open window, while a breeze blew air at twenty-four degree C across our faces.
            And after that, we went to our park. With the winter off somewhere else, it was a rather busy park. The children's playground was one big buzzing sea of primary-colored sweaters (chilean mothers dress their offspring to the season, not the weather*) and away from the pre-teen scrum, even the lawns under the trees were practically standing-room only.  It was exactly like one of those  cardboard picture books that you give to small children with fascinating and singular activities going on every two meters -

            Here's a man walking a little Scottie dog on a leash with its white whiskers hanging down, and its long white tail standing up, and its white legs twinkling as it runs.
            Here's a group of little boys playing football with a big red ball almost as large as they are.
            Here are a young man and a young woman having a picnic. They are sitting on a blanket and drinking chilled wine from long stemmed glasses and smiling at each other, rather foolishly.
           And here's a baby, pushing along a plastic walker that plays Farmer in the Dell over and over and over, while his parents cheer him on and he makes enormous grunting noises with the effort of every step.
            Here's a group of teenage girls taking selfies on their cell phones with cardboard cutouts of the faces of their favorite teen idols.
            And here's another baby -  a baby bulldog with great rolls of puppy fat around his shoulders and enormous puppy feet. He's as big as tank, and he's yanking his leash out of his owner's hand and  bounding about the lawn, tangling up the football game, hell-bent on being petted by every single person in the whole park all at the same time. Whether they want to pet him or not. He'll make them want to - he's taller than they are.
            The baby with the walker is staring at the couple on the blanket.  He is slanting, unblinking, towards them across the grass, and they are sitting very still, side by side. The woman has put her glass down on the grass and is holding out her arms-
            A girl with a camera is knocked flat. The puppy comes bowling through like a panzer tank, the air fills up with teenage screams and cardboard faces with marvelous white smiles and the baby with the walker loses interest in the man and woman on the blanket and angles away.  The couple sigh deeply and sit back on the blanket, like puppets whose strings have been cut and the woman reaches out for her wine and drinks, deeply, without seeing. 
            Above them in a tree, red aerial silks are slung over the highest branch, and another man and another woman practice their twists and falls high above the ground -
           And a Canadian sits with an Australian on another blanket.  They are pretending to read books while they watch every single thing -
           We watched until the sun went down, and then sometime in the night, I became cold and dragged an extra blanket up the bed.  And in the morning we woke to a chill, damp fog. The winter was back from vacation and we could scarcely see the building next door.

*Winter is winter and what the weather is actually doing in the streets is an irrelevance. The calendar says that winter starts June 21st, and on June 22, the city fills up with women pushing strollers occupied by small humans wrapped in wooly hats and fleece vest and puffy coats and layered on top of their padded trousers, hand-knitted woolen leg warmers. And after all that, the occupant of the stroller is buried under so many blankets that half the time you have to take the existence of the baby on faith.
            When Sarah and Miles were visiting us last year, little Laurie was going through a growth spurt. If I hadn't know them I could still have tracked their progress through the streets of Santiago, following a chain of Chilean matrons giving them the stink-eye because it was cool enough for a cotton cardigan and when Laurie sat in his stroller and his pants rucked up there was an inch of leg visible between the top of his sock and the bottom of his trousers.   
            Dearie me.