Archive for November 24th, 2005

Feline Friday from Dowbrigade South


Feline Friday – As previously announced, we are writing today from the Dowbrigade South, our mountain redoubt high in the Andes mountains, 8,858 feet above sea level, in a lush valley between a glacier and a volcano.

We are typing this from the Villa Maria eco-hostal (whatever that means) our son Joseph has created on a plot of land between the Chukchun River roaring down from the glacier to the larger Rio Santo and the well-traveled dirt road which winds up into the sides and skirts and quebradas of Mt. Huascaran (22,204) and constitutes the only route of contact with the modern world for hundreds or thousands of tiny Native American villages dotting the mountainsides.

In this case, the modern world is represented by the village of Carhuaz, another mile down the mountain from the Villa Maria, a typical, sleepy Andean town of about 3,000 souls, which has changed hardly at all since we first came here 30 years ago. A handful of half-hearted stores around a picturesque plaza, a small covered farmers market, some hardware and agricultural supply stores, two pharmacies, a handful of restaurants and a single hotel.

The main change since we started coming here are the now ubiquitous Internet outposts, each with 3 or 4 antiquated PCs and a slow connection, one of which we will be heading to shortly to try to post this report. Meanwhile, in the plaza a few meters from the Cyber cafe, they still sell snowcones made from blocks of glacial ice retrieved by teenaged runners every morning at dawn.

The trip down to Peru and up to Carhuaz. was tiring but spectacular as always. Even after 50 years of travel, just going to an airport with a ticket and a valid passport fills us with the anticipatory rush of endless possibilities for adventures. The ride from the coast, up and over the pass (13,450 ft.) is always spectacular, passing as it does through at least 6 separate and distinct ecosystems, each with its own flora, fauna and anthropology – completely separate plants, trees, food crops, farm animals, dogs, birds, insects, clothing styles, house types, building materials, food and music. Watching them fade and blend into each other from the upper level window of a modern, double-decker luxury stratoliner bus is like a 6-hour ride in an Andean theme park.

The main difficulty on the trip was the fact that we were bringing down almost 100 pounds of presents and, especially, baby stuff, for our first grandchild, born to Joseph and his partner Marissa two months ago up here in the mountains. Between gifts from OUR mothers and the Peruvian Princess, our ex and Joe’s Mom, we were overflowing with baby bottles, waterproof panties, waterproof changing pads, diaper rash ointment, baby bottle brushes, graduated jammies from 2 months to 2 years size, booties, baubles, stuffed animals, well, you get the idea. Arriving at Logan at 5:30 Tuesday morning we were told one of our suitcases was 7 pounds overweight.

Luckily, our other case was under, by almost the same amount, leading to an extremely undignified scene involving the Dowbrigade seated on the floor of Logan Airport directly in front of the check-in counter, holding up a line of over a hundred antsy passengers, with both of our suitcases open, moving books and booty and baubles from one to the other.

In addition, we have brought son Joseph a complete computer system for the hostal, a brand new Mac Mini, keyboard, mouse, stereo speakers and a 17-inch CRT monitor (monitor only purchased in Lima), on which, in fact, we are composing this report.

As we crossed the pass between the Cordillera Negra and the Cordillera Blanca, crossed in fact the continental divide, at this point in the continents width barely a stone’s throw from the Pacific beaches, and descended into the suspended in time Callejon de Huaylas (Huaylas Valley), we were reminded of one of the things that originally attracted us to this isolated natural wonderland 30 years ago.

We were younger then, of course, and the Cold War was raging hot, with the memories of the turbulent 60’s, the assassinations and the urban riots fresh in our mind. We were convinced that civilization as we knew it was on the edge of a complete collapse, but we weren’t worried about it. We were in love with the mountains, in love with a beautiful young woman and, as a Harvard-educated anthropologist, in love with human culture, almost any human culture, other than our own.

What attracted us to the Callejon, other than the spectacular snowcaps and the clean air, was the fact that the Indians there were living pretty much the same way they had been living for the past 2,000 years. Growing the same crops, cooking the same dishes, living in the same houses. If civilization should collapse, these people would hardly notice, we thought. Food riots in Boston, marshal law in the US, chaos in the streets of cities the world over, but the Callejon would remain as it always was.

So we bought some land, for a song, and now our son has built a hostel/refuge on it. Our plan was when things were obviously out of hand, when it was clear that the shit was hitting the fan, we would head for the Callejon, and blow the bridges behind us, so that the raging sickness of western civilization couldn’t follow us up and infect our last refuge.

Now, 30 years later, our beloved America has again been duped into a dishonest war to further the money and power lusts of a small group of corrupt men at the cost of the national equity so many have sacrificed so much to achieve. 15 years after the end of the Cold War, there are still 25,000 nuclear weapons active and poised to be fired, and there is more and more discussion in the air of situations in which they could be used. There is rioting in France and Louisiana and China, and dozens of new hotspots of discontent popping up every week. A few days before we left Boston the bright blue "EVACUATION ROUTE" signs went up all over Boston.

It may be time to start thinking of blowing the bridges again.

ps. The kitty in the picture belongs to the Hostal . They only got it to kill the mice and rats. We have shot some video, which we are trying to edit into postable form. Stay tuned….

Dowbrigade Does Video


one to let a lack of talent or good looks stand in the way of naked ambition or a free meal,
the Dowbrigade delves into the Hall of Mirrors which
is VideoBlogging. Of
course, these are early essays as we learn to use the tools, but imagine
what kind of trouble we can get into once we get the hang of this stuff….

to H2Otown

link to Donahue’s Bar and Grill

Thanksgiving in Watertown


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Never one to let a lack of talent or good looks stand in the way of
naked ambition or a free meal, the Dowbrigade delves into the Hall of Mirrors which
is VideoBlogging.  Of
course, these are early essays as we learn to use the tools, but imagine
what kind of trouble we can get into once we get the hang of this stuff….

to H2Otown

link to Donahue’s Bar and Grill