29 January 2006

The Long Goodbye

San Pablo is a non-descript, working-class suburb on the edge of Santiago, about half an hour from El Noviciado. Here there is no European influence. Little evidence of culture. But it still seems like a vital place. The people give me sidelong glances, but they´re very nice. This is where I am now, on my second-last day in Chile.

For the first time, as I left Los Parronales and set out onto the dirt road for the bus stop, someone in a car stopped and offered me a lift. A young guy who lives on a neighbouring parcela. He was really neat. Then, at the bus stop, instead of a bus, I was confronted by a, um, perhaps they call them camionettas here? A little van with a few rows of seats. For a little more than the bus cost, I got a lift all the way into San Pablo, the only passenger most of the way. The driver, again, was a nice guy and seemed to warm especially when I told him I was from Canada (he first guessed USA). On a patio the other evening in Santiago, a woman asked me if Canada was one of the States. She was surprised to hear it was a separate country.

Last night I swam for an hour after midnight. It was so dark and peaceful, even with the dogs discussing me from across all the nearby parcelas. I was grateful for the warm water at night. I got a supernasty sunburn the other day and didn't want to aggravate matters by swimming during the day yesterday.

Perhaps my novel will make me millions and I can buy a place with a swimming pool. I suspect, though, that my novel will make me about $1,312, plus Public Lending Rights payments each year. If anyone chooses to publish it.

I'm feeling like I'm getting close to finishing it, now that I've got the ending. If so, it´s going to be a tiny thing like Sheila Heti's novel, but I'm no Sheila Heti. But even on the bus into San Pablo today, I decided that I needed a few more chapters to flesh out a couple of the main characters. So maybe I'll even hit 150 pages.

Really pleasant lunch of papas fritas, palta y queso with Gord and Susan on the patio yesterday. They are generous and funny people. Susan gave me a folder of poems and flash fictions to read last night, and the stuff was so good.

Friday night I went to Santiago, stayed south of the river. A long visit to Metales Pesados (Heavy Metal) bookstore. Turns out the guy who's been so nice to be there is a poet, too. Name of Sergio Parra. We really got to talking; for the first time, my lousy Spanish didn't present as much of a problem. He loves the New York poets -- especially Ashbery, but also Ron (here pronounced Roan) Padgett. I told him I'd had lunch with Padgett a couple months ago, and his eyes widened. I wonder if he's related to Nicanor. We're going to correspond, so I´ll find out. I bought his book: looks like something I'd actually be able to read: lots of pop references too, like Valerie Solanis. Anne, if you're reading this, perhaps we should collaborate on translating this guy.

Last night I spent mainly north of the river, wandering the streets of Bellavista one last time. The best street there is Pio Nono, crammed with bars and tables on the sidewalks and people just wiling away the many many slow summer hours with a giant bottle of Cristal cerveza. A little east is the Pablo Neruda house, and on the intervening streets are some really upscale restaurants. I mean, it's very pretty, but I finally found where all the tourists hang out. Me, I´ll stick to Pio Nono if I ever get back here.

Which I hope I do.

Even though the Plato Vegetariano I ordered last night in a schoperia had a big rolled-up wad of sliced ham in the middle of it.

Over and out.


At February 03, 2006 11:26 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Stuart,
I've really enjoyed reading your Chile entries. Thanks!
See you later,


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