Wordcarpenter Books
More About No More Waiting to Die
 

 
From these passages you can get an idea of the intensity of life up in the Ecuadorian Andes.
  If someone learns they have less than a year to live, each of us would choose a unique path. Time becomes so much more valuable that some decisions become rational. Taking things to extremes was one of the things that Aaron Noble did when he heard the news. He flew to Quito in South America and immediately began living a new life. He shedhis old identity and delved deeply into the expat culture in Quito, experiencing the parties and nightlife and drug culture that he had never known. Knowing his disease was untreatable and fatal, he couldn't feel fear anymore. His inhibitions had disappeared. His only fear now was the moment of his death. Everything else was fair game. Noble meets characters from all over the world all living cheaply on pensions. Just be careful. Quito is dangerous. That's what Noble found out. Dangerous and thrilling.
 

Chapter Eleven

Canelazo de Naranjilla
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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 Thirty-one

The African Club

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Laughter harvested will a good man make, the hidden smile playfulness will partake. It is one thing to laugh freely and unhindered, but it is something entirely different to bring out the hidden sunshine of the soul in others, leaving a smile on their face, giving them hope, and momentarily raising them from the darkness of gnawing problems. To have this ability to elevate others might be regarded as being on par with the rare individuals who can inspire others to greatness. But these select few are rare and usually overlooked by history.         

All human beings have the capacity of laughter and yet many lose their will to laugh, believing it is childish or immature. The stern face, the look of constant worry, the serious demeanor are all adult faces. Humanity needs comedians, our artists, our stand-up comics, who have historically been the ones invited to the King's court and the emperor's palace. There are so many noble qualities in man yet the one universal constant is that strange reflex to laugh. It is humankind's Sublime Leveler, the Bonder of Brothers, the Great Mother of man reminding us that it is all right, that love is better than war, that honesty is better than guile, and that we can all work together. In a darkening world of overpopulation, food shortages and toxic pollution, our gifted comedians need to find a voice to shout across the rooftops of the world to unite us all as brethren and to alert us of the empyrean and put us back in touch with the infinite drop of goodness in our hearts that all peoples are born with.

Hard work can be channeled into polishing wit, identifying what makes others laugh and thus become your own expert to make others laugh. Learn to bypass impressing others with achievement and material gains; know that the skill of raising another to the natural state of momentary abandon is a gift more valued and more sought after. It is a form of emancipation into the realm of magic, and an animation of the spirit. It is magic because it's involuntary, as if a divine sprite is tampering with your skeletal musculature. But the uncentered man is too fractured to focus on polishing his ability to make others laugh. Get into the mix, employ courage and know your true character to find your center. Only then can you become a giver to humanity and a maestro healing others through laughter. With ones freedom of self, one then has the ability to laugh at themselves, which is the first way of making others crack up. It is not playing the fool; it is an indirect way of showing others your mastership is so thorough that you have come out on the other side, an exuberance of joy from life and a confidence of knowledge that is impenetrable to insecurity and embarrassment.

These were Noble's thoughts the night of the African Club party.

It was that one act of kindness that had produced the invitation to the African Club. Noble had heard about the African Club from being in the pub scene in Mariscal, but few non-members were allowed in. He was flattered to have been invited but was relieved the Dane had been included. He knew why the club was so valued among the African expatriates: the blatant racism in Quito was shocking. Whenever a cop or an undercover searched someone in Mariscal it was always a black with dreadlocks. Not only could he see it, he could feel it too. So the blacks stuck together and to remove themselves from the glare of bigotry they culminated in an old Spanish casa where they could order good food cheap and play music and relax.

When Friday rolled around the Dane had sequestered himself with a new woman in his hostel, choosing to forgo the African Club much to Reno's chagrin, but there was no way he was going to stand up Solomon and Max so he went to Finn's early and met David the Irishman who could belt out laughter with the best of them. Reno was going to create his own posse to land in the African Club, fully supplied with tech, bringing Paullina who the Africans might like to look at since she was once Miss Ecuador.

Noble, the Irishman, Paullina and her boyfriend from Britain arrived with Solomon at four o'clock in the morning to an empty house except Patrick Campbell, the club manager. It wasn't until Reno placed the white powder on the table that the pace of conversation picked up until everyone was speaking and no one was listening. Classic coke party. When the African music filled the room, the vibe enhanced. Only Paullina was a dud. She made it plain that she didn't like or trust blacks in a voice loud enough to be heard. Crass and rude, Reno took the initiative and encouraged her to depart with her British boyfriend. Once they left things really loosened up, the conversations started to take root and flourish. Time passed as the lines were demolished with ferocity until they all reached a soft and fluffy level of intoxication.

The first morning arrivals were Max and two of his women, one soon breastfeeding her daughter across the table from Noble without a hint of embarrassment. After seven hours of snorting, drinking and robust vocal exchange, members began arriving, many shocked at the number of bottles and quaffing still in play. Since Solomon was the DJ, he made a point of introducing every member to Noble and the Irishman. Noble didn't think he and the Irishman would be embraced so sincerely but he was wrong. All of the fifty or so members who entered the club on Saturday shook his hand, each man looking Noble right in the eye, making an effort to welcome them both. Never had he been shown so much respect. Every member had a quality of kindness that showed an open mind that ceased to surprise him. Noble had expected a cold shoulder or hesitance from some but every single man welcomed him and the Irishman with class. Not once did he sense resentment that two very pink, white men were in their sanctuary. It was a members-only club based solely on race yet the two whites were treated as equals, many showing genuine happiness of their presence.

It was early on Saturday that Noble started to be aware of overstaying his welcome, readying to leave at any time. But Solomon was adamant that they remain in the club. Noble called the Dane several times but he had turned his phone off to avoid coitus interruptus, but he couldn't ignore the great time he was missing. It was Saturday midday after snorting lines from the table that Noble realized that a dominant characteristic of the members was their individual style, each having an individual look. Each look was original; each expressing the look they liked; none a variation of another's or even similar. Like an unwritten acknowledgment that personal style was valued, it was the identification of their true character that was valued over socio-economic status.

Many members sat around in the main room and chilled out from the ruckus and oppression of Quito, finding comfort in the ease and laughter generated by the Noble, David and Solomon. Noble on alert to vamos so he didn't mar the great party they had had, with each new greeting the handshake was firm and the impetus to depart never reached the action point.

David the Irishman had never done nose candy before so he was on cloud nine, going with the flow and not afraid to ask questions regarding technique and etiquette around the coke table. Clearly a man who knew how to have a good time, it was his laugh that made all feel at ease, particularly Solomon, who was gaining brownie points for his invitation to two spenders. Max sat at the table and did the line and drank a beer cool as cool could be, plain for Noble to see he was one of the most respected men in the club. A son of a Nigerian king who had been ousted during a struggle for power, he now called his home South Africa. He was thickly built and had the natural poise of royalty, never moving for others if he didn't have to but never insolent or rude.

Solomon was the opposite. Soon becoming drunk from the beer, he was loud and interacted with everyone, choosing the music to suit the mood, provoking some to react in order to get their blood going. If any non-member was every to be brought to the club, Solomon was the best man to do it. Fearless and a talented jester, if he wasn't joking around he was smoking his pipe of base or drinking beer or bent over selecting the next song. And this day he was enlivened by the politeness and good humor of his guests. He had given a nod to Reno for booting Paullina out. The Africans were just sick and tired of non-thinking prejudices that were rampant here in Ecuador. It was a real family at the African Club.

"We're getting low on our tech," he said to Solomon, who had been indoctrinated into the language already.

"I know where to go, but I need cash." Solomon had the gift of extracting money from Noble without ever asking directly. But it was their mutual belief in God and respect for Him that joined them in trust. It was one of the first things he had brought up with Noble, and it was Noble's nature to reply with direct honesty, now ever more direct and clear after observing the Dane's technique. It didn't take Solomon more than a few songs to come back with a the largest amount of base Noble had ever seen.

The tech had gone underground with all the people around, the intake taking place in the washroom one at a time. A football match came on the big screen above the mirrored far wall so the Irishman and Noble followed Solomon upstairs to one of the four open rooms where there was a party going on. Noble bought some Abuella Rum and Coke and proceeded to solidify his platform and laugh at the stand-up comic routine Solomon was trying to do. But more than that, it was the comfort and acceptance of the members to join the party with most of them shaking Noble's hand a second time and restating their name.

There was a strict etiquette smoking the smelly base from a pipe. Not allowed inside the premises, there was a balcony that was partially hidden from the road where doobies and pipes could be undertaken briskly, with no loitering. Solomon was a vacuum, and enjoyed the tangy bite of the pink-colored base, instantly causing his eyes to become like pee holes in the snow. Jousting and light-hearted, there were no long faces in the room, each trying to raise the other's spirit in a country that didn't want them.

Then Lawrence showed up.

"Can I have some rum?" he asked Noble, head dipped and face acquiescing.

"Absolutely." With skin dry and rough like sandpaper, his curled hair whitening and drying out like the stubble on his face, he towered over the table with his polite manners and soft voice. But Noble could see he was a man who had lived, and he wasn't going to think of him as a child. He said he was Nigerian but had grown up in Brooklyn.

"Have you ever been to Africa?"

"Not yet," he replied. "So many places and not enough time." Lawrence slapped the table.

"You must make time Noble! Make time to go because there's no other place in the world like Africa. Ask anyone and they'll tell you the same thing. The sky is bigger and the land is richer in color. But!" His hand shot upwards. "But what country should you visit? That's the tough one to answer. But I know where the best country is. It's also the country with the best marijuana in the world."

"I thought the best was from California or up the West coast around Vancouver in Canada. Hydroponics or whatever it's called."

No!" Again the slapping of the table with his fleshy hand. Then eyes turning empathetic. "You don't like the grass?" Noble had to take a step back to let Reno answer with wit.

"I've had lots of different kinds but I don't think I've tried Nigerian weed."

"Well then you have that to look forward to." The laughter electrified the room, many so accustomed to eruptions of mirth that they hardly noticed. "No but trust me. Nigeria has the best of any country. Ask anyone."

"The room is full of Nigerians. What else are they going to say?"

"True!" Like a hair trigger, ready to sprint at the sound of the starter's pistol, Lawrence let the piano-key teeth shine with confidence, knowing that that moment is the best of any part of the twenty-four-hour cycle of time. Just loved to laugh. It only brought out more from Reno.

"But seriously now Lawrence, if I were to go to Africa, where in Nigeria would I go? The capital? What is it? Lagos?"

"Yes! But no, not there. But of course you arrive there and then you go north up the mountains to a plateau. That's where you can get good weed and enjoy smoking it too."

A plateau like Quito?"

"No, very very flat. Where you can see all of Africa. Sit there and smoke the ganja and ponder life's bigger questions."

"You know something Lawrence, that sounds very appealing to me." Noble stroked his growing beard, and entertained the possibility of taking a trip to Africa.

"Nigeria. Trust me. You will like it." 

"And what is this place called? This plateau? Can you write it down for me?" He took his pen and wrote it on a piece of paper. "But you know if I go there and the weed is crappy I'm have to hunt you down and chop off one of your limbs." Again the hair trigger. Booming sub-woofer sound of joy. Didn't really have to be funny, only needed to make the attempt.

Since Reno was holding the baggies, Solomon asked him if he wanted to smoke some more. Lawrence was curious.

"Would you like to have a pipe?"

"Crack?"

"No, base. Very pink base,"

"Don't touch that stuff," he replied, shaking his head. "Clog your lungs and the high isn't high enough, if you know what I mean. Noble knew exactly what he meant.

"I do. You keep on smoking it and you never get higher than you are after the first hit."

"Could've have said it better myself." Noble, once square now drug connoisseur.

"Freebasing is the best in my opinion. It's so clean, and that taste."

"Oh brother I hear ya! That smoooooth taste! Gotta get me some!"

"Wish I had some baking soda we could cook some up."

"No, no. Not here. Some other place maybe. But I have a line on some great stuff. Powder white. The White Lady!"

"Fluffy nose candy. Hmmm. I could be interested." Money being spent but why not? As the Dane once said: when you spend a hundred you have to believe you will get eight hundred in return - or something like that. Some old Danish expression.

"She's a pure lady this cracker bitch." Deadpan. It was Noble's turn to let loose. Face flushed. The relaxing of orifices and the loosening of the bowels.

"It's a good cracker bitch is she? Well then I might want to sample this cracker's goodies if it's fluffy and untainted." The massive body contorted like a crumbling deck of cards, folding into itself, letting the head dangle so as not to obstruct the flow of joy through the tensing of muscles. Lawrence drooled by mistake on the table.

"Larry man!" Solomon was trying to act pissed off.

Reno gave Lawrence forty bucks and a half hour later he returned with the strongest White Lady Noble had ever ingested. But it was poor David the Irishman who reeled from one of the long lines Noble left on top of the toilet. First Noble, then Lawrence and then David, but when David came out his face was redder than what would be comfortable, his voice quivering and his words jumbled. He had tilted the machine. He snuck out some time after that leaving only Noble standing. He and Lawrence laughed and listened to music as Solomon took requests and bitched with everyone who came into his sphere of influence. It was dark out when Noble finally left.

 
 
 

 

 



 

In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dull and know I had put it on the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well-oiled in the closet, but unused.

 - Ernest Hemingway, 1938
 

 
 
 

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