Friday, March 14, 2014

Searching for the end of the world - part one

Coyhaique, Chile
March 13, 2014

The pursuit of the end of the world has begun. Not prosaically, but in a practical, increasingly exercised search for bus tickets out of town. And considering that we just got to town it should tell you something about the town.

Actually, it's a settling, easy on the spirit sort of place. Low to the ground  - like the people. The only humans over 5'6" are wearing Patagonia jackets, high slung backpacks and looking everywhere but in front of them. For my part It marks the first time I could be invited to play center. Some of the street dogs are taller. Seriously. These aren't Dickensian dogs. Think Steven Segal with fur.

After a 22 hour push ever southward, from Baltimore Washington International Airport, with a Double stop through airport security born of a determination not to lose my fedora before the journey even started and a realization steps from the gate that as I stood gate side it sat atop the Delta self-check-in. That hat has been many places, securing sand in Wadi Rum, misted mornings climbing Mach Picchu and provoked endless "are you from Texas" conversations on airplanes, boats and caf├ęs. Often it was the sum total of the English exchanged. After that it was gestures, with a special series of thumbs up's and Indiana Jones whip-slash body English. After all that that hat wasn't going into the rubbish bin at Delta. Loyalty has to start somewhere. Besides, how many hats have a genuine Starbucks flavor to them. There's enough Pike's Peak saturated into that felt to squeeze a cup of coffee out of with a good dousing of hot water. So add caffeine addiction to loyalty. The order of priority subject to change.

The air on the road to the end of the world is in constant motion. All the stories - fables more than stories really - short cut its actual presence. It's not air so much as spirit, willful, dashing through tree and teenage waist length hair, thick Southern hair, jet black and fluid hair. Whipped about like $2,500 an hour photo shoot with wind machines hair. Who knew you could get the same 24/7 on the road to the end of the world.

The teenagers are teenagers. They entangle on the knobby park benches in the central square and nuzzle in that breathless steeped in innocence way first love allows but can never be found again once it comes crashing down. Unless it doesn't. Sometimes on a street corner, or the center aisle of some supermarket, or in a furtive noticing through a car window you catch the amber light of a first love that never faded, set in the touch of one vastly wrinkled hand to another, a glance filled with 65 years and 65 seconds; that look that says that really the world is whole in two pairs of eyes.

On my second cappuccino and first wedge of lemon merengue pie, angled forward on a slightly too high bar stool which left the step down calling to mind first lessons on riding a two-wheeler in my grandmother's Katonah lawn in Westchester, a first love candidate couple in their early 70s walked up to the floor to ceiling window of the town square site of the Red----- cafe. Wind tossing them about ever so slightly they looked inside in a way that made me feel a bit like a glass enclosed zoo animal in the Great Apes exhibit in the zoo below my house in DC. Come see the pie eating gringo - get a free mug - sort of look. Whether it was my appearance that kept them walking in I'll never know. I know I'll never look at the orangutans again in quite the same way though.

Above the other corner window the small, remarkably efficient speaker threw out a high tech re-mix of 10 years worth of Pop hits, from Justin Timberlake to John Legend, a string of English-only 20-something boys filling the Chilean cafe with that slight thump that goes when the bass on the mix is set to overload. Next to I, hung left to right we're a white polo helmet, a traditional blue and white cap that looked like it came from crown of a young Tajik woman and a slightly psychedelic-ly painted Moai. 

Francisco -- the leader of our two-man expedition - hangs up his Nokia. "Our guide can meet us at 8. We can head back to the B&B before going to see him to make our plans for tomorrow."

The search for bus tickets has come up empty. Day one yields it's first lesson - plan to re-plan. With no buses out of town Friday for Corcoran, our next point south, we set to the map, and to the B&B.

And all the while the wind dances.

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