La Paz

Oleh Lysiak

In nearly Spanish based on vernacular without benefit of grammar,
learned thirty years ago from Quintana Roo to Guayaquil, I explain
the need for a reasonable room to the nodding cabby. He drops me off
at the Hosteria de Convento, a former nunnery with common courtyard,
quasi-religious artwork, comfy couch and chairs, trellised bougainvillea,
blue-tiled outdoor cooking and washing facilities,
a metal table with chairs and an ancient color TV hooked
to an antenna perched on a rooftop-high wooden pole
delicately spun to enhance two channels playing non-stop
Latino soaps, game shows, movies and occasional football matches.
Exposed logs support a tall ceiling in my corner room, complete
with a multiple speed fan in lieu of air conditioning, raised concrete bed
with mattress and clean sheets, tiled floors and wainscoting,
sun warmed shower with commode, hasps and padlocks on a peeling door
with louvers that highlight an intriguing shade of aqua over repetitive
surfaces and angles from daybreak to glorious Mexican morning.
I dine on pescado empanizado, almejas, ostra and pulpo at a street stand
under a tree whose roots muscled this sidewalk before Pancho Villa.
Three bucks buys dinner and a drink, with entertaining, eclectic company
at a boisterous intersection spiced with local Latinas flaunting curvy,
soft everyday salsa. $20 a day and I‘m styling in the rhythm of the calle,
not on a guided tour safe in a $200 a day air conditioned room behind
locked gates and security guards, hanging on to my precious for dear life.