Hey, y’all, what’s up? Has it really been three months? Wow, time flies when you’re… well, we’ll get to that.
I know that P.C.H.A. nation has been in an uproar since my unannounced disappearance. Don’t worry… the long national nightmare is over. Here’s what happened… The Dilemma came to me and said that he was a bit worried that I was shouldering a bit too much of the load (really, I think that he was worried that my productivity was making him look bad). So, he suggested (insisted, really) that I take a sabbatical to recharge my batteries. But now that the Fall Pop Culture High Season is in full effect, the time has come for P.C.H.A. to become whole again.
So, what have I been up to? Glad you asked.
I have seen khaki beaches and water a disturbing grey. I have seen more than one Tebow jersey on the streets of Peru. I have smelled what roasted lamb smells like spread over mountains of hot coals. I have been addressed as “Cabron” on two different continents. I have watched 500 hipster Americans bob their heads vaguely. I have seen sunsets that looked computer-enhanced and a equatorial moon that looked more like a sort of obscenely large and dangling lemon than like the good old stony U.S. moon I’m used to.
I have (very briefly) joined a Conga Line.
I have seen a lot of really small fishing boats. I have seen flocks of large birds with impressive wingspans. I have seen an impressive tuft of hair on a three-week-old boy. (The birds tended to die on the beach in disturbing numbers.) I have seen the north coast of Peru. I have seen and smelled all the cats in the Parque Jefferson in Lima Peru. I now know the difference between Ecuadorian and Peruvian ceviche, and what it is to shoot Malort. I have seen backpacks that practically required a dolly; I’ve seen fluorescent luggage and fluorescent sunglasses and fluorescent pince-nez and over twenty different types of potatoes. I have heard marching bands and eaten fish fritters and watched my brother-in-law sing a Creed song in public. I have jumped rhythmically toward the ceiling to the beat of the exact same alternative music I loved jumping to the ceiling to in 1994.
I have learned that there are actually intensities of grey beyond very, very grey. I have eaten more and cheaper food than I’ve ever eaten, and eaten this food during a week when I’ve also learned the difference between North Carolina and Chicago BBQ. I have heard a professional DJ tell folks, without irony, to “give it up.” I have seen cargo shorts and white dinner jackets and white-and-red jerseys and plaid loafers worn without socks. I have seen professional blackjack dealers so loose that they make you want to run over to their table and count cards while playing blackjack. I have heard upscale adult U.S. citizens speak loudly to native Peruvians and get annoyed when that doesn’t cause them to understand English. I now know the precise mixological components of a Pisco Sour. I know what a Whiskey Slap is. I have in three months been the object of over 1500 professional smiles. I have Teva tanned twice. I have shot darts in bars. Is this enough? At the time it didn’t seem like enough. I have felt the full clothy weight of an equatorial sky. I have jumped a dozen times at the shattering, flatulence-of-the-gods sound of The Musky Canadian. I have absorbed the basics of Cornhole, seen part of a World Cup qualifier of subpar futbol, learned how to rock a rented tuxedo, and lost at hide-and-seek to a four-year-old girl.
(Actually, it was more like I shot at a dartboard in a bar.)
I have dickered over trinkets with malnourished children. I now know every conceivable rationale and excuse for somebody spending over 20 months on a South American adventure. I have bitten my lip and declined Peruvian pot from an actual Peruvian.
I have seen, one time, from a bar’s deck rail, way out and off to the right, what I believe to have been a Great White Shark’s distinctive fin, addled by the sun’s glare.
I have now heard – and am powerless to describe – reggaeton. I have learned what it is to become afraid of one’s own bathroom garbage can. I have acquired “pong skills” and would like very much to keep them. I have tasted roasted guinea pig and concurred with the person sitting next to me that it is: asi asi.
I now understand the term “Visa Run.”
I now know the maximum weight load of a Chicago bungalow’s garage roof. I have had chicharron, deep dish pizza, wedding cake, soft shell crab, a chocolate marshmallow, and an omelette made with what was alleged to be trace amounts of truffle oil. I have heard people in deck chairs say in all earnestness that it’s the humidity rather than the heat. I have been – thoroughly, professionally, and as promised beforehand – inebriated. I have, in dark moods, viewed and logged every type of erythema, keratinosis, pre-melanomic lesion, liver spot, eczema, wart, papular cyst, potbelly, femoral cellulite, varicosity, collagen and silicone enhancement, bad tint, hair transplants that have not taken – i.e. I have seen nearly naked a lot of people I would prefer not to have seen nearly naked. I have felt as bleak as I’ve felt since puberty, and should have filled almost three Moleskine notebooks trying to figure out whether it was Them or Just Me. I have acquired and nurtured a potentially lifelong grudge against my building’s downstairs neighbors – who were Belgian and whom I now christen the Congo Killers – an almost constant frustration with my waiters, and a searing crush on Claire Danes, she of the dimples and broad candid brow – a figure of magical and abiding charm, and well worth a blog post all her own.