It’s Just a House Part 2

Anyway, this is the dining room. That table and chairs has been there as long as I can remember. I don’t know how we’re getting them out of here. When I was little, I’d sneak out of my room at night. Walking creaked too many boards. So I’d crawl all the way down the hall, through the living room and into the dining room, in among the chair legs and get just the right angle. From inside that forest of chair legs, I could look into the family room and watch Hawaii 5-0 or the Rockford Files when I was supposed to be in bed.

This is the room where I sat on the table, legs hanging over the edge with my arms around my mom and my cheek on her chest. She stood with her arms around my neck and her chin on my head. I told her I wished she and my dad wouldn’t be getting divorced, that I wished they’d tell me it was just a joke, and for Christmas we’d all get back together. We both cried here in this dining room, with the kid pictures on the wall behind us.

But this dining room was also host to some of the best home cooking and festivity you can imagine, sprinkled with the kind of witty repartee that made one ex-in-law curl up in the fetal position. The potatoes and gravy, wild rice and hot rolls made their way around the table along with the crown roast of pork or the turkey or ham. My family all seemed to talk at once. It was no illusion. We were indeed, all talking at once. We could follow it, and the strong newcomers grew to appreciate it even if some never got the hang of it. It’s the perfect set-up, with the kitchen right next to the dining room, but when you cook all day, remember the thermostat is on a shared wall, backed up against the double oven in the kitchen.

The back pantry closet. It’s a great place for canned goods, although we had very few in there when I was growing up. Canned tomatoes maybe and some olives. And for a while my mom and gramma did pickles and stacked them in here. Most of the time the shelves were filled with cookbooks. Through my childhood and my mom’s life, it always had a 25lb bag of flour going, with the sifter in the bag and the bag in a bucket. That and potatoes and onions. There still might be a dusting of flour on the shelves.

This here; it’s a bread drawer. It probably won’t get the kind of use it used to get. We were so embarrassed as kids to bring our uneven slices of homemade bread for lunches. But my whole childhood, we ate homemade bread. The lunch ladies would ooh and ahh, but we were totally ungrateful. The thing is, sometimes the bread got weird. Every once in a while our leftover cereal and milk made it into a loaf of bread. Which is one thing when you had Raisin Bran and quite another when you had Froot loops.

Notice how you can see right into the family room from the kitchen, even while you’re at the stove? More than once I stirred gravy at this stove while my mom and sisters used spoons and brushes as microphones in the family room, singing along with Elvis, the Righteous Brothers, Donna Summer or the Bee Gees.

This family room, my grandpa added it to the house later, it’s not original. That’s why that baseboard heater is there. A couple of us had grid-shaped burn marks from trying to get dressed nest to that beast. Eventually it stopped working, and the forced air was added. Then we got dressed by the floor vents on either side of the room. With our blankets or flannel shirts tented up over us to catch the warm air, we fought over whose turn it was. There were four of us and only the two vents.

And fires in the Franklin Stove. You have to have fires once in a while. To come home to the smoke from the chimney, and walk in the back door to a crackly fire. It’s the homiest feeling. The times that I came home to my mom sitting in here with a fire going, her dinner on her lap and a crossword in her hand, I knew things were right with the world on those days. The rest of the house was dark, but a lamp and a fire, that’s all you need.

Back through the kitchen. It doesn’t matter anymore, that the only phone jack was in the kitchen for a long time. But we used to stretch that cord around this corner, down the hall and into the bathroom or to the basement stairs for privacy.

It’s a full bath, nothing fancy, but it served its functions. It wasn’t just a bathroom, remember, it was a phone booth, and sometimes, it was the only room with a lock. When I would cause my brother would lose his mind he sometimes chased me with a knife or a bat. If I couldn’t get him out of the house, I’d lock myself in the bathroom. A butter knife would open the door, but it was easy enough with the tile floor, to hold it shut with a bare foot.

Later, when I was a teenager, sometimes I’d be terrified to open the door after a shower. I might sit in the bathroom in a towel for a half an hour trying to convince myself there wasn’t someone out there waiting for me. And I never ever thought of my brother. Just about “the guy with the knife”. Only if the house was empty, which wasn’t all that often. And eventually, I’d brandish a hairbrush or curling iron and open the door and make the mad dash to my room. This is more than you needed to know, I guess.

The two main floor bedrooms are just 6 feet down this hall, here. It wasn’t much of a dash, really. The room on the right was my room when I was teenager. Once, I had to move in with my sister, upstairs, and my mom re-decorated my room. It was a birthday present. She had gotten the satin stuffed balloons with ribbon strings and mounted them on the wall. She decorated all the lamp and window shades with butterfly stickers and put a big cork-board on the back of the door. It was like a real teenager room, and it was awesome. Before we moved in, it had been my uncle’s bedroom I think, decorated in blue denim and red kerchief paisley.

We used to say this room was haunted. I don’t know why, except that it’s above the old well and the water meter. Sometimes something below the room causes the walls to hum for 10 minutes at a time. No real sightings or anything scary, don’t worry. The scariest thing that ever happened here was the time I walked in my sleep and woke up in that closet. Couldn’t figure out where I was and why there were walls on every side of me…

I used to sneak out that window right there at night and run around with my best friend Mary, or neck on the cement well block on the side of the house with my boyfriend. Once, after Mary and I snuck out, we came back to find the window locked. My mom was waiting inside the back door. Boy were we in trouble. I take back what I said about walking in my sleep. Finding that window closed, THAT was the scariest thing that happened here.

This was my bedroom, where I sat on my bed when I was 18 and told my mom I was pregnant, sure she’d lose her mind. She took a deep breath and said, “what do you want to do? I’ll help you.” Later in the week, I talked to my dad, in this room, on the phone we eventually had installed in here. He said the same kinds of things, and they both meant it. I stayed here until August, Zachy was born in September.

One more thing about this room. If you sit just inside the door and look out at the basement door in the hallway, you can see the form of the Virgin Mary. If the ghost starts to bother you, open the basement door so she’s looking in here, I can’t promise anything, but it should set things right.

When I was littler, the room on the left was mine. At some point my grandmother insisted on buying carpet for that room. It was bright grass-green. The walls were painted two shades of green. Lighter on top and darker on the bottom, and the trim was white. The floor length drapes had green tree silhouettes going from the floor to the tops of the windows. It was something else. I used to sit in this room and do experiments that involved melting lip gloss on top of a light bulb.

This is also the room I was in when I got my first radio. I used to fall asleep with that radio under my pillow and listen to Casey Casem’s top 40 count down. It was like falling into another world. I’d have that radio under my pillow, my light was off, but most nights the bathroom light was left on. On nights when your kids feel scared, you can leave the hall light on, but a little warning to you, the hall light is definitely bright enough to read by, into the wee hours.

Just outside this room is the laundry chute. A laundry chute that has seen more than its share of duty, both official business and some acts of malfeasance. I’m not naming names, but a few times, cats were dropped down, through this little door into the basket in the basement. Their claws sczzzzing down the sides before they plumped into the clothes pile. They make less noise in a pillow case or sleeping bag, but what fun is that?

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It’s Just a House Part 1

7133 10th Avenue South

Before we finalize the sale, let me walk you through and point out some things you might not have noticed. Neither one of us wants any surprises, and this isn’t just any old house. It’s a velveteen house, a house so well loved it has become real. You’ve already noticed all the things that make this house perfect for a family. That’s why you bought it. No really cool details or secret passageways, just a solid baby-boomer house in a quiet part of town.

As you come up the front sidewalk you can’t really make it out anymore, but this is where I learned, with chalk, to spell Edelweiss. Right in front of the big elm there, you can probably just barely see the spot where Peter Morgan, my future brother-in-law, wiped out on his bike. My mom scooped him up and called his mom. That’s how our families became friends.

Be careful if you decide to till those gardens along the house. When my grandparents owned the house they used to be lined with pink quartz. Those rocks ended up all over after we moved in, but I’m sure there are still some in there. My brother and sisters and I fought over the sparkly ones and wrote on the sidewalks with them, used them as amunition in neighborhood battles and as building materials to dam up the water running down the streets after it rained. My own kids did the same thing.

The lawn isn’t much, but every year when it was time to rake, we’d take a week to do the front yard. The first couple days we’d outline the rooms in our ‘houses’with leaves. That and jumping in the crunchy piles made the job take longer than was strictly necessary. That maple was always too tall for us to climb, but it sure had lots of leaves in the fall. And in the spring we had the helicopters, which if you got them at the right time, right after they fell, you could squeeze until they squirted sweet juice into your mouth.

As long as we’re on the subject of kids and plants, tell your kids that the Johanssens’ Cotoneaster bushes along the driveway have tiny sweet flowers in the spring or early summer. If you bite them,they’re way sweeter than the maple seeds, but you have to watch for ants.

That driveway probably needs to be redone, it used to be black with only two cracks running across it. That was back in the day when my mom parked the Country Squire station wagon there. The one we called the Road Warrior as it started to fall apart. She used that car to chase down Derrick… the towheaded, cross-eyed little delinquent who mugged me on my way to Roith’s Pharmacy. She had him backed up against the retaining wall along the back of the parking lot with that car.

He stopped by once or twice while she was dying to bring flowers. Neon Orange Roses, for crying out loud. She called him VanHalen when he got older and wore that hair long like a rock and roll star.

I’m pretty sure Derrick really came to deliver a little herbal medicinal relief to my brother during my mom’s hospice days. My Brother is always more human when he’s high. I remember when he was young, he actually kicked out one of these panels, here on the front door. It’s this one, here. My mom’s husband Ramon, actually carved this new panel, here, by hand. Can’t even tell it’s new.

This little window on the front door, when my brother would flip out and get violent, I’d get him outside the back door, lock it and RUN to the front door to lock that one. Sometimes we’d get to the door about the same time. My hands were shaking, but this deadbolt, here? Slides nice, like butter. “Schlock.” He’d have his red face and crazy eyes right up to that little window, but he didn’t ever get all the way through until after he had calmed down. This is a solid door.

This front closet, the pencil sharpener was in there on the back wall, it still smells like pencil shavings in here. And there’s graffiti on the wall behind where the coats used to be. When your pencil is so new and sharp, and the wall is so clean and inviting… a coat of Killz will probably take care of it, if you care. It’s colder than the rest of the house, we never hung our coats in here, except maybe in the summer. There were dress coats and snow suits in here along with a basket for mittens and hats. All the slides and home movies were in here from the time I was kid.

Leave your shoes on if you want, this carpet has seen better days. I still think of it as new, but it’s been 15 years or more. Did you notice it has a nice south facing window, there? The sun would come in on Sunday mornings and hit the floor. I remember getting funnies out of the paper and laying on my tummy, on the floor, in that sun. And just driftting off to sleep sometimes, like a cat. My mom crocheted those curtains. They’ve been washed so many times, they’re falling apart. I’d like to take them if it’s OK. It isn’t a big deal, but you know…

My little sister took her first steps here in this room, while my brother and I were on oposite sides of the room trying to convince her to “Come here, Er-Bear! Come see ME! You love ME best!” Poor thing. She learned to walk right here.

We spent so much time here. Years, lives. It was in this room I listened to a new boyfriend honk his horn in the driveway while my mom hissed at me, “Don’t even think about going out there. He can come to the door or he can wait all night.” I guess she could have been replaying what her folks said to her in this very same room, years before. She lived here when she was kid, too.

The Christmas tree was always here in the living room. That corner there works really nice, but if you like the neighbors to see your tree, the picture window is perfect. I sat on the couch at night, when I was a kid, after everyone else was asleep. I’d blur my eyes and look at the Christmas tree lights in the corner, with the snow out that big picture window. I loved that place and that moment, so hard… Kids are funny.

Later, after we inherited the piano, the nativity scene went in that corner on top of it. We weren’t such a religious family, but hiding the baby Jesus around the house became as much a tradition as making silly or obscene phrases out of the NOEL and MERRY CHRISTMAS block letters. My sister will have that piano out of here by next week, I’m sure. All us girls had lessons and practiced right here in this room. I hated to practice. I used to sneak in and move the timer forward when my mom wasn’t paying attention. I couldn’t figure out how to read music. I still can’t.

Jenny got it, though. She’s a piano teacher now. She played this piano for my mom and everyone else while my mom was here dying. It was beautiful and generous. I think it was Beethoven, but I don’t remember. Only that it was majestic and immense and it rained down on these rooms in a way that still makes me cry when I think of it.

It’s that same corner where my mom’s hospital bed was, where she died, too young. It isn’t that far to the bathroom, right out that door, but she only made that trip once or twice after coming home from the hospital. The last time she tried, her legs just gave out under her. My aunt and uncle helped her back up, but she kept saying she wanted to go home and trying to get out of the bed. My God. If this isn’t home, what is?

Part 2 of Why I Am No Fun

I realized a few things while I was traveling that I hadn’t consciously understood before. One was that I’ve spent my adult life accumulating things and systems in order to prevent unpleasantness. Call these creature comforts or the trappings of an unhealthy mind… They aren’t accidents.

I live in the kind of neighborhood where the cops come if your party is too loud. I live here on purpose and if your party wakes me up in the middle of the night, I will call the cops. Then I will sleep, and when I wake up, my mental health will be relatively more stable. I may plot your death while I wait for the authorities, I may seethe at your nerve for treating my front yard like an extension of whatever bar you stumbled out of. But in the end I will know you are an idiot and the law is on my side.

The parties in Banos started at about 11am and quit around 4 or 5am. Easter is an especially big party weekend. The house across the park from our hotel inflated an enormous (two story tall) beer bottle every evening and started playing the dance grooves in the late morning. “Hoy es la Noche del Sexo” was the theme song except when it was “Borrachos Hasta La Amanecer” (these are songs about Jesus rising from the dead, but with a heavy backbeat). The idea of calling the cops was utterly ridiculous for two reasons. For one, there were cops on every corner, armed police all over the place, tapping their feet to the beat.

For another, the idea of offending someone else with your music is simply not on the menu of things to get upset about in Ecuador. Beggars in your restaurant harassing your patrons? Yes. Drunkards fighting over the last tender morsel of cuy? Yes. Armed robbery and picking pockets? Call the cops. Indigenous people fighting the latest trade agreement by blocking off the main roads? They’re on it. Music? Give me a break.

In Ecuador loud is the name of the game. People walk up and down the streets singing out their wares or their pleas for your charity. The dogs roam in packs and have gang-warfare at night. Loud gang warfare. And even the dogs that walk on a leash along side the armed guards for the various hotels and hostels are encouraged to bark a lot. It keeps the guards on the night shift awake, plus it sets off the car alarms. If your car is not parked inside a locked parking facility, it most surely has an alarm. Those alarms seem to be working pretty well, or pretty hard anyway, because they’re always sounding. Roosters start anticipating the sunrise at about 3am, even in the city.

Drivers honk their horn in a conversational way to let you know they are about to pass you on a steep mountain pass. They honk at entire throngs of people because they recognize one person. They honk because you’re blond. They honk because you’re going too slow, because they’re going to run you down as you try to cross the street, or because they want you to go ahead and cross (sucker). It’s a different world.

And don’t even talk to me about earplugs. They are worthless for two reasons: one, they make it possible for bad guys to sneak up on you without you noticing, and two, they expand in your ears and make you feel like your head is going to very quietly explode. Don’t think I haven’t tried the obvious on that front.

At home, my computer is in a room away from other people because I am very private about what I’m writing until it’s done. Even after it’s done, I must send it quickly because I immediately think it’s crap. I am unable to write in front of people. So I don’t.

I also don’t like to do internet research with another person watching. I do a lot of internet research. My daily research is another peak at my potential mental troubles. Since I do a pretty good job at researching until I feel reassured, no one needs to know what I’m worried about.

But in Ecuador there are Internet Cafes. Internet Cafes have all the computers facing the main desk. So if you need for some reason to search “shistosomiasis” or “travel induced constipation” or “water-borne intestinal parasites” or maybe even “noise ordinances in Baños” or“Baños holy week festivities”, your research will be up on the screen for all to see. And all the websites seem to have banner headlines like “Do You Have Shistosomiasis?” or “Don’t be Embarrased About Constipation!”

Just because I’m wondering about symptoms of shistosomiasis doesn’t mean I think my kids or I have it (pretty sure after some research that we don’t). I’m doing research and it’s nobody’s damned business why. It makes me feel better, OK?

So not only was my trip a period of sleep deprivation and nausea, but I couldn’t even deal with the stress by writing about it (Well, I do have a little notebook) or researching it. I might do it again, but not for fun, and not anytime really soon.

Why I Am No Fun. Part 1

I hate to travel.

This is a character defect, a flaw in my personality and one of the many ways I am lacking. It isn’t just a distaste for someone else’s sheets. It isn’t jingoistic love of my homeland. It’s a deep seated fear and anxiety which is glimpse at the mental illness that would be mine but for the grace of god (at this moment). I’m almost dysfunctionally anxious. But not quite. I also have a weak stomach. Nausea and various stomach ailments are regular traveling companions. I struggle against these things, and therefore I do travel on occasion, because I think people should. And also because there are some foods I really want to try. To understand the depth of my distaste for travel you have to know a few things. I’m going to share them with you, but you can’t tell anyone, and don’t be afraid to hang out with me or invite me to your homeland. Agreed?

I just want to make sure we’re clear. I went. I flew. I flew far away from home and then I rode in busses. I used strange bathrooms, ate strange foods and took strange taxis. I spoke in a foreign language for 18 days and rinsed my toothbrush in bottled water. We mixed with the local people ate where they ate and took lots of pictures. So get off my case that I wouldn’t ride in the teleferico (that horrible little cage they slid across on a wire from one edge of a canyon to another). Leave me alone that I didn’t want to drive the 3 hours to Puyo and see the gateway to the jungle. Cut me some slack for not taking a day or two to ride the bus to the coast and take a (retch) boat to the Galapagos. I can only do so much.

I am very prone to motion sickness. More than three passes on a playground swing and I am ready to barf. Driving as a passenger almost anywhere involves a fixed stare at the horizon. Do not ask me to look for something inside the vehicle while it is moving, or I will be toast for the rest of the trip. Traveling by train is tough unless I am facing front and looking out the window. It makes me sick, but it’s not as bad as travelling in an airplane. Take-off and landing are devices of torture which leave me sick for the rest of the day, and maybe the following day. The headache takes at least 24 hours to pass. The nausea is gone in a couple of hours.

Unfortunately, all travel seems to involve not only motion, but lots of motion, in long stretches and short bursts. I especially hate traveling in the mountains. But mountains are beautiful! That’s where people go! And that’s where we went. To the Andes, in Ecuador. We flew, took taxis, rode in death-trap-barf-o-riffic busses. Every trip seems to involve not just the intial voyage, but lots of mini-trips to make sure we’re getting the most of our vacation.

I didn’t have fun. I don’t like to travel. I. Don’t. Like. It. Be my friend anyway, OK?. I will probably leave home again but only if people promise not to try to make me travel while I travel. That’s just mean. I will go. I will land. I will take a taxi to my hotel and from there, I will walk or ride horseback to the grocery store, which is my favorite part of any travelling anyway. I will eat new food and talk to new people, maybe visit some stores and it will make me happy. And that which does not make me happy will surely make me write.

Caperucita Roja

There are two low moments that come to me when I think about our trip to Ecuador. There were others, and there were great moments, too, but they’re just not all that interesting. The lowest of the low moments had more to do with being trapped with my immediate family for almost 3 weeks and being unable to just walk out on them.

But the beggar girl who shamed me stands out as a moment I still can’t shake and can’t quite figure out.

Beggars, mendigos, huerfanos, gente de la calle. Without exception they were indigenas, the descendants of Atahualpa and his brother. Inca people. Dark skinned, dark eyed and very short, they have barrel chests, flat backs and beautiful hooked noses. They have black, straight hair and strong hands. Most of the indigenas wear wool skirts or pants and oddly enough, many of them wear fedoras, both the men and the women. Don’t get me wrong, not all of the indigenas were street people. Most were going about their workaday lives with babies tied to their backs or at their breast. But all of the street people were indigenas or mestizos (mixed with the descendents of Spanish slaves from Africa).

The wool skirts and pants in the street beggars were filthy. The faces of the children and the adults were sunburned, maybe wind burned, but clearly too long exposed to the elements. Their faces were smudged, the creases in their hands, traced by the settled in grime. Sometimes they had deformities of the hands of feet, and maybe just token teeth, especially the older ones.

Children in the street. My god, every block had two or three children begging, selling candy or shining shoes. Or just sitting against a building, maybe with a younger brother or sister in their lap. Young children, sleeping in doorways with their arms over their eyes. And it didn’t even break my heart. I shut down after the first two days. Those first two days, I wanted to explain to each one why I couldn’t give them anything when I happened to be out of change. I apologized to them, begged forgiveness and felt bad for each one.

It can only really fully enter your brain for a couple of days, I think. If you are raw enough to see it for how horrible it really is, unable to shut it out, you might never be right again. Or maybe you are the superhuman blessed with both empathy and strength. I am not. I could feel my own brain deciding to not think about this if I was going to be available for my family. Sometimes it got through. But I surprised myself with how much I could ignore.

They’re such beautiful children, with their white teeth and beautiful skin. Filthy in an almost Dickensian way, but still cherubic and lovely. And sad, and tired and hungry for real food. If they have any food it is either a 3 liter bottle of pop or a box of candy they are selling. Wise in ways children shouldn’t have to be wise. Able to pick out a sucker from a mile away. But you have to see them, to walk among them, or rather, to wade through them for a couple days to understand even the little bit I understood.

I wanted to be able to share this part of the country with the people back home. But I read in The Book (the Rough Guide to Ecuador) that it is rude to take pictures without asking permission (claro que si). And that usually if you offer a small amount of money, locals will gladly consent to being photographed. While we were eating lunch in some restaurant, a little girl came in and started to work the crowd before the staff drove her away. She looked like she was maybe 8 or maybe 10 years old. With a filthy wool skirt and a red felt shawl clutched around her shoulders. She looked like a caricature of a little street urchin. Almost too perfect. I wanted to take her picture, but she was shooed away by the staff at the restaurant.

So when the orphan girl came into the ice cream shop with her cup of pennies the next day, and started to beg in the typical whiney voice that is like a parody of someone begging; when she met my eye, I walked over to her. Thinking back, she probably wasn’t an orphan and it might not have even been the same girl. Whatever, I offered her 50 cents to let me take her picture. She looked down at her feet, and back at me and shook her head no. She looked sad, but resolute. No. She never spoke after I asked her for a picture, just kept shaking her head.

I squatted down beside her. I looked her in the eyes, and tried to sweet-talk her. She looked at me back and stood her ground. She stared at me. I had this notion of hypnotizing her with my blue eyes, and she did have the look of a person worried they were being charmed. Fascinated, but worried. Blue eyed, silver-tongued devils like me are exceptionally rare in Ecuador.

Maybe someone warned her away from gringo perverts who want to take your picture. I told her we’d stay right there and I’d let her see the picture when it was done. Nope. I have to say that after you offer a kid money to take her picture and she says no, the more you cajole, the worse you feel. I started to feel like a pervert. No longer was I trying to expose the plight of these kids. She wasn’t a beautiful little child of god anymore. I was turning into a perverted carnival barker who wanted to exploit this little ragamuffin for all she was worth. And 50 cents, for god’s sake! What was wrong with me?

I blushed, took my ice-cream cone and left her with the 50 cents. She was beautiful, you’ll just have to trust me.

Cuy

Cuy. They say it got that name from the noise it makes as it’s being slaughtered. All the South Americans I love waxed poetic about how wonderful it was. At the very mention of it, they bite their knuckles and moan. I have one friend, who admits though, that she can’t eat it unless someone else cuts it up for her.

I make it my policy to travel for food. I hate to travel, so I need it to be worth my while and the thing that makes it worth my while is interesting food. Interesting and delicious. My family and I recently went to Ecuador for 18 days. My ‘to do’ list looked to the untrained eye like a menu.

I am an adventurous eater. I’ll try almost anything, or more than most. If I knew I had a good cook to prepare it for me, I’d eat bugs, rodents, molds, whatever. I knew I’d eat cuy. The way I saw it, it couldn’t really be much grosser than squirrel. I’ve had squirrel.

As far as the cuy goes, they splay them open, turn the head to one side and pretty much grill them whole and intact. No fur, but the teeth and claws and ears are still on. They’re cooked to a mahogany color on an open grill. Sometimes cuy is served with a little grape stuffed in its open mouth.

I can’t say I recommend it wholeheartedly. But it wasn’t bad. I think I’ll have to try it once more before I make my final decision about whether I think it’s gross or not. It smells really good. All crackly and brown smoky-smelling. Served with a potato and gravy and some random salad I’ve forgotten about, it looks like a wholesome enough meal.

Jasper and I split a half-cuy. We each got one back leg and some thigh-backish stuff. Along with the Potato and juice and salad. The gravy was good, but my head got the best of me and started to wonder what the little meaty-bits were that were floating in it. I chewed on and finished most of my potato fighting a small battle waged in my head about whether it was my business what was in the gravy and whether it really mattered. On to the main course.

It doesn’t taste like chicken.

They cuy itself has a quarter inch layer of fat all over it. Right under the toughish layer of skin. “They probably do that because it keeps it tender and juicy .” Was the comment of one of my traveling companions who, it should be noted, did not have his own cuy and only had a small bite of mine. It was juicy, but not all that tender or delicious. Pretty much tasted like rodent. Remember, I’ve had squirrel.

Not bad, but not the delicacy I had been waiting for. A little tough, a lot greasy and pretty creepy over-all. But what was I thinking? I guess I was hoping that it would be something like a very small pork-roast grilled on an open fire. Only with teeth. Just for your information, and so you don’t get your hopes up, guinea pigs (cuy) are not a very small variety of pig. They’re roundish, hampsterish rats. And it won’t kill you to eat one. But it’s not as great as they say.