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
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.