Pegamequemegusta Outside

Pegamequemegusta is currently laptopless. Our cave suffered the splashy seaweed-bespattered vengeance of Poseidon as a cruel wave did rise up and douse our 15” portal on what is admittedly an even crueller world. With no means of sending our usual hourly crank-filled missives of hate to the Académie francaise, we have decided to channel our energies elsewhere, like a recidivist melon-thief who after a crack on the head from a falling crate of said fruit, finds himself mysteriously exiled in an arid, melon-less land. As is stated in the unfortunately as yet unapproved revamp of the municipal charter ‘Sanity must be maintained AT ALL COSTS!’ Therefore we will keep this journal until our beloved flomper is returned.

Day one – morning

Street dogs vie for position in a veritable maelstrom of stale, dead hair and vivacious, opportunistic bourgeois fleas as they seek to lick the salt from our tear-stained face. Pegamequemegusta lies in the gutter cursing an Evita mural with its whining contemptible slogan Pan y trabajo. Surely if the masses are going to mobilise they should either demand free bread or work. For gainful employment should, when the appropriate laws are upheld, provide enough for the purchasing of one’s own bread. No, this wretched multitude doesn’t really want to work. They’d sell their soul to Lenin quicker than you could say che boludo. And indeed, what about the breadmakers? Blessed be they, said not our Lord? And blessed be their accounts, we add. For it is a truth universally ignored that despite having trained as a carpenter, the foot-washing, donkey-mounting temple-rocker of Nazareth did indeed drive his poor father’s business into the ground, the illiterate scamp.

Day one – afternoon

Pegamequemegusta’s attempt to put a brave face on the matter has only led to an unwarranted upbraiding at the hands of a Native American tourist. It is becoming ever clearer just how much we depended on that laptop. Telly we had already learned to live without, though we were nonetheless pained when, after we left it in the street for the cartoneros, we saw a dog relieve himself on it. It deserved better.

The absence of music, on the other hand, is too much to bear. The cave echoes with the shrill bleatings of a thousand neglecterinos begging for attention like Tibetan chislers following government cutbacks to Aosdána’s SOCRATES program. The cave floor asks indignantly if we aren’t ashamed. Our comb splutters and chokes out a pitter-patter, plip-plop of fleghmy tears as it points to a Superbowlish run of Xs carved into the wall with its own teeth marking the months and years since it last made the attempt to our snowy scalp. From the WC emerges a medley of hellish screams and chilling whimpering that recall the sodomisation of Robert Palnt by the entire bottled 2007 Languedoc-Rousillon vendange. Sitting sternly in the corner, however, is the most fearsome foe of all, they who alone – apart from shop assistants, obviously – inflict upon pegamequemegusta a paralysing panic of Otamendian proportions: pen and paper. Taking advantage of our confusion, they have managed to creep out from under their protective shroud and now fix us with a cutting gaze, and smirk with redoubled disgust: how long’s it been, pegame?

We run out onto the rocky promontory but immediately curse as we realise we can’t convey our despair to trouserless strangers on twitter. Something has to be done.

Day two – dawn

Last night there was, shall we say, some unpleasantness. Pegamequemegusta is now barred from all parrillas, pool halls and public transport in the province. The wags in the print media, with whom we have sadly had to reacquaint ourselves since our surfing was cut short by the surf, spoke of ‘una noche de terror’ and splashed our photo on the front page.

It had all started off innocuously enough. Shorn of the means to reach out and stroke internet sprites, we placed ourselves on a bench near a bus stop on the Plaza Colón hoping to meet some real people. Our prime target: old ladies. Pegamequemegusta gets on well with the old dears, thanks in no small part to what Time magazine once described as ‘a seemingly endless repertoire of cat anecdotes’.

Bouyed by the success, then, of our first, tentative reaching out to humanity, we decided to engage some younger females. A difficult enterprise for even the crutchless in this world, or so we’re oft to eavesdrop at Plummet Point, a mix of charm, cunning and caution was resolved upon. We soon spotted a strapping creature waddling along Colón. She strode as if her ankles had been strapped together and she was trying to kick her feet free with jerking thrusts, first right then left. Her arms she did not employ in her attempts to free herself from this imaginary bondage, however. They but hung heavily by her ample sides as if weighed down by invisible bags of flour. Viable prey, we whispered from the darkness of the doorway of an abandoned ferretería, she must be engaged.

– I say, we began, saluting with one hand and sustaining our trousers with the other, I say, you have a most interesting gait!

We cocked our head to one side as we said this and smiled the most seductive smile we could muster whilst attempting to draw her attention from our toothless grin to our one good eye.

– Yes indeed, ma’am, quite the gait.

The honeyed embrace we were hoping for, however, failed to materialise. Flowers, light and concupiscence were conspicuous by their absence. We decided to change tack:

– Do you play bridge?

Her erstwhile dull, bovine eyes took on the flinty fire of the hunter. Disengage! Disengage! The melon-sized appendages that hung like pendulums from her trunk-like oven-movers began to swing slowly like background dancers in an impromptu musical number. In an ill-considered move, we had hidden our crutches in the doorway. Now as the fuming mass of womanhood bore down upon us to punish our impropriety, we scrambled to retrieve them. Too late. Blows began to rain down and we were forced to crawl pathetically to a nearby pool hall.

Pegamequemegusta doesn’t recall much of what happened afterwards. We reached out to some hardy men at the bar and tried to talk football with them. Yet despite the wealth of intrigue and brilliance that one little topic can contain in a land such as this, they responded with tired platitudes from yesteryear about how Messi doesn’t play as well for Argentina as he does for Barca and how they’d like to see the Boca-era Tevez again, as if he’d been lost in the Amazonian rainforest for the last seven years. Pegamequemegusta was not slow in letting them know the poverty of their opinions. What happened next we can but piece together from the accounts in the local rags, but we definitely refute the charge that we stole those pool cues. That ‘theft’ was but the desperate attempt of a poor wretch to make its way home.

Day two – morning

Still no computer. Crutchless, we plumbed the depths of our ingenuity as to how to head off to the library. Unfortunately, in the confusion of the previous day, we had forgotten to make our rounds by the local school. The nicotine-starved youths had exacted a messy revenge on the already lichen-(oh the lichen!)-besmattered stones outside our cave. Attempts at handstanding our way across the rocky ledge were torpedoed by a further hail of filth from the scurrilous boyos, whose reduced lung capacity made their gasping, sides-holding silhouettes against the morning sun seem a squad of soldiers suffering a gas onslaught. We managed to make our escape, nonetheless, by grabbing hold of a bearded, bird-watching student with a bicycle and instructing him to drag us universitywards.

Day two – afternoon

Pegamequemegusta has been converted. Despite the travails and humiliations to which we are subjected daily, we recognise there is indeed hope. Sadly, for so many of the hunchbacked, tiny-handed app-downloaders out there, there is a smug Trentonian faith in the supposed progress constituted by the internet’s facilitation of book previews and purchase pointers for a relative handful of first-worlders with the luxury of competitive currencies, valid credit cards and efficient postmen. Perhaps when our dear overlords finally turn us into machines the internet will finally be of an age to deliver decent service. For now, however, her only charms are those contributed by humourless, parrot-less pirates and google is but a bounty-free treasure map.

No, making the Word flesh may have been a necessity in an illiterate age, yet the printed word remains superior. Loath though we are to admit it, our keepers always having insisted Johannes Gensfleish zur Laden zum Gütenberg was a closet Protestant avant la lettre, the printing press insisted on the bloody-minded determination necessary to produce writing. Sure writing copies out by hand is more arduous, but by that logic the only real works would be carved on the lichen -(oh the lichen!)-steamed walls of your undies. Proselytisation is necessary, as any good Aztec will tell you.

Indeed, in pamphlets, mimes and video installations over the years, pegamequemegusta has maintained that the edifice of literature is built not on divine inspiration or the whisperings of scantily-clad Muses but rather on the rather simple urge to avoid one’s nearest and dearest. Even though many writers stress their solitude, their position as outcasts (the word ‘margins’ now appears in 87% of all master’s theses), if you listen closely you will hear the clumping of furniture in the next room, a wife coughing crossly through the arras, children torturing each other in the hall, heavy-heeled upstairs neighbours tossing their freakish toenail clippings on the floor. Any writing or reading that goes on in the author’s study, be it a library or but the kitchen table, is a deliberate flight from the scene he would otherwise be drawn into. As it is, he has an excuse, a higher pursuit. Literature is merely an excuse to mumble back at the missus: be quiet, i’m too busy writing about how much I care for you, dear. If the author/reader were to achieve real solitude, the defence mechanism would be rendered redundant and with time there would be a gradual slackening in his productivity.

The internet, on the other hand, provides distractions of another kind. It saturates and dulls the brain, whether the content be akin to hemlock or birdsong. ‘Tis an opium den without the delights of debauchery.

The belief that greater access to numbers means the message will have more impact is greatly flawed. The internet is designed to distract, a book to draw you in. The usually claustrophobic air of the cloister, convent or municipal book mobile is positively Alpine compared with the wretched stench of loneliness that accompanies most blogs, not to mention podcasts recorded in the kind of dark, adolescent zones you wouldn’t enter without a priest and a thick pair of gloves.

Our epiphany, like a nightwatchman crooning love-songs to himself, came in the library. Some fine words by Roberto Arlt stung us to the quick, made us see the error of our dilettante ways, realise the real reason for our constipated output and recognise how misplaced our faith in new formats was. In the prologue to Los Lanzallamas, he writes:

When you have something to say you’ll write anywhere. On a scrap of paper or a in any hellish shithole. God or the devil are on your shoulder dictating ineffable words.

I’m proud to affirm that writing, for me, is a luxury. Unlike other writers, I have no fixed income, time or cushy state position. Making a living as a writer is a tough business. Especially if while you work you reflect on the fact that there are people out there for whom the strain of seeking out mere means of recreation is a burden.

Ay, pegamequemegusta hung its mottled head.

They say I write badly. That may be so. In any case, i’d have no problem pointing out numerous personages who write well and are only read by polite members of their own family.

In order to write with style certain comforts are necessary: money, a comfortable lifestyle. However, for the most part those who enjoy such privileges avoid the bothersome matter of literature. Or they take it on as a capital means of standing out in society salons. [….] Style requires time, and if I listened to the advice of my colleagues i’d succumb to the same fate as them: i’d write a book every ten years, then take ten years off for having taken ten years to write a hundred reasonably proficient pages.

This is the bloody-minded determination we spoke of earlier, the respectable side of solitude, the translucent Cortazoan fire that runs along the rue de la Huchette burning us sweetly til we scorched. It is not the only answer, not to be confused with Art or Soul or any of those foolish ideas, but it is most certainly a fine, timely, precise bit of roshamboing.

Day two – night

Pegamequemegusta feels reborn. Indeed, we have already produced several pages of notes towards a groundbreaking piece on the befuddlement Romance languages so often experience when confronted with compound nouns, and this despite occasional plate-chomping moments such as the coinage of the wonderful balompié, rejected so cruelly in favour of the crude calc ‘fútbol’.

The sky’s afternoon blue had been sucked down by a thirsty sea and the old couple were now settling into yet another evening of entropic black. As we made our way back to the cave, the very air seemed aquiver with the promise of the insubstantial truth we prize so; awash it was with meaningless but melodious words. An odious throwback to the Romantic or the punk aesthetic perhaps, but the click of another bottle cap spinning gratefully wallwards soon dulled those concerns. A note on the floor informed us the laptop had been fixed. Yet now was a time for violent writing, in Arlt’s words. We were now in a position to dish out relentless verbal one-twos that would leave e’en the eunuchs clutching their balls.

For there she was, our aubergine-fisted agressor, her spherical frame perfectly blocking out the rotund moon sailing skywards from her inky quay beneath the waves.

– You know, I really do like bridge.

– Do be quiet, i’m too busy writing about how much I care for you, dear.


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Mojito Odyssey – Part Three: Attest, O Scholars!

So scholars, attest! The Original Sin of the Fall has nothing to do whatsoever with the bleatings of the Pelagian or Hippomatic heresies. The sin was to suppose oneself able enough to select fruit at random without even an informal education. Eating the apple was not the point; rather it was the choice of apple that sparked God’s ire and ignited the fires of hell.

“Such arrogance!” He was heard booming to the men in His eternal fruit and vegetable market. “When all I ask is a little piety, some respect for those hands trained in the ways of My bountiful earth.”

Yet hope still sprang eternal in His eternal breast, and so as a reminder to future generations He named one of the seasons ‘the Fall’. Unfortunately, the Chinese Whispers nature of prophecy, coupled with the ceilinged nature of the office of scribe, led to some confusion. Forgotten it was that the Fall was about that purest of joys, ripened fruit, and the expert hand that leads one down the path to tastiness, that of the greengrocer. Instead, guilt, pain, suffering followed, inspired by ‘saints’ who were in truth vegetable heretics – abstract blasphemies from Gnosticism down through the witterings of Saint Augustine and the Council of Trent, all utterly foreign to a fruit-loving God.

III

Upon our return home a few minutes later, we were greeted by the fearsome guardian of the homestead, the ill-tempered, scuttling, ankle-scratching lord of the manner, the scarily obese, hairy, surly la Quejosa, the ‘Bothersome Cat’.

Sore at having been left alone for even a short while, she miaowed raucously then made her trademark charge at our exposed legs. Cunning though she may be, however, her tactics work best from concealed positions, in guerrilla warfare as opposed to pitched battles. Hence she was repulsed by a quick glancing blow to the abdomen from our swinging bag of juicy suns. Recoiling in recognition of the futility of continued hostilities, she sought refuge under the table, peering out from the darkness, plotting a future campaign.

The missus was absent. Very strange. The kilo of oranges was to provide sustenance to us both and serve as accompaniment to the traditional breakfast of crackers with queso cremoso and diced cherry tomatoes. We decided to press ahead with the repast in any case. She might be back soon, off bartering over the price of a new extension lead for the fridge or offering to help people push their cars up snowless hills, or any one of a myriad tasks the modern woman must undertake.

But what’s this? As we removed the oranges from the bag, a piece of paper began to reveal itself. At first we thought it was a receipt – a quickly discarded European absurdity of an idea. As we looked closer it appeared more likely to be a scroll of some kind, though printed on flyer paper. Curious and suspecting the verdulero‘s wink to have been about more than just the subtle genius characteristic of his race, we read, as convention dictates, first the title, then the text:

The Word Made Pineapple Flesh

For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth –

    Ephesians 5:9

So scholars, attest! The Original Sin of the Fall has nothing to do whatsoever with the bleatings of the Pelagian or Hippomatic heresies. The sin was to suppose oneself able enough to select fruit at random without even an informal education. Eating the apple was not the point; rather it was the choice of apple that sparked God’s ire and ignited the fires of hell.

Such arrogance!” He was heard booming to the men in His eternal fruit and vegetable market. “When all I ask is a little piety, some respect for those hands trained in the ways of My bountiful earth.”

Yet hope still sprang eternal in His eternal breast, and so as a reminder to future generations He named one of the seasons ‘the Fall’. Unfortunately, the Chinese Whispers nature of prophecy, coupled with the ceilinged nature of the office of scribe, led to some confusion. Forgotten it was that the Fall was about that purest of joys, ripened fruit, and the expert hand that leads one down the path to tastiness, that of the greengrocer. Instead, guilt, pain, suffering followed, inspired by ‘saints’ who were in truth vegetable heretics – abstract blasphemies from Gnosticism down through the witterings of Saint Augustine and the Council of Trent, all utterly foreign to a fruit-loving God.

At the time of octopus-wrestling Homer, all this was still clear. However, by the time Plato’s prisoner emerged from his cave, he looked straight past the plum-bearing boughs into the sun; and he cherished his new-found blindness at the expense of his senses of smell and taste. And so today we find ourselves as far from the true Word of the Lord as possible, lost in a shadow world under electric lights in a 24 hour, cashier-less hypermarket, ensconcing ourselves ever deeper in Satan’s bosom every time we pathetically grope for, weigh and bag rotten légumes.

This is no equally infamous modern day confabulation either: the answers are all in the Holy Bible. When Noah sends out the dove to find signs of life after the flood, what does the divine bird return with? Why, but a branch hanging with fresh, glistening olives! Jesus was obviously a grape fan, wine being the centerpiece of most of his social engagements. Later on, while the hopelessly at sea Inquisition saw the discovery of the New World as a Nazi-like excuse to experiment in torture, the Almighty had only allowed safe passage of the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa María (to the Spice Islands, how many more clues do you want?) so as to bring back the saintly tomato, which hitherto had only been available to the people of the Americas. All the clues are there, but history shows how Man has continually befuddled itself and become lost on blasphemous paths of abstinence, thinking He despises the body when, on the contrary, He is a friend of healthy dining, of wholesome means of nutrition. Of course the God of the Old Testament is angry. How could He not be if His every command is being misinterpreted?

So repent of your wanton, useless scourges, your cruelty to your own bodies. Live well, live healthily, live happily and you will be serving the Lord, attest O scholars!

Sadly, Arcimboldi, too, has been completely misinterpreted.

My word, an international league, a secret society of greengrocer’s harbouring the secret of the Divine Fire! If we had been in possession of a smart car, how we would have, in the equally divine Mr Brown’s words, gunned it into the rotary, then smiled. How to proceed? Did we wake or sleep?

Mojito Odyssey – Part Two: The Greengrocer

Now this particular greengrocer was truly a good noodle, bonum fideum as the Romans say, for he was no taller than a suburban hedge, hardly surpassing the shrubs in the Jardin du Luxembourg, indeed. He had a gambler’s limp and that crook in the eye special to men who’ve seen too far.

Faithful to one of the ruling principals of boludoísmo, this grocer’s was grossly overstaffed. Three men inside: one cashier, one watcher, one sitter. Despite the obviously negative economic consequences of such cultural oddities, however, they carry a, dare we say it, spiritual weight of their own. The old (though strictly speaking all greengrocers are old – indeed one suspects they come into the world fully dressed in their worn apron and cap, emerging at daybreak from the nearest gutter as the supply truck rolls up) man hobbled over and crooked us a glance. No more.

* Un kilo de naranjas, por favor, señor.
* Aye, pibe.

Only a cold-hearted monster could fail to be moved by the ensuing display, nay performance. Limbs so lately lame became infused with a spirit not seen since Casper, with a glee not witnessed since the shackling of Colombus, with a joie de vivre unheard of since the early carefree days of tobacco, a steadiness and resoluteness absent from the world since the vote for the execution of the cock-robbing debtor of Aesclepius. Not even in the wildest moments of Lord Zeus and his friends’ most fanciful siring parties was there been such passion. Touching, prodding, sniffing, a toss or two in the air, a manly squeeze and even a sneeky pinch. We finally understood why our mother always insisted we wash our fruit, even those with skins.

II

Monument to Eufrasio Cañizo, the wandering greengrocer who saved a Spanish town from a bad batch of olive oil

That morning we had a fine experience at the greengrocer’s. The place we had visited it but once or twice before but was in no way a regular customer. Nor was our order too grand: a kilo of oranges to squeeze fresh juice was our only desire. We imparted it to the little old man. Then again, real greengrocers only come in one size and sex: if your greengrocer is the tall athletic type – not to mention a gigantic woman – you can be sure he is an impostor. Take another bite of that peach you’re nibbling on. Do you dare?… Hmm, you see? Lacks flavour, does it not? An uncouth, dirty quality is perceived, one that has nothing whatever to do with the regal magnificence, the proud firmness of a true peach. Throw your flawed pseudo fruit at the flaming fraud, the cheating charlatan and refute once and for all this charade where any old cowboy or male model think they know a piece of fruit when they see one.

Such arrogance ruins it for everyone in the end. Professionalism is called for here. Indeed, in the fruit-selling business we see a metaphor for our gradual mechanisation and the breakdown of society as, in a paradox that would make Borges blush, it becomes ever more controlled. Removed from the Garden of Paradise, then the countryside, we still knew who we were. We realised poetry had nothing to do with any one place; that the city had its own rhythm and rhyme, beauties and blues. Initially, even with the advent of our age’s most terrifying spectacle, the suburb, a cool relationship was maintained with the Garden. Indeed, poetry appeared there from time to time, too. Yet the suburbs grew and splurged, became empty dens of selfishness and paranoia, places to park one’s automobile, which of course became the only practical way of living there. The local shops that originally sprung up to breathe some degree of oxygen into the stale air were eventually choked to death by an excess of carbon monoxide and killjoy planning legislation as the cars, steadily increasing in number and size, chugged off to the hypermarket. Once there they hardly even notice the very idea of the greengrocer has become redundant. They pack, bag, scan and weigh the fruit themselves.

What, fruit has seasons? How ridiculous! I’ll eat kiwis all year long if I like. They’re delicious. Personally I like to cut the top off and eat them with a spoon.”

They fail to realise that with every little sticker they apply to their plastic bags, they’re putting a price on their souls. Each step towards the cashier-less checkout is a step further into a world of exaggerated privacy, a step away from one’s fellow man, a step closer to a world of fear.

The greengrocer, in this respect, is the greatest superhero of all, the most suave, the most subtle. Understated, the aloofness he displays at times is merely a ploy to usher the appropriate atmosphere of respect into the transaction. Yet he is a superhero, and, like all such beings, he has his identifying traits. You may take his slovenly appearance, his limp, his glass eye, his ear muffs, his whorly, gnarled skin, his chewed pipe, his sun-beaten face, whichever he may bear, for his bat-suit, his spidey sense, his x-ray vision, his green hulkiness, his aquaness. This is a sage, and no doubt if you ask him, he’ll also have parsley, rosemary and thyme, too. This is a man who knows and understands the earth yet who wheels in the field of business; a man who knows the people, knows the neighbourhood, but accepts newcomers readily; a man who will give you good advice and seek to help you if for some reason he is unable to get his hands on some obscure fruit or légume you may require, like a mint plant if you’re hankering after a mojito.

Now this particular greengrocer was truly a good noodle, bonum fideum as the Romans say, for he was no taller than a suburban hedge, hardly surpassing the shrubs in the Jardin du Luxembourg, indeed. He had a gambler’s limp and that crook in the eye special to men who’ve seen too far.

Faithful to one of the ruling principals of boludoísmo, this grocer’s was grossly overstaffed. Three men inside: one cashier, one watcher, one sitter. Despite the obviously negative economic consequences of such cultural oddities, however, they carry a, dare we say it, spiritual weight of their own. The old (though strictly speaking all greengrocers are old – indeed one suspects they come into the world fully dressed in their worn apron and cap, emerging at daybreak from the nearest gutter as the supply truck rolls up) man hobbled over and crooked us a glance. No more.

  • Un kilo de naranjas, por favor, señor.
  • Aye, pibe.

Only a cold-hearted monster could fail to be moved by the ensuing display, nay performance. Limbs so lately lame became infused with a spirit not seen since Casper, with a glee not witnessed since the shackling of Colombus, with a joie de vivre unheard of since the early carefree days of tobacco, a steadiness and resoluteness absent from the world since the vote for the execution of the cock-robbing debtor of Aesclepius. Not even in the wildest moments of Lord Zeus and his friends’ most fanciful siring parties was there been such passion. Touching, prodding, sniffing, a toss or two in the air, a manly squeeze and even a sneaky pinch. We finally understood why our mother always insisted we wash our fruit, even those with skins.

He soon had our oranges ready. After a quick pass on the scales, a mere formality, they know, he accepted my coins and stepped into the gloom where the cashier waited to control the transaction. A chink and a scribble in the ledger later, he was out again. He proffered us the bag with one hand, which we accepted gladly, yet as we stuck out the other for our change the most wonderful thing happened. He slipped in the coins, of course, and then with an other worldly dexterity he let slip an extra orange down the tattered sleeve of his windbreaker before expertly flicking it through the handles of the bag hanging from my left hand. Words, as usual, could only fail to capture the beauty, the innocence, the profundity of the moment. Hence, with a wink he said it all.*

We turned and headed up the street, dumbfounded – such simplicity, such grandeur, such class! So unexpected, so futile, so perfect a gesture! Yes, Blaise, you are right – there’s more to life than success in the Armenian yoghurt industry. A free orange! A life-affirming miniature sun in the palm of our hand! Nay, in the crook of our soul. A fine prelude, to what would surely be an exquisite breakfast.

*Many of you will doubt take this to be some kind of elaborate closet allegory. To this we have two observations: (i) a pox on your puerile minds! You’re probably the same glib, facetious, joyless types who think Alice in Wonderland is about a lecherous old tyke sticking his hand down a girl’s drawers. And (ii) that when the other Lewis, CS, had his characters go into a closet in the first of a series of novels, it was but the prelude to one of the gayest things ever written.