Taming the Lion

San Pedro La Laguna Travel Blog

 › entry 17 of 36 › view all entries

Taming the Lion

I have only to endure one additional five day deluge of mind-cluttering conjugations until I can catch a bus to Chichicastenango for the city-sized Sunday market, then waste a few days in Guate dodging armed robberies and seeking out the Patsy chain of pastelerias with tiered cakes beore I jet to Aruba for a mini family reunion, trading third-world struggles for first-world excess. Resort life: prepaid drinks and eats during a week of beachside splendor. I'm salivating for cakes sliced into American proportions with blizzards' accumulations of fresh white frosting, longing for menus where "steak" signifies a hunk of meat thicker and tenderer than a t-shirt. Stiff mixed drinks and hoppy imported beers will feed a steady stream of clear urine belying the dehydration I'm suffering in the sun.

I doubt I'll be able to find rellenitos though, my new favorite Guatemalteco snack, an alternative take on the popular plates of planatos fritos con frijoles y crema: rellenitos are platanos mashed and then reformed around a thick paste of sweetened refried black beans, then fried until crispy and golden brown. The final product resembles a fresh foods Twinkie summoned from Dimension Unprocessed and Unchemically Altered (which is nearby but securely separate from Dimension X, so there's no risk that preparing rellenitos will transform your frying pan into a portal for Armageddon, General Trag, Bebop and Rocksteady not a threat to burst into your kitchen in a spray of spattering oil).

Until Aruba I expect my vision will be blurred and judgement impaired by the pursuit of a woman: the traditionally garbed bottlefront sketch adorning every bottle of Quezalteca Especial. Friday night she led me and two fellow gringos into the neighborhood den of seediness: La Cantina el Rinconcito. Mildred, my maestra, had advised against our patronage, suggesting instead the nearby La Estrella, reasoning, "It's safer and cleaner. La Estrella doesn't allow borrachos to snort coke off its tables." But already swigs deep into the Quezalteca, carrying a half can of Cola to chase gulps from my next 1/8th liter bottle, el Rinconcito was a fated adventure.

When we entered three or four drunks were slouched against walls, balancing within a lurch of the bars from behind which are dispensed bottles of beer and liquor. Not drinks. Bottles. We ordered our bottles and before I could clear a chug a diminutive man who was watching at least three of me sidled up and said something about Jean Claude Van-Damme, then Chuck Norris. As usual in San Pedro, the bums speak the best English, always enough to ask you for a drink or a few Quetzales and recite the names -- accompanied by the requisite handchops and halfkicks -- of the butchers of acting and bad guys who dominate American superaction cinema.

After I passed the bottles of liquor and Coke to Devin, friend and fellow student from Denver, a blue t-shirt clad man stumbled into the room, spouting nonsense as his eyes pinballed about his sockets, his hands and arms disassociated entities rising and falling, waving and gesturing without any discernable pattern or motive. His fingernails appeared to have been cultivated for years, his fingers permanently mangled, like crooked and bentback remnants from a hobby of slamming them in heavy wooden doors. Afraid anything could rile the man further, his finger-and-fist assaults on his own cranium increasingly violent by the second, I turned around to talk to the bartender, hoping his eyes might indicate were I about to be impaled by knife or fingernail.

My drunken spanish exhausted itself after the usual introductory probing and I turned back to the floor, where the maniac was removing his shirt, staring down my other friend, Florian. Suddenly he turned to me, dropped his shirt, raised both hands with fingers fanned and fashioned into crude claws and began roaring like a lion. With a hybrid gulp-laugh I stepped past the drunk and exited the bar, as did Devin, and shortly Florian too, followed by the manimal still babbling ominous nonsense in Florian's face. The beast kicked at nothing like Bruce Lee in super slo-mo, much to the delight of the short kung fu fanatic who'd likewise followed the action into the street. The bartender ever materialized from behind his barricade, poking his head out of a doorway into the street to motion that we should leave, alternately pointing toward the raving Guatemalteco and aiming the same finger at his own temple, air-tracing invisible cones in the swift rotations thereof.

And we walked to La Estrella, where an extra Quetzal per bottle is the price of safety.
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!