I will start this chronicle by answering the question of my dear sister (who is always worried about me): I feel wonderful, I am in good health, my sixty-eight year old body is not in any pain, my liver and my lungs bear my excesses quite well, and I still don’t take even an aspirin. No drugs, thanks! I said the same thing to a drug dealer who recently offered me one of those chemical things: no, no, no, no.
Although my late Aunt Adelaide would have thought (in the absence of information) that we “smokers” (i.e. costumers) are drug addicts, the difference with drug users such as the late Michael Jackson, Prince, Elvis, George Michael or Carrie Fisher is abysmal. Unlike the collection of corpses that drugs have left behind over the years, no one has ever died (unless it was from laughter) because of an innocent little girl like the good Maria and her friend the gentle Mr. Costo. And that’s not to mention the crimes committed by addicts who keep bad company, like Mrs. Heroin, her cousin Miss Cocaine and her brother-in-law, Lethal Crack.
What obtuse politicians came up with the idea of putting a natural creature like pot in the same bag with those chemicals that alter the character of the consumer by making him hard and negative, as well as causing him paranoia? Just as you do when there are traffic accidents, has it been checked what those crazy assholes are wearing who occasionally go to shoot up a school or a market?
Umm, while writing this previous paraphrase, I felt like smoking a cigarette that, apart from being very tasty, will relax me from the stress I’m carrying this morning: Ha! “My commander, my commander, that guy named Nando Baba is once again making a plea for cannabis”. “Where is he now?” “It’s next to the Chitwan National Park in Nepal.” “Okay, we’re going to send out a command immediately. I want him to be kidnapped and sleep in Carabanchel tonight. “At your service!”
How good it feels to be free, like I am to be able to give birth to this chronicle in a chaotic way without knowing where it will go. If I were still living in the German Black Forest and in a neighborhood addicted to order, it might not have come so naturally to me; but living with my lawless Nepalese friends, I think it’s the right thing to do.
A few pictures? Move mentally to a theater (Nepali, of course) and take a seat near the stage. The lights go out and the curtain goes up. It’s morning. The fog rises from the river and its humidity makes me cold. But I can already see the smoke from the bonfire in the distance. He jogged over there to the group of people sitting around him. They open the circle to make room for me. I bring a liter of milk and give it to Grandma to make chai. I extend my hands, almost caressing the flames.
I’m the only one who’s idle. Two women peel and cut potatoes with the same sickles they would have used before to cut wood or grass; more uncomfortable and less practical, impossible. A young mother helps her two little boys with their homework. A couple of dogs sneak in among the people to warm up. Several crows are critically observing us from some branches.
My friend Shankar finishes rolling a joint, but when he goes to turn it on, his phone warns him it’s eight o’clock. “I have to go punch out,” he exclaims, standing up. He runs to the building next to his (otherwise solitary) house: it is his job and for the last few months he has been forced to sign up; but this is Nepal, and Shankar, having fulfilled that requirement, returns quietly because there is no one to control him. Now he’s wearing long hair and I call him a hippie, although he doesn’t know that term (he’ll be in his forties).
The century-old great-great-grandfather takes care of the fire, giving me the feeling that he is playing with the wood. Soon after, he has to interrupt this work to dedicate himself to the shaman because a man has arrived accompanied by his daughter, a little girl who, he explains, has had a tummy ache all night. The great-grandfather sets fire to some cotton strings and spins them in the air so that their smoke reaches the girl while he whispers some mantras. The ceremony is over in a few minutes. The girl feels better and the father gives half a dozen tangerines to the shaman as a donation.
My Russian friend, Mr. Tolstoy, whom I have mentioned many times in these chronicles, tells me that now his mother-in-law and his Nepalese sisters-in-law are using as medicine an Orthodox Christian holy book which he brought from Russia: they put it on the part of the body that hurts and, they say, it works.
THE GALACTIC TAVERN
I saw it from the entrance. He was a man in his thirties. I rightly assumed it would be Dutch. He was alone and, apart from accepting my company, he told me his interesting biography: “At school I was always the typical student that the teachers were rightly angry at. At the age of sixteen I chose to study arts and crafts and became a professional painter, a job I did only rarely because I made a better living selling cost, pirated video games or phone cards for non-existent companies whose bills were never paid. I also worked in the summer on some beach where I contacted different thugs who trusted me and gave me all kinds of orders. For a while I ran a coffee shop in Amsterdam where we made about fifty thousand euros a day. Legally, we were only allowed to have 500 grams of cost, and I ended up spending a few days in jail when they searched us and found more than 11 kilos. As a child I had visited Greece, Turkey and India with my mother. The day I first went to Thailand I was twenty years old and I fell completely in love with Asia. And I’m still here.”
The Dutchman said goodbye, saying that they were waiting for him somewhere else, and I, while trying to get the bartender’s attention to order a beer, noticed an Asian man standing next to me and talking to the empty bottle in front of me: “I jokingly asked the newsagent if he had the next day’s paper, and he, without losing his cool, replied that I should wait a little because he would be here any minute.
Leaving that madman to his subject, I paid attention to what a big man with the unmistakable Russian accent was explaining: “In the winter, the neighborhood where I grew up was connected by playing ice hockey. Men and women of all ages participated, including grandmothers, and we wore leather boots without any metal.
Taking a few steps among the staff, I listened to a gray-haired Hindustani with monumental ears: “I was telling a friend of mine something and I remembered that I had already told him a few days before. Then, when I noticed the indifference he showed, I wondered if he kept quiet because we were comrades and he didn’t want to hurt me. But it could also be that he acted this way simply out of good manners, or that he was a coward and was afraid that I would get angry. Then I received the Enlightenment and I guessed it instantly: that bastard didn’t remember because, just as he was doing at that moment, he hadn’t paid the slightest attention to me and was thinking about other things. Ha!
Then I approached a table shared by several guys looking like experienced adventurers, and I did so as a Portuguese man explained: “In India, a Victorian law prohibiting an Indian from sharing a hotel room with a Westerner is still in force. “Well, in France,” said an old man with a Breton accent, “there is still a Napoleon law forbidding women to wear trousers. But we hadn’t finished, because in my supposedly progressive country, and until the 1960s, they weren’t allowed to have a bank account without their husband’s signature and consent, which was called venia marital. The one who spoke now was a Neapolitan: “In harmony with those laws anchored in the past, in my city I know Muslim women who used to wear miniskirts and go wild in discos, but now they wear burqas as if they had decided to return to the Middle Ages”.
SEE WHAT I THINK.
I try to be unfriendly so that people will value those who are nice to them more. Is advice a Machiavellian undercover order? Did you know, Spanish speakers, that snack means piscolabis? Is the first word the most used and the second the least used? Unnecessary cultural imperialism?
And that’s all for today, my dear nincompoops. Bom Bom.
The Cosmic Chronicle, by Nando Baba