Venezuela, 39 Years Later

Rediscovering Venezuela

The Centro Comercial de las Mercedes

Then I said please drop me off at the Centro Commercial right in front of the Tamanaco. Let me tell, you this place is something else. The sidwalks are so high. They're about knee high: so you can tell that nobody ever uses them to walk on. They probably just go banging into them with cars: who knows what they do with them? Anyway, I climbed over a couple of these real high sidewalks and I crossed the entrance of a parking lot where there are people zooming in and zooming out. Forget about pietón stuff, they don't even know what a pietón is. You have to be crazy to be a pietón, I'm sure. So I go in and what do I see? Some boutiques, then I see this place that's selling silver or something. The girl on the plane, Jeanine, told me that they have artisania (I think that's right) in Venezuela and that somebody makes stuff in Venezuela. So what do I do? I go there and I look around and say “Do you have you anything that's made here?” Because there's no way I want to buy anything else. “Do you have any artisania?” And she started showing me some stuff: some vases that were sort of black and white color and they were huge and I said I can't take something that size back. Then she said, “Ah, tenemos pewter, si quiere pewter entonces le voy a mostrar.” “Ah” , I said, “Go for it”. By the way, most of these are not direct quotes obviously since we were only speaking Spanish. But you'll just have to take my word for it. I don't know what you have in the way of souvenirs; furthermore, in the old days, they didn't make anything that you could, you would, even want to buy. There was nothing to buy except gold orchids with pearls in them, and I haven't seen any of those yet. And they made bracelet out of médios, coins, I haven't even seen any coins because even a thousand bolivares is worth about two bucks or something. Anyway it's slightly devaluated. So none of that jewelry so forget about it. I said "Well show me the pewter", so she did. And she showed me this sort of shell shaped thing in pewter, very pretty looking if you ask me. But very original : I've never seen anything that looks quite like it. Also she showed me this little tray used to put letters on or something. It was very unusual too. It's like something you've never seen anywhere before. So that's good enough for me. She said it's from Venezuela. I said you don't have it stamped in there and the man in the shop runs over with a sticker that says "Made in Venezuela" so he sticks it on there. Righto, that's doing the right thing. boy.

Paying with a Credit Card

About that time I say if I buy both can you give me a price and she starts counting them on the little adding machine: crank, crank, crank . It was 21,000 Bolivars and she says I can give it to you for 19,000. I said OK fine, can I pay you with a credit card? Well that was the end of my reduction. She says I can't give you any discount if you are going to pay with a credit card. Do I have anything else I can pay with? I don't really have anything else. I can't get those "Cajas" to work for me (Telecajas are useless ATMs). So I pay with the American Express card and that's sooo gringo but what else can I do? So this makes a big hullabaloo - although people pay with American Express cards very often, this is NOT a tourist place, I've got to remind you of that. So they have to pull out the “plancha”. Forget about having enything electronic so we just do a plancha deal and I get a HUUUUGGGEEE invoice about the size of a sheet of paper where all this stuff is written out. Then they want to see my pasaporte, I mean my cedula. I'm sorry about that, I don't have one. Then she says what's your phone number. I said which one do you want? I'm staying in the Tamanaco, or else I can give you my Parisian phone number if you like. Anyway, she says forget about the phone number. Give me your pasaporte number so I pull out the pasaporte and write it all down. I want you to know, it was some big deal because nobody was really used to doing this sort of thing. Furthermore the American Express slip had been there so long , you know time had discolored it or something. So I do that. I finally get my shell and my tray and climb back back over those huge sidewalks and try not to get run over and hold on to my purse real tight because they say hold on to it because there are purse snatchers. Climbing the Hill Back Up to the Tamanaco. So I climb up the hill to the Tamanaco and it's murder, this hill. to climb, it's very steep but that's the price you have to pay for wanting to do anything on foot rather than taking a cab every inch of the way. I wanted a little bit of independence so that's what you have to pay for it. I came back up the hill and there were people playing tennis on the side in the hotel grounds.

Trying to Get Connected to the Internet

I want to see if I can get on the Internet. (does this surprise anyone?) Ha ha, but if you don't ask, you'll never know. Right? So I asked. I went over to the Business Center and I said, "Well, do you think I could possibly, is there any way I can hook up to the Internet?" “Ohhhh,” he said, “if you could just wait until next week, we are inaugurating it. It is not officially done but it will be done and so you know next week you've got it, it'll be ready.” I said I'm afraid I need it right this minute. So that was the end of that. Pipe dream. What really would have surprised me was if it had worked and I could have done something with it. Forget it…I didn't get to do that. Maybe I'll have better luck some other day.

Getting Dinner

I asked the guy at the desk where the restaurants were. He said, “What kind of restaurant?” I said, “Any restaurant, tell me about them all.” “OK, there's a very formal restaurant, a 'gourmet' restaurant”. I'm going to precipiter myself to go to the gourmet thing -NOT, so very formal, very gourmet, supposedly. Anyway, I'm not going to do that . Then there's a poolside thing where they do hot dogs and pizzas - not really. Then there's an in-between one where you can just sit down on the terrace: seems like it's just going to suit me fine And you don't have to dress up, not a big deal. You know this international non-food you get at these hotels, like club sandwiches, probably what I'm going to settle for. I've not done that yet.

Watching TV in My Room

I'm looking at the TV set a little bit and, lo and behold, I get CNN with no sound for whatever reason. I get something from the BBC WITH sound. Not that I really care because I want to see all this stuff on the Venezuelan television. That's just about where I am right now. Oh, and I have a minibar so you can just drink like a fish if you want, if you're really rich. A drink is 7 or 8 bucks, so I don't know if I'll have one of those. I didn't buy any duty free stuff. Didn't feel like dragging that junk around. My room is very nice, looks like the lock of the door is going to fall off. But anyway, I've been able to get in and out so far. One of the lamps is totally zonked out but no big deal. Otherwise it is just very fine. This bed is like sitting on a park bench. Futons have nothing on this (mattress) I want you to know. I've pulled out my Radio Shack thing and I'm sitting here dictating to it. So far, it's working just like a charm, I think. So this is the beginning of my stay. I took some pictures like I said and Voilá! I'm fixing to call up my friends then go eat something or order something but I think I should go out and eat on the terrace: it is about 8 pm on Wednesday, 3rd of June. It is exactly 8:01. I'll call my friends, then go out.

Childhood Memories of Chiclets and Chocolate

I forgot to say something very, very important: when I was over in the shopping center, I remember. Oh my goodness! There's one thing I absolutely want to get while I'm here and that was Chiclets, Red chiclets, it was canela. I couldn't see any but I saw that they had some other kinds but I couldn't see the red ones, so I asked the lady , I said, “Do you have any, uh, Tienes chiclets Canela?” And she said, “Of course I do”, and she went over there and pulled out the red chiclets I used to eat when I was a little kid. I was crazy about these red chicklets. I haven't had any of those chiclets in about a thousand years, dis-donc. What a blast from the past. Then I paid for that too with a zillion bolivares, anyway. Then right after that, I said, actually I didn't say anything, I was just searching around in my old brain, “What else did I used to order or like, or stuff like that when I was here?” Then I remembered I used to collect pictures from all over South America and it was made by Savoy chocolate. I turned around and said, “Does that still exist, Savoy chocolate candy?” She probably thinks I'm from outer space, asking stupid questions like that when she has some chocolate sitting right there on her shelf. And she said, “It certainly does” and she pulled out two bars: one that was just a regular bar and the other was like Nestle's crunch, it's Savoy and it's called Cri-Cri chocolate con leche y tostaditos de arroz. I want you to know I'm looking forward to having a big munch out of that one. Voilá, I hope I haven't forgotten anything but if I have, I'll just keep adding it. Bye.

Tomorrow

Here I am after dinner and I called up my friend, Aurita, and she's going to come pick me up at 9 o'clock in the morning and we're going to go off and see the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo and probably another museum too- I'm not sure which one and we're going to stay all day and just have a regular blast. So I'll have lunch away from my hotel.

Dinner: the Pargo Fish

I just came back from my dinner and went down to the sort of terrace - just a minute - somebody was calling me back to say why I was not getting sound with CNN, it's because they were sending it over with no sound, isn't that thrilling? Anyway, what a deal. So I did go have dinner sort of out on the poolside: they have two restaurants, one is a pizza place and the other was a super place where I went, a Patio with a grill so it's a barbecue or whatever you want to call it, it's actually a parilla. When they gave me the menu, I looked it over and asked, “What's your specialty?”, su especialidad, and he mentioned a couple of fish. And one was a “pargo”. I remember the pargo back from a thousand years ago. And I said, I will have the pargo a la parilla. So they fixed it and brought it to me and they wanted to put tartar sauce on it so I said put it on the side but bring me some lemon and he put sour cream on the potato. I just ate one bite of the pargo with nothing on it. I don't want any salt, any lemon or sauce tartare or anything. That's the most delicious fish I've had for a long, long, time. And I didn't even eat the potato because I didn't want anything to ruin the taste of that. And I had a glass of white Chilean wine, which is really delicious.

Walking Around the Hotel Grounds

Then I finished dinner and I went walking around and came across a bird cage with a toucan in it. It wasn't saying anything or doing anything. Then I also looked out over the Avenida Las Mercedes then I looked out over the pool where it seems, somebody told me, I don't know if it was Mike, a newspaper here in Venezuela, wanted me to pose for something when I was a sweet dear young thing. I don't remember why or whether I did it or not.

Souvenir Shops

Anyway, I saw that then I went to look at the galleries of all the shops they have here, and they have two shops where they have only Venezuelan stuff. Some of its junk like “Nuestra Señora de Coromoto”, Eh hum and woven rugs, bet you a dime they're made in Mexico but it says Venezuela on them. I'll go check those out tomorrow.

Good-looking Uniforms of the Guards and the Local Police

I want you to do that, I don't know whether this place is dangerous or not but there sure are plenty of guards, and they've all got walkie-talkies and they're IN the elevators and they're IN the garden and they're just everywhere you'd want to go - not up in my room yet, I don't think. Everybody here (the guards) looks like Ché Guevara, wearing the same berets and rather nice looking uniforms. Much better than they used to, that's for sure. The traffic cops were straight out of India with white colonial hats on and white shirts and all that sort of thing. All very picturesque - much more than it ever has been, so anyway, Voilá. That's it for the time being and, uh, so there. Bye.

Comment

They have an Instituto Nacional de los Parques, Philip Morris Internacional; anyway, all this bull shit about being very ecological and it's all sponsored by Philip Morris. MMMmmmm, dis-donc.

The Bidet that Hit the Ceiling

This is the end of the day on the 4th of June and I just got back from Aurita's about 10 something pm. Before I went to bed, I want you to know I washed my little hot feet off in the bidet that has one of those spouts that make the water hit the ceiling just like we used to do when we were kids with Mike. When we lived on Avenida Las Mercedes, we used to turn the bidet on full blast and it would hit the ceiling and come down like rain and we would just laugh our heads off because we thought that was the funniest thing we ever saw in our lives, and it was at that time.