click the picket, see daniel's site
Mr. Alarcon is traveling in South America. Below you'll find una nota he sent to people recently. His story collection, War by Candlelight, comes out soon. An archive of links to previous notes is below. More notes will appear here every other 
day for a while.


February 12, 2005

So this happened a week ago, ten days ago (?) but I wanted to write it down before the memories got too hazy. I was in Valparaíso, a town a few hours from Santiago, a dramatically beautiful place, a port city, built on these hills, overrun with wild dogs. Never in my life have I seen so many street dogs. Apparently there was a plan to kill them (because Valparaíso has been nominated as a UNESCO world heritage site and the UN folks weren’t happy about all the dogs) but folks protested and so the dogs were spared. Anyway, this is all tangential, but adds to the ambience: Valpo is sort of a gritty, salty old place. 

I met an old timer named Marcial at this bar not far from the port. He was drinking red wine when I sat down at the bar (there is no such thing as bad wine in Chile, btw). We quickly fell into a conversation. He’d worked as an electrician in the merchant marine for 30 years, had “traveled the world,” a phrase he used with a jaded tone, as if it was all the same to him. It was, I guess. He’d crossed the Panama Canal so many times it bored him. He went about summarizing his travels and the impressions he had of the different nations he’d seen. He knew Communism would collapse in 1984, he said, because Romania was so poor. Turkey was boring because they kept their women locked away.
Argentina would be the wealthiest country in the world, if only they’d been colonized by Germans. And so on. He had an opinion about every place he’d seen, something pithy and oddly insightful. I told him I was Peruvian, just to hear what he had to say about us,
and Marcial smiled and noted very quickly that he had no problem with us, in a tone of voice that let me know immediately that he had a problem with us. As if to prove his goodwill, he praised our ability to pirate designer clothes. He spoke warmly of an old man in Callao who sold fake gold antiquities. His favorite brothel in the world, he told me, had been in Los Barracones, in Callao, the port of Lima. He shook his head, and smiled at the memories. “This was before AIDS, you understand.”

Re: Los Barracones, there are many neighborhoods in Lima with bad reputations, places where people are afraid to go, none has a worse reputation than Los Barracones. This is surely alarmist, but I’ve never been, so I can’t say. It’s one of those places where Limeños say you won’t come out alive, etc. Anyway, Marcial had a story about this particular brothel. You`re Peruvian, you’ll like this, he said: in the late 80s, when the war was bad, his ship came into Callao. He had twelve hours, so of course he went off to visit his spot. It was evening, foggy. It wasn’t a long walk from the port. He whistled and was nervous and happy with anticipation. “When I got there, the door was kicked open and everyone was dead.” There were Communist slogans on the walls and bullet holes everywhere. Apparently, The Shining Path had come in minutes before he’d arrived, done their usual horrific worst, killing everyone: the girls, the waiters, the madam, and three unlucky Yugoslavian sailors (how Marcial knew they were Yugosalvian, I’m not sure . . .) 

It was a horrible scene, which Marcial described to me in much more detail than I will recount here. He sat down, stunned, too shocked to cry or move or think rationally. The cops arrived in due course, saw the bloodbath, saw Marcial, and dragged him in. They
kicked and beat him on the way to jail, accused him of being Shining Path, and then when they found out he was Chilean, things got worse. They tortured him all night, and then some Shining Path folks were arrested elsewhere for another a hit on a brothel, and he was released. A half a day had passed, it was morning. He stumbled back to the port with half an hour to spare before his ship left and didn’t mention the incident
to anyone. 

We were quiet for long time, mostly because I couldn’t think of anything to say. People are always telling me these outrageous things. That same day, on the bus from Santiago, this dude told me about the affair he’d had with a 52-year-old woman when he was 17, how he was ashamed to tell people that he still liked older older women. He was my age or thereabouts. This is not a long bus ride I’m talking about: maybe an hour and a half. Anyway, it’s strange, but people like to talk, I suppose. I noticed Marcial had finished his bottle of wine. I probably mumbled something about that, just to break the silence, and he nodded. “When my wife died nine months ago,” he said, “I told my children I
intended to drink for a year and then find a new woman. They’re still angry with me.”

From the looks of him, he was a man who’d kept his pledge. He was grizzled and tired and bleary eyed. He had three months of drinking ahead of him. “Thirty years I was gone sailing,” he said, “I thought I would die first because no one would miss me. But now she’s gone, and no one can live without her.”

Now I really had nothing to say. I tried to talk sports, but he wasn’t interested. Politics? He was indifferent. When he left awhile later, there was a bit of a discussion because he didn’t leave a tip. Marcial argued that he couldn’t tip the bartender, because the bartender, as it turns out, was also the owner, and you don’t tip the owner, because that would be an insult. The bartender/owner wasn’t really impressed with this logic. Marcial tried to get me to weigh in, but I stayed out of it. It was clear that he was only looking for a dignified way to excuse the fact that he had no more money. At least not for that night.


Check back Tuesday for one more for now

Previous notes, from first to last:

Buenos Aires, Montevideo, & Colonia

Las Cañas & Gualeguaychu

Steak & Pizza

Radio Cooperativa

Sonnets, Young Man!

[Forever after at]


 B R A V E   S O U L S   R E C E I V E
Eyeshot's Friendly & Infrequent Update
simply type your e-mail address below, or 
learn more about eyeshot-brand spam

Archive of Recent Activities - Advice for Submitters

Enhanced Navigational Coherency - Long-Ass List of Contributors

Super Lo-Tech Slideshow - Four Years Ago, Maybe - Three Years Ago Today

Two Years Ago Today - Last Year Today




pboz #5 is available for preorders! - hobart #4 is now available - boom #1 is available (and it's beautiful!)

david barringer's terminally curious - charles ullmann's strategies for modern living

randall devallance's dive - incidents of egotourism in the temporary world

submissions are being accepted and declined for:

the duck & herring co.