South AmericaTravel Writings

Elections, Crabs and Cocaine

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December 5, 2006 Elections, Crabs and Cocaine

Lima writhes and bends under its own weight; bustling, bumping, wobbling, weaving, bucking, like a city trying to decide whether to consume itself completely, or reach way down low and pull itself up by its dirty-ass bootstraps. Hustlers, hoods and thieves circumnavigate the city center’s plazas and colonial buildings in search of their next mark, while stray dogs fuck and kill each other in the street. Contrast this with upscale, outer-urban areas like Miraflores, and Barranca and you get the feeling that the entirety of Lima resides on two different planes which, despite proximity, try to ignore the other’s existence. Granted, boutiqued and restauranted Miraflores, and bohemian Barranca have their share of criminals too, but the feeling is completely different and a hell of a lot less ominous.

I landed in Peru ready to be back in a city, but after pulling out of the airport and seeing what stretched beyond the gates, I wasn’t quite sure if I was ready to be in this city. Someone should put up a sign that says, “Now leaving Lima’s airport. Welcome to the Third World motherfucker!”

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Soccer field outside of Lima Airport

The flight had been pretty mellow (I befriended the stewardesses and flirted my way into free beer) and afterwards, me, two Argentinean girls, and a Swedish kid named David, marveled at the differences between Costa Rica and Lima as we sat in a cab on our way to Miraflores. Compared to the massiveness of Lima, San Jose just seemed like a provincial town in a backwater country. Lima was a real fucking city, and after a week of being muy tranquilo, I was ready to party. Unfortunately we managed to arrive the day before election weekend, which meant that, beginning at midnight, no alcohol was to be sold…anywhere.

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The girls of Air Taca love Broke-Ass Stuart

That’s some serious shit right? In the United States, where (it would seem) people have fairly direct access to their government, there are tons of people who don’t vote simply because they just can’t be bothered with it. Whereas, in Peru, where roughly 45% of the population is made up of indigenous peasants who have absolutely no realistic influence on national politics, the country goes dry for 3 days for fear of drunken riots. It’s actually mandatory for Peruvian citizens to vote, and if they don’t, they get fined some ridiculous amount of money. People get so into the elections that political slogans and candidate names get painted on walls all over the cities. If you didn’t know better you think Oscar Gutierrez was a prolific graffiti writer, not a guy running for mayor.

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Election Time

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This guy!

Well if my liver thought it was gonna get a holiday because of the elections, it was totally wrong. Some random gay man who we met on the street and who spoke perfect English took the four of us to an Irish bar that apparently had no respect for Peru’s liquor laws and served booze all night long. In Costa Rica the local girls won’t even acknowledge you if you are a gringo, so it was strange that suddenly here in Peru, I was getting all kinds of attention from every girl in the bar. So much so that I actually thought that all the women were actually hookers and that the gay guy who brought us to the bar was their pimp. Even though that wasn’t the case, I still wasn’t interested because I was still totally hung up on Krista back in San Francisco.

The following day, I met up with L, a friend who lived in Lima and she and I went out to Barranca to meet up with a friend of hers for crab soup. When it comes to crab soup, people don’t fuck around in Lima; each bowl had at least four claws that were almost the size of my hand. Having now tried the crab soup, there was only one other thing I couldn’t leave Lima without trying (mom you may want to skip to the next paragraph), so we went back to L’s friends house and did a couple lines of blow. Now, I don’t do cocaine very often, in fact I’ve never really been much of a fan of the drug, but I figured that since this was my only chance to try really really good cocaine from a reliable source (there’s no fucking way I’d buy drugs on the street in Peru), there was no way I couldn’t try it. For the equivalent of seven American dollars you can buy a gram of some of the best shit on Earth, so I did, and then did two lines of it, and then remembered why I never liked coke much in the first place; it’s kinda lame.

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Crab Soup

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Peru’s national soda. It tastes like bubblegum flouride…in a good way

Earlier in the day, before the crab and coke, David (the Swedish guy) and I went and bought our trips to Machu Pichu. I guess the lady who helped set it up kinda fancied me and invited the two of us to her friend’s 28th birthday party. Considering the whole damn country was dry, we of course obliged. I’ve always found that one of the best ways to get insight into another culture is to get yourself invited to a party at someone’s house. In this case there were a lot of differences from an American’s 28th birthday party. First of all, the hostess/birthday girl, set up all of her chairs in a circle and the inside of the circle became the dance floor. She also cooked food for everyone, but when she served it, all the men got served before any of the women received their food. They also shared all the drinks. If someone opened a big bottle of beer (it comes in huge bottles here, almost like 40 oz’s) everyone poured a little into their cup and then passed the bottle on. It was also interesting that the crowd ranged from 20 years old up to like 55, and if there was a couple, the man was always at least 15 years older than the woman.

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Fiesta Peruvian style

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Salsa

Overall it was a fun night and one in which I was made to dance meringue and salsa in circle of 30 Peruvians I’d never met before. But easily the best part of the evening was when I’d convinced everyone that David was a bullfighter from Sweden. A few people offered to help get him some fights, but he respectfully declined because he was on vacation. I was just surprised that he went along with my bullshit as long as he did. But I guess you are too if you’re still reading these blogs.

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Me and David the Swedish Bullfighter

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

I've been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle , "an SF cult hero": SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York, but to those familiar with my work, I'm just "that douchebag who writes books about cheap stuff and drinks a lot".