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Creek Running North

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August 19, 2005

Travel plans

Sometimes Becky will open her mouth and out will come astonishingly silly things. Like this morning. She went off to the rock yard to inspect the green granite that's being cut for our new kitchen counters, and she called. "I just saw that the countertop has some really big garnet inclusions. Is that OK?"

But most of what Becky says isn't silly. And sometimes it's astoundingly wonderful. The other night over dinner, Becky said that I had been talking about it long enough, and it was time for me to plan to go to Peru. "Next year," she said. "We need to get you there."

Probably not next year. I do have a Joshua tree book to finish. Probably within five years, though.

You have to understand that I have been dreaming for more than twenty years of visiting Peru. There were times, back during the bleak days in my mid-twenties, when I thought of little else (aside from leaving Washington DC and getting back to the Mojave.) I've spent a lot of the last couple decades idly studying little bits about the culture of Peru, from its music to local ethnobotany and indigenous agriculture to - when possible - the cooking. Back when Becky and I were studying Spanish together, a trip to the Andes was never far from the front of my mind.

That was in the days of the Sendero Luminoso so it would have been a little risky for a gringo to go traipsing around the countryside. Besides, I was broke.

So the other night Becky and I were eating dinner in our local Peruvian restaurant, El Chalan - the above-mentioned kitchen is still out of commission, though the cabinetry and flooring is in and it's starting to look pretty nice - and the waiter had put on a CD of some really wonderful huayno music. Huayno is an indigenous musical form that's growing in popularity as Peru's cities become more and more Indian. A lot of it is fairly rough, scratchy violins and screechy brass bands. Which I love, the rawnesss and the feeling of it. But some artists are stripping it down, one voice and one instrument, often a guitar. Lucero del Alba is a good example. The music at El Chalan was another.

I asked the waiter who the musician was, and he told me - William Luna - and expressed surprise that I knew from huayno. Oh, yeah, I said, I've been listening to it for twenty years. We traded a bunch of artists' names - El Jilguero de Huascaran, Pastorita Huaracina, Lucero del Alba, and then we branched out into the Criollo music of the coasts with Eva Aylllon and Tania Libertad and Arturo "Zambo" Cavero and the deep African influenced Peru Negro and Chabuca Granda and Lucha Reyes and yada yada yada. We're pals now, William and I, and I just got back from picking up a CD he'd burned for me, and dropping off my extra copy of the old IEMPSA label anthology of 1950s and 1960s-era huayno. We've been listening to the music of Peru for about the same length of time, which was easier for him because he's that old and was born there. His parents, divorced while he was young, took turns exposing him to different music. His mother preferred criollo, his father huayno.

So William went off to get our food after telling us his life story and all the places he'd lived in Peru and Bolivia, and I sighed audibly. Which is when Becky said that we needed to get me to Peru.

Not next year, I think, despite her asking me again today if I'd rather not wait that long. But soon. I want to be sure that I can still hike above 12,000 feet. That I can still stay up past one in a peńa listening to music and be out at seven to hear the brass huayno bands in the city park. That I can still risk yellow fever and malaria with abandon. Before creeping senescence renders me trepiditious at a hiking map like this.

Posted by Chris Clarke at August 19, 2005 06:03 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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This entry is a happy coincidence. I've been reading archaeobotanical stuff all day, and it has me longing for Peru. This is odd, because I've spent the last 2 years (at least) arguing against having to go back (having to go back for the dissertation, I would love love love to go back just to travel, or even to do my own self-directed research).

The writing (uh, the archaeobotanical. Not yours, natch) really tries to suck the joy out of it, but I am still craving a dish of lucuma ice cream, a cherry molle stashed in my bag, a dish of cancha while I wait for dinner . . . and the ceviche. Mmmm ceviche. And the avocados just off the tree in Moquegua. And leche de monja. And pisco sours made right. And the smell of olives wafting over the valle on, giving me vivid dinner fantasies on the long, dusty drive home. Mmmmmmm.

Posted by: CMD at August 19, 2005 07:17 PM
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You are _both_ making me want to go to Peru.

Posted by: Rana at August 20, 2005 01:40 PM
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You are _both_ making me want to go to Peru.

Drink the Chicha morada! Drink it! One of us!

Posted by: CMD at August 20, 2005 01:43 PM
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Rana, meet me there.

CMD, I have maiz para chicha growing in the backyard in Pinole.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at August 20, 2005 03:30 PM
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That's awesome Chris! I hope the trip happens. I've always wanted to go to South America- anywhere really! The history and culture is so rich and it all justs brings out my inner dork!

Now if only i spoke a lick of spanish.......

Posted by: Sydney at August 20, 2005 09:45 PM
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