Venezuela, 39 Years Later

Seeing Old Friends and Making New Ones

My Day with My Caraqueña Friends

To go back to the beginning of my day, I got up early because my friend Aurita (Humberto's sister) was going to come pick me up. So I washed my hair and all that, then she called up to say she'd be half an hour late. So what did I do? I rushed out to take a picture of el tucan, my favorite bird, then went into the shops and checked out a few things then came back up. She called at 9:30 so I went down to meet her and she really looks swell. She came with a friend called Leonora Paris (whose parents were from Bordeaux about 5 generations ago, she's Aurita's prima, cousin). She's kind enough to drive us all over town and that is just supersonic.

The Museum

We headed off for Plaza Venezuela, then to the Hilton Hotel where we parked since it's on the same block at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo. There are some really unusual things in there and some things by Marisol, a famous artist. There was also some Picasso stuff, some Dubuffet and one of Rodin's versions of "The Thinker" .

Money Isn't Everything But It's Hard to Get

After that we decided we would try to find some money for me. That was something else - forget it. I mean this place has got a philosophy that says, Hmm, mmm, don't ask us to do…They have all these supersonic Cash Dispensers, ATMs, and you go up and you punch all your codes in and ask for the money etc; etc. Then you get the message "Terribly sorry, we just are NOT distributing money at this time, all that in Spanish, O.K., first time I didn't get the message. Then you try the next day and get the same message in yet another ATM. Then I finally went inside the bank and I asked the man this Caja doesn't seem to have any money in it. “Oh well, you can't use a Cirrus Bank card” (the ATM is sitting there saying it accepts Cirrus Bank cards). Don't argue, you are not going to win. He says, “Oh well you have to have our bank card or you're not going to get anything.” Well I didn't get anything: I don't know if they get something. To tell you the truth I honestly don't think that they do. I didn't see anybody run away from any of those “Telecajas” with any money in their hands. I didn't see anybody walking away with money no matter which card they had. Then they said, “Oh well we can give you a cash advance from the Amercan Express.” Oh big deal. Half an hour later, all this stuff on the telephone, and we get no answer so we just give up and walk away (not without asking the bank employee to tear up a receipt I had signed, thank God). Tell you about that later.

Lunch at the Café del Museo

After that, we decided that we were getting very hungry and would like to have some food. So we go to el café del Museo de Arte Contemporáneo. And that is a very swish little café. So we decided on salmon quiche with salmon eggs and all decide to order that and it comes from Chile, I think. It also comes with a glass of white wine. We get hungrier by the minute and they forget to give us any bread, no big deal, it just makes you fatter. We didn't have anything to push with on the other hand, oh well. What shall we say? About that time, here comes the meal we had ordered, absolutely fabuloso, really delish, it was sort like a quiche tarte thing and it had the super salmon inside and the salmon eggs on top. I don't know what else it had but it was absolutely delicious. Hey we're having some pretty good meals here, good stuff. (This type of comment is just soooo French. You can tell where I've been living for the last zillion years). Here comes Anita to join us. She's an old friend of Aurita and also of Leonora. She just pulls in and has some lunch with us.

Taking the Metro to the Monuments

After that we decide we're going to go downtown to see the Cathedral. Aurita says “Why don't we take the Metro?”. I say “Oh, is it O.K. to take the Metro, you know it's not dangerous or anything?“ ”Oh no, the Metro, everybody takes the Metro, it's supersonic and they keep it very clean and there is no fooling around or goofing off in the Metro.” So we go take the Metro and it turns out to be a very nice experience. I didn't get to keep the ticket. I'd have to go buy a ticket and not use it. We get on it and it's very wide and clean and it's a French one. But it's wider than a French one because of the rails. Since it was brand new, they could build the rails any size. It's really, really great and it's air-conditioned by the way. We went swishing off to Capitólio: we got on at Andres Bello I think.

Seeing the Monuments

We got off and there they have La Casa del Gobierno. The first thing we went to see was La Casa de Simon Bolivar.

I know I had seen that ten thousand years ago but I had no recollection whatsoever of it. Maybe they've fixed it up even better since then, probably have. Then we had a quick look in the Museo Simon Bolivar next door. We went onto Plaza del Libertador and the Cathedral. A very nice and shady plaza. We went into the Cathedral and I wanted to light all these candles. Let me tell you, no way José. There's not a candle in there you can light , I don't know maybe because either people rob the kitty (money box) or the candles. There's just no way in hell you can light a candle, so I just went away. We walked across the Plaza del Libertador and Aurita told me that Simon Bolivar (the statue) always has a pigeon sitting on top of his head even when it's raining (you can imagine what the pigeons do to it). We also saw the old University building and all of this was commissioned by a former dictator who had lived in Paris many years, Guzman Blanco (I think). It is a most attractive building. Then we went into a jewelry shop. I wanted to buy a gold orchid with a pearl in it for Maria because I told her I would get her one that I'm giving her for Christmas, ten thousand years later. I had told her about them and she said she'd like to have one. It turns out that they were not making them in Venezuela for the longest time, but now they're making them again, so there you have it.

Buying Shoes for Everyone

Then we all went to buy shoes, comfy shoes. (by that time EVERYbody's feet were killing them). Anita bought some, Leonora bought some and Aurita bought some. I didn't buy any since I had just renewed my wardrobe. Anita was about to die. She had high-heeled crocodile shoes on that she had been running aoround in for a couple of days so she was really pooped out. Forgot to tell you that early that morning we had gone to see Aurita's brother, Jose Armando. I remembered that guy as a little bitty kid and now he's all grown up and he hasn't thinned out any. Chubby kiddie, chubby big guy. That was just an aparté: I needed to fill you in on that.

Mango Juice

After that we get back on the Metro and ride back to Andres Bello. We wanted to call up Raquel but she has her fax machine on her phone line. Then we drive to Raquel's house but she is still not there. We decided we all need some juice or some kind of a drink. We were spittin' cotton; meanwhile, we had been talking full blast. Nobody would shut up any of the time. It was just a running quadrilogue (as there were four of us as opposed to a dialogue) We were just talking all the time and we get along just super fine. That was very good. Then Leonora takes us to the Centro Commerical Las Mercedes. And we all go sit down outside overlooking the Avenida Las Mercedes and we order fruit drinks, piña and I had mango. Mangoes are in season. I want you to know it was to die for. I've hated mangoes all my life - it was about time I got a good one. Now I'm a mango fiend and I want some more. I hope it's going to be as good as the one I had today cause it was very good. I might even give up wine for mangoes. Hardy har har har. Well, you just never know if I had mangoes like that I might just consider it. Supoib.

Aurita's House

Then Aurita needed to get some fixings to go on the arepas she had her girl make for us that night. Which is a big treat, lemme tell 'ya. After we buy some stuff, we go to her house and we meet her two sons and the girl who made the arepas and then we meet her husband, Pedro, a very jovial guy. We all sit down and have arepas with all the fixings on them and that was great fun. Then her husband said, “Why don't we get out of here because you can't sit on these chairs for very long they are so hard. Why don't we go in the living room and sit down and chat”, so we did. Then we started taking about Maracaibo where I.m going tomorrow. Aurita had organized a big tour of Maracaibo for her American friends so she said she'd write it all down so I could go see it. Then she gave me some baskets made by the Orinoco indians: I cannot remember their names to save my whole life (I just cheated and looked their names up in a book I got so that we wouldn't all die stupid as the French say: they are the Yanomami Indians). Aurita collects these baskets. She has them everywhere. So I have two beautiful baskets really and truly made by the indians. Not very many people will have some of those.

Online (at last) from South America

After that Aurita said, “I want you to show me your family newspaper Website. Come on up and show me.” So I showed her La Gazette de la Famille Online. We looked at the baptism of Anatole and Celeste and pictures of Capucine. We had a look at the pictures of Portugal and the art exhibit and we clicked on the other Website I made for Arnaud. Then I clicked on William's Email address and sent him an Email and a copy to Jerome (I just couldn't resist the temptation of sending an Email from Venezuela, obviously). We'll see if they get it, there is no reason why they shouldn't (they did get it). Everybody started getting pooped out, so then we exchanged cards.

Plans for the Next Day

I tell Aurita I had made arrangements to have lunch at the Valle Arriba (that's the country club I used to spend hours at either in the pool or playing golf with Dad) of course and “Would you like to come with me tomorrow?” She said “Oh I'd just love that”. She has to find out if she'll have the car or not (her car just got stolen and the other family cars are in the shop for lack of spare parts. Otherwise we'll just take a cab. She'll get back to me on that but she definitely wants to come have lunch with me at the Valle Arriba. And I want to go to Altamira too because I want to go see what it looks like.

Caracas by Night

We left Aurita's house after saying goodnight to everyone. We left with Leonora and Anita who was going to spend the night at Leonora's house. So she took us around the Valle Arriba urbanización and got an incredible view of Caracas at night at your feet, pretty damn pretty, and also got to have a look at Leonora's house. She also showed me the American Embassy compound, I mean it's got bunkers, it just totally off the wall. I guess they're scared shitless. They act like there are prepared for a raid, a civil war and a revolution all thrown together. Then we either saw the Argentine Embassy or some wealthy person's house with armed guards with submachine guns. God, I said “Drive fast, I want to get out of here: they might be trigger happy, you never know what's going to happen.” I'm a scaredy cat. Then we drove home (my hotel) and jumped out of the car and came upstairs.

Recapping the Day

That's basically it. Look at my beautiful baskets. I'm soon going to pour out the beautiful orchid I got for Maria, watch TV and turn in, what do you know? This was the perfect day. I couldn't have thought of anything better. I did mention that we had had arepas? And they were divine, so were the little toppings. Nothing like the ones I had yesterday: you could have thrown one of those at somebody and knocked him out. Nighty night at the end of the 4th of June. Oh by the way, I especially want to remind Michael of the bidet that hits the ceiling cause this is something he and I used to do together and have a blast.

My Old Boyfriend

I did forget to mention Humberto. I spoke to his sister today and said “Whatever did happen to him?” It seems that he got married at 37 to this girl who was pregnant and that's why he got married. That still doesn't explain why he got married so late. Not any obligation, but anyway. It didn't work out at all but they had that one child whose name is Victor. And the mother at one point just disappeared from the face of this earth and so did Humberto and so the kid is left sort of high and dry and now he's 23 and lives with Aurita's mother. He doesn't go to school and he doesn't work. Sounds familiar I'm afraid. And so c'est un laissé-pour-compte. The kid is totally deséquilibré and so that's that. From what I gathered he might have married somebody else and that didn't work then finally he went to Guatemala to work. There he met a woman who is not particularly chic and supersonic and seems to have her head screwed on right. She's an economist of some sort representing (maybe) the Guatemalan government. Anyway, so she's got a job in Geneva. And she's already left for Geneva and he's supposed to be following her soon and Aurita says it's the best thing that's ever happened to him since she seems so sensible.