Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Handsomest Man in the World ~ Micheal Kors model

Here it is...Handsomest Man in the World time! I just ran across the close up of the Michael Kors guy, who is usually concealed behind dark glasses. He gets my vote. He actually looks kind of intelligent. Yes, I said, yes.

Dear David,
Who was the best looking man you've ever seen?
~Youth Wants to Know

Dear Youth Wants to Know,
It was Maxwell Caulfield. An English actor who came to fame in London, then came to New York. So good looking and tall, great body. Appeared onstage completely naked. Went to Hollywood and did "Grease" and haven't really heard of him since. We photographed him (dressed) for one of my books and he was very charming. I don't know why he didn't make it big in Hollywood, he had it all. I'm sure he's somewhere out there doing fine. I know he married a somewhat older English actress and Hollywood probably wasn't for him. It isn't for everyone.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Travel Diary ~ Lingering in Lima Peru

I met Mr. C. in Lima as it is midway between us.
About a five hour flight for each of us. One of my friends
had recently been in Lima and liked it very much. On the
Pacific as it is, he felt it compared in many ways to Los
Angeles in weather-wise and its upscale section, Miraflores,
was for him very much better parts of L.A. also. He gave
me a list of restaurants and nightspots he had visited and
information on hotels and shopping high points. I had
Left my Peru guidebook and the hotel Antigua Mira Flores sounded
like a very good choice. A former palatial home, now extended
to include additional rooms and at a very encouraging nightly
prices. Overall, prices in Lima are a good bit lower than in
Miami and much lower than Brazilian cities like Rio de Janeiro
and Sao Paulo.

I set out on a Sunday afternoon so as to be in Lima in the
morning the next day when Mr. C. arrived. Lima and Miami are
in the same time zone and a car had been sent for me so my
passage through the very crowded airport was uneventful.
Although it was ten o’clock at night the airport was jammed and
many planes were arriving. And as in all South American cities
the entire family is always there to greet each arrival. A mad
house but we escaped, got to the small and pleasant hotel and
although my room wasn’t the one requested I fell into bed, deciding 
to straighten things out with the front desk in the morning.

In the morning I called Mr. C. at a time when I thought
he should have cleared customs to reassure him that a car had
been sent for him. The same driver as I had had the night be-
fore. About an hour later I went down to the desk and heard one
of the receptionists mentioning my name. She was on the phone

with the driver who could not find Mr. C. I told her to reassure
him his passenger was there as I had spoken to him at the airport
earlier. I think called Mr. C. again and as I spoke to him he
encountered the driver. This kind of contretemps was to become
familiar in our days in Lima.

Peru is a country...and Lima is a city.. .that has too many
things unexplained. It’s history, it’s population, certainly
it’s traffic.

I waited at the lobby entrance until Mr. C. arrived. Neither
he or the driver could explain how they had missed each other at
the airport for more than an hour. Mr. C. suspected the driver
wasn’t actually there.

We ate lunch across the street in a quite smart restaurant
and then walked down to the edge of the city. No one told me
about Lima. It is quite dramatic. it is~ perched on a perhaps
ten story tall]~ cliff, very raw and red with few ways to reach
the beach below. The night before I had come in from the
airport along this beach and then drove up a kind of gully
that ran up into the heart of Mlraflores. We now walked back
to the cliff edge, across a bridge that spanned this gully and
on to where a great hotel rose high above the cliff and a
very ultra-smart shopping mall descended downward. All the
smart international stores were represented here but not the
luxury tops like Prada and Bulgari. These may have been across
the street at the lavish hotel.

What one is struck by immediately in Lima is the traffic.
The streets are packed with taxis and buses. If there is an
official public transportation system it is not readily discern-
ible. There are large buses, small buses, and miniscule buses. 
They line up and a kind of town crier stands by the door calling out
their destinations. People cram in. In the very small buses one
can see people so tightly packed in they cannot sit up straight.
There are also few traffic lights by most big city standards. The 
many taxes also range from small to smaller and they have no meters. 
You must lean in and bargain with the driver as to how many soles 
you are willing to pay to reach your address. There are about two 
and a half soles to the dollar. We found drivers were very consistent 
and rides were five or ten or fifteen soles for the most part. There 
wasn’t a lot of argie-bargie with the driver about what you were going to pay.

That night at the hotel in the room we had been given as
originally reserved we discovered that the guests were for the
most part young back-packers on their way to Cuzco and Machu
Picchu. They were laughing, talking and marching about until
late in the evening. In the old mansion walls were not thick and
floorboards creaked. Then in the night whoever was overhead began
a series of hurried and panicky steps across their room. A
pause. Then hurried and panicky steps back. A pause. A return.
A pause. They darted back and forth most of the night. Pacing?
Repacking? What. I was tempted to go upstairs, rap on the door
and ask what the hell they were doing. I really wanted to know
what was prompting that scuttling to one side of the room, the
pause and then the scuttling back. I didn’t. But at breakfast
Mr. C. announced, “We must go to another hotel. This hotel does
not have enough privacy.” He was right. It was as though the
other guests were omnipresent, whether in our room or not.

We struck out and went to the Doubletree El Pardo Hotel,
not too far. We called first, they had a room, we walked over
and booked it, then went back and checked out. The very nice
girls at the desk were sorry to see us go but didn’t question
our departure.

Mr. C. was much happier at the El Pardo. It had a gym, a
pool on the roof and certainly privacy. You could not hear the
people in the next room. We explored about, made a reservation
at the Huaca Pucliana restaurant and examined the historical
site. Here there were the remains of a giant pyramid built of
brick sometime between the third and fourth century A.D. Long
before the Incas.

What you also learn in Peru is that there was a high level
of civilization before the Spaniards arrived in the 15th century
and knocked it all apart. The Incas were only the dominant
culture in the last century before the Spanish invasion.
Before then there any number of other cultures who developed
the use of terraces for the cultivation of foodstuffs which
allowed them to live high in the mountains and on the steep
hillsides that make up much of northern Peru. I am just beginning 
to understand the geography of South America, but on the Pacific 
side of the Andes Chile to the south and Peru to the north dominate 
the coast. Bolivia is inland from Peru with only a small coastal outlet. 
Then there is Colombia on the bulge to
the north and Ecuador on the very, top. The result is that Peru
ranges from mountains and valleys down to deserts and under
t~-ie Incas the culture also extended across the Andes into
the tropical forests of the upper Amazon. They had no written
language or use of money but kept track of the work people did
and they shared food and building materials and other materials
according to how much work they had contributed. The family was
paramount in the providing of workers. They had no horses but
shipped some materials long distances by rafts with sails up and
down the coast. The Spaniards pretty much demolished this culture 
and diseases desimated the native population.

I should point out that in the streets of Lima I was. among
the tallest people. There are an enormous number of tourists in
Peru, passing through Lima on their way to Macchu Picchu and
other historic spots. They and the many men in suits and ties
about were taller. Another some 50 per cent were obviously the
Inca descendants; much shorter, large features, prominent noses.

It almost had the feeling of an occupied country. You felt the
native peoples were definitely here and very much in evidence.
In other South American countries I have been in the indigenous
population seems much more assimilated. Even in San Salvador
Bahia in Brazil with its large black population the people
seemed to know each other, eat lunch together, be very much
more mixed together. Here, no.

At dinner that night at Huaca Pucilana we saw the monied
Lima-ites and well-dressed tourists. It really wasn’t like
Buenos Aires or Rio, which seem much more European. This was
more provincial. Lima is a city of the upper class and then the

Wednesday we took a taxi down to the old city to the great
central square where Pizzaro founded the original city. I should
also add I found the weather brisk and overcast, very much like
San Francisco. Lima is kind of a mix of San Francisco and Rome
50 years ago. The chill of the Pacific and the hazardous madness
of the traffic. In Rome years ago I always crossed the streets
implanting myself in the center of seven or eight people. That
way someone else would be hit first. And there were enough of us
to intimidate the driver. Here one had to do the same thing and
even so there were still looneys veering madly around the corner
you least expected them.

At the vast cathedral they wanted ten soles to enter. I said
to the ticket taker, “What do you think Jesus would have thought 
of having to pay to enter a church?” He looked at me and said,
“You’re still beautiful and in good health. What do you have to
complain about?” I said, ”Here’s your ten soles.” The church
has enormous side chapels filled with elaborate carvings and gilt
and paintings. Amazing what the Catholic church created here in
this distant wilderness so long ago.

            From the cathedral we proceeded to the post office near
the corner of the square. An amazing place I thought was some
kind of Victorian shopping center. Very ornate facades on each
side of a passage lined with tourist shops. Above are the
postal offices. All this in a kind of orangey pink like some
big frou-frou cake. At the far end the real business of the post
office was compress into a quite small space where you could
mail packages, pick up mail and buy stamps. Ahead of me at the
stamp lady were four German tourists arguing violently with the
stamp vendor. She finally reluctantly returned a miniscule coin
to them. I spoke Spanish to her and she looked at Mr. C. all
the time. “She doesn’t understand a work I’m saying, does she?”
I demanded of him. He answered, “No, but she says you’re cute.”
I guess being tall and blond is the way to get ahead in Lima.

We then visited the former train station, at which one
descends a very steep flight of stairs to a waiting room with
a wonderful stained glass ceiling and out onto the quay. There
are no trains anymore but there is a narrow river valley behind
Lima right here and the original tracks ran along the edge of
the river. All this is preserved but unused now.

After this visits to two other churches which were closed
for lunch (yes!) and then a terrible lunch in another historic
square. After this a long and futile search for the national
art museum which when finally found only had one room open with
contemporary artists. This was as much as Mr. C. was willing

to contribute to my pursuit of historic and artistic Lima. We
went back to the hotel and I wrote postcards and Mr. C. went
to the gym and the pool. Gym:good. Pool:freezing. On to dinner
at a quite nice restaurant directly across from the hjotel. The
food in Lima is its big attraction. It really has very good
seafood and great variety on the menus, unlike the other
side of the Andes which is very meat oriented.

One thing I forgot to mention about the Cathedral. There was
a chapel dedicated to Pizzaro where his tomb is found. On the
walls were photographs of his skeleton and the its condition
separated to pre-his murder and post his murder. He was killed in
the streets by his own people but my historical readings haven’t
discovered why yet. Pre showed that he had spinal deviation,
stuff like that. Post chowed all the cuts on the bones from the
murder. Pius very lengthy medical reports on both evaluations.
I found this curious and somewhat out of place in an atmosphere
of worship. Overall there wasn’t much feeling of piety~ in this
very large cathedral, although I believe Perui s a very Catholic

Thursday we walked down through the town and down the
narrow valley that led down to the seashore. Heading to the res—
La Rosa Nautica for lunch. Down and down we went. Really a long
and steep descent to reach the shore. Steps down through grass
covered hills on each side of the highway that, rushes up the
valley to the upper level. At the bottom I told Mr. C. that I
was definitely to climbing back up, although there were quite
a few people doing so. We walked past the surfers, hurling themselves 
into the sea. My feeling that the weather was brisk was confirmed by all
of them in their wet suits. There were a number of people in
shorts walking about Lima and I counted them. “Four” I would
shout. “Five”. I don’t think I ever got above five and I think~
they were all tourists. My. C. was striding about in a T-shirt
while I was enveloped in a jacket and sweater but he is very

 Some of the surfers had their wet suits peeled down and they
Definitely did not have the kind of bodies one expects to see on 
our own East Coast. The surge was not too formidable either. 
A number were going in with instructors. A young woman 
seemed to be the most able.

Our restaurant, La Rosa Nautica, was a kind of ornamental
Victorian gazebo at the end of a long stone pier out into the
water. Very charming, very expensive and the food wasn’t great.

This may be a tourist attraction here in Lima rather than where
Lima-zines go. I kind of confirmed this as the taxi driver wanted
15 soles to get back on top of the cliffs. Expensive here. When
we demurred he said, ”You just ate here. You can afford it.”
Getting back up was major as the coast road has few turnarounds
and had to go about two miles south to turn around and come five
miles back before finding one of the few streets that mount to
the top. The coast road is very cut off from the cliff top.

We then went to the shopping mall and went wild and returned
to our hotel with the booty. That evening we ate a restaurant we
had noticed during the day. La Tiendacita Blanca. Not fancy but
very good food. I love a restaurant that is not crowded, quiet,
and brightly lit enough so I can really see my food.

I should mention that our hotel was near the John F. Kennedy
park and we were surprised to see many stray cats in the park.
This is a smallish park, very manicured with many benches and
children’s play areas. The cats all look clean, well fed, calm
and very used to all the people around. They sit under the benches
where people are perching ignoring them. There must be people
coming to feed them every day. At another park there was a :1:11
yellow cat sprawled out on the sidewalk sleeping near the entrance
as many people walked around. I’ve seen dogs do that in
South America but never cats. A first.

Friday we were allowed to stay in the hotel until we went
to the airport about six o’clock in the evening. We sort of
hung around. Mr. C. studied for a test he has coming up. I
rad and snoozed getting ready for my overnight flight.

 The airport was an astounding mess and our plan to have
dinner there went awry. Mr. C. checked in as his flight was
just before ten o’clock. I was not able to check in for my
11:30 flight as no American Airlines employees were there. We
sat together and waited until they finally showed up but then he
had to go through passport and go to his flight. I was able to
check in and dashed through passport to get to his departure gate
but just missed him. My flight wad delayed an hour. These over-
nights back to Miami are always the flight from hell. But I
departed. Called him once back in Miami.

And that my darlings, is Lima, Peru!

Monday, November 11, 2013

My boyfriend travels a lot for his job ...

Dear David,
My boyfriend travels a lot for his job and lately I've gotten kind of obsessed with the idea that he is cheating on me while he travels. I call his room at the hotels he stays at way too much, trying to catch someone else answering the phone. I call the desk and ask if his "friend" has gone to the room. They always say "no" in a wondering voice. I have even thought of just flying to where he is and showing up unexpectedly. Is that crazy?
~Dee Sturbed

Dear Dee,
Yes. This is crazy. We only imagine each others behavior what we are capable of doing ourselves. Should he be worried that you are fooling around while he is out of town? You should think about this. Sounds like maybe you're the one who wants to be the "cheatin' heart."

Monday, October 28, 2013

My lover likes to...

Dear David,
My lover likes to have sex in public places. I don't mean gay bars. I mean places like the movies. I am afraid of getting in trouble. What do you think?
~Fun Shy

Dear Fun Shy,
I used to have a lover that favored phone booths. Fortunately, or unfortunately, they are few and far between these days. Listen, lovers are hard to come by. I recommend you never leave the house without carrying a large "raincoat". You'll be fine. Just keep covered up.

Friday, October 18, 2013

I'm FALLing for fashion!

My fashion direction for autumn. This looks great. The shorter jacket. I am doing it.

Two nono's:

1. Tom Ford thinks men would be wearing fur coats. Please don't. It's as true for men as for women. Furs make you look ten years older. Avoid them.

2. Am I the only one who is very tired of Kate moss? Please, enough Kate. Retire.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Are models getting sexier?

My friends, you haven't seen me for a while as I have been undergoing some dental surgery and am missing a front tooth. I would rather you not see me looking like a jack-o-lantern, even if Halloween is approaching.

Here's a little something for you this week to take a break from my travel journals. Ads and models from current magazine who are very sexy. Are models getting sexier? It kind of looks like it. Good.

Friday, October 11, 2013

"I'll Never Forget When David said..." ~ Memories from my "Mad Men" Days ~ Part 3

A photo of me from my "Mad Men" days

Hello my darlings! Below we've saved the best for last of the staff member memories from a notebook I discovered titled “I’ll Never Forget When David…”. My staff gave me at a farewell party when I was leaving Grey Advertising to go to France to work for McCann-Erickson. Leaving my client Revlon behind to work for L’Oreal, their big competitor in Europe. Please click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2 incase you missed it.

"I'll never forget when David and I were in the elevator. I was in some man's shirt, my hair was a mess, he looked at me (I had a violent hangover) and said, "Anita, promise me you'll never get a tattoo."

"I'll never forget when you called me Wallushka...I guess it was my entry into the world of FASHION and BEAUTY!!"
P.S. I come from a third world country. Heavy accent. I am not gay and I am in Fashion and Beauty! Like Mahatma Gandhi exchanging recipe with Julia Child!

I'll never forget when David said, Well you don't look scared anymore." And I watched as the confidence and support David gave me was something he shared with everyone around him."

I hope you had a few smiles and laughs. Have a wonderful weekend my darlings!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"I'll Never Forget When David said..." ~ Memories from my "Mad Men" Days ~ Part 2

Hello my darlings! Below are more staff member memories from a notebook I just discovered titled 
“I’ll Never Forget When David…”. My staff gave me at a farewell party when I was leaving Grey 
Advertising to go to France to work for McCann-Erickson. Leaving my client Revlon behind to work 
for L’Oreal, their big competitor in Europe. Please click here for Part 1 incase you missed it.

"I'll never forget when I met David! My friend Vicky had absolutely rhapsodized about him for so 
long that I'd shake her for the "dailies."..."Well, my new Creative Director David said today..."
Finally he interviewed me. He said, "My dear, I think that the secret to doing great fashion and 
beauty advertising is just taking very seriously the relationship between men and women." I said,
"Well gosh I think that sounds impossible!" He said, "I guess we'll hire you then."

"I'll never forget the day David hired me. He was preparing for a trip around the world, Bombay, etc. 
We gathered around a desktop filled with papers, magazines, beauty products. One short phone call 
to Personnel. "This is David Leddick I would like to hire Miss Janet Modine...(squawking voice)..."Yes, 
yes. That's all well and fine but I would like to hire her." Although it was short I will always remember 
that as one of the best days of my life.

"I'll never forget when I showed and inadequate layout to David and he said, "We'll take a little piece 
of paper and I'll show you how we do it in advertising." (Sounding mysterious)

Stay tuned tomorrow for more “I’ll Never Forget When David…”. I saved the best ones for last!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"I'll Never Forget When David said..." ~ Memories from my "Mad Men" Days ~ Part 1

A photo of me above in my “Mad Men” Advertising days

Hello my darlings! I just discovered a notebook my staff gave me at a farewell party 
when I was leaving Grey Advertising to go to France to work for McCann-Erickson. 
Leaving my client Revlon behind to work for on L’Oreal, Their big competitor in Europe.

The notebook is title “I’ll Never Forget When David…” and each staff member wrote a 
little memory. The only reason I share it with you is many of them are very funny, and of 
course I remember none of them occurring. Here goes…

“I’ll Never Forget When David said “No matter what happens, it’s only advertising.”

“I’ll Never Forget When David advised me that “Stardom is the only way out.”

“I’ll Never Forget When David said that the reason he was spending $700 a day on 
living expenses while we were traveling was, “Well, I have to stay alive.” 

“I’ll Never Forget When I said to David, “You spent over $800 on limos! How can I 
charge the client? And he said “Well Bob, next time I’ll take smaller limos.”

And there is more where that came from! Stay tuned tomorrow and Friday for more 
“I’ll Never Forget When David said…”, they get even better as the week goes on!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Travel Diary ~ Cruising Around Curacao

Curacao is an island with a lot of blonds. Dutch blonds. I’ll bet you don’t even know where it is. There are a string of Dutch connected islands down through the Caribbean ending with Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire in a row just 30 some miles off the Venezuelan coast. I was in Aruba last year and it was wholly dedicated to the American tourist industry, large hotels and a mass of North American clientele.

Curacao is quite different. Similar in shape to Aruba… long, skinny; some 37 miles by eight… but tourism is not its principal business. Its large harbor destined it to become an oil refinery center where Shell Oil brought Venezuelan oil to be refined and then shipped to other countries. Tourism is fourth in importance in the islands business scheme.

This has left Willemstad, the capital, relatively untouched. There is one perhaps eight-story hotel in the middle of the old fort and that is it for height. All other hotels are in old buildings and only a few stories high. Willemstad retains its many different colored buildings along the wide channel that leads to the bay. All of them built several hundred years ago; this is the traditional Holland of “Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates” except that the channel is never going to freeze over. It is mucho hot in Curacao.

I arrived on Curacao about 3:00 p.m.; a short two hour and a half flight from Miami, The same length flight as the one to New York. Mr. C. had arrived via Panama about noon. Driving in from the airport we soared high over Willemstad and the entry channel to the bay on a very high bridge. Built very high to let the gigantic tankers passing into the bay clear beneath. Down below I could see the peaked gables and bright pastels of the houses lining the channel. Really charming, really “another time”, nothing like any other Caribbean island I had seen.

Arriving at the Hotel Avila I found an old yellow mansion, the former Governor’s residence. Larger additions stand on either side but the old mansion remains intact. This is where Simon Bolivar, the great South American liberator, stayed when in exile.
This part of Willemstad is where the city first pushed outside the old protected walls. Onto a slip of land that stood between the Caribbean and the bay. On the sea side the hotel built a promontory and a long pier crossing it like a ‘T.” This created two small semi-circle bays, which have been filled with sand to create beaches. On the end of the promontory is a nightclub called The Blues. The two beaches, quite small, are filled with Dutch burgers.
The other guests were almost 100% from Holland. Upper middle class people divided between honeymooners and young couples with small children and an older group of 50 to 60 year olds. The women wore not revealing two-piece bikinis. The men wore the quite brief trunks we all wore some fifty years ago. Only some of the really young boys wore long, flappy trunks that are now always worn on American beaches by men.
The Dutch have better bodies than Americans. None of the older men were very overweight; the younger men were all very trim. Again in the style of the 1950’s. No gym built bodies here. There were a couple of married men showing off good-looking athletic bodies but it made me wonder, “Who for?” Everyone at Hotel Avila was going to sleep with the person they came with. Looking about me I wondered, “Is there an upper class in Holland, or is this it?” It’s hard to imagine the Dutch as big-spending, country-hopping, nightclub-dwelling people. I had another thought looking at, for the most part, good-looking women. “English women never know what to do with their hair. Dutch women know but think it would be in bad taste to do it.” A very conservative culture. Everyone there could easily have been at a hotel in the 1950’s.

I was struck by how young some of the honeymooners were. Very early 20’s, perhaps younger. When my oldest brother married immediately out of the Naval Academy he was 22 and his bride was 19. No one lived together before they were married. These young people seemed similar. For the first time I realized how slightly embarrassing it might be to be a very young newlywed bride and everyone looking at you and thinking you have just lost your virginity. Here in Curacao one thought of these things. Thoughts that would never come up back in the United States where people marry AFTER they have had several children.

Our first night we ate at the hotel. The next day we ventured forth into the capital, Willemstad. The greeter at the hotel said it was about a ten-minute walk into the heart of town. As we sauntered along it certainly took more than half an hour.

Lining the way along Perstraat were many charming small tile-roofed houses in the varying states of decay. Directly across from the hotel was one I wanted to buy immediately. “Charm!” it screamed.
Along the way were many other houses in various stages of renovation and redecoration. The small Dutch buildings were being repainted in turquoise, with white trim, bright yellow, baby blue, lavender, you name it.

The light in Curacao is very brilliant. The trees are vividly green, the sea a sharp and strong blue. The sidewalks, a disaster of narrow and broken tiles, made walking difficult. Watch your step!

Between two buildings down a narrow alley I suddenly saw the ocean. Waves were breaking right at the end of the little passage. Really, Truly amazing. At the end of the little walkway the waves were cresting and tossing their foam. We walked down and saw that the houses on each side were built right to the edge of the rocky reef. No beach, no slope, no gradient. This was the edge of land. In stormy weather the waves must rise and break right into the walled courtyards behind each building. It was something I had never seen before, surrealistic and great.

In town we walked through a number of streets lined with cafes. In one were two older men looking like two rugged and ravaged sea captains. Large faces, rocky profiles, as though carved out of stone. It was impossible to imagine how they might have looked when they were young. These were faces one would never see in the United States.

At the end of the street we came upon an entrance to the bridge that crosses the channel to the other side of Willemstad. This side of the channel in Willemstad is called Punda, or point. Across the bridge is Otrobanda or other side. The bridge is called the Queen Emma Bridge and is supported by boats, leading it to rise and fall and move as one walks across it. At the Punda end a small attached house contains a bridge attendant who can detach the bridge and motor it out of the way for passing ships. We saw only smaller yachts being passed through but it must be amazing when it swings completely open, lines up with the other side of the channel and allows some giant ship through. Seen from a distance, the ships are taller than the buildings on either side.

This bridge is an amazing construction, another somewhat surreal aspect of Willemstad and Curacao. In a photo I saw later in a museum, cars were once allowed to cross. We crossed on foot with many others to the other side. We stopped for a snack at an outdoor restaurant and then proceeded to the Kura Hulanda museum, just up the short street going uphill. Kura Hulanda houses a collection of African sculpture and art collected by a wealthy Dutch businessman and placed here, as well as many artifacts left behind by slavery. The museum broke my heart. It has to be the saddest museum in the world. Curacao was a landing depot when slaves were brought from Africa. The Dutch were major importers of slaves and here in Curacao they were restored to health after a hellish sea voyage and then resold to Brazil and the United States who used slaves to a large degree, as well as other countries.

The museum is a circle of one-story buildings, the bulk of them with the artifact collection. They surround a large open courtyard where the slaves were assembled for sale. One building contains old engravings, slave irons and below floor level a reproduction of the hold of a slave ship. People were forced into spaces three feet high and sat with someone between their legs. They were unable to stand up or fully lie down. At no point is there an explanation of how they were fed or how they went to the toilet. Many died. They were handled as not even being as important as sheep or horses.

Human beings’ inability to consider other humans, let’s even say “living beings”, is horrifying. You keep asking yourself “How could they?” But they did, and they were Dutch.

In the engravings, too, one sees the cruel punishments of hangings, whippings, and slashings. An American soldier who joined forces in Surinam to control slave uprisings wrote about his experiences and there are engravings and quotes from his diaries in the museum. He wrote at one point “This awful treatment is necessary for the overall good.” The Catholic Church condoned slavery and many slave dealers quoted the Bible to justify their actions. So much for biblical quotations. I wonder what people who quote the Bible to confront gay rights would make of all this?

I, of course, have known of slavery and read about it at some length but when you come up against it with this physicality it’s staggering. Something like the German death camps in World War II. “How could they? How could they?”

After the museum we wandered down and through the Rif Fort on the point where this side of the channel meets the sea. From the fort there is another street leading to the waterfront where the tour ships come in. This street is lined with all the name shops from all over the world: Hilfiger, Swarovski, The Gap, shoes, clothes, jewelry, even a Starbucks--everything to entice that Yankee dollar. This is the international face one finds everywhere in the world. It was particularly strange and a little spooky here in this very unusual world.

We returned across the floating bridge, leaping to get aboard just as it was swinging out to let a boat through. Mr. C. tried to restrain me but I leapt across the gap and then he had to also. We shopped a bit on the narrow streets on the Punda side of the bridge. Narrow rectangular streets where we found the Ralph Lauren shop closed for Roshashana.

Back at the hotel we called the real estate agent whose number was on the “For Sale” sign on the small house across the way. It is part of a larger parcel of land with a second house on it and it was 1,700,000 gulders (or florins, you can use either name for local money), which is about $700,000. That’s a lot of moola! Curacao is already heading towards boomtown island status.

The agent had another small house for sale down the street so after eating at a nearby restaurant we set out to look for it. The desk at the hotel said it was about five minutes away. Oh, that Curacao sense of time. We walked for half an hour through a rather perilous neighborhood then asked a young man if we were headed in the right direction or not. He said it was about another half hour and offered to accompany us. We declined and returned to the hotel. It was dark and late and the streets were badly lit.

Saturday we walked into Willemstad to cross the little Wilhelmina bridge to the district of Scharlooweg (the great soaring bridge above the channel is called the Juliana Bridge. Bridges named for the last three queens of Holland. They have not had a king for three generations but now they do.) The Scharlooweg district was the Jewish quarter. Merchants were here very early on and they built large and beautiful homes now being restored. We were here to visit the Maritime Museum.

This too, is a very well done museum that recounts largely the period when Curacao was the base for Dutch “privateers.” Really pirates empowered by other nations to prey upon their enemies. Spain never allowed privateers under their governing system but hired ships from other countries to do their dirty work in the Caribbean. Unfortunately for them, other countries like England did too. Dutch privateers attacked the Spanish silver fleet one year, and captured it entirely to the tune of millions and millions of whatever they were carrying. The entire annual income of Spain coming from Mexico and the New World fell into their hands. England also had it’s own privateers such as Sir Francis Drake. He was ennobled by Queen Elizabeth and sailed the globe but was still a feared pirate to many.

The Dutch pirates were dramatic and dangerous beyond what we can imagine and here in Curacao they come alive. All this was at the same time the Dutch occupied that part of the Northern Hemisphere now New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York City. It was called New Amsterdam then. A period of great cruelty and killing on the part of the pirates as much testified to in the art and engravings in the Maritime Museum. Again, that side of the gentlemanly, calm Dutch never talked about but I suspect is still there.

Sobered again (these Dutch museums are tough) we returned across the little bridge to shop a bit. We passed by the Floating Market along the way. Here many boats are tied up selling fish, and, fruit, and vegetables. We stopped by Ralph Lauren, which was now open, and made some purchases. After this we took a taxi to buy some fishing equipment for Mr. C., his passion.

The taxi took us up into deep country, high over the Juliana Bridge and into the countryside. I suggested to Mr. C. that perhaps we were being kidnapped as we ventured further and further into the fields and narrow roads that finally led us to a distant country store. In the back was a low counter and endless arrays of fishing equipment. Mr. C. was in heaven.

Many gulders later we were returned to our hotel. Curacao is only 37 miles long and eight miles wide, true, but with it’s many lakes and lagoons, and bays it is complicated to get around. Our driver did know where he was going. After that we went to the gym, swam, ate an elaborate buffet at the hotel, and collapsed.

On Sunday Mr. C. tried out his fishing equipment on the piers in front of the hotel. We checked out places to fish and it turns out that the Avila and a sister hotel in town are the best seafront places for this kind of fishing. Mr. C. is quite content to stay here.

I lay supine in a beach chair all afternoon and Mr. C. flailed about on the piers manfully. Looking about I thought again how much like the 1950’s all these guests were in their general slenderness but not overly exercised looks. The woman also had waistlines and were curvier than women are in the United States. Those workouts tend to take away your curves. There was only one really fat person out there, a youngish man who was there with who I assumed was his mother. His thighs were gigantic.

Monday we manfully strode back into Willemstad. It was hot and we got pretty damp. We whirled through what must have been the outer wall of the original fort, now lined with restaurants. Surely to cater to the cruise ships when they come in and tie up in the nearby channel. The current governor’s mansion also here, was a big yellow and white edifice. Even though it was a small island and far flung, Curacao has some very impressive buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. When ships put in from other countries it must’ve been important to look large and authoritative.

Mr. C. wanted to revisit the floating market that lines the smaller channel leading to the eastward lagoon. By the time we got there most of the fish were sold and the markets were closing down.

Confirming my feeling that we were back in the 1950’s we discovered most of the stores had been closed the day before on Sunday, as well as the museums. We had done well to hang out at the hotel. We pursued and found some more fishing supply sources and did some shopping. I discovered that Mr. C. does not like sports shirts with broad horizontal stripes. (Perhaps he feels they make his broad shoulders look too broad?)

We ate on high stools on an outdoor terrace trying to catch the fitful breeze. It was very hot! We walked back to the hotel, went to the gym (I seem to be stronger and less given to fatigue here despite the heat.), swam and then there was some additional fishing out on the piers. Mr. C. continued to fish as the sunset and it got dark. A large tanker entered the channel in the distance. It passed dramatically in front of the sun as it set. Later storms brewed out to sea and there were flashes of lightning in the dark distance. The seas had been building all day and now waves were breaking over the piers and dripping into the lagoons on the other side. We were late getting to dinner in the really excellent restaurant down the street and then returned to pack.

Departure day Mr. C. began it early with another gym workout while I slept. We breakfasted and away to the airport. Mr. C. then departed for Panama on his way homeward. I returned a bit later to Miami.

A strange, beautiful place, Curacao. Beautiful in it’s bright light and heat and yet with the feeling of it’s past violence, a past that has not left entirely. A Dutch thing. Correctness on display everywhere, but underneath, what?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Travel Diary ~ A Short Visit to Salta, Argentina ~ Seven Flights in Seven Days

Certainly I have never been in a city before jammed with tourists where no one was speaking anything but Spanish.  This is Salta, Argentina where all the tourists are from other parts of Argentina.  Some from a few other South American countries.  I encountered two American families, the parents in ex-hippie mode, the children teenagers somewhat sulky and uneasy about being seen in public with their parents.  They spoke English.  Other than that, Salta is not international.

Salta is in the north of Argentina near the Bolivian border.  This is high, flat desert country, surrounded by mountains.  The Andes one must cross to get to Bolivia begin here. Argentina runs very far south to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world; the jumping off spot for Antarctica. South America runs much further south than Africa or Australia.  There are direct flights from Sydney, Australia across the Pacific to Santiago, Chile but Chile runs much further south to Cape Horn.  Still a very difficult passage for ships.

The exploration and domination of South America is fascinating.  The Spanish came down from the North from Mexico in search of silver and gold.  They came by land.  The Atlantic coast was unexplored until much later.  Down the Pacific side of the Andes they came in the 16th century, less than a century after Columbus discovered North America.  They crossed the Andes and founded Salta in 1589.  A good 50 years before my ancestors, the Sumners, came to the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts.

I don’t know if I could have ever been a pioneer.  One had to be dauntless.  Of course, one’s life in one’s hometown was one of growing crops, heating with fireplaces, illuminating interiors with candles.  Pioneer life was only a simpler version.  But even so, to plunge across the Andes, stumble into the desert, establish a town?  The Catholic church is owed a great deal in these adventures.  The priests were always the first to go forth into these unknown, unexplored places.

Although Salta supposedly has a good climate all year round for growing the food supplies that supported the Bolivian silver mines, I wonder.  This may be wine country but it looks pretty deserty.  The guidebooks also say that the main business activity here in Salta for many years was the raising of mules which were used as transport and labor all over this side of South America through the 18th and 19th centuries.

Even though the cell phone is omnipresent in Salta, it still feels like a frontier town, even with its 300,000 inhabitants.  There are a few buildings of up to ten stories in Salta but it is for the most part a flat, spread out town.  Its old city center has several very old, large churches, an archeological museum which I skipped (I don’t care much for history where there is no fashion), a very interesting historic museum in the old Cabildo, whatever a Cabildo may have been.  It houses furniture, paintings, and in an interior courtyard a collection of wagons, stagecoaches and one car, a very large French-made car belonging to an important judge.  The largest car ever made by the manufacturer.  There was only one other, made for the President of Bolivia.  In 1909.  Very early. The chauffer sat out front without cover, the steering wheel was on the right, English style, and the back was large and roomy and outfitted with cushions now hanging in sagging tatters.

There was a stagecoach that made the run from Salta down to Alemania in the south.  A four-day run.  We did it in two hours in the car the next day.  It took four months to go to Buenos Aires.  I imagine one was really tired after that adventure. The driver and horses changed very regularly.  The poor passengers didn’t.

Buenos Aires, interestingly to me, was founded long after Salta when the southward push of exploration went on and on.  True also of Montevideo, where I live. Some two hundred years later than Salta, both of these now much larger cities.

Finally in the middle of the 19th century the connection to Europe was made regularly by ship and that is when the tides of Italians and Portuguese came in the Rio Platte area to Buenos Aires and Montevideo and became the dominant force in that part of South America.

Another Museum, the Museo Casa Uriburu, was a family residence for an important family for nearly two hundred years.  Built at about the time of our Revolutionary War, it is stark in its white plaster and dark beams.  It has some very early heavy oak furniture brought in from Spain.  One imagines a donkey with a heavy bureau on its back laboring over the Andes.  It was no joke getting furniture this size or quality way out into the vastness of Salta.

There are very handsome and beautiful people here, but not as we know them in North America.  There are women with strong, clear features of our early movie stars.  Many great profiles, strong noses, beautiful chins and jawlines.  There are men, too in the Spanish tradition.  Great profiles, great sweeping eyelashes.  Again a look of early film stars.          

Also, the nose is prominent.  It seems to me when I was very young there were more prominent noses.  Many here are beaked and sweep downward and made me think of Michigan in the 1930s.  I wonder if the nose job has condemned North America to a look of some kind of uniformity.

Many of the women are tall here.  Some very tall.  I’ve seen any number of young girls with long legs, great faces, and strong profiles who could work in the modeling industry.   Perhaps it is their good fortune that there is no one in Salta to encourage them to pursue this destiny.

There is also a very high proportion of inhabitants descended from the original Indian inhabitants.  Tan, dark hair and eyes, tending to be shorter, with strong interesting features.  It’s strange, but in the United States exotic locals intermarried and became part of the national gene pool.  In the U.S. we like blondes but everyone is considered American and we pay little attention to racial background.  Black people excepted, of course.

In South America racial background continues to be very important.  And even has some connection to class level.  The upper classes are certainly fairer and have lighter hair.  Without discussing it ever I think they are very aware of the connection between class and racial descent.

I should mention also that there are no black people or anyone of Asian background in Salta at all.  None.  I did see one Chinese restaurant but that seemed to be it.   Everyone here is from the original Spanish settlers or Indians.  Not at all like Montevideo, which is very international in its inhabitants.

Overall impressions:

1. There are a lot of dogs and babies here.  In the central square of the Plaza 9 de Julio with its trees, grass and national monuments it also has many sizeable dogs who lounge around on the lawns and under the trees and many sprawl out to sleep in the middle of the sidewalks and you must dodge around them.  I think they have owners somewhere and are well fed, although quite dirty.  As I was walking down the street along the square one came up from behind me, bumped my hand.  I pulled away and scratched his ears and petted him.  He romped a bit, munching my hand as dogs do and accompanied me to the corner and there wandered off to be on his own.

2. There is also an enormous presence of small children, many of them babes in arms.  Argentina must be going to have a vast population jump as every young couple has at least three children.  There are many young mothers under 30 with three children, which would have been a pattern in the United States some hundred years ago.  My mother married rather late for the period (at 24) and had four children by the time she was 34.  There are many strollers about and on all the South American flights we took lots of babies on the plane.  True also of the Montevideo to Miami flight.  There are some small children about in Miami Beach but not to the point where they are almost equal to the adults, which is true in Argentina.

Other interesting things in Salta.  The trees in the streets are orange trees.  The oranges, perfectly edible, fall into the gutters and onto the streets.  Mr. C. said “If you’re going to be a street person this is the town to do it in.  You will stay alive just eating the oranges that fall from the trees.”  There is so much evidence of this also, with a lot of orange peel littered about.  Somehow it didn’t really look like litter.

Salteanos (I think that’s what they’re called) also like their pastries.  The croissant is very present although called “media luna” (half moon).  Which, of course refers to the same moon the croissant is named for.  The crescent moon.  Smaller but very tasty, some are plain and a little salty, some are sweet.  Breakfast at the hotel was presented with many croissants and other pastries I found less tempting.  No bacon and eggs.  As in Europe, breakfast here is largely a cup of coffee and a pastry of some kind.  It’s not a big meal.

I should also mention there is a high level of police about and a large percentage of policewomen.  We stumbled into the main square one morning and found there was a kind of police event occurring with ranks of police people about four deep on three sides of the square.  They came to attention at the sound of whistles and had a variety of uniforms, one group looking like paratroopers.  Mr. C. thought they might be a special attack group, plunging from the sky.  I rather doubt it.

The women of Salta are rather prominent bosomed and full buttocked but not in an overdone way.  They looked fine in uniform, hair pulled tightly back into buns, forepiece caps pulled down over their eyes.  Patrolling the streets, frequently alone, they didn’t look like people you wanted to fool around with.  There are not a lot of overweight people in Salta either.

Our second day in Salta we drove to Cafayate, the heart of the vineyards.  About 200 kilometers to the south, maybe about 125 miles.  We estimated about a three hour drive.  However we did not anticipate that the road would be two lanes and very winding.  A double yellow line was almost always present in the middle of the road, and frequently twelve or so cars would be backed up behind a slower driver, unable to pass.  We had gone almost eighty of the miles when we reached Alemania, the town that had been the end of the stagecoach run from Salta to the south.  Now Alemania is only three of four buildings, one of them the former train station.  This is now a small restaurant.  Other buildings that had been warehouses had a garage and what seemed to be dwellings.  The railroad tracks, and there were three or four different pairs in front of the station, had not been used in some time.  There was even a fairly large tree growing in the middle of one pair.  There were a number of tourist cars parked about to look at the metal railroad bridge that crossed a small river quite near the station.  At one time this must have been a busy hub, probably for shipping grain, or wine or whatever they were raising in the fertile area to the north.

The little restaurant only had empanadas, the little meat pastries, but we ordered about four each and some soft drinks.  There was a black mother dog and her gangly black pup hanging about the restaurant and my heart went out to them.  I played with the pup and rubbed his stomach, as I do to my dog Sophie in Miami Beach.  Both dogs were very thin and one could only hope that passing tourists gave them food.  The Argentineans are very dog prone but even so, I thought of that pup a lot and still do.  All the dogs we saw were so friendly and playful you felt you owed it to them to take care of them.

As soon as we left Alemania we understood why the train line stopped there.  We immediately were plunged into a mountainous landscape where the road wound perilously along the edge of a snakelike river.  There had been volcanic upheavals here long ago and the mountains were tipped on edge with striations revealing the centuries of earth accretians.  The earth’s shuddering upheaval had tossed them about in gigantic scraps and bits.  Mr. C said they looked like gigantic pieces of cake, tilted this way and that, layers all exposed, rising high above our heads.

They reached off in all directions and the light was beautiful.  The mountains were striped across in pale brown, yellow, red, lavender.  The soft light veiled them so they were pastel-like and every few miles the colors would shift and suddenly they would be largely yellow, then in a few miles shifting to rust with stripes of dark brown and beige.  There were also leafless small trees along the road that were brilliant chartreuse.  A bright yellow-green I have never seen in nature before.  The road was also lined with crosses and shrines.  There had been many accidents along this treacherous route. “This is really driving.” Mr. C. said. “Not just drifting along holding the wheel for miles and miles.” He is an excellent driver but the road required his complete concentration. Again, just two lanes and whipping around sharp cliff corners and under looming overheads with signs warning of falling rocks.  The falling rocks were often huge boulders as large as a small house precariously perched on the mountainside above.  A few smaller rocks seeming to hold them in place.  I wouldn’t want one suddenly bolting down the hill, rolling and tumbling, as I drove beneath it.  We are rarely in what we can call real danger when driving.  But this road seemed to be. And it made you think that the early settlers faced this kind of thing on a daily basis.  How many of the passengers on the four month run from Buenos Aires didn’t make it at all?

It took about an hour and a half to get to Cafayate, a small flat town that is evidently heavily visited by tourists from the south as it is the center of the wine industry in this part of the country.  They had quite a remarkable museum brilliantly designed and lit, ultra-modern, to tell the story of the history of this region’s vineyard and then a second section really detailing how wine was made and is made, showing all the many antique tools and kegs and bottles from the past. Very well done and surprising in this very isolated and not well known town.  With Mr. C. there was much scouting about from museum shop to store to vineyard buying some of the wines that are grown here.  There is a business to be made of importing Argentian wines and making them as well known and sought after as French wines.  They are of excellent quality and as they are completely different from European wines, the Malbecs and Tannats and other types could become very popular I think.  My own favorite is Tannat, a red wine that is actually best grown in Uruguay.  You can buy a vineyard in Uruguay now for not much money.  For anyone who longs to own a vineyard, now is the time to decamp for Uruguay.

We drove back from Cafayate more rapidly than we descended.  It was still daylight and I wanted to at least get through the canyon road while it was light.  It was like driving at the bottom of the Grand Canyon for overall effect and not to be taken casually at any time, let alone night.  We were almost back in Salta before nightfall but then got trapped in the endless backups behind slow drivers and got to our hotel after dark.  But then a lovely supper in the elegant dining room!  But no, it was Sunday and the dining room wasn’t open.  We marched across the square to the Alejandro Primero (Alexandre the First) hotel, a much larger enterprise but with a less ambitious dining room.  Lots and lots of families with many older parents and one or two adult or later teen children along.  There were many really lovely daughters with relatively nondescript parents.  There was something almost late-Victorian about it.  Beautiful girls being launched in society.

On Monday, our last day in Salta, we did some shopping after returning the car.  A very handsome young man was reluctant to believe us when we said there had been a gas leak during our drive and we were hesitant to refill the tank completely as we feared it would just leak out.  He had that Tyrone Power style of many young men in Salta.  His cohorts finally got him to agree to charge us for the gas to be put in at the rate of a gas station, not the normal high Hertz price.

We then tackled the telepherique that was to carry us onto the very high hill looming over Salta.  It was not really a mountain, but high enough to see the city down below.  And popular enough that it required a two and a half hour wait in line to board the little six passenger car.  We were plenty high in the air as we creaked and tottered up to the top.  I looked up at the smallish cable supporting the car and wondered if they regularly checked it.  Yikes! At the top there were ornamental gardens and a tightly packed little restaurant flooded with hungry tourists.  We lunched there anyway.  Service was so slow that families would come, occupy a large eight person table, wait a long time and then depart having never ordered.  We managed to catch a waiter’s eye and did all right.  I think it might be able to earn a spot as the worst restaurant in the Western Hemisphere.  Certainly up in the top ten, but then again it was on top of a mountain. 

Once we regained the ground we walked back to the hotel and passed the consulate for Serbia and Montenegro.  I was startled.  How many consulates for Serbia and Montenegro must there be in the world if there is one in Salta?  Much of the population of these tiny countries could be assigned to the consulates if they have one in a far-flung spot like Salta.  Or perhaps this is a desirable destination for Serbians and Montenegrins.  Who know? I love mysteries like this.

After dark Mr. C took me up to the open air swimming pool on the roof so we could see the lights of Salta reaching out and out through the valley.   We were as high as any building in town and there were only a few at this height.  We packed that night and the next morning dashed about town to do some last minute shopping and buy a knee brace for Mr. C. at a medical supply store which had stretch things not available in Uruguay.  Mr. C. is a handsome, fit young man with a myriad of physical problems from having been battered about playing soccer. Or “futbol” as it is called there.

We flew back to Buenos Aires in the early afternoon, lunched at the airport and replaned for Montevideo across the Platte River.  About a half an hour flight.  And there the trip was done.  May I add, Mr. C is the best looking, most capable, great at planning, decision-making guy with whom I have ever been involved.  Great trip.