Venezuela, 39 Years Later

The Takeoff In The Plane

.....from Miami and it did take off and that's all very thrilling, and I was sitting next to this lady. And on the plane, they play Bingo on Servivensa. So it's something to keep people busy and it's $7 to play Bingo on the plane. And the prize is a round trip ticket from Miami to Caracas. So my seat companion decded she was going to play because she likes Miami a lot and she asked me if I were playing, so I said, “No I'll just support you while you play”. So she played and lo and behold, she won! She won a round trip ticket from Miami to Caracas or the other way around, in fact. So that was quite eventful and then I was expecting the chauffeur from the Tamanaco to come pick me up and - Guess What? He didn't. Or she or nobody did. So I asked someone is there any particular spot in the airport they pick people up from and they said “Well, you're not the first person the Tamanaco driver did not pick up”. So I decided just to go out and get a cab then.

So I went in an old run down cab with a cantakerous driver and I think I asked him to take me Avenida Las Mercedes and he didn't want to.

So we drove here (Tamanaco)...

Avenida Las Mercedes from Hotel Tamanaco, 1955. We were stayng there in August, 1955.
Same view of Avenida Las Mercedes from Tamanaco in 1998. This was just down from our house.

...and got out and came up to my room and the room was just fine.

And so after that I decided to go get some money out of the wall. Forget it, it doesn't like my card or it doesn't want to do anything. So it just wasn't giving out money. I'll go see the bank itself tomorrow. We'll see. Anyway I changed some American money into Bolivares. And after that I was all set. At least I could go do something. It was about 4:30 quarter to five.

And I decided I wanted to get out and see the place before it got dark because it gets dark around 7:00.

And so I had this long drawn out conversation with the doorman and I told him what I wanted to do I wanted to go take a cab around this area Las Mercedes for about an hour. And so he talked to another cab driver who came over to me and went off into great conciliabule of some sort and I don't know who in the hell he talked to. And finally some other guy comes over and I say I want to go around for about an hour and then he goes off and I think he practiacally forgot about he the whole thing. So here comes a cab dropping somebody else off so I said, “Would you take me around because this other guy doesn't seem to be able to make up his mind”. So at about that time, the first cab driver or the second one, whichever you bother to pick, comes back and goes “Tut Tut” and so I walk over to the car, and I said, “Well how much are you going to charge me?” Well, he says 3 1/2 hours riding around Paris - not Paris, Caracas that will be 35,000 something or other Bolivares. So I said I don't want to go for 3 hours, just an hour because the sun's going down and you can't see anything anyway. So one hour 10,000 whatever Bolivars. Oh, I said, you've got yourself a deal.

Finding Old Haunts

My Old School and Baseball Diamond

Then I asked him to take me…I said, “Does Campo Alegre (my old American school I used to go to at one point) still exist?” Sounds like someone from outer space and that's just about what I was. And he says “Yes, it does.” So I say, “would you drive me up there?” And so he did. We had to get this special“"permiso oficial” from the door person who didn't exist in the old days. So we drive up and were very "oficial" now that we had a badge on and I look at the entrance hall and the front of the building had changed dramatically. I think it used to be some sort of colonial-looking house - you know, with the columns and everything. It was very small at the time. I'm pretty sure it had columns on it. Anyway this thing has a very weird structure in the front, but anyway it, is still called Campo Alegre, and it's still American. But I didn't go in because it was already 5:30.

Then what did I spy? Down at the corner was the baseball diamond! Just guess what: guess who used to play baseball there? Well, it's me. I used to play baseball there and, good grief, what do you think I did? I just went over and took a picture of the baseball diamond and I took a picture of the school got back into the car and took off with the chauffeur again.

No Go for Ntra. Señora de Guadalupe

I said I want to go to Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Sabana Grande. Well he didn't really know where that was so I said, “Well then, forget it because you don't know where it is and I think it's also a pietón place or something.” I said I'll just go there some other time - Friday morning or something.

Stalking Down Casa Dorkaïtz

Casa Dorkaïtz, circa 1951. It was on Avenida Las Mercedes. We lived in the bottm part.
Casa Dorkaïtz in 1998.

After that I then said, “I want you go go down Avenida de la Mercedes very, very slowly and I want you to get on the left so I can see if I can recognize it” and sure enough, you're not going to believe this, but here we come up to some houses just like Casa Dorkaïtz, and that's exactly what it was: Casa Dorkaïtz dramatically changed, turned into a bank, of all things. (should have held onto THAT house.)

So who knows, you know in my room they've probably got the safe and all that stuff. I think tomorrow I'll go back and see if I can get in there. I'll say see here “I used to live in your bank”. Oh God, they're going to think “Who is this nut from nowhere telling us they used to live in our bank?“ - “The fact is, my room is right over there where your safe is.” Boy, just get out of my way, I want to go back to my room. Around the side of that house it used to have a staircase to get to the second floor because it used to be 4 different apartments: two on the bottom and two on the first floor. But there were no more stairs so I walked around the back and what did I see? Lo and behold, the exit from our house which is also where we used to wash clothes and it was also right near Paulina's shower on the way out. Anyway so there it was, and you're not going to believe this either: I took a picture of it. I took a picture of the side of it, the top of it, everything. Then I said to the chofér, I knew it was right around here because right across the street they used to play baseball and cricket on the weekends. “Well,” he said, “It's still a playing field but they're going to build a great big commercial center.” Yeah but I said apparently they haven't done that yet so it's still there. I can see it and seeing is believing. Then I went, where did I go? I was just jumping up and down and I was all very happy because I remembered that and I found it. And it's still there and it's awesome. Anyway my house, the cricket field and baseball field. And so then I looked down the street and I could see the Tamanaco where I'm staying and though, Ha, in the old days it looked farther away and also I can tell you something, my house looked much bigger to me in the old days, obviously because I was a smaller kid. And then what did I do? And by the way, I think Campo Alegre goes through high school possibly, 'cause I'm not sure.

Panorama of Caracas

After that I said, I want you to take me up to The Valle Arriba just to have a quick look and so he did. Meanwhile they had put up some green canvas on the fence so you couldn't see through, but I did see through a little bit. He took me to the front entrance, and I said don't bother stopping because I'm coming back for lunch on Friday. So he said OK (well he didn't really say OK because he said something in Spanish). In the middle of this I just remember the chófer had said, “You know, Campo Alegre is a a school for 'gente muy rica' and gringos and all that stuff and I say “Oh yeah, I know.” Then he says “'Gente muy rica' play golf in the Valle Arriba Golf Club.” Then I said, “Yeah, I believe it.”.

Patricia Flahie in front of Valle Arriba Golf Club.

He then shows me all this new 'urbanización' up on the road to Baruta, which used to be a road that went absolutely nowhere in the old days. Today, it is a very chic 'urbanización' and it's above Valle Arriba, and when you are driving up there, you can see parts of that hole, oh what was the name of that hole?

I can't remember the name of that hole but it's where we'd stop and have drinks with Dad. He and I had a Coke or something when I was playing and it just seemed like the end of the earth in those days because I was such a little kid (12 years old). It took me so long to hit the ball to the dumb hole. But I can tell you one thing, I was ready for the cold drinks. In fact I would play very assiduously because I knew there was the water hole coming up. So we went to see that and, needless to say, this place is totally built up. I mean, there is something every two inches. I mean, it's really built up. The chofér said “I'm going to take you up to this place that has the most beautiful view”. I said let's go for it So it keeps winding up the Camino de Baruta where all these supersonic million dollar apartments are. So he took me up there and, lo and behold, it was a fantastic, breathtaking view of Caracas just sitting there lying below our feet; and there were no more clouds because there were clouds when I first got here, but this is typical of Caracas. At the end of the day, there were no more clouds and there was the most fabulous view you'd ever want to have of Caracas.

Furthermore, he was pointing out stuff such as the Tamanaco and showing me where Altamira was. I said, I remember Altamira, I had a friend who lived there. I said there was an oblelisk there. He said “There still is one.” Ah, dis-donc, what a memory this girl has. Anyway he says they've totally rebuilt it and renamed it. I think they call it Plaza de Fráncia and not Plaza de Altamira because Mitterand came here a couple of years ago. Anyway, at that time they renamed it Plaza de Fráncia on account of Mitterand. To me it will always be Altamira and I think that's something I want to go see because I had a friend who used to live there. Plans for tomorrow: Tomorrow, I'm going to have lunch with Aurita Mazzei and a friend, Raquel Rauch at Raquel's house. I've got to call them right now and tell them I'm here, alive and very happy. After the man had taken me to see this fabulous view, I mean really fabulous, it's not any old kind of view there. I took many pictures. I just hope they're all going to come out.