Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Eleven

Canalazo de Naranilla

             Sometimes, when you find the right place in the world you can meet the people you need to meet who can open doors to a new self perception and thus view of the world. Most are born into their geography, an inheritance of birth and circumstance, but when you grow and evolve, and if you find yourself stifled and repressed, finding your right geomancy can be like transplanting a flower into better soil and so it blooms all over again.

             It was only after he had landed in the capital of Ecuador that his new reality hit home. It caused Noble to realize how things had changed over the last six weeks, how he had gone through different phases of emotion, and how he could now see some of his behavior had changed.

            The big question Noble had had in his mind since he had arrived was: Why here? A long thin valley in the very heart of the Andes sprawled out with surrounding grass and foothills lacquered with eucalyptus trees. He had expected it to be hot but it's crisp, especially during the evening. But that was its greatest strength. It's chilly enough here to ward off malaria and yellow fever and other equator-centric diseases, and that was why the Spanish used Quito as its home base to create an empire. The conquistadors took control of Columbia and Venezuela and the Guyanas to the north, and Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina to the south. And Quito remains the unconquered middle. They took control of Quito in 1535, after being one of two seats of power of the Inca Empire for only seven years. Pizarro established his base here to administer the empire, and other than it being in the very middle of the world it has clean, safe water.

            Noble could tell it had never been conquered because of the absolutely beautiful churches in the Old Town, where one of them has seven tons of gold on the walls. The old Jesuit mission is a work of art, and was part of the reason why the United Nations Heritage Foundation, when established in 1977, chose Quito as its first heritage site. But Noble knew it was more than just the architecture and buildings; it was the vibe here. Being so high up in the mountains is like having a settlement that is as close to God as is possible on Earth. It's like a huge natural spire poking up through the clouds to heaven.

            Reno's search for the local special cocktail Canelazo de Naranjilla had brought him down the old part of town behind the churches where there was lane of cafes where people swaggered with purpose. Inside a courtyard Reno took a seat.

            "Canelazo por favor senora," he said. The woman's face breaks into a friendly smile with arms extended that say ‘by all means sir."

            A guitarist played an acoustic painted red and white dressed like an Ecuadorian Elvis Presley. Women watch the men talk, venting their politics and justifications, gesticulating in the universal manner, arms working and spittle projecting. Passion without anger, belief without malice, joy without bitterness. A people embodying Aristolean happiness. Women chatting in clusters. Rosy-cheeked, sheen-skinned, -raven haired, sharp-cheek-boned, windswept beauties eager to grin, white teeth contrasting against the red hue of the cheek. Indigenous Metizmo with Visigoth bone structure made for a very spiritual combination. Quick to laugh, non-resentful, soulful souls unencumbered by consumerism, ascetic and simple, understated and pretty.

            Everywhere is downhill from here, he thought, disease, squalor and hardship, monsoons and tidal waves, crime and danger, bacteria and yellow fever. North or south disturbs the equilibrium, downwards to the sea increases discomfort and decreases metabolism. The air too thick with exhaust, heavy with metals, putrid with viruses hanging and hovering and itching and dense. Reno prefers the cobblestone lanes over fast American freeways, a climate with no seasons, a land where the sun sets at the same time forever, and where flowers were in perpetual bloom. Even here during the night the traffic is silent and raucous sounds of joviality reflect off the enmeshing walls of rock.

            An old Chinese man sat a few tables down muttering to himself in a Naranjilla stupor. Or he could be having a series of Zen-like epiphanies experienced by only himself and God.

            Reno attacked the beverage, feeling sure it could not dent his armor. It was sweet - dulce - a descendent of the sugar cane family. Thick like a hot milkshake the color of purloin pear. It disappeared in minutes so he chose to purchase a clay jug. The waitress used a ladle from a ten-gallon jar heated over a low propane-powered flame. Not scalding hot; the Ecuadorian drinking public would not allow that. The cocktail had a hint of absinthe in it that bespoke caution, but Reno ignored the red flag in the name of fun and empirical data. He felt a passion to test this city, to engorge its fruits in the bohemian tradition of the beats, and let nothing get by. Like Kerouac: jazz, pot, booze, women, road trips and joyrides to the max. Truths are universal and can be discovered in every corner of the globe. This, he realized, was part of the beauty of the philosopher's life: his office does not have four walls.

            A band setting up in front of decayed walls, the old hacienda chipped but standing, off-green double doors pointed twenty times, the courtyard banisters intermittent but in tact. Roman pillars scarred and painted a rusty red. Musicians dressed in suits, black, pressed slacks and freshly shaved, hair gelled back out of respect for their audience. No blacks; no gringos; strictly an Ecuadorian affair. Waiters polite, well dressed. No ashtray. Your own space. Respect for the foreigner. No obnoxious college blondes bumping into your table. Classy and rustic. Good cocktail. Effective overall package. Tough to beat. Reno has found his own niche within Ecuador's inner sanctum.


            Noble had stopped off at his guesthouse to drop off his bag, have a pipe and roll a joint before he left for Finn's. He was only at the pub for ten minutes before the Dane showed up with a matchbox full of blow. Halfway through the first cerveza he told Noble about this black woman who dropped by his guesthouse and how he packed himself a spiked cigarette for his morning hit but then she took it from him not knowing it was spiked with the white stuff.

            "She turned horny. I should make it a regular thing," he said, reliving in his mind the ins and outs of the night.

And he blamed the Dane for what eventually happened.

            Music blared, drinks being served, football on the screen, and the Dane hands me his matchbox and tells me to go into the washroom.

            "Have a lot," he said, an order from a Viking who knows what he's doing. Two lines, one in each nostril that burned, watering his eyes. Walked out squinting behind his spectacles, the music crisper, the groove more vibrant, and his barstool still vacant. The Dane's eyes the color of icebergs, his earnestness unmatched by any man.

            Quito was an amalgamation of forces vying for power on the equator in the heart of the world. Most men never experience the steady twelve-hour days, the clear piercing mornings after the cool chill of the night. The Incas had to live here.


            The brothel was packed with too many men for the ratio of half-dressed women. Pornography on televisions on both sides of the club, a stripper in the middle using the brass pole to her advantage. Women sat and drank and smoked and smiled and waited until an Ecuadorian would have enough guts to take the first step, pay the bar fee and take her to the only room behind the bar for a quickie. One room, one bed, dirty sheets; this was the Ecuadorian brothel. Noble and the Dane were the only foreigners there except a black prostitute with a large bosom. It was she who Noble chose to play with.


            Later, when he was falling asleep in his room, he heard the voice of Reno whisper in his ear: "To forego an opportunity is to bypass the richness of life, to spend time doing that which is a dull shade of gray burdened with meaninglessness instead of the tweaked thrill of the new, an adventure that pulls one through the corridor of discovery and the hitherto unseen hallway painted with new colors."


Chapter Twelve

Cajunes el grande


             Reno nursed his pint getting ready to leave when Jaap strolled in, leather jacket hanging loosely, silver chain outside the shirt. Glass of bourbon in hand, he stepped outside and rolled a cigarette.

            "Now that's a leather," said Reno, intrigued by the crisp figure rolling with one hand.

            "It is. It's a good one. Yours too." Accent subtle, words quick, eyes set and locked caked with lines of life but jawline tight, muscles in play.

            "Just working it in. A bit of a pain in the ass."

            "It is. It is a pain in the ass. Best way to get up to par is sleep in it." Noble unsure, Reno emitting a toekn laugh. "Serious. Three nights. Zip it up and sleep. Works." Simple.

            "Is that Dutch Drum?"

            "Used to smoke Drum. This is Staap. Can't get it here. I have someone who imports it for me. Better than those chemicaled cigarettes. Chemicaled, you know what I mean?" Eyes sharp, collar starched, hair white but full, skin pink with health but lined with character.

            "Chemicaled, sure. What is it, 249 chemicals in one of these babies, many purposely putin to increase addiction."

"True." Finger pointed, accused of speaking truth. "And many of those cause cancer. It's been proven."

            "I believe you're correct."

            "I am correct. But this is good smoke. Fluffy if you use that word, and pure."

            "Though there are native cigarettes you can purchase from Indian reservations that are pure tobacco. None of this chemical bullshit."

            "Bullshit, that's right. I heard of the native ones. Some good and some not so good, but not loaded with the crap."

            "Sans crap." The face transformed from professor and scientist of truth to great creases of joy, skin fine and eyelids lifted.

            "Sans crap, that's good." He offered his hand. "I'm Jaap, but people call me Jack."

            "Noble." Jaap's smile grew to protect from a joke.

            "Noble? As in Duke? Or palatinate?"

            "That's the one. Noble is my last name. Don't use my first name."

            "So leave it a mystery, eh? Work with the girls?"

            "Depends on the delivery." He snatched the cigarette from his mouth before ashes blew on Noble. "That's a good one."

            "You a regular here?"

            "Could say that."

            "Flower expert like the owner?" He tilted his head to consider the angle of the question. "Not like Toné if you've met him. Big. Bald."

            "No. First time here."

            "He's an expert, works the flowers. Lilies." Urgency to establish lilies and not another kind like a rose. "Expert, yes. I run a farm and sell them."


            "Yup. And roses, all colors. Good market for both those."

            "In Europe?"

            "Russia mostly. Big market there. Others are opening up. But with the new president the profit margins are thinniing. Really thinning."

            "Let me guess. Deemed an non-essential industry."

            "Correct. Can't eat flowers. But this is the best place in the world to grow roses and lilies. Good profits, good income for my employees. Over 160,000 workers employed in flowers here."

            "Land of perpetual bloom."

            "That's right!" Adamant on establishing truths as if marking out Dworkin's universe of jurisprudence. Depends on the height, but where we are here it's very good. Very good." Another cigarette, elbows on the table, silver chain jingling. "President doesn't know what he's doing. If he's not careful he'll destroy what we've built for decades. Me, eighteen years here building my farms. I pay my employees a little more but unlike the other farms that have a turnover of...say... twelve percent, my farms have a one percent turnover rate. You know turnover?" Accent thick with some words.

            "Sure, the rate employees quit."

            "Exactly!" Finger pointed, like a Dashund. "I trat my people good. Reall good. So it pains me to think of closing the farms because of increased taxes and tarrifs. He's making it unprofitable. Can't work for nothing."

            "No, one needs to eat."

            "Precisely! And that's what we do. Not Toné, he gets his monthly salary, but others who sell the flowers. They're getting squeezed." Head shaking, sigh hidden, pain swallowed, injustice kept at bay.

            "Might I ask you a question?"


            "How did you get into flowers? Was your father a horticulturalist?" Three fingers thrusted at Reno.

            "That's what one would expect. But not me." He smiled at a memory, or an irony. "I was a bartender in Holland, West Holland, about thirty when this regular comes in and starts bitching about his flower deliveries. ‘Course I had been at the bar for years so I knew him ‘cause we had spoken often, so he says to me. Jaap, I want you to go to these twelves places and ask the buyers what they paid. See it was all a cash business back then and his profits were thinning too but not for the same reasons. He suspected his salesmen were, you know, skimming the top? So I take the day off work and drive his truck to these flower stores, and ask how much they paid for their last delivery. Well it doesn't take much to calculate how much is being skimmed and who is skimming, so I tracked them down, the salesmen, and fire most of them. Just told them they were gone. So when I get back I give the information to the flower manager and he says ‘Jaap, I want you to deliver my flowers for me.' And I did!"

            "So it was your integrity that earned his respect and opened the door to the industry."

            "Correct. See, he could trust me. You have to in this business. If you don't you don't last long. Few yeas, that's it. So he retired after a few years and I took over the business. Love it. Love flowers. I'm lucky."

            "You are. Part of the few."

            "I agree with you. So I expanded and came here, bought some land and built...oh...how many hectares? Doesn't matter. Did well for years until Correa changed the laws."

            "Changing the rules of the game mid-game, poor form, no?"

            "Very poor form. But you see he's hurting his own people."


            "It is Noble. It is."

            "Why don't you speak up, go to the government and say your piece. Seems rational to me."

            "I did!" Smile smiting the gleam of his smooth skin into a thousand lines of proportion and symmetry. "I said my piece and then was asked to shut up but I didn't. The president said to me ‘we're working on it.' So I said ‘when do you think it will be done?' He gave me the same vague answer so I asked again. I explained I needed to know because of my employees but he didn't answer."

            "Snowballed you."

            "Snowball? Okay, sure. So I'm snowballed and driving home and these two big four-by-fours pin me in at my driveway, block me in. Few of his boys. And they say to me to settle down and shut up, and if I act like that to the president again they'll kill me. So, of course this is my property so I tell them if they ever put foot on my land again I'll hire some killers to snuff them out. So that was the end of that."

            "You gotta have balls to do that."

            "You do, yep."

            "So why haven't they clipped you?"

            "Clipped? Oh, no, they wouldn't. Been here too long."

            "VIP." Jaap considered the comment.

            "Yep, you could say that."

            "Cajunes el grande man!" The face wrinkled into a work of art, the laugh dry and only air, eyes pinched shut, chain dangling but hands still rolling another cigarette.

            "That's my problem Noble. I'm too honest. Too direct. Can't keep my mouth shut."

            "But in business one would expect that to be a virtue."

            "I agree with you. I agree with you. But not here. Not now."

            "Disagreeable zeitgeist."

            "Couldn't have said it better myself. Disagreeable zeitgeist. Yes."

            "So one could argue that to stand up to the president of Ecuador - or for that matter any country - would not be considered wise, especially if one has built and runs a successful farm and who cares about their employees' welfare."


            "However," his turn to raise his finger in the air. "If one has a legitimate beef where livelihoods are at stake, not just yours as a business owner but as a representative of the presidents people, that is, those who voted him into office, then one might regard that as courageous and a great example of leadership."

            "Yes, one could." Nodding thoughtfully.

            "Perhaps it was all in the delivery?" They both let it out, the connecting tissue to bring them right back to where they started. "One might have great ideas, noble ideas, ideas that do not exploit but rather enhance, but how it id packaged and handed forward to the big wigs could call for a pointman or deputy of some sort."

            "I don't disagree, however my problem is that it doesn't matter if he's el presidente or the tenth man in the hierarchy of power, my point is still valid and deserves attention."

            "I concur wholeheartedly. Sugar-coating and sucking up and beating around the bush are not the hallmarks of a visonary or leader."

            "That's it. I cannot compromise. If I know it to be true I say it as it is. For example, tomorrow I go to a farm, you know within the reach of Quito, who is owned by an older man who has handed the farm to his son. Maybe 29-years old, knows some but not enough to run a profitable and productive flower farm but I will tell him exactly what needs to be done, but if he doesn't like it, or only wants part of it, I walk away. That's just the way I am."

            "But that's also what has made you successful."

            "I would say you are right there."

            "Well then stick to your guns and see it through, but make that effort to make them see how your way is the best way, for their employees, their balance sheet and so they can go to sleep at night knowing their enterprise is getting better."

            "Maybe you're right. Maybe I should dig deeper to make them see what I see. What do you say? Stick my guns? I like that one."

            "Don't forget Jaap that you're the expert. And if you have found your calling don't doubt your judgment. Your objectivity is your greatest gift." He rubbed his chin.

            "Very good Noble. Yes, yes."

            "Or you could always bring a beautiful woman with you, not to distract, but to add to the bouquet and beauty of your presentation and summary of suggestions." The three women who entered the patio surrounded Jaap, each giving him a kiss and one taking his hand leading him inside the bar, his smile hitting maximum with the third kiss.

            "Good to talk Noble. See you again."

            "Could be an opportunity for some research for that new position you're looking for." The hand shot up, the head fell back and the laughter bounced off the ceiling in the pub. Reno remained for a few moments, mulling the exchange, amazed at the confident voice emerging from his lips, long held dormant and overlooked.


Table of Contents

  1. The Divine Elbow
  2. Just Surviving As Noble Intent
  3. Surpassing Neophobia
  4. The Middle of the World
  5. The Dane
  6. The Religion of Sfauism
  7. Celebrating Chemistry
  8. Connected Columbians
  9. Stuntmen and Dakar Motorcycle Groupies
  10. Into Amazon Waters
  11. A Beautiful Repressive Niche
  12. Canalazo de Naranilla
  13. Cajunes el grande
  14. A Noble Doppelgänger
  15. Reno Finds His Footing
  16. How to Make a Bomb Out of a Light Bulb
  17. The Impossible Black Lily
  18. The Boy Fascist
  19. Artistas
  20. The Art of Death
  21. The Earthquake Virgin
  22. Lambaster of Laughter
  23. The Sweet Cadence of Scheudenfreunden
  24. Matador: the Agent of Destiny
  25. Overfilling
  26. Mobile Piping
  27. Aristotle’s Character Years
  28. The Great Pilgrimage
  29. A Purpose for Your Sins
  30. Errol Flynn
  31. The Better Man
  32. The Addict’s Ladder
  33. The African Club
  34. The Dutch Hair Piece
  35. The Swiss Army Knife
  36. The Scent of Ammonia
  37. At the Mouth of the Amazon
  38. Broken and Renewed
  39. Seizing the Moment
  40. A Recent Past Discovered
  41. Pinned and Threatened by Fate
  42. Twice as Much in Half the Time
  43. The Assassination
  44. The Pledge
  45. Slandering Hamlet
  46. Stealing Time
  47. Hannibal at the Gates
  48. On the Old Contraband Trail





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