Monday, 23 February 2015


"Weeds are flowers too, when you get to know them", Winnie the Pooh.

Now I've done my share of pulling weeds over the years. The earliest memories are of a Glasgow back garden's crazing paving. That late 60s predilection for putting a hammer through perfectly serviceable cement slabs and then laying the shattered parts on top of soil. My small fingers being considered ideal for extracting the fine, fiddling meadow grasses. Even then, I was devising ways to make the job quicker and easier. Only to be caught and reprimanded. I probably shouldn't have employed the bone handled fork from the Sunday dinner service. There followed the part share in an allotment that had imported topsoil and an epiphany. Not all soil was the glutinous, evil-yellow boulder clay of the Clyde Valley. There actually was something called 'fibrous mould'. It too grew excellent weeds, only now they were easier to pull out.

Agricultural college followed, only now weed control became the domain of herbicides and spray booms. Addresses morphed, employers changed, still the undesirable plants grew, still, they required extraction. Industrial landscaping taught me the shortcuts, how to tease a client into believing they've got the perfect, weed-free, tidy garden. Organic vegetable production, the skill of crawling on your knees, extracting by the root a plant that's reluctant the give up it's hold on Mother Earth. I'll need these skills for my latest ploy.

Chickweed and fat hen, redshank and couch-grass, sticky-willy and fumitory. I've pulled them all. To this list, I can now add a few new ones. More exotic than poetical. Coconut palm and Date palm, Fishtail palm and Palmetto palm. The first is, fortunately, in the singular, as another nut crashes onto the fence, causing the metalwork to quake and vibrate. I shudder to think of the damage one of these might do to my head or a Merc's bonnet. Whilst the other palms shed a carpet of smaller fruit, that, evidence suggest have a magnificent germination rate. There's a forest of thin palmlets sprouting from the mulch covered ground. Plantlets that have a tenacious determination to stay living in the ground.

We're staying with my sister's family in Miami, Florida. A sub-tropical environ of Strangler Figs, Joseph's Coats and flowering orchids, an understorey for the forest canopy of palms.

I could have replicated my contractor's methods. Ripped off the surface vegetation, then covered the evidence with fresh bark mulch. It was after all, my standard method for countless commercial landscaping projects. The evidence of my deceit, recovering, creeping through the surface, months after I've fled the scene. This time I haven't the restraint of commercial expediency. I have time to do the job right, the time to enjoy the task. Even after all these years, it's strange how satisfying a weeding job can still be.

The aspect helps. A warm, balmy winter sun, swaying palm fronds, the lapping waves of a swimming pool. Maybe the last is an exaggeration, more a surge of agitation as the circulation pump suddenly switches on, resulting in sudden splash that has me convinced another coconut is trying to 'nut' me. Still, if we cycle the short distance down to the coast, we can find those waves, along with the fishing osprey, the wading egrets and the kite-surfing Adonis.

Which modifies that bears observation. " a rose in the potato field is as much of a weed as the potato in the rose bed".


Saturday, 21 February 2015

Desert Dancing

For those in the know: Palpa ~ Pisco. Peru. 1st. February.

Like trying to describe a country dance, without resorting to diagrammatic footprints, arrows and Franglified steps like "Paddy Ba", describing my reactions to desertscapes is difficult. Using words like 'dry', 'stark' and 'naked', are easy cliches. 'Painted' has already been appropriated for an Arizonan one. Yet that is exactly how I see them, mid morning.

The light still has depth, the shadows still have length, yet that light is starting to lose its strength, starting to flatten out. A softening scape, it eventually fades, the hills rendered down to a graduation of cardboard cutouts in shades of faint light. Sitting, waiting through these moments, the colourscape evolves, no one view remains constant. That slow disintegration of detail, that chiseled horizon, now a simple soft imagination.

The road rising and falling through bands of low hills, pressing into a low pass, quickly emerges to yet another change of aspect. Another flat grit pan, its far edge my next horizon, my next ridge of red granite tors. The sand dunes washing up on the windward slopes, settling into every crack and crevice. There's little time for boredom, nor the contempt of familiarity. Only, I keep being assured that this a wasted space, that there's nothing to see, the inference being that we're wasting time. Take a 'plane. Little time for boredom, as up in front are a bank of mountains set the breadth of our horizon, into which the road seems unwaveringly intent on heading.

Closer now, these high ridges have wrapped themselves around us and there's little indication of the escape route. We've been in this situation several times, the fun lies in betting which way the exit might go. The odds offered are poor: it can only be left or right, up is a given, the chance of a long tunnel is minimal. I can trace the line part way by following a milk tanker's reflected silver flare, then it pops, it simply disappears. Swallowed into an amorphous mass of mountain.

Fortunately this is Peru, where gradients are friendly to happy hill-slug cyclists, the climb enters a tangle of switchbacks, ridges and gullies, eventually topping out through a rock cut of exquisite shapes, and yet another selection of mountain forms set as a backcloth to yet another sandscape of desiccated watercoloured paintings.



Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Vignettes on the Move

It transcends all cultures. True to any and every child, irrespective of race or place. As Historic Scotland stewards we know the magnetic attraction of gravel. One of my standard Monday morning jobs is to sweep the granite chips from the ancient wall tops, to clear the Ale Wife's stone trough, to retrieve handfuls of 'Lanark Red' from a turnpike stair, that is a Great Hall and a Ruthven Range away from the quarry source. There seems little limit or no distance that a child will move gravel, so long as an adult does not intervene.

We're sitting at a standard Argentinian concrete table nursing coffee and a breakfast of pan casero delivered by a cycling baker, watching a family's four children haul road construction material across the grass to their table, build a tower then haul it all back again. Utterly pointless, totally consuming.

Next time we're sheltering from a Zonda. The wind that crashes down off the Andes and races out of the South. It operates on a switch. Moving from silent calm to tree-stripping ferocity in mere moments. We're in the young mountains and a dry desert, volcanic country, giant boulders of rotting granite, rendering down to the grit berm that we're sitting on. This time it's bananas and desiccated bread rolls, the entertainment offered by a road construction gang...worker ants building a highway. The proportion of each stone to each ant would, in humans terms, be akin to new Olympic records in the weightlifting arena. Their purpose is to clear away the detritus of rubble, to leave an unimpeded route for the other workers who are stripping a palo verde shrub of its yellow petals, hauling them up their own Chilcoot Trail. Toiling in long lines, their Herculean task hindered by that Zonda that plucks them from the crest and flings them and their load back downhill. They never give up. Totally pointed; utterly consuming.


Monday, 16 February 2015

Moments in Atacama Time: Lomas.

The Atacama desert, the driest place in the world. Some parts have recorded no rainfall. Ever. Which is why we wake up this morning to a soaking wet tent, and I've donned full waterproofs for only the second time. I even heard a few spatters of raindrops through the night. Such a wonderfully novel concept, for this trip is fast developing into our driest ever. We break camp, yet despite my best efforts, the tent gathers half a desert's worth of sticky sand. Now more emery paper than flysheet.That novelty lasts only as far as the road verge; visibility is reduced to two lorry-lengths and given some of the more bizarre driving feats we've witnessed of late, the prospects are somewhat daunting.

We need not have worried. That thick, wet clag seems to have instilled a degree of fearful respect. Cars driving on their hazards elect to follow behind the protection of an articulated lorry hauling twenty-four tonnes of dried garlic cloves. Nobody is overtaking around blind bends, undertaking on shoulders, risktaking as stimulants. I'm amazed. Perhaps they're taking their inspiration from one tailgate inscription that I managed to read, " My speed is controlled by God". Yet one thing hasn't changed. That non-visibility, now verging on nil, yet somehow every lorry and collectivo that passes can still sense our presence and they still manage to hammer a blast of sonics through my frazzled brain. This once, I should be grateful as it suggests that they are using that particularly Peruvian sense and are aware of our presence. Nature or Nurture; are Peruvians born with, or do they learn this seventh sense, this Pavlovian reaction? The utter need to blast on horns.

There's nothing unusual in these conditions. We're moving towards the coast, down through a 'zona de neblina', a cloud zone, a 'lomas'. The cold Humbolt current flows north out of the Antarctic, chilling the costal ocean, clouds are created, it's these that drift onshore and are held on the coastal ranges. With this climatic feature there is a given. We will drop down, out of the murk as we decend to the Pacific shoreline.

Dropping out of a special space, for the vegetation is highly specialised, adapted to harvesting all their sustenance out of these fogs. Last night when we pushed our bikes into a secluded valley between two dunes, the plants were drab grey spikes, this morning they have been transformed into life. Beads of moisture edge their serrated leaves, such that at first I wondered if we had had an air frost. It felt cold enough. Now their colours are greener, brighter and red flowers are just starting to emerge. Tenacious survivors, yet their future is perilous. These fragile lomas are under threat from grazing and altering climate patterns.

The respite of horn blast is short lived. The road drops quickly, we have another 'fast runout', down through rock cuts, fast sweeps around bends, free flow. The oncoming traffic moves from vague cutouts to solid substance, to colours and the happy return of interesting driving feats. Those special plants are lost, back into the pastels and soft focus of desertscapes. Back down to the sea and the driest place.


Saturday, 14 February 2015


'Agro-towns', as in farming and not trouble, have a certain commonality, irrespective of locale. Be it the 'grain-towns' of the Australian corn belt, the Canadian prairie or the Argentine Pampa. The first indicator will be the molina, the mill of silos and tangled gantry elevators, breaking your horizon. At the outer reaches, comes the oily band of small workshops repairing a selection of broken farm machinery; next is the glossy glazed emporiums of new tractors and combine harvesters, with a support cast of specialised kit, some of it incomprehensible. Arranged around the perimeter are their internationally recognisable names fluttering up ranked flagpoles. Keep pressing on, in towards the centre, and by the time you've reached the central plaza with its cathedral that is in competition with the telecomms shops and its acolytes of glazed banks, you will have already passed several very acceptable accommodations. These last are, for me, what distinguishes an 'agri-town'. Clean Accommodations for the Travelling Salesman. 'Singles', sometimes 'Dobles', never 'Matrimonials', beds in cleaned rooms with a view. This in a land where windows can be an optional extra, decent wifi and a secure garage underneath. Often these buildings stand apart, in dramatic contrast to the their neighbours. That divergence is greater in a Peruvian Ricetown.

We're sitting up on the third floor, a verandah of cold tiles and cool shade, a fresh breeze adding to the relaxed atmosphere. We're in the desert, so a soft dust is a constant companion; you get used to it, especially if there's constant running hot water in the shower. A very comfortable accommodation. Yet next door, we look down on a single storied shack. It's walls are a canyon of un-rendered brick, that of our and the neighbour's walls, the roof a crude patch of tattered polyprop sheet covering a frame of woven reeds. Protruding through this meagre modesty screen is the ubiquitous satellite dish, that vestigial roof bleeding the flickering blue blush of television, that reflects off the surround of razor wire.We're heading down onto the coast yet again. It's as if we're carrying a lodestone that has a magnetic attraction for the shoreline, only for it to depolarise, to point us back to the hills after a few days at the seaside.

Cycling down a narrow green corridor of flooded rice paddy that's trapped in place by the surrounding sand dunes. Down another river that rises high up in the Andes, that's collected enough snow melt to carry it all the way past the intervening traps of irrigation ditches, down to the ocean.

These features are always a surprise and an interest. The sandscape appears flat, it looks as if it will stretch far on, all the way on for a full day, all the way to the distant horizon. There is absolutely no indication of what is to come. Suddenly the asphalt rolls over the edge, turns a bend and drops away, sliding down the side of its valley, down to a bridge crossing, and a re-ascent back up to that flatscape. The interest will be down in those bottom lands. The monoculture, the single crop in the valley flats. Will it be mango grove or olive forest, melon patch or rice paddy, Pisco lemons or a 'to be Googled' exotica? We've found them all. We've sampled each, some extensively.

Paddy rice requires people, a lot of people. As we leave our acceptable abode at first light, the first of the them are starting to congregate on street corners. As we progress through the town the crowds of waitIng people grow. The women bundled up in shawls the men carrying a spade or machete. A slat-sided lorry passes and then pulls in beside one gathered throng. A plank is pulled from the sub-frame and the crews start to clamber on board. We meet the same or similar a short while later, their cargo of workers disgorged.

One squad are pulling young rice plants, preparing them for transplanting. Up to their calves in water, shaking mud from the roots, hauling the dripping mass on their backs to a waiting truck. We carry on, and the next element in the planting process is a few fields further down the road. Another squad is bent double prodding plantlets back into the flooded paddy. Whilst one unfortunate lad has the unenviable task of feeding the patch. A deadweight sack on his back that is sinking him into the glour as he hurls handfuls of feed at the paddy. The next plot has a person spraying chemicals at a ripening crop, his minimal personal protection an old shirt tied over his head to guard against the sun. Around another turn, an old man is dam-building and channel-clearing an irrigation ditch, the waters slowly easing across the plot. These succeeding vignettes unfurl like we're traveling through an old Dutch Master, perhaps a Pieter Bruegel painting. Each small increment of a story, adding to the completed picture.

Local PPE?
A bucolic, pastoral idyllic countryside of succulent green fields edged with fastigate poplars, of a population going about their simple agrarian business. And just like those paintings and this town's wall art, the truth of a long day's hard graft, that of slathering around in paddy mud, earning today's dollar, is hidden.
Rice is the primary crop, but there are a few small plots of exotica: sweet tamarind, tamarillos and tomantillos, with roadside stalls serving 'cremolada de mango'; shaved water ice and fresh picked fruit pulp. Nectar.



Thursday, 12 February 2015

Moments in Atacama Time: The Street.

The PanAmericana, the street that passes the Calgary Stampede, the street that skirts the Nasca Lines, the street that has incorporated the entire U.S. Interstate system into a labyrinthine web. The street that navigates Buenos Aires' nue de Julio, the world's widest road on the world's longest street. The street that's not quite whole, the gap that has such an integral part to play in Scottish history. The street that starts away down in Ushuaia and terminates up in Dead Horse, Prudhoe Bay. The street that, were it stretched, would easily circumnavigate the globe. The street so labyrinthine, incomprehensible, it is more a concept than a reality. The street that's outside our door tonight.

An iconic route that has an image of wide multi-lane highways flowing through grand vistas of fag advertising posters. Down long canyons of pine forest, crossing girder works spanning bloated rivers. Macadamed tracts dissolving into infinity's vanishing point.The endless rolling highway. The great road journey.

Over the years we've played on it at various moments along it's journey, happy to meet it, happy to leave it. Like a long term friend, pleased at it's return, the chance to catch up.

We've stopped in Atico/ Camanà/ Chala, take your pick , the story won't change. Places that don't fit into an easy characterisation. Like most Peruvian coastal communities, they started as native fishing caletas; they still have the boats, the market sheds and the general ambience of fish. They then acquired a few hospidajes, a clutch of spade and bucket stalls and entered the resort era. Yet this is a Sunday, towards the end of high season, only the holiday aura feels half-hearted.

If these places have a genuine reason d'être, it is the stalls that sprout out of the pavement, arising as new every morning. There, to service a passing clientele of people on the move. Truckers and tourists, motorbikers and overlanders, peripatetic migrant workers and two minuscule cyclists. Collectivos hauling comatose people. Lorries hauling red onions. Low loaders hauling 'iron fairies'. Tankers hauling liquid milk. Dumpsters hauling rusted scrap. Tippers hauling quarry rock. Armoured wagons hauling money. Curtain-sides hauling Their anonymous cargo. Buses hauling populations. Multi-axles hauling the dismantled gargantuan elements of a single mine-haul lorry. And when two meet, in the narrows of hawker stands, the street stalls.

Mid-morning, and there's only six eateries open...per block, which guarantees that there will be seven differing forms of music blasting out from under their umbrellas' awnings. The cargo-trikes, their cargo beds loaded with tropical fruit and a toddler child, others will have a rank of bucket jugs filled with morada and quinoa juices that have an ominous foamy froth on top. Still more will have iron cauldrons swaddled in blankets, with contents of ' caldo de gallena ', hen soup. There for that long collection of cargo that has pulled up all along the street, their drivers perched on curbside stools, outside their chosen eatery, their backs mere moments from the grinding traffic.

Not much will change throughout the day, but with that early nightfall, the street's emotions alter. Still the transports will be crawling down the street, churning up a cloud of gritted sand, their headlights picking out an air infused with dust motes. Only now, there's a piquancy of mystery, a sense of concealment in the corner shadows, for much of the megre light comes from the hawker's booths. A solitary naked light bulb that's plugged into a trip hazard of meandering extension leads that services a successive series of stands. Ponds of brilliance that only serve to emphasis the dark in between.

The record books list this street as the world's longest 'motorable road', then qualifies the assertion by pointing out the missing link at Darien. The malaria-infested swamp that a 17th. century Scotland invested in, not just the shirt off its back, but the majority of its hard currency, on an abortive, ill conceived Americas colonising project. Which leads you on a timeline of consequences, directly from a 18th. century parliamentary Union, to a 21st. century divisive independence debate. That 'line' now bridged by the pledged political promise, that 'Gap' now crossed by a ferry service.

Back out on the street, we're on the metronomic countdown of kilometre posts that leads all the way to Lima. Yet there are no suggestions as to anywhere else. This dearth of intervening distances is amply compensated for by a collection of 'admonitory' nagging boards. 'Don't drop litter'. 'Wear a seatbelt'. 'Don't burn tyres'. 'Don't leave rocks on the road'. 'Respect life; it's important'. And my favourite of the moment: 'Do not proceed, if in doubt'. 'Duda' ~ 'doubt', so phonetically close to 'deep doodoo'. We do proceed, even when one of those anonymous steel containers passes. We're treated to a miasma of 'eau de pesca'. A deep doodoo of fishy water that envelops our immediate world, our minuscule paragraph from our passage down The Street.


Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Moments out of Atacaman Time

If ever I needed proofed evidence as to why our visited countries In South America are such easy places to travel through, I have it today. A few days without connectivity has the inevitable glutted clog of mail. Virtually all is cleared in moments. Only there is one that will squander and spoil our afternoon.

We're heading for Lima, to store our cycles and fly to Florida for a family wedding. We've already booked some accommodation. Frankly I thought that was all that was required of us. A simple business transaction. You offer a service that we require, we make a booking, you accept, we pay, in advance and in full. End of story. Simple? Not.

Today we rode along the coast, sea on my left, giant sandunes to my right. We collect tuna fruits from a fruit hawker. We stopped and constructed some lunch. Stopping right on the edge of the sea, breakers surging over giant worn boulders. Five dolphins perform a swim past. A normal cycling day. We arrive in town and select an accommodation on a whim, actually we reject the one we stayed in two years ago: it had a very enthusiastic happy hooker at two in the morning. The rate is discussed, she offers a discount, we move in. End of story. Simple.

We haven't been asked to verify our identities, asked to provide a copy of our photo passport page, only to learn that these are no longer considered adequate evidences as to who we believe ourselves to be. Now we need to connect to a network...only that account hasn't been exercised often enough.....Two precious hours have been stolen from me, still I'm not sure as to why we need to provide these details. I say we, but of course it's the Navigator who is performing this task, her patience fuse is longer than mine.

Now I'm being led to believe that we're being asked for this information as it will increase the vendor's trust in us, the visitor. Which has got me to thinking. 'Trust'; what an unquantifiable, integral element in travelling. I trust that I won't get mugged. To date we haven't been. I trust that, that lorry has seen me. He has. I trust we'll find somewhere to stay tonight. We always do. I trust in our bodies' defences, as we stand on the corner eating street food. "Cipro' works wonders. I trust that we'll get fresh supplies of the essentials. We do, always finding the oats and coffee. I trust El Dueño, the hostel owner, to trust us to leave his place in the way would like to find it. He does, we do. We all move in a world that seems intent upon spreading mis-trust, governments and guidebooks being the prime villains. A trust that is so closely related to 'risk'. Risks that require elimination, or so we're led to believe, when its management that's needed, for they are the spices that enrich a travel. All those trusts that can't be numerically measured, but rely on a basic human humanity and the simple fact; The vast majority of people are decent.

But what is really bugging me, is simple. The tablet is tied up with all this trivia, when what I would like to be doing is editing the photos from today's brilliant ride.


Saturday, 7 February 2015

Moments in Atacama Time....geoglyphs or just urban art?

For those in the know: Nasca ~ Palpa. PanAmericana Sud Route 1 Peru. Boring dates: Paracas Peoples' era: 800~100Bce. Nasca peoples' era: 100~750 ACE. My Date: 28th January.

Who knows what the Nasca peoples. intentions were, when they set out their 'lines'. The perfect geometric representations that in real life are best viewed from an aeroplane, or increasingly photographed from a drone 'copter. But for those with a phobia for air flights, boys' toys or spending money, they can best be viewed from Goole Earth or on the backs of buses, on craft stands or bedspreads, on park benches or plaza plantings. They're omnipresent and they've part smothered out another, earlier people's artwork, just a short distance down the road.

This time it's the Paracas peoples' graffiti that's on view. Where the Nascas worked on a level plain, the Paracas chose a hillside, obviously with a view to future viewing. Yet I wonder if their art gallery might be more the blank concrete wall of an inner city underpass. Their anthropomorphic depiction, a youth's insensitive rendition of Fat Bertha's weirdo hairdo. Why not? Times change, pubescent hormones don't.

Traditions don't die. They morph. Hillside graffiti is an ever-present feature to travelling throughout Peru. Most of it will be political or telecoms in nature. Where the ancients moved stones around, modern advertisers resort to whitewash and the GPS. To stone paint, to more accurately position your message, some of which can be measured in acres.

Wall art is thin on the ground in Peru, unlike in Chile, and in particular the old town of Valparaiso. Fortunately, so too is the incomprehensible 'gang slogan' scrawlings. Energy drinks and those same politicos are the favoured subjects for any available flat surface. With one notable exception: the outer walls of schools.

When you paint a wall, other than for esthetical purposes, your aim must be to influence, to put forward a message. The standard for the political class of '15, would appear to be along the lines of: "I'm new, I'm honest, I'm going to root out corruption", put your mark on my logo, be it a turkey or a llama, a tree or a pot. Make your choice, and hope for a lucky pick. The messages outside the schools are more subliminally disturbing. Wander any street, be it up on the Puna, down on the coast or in the middle of the city, and you soon understand the ethnic demographic of the country. The faces are of PeruenoAndino, as opposed to EuroLatino. Yet the aspirational images, and I'm deliberately ignoring the 1950s Janet and John gender stereotypeing, is for the Iberian Celt. In ways it's not surprising, the artist or at least the commissioning committee are mimicking the infinitely more influential advertising industry.

So if nothing is new and not much changes, is that zoomorphic rendition of a feline, scraped out on a hillside, two and a half centuries ago, an ad for cat chow or kitty litter? That disgruntled face, a man who's had his loan request rejected for lack of a positive credit rating?..."should have come to Banco de Seashell ~ we never say no"





Thursday, 5 February 2015

Atacama Moments ~ Wandering Dunes.

For those in the know: Arequipa~Camana, Peru. Route 1. Date: 21st January.

The parent stone is an ochre red granite, that's corroding down to a rough dense grit. Across this immobile surface flows a soft white talc, a mobile dust that drifts easily into every bielded hollow. The effect is like old season snow, the dregs of winter hanging on in, down in the bottom of a gully, on the leewards of giant erratic boulders. Out on the open flat Pampa, this dust accumulates, moulding into a classic dune. Crafted like a first quarter moon, they creep across the plain. Spectral, ghostly nail parings, they travel, propelled by a perpetual mono-directional wind. Eventually they will disintegrate when they wash-up against the first slopes of the pre-Cordelleras. Only there's the intervening Pan-Americana Sud. A premature partial death.

The wash from the speeding traffic disintegrates the crawling dune, forming lateral drifts, that with time will require a plough to assist them to cross the road. To be dumped like waste tailings on the other side of the carriageway. Their soft graceful lines now mere dolloped lumps, traps for humanities cast-offs.

With time and wind, these desecrated spectres will be resurrected, the detritus sifted out, then they can be reformed into their former graces, able to continue their interrupted passage to the nor'east. Where they can peter out, washed out, up against the first major hillside. There to revert to being 'drifts of old season snows', yet again. Collecting in crevices, etching out in soft focus, any wrinkled crease on the desertscapes.



Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Moments in Atacama Time....the ongoing tale....

It's not the conclusion, as hair has a habit of growing, but certainly the continuing tale. That first visit to the 'salon de Cabeza', was, as predicted, inconclusive. A repeat visit was required within a fortnight. Also required was a repeated request for the stylist to "keep wielding the shears". The damage to the pocket was minimal, a Scot's coifurist wouldn't let you sit in her seat for that charge. Still, a return visit will be required further up the road, only this time the Forager will enter armed with a picture of Annie Lennox, for whom she has been mistaken by visitors to her work site.

Having gained some degree of success with this basic haircut, she confidently enters the 'Salon de Estitica', for a 'wax'. Eyebrows and upper lip. Now I've seen the promissory board outside these establishments, those offers of procedures. Even in English, I would be baffled. When she returns, I can still make out the salt crusts of shed tears that streak her cheeks. No wax; they pluck. I'm totally gracious, utterly complacent, complimenting her beauty. Hell, I know what's good for me.