Mangeot of the Nordlands is my floppy-hat wearing, perma-addled, globe-trekking alter ego. His is a thirst for the strange marrow of new lands and their cocktails. He is well-meaning and gets to live my best life.
We make the Ninth Parallel at Costa Rica. It is the rainy season, and by afternoon our party is drinking Rhum cocteles. A fine fellow named Errol arranges the bar service and sees to our baggage. His ceviche is good and true and his bar is clean but for the grackles who angle to steal my cassava chips. From the valley a macaw cries the invitation to press onward. “When does the rain break?” I ask Errol. With great solemnity he studies the misted clouds flowing over the mountains from the inland forest. “December,” he says.
The rains do not abate. Neither do the raccoons. From dusk through the night, the beasts probe the latches and doors of our lodgings. Randolfo says we must guard our luncheon and the mini-bar from their thieving paws. We place locks and a guard and wait as the rains rain steady and true. Prevented from inland explorations, we catalogue the base camp’s various species of iguana and Assorted Lizardry and coconuts and also the Rhum varieties. Randolfo serves me a Rhum drink of fiendish red made apparently from Continue reading “Mangeot Not of the Guanacaste, 2018”
I don’t much like the beach. Sure, a beach all sounds so wonderful: the surf, the sand, the sun. And yet, that surf is bracing cold ten months a year, the other months being hurricane season, and the salt water leaves this weird skin film and also you can’t rule out jellyfish. That sand is a plague forever dug out of my ears and other delicate places. Then there’s the sun. The sun is what gets me, a pure broil on my Irish skin. It’s SPF bazillion or extra crispy for me. Then figure in the crowds. No, I don’t much like the beach.
But I absolutely need it.
Water for us in Nashville is another creek that we’re lousy with, or it’s a dammed-up river, thank you Mr. TVA. Big water, say like ocean big, means
Continue reading “Beach Boy”
Lately my traveling alter ego Mangeot of the Nordlands has chronicled expeditions through Norway, Quebec, and now France.
Try not to judge him too hard. He means well.
13 April — Tours
We arrive among Les Français (meaning “They who put sauces on anything”) at their chief aerodrome of Paris. It is a grand city of Statuary and much stone and plentiful macaroons. It is neither clean nor particularly well-lit.
There is Much Strife among the trainsmen. We journey forth regardless as far as they will convey us, into the Touraine. We stop at the drizzle-swept outpost of Tours, pronounced “TWO-er” and meaning in Old French “Why are you not smoking?”. The country folk greet us in a State of Ennui until we demonstrate means of payment. Then fine chefs serve us their Kir and Martini Rouge and treat us to feasts of savory pies made with chicken egg and salted pork. They show us all manner of chateau. Over local wine in which the townsfolk take Great Pride, they ask if I have read the writings of their noted author Balzac. “Some,” I say. “Oui,” they say, “you must be forgiven. You who are possibly from the Nordlands.” I nod. “Perhaps less so,” I say. “But still there is this,” they say. “Why are you not smoking?”
16 April — Bordeaux
We cross the Loire and sally forth into the hinterlands. Onward we venture, beyond the cloudy gloom and Lordly Manors, beyond the Signals of Wireless Service under what our quartermaster tells me is an International Roaming Plan. Our party presses into the Aquitaine, which I translate as “We wait until after the nap.”
In these Darkest Wilds we arrive among the Bordelaise. These are a river people who Continue reading “Mangeot of the Somewhat Nordlands: Among Les Français, 2018”
There are rules to the Tomatina.
In their great wisdom, the Spanish have come to publish guidelines for their annual by-the-thousands tomato fight. No whipping soaked tee-shirts as weapons, for one. No throwing shoes or anything of beanball substance. Just squished tomatoes. Those you can throw at anyone in sight. For one hour.
It takes place in Buñol, a small town in Valencia. At 11 a.m. one day each August, 30,000 people–stop and think about that number–crowd into the old town’s cramped plaza and let fly with 145,000kg of squished tomatoes. 145 metric tons. Squished tomatoes, remember, because a whole tomato flung at close quarters is a concussion inbound, if not pushing the non-deadly edge of force. Tomato trucks rumble by, dumping ammo while the palpable hits mount and gutters fill.
At one hour, the horn blows. 30,000 people stop, heart-pumping, sticky, that last unthrown tomato squished in hand. One hour. At 11:59, slopping tomato pulp at someone’s kisser is good fun. At 12:01, it’s assault. At 12:01, you and your fellow combatants Continue reading “Behind the Short Story: “La Tomatina””