1950s Archive

South American Journey


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Rollo said hopefully, “Maybe we could replace it there, Captain?”

“I doubt it, Rollo, old man,” Uncle Willie told him.

“What shall we do, sir?” asked Rollo.

“Face reality,” said Uncle Willie.

I didn't take part in all this talk. I don't like mystery. Furthermore, Rollo was paid by both of us, but he seemed to consider himself personal valet to Uncle Willie.

In the bus the two of them were gloomy, so I talked to my little fat lady.

“There is much love in Hollywood?” she asked me.

“There is much love every place,” I said in my college Spanish.

“No—I mean of the grand passion.”

“They try.”

“When I was a young one, the grand passion was nicer.”

“In what way do you mean?” I asked.

“There was time and leisure.”

“I have heard,” I said.

“The grand passion, it consumes time, you have so little time now for dressmakers, beauty parlors, cooking. It is difficult to carry off the grand passion.”

She opened a little straw Indian basket “I must eat often for my strength. Join me?”

She had cheese flavored with cayenne and hot pepper; the native bumitas, corn tamales with beans; a huge empanada, a pie filled with shrimp, rice, and wonderful beef. We offered some to Rollo and Uncle Willie, but they shook their heads; they were still mourning their loss, whatever it was.

So the little fat lady and myself sat and ate and talked of the grand passions of celebrated lovers, and swapped items about Catherine the Great, French queens, English kings, and the wild girl who drove a great motion picture star back to his wife and six children.

By the time the Indian basket was empty, the lights of Santiago, the fourth largest city in South America, blinked ahead of us. Santiago, on the Mapocho River, is larger than Baltimore. It has a population of close to two million people, most of whom seemed to be in the streets when our bus pulled in.

Rollo went to gather our baggage, and the little fat lady said it was a pleasure to meet us, and that the Carrera Hotel was the only hotel to stay at. “It has the garden and swimming pool on the roof. The Crillon is too French, the Capri too German, and the Savoy and the City too gay.”

We thanked her and took a taxi to the Carrera and went up to our suite, where Rollo unpacked and Uncle Willie brooded. I read the local newspaper. I was happy to see there was a National City Bank of New York in Santiago, that the Museum of Fine Arts was exhibiting Indian stone work and Picasso, that the ballet at the Teatro Municipal was performing “Swan Lake” and “Filling Station U.S.A..” and that an Englishman had been caught cheating at cards in the exclusive Club Hípico and had tried to drown himself in an ornamental fountain.

I said. “How about seeing the town?”

“Why don't you go along now? I'll join you later,” Uncle Willie told me.

I picked out one of my uncle's canes and went down into the streets. The city was beautiful, interesting, and some-what chilly at night. I bought a pack of local cigarettes. Libertys, went over to the Club de la Union (where we had a guest card), shook hands with an Irishman from Texas who had read a novel of mine—and then had dinner all by myself at EI Sarao. a pleasant inn right outside the city. I dined on a delicious avocado and shrimp salad, a chicken asado—roast chicken—and a Santa Rita wine. I then went to the Atelier and saw a play based on a French story written by an Italian; it was a fine show. Later I went to the Violín Gitano where the singer, a soiled but beautiful girl, was singing:

Amor como el que bay en mí No tiene el mundo memoria.

She stood over me and sang, and I bought her a drink. And she sang again. The words translate roughly as:

Love such as I feel, baby, Has never existed in the world.

I went out to the Mandarin. I.e Toucan. and the Waldorf. They all had good music, good drink, and someone to sing the same song at you. Then I tried the Boite, and there it was a large blonde with a gold tooth.

If you loved me thus,

The angels upstairs

Would sure be jealous of me.

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