I loved to go to Mérida. It was such a nice clean and cool city -- nothing along the lake that I ever saw held a candle to it.

In the late 50's I think after Dad transferred to Lagunillas I came back for summer vacation from high school. This would be my first summer in Lagunillas after the transfer and low and behold my childhood friends the Norsworthy girls were there (Sandy, Shari and Nancy). We hit it off immediately and became very close and I think still are. I spent many evenings over at their house playing Monopoly or Canasta. By this time Dad would let me drive the jeep out of the camp during the day but he still had night restrictions on me because of the unrest caused by Fidel's boys pushing communism among the workers. I would load the girls in the jeep and we road up and down every square inch of land within the camp boundaries all summer long including the dike. They were thrilled to ride straight up or down the dike which I did with the jeep placed into 4-wheel drive. We used to talk about everything under the sun while riding around.

Well, one day their parents invited me to go to Mérida with them over the weekend. And off we went in Nor's sedan - Fay was their mother's name a wonderful person. We drove up to pass at Pico Aguila and stopped to have hot cocoa at the inn there. It was so cold and we were starved for oxygen and just sat still by the large fireplace to keep warm and half nauseated. Then away we went down the other side of the mountain and eventually reached the jewel of the Andes, Mérida. We stayed in a nice hotel run by a German couple. I had a bottle of army surplus Halizone tablets with me which we used to purify the drinking water at the table. We were very careful.

This also was the first time that I saw pureblood Spanish and they were not darker skinned like the Creole people who lived along the lake instead they looked white just like me but they spoke Spanish--amazing!!

The first evening there, Nors took us out to eat on the town and I wasn't too hungry and just had a fried meat sandwich of some kind with a little lettuce as I recall later. A fantastic evening.

The following morning after breakfast at the hotel we headed for the new Teleférico which was still under construction by a French contractor -- it was their system, you see. You could take a gondola to the top and back. The top station was completed but the midway station was not. You could get out there and hike but there was no structure in place, just a concrete floor exposed to the elements.

Up we went and I laughed as the girls shrieked when the gondola rocked back and forth as we passed each of the cable tower arms. What a fantastic view and the day was bright and the sky clear. We finally reached the top and got out and walked outside of the building and into the snow. There was a clear view of Pico Bolivar that day and I photographed it. (A copy of the photos is on Randy Trahan's website.)

We wandered around the area for a while and then I began to experience a little abdominal discomfort which grew in intensity. I could not locate a bathroom and began to break out in a cold sweat. I told the Norsworthys that I had go back down immediately and I got onto the next gondola heading south. “Oh my God -- I don't think I can hold it” and the cramps set in without let up. The gondola stopped at the unfinished way station and I jumped out. Where to go, where to go??? Not a bush in sight and I am bowled over with cramps and I wait until the gondola is out of sight and I search for a place to go and decided that it had to be off the platform. About the time I had my pants down and butt stuck over the end of the platform and let loose the gondola from the top and bottom came into sight as they began the next cycle. “Oh, geeze” I thought, “I am in view of people in both gondolas.” Thank God my back was to them as the two gondolas passed within feet of me and my butt was still over the ledge.

How bad is that -- total humiliation??

Well, I made in back down to the base and was sitting with my back to one of the towers not feeling quite as bad when the Norsworthys came down. We attempted to find Paregoric in town but no luck -- another mistake. We headed home from there and I remember little of the return.

I did not tell them of the humiliating situation I was in until I met Shari and Sandy again almost 40 years later at the reunion in San Antonio and of course they died laughing -- see kids, even after they are grown can be cruel.

It was the lettuce you see -- I forgot my parent's rule regarding fresh vegetables -- don't eat unless soaked in bleach.

And that's the way it was.

 

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