Take a look at the world through my eyes.

The Disclaimer

I must apologize for the lack of congruency of some of these blogs. I actually started writing these at the beginning of 2006. These were only blogcasted through a closed circuit of e-mail friends who every now and then responded. I tried to keep as many responses as possible. But unfortunately many have been lost. This at times will make some blogs seem kind of chopped up.
If you are offended or insulted by the content of any of these blogs, my apologies. But then again, perhaps it is just what you needed!
Also if you find your name in any of these blogs I am obviously talking about somebody else with the same name. You’re not the center of the universe you know. Gaud!!!
Proper spelling is not something that I have ever really understood. I really do not know how this particular activity ever came into existence. Therefore I do not participate.

The Blog Cast

All blogs written by the author are broadcast via e-mail. If you are interested in getting "The Blog Cast" please contact Rusty at rustyfirestone@gmail.com so he can add you to the list.

Rusty the Baby

Rusty the Baby
My first blog!

Three Religiions

Three Religiions
Facing the wall

August 4th, 2011 The Cannon

The Cannon

First Cyclical Rotation
It was a June morning and I was sitting in a coffee shop waiting for Helmut Gunther. It was Helmut who told me that he would meet me at the Cafe De Las Alturas the only cafe on El Prado that catered to gringos and their heavy need to a strong breakfast hit. Too many times had I been caught in a Bolivian cafe and only been offered a piece of bread and a cup of coffee. I am the type that needs solid protein before I start a day’s activities.
As I waited I went through my mail. That morning I received several pieces of correspondence addressed to Mr. Nicholas Birmingham. The one that caught my eye was from my lawyer addressing the final settlements of my divorce. Reminding me of the rather turbid circumstances for which I left Santa Monica - a rather emotionally violent divorce. I left the LA area to sign on with a third world development NGO. My lawyer assured me that this was the conclusion of a long drawn out insidious situation. But for some reason it did not seem like much of a conclusion. I looked down at my hands and wondered when this was really going to end in my head.
Helmut at this point was 30 minutes late. We were supposed to get together to discuss some initial training rides for the upcoming high altitude, off-road bicycle race. The Bolivian Uyuni International Invitational takes place in the Uyuni salt flats at an elevation of 3,656 meters (11,995 ft) and over the course of three days spends 400 to 500 kilometers, depending on who the final Bolivian race official is and how much chicha he has to drink that day. The last time I partook of that abominable beverage made of decomposed corn and other such ingredients served in a plastic cleaning bucket I was left with the worst hangover I have ever had.
I finally looked up to see a tall blond German dude with all the trappings of a hippy. The aguayo pants, the t-shirt with a coca leaf on it, and a Bolivian construction workers hat.
"Helmut, where the hell have you been? I have been waiting for you for almost a half an hour."
"I slept in. I was up late translating," Helmut referring to his free-lance job translating documents from Spanish to German. His biggest clients were the German embassy and a couple of import companies.
He then reached into his hippy macramé satchel and pulled out a cheap clipping from a Bolivian gossip rag saying something about aliens. The picture looked like some kind of cheap Logans Run knock off poster.
I looked at him and said "Uh-uh...no way. I’m not gonna get into that crap with you right now. You promised we would get together head up to El Alto for a ride.
Helmut defending himself "Dude, if you have ever looked up in the sky at night you will know that this stuff is for real."
I was getting annoyed, "The last time we had this conversation it ended with you telling me that I need to wear some kind of tinfoil cap on my head to sleep in to keep aliens from manipulating my thoughts. I bet that is something you don’t even do."
Helmut with a nervous side glance "Of course not......you know how I get after a few beers."
"Dude, you’re German for the love of God. Don’t give me that. Anyway Pablo is supposed to be meeting up with us on the outskirts of El Alto at kilometer 15 so we better get going."
I paid the bill and headed out the door with Helmut towering behind me. Soon we were headed up the steep grade on the road to the city of El Alto on the Andean high plains which was built around the airport serving the capital of La Paz, given that the latter is situated in a giant gulch and the former has only flat spot big enough to accommodate an airfield. As we moved up towards the rim of the geological toilet bowl the pedestrians could look into the old Land Rover I was driving and see me gesticulating to Helmut about how useless it was for him to waste his time on these hobbies of reading these extraterritorial sightings and the several internet clubs he had joined with the same special interest. I said "Perhaps if you spent as much time with your star trek mag-rags perhaps you could make a dead line or two on your translations and spend some time writing."
When we finally reached our destination we caught a visual of the vehicle we were looking for - an old Nissan Patrol with an athletic looking young man leaning against the driver’s side door smoking a cigarette. Upon jumping out of the Land Rover I questioned Pablo "How the hell do you plan on riding that salt flat if you keep on smoking like that?"
Pablo, giving me his champion smile, "Some of us were born to run and others are born to be hall monitors."
"So I guess you decided to take the day off from the tourist shop?" I pressed him referring to his tourist cycling business with which he took hapless backpackers down the Road of Death the second most dangerous road in the world that went from the high planes down into the low steamy jungles of Los Yungas, which is something like a 12,000 foot drop.
"Nah, I got the guys running the tours today. I have got to get ready for this race."
Helmut was tying his long hair into a pony tail "So how many Yanks, Frogs and Limeys have you lost off the cliff this year?
Pablo smiled snubbing out his cig "Definitely not enough Krauts."
I had to butt in "Ok guys, break it up. Them bicycle saddles ain’t gonna penetrate themselves."
So we un-racked the bikes and were off. Four hours of riding at 13,500 feet above sea level was a good start on our training.
After getting back to the cars Pablo stated “Hey, I am headed down to the Berlin Cantina to hook up with Freddy. Are you in?” The Berlin Cantina was a catch all back packer’s pub that was patroned by pretty much whatever came rolling off the bus or train this basically being where Pablo got most of his clients.
I started to hesitate but then Helmut started eagerly “Yeah we’ll be there.” So we started back into the city. Upon arrival we noticed Pablo had beaten us in and was already sitting across from Freddy one of our rotund, short, Bolivian acquaintances. Freddy worked days as security at a bank but evenings and weekends he helped Pablo as he had a penchant for female tourists. As odd as it seemed to the rest of us Freddy had impressive luck with the opposite sex for as homely as he was.
We started for the table when our path was cut by Julieta the buxom waitress that had come to know us from our frequency. “¿Cómo es? Neek!!”
“Hey, Jules!”
“Your friends have already started without you!” She said jerking her head in the direction of Pablo and Freddy.
“I can see that.”
“I heard you guys went for a ride without me today. What’s that about?”
“Sorry, were headed out again Wednesday. You should come.”
“I just may. I’m off then.”
She followed us to the table. A salacious grin spread across Freddy’s face, “Julieta, them pants just keep coming out of your closet!”
“Yeah, well it helps with the tips.” Julieta rolling her eyes “So two more Huaris is it?”
“Sure, make them liter bottles.” I said anticipating one of my favorite brews of the highlands.
After Julieta left with her note pad Freddy immediately got into my face “Dude what is wrong with you?! Jules is like all over you and you’re such a dead fish!”
“I don’t know. I love Latinas but it is just not time yet.”
“Dude, you should come out with me next Friday. “ Freddy’s eyebrows were now popping up and down like pistons “I met these three Brazilians and they are hoooOOooot!”
“I’ve got to work.”
I noticed that Pablo was distracted and looking off at three guys at the bar. “What’s up?”
Pablo shaking his head “See that guy over there? People call him Razor. He is an Israeli or something like that.”
“Well he is here to train for the invitational.”
“Really." What does he ride?”
“A Cannondale Scalpel.”
“I would not be caught on a Cannon out around here. That would be ripped out from under you so fast.”
Freddy interrupting “Dude, I heard about that guy. He is something of a legend and he is not even from around here.”
Pablo annoyed “I heard when he was out on a trainer ride out on the flats he got hammered by a couple of cops on a Suzuki. He got fucked up, his front tire and the handle bars were all busted. It was a mess.”
I protested “What! Cops never go out there. There ain’t nothing to patrol.”
Pablo went on “That’s not all. The real weird part is he got right up and picked up the bike and started chasing the cops who sped off across the flats. When he got off about like 300 yards it looked like he got back on the bike.”
I was not so trusting “How do you know all this? You act like you were there.”
“No, but Fernando one of my shop boys was on the ride and he related the whole incident to me.”
“Fernando! I don’t trust that tea head to even tighten a bolt on a tricycle”
Pablo just shook his head.
At this point Freddy got up “It’s time for Freddy El Huevudo to go into action!” Then he wondered over to the bar and struck up a conversation with a couple of blonde girls who looked like they could sell you dread juice buy the gallon.
I stated “Well, I am interested in asking these guys for myself.” I got up and as I started their way the guys who almost intuitively headed for the side door and disappeared behind a crowd of hobos who were spending their trust funds sent to them by their rich corporate parents.
The night wore on and the beer flowed. By the time Freddy got back his eyes were half closed? He then plopped down in the chair next to mine and began to slur “Nick, you are the only gringo I trust.” Before I could see what was coming he planted a kiss on my left cheek. Then he put his arm around Pablo and said the same thing to him, even though Pablo had never been further north than Columbia. Pablo, with his blurred vision, said that he felt the same about Freddy. It came time for Helmut who started to shake his head. But before he could protest Freddy was on top of him and all you could see was Freddy’s blubbery back and Helmut’s frantically waiving arms. “Greater love hath no man than 2 drunks for each other.”

Second Cyclical Rotation
The days went on, and training sessions past. Freddy as usual never showed up as he made his many promises. Then one evening I got a call from Pablo saying that they would all be meeting that night at the Berlin Cantina. Seeing that the activities I had planned were sitting in my apartment and eating Top Ramen, I decided to mix it up.
The bar was unusually smoky that night, and I found the guys sitting in our usual spot. I had barely sat down when Freddy got up and started to chat with the same blondes that were there the other night.
I turned to Helmut, "So, what’s up?"
Helmut got an excited look on his face and started babbling "You know that woman I met on the Sci-Fi dating web site service?"
"Yeeeeeah,” I admitted slowly.
"Well, she is coming down for some training and staying for the race. She really wants to meet me."
"Great! Now I don't have to watch Harry Potter with you anymore."
"Seriously, we have everything in common."
"That I have no doubt."
“Her name is Carole.”
At that moment the music system grinded into action. The Village People's YMCA started blaring over the speakers. I looked up to see Freddy with an overly serious, melodramatic look on his face at the head of a pyramidal dance formation across the floor. The two blondes had silly smiles and were the second tier behind him, with a plethora of people behind them. Freddy led the whole group in the whole Y-M-C-A ritual with practiced precision and without error.
"I can't understand why or how he does these types of things." I shook my head in wonder as I looked at a man who could move around mass around like it was a light feather pillow.
I decided that I needed a hot toddy so I headed to the bar. In a few minutes Freddy’s theme was over and the pyramid was breaking up. Freddy came up to the bar beside me sweating "Somebody pass me the fire water before I die!!!" Then he noticed two women down at the end of the bar to my right. He nodded one of the bartenders "Hey Anthony, who are those two gringas over there?"
Anthony smiled "I have no idea, but I saw Orengo over there chatting with them."
Freddy formed his greasy smile "Hey Anny!" The second bartender ignored him. "Aaaaaaanny!" Still the Orengo did not turn around from cutting lemons and talking to a few other patrons at the bar.
Anthony pleaded, "Dude, you’re playing with your own life."
"Alright. Hey, Anastasia ¿Un momento, please?"
Just then with lighting quickness Orengo whipped the knife she was using on the lemons so fast and so close to Freddy's nose a few drops splattered across Freddy's face. "You call me Anny one more time and I'll shove this blade right through your damn eye!"
Freddy jumped. "I just wanted to know if you knew those people down the bar!"
"Do your own dirty work, Freddy." Then she went back to talking to the three men sitting at the bar on her other side, all regulars at the Berlin Cantina who would slowly get hammered together. The leader was this guy they all called Reverend Gym. He was rarely ever caught without his 14th century style green cape, with his long gray hair riding over the high collar and his matching gray beard meticulously clear of the purple chalice from which he drank Mint Juleps. To his left was Dan Moriarty, a Catholic missionary. Out of the three he would drink the least out of solidarity for the poor, as he felt guilty that he could not stomach chicha. Then there was Daryle, an American down working with the DEA. Politics were always at a fever pitch among the spirits, and if it was not the affairs of the state it was Rev. Gym telling his story about how he first lost his virginity (a story that changed every time it was told). By this point of the evening Daryle's forehead was getting dangerously close to his fifth White Russian. For some reason Orengo found them entertaining.
Anthony feeling sorry for Freddy, "I’ll tell you what. I'll tell you what. Some guy was just here and bought a drink but left before I could give it to him. I will just give it to the closest woman and say it’s from you."
Freddy immediately brightened up. Upon getting her drink the woman turned to Freddy and smiled. Freddy reciprocated. Soon Freddy was slowly slithering down the bar. "So, what is your name mi amor?"
The woman winked "I’m Lisa but if you’re dangerous you can call me Sharp."
Freddy's eyes widened and a quiver went through his second chin. "Oh, I’m dangerous!"
Lisa introduced her mother. "Me and my mom are backpacking through South America." Liz was a very stately woman. She smiled cordially and went back to reading a tourist book while Lisa and Freddy continued their conversation. At this point I had about all I could take so I headed back to where Helmut and Pablo were seated. Helmut was still talking about Carole.
I made an attempt to change the subject "Sooooo, when is the next time we will be headed for the salt flats?"
Helmut reaching for a bottle of Huari beer. “Let’s go this weekend when Carole gets in. She’ll want to go out with us."
"Fine. I need to get out and do something this weekend," I agreed.
Helmut then returning to his fixation "You know, Carole and I have been chatting about the subject that the ancient Incas had a legend that aliens from outer space would come to earth to mine the salt flats."
"What would they mine?" I jested "Did they come to mine the lithium because they were depressed aliens? Heh-heh" Unfortunately this statement brought back memories of taking medication grade lithium for my own adolescent angst.
"Hell no! They came to mine an ingredient to fuel their ships with a level of technology that we have not yet understood."
As the music started up once more I noticed Lisa and Freddy slow dancing to Shania Twain’s I Feel Like Woman, what seemed like a standard tune at all Bolivian fiestas.
I got up. "Yeah, it’s time to go home."
As I walked out Rev. Gym and Dan followed, both with one shoulder under Daryle’s arms as he hung between them unconscious.

Third Cyclical Rotation
So the week went by. Most nights were the same. I went home from the office to my empty apartment and sat down to a bottle of scotch and expressed my anger to the apparition of my ex-wife who sat across the table from me. Then I would go to bed after listening to more of The Cure than can possibly be healthy.
Saturday finally rolled around, the day the gang was supposed to get together for a ride out on the salt flats organized by the race foundation. When I got there early in the morning I was one of many. I went to the stand that was sponsored by the Berlin Cantina and found my friends.
Pablo was there telling Freddy that he should not participate since this was the first training ride. Freddy shook his head and said "I told Lisa that I would ride and that is that."
Pablo retorted "Huevon, this ain’t no joke. I know you want to impress your new girlfriend but this is for people who have been doing this for some time."
They both turned to look at Lisa who was daintily sipping on a Perrier. Freddy smiled at her then turned back to Pablo "No, I plan to show Lisa that I can pump the same cylinders out here as I can in the bedroom. I’m Freddy El Huevudo!” As he said this he rocked his hips back and forth.
The Berlin Cantina stand was set up like a bar with various tables around it. There were many other stands around as well. They peddled everything from bicycle parts and paraphernalia to popcorn. Anastasia and Anthony were there behind the bar with their usual uniforms and their usual posture. As I walked up to the booth I heard “Hey Neek, over here.” I turned to see Julieta sitting at a table with her boss Austen. Austen Bowie was the owner of the Berlin Cantina. He originally came to Bolivia to sell oil rig equipment to the transnationals in Santa Cruz. Due to rumored run ins with his boss (it is rumored that it had something to do with his boss’ wife) Austen moved to La Paz and started up the cantina.
I sat down “I can’t believe you are actually got a bar out here.”
Julieta chirped up “Today it is all mineral water, juices, Powerade and soda.”
Austen “That’s right, Nick. Today it is all about the sports drink market.” Then he lifted a bottle of Perrier that was wrapped in his ever present neoprene drink insulator. Austen would never be seen with a drink of any kind without his “huggy”. As the matter of fact one could purchase their own personal huggy with the Berlin Cantina (BC) logo at the cantina or at any event it sponsored.
“You know this is the third training ride that the organization is putting up and there have been up to 300 participants. There are 150 that are staying in the trainer camp right now, just two hundred meters from here.” Austen commented.
“We're also official sponsors of the Invitational,” bubbled Julieta.
“Yup, things are gonna go well with this ride, alright.”
Just then Helmut walked around the corner with a woman. I got up to greet him.
“Helmut, for a minute there I thought you weren’t gonna make it.”
“That was no worry about that. Nick, this is Carole; Carole, this is Nick.”
I noticed that both Helmut and Carole were wearing matching Lost In Space t-shirts. “Nice t’s” I quipped.
Helmut “Aren’t they great. Carole brought them for us down from the States.”
Carole “Nothings to good for my little Gerry-Kraut,” then they both giggled and started pecking each other on the lips.
“Sooooo, you guys thirsty?” I asked
Helmut “Yeah, I could use something.”
As we got to the bar Lisa and Freddy had located themselves there as well. Freddy had an irritated look on his face as Lisa was talking to Anthony.
Lisa inquired, “You do a lot of traveling?”
“Yeah, I get around. My last trip was to Pamplona, Spain where I did the running of the bulls.”
“Isn’t that where they all run in front of the bulls through the streets. Weren’t you scared?” Lisa admired.
Anthony boasted, “No, I am one of those guys that likes to suck the marrow out of life.”
“Ha! That’s not the only thing he sucks!” Anastasia quipped.
Anthony flashed her an angry look. By this point Freddy was pulling Lisa back to one of the tables. “We need to center our selves before the ride. We are wasting our time on useless chit-chat.”
It was at that point I noticed Anastasia with a rather large bulge protruding from her cheek. “I didn't know you chewed coca,” I wondered.
Anastasia, “It’s not coca; it’s tobacco.”
“How long has this been going on?”
“Just started today.” Anastasia flashed her Selma Hayek smile showing brown-juiced teeth and small specks of debris between them.
Anthony looked at her, “Don’t swallow the juice or else you’ll be green.”
Anastasia snapped, “I can handle my own tobacco! Now why don’t you go back to sucking on your marrow?!”
She smiled again and blinked her eyes then grabbed on to the bar to steady herself from an unexpected swoon.

Just then somebody stepped up to the bar beside me. I looked over and saw Razor.
"You!!" I exclaimed.
Razor looked at me startled. "Yeees??"
"I have been looking for you like....forever."
He gave me an incredulous look "I have been staying right here in the training camp. Who are you?"
"Oh sorry, I'm Nick." I offered my hand.
He pumped my hand cautiously "Soooo?"
"I just heard some rumors."
"You shouldn't believe rumors. They just get you into trouble."
"Ok.....so your race bicycles."
"Sorta" he sipped on a Powerade that Anastasia handed him "I do geological research as well."
"Really. For who?"
"I get grants here and there."
"Yeah, these salt flats are full of minerals you would not even believe existed."
Just then the conversation was interrupted by a wild "Yaaaahoooo!!!" We turned to see Lisa's mother Liz come flying by popping a wheelie on her bicycle.
Freddy turned to Lisa and said "Show off. I got more moves than Evel Knievel."
"I know you do baby. It’s just my mom's been training and that is why I am worried about you."
Freddy erupted "Baahh!"
Liz was wearing a bright red cycling jersey with letter on the back spelling out "I’m L. D. Duckrow - Eat my dust!!!!"
Liz took off her riding glasses "Come on, you guys! The ride starts in five minutes. We have to keep up with the water truck."
So we all got up and went to join what looked to be about 200 others rider. Austen and Julieta stayed in their seats emptying bottles of seltzer water.
The son was rising high. The pure white salt on the ground was reflecting the solar rays like a mirror. It was the type of place where the sun will burn you on one side and the icy high altitude winds will freeze you on the other.
The ride started, and Razor rode with us as I had been conversing with him. An hour went by and I noticed that Freddy started to argue with Lisa. "I’m not getting tired and I don’t feel like stopping for a rest!!" What happened next was a blur. "Watch this!" He doubled his pace and attempted to imitate Liz and pop his front tire off the salt. His speed uptake put him right beside Carole. As he attempted to pull up on his handle bars they snapped right off. Freddy’s loss of control caused his pedals to catch on Carole’s. He continued in a side sway. By the time they made contact with the salt the whole force of Freddy’s weight was square on Carole’s chest.
Freddy rolled off of Carole, dazed and scrambling for orientation. Carole did not move, except for a coughing fit.
Soon the First Aid bicycle was there. The paramedic rider looked and immediate responded, "We have to call an ambulance. But it won’t be here for at least an hour."
As we waited the coughing fits started to produce blood and her pulsed weakened. "What can we do?" pleaded Helmut in shock.
"There is nothing to do but wait." I said
Unexpectedly, on the horizon we saw a vehicle approaching. As the ambulance pulled up the paramedics jumped out and carefully started loading Carole.
"I don’t think there is anything left of her." I worried.
Razor then turned to me and said "Do me a favor. Get my bike back to camp and lock it up at the BC stand." He opened his back pack to pull out his bicycle lock and as he did so I saw some kind of lithic object crumbling. He then climbed into the back of the ambulance and closed the door just before it rumbled away leaving the rest of us on top of an ocean of salt.

Final Cyclical Rotation
Helmut and I spent the following day looking for the hospital to which they had taken Carole. We asked the ambulance company and they had no record of either her or the driver. We called all the major hospitals from the Uyuni to La Paz, but nothing.
We, of course, ended up back at the BC. Austen and his crew were back from the flats, and he was engaged in his usual activities of watching people come and go out of the cantina. Helmut and I sat down at the table with him. He barely looked at us “Did you find your lady friend, Gunther?”
Helmut gloomed, “It just does not make sense. Next time I see that Freddy I’m gonna kill him!”
Austen assured, “The race is in two days.”
I side-stepped the conversation. “I’m going to the bar. Who wants a beer?” Nobody moved, so I went and planted myself beside Daryle, the Rev. Gym and Dan Moriarty. Daryle spurred the conversation, “Duuude, you would never believe the dream I had last night!”
Dan hesitated. “Probably not.”
“Last night I dreamt that I was Thomas Aquinas and was having a terrible time trying to read Latin out loud. Every time I made a mistake a monkey would slap me on the head with a ruler on the bare skin of my tonsure.”
Rev. Gym pondered, “Ah yes, the Dumb Ox”
“The Dumb Ox whose low made Europe tremble,” smiled Dan.
Rev. Gym continued processing. “Either way Jung would state that your association with Aquinas represents the animal nature of your body, just like the monkey flogging your friggin’ melon. As for your soul, I would say you have none."
Daryle contested, "Aquinas has stated that the soul is 'the first principle of life' therefore you cannot deny me a soul, Your Holiness."
Rev. Gym conceded, "That would take some faith now, would it not?"
"Kierkegaard,” added Dan, “said 'Doubt is conquered by faith, just as it is faith which has brought doubt into the world,' meaning faith does not exist without doubt just as the material substance that is the body co-exists with the soul." His missionary instincts then kicked in. "How pure is your soul, Reverend?"
"I adhere more to what Nietzsche that Christianity is just a master-slave morality that only causes resentment in its own believer base....."
At this point I started feeling disgusted, I spun around on my bar stool getting ready to go back to the table murmuring, "I hate philosophical masturbation. The only good masturbation is real masturbation."
Dan overheard. "Isn’t 'real masturbation' an oxymoron....of sorts?" A peal of laughter exploded from the three.
I continued my retreat. "Damn existentialist bar flies!"
The next day was the usual humdrum for me. There was no news from Helmut until very early the next morning. I got a call that awakened him from a turbid sleep. I picked up the phone and checked the bedside clock. It was 4 am. Helmut was on the other end. “Nick, you have got to get over here now!”
“Where are you, Helmut?”
“At my apartment. Hurry!” Then Helmut hung up.
In fifteen minutes I was knocking on Helmut’s door. He poked his head out and looked down the hall both ways, then cautiously he let me in. To my surprise I saw Carole sitting on the couch looking forlorn. I stood there speechless.
Helmut, “I know what you’re thinking. I got a call about an hour and a half ago from the Hotel Ambassador saying that she was sitting in their lobby and she gave them my number. They called and I went and picked her up.”
I pushed by Helmut over to where she was sitting on the couch “Are you ok?”
“I’m ok I guess. Tired.”
“Where have you been?”
“All I remember is waking up in a hotel room putting on my clothes and going down to the lobby. Helmut’s phone number was in my back pocket. I asked the lobby receptionist to call and here I am. I want to take a nap now.”
I knew what I had to do. “Helmut, I call me if you need anything.”
“But where are you going?”
I left without answering. Soon I was down in the Land Rover headed out of town towards the flats. It was the longest I had ever ridden. I finally got in late noon. I drove up to the bicycle camp site and asked around for Razor. Nobody knew until I got to the MAS political party stand, the populist Movement Towards Socialism currently in power. There my good friend John Medina was handing out flyers and campaign buttons for the upcoming elections in which he was running for a low-level position in the city of Oruro.
“Hey John, have you seen Razor?”
“Yeah, actually I just saw him head out west with his bike loaded as if he was not coming back.”
“Thanks, John.”
He then stuck a party button in my hand “Don’t forget the name John Medina when it comes election time!”
“Sure thing, buddy.” I was off in the Land Rover out onto the salt flats. About 30 minutes later I spotted a bicycle,” I got closer and honked the horn. The rider stopped, and I pulled up beside him and saw it was Razor.
He got off the bike “What?”
I opened the door and got out “So…what about the rest of us?”
“That would be your own search.”
“A search that never ends, I gather.”
He smiled and looked off at the setting sun, “Well, I will give you something special then since you drove all the way out here. You know I have seen civilizations fall because they can’t get enough. It is always ‘more…more…more!’ Armies spread and fires burn. But I have learned that it is not in what you think you are missing or loosing, but what you actually have. How basic is that, Nick?”
“Two birds in the bush, ay?” He exhaled, “Yeah…that would be it.”
I shook my head.
“Nick you lost what was important to you with the ending of your marriage. But you have a community of support around you. They love you. This is something that you should develop. You have lots of work ahead of you, my friend. I have got to get going.”
I got back into the driver’s seat and watched him ride away. He disappeared where the sky met the salt. I stayed to watch the sun set. As the last rays disappeared, I saw a shooting star. I pondered “I do believe there is healing and justice for those who deserve it, though it seems most of the time it comes in ways never expected.” I looked around to millions of stars that filled the sky. They seemed to come all the way down to the ground all around the white desert. “Even for Bolivia, a country that seems it has never really gotten its fair shake. There could be justice somehow.”
Somehow I got back to my apartment. I slept the entire next day. I awoke early the next day to see on the local news channels that the race was off and running. I followed the event for the next couple of days.
One of those nights I was at the BC again. Both Helmut and Freddy were there alone.
“It would seem that Pablo was the only one of us who participated in this event in the end.” I said. They both somberly nodded. “Hey, Freddy. Where’s Lisa? “
“She said she had to get back to work. She owns a chain of private pre-schools across the Midwest. But her mother stayed on for the race.”
Helmut joined in “Carole said she had enough as well. She actually left with Lisa.”
“It looks like it is just back to us then.” I smiled.
A few days later the race ended. I picked up the early morning newspaper to see a beaming picture of Liz on the front page holding the first place trophy. Right beside her was yet another Cannondale bicycle, the one that took her to the finish line. I thought to myself “You would never catch me on a Cannon around here.”


Author’s note: Currently the Salt Flats of Uyuni are being considered by several transnational companies for its lithium rich fields, since lithium is an essential component in the building of batteries. This may very well be a source of much needed income for the second poorest country in the western hemisphere.

October 15, 2010, Jack Ass!

So as I write you Jack Ass 3D is being released!!! I remember the first movie that came out with Johnnie knashville and the his crew. I watched it and remembered my days back at my old high school dorm. Those guys were the best!! We messed each other up and then horse laughed each other. I love and miss those guys. Sometimes it would come to blows but in the end we would always laugh....and we still do. Every now and then I play a hit on my own son. I will then laugh at him...then a day or later he will get me back. I laugh. I know one day I will come home tired from a long day at the office and something will hit me and leave me on the ground with thoughts in my head like "What the hell was that!!" And Thomas will be standing over me saying "Ahahahah, you fell for the oldest one in the book!!!" And I will laugh and say "I love you." He will say "Ha! You ol' fool! I love you too!!!"
Never come between a father and his love for his son. He as got good me several times already. The kid is a genious.He will best the best president the world has ever had!!
I remember the last time I saw my Grandfather Homer Firestone (the man for whom I was named for a foremost anthropologist and respected intellectual in his field) was dying of cancer and was able to accompany to the airport. He was under heavy painkillers so he could stand the small trip to the airport. I remember he reached over and pinched me. I thought my God that is soooo irritating and he said "You know I love you!!" That is the last memory I have of him. But that is the way we Firestones role.
Anyway, lots of guys out there know what I am talking about. I know my many of my woman readers don't know what I am talking about but even so. Take your man out to see Jack Ass 3D. If it seems stupid just look at him and laugh with him and love him. Because maleness maybe idiocy but in it self is genius!!!! If you don't believe me research several the most respectable art galleries in North America who have been already showing the movie.

Enjoy your weekend and don't be a snob.

Have a great weekend.




Friday. 24th of Sept., 2010, The perfect proletariat evening!

So I was thinking "What am I going to do this pm? Will it be steaks, nice Italian, fancy French?" Not very long after I got a call from Tammy saying "I really-really need a kabob sandwich tonight." I told her "Sounds good lets do it". 20minutes later I was picked up by a very beautiful woman in a ridiculous old Jeep Land cruiser. There was a passenger that I did not expect on board....my squawking cute daughter saying " I heard you are taking me to Mencho's Sexy Hot Dogs (the best hot dog in town)". I said "(Sigh) anything for you princess." Maddy "Yaaay!!! But what about Thomas who is at home right now.?"
"We will t him something too."
So we show up at this hole-in-the-wall hot dag stand which is run by this old burned out hippy, his stoned children, and God knows who else with my daughter beaming. The place is full of college students but I cut to the frontof the line and say "Two to go my friend!!"
Burned out hippy "Oh Doctor, good to see you...and you my love what is it you want on your dog this evening?"
Maddy "Everything but the cabbage and hot stuff please."
Hippy turning around to turn up the stereo in a sudden movement shouting "Holy Fuck everybody! It's our song!!!" Obviously referring to Pink Floyd's Brick in the Wall. Spontaneously everybody in the joint breaks in to broken English singing "All een all choo just another beeck in the wall....Hey teeecher leeeve them keeds alone!!!" It was midnight choir if I ever heard on at 7:30pm.
From hear it was on to Mohamed for a couple kabobs ordered over the phone. I got in and I saw my good buddy Mohamed being hassled by a local woman saying "I swear to God I thought you were from Iraq."
Mohamed red in the face with his back to her facing the grill "No I tell you woman I am Iranian...Persian...a completely different race and people"
Then I surprise him with "Really Mohamed. I always thought you were Russian."
He turned to me surprised but quickly recovered and said "No that is my next wife!!" His wife standing right next to him rolled her eyes and said "Perhaps in your next stupid Muslim existence." We all laughed.
Then I wrapped it all up took it all home spread it across a heavy thick mid evil like wood table with a litre and a half of beer and had a great Friday night dinner talking my wife, son, and daughter over dinner.
I think I spent 8 dollars but the company from the beginning to the end was priceless!!! And people ask me why I live here.

God bless Cochabamba!! Bringing people and the community together.


Friday, May 14,2010, Rusty's weekend rules of engagement.

For those of you going garage sale shopping this weekend there are several things one must keep in mind:
1) You must check the classifieds the night before. This is to plan out a route through town hitting all the garages systematical. This is done using those little red stick-pin flags and a wall map of your town or city in which you reside.

2) You must have an early start. I recommend leaving early from the house at 6:30 at the latest. This is the way the dieharders do it. Of course the dieharders have already been retired for like 20 years and practice every weekend.

3) Always take one or more adolescent/preadolescent on threat on loosing video game time at the house. This is so they learn to respect our proud heritage of free commerce no matter how humiliated they may be. The typical activity for your offspring to cower in embarrassment in the back seat. One might catch them laying down on the floor board behind the front seat.

4) Apparel. There is a uniform for every part of life whether it be work, casual, or what ever. Garage saleing is no exception. Back in my day as a youth was classic/vintage double knit was apropos but the times they are a changin'. If you appear in this get-up you might be deemed to as some kinda club rager. What the trendy hip garage salers are wearing now days would be sweat pants (cut offs), white sox with black penniloafers. You top is pretty much optional but anything with lyon or pickup trucks printed on the chest would be my suggestion. This outfit works for both male or female. What ever is your choice try to make it as sporty as possible. Remember you want to let people know that this is almost a sport.

5) Lingo. Every activity not only has an atire but also has a techy language. Here will give you a few phrases to build on. "I'll give you 2 bucks for everything I can stuff in this laundry basket.", "$10 for everything I can stuff into my trunk!","Oooo an MTV 'Rock the Vote 2000 t-shirt! I voted for that sumbitch only to have him sell out for the next 8 years to them tree huggin' hippy freaks. Commie!", "Cool...a Rubixcube sticker replacement set. Does this come with a users manual?", and " Yeah, ya really got to come down at least 5 dollars on this box of National Geographics. The binding is broken. They all just flip open automatically to the pages with the pictures of the breast feeding New Guinea woman."
What you have to watch out for are statements from the the garage sellers like "They just dont make them like that anymore", "Walmart ain't had that in stalk for goin' on 3 months now!" and "Thems classic Readers Digest it has the interview with the entire casting of Perfect Strangers!"

6) Look for ways of getting into the garage sellers living room and other parts of the house. This can be done by looking for doors carelessly left open and what not. If this oppertunity presents itself you pretend to non-chalauntly wander around. Using slight of hand start grabbing stuff out off gun racks, out of the living room (diplomas, off of gun racks and family portrates) or the bathroom (cool meds, the "We don't pee in your pool..." sign, etc ). Then through all all your new found booty into a box and take it too the seller outside and say with a stern look on your face "How much for this worthless box of junk?!" The haggle them for %50 of the price. This way you can get stuff that is "exclusive" while the other chumps are outside rifling through boxes of Tupperwear lids, Raffi cassettes, used automotive parts, greasy incomplete tool sets, and portraits painted on old farm tools. Idiots!!

7) And last but not least, always take big bills preferable $100 notes. Pretend you dont have change and make the seller go down to the local convienience store to buy a twinky to break your bill. This by-the-way is a good way to get into the house while he/she is gone. wink-wink

I hope some of this information enhances your weekend garage warioring.

- Hide quoted text -
"I hope some animal never bores a hole in my head and lays its eggs in my brain, because later you might think you're having a good idea but it's just eggs hatching." Jack Handey
"I can't listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland." Woody Allen

Wed., Feb.3, 2010:Tree planting and Naughty Leftism up the Holler.

As of late i have been under pressure from friends as well as my wife to relate my latest experiences on the mountain just behind my home where I live. As I am feeling the pressure to perform this might be somewhat dry.
Anywho last Sunday in the early morning I was awakened by the community loudspeaker making an announcement. Tammy rolled over and nudged me saying "You better find out what that was all about." and then rolled over and went back to sleep. She was referring to the fact that we have had several conversations on how we need to get more involved in the local community water syndicate/cooperative. Unfortunately Tammy and I do not speak Quechua, which is the local language most spoken in our community as well as the language in which the the announcements are made in. I had to find some help. So I called up a good friend of mine who is one of the water syndicate directors for some assistance. Over the the crackling Bolivian telephone system I her Don Eusebio's sleepy voice say "'alo". I then presented my query and was responded "Oh no today there is no meeting. We are doing a tree planting day. So you are going to have to send somebody to represent the Firestone Family. If you want you should talk to Don Francisco and offer him some money and he can go for you." I got off the phone and sat there for a moment. Then I decided "Hey, my body seems to be working as of late! Why don't I go and do it myself?" And that is just what I did.
After my morning egg, toast, and tea, I donned my hiking boots (which I have trusted for almost 15 years now) a pair of cargo khakis, a hat and weather shell. Then I was out to the shed to grab a pick to be on my way.
When I arrived at the forestry station (which is also the irrigation control center where there are various reservoir tanks all nestled in a small forest of eucalyptus trees) about a quarter click above my house I was surprised to see not only was the community gathered but also a platoon of soldiers from one of the local units. Everybody was gathered around a woman with a clip board standing above what looked to be about 700 to a 1000 pine and eucalyptus saplings. Most of the locals were there with their own implements but the syndicate was also handing out new picks to the soldiers. The commander barked out orders causing the soldiers to march forward grab a pick and pack 15 sapling's into a large sack that each one had. There was also a separate line for us civilians. When I joined this line I was told that I as well had to choose 15 of my own saplings at the registration point. Upon hearing this I then informed the people around me that I had no idea that I would be hauling my own trees as this was my first experience with this particular project. The check-in woman said "You have time to go home and get something."
Slightly frustrated I began my trip home. I got down about 30 metres and turned the corner around the first reservoir tank and ran into Don Eusebio. In my surprise I said "I thought you would be sending somebody?"
He said with a smile "Oh no I am one of the directors. People will start saying things if I don't show up!"
"Well I am on my way down to get a bag as we have to carry 15 sapling a piece...oh and you will need a bag as well because you only are bringing a pick." I grunted,
Don Eusebio proclaimed "15 that is an outrage! Never mind the bag boy. Come with me."
Upon arrival back at the group meeting place Don Eusebio turned to me with a wink "I'll show you how we do this. Now always wait at the back of the line chatting with your neighbor friends until most of the trees are gone" This is what we did. We leaned on our picks chit-chatting while Don Eudebio introduced me to the neighbors. Then at what seemed to be a random point in time I was indicated to move forward following my guide. Don Eusebio smiling to the woman with the writing pad "We have no bags so we will just have to carry what we can in our hands. So that will probably be 5 or so a piece" That was when I got the bright idea of taking my shell off to use a sappling transportation tool. "Hey look what I'm doing Don Eusebio. Now we can carry a lot more than that. Man I am such an idiot that I did not think of this before! :-D" I was given a not so congratulatory look from my guide.
So we loaded up 20 trees and started up the hill as the others were doing the same. Then my guide turned to me and said "Here is what we'll do. Well will start planting here at the bottom and let the rest of those fools carry their trees all the way up there. Hee-hee!" Unfortunately the going was not all that easy as the particular location where we were was already over populated with trees and the only open areas were very rocky. This discovery made Don Eusebio change his plans. "It looks as if we will have to be going up higher then."
As he walked ahead of me carrying our picks and I the swaddled remaining 15 trees Don Eusebio would greet all the locals on their way down "Oh I see you have already completed you community task comrade. Good for you. We have only a few more trees to plant ourselves. We have just planted about 16 or so trees toward the bottom and decided because of the overpopulation down there it would only fair to Pachamama that we plant in the areas where there are less trees. Is that not right Rusty"
Rusty "Well, I...uuuh..you know..."
"By the way this is Dr. Firestone. You know the guy who is the director of the projects that brings doctors from North America?'
The Comrade "Well, I ...uuuh...sure!"
At this point they both started speaking in Quechua and Don Eusebio started nodding profusely. He turned to me and said "The Comrade just told me that if we follow this trail about 30 meters and then take a sharp left directly up that hill over yonder there are a whole bunch of old holes from the last project where people planted trees and the trees dried up. We just find these holes and we will not have to dig hardly at all we just plug the trees in and cave the hole in. Hee-hee! "
So that is how we planted our last trees. On the way back down the hill Don Eusebio triumphantly announced to all the other beginner tree planters "If you go up that hill over there you will find a bunch of holes to plant in. That is what we did." He did this repeatedly all the way back to the forestry station. When we finally sat down to rest he said "I sent so many people up that hill they will all be bumping asses just trying to find holes. Hee-hee!" Interestingly enough Eusebio is not a man given to puns or irony.
It was then one of the other syndicate director friends of Don Eusebio came up with an old Seven-Up bottle full of thick purple liquid. I said "Oh that's the stuff you drink with bunuelos (a type Bolivian fry bread)". The director chuckled and spoke in Quechua "Blah-blah-blah api" Which later I found out he said "Heh-heh. The gringo thinks I am giving him api (a Bolivian warmed morning drink)." When I lifted the glass to my lips I found the error of my thinking. It was not api at all but in fact chicha (a corn brewed indigenous alcohol)! this is an ancient drink that has been drank by the local Native Americans since before the time of the ancient Incas. It is served into a gourd bowl usually and the recipient then as part of the toast is to swish it around enough till it splashes out on the ground as to offer the Pacha Mama (Mother Earth) the first drink so the trees will grow strong and healthy.
I said with slight surprise to my error "Whatever...pour me another."


Sunday, Jan. 24th 2010, Captains Blog: My slightly populated walden

So as the years turned into months, and the months turned into days, and the days turned into hours, and the hours turned into seconds, and finally time stood still to take a breath from its long unending march into infinity. It was there that it found and insignificant Rusty walking a small little country trail that lay below the ominous sight of a towering Titan god like mountain range called by humans "The Andes". The is same range that gave the little man (Rusty) the gift of seeing a pair of Ocelots (a small tawny endangered lynx like mountain cat) on a hike a different day.
This trip started out with a necessity which was that he had to go and pick up Thomas and Maddy from their friends house where they spent the night. Rusty left the house crossing the property climbing the steps to the guest house (which is en route off the property) to see the shiny eyed stare of Mr. Buns. This was an event as Tammy and Rusty had found that he was missing that same morning. The two mounted a search that turned out to be futile having learned that Mr. Bun's will show himself when he feels his hiatus is over. How can Mr. Buns be blamed? He is a Firestone after all. Rusty decided that he could not criticize his own.
After depositing Mr. Buns in his cage Rusty continued out the far gate through the bamboo garden off the property, following the water canal up to the swinging bridge to cross the river that was swollen by the previous nights rain. The evenings and rain which was part of the now seasonal summer rains had turned the trails into veins of overgrown green tentacles of life that reach out to you as you walk underneath the swaying eucalyptus trees. The time was cool as the clouds fought to keep out the sun but the sun was bound to win as it pushed rays in through unattended patches.
Upon my arrival at my friend’s house I was offered the gift of a celery stick and salad dressing to dip it in which I happily accepted.
Rusty told the children that today was a pedestrian day. Although not to happy they led the way back home. As they weaved through the country back on the same trail of which the little man had come they passed estate villas of the cities rich, the rich fields of flowers of the countries impoverished. They crossed the occasional river rock paved lane which transported the wealthy up and down from their weekend country homes to the city as well as some public transportation for those who were not so wealthy.
The little man to his amazement heard a sound break the silence of the wind and the trees. It was the sound of a lone voice accompanied by a charango (the Andean equivalent of a mandolin). He waited to see who it was. The little man, Rusty, soon was rewarded the sight of a crazy cross-eyed hippy walking down the lane singing and playing an Andean folk song and the top of his weed scorched lungs. Rusty had to admit he did sound pretty good but still had to control his mirth as it was too neighborly of a day to cause conflict. So the trio continued on their trek onward with the occasional complaint of Maddy who could not understand why were not taking some kind of vehicular transportation.
Later while Rusty sat on his hand made wood lawn chair resting from his hike staring at an eye-popping , hundred mile, clear view across the valley he saw Maddy come running up with Mr. Buns in her arms (the rabbit almost her size) saying "I solved the mystery of Mr. Buns escape!" In her hand was a piece of tile which she stated had fallen from the top of the adobe wall that surrounds the property. "This brick fell on Mr. Bun’s cage knocking it open and letting him out!" she smiled proudly. The little man said “Good job Sweety!". She beamed “Now I am putting him back into his house." She then carried the seeming gigantic guilty looking rabbit by the nape of his neck back to his cage.
Then time was rested and got up and started its endless walk once more. Seconds turned back into minutes, and minutes turned into hours, and hours into days, and days into months, and months finally into years. This same small insignificant little man will confess that these unaccounted for minutes in the quantum of a calm breathing eternity are minutes that he has stolen and he will always have as his own.

Have a great week!



Sat., December 12, 2009, Captains Blog: Drugs

Several weeks ago I was headed to the “Chapare” (the tropical region of Cochabamba) with some friends of mine who were visiting from the US. The Chapare is a local touristic tropical town where many like to go down to get out of the altitude to see the tropical fauna, fish and relax. The Chapare also has yet another fame (or shall I call it an infamy) and that is that it is a non-traditional growing zone for coca. Coca is the plant from which cocaine is made from. Now to be fair the Bolivian natives have been chewing the coca leaf for like a Brazilian years! (Joke) Seriously though it was a pre-Columbian product which was shipped around the Incan empire and was (still is) consumed on a daily basis. For those of you who are not familiar with coca the simple chewing of the leaf give you no more of an effect than drinking coffee in the am. It takes something to the tune of several bales of coca to make a couple of grams of cocaine. Now I say that the Chapare is a non-traditional growing zone is because the traditional zone here in Bolivia has always been in a place called “Los Yungas” which is the tropical zone of La Paz. The Chapare became a growing zone sometime in the early to mid 1970’s if I am not mistaken. As the matter of fact for you movie buffs if you saw the movie Scare Face there is a scene where a guy gets pushed out of a helicopter over and into a jungle. The subtitles say “Cochabamba, Bolivia” which is actually the Chapare region.
Anyway back to my story. As we were headed down to Villa Tunari, the main population center of the Chapare, saw something rather interesting. I saw a little old woman drying coca leaves on the side of the road. The reason this was interesting is that 3-5 years ago this was unheard of. I do not go to the Chapare that often. As the matter of fact the last time I was down there before my visit with my friends was about 5 years ago and at that time the coca harvest was strictly controlled. So the cultivation of coca was almost all but prohibited in this region. You can understand my surprise to see the blatant cultivation of coca on the side of the road whereas before this was done way deep in the jungle far from the prying eyes of the Narco Police.
Why this is happening is that we have had a president who sympathizes with the coca growers of Bolivia. As the matter of fact he used to be a coca grower himself. He just finished his first term and was just re-elected this last Sunday for a term of office which is for the next 5 years.
I was just talking to a friend of mine who just got back from Argentina yesterday. While he was there he said that the local Narcs caught a barge headed for the open seas that contained 5 metric tons of cocaine in in the River Plate. This is the estuary that divides Northern Argentina from Southern Uruguay. It is pretty obvious from where this came from. Since Mr. Evo Morales has kicked out the American DEA from Bolivia I was told that most of their operations would be concentrated in the countries around Bolivia to catch it coming out. But as I see it this is like the little Dutch boy trying to stop a leak in a dike while the storm is raging. As a result there has been a huge economy boom in Bolivia. It is no wonder why Mr. Morales had a landslide victory.
Once again to be fair the drug trade is not new to power building as a mechanism. The US economy would collapse completely if it were not for the drug trade. I am told that the largest cash crop in the US is Marijuana. Then there all those “party drugs” that both Americans and Europeans can’t seem to live without.
If you go back in history you will see that the largest (official) Empire the planet has ever known was fueled for a large part by a drug trade. When people think of opium most will think of a Chinese drug. But it is not very popularly known that most of the opium consumed in the 18th and 19th centuries in China was cultivated and refined in India. It was the British companies and merchants who then shipped it into China. China came to a point that its officials said opium was degenerate and made the importation illegal. British reaction to this was to reject this ordinance. They then started sailing frigates up and down the Yellow River blasting every port town in site. These activities became known as the First and Second Opium Wars. It kind of brings our beloved American Revolution into context. How much money was the British Empire really profiting off of 13 small colonies? There was some money coming out of agricultural trade but did it justify the costs of the military presence that the British had there or even all the local conflicts with the other local colonial powers? I mean they could not even make any money off of tea there!  So when the thirteen colonies rebelled it seems it was just a matter of pride for the British to keep their holdings in North America. I am willing to bet that at this time the income from the Far East mammothed what was coming out of North America. The king I believe it was George at the time must have said “It is just not worth fighting over, is it? We’ve got something much nicer in the orient. Let them go….perhaps we’ll try back again in 1812.” Ah but what a glorious revolution it was for us Americans!
After looking at historical and modern economies I am finding it difficult to see how it is correct for both North American and European powers to put pressure on the supply end of the market of a small impoverished country like Bolivia when they are doing very little to curb their own appetites. I only see hypocrisy in the way that these major powers after profiting so much themselves off of the drug trade when they put pressure on one of the poorest countries on the southern hemisphere. If the US were to put as much money as they have out into the “Drug War” into neighborhood rehabilitation centers and centers for children at risk I don’t think that the drug trade in the US or anywhere else would look like it does now. But then again this is not profitable is it? Where there is a supply there is a demand. Also please don’t get me wrong. I have high respect for those out on the street putting their lives at risk in Law enforcement. The decisions need to be made from the top. We as citizens need to support those who are willing to look out for the public of their countries. We may say we do not sin as we are not direct consumers so we do not commit the sin of commission but many times we do not support those who are willing to do things directly in our community and this is a sin of omission. The community around us is all we have and we need to find ways of protecting and making it better. It is our responsibility. We cannot go on putting the blame on impoverished countries half a world away. The problem is on your doorstep.

Peace be with you.