Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Please Join me in a Moment of Silence

- In the memory of my dear, departed Elna 3003. It passed away on Tuesday last at 7:54 in the evening, with three seams left to sew.

Sympathies have flooded in:

Rest in Peace, dear old machine!
You left an uncompleted seam.
Now go to your eternal rest
while I hand-sew the arms and chest.

Tessa telephoned to sing Mandy -

Ohhh Elna...
How you gave and you gave without failing-
How I neeeed youoohoo 

Ohh Elna…

It was all very moving.  One tasteless wit even offered up a pun - "say it ain't sew."  It was considered, but a firm decision was made: we can't encourage that sort of thing.

So now, pray, bow your heads with me and give a muffled curse in the name of the sewing machine that after all the tender love, care, fresh bobbins, fresh spools, screwdrivers, damp q-tips, machine oil and delicately voiced entreaties in Santiago, could not graciously consent to last just one more damned half hour.

(Epithets are acceptable in lieu of flowers.)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Today it Rained. Lots.

A large city surrounded by mountains is not necessarily a pleasant place.  Santiago's air has been foul this winter. The contaminación has been at its absolute peak - the worst it has been in sixteen years.  When the sun hits the air, clear vision extends for about twenty meters, and then there's haze. Across the street is fuzzy, the air tastes foul and scorches your throat and causes nasty gnawing headaches that linger for days.  Wheee.

            Since our one decent rain back in April, we've had nothing.  Bone-dry and static cling. Sweating through these last months before the winter rain has become an exercise in spiritual endurance - closing one's eyes and closing one's windows and steadfastly - for want of alternatives - not thinking about the air. We've had driving restrictions (40% of license plates ordered off the roads) for the first time in almost a decade, but as a solution it's cosmetic, and ignores the lumbering elephants of root causes and tacit acceptances of levels of industrial and auto output that could (and probably has) choke a horse.
            But last night the rains came. We were woken at 4:30 this morning - a tremendous gale had set off car alarms up and down the street.  The rain began, and the wind began to howl and whine and squeal through our (closed) bathroom windows and set the curtains on our (closed) living room windows flapping and billowing. (Living in an earthquake zone renders perimeter seals more of a theory than an actual thing. It doesn't help with the
contaminación either.)
            By ten this morning  the storm had blown itself out and settled down to a persistent, drenching rain. The streets and sidewalks were invisible - you could hardly tell where one started and the other stopped, because the platano orientale trees, which normally hang onto their brown leaves all through the winter, had had almost everything blown off at once!
            The poor concierges of all of the apartment buildings have had their work cut out for them.  Santiago possesses (in the spirit of possess insisting on too many esses) a mania for keeping one's pitch impossibly immaculate. A gentle autumn breeze is the concierge's bête noire- the most particularly dedicated sort will spend whole afternoons hovering just outside the front door, rake in hand, primed to pounce on each leaf as it drifts to earth.  It's personal.  

            Solid freezing rain wasn't going to put them off clearing their lawns.  No, Sir -
            But the rain fell and the leaves kept dropping, and wet sacks of sodden leaves in a sea of more leaves took on the most sad, futile aspect - 

            And by mid-day pretty much everyone had given up.
            Mr Tabubil and I splashed out through the rain and leaves up to our local supermarket, and came home and made the best brownies in the world and roasted a chicken and left the window open while we ate.  Fresh, clear air is worth dinner in down jackets, as often as we can get it!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Copa América

Anyone foolish enough to run out of dish soap on the day Chile plays in the final of the Copa América deserves what they get. The shops are bananas.
            With extra banana.
            This is the first time in 99 years that Chile has made it to the finals, and the whole city has gone joyous fruit-salad levels of happy.

This afternoon I had to get to the fabulous Tostaduria Talca.  The metro was divinely mad- trains running slow, trains interrupted, trains jam packed past the gills, with horns and vuvuzelas spilling out the doors!
            The streets were even madder.  Flags, hooters, more vuvezulas, and every other male in a tricolor hat or Red National Team Jersey. But not one teeny tiny solitary taco (traffic jam) - anything like that would interfere with getting home in time for kickoff.  It was the politest set of crazy streets I've ever seen!
            The wooden shelves of the Tostaduria Talca  (a hole in the wall paradise, source of the best nuts, spices and dried fruit in the city and purveyor of dry-goods otherwise unobtainable in Chile) - were bare. They practically echoed. Not a single thing vaguely snack-like was left in the place. The staff were weary and pushing left-over customers out the doors -  I grabbed three packets of pecans (Pecans! Pecans in Chile!) that had been overlooked in a corner, and bolted.
            Coming home, the metro was even more ridiculous than before, but a taxi was out of the question  - the few yellow-topped cabs on the roads waved me off - they were heading out of the city and home as fast as the polite traffic would carry them.

So I went down into the metro and waited patiently for a train - and worried about my next stop, the supermarket  - where I'd been told that the queues were worse than Dieciocho (18th of September - Chile's national day) or Christmas.
            When a train at last squeezed sluggishly into the station, getting myself on board was a feat of mindless strength and courage, but deep in the crush of the train, there was room for a young man beat-boxing with a microphone. The sound was bouncing off the walls, gonging off our eardrums, but he wasn't busking - just riding so high on anticipation that not singing was entirely out of the question.
            The supermarket was worse than I could have anticipated. Checkout queues half-way to the warehouse at the back, and carts piled high with cuts of meat, crates of booze, and house-size packets of potato chips like the world was coming to an end and it was potato chips that would see us through the apocalypse and out the other side.  More potato chips than I could have believed possible.
            And I walked home through waving flags and car horns.
            And my whole block smells like BBQ and beer.
            Life is tremendous.