Wednesday, February 17, 2016

My Ideal

Step 1) be desperate and lonely
Step 2) go to bar and get rejected by everyone there
Step 3) buy cardboard box of wine
Step 4) drink alone in dirty room with Chet Baker record playing
Step 5) nod your head knowingly

This hits me where it hurts.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Challenges and Obstacles

having the axle shaft on a dirt parking lot is never a good sign

I've been more broken up than usual lately and it's for reasons I can't expound on. Really torturous introspection and regret and doubt and lack of pride and full of shame. The usual suspects that long time readers of my blog will find boring. Hasn't Oggy solved these psychological problems yet? No, he hasn't. I am so perplexed by my awful past, unrecycled bottles, trash, slights, insults, burned bridges, that it's causing me to have bad dreams I can't even describe. I thought I woke up in prison this morning and I felt I belonged there. I was basically grieving the past and the present, reflecting on my own grief and grieving that also, pitiful, dejected, alone, lonely, hurt. Awful series of bad circumstances and unpleasant scenarios that were almost all my fault. And at the tail end of this unpleasantness I saw differential fluid leaking out the brake drum. I knew it was differential fluid because it was nearly black 90W oil and brake fluid is gold and more like 30W. So, that caused a chain of events that only another person on a crazy expedition will appreciate, the desperate investigation of this problem on the streets of Granada, the terrible mistake of taking the axle off on an incline and also on a slanted incline so that the fluid poured out to confirm that it was indeed the oil seal that had failed...but I could not get the oil seal out to bring it to a parts dealer in Granada. Well, that was a big waste of time because why would I take the wheel off without a replacement part? I knew the problem, so why waste the time. I had an exploded diagram that would show what I wanted and everything in Granada is for Toyota. So, then I go to reassemble everything and drive to Managua with the failing oil seal and neglected to choke the wheels of the van so that when I raised it off the jack stands it rolled forward and tumbled onto my shoulder, basically crushing me under the fuel tank and trapping me while my entire skeleton compressed enough to let me roll away with minor injuries. So, that was a painful and evil reminder that I am not myself, but the situation was grim in Granada. It was bullshit and I'm not focused and I am depressed and sad and would be better off crushed beneath a ton of Ford Econolines to put me out of my misery. But until that happens I merely have the indignity of shuffling through my miserable life, mumbling, heaping criticism onto myself, playing solo concerts for the universe, starved for affection, cutting my soul with sharp blades, punishing myself for decade old trespasses from the moral high ground.

But this oil seal does not care about any of that. I had no option except to get that thing fixed, which translates into me finding the part and fixing it myself. But where the hell am I going to find a rear axle oil seal in a country where there are no Ford parts?...and of course the thing failed on a Saturday afternoon so there was almost no chance I would find a shop open and would have to wait until Monday in Managua where glue sniffing juveniles rule the night streets with zombie stares and hopeless imperial dreams.

Fuck and double fuck. Always alone and searching for some petty piece of bullshit to fix some other chain around my neck. I was too depressed to even curse.
Oggy's previous incarnation
I merely looked up at the churches surrounding me, the 1540 Spanish Churches built by the bible thumping Conquistadores, and asked like Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof, "Dear God, did you have to make him lame just before the Sabbath?" 

not long after I fixed the axle shaft seal

Yes, God gets bored and decided to make Oggy's life more miserable, as though it could get more miserable, as though Oggy has not suffered enough. Good, bring it all on, let me burn as many fucking bridges as possible in my quest for self-destruction.

I flee Granada, which involved more problems than I want to discuss, dressed in mechanic overalls, slippers, miserable, oily, greasy gringo with no trace of levity. Humorless, bulging jaw muscles, grinding teeth. Drive to Managua, which itself is a dangerous trip and the whole time I wonder why God simply does not cause a tire to blow out at the moment a huge Sugar Cane caravan is passing me so that I swerve into the trucks and am demolished in all my puny pathetic glory. But no, God loves to watch Oggy dance in futility, so I make it to Managua, which is maybe the worst of all Capital cities on the planet, perfectly designed to obscure the easiest items. Impossible to navigate, congested, dirty, dusty, polluted, homeless people filling the streets. I am hunting for Mercado Oriental, which means the Eastern Market...but it's in the north central part of town because Poniente means West and this market is not called Mercado Poniente. I have no clue where it is. The rumor is that foreign car part dealers exist there and will help me find a rear axle oil seal. Of course you are asking yourself, "Why didn't Oggy bring a spare oil seal or two, since they are only $4 at Autozone." Because Oggy intentionally sabotages his own success. Oggy is his own worst enemy and he is a failure and a fuck up and sucks at life. Is that a good enough answer for you? All the opportunities I had to stock up on important car parts back in Texas or Mexico were spent pining over lost loves and staring at the merciless stars for answers to life's mysteries. So, this whole trip is required before the differential bleeds dry and burns up and that's the end of the differential gear.

The only good thing about the multitude of windshield wipers and destitute elderly women and glue sniffing junkies at every single stop light in Managua is that despite my being totally lost and hot and desperate I was able to ask and then pay for directions to the Mercado Oriental. I found the place after several misdirected chicken hunts, and then found a parking lot and parked and got out with a spare front oil seal and a diagram of what I wanted. The term is "sello de aceite del eje trasero" The word "flecha" is involved but I'm not sure how. I think it means the specific part of the axle. I asked and asked like I was questing for the Lost fucking Sea Scrolls or the Ark of the Covenant. But these suppliers have lives that require taking a half day Saturday and closing and going home and raising their children and loving their wives. They did not care about one lonely, whining, pitiful pale gringo wandering Nicaragua with a declining level of differential fluid in his axle. No. So I hunted and they either told me that I would never find such a part, or that the places with those parts was closed until Monday. Still, I looked because it was only around 2PM and I thought there was a small chance that maybe God would show me some mercy, he would shine his light on this dog's ass and maybe I could fix this oil seal before I had to sleep on the streets with the stray dogs and glue sniffers.

A miracle happened. The store called Impressa Repustos actually was closed and the lights inside were off and the three employees were getting ready to leave...and the security guard was making sure no one entered BUT by a small miracle the guard was distracted the moment I walked up and the manager was indeed at his desk and when I walked up with my desperate begging expression that is a universal sign of mechanical problems he allowed me to enter and plead my case. A few seconds in either direction and I would've been denied entry. The guard actually arrived quickly to escort me out and that it was too late and to come back Monday but the manager said I could stay. And that was the first miracle. The second miracle is that this parts store actually had one (1) remaining Ford Econoline rear axle oil seal in stock. Yes, it was $8 and I also bought some differential fluid, but that's amazing they had this part. They did not have two, since I am now trying to corner the market on this part after I freshly remember changing this part in the Corpus Christi public library dirt parking lot as it rained on me in 100% humidity like I was a weed growing in a poison lawn and the police rolled up on me like I was an escaped murderer and told me to get off the property or I would be executed. So, this particular right rear axle seal had only lasted since 2012 or so...back when I was homeless and hounded and broke and dusty in Texas before my luck changed there too. But the trip to Costa Rica has taxed everything from my wardrobe to my ethics to my heart and soul and the seals on the tip of the speedometer cable of my Vespa Ciao. It's all bullshit but this is my life.

So, I buy the one 1969 Ford Econoline rear axle oil seal in all of Nicaragua and hustle back to the van in the dirt parking lot where piles of wind blown trash provide bedding for rats and destitute criminals, although I am now addicted to Granadilla fresco, a cinnamon tasting delicacy of fruit and honey that one can never I bought some of that in the small markets where gringos are never seen, and drank it hastily from the plastic bag, on the street, like a baby suckling his mother's tit.

I ran back to the van and began disassembling the rear axle seal for the second time and this time I remembered to chock the front wheels with rocks because you must understand that the wheels will not turn if both wheels are not off the ground, see, so to turn the wheel to access all the axle plate nuts I have to raise the whole rear axle off the ground with two jack stands that I carry with my Bob Wills western swing songbooks. And this is why the van collapsed on me earlier in the day and nearly broke my shoulder. 

The truth is that as soon as I saw the oil leaking on the tire after I got back from a trip to the local Granada gym in the morning I had already mentally fixed the problem. It's all nuts and bolts and some prying and pushing. Not a complicated repair, but very important because oil on the brake shoes destroys braking power and eventually the rear gears dry up and burn out. I knew how to fix this problem but I also knew I didn't have a spare oil seal, or if I did have a spare oil seal then I had dumbly hidden it where I can't see it...which raises the importance of keeping a written inventory of spare parts so that I can look with my own eyes what I have and keep it up to date rather than guessing if I have something or not. More than once I thought I didn't have something, such as spare electrical connectors/lugs, only to find out later I did have it but it was buried beneath the decrepit baggage that belabors my soul and grieves and distresses me.

I pried the old seal out with a hammer claw and then used the whole axle to hammer in the new one because the bearing retainer is a perfect fit and I don't own a bearing driver. I then overfilled the axle with some new grease since remember in Granada I had taken the axle off only to have all the oil pour onto the streets, destined for the Lake Cocibolco food chain. I cleaned the brakes up good and buttoned up everything and by then it was dark. I paid the attendant extra for providing moral support and not interfering when I did this repair in the parking lot. 

Then I decided to leave the big city, where it did not feel safe to sleep on the street, and get lost trying to find the road back to Granada...end up in Tipitapa or Niquinomo sweating in the tropical heat, no lights, cleaning skunk carcass from the grill...eating fried chicken sandwich that looked like it had been caught in a steel jaw leg trap in a Labrador wolf factory. Finally, rolling into Granada long after dark so I needed several hours to suppress the haunting  fears of driving in nighttime Nicaragua when there is nothing but a sea of homeless refugees walking on the highway inches away from my speeding bumper. The only urgency was trying to return my life to the normally tolerable level of hell that I was accustomed to before the oil seal failed. The repair would take maybe 40 minutes outside a parts supplier in the United States, but in Nicaragua it was a cross country affair with many hazards and stresses and risks and emotional despair, but accomplished in about 5 hours.

my favorite architectural feature...the Hacienda Courtyard
I made it back to Granada and slept in the van again, staring at the ceiling, the grit of dirt in my hair, the slick differential fluid on my hands, grime under my fingernails. I'm still haunted, actually sobbing in grief like a Dust Bowl cotton farmer, whilst trying to sing a forlorn song. If the van is moving then I'm destined to fix it as these four brutal winds decide my destiny.

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Hundred Rodeo Clowns

As essay about a Nicaraguan rodeo. I guess the Hemingway connection was too hard to resist, so that explains my tone. But I left out the emasculation part because that's too personally relevant.

The young Nicaraguan man takes a final swig of white rum (really defined as ‘liqour beverage product” on the plastic packaging) from his liter jug, holding onto the broken chain link fence with one hand as an assistant attached spurs to his sneakers. His pants are dirty. Everyone is screaming for blood. The band plays a double time version, almost indecipherable, of the Mexican fiesta song Cielito Linda, so no one sings, since the tempo is too fast. The M.C. asks if the crowd is ready and there is no clear response. The trumpet melody is the only recognizable note as the rest of the Brass section, the Tuba, and the woodwinds play some kind of improvised Harmony line. The drums and the cymbals crash rapidly and erratically drowning out everything but the trumpet. The 140 lb. young man’s spurs are attached finally and he climbs over the fence into the area where he mounts the 1200 lb bull. The bull is angry as hell and lashing his huge horned head back and forth against the metal cage, bashing the metal bars. Suddenly there are two huge sonic booms from unexpected fireworks overhead. My heart jumps almost out of my chest from surprise. Car alarms…drunk sleeping in the vacant lot nearby, a dog is jumping against a chain at a gas station. Kids are playing soccer in the distance under a single street light on cobblestone streets. Traffic, lights, the stars are still visible because there is largely no air pollution or light pollution. There are two nearby volcanoes, It’s Nicaragua and the rodeo is in town.

The man finds his place on the beast’s back and wraps his left hand tightly around a rough rope halter that encircles the bull’s neck. The bull rider appears neither confident nor fearful. Nor is he so drunk as to appear careless. He knows what he is getting into and like an inmate walking to be executed he is resigned. Maybe he believes he can ride the bull without injury, but he’s not giving the impression of confidence. Sober Nicaraguan’s are emotionally reserved normally so maybe this default expression is either fear or confidence but it is simply hard for a foreigner to tell which. My observation skills may be lacking, is what I’m saying, when I write that his expression appears like he is mounting a motorcycle instead of a huge, horned, angry mammal.

The real drunks are the several dozen young men who await the bull’s release into the arena where they are standing. These men have paid the 30 cordoba ground level admission price and apparently that comes with an option to join in the action by climbing into the arena where the bull riders do their thing. I'm feeling slightly self-destructive but decide I should not tempt fate with a non-lethal injury to add to my misery. In an American rodeo, there are two or three rodeo clowns to distract the animals when the rider goes down. In Nicaraguan rodeo there are about 40 rodeo clowns all dressed in street clothes. These local men are actually drinking beer and liquor as they wait, sweating in the early night heat, dirt across the front of their pants from crawling under the metal fencing when charged by a previous bull.

We wait. Cielito Linda rises in volume and urgency, the M.C. asks if the crowd is really ready and then asks the men in the bull ring if they are ready. Several men are obviously more reckless than the others, as they repeatedly run in front of the gate to taunt the bull. I have paid the extra 40 cordobas to get elevated standing room with optional folding chair seating so I am looking down on all the action like a Roman Emperor. I look around me and it not only appears that I am the only Gringo or foreigner, but I am also the only non-local Nicaraguan. Daria is a small town between nothing and not much else but the arena has about 200 people watching and they all seem to know each other. I know the event is public, but it’s a local rodeo so it is public only in the sense that everyone in the local community can come. So, the people around me are thinking, why is a bearded white gringo in a cowboy hat at our rodeo? The answer is too complicated to go into but lately I have been thinking that chemistry sets in motion other events that we perceive as physical, but are actually only blunt, pre-destined, chemical reactions. I can do nothing to blend in with a beard, pale skin, brown hair and a polka dot disco shirt. The suede leather pants don’t help either since they look like I’m wearing chaps. But, fuck it, I just want to watch the rodeo and write a descriptive essay, but I subtly alter what I am watching. I can not report on the authentic rodeo because my attendance causes ripples in the natural course of events, like that biological reference that I mentioned earlier. This audience is not easily distracted, but I present a more interesting spectacle than the bull riding. So I stand in the shadows to avoid drawing too much attention to myself.

turn volume down before playing video...!

The beast is released and the young man is immediately in trouble. The previous bulls were bigger and less agile but now I see this is the smallest bull yet and he is angry and more compact and able to move much faster than the previous bulls. So the man on top of his back is thrown forward when the bull’s ass end rears six or nine feet above the ground. The rider has no saddle to take advantage of, nothing to grab except the rope. Whether he wants to or not he digs his heels into the bull’s side, which causes the bull to kick even more ferociously. Within seconds the bull has kicked his ass high up, causing the young man to fall forward, and then the bull snaps his horned skull back into the falling man’s nose. The collision is noiseless compared to the cacophony of integrated insanity coming from the band, but the crowd groans as the man’s nose or jaw is probably fractured. Maybe the man is beyond stunned, definitely concussed, but he starts to loosen the rope on his left hand, considers getting off but the hazards of getting off the bull and staying on the bull are nearly equal, so he grips the rope even harder but quickly loses his balance to one side. He can’t pull himself back up to the center of the bull and I know he is finished.

An ear-drum-splitting sound effect screeches from the speakers and I am forced to plug my ears with my fingers. The sound is a woman’s horrified scream. It’s awful. It’s worse than any blood curdling scream in a haunted house. The effect is annoying and dangerous and damaging and pointless since I would prefer to hear the authentic groans and cries of the crowd than this pointless, stupid, canned sound effect. I don’t like the periodic and random use of deafening explosions and alarms and sound effect or music. Senseless and without any encouragement from the crowd. Maybe the M.C. believes it will encourage or replace genuine reaction but the sound effect belongs in a haunted house for partially deaf psychopaths. Here at the rodeo it serves no other function than to damage the hearing of everyone within a 20 yard half-radius of the speakers. I only emphasize this point because the live music is already deafening and the crowd is shouting and the recorded music is beyond tolerance but this particularly awful sound effect of the woman screaming is so incredibly annoying and loud that I nearly jump out of my sandals when it happens randomly. It can probably be heard for miles and I’m 30 feet from the large speakers.

The man on the back of the bull has lost his balance and is bleeding from the nose. He slides to one side and can not regain an even mount so he tries to get his hand untangled but momentum makes this impossible. The bull shows no mercy and the man falls with one arm trapped in the rope. First his legs are trampled. His arms is wrenching and he is tossed around like a balloon on a string during a hurricane. Finally he is thrown away, maybe his arm has been amputated. Then the bull turns and tramples on him with massive hooves. Then the man pounds the man’s head and an enormous groan comes from the crowd. I make a textbook cry of sympathetic suffering as the man’s lifeless body is pulverized by the bull as dozens of men try to distract the bull. It has happened so fast, maybe 7 seconds between the man losing his balance and him losing consciousness. The woman’s screaming sound effect pierces the air and I say, “A la gran puchica!” Some women hear me and give me a nasty look. This is followed by an equally annoying sound of an amplified car alarm beep. Imagine recording a car alarm and then doubling the volume and patching it through huge speakers to delight a crowd. It’s insane, awful, painful.

The man is being trampled to death as I cover my ears. I’d like to take a photo but the lighting is horrible, exposed, harsh bulbs directly in front of me and there is no good location in the shadows behind a chain link fence and a row of people dancing to Cumbia. It’s 7PM and totally dark outside the realm of the plaza del toros. I take a few photos and the preview looks like shit so I give up.

The man has been trampled to unconsciousness or else is faking it. The bull doesn’t care and trounces his face and head and chest until it is distracted by a brave man behind him who slaps his huge ass. The trodden rider returns to life and appears to realize how much danger he is in but his body won’t respond. He tries to rally his energy and as he turns to look at the bull he is gored in the face by an indifferent horn. Everyone groans and shouts. The man holds his face as another of the men in the arena rescues him by pulling his shirt and dragging the wounded man to safety of the fence. He can’t see and can’t walk without assistance but they reach the fence seconds before the charging bull and roll under the fence. The bull tries to gore several others before calming down. Men hanging from the fence kick the bull’s sides. A vaquero runs out and lassos the bull and leads it into a gate of the cheap seats with the bull manure and saw dust and used condoms and empty aluminum beer cans. Someone throws a shoe at the bull and people cheer.

The injured rider is forgotten. His ordeal is over and the bull is gone. The band hammers out another chorus of cielito lindo. “Ay ay ay ay, canta no llores…” double time. I walk to the corner of the seating area and buy a bag of popcorn and a hot dog with mustard for $1. The bloodletting is suspended and now the audience is bored. Teenagers text into their smart phones. Parents cuddle their young children. Couples hold hands or kiss. A drunk man stumbles into the corner bathroom which is nothing more than a hole through the planks.

A new bull is set loose with another rider who seems more experience even though he walks with a serious limp, like his spine is fused. Young men surround the bull and throw soda cans and cigarette cartons, a shoe and a black and white FSLN political flag at the bull. Someone runs behind him and whips his ass with a belt. The bull endures, turns, blinks, makes a movement like he is going to charge and this causes the men to flee for the top of the fence or slide on their stomachs under the bottom rung. The bull never actually charges. The hot dog tastes like salty sawdust. The bull stands alone. The bull endures.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Glue sniffer plays guitar

I want to make a documentary of Nicaraguan glue sniffing street kids. Pretty cheerful topic. This kid thought he was Johnny Cash. You can see the bulge by his waist that is a plastic bottle of contact cement used for shoe soles. He huffs it all day and night and that would explain the utter glaze in his eyes, like a zombie he walks the streets. In his strumming hand he can't let go of the cap to the glue bottle because he's totally addicted. I tried and tried to demonstrate and teach a chord but he was beyond my reach, beyond help, beyond this world as permanent brain damage has reduced him to the level of a howler monkey. These kids are called "Pegas." because Pegamento means glue. I was driving at night, miserable and sweating, police constantly asking me questions and a group of Pegas were wandering exactly like zombies in the middle of an intersection, huffing the glue and dancing to music only they can hear and I, it would be interesting to follow those kids around in their daily lives. Yes, it would exploit them but I'm trying to expose the truth to people who think the world revolves around the next Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor.

there but for fortune...
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.