All the while, the drink flowed and the discussions multiplied. I was quite curious about Manolo's opinion and why he and his wife thought that way. "Chavez has turned our country into a lawless pit. It's now too dangerous to go out at night. No one is safe in the streets anymore. Crime is rampant and Chavez does nothing about it."
"Um, but we are out now; it's nighttime; and we don't seem to be in too much danger."
"That's because we're in a restaurant."
Apparently, the evil doers are thwarted at the doorways of restaurants. There must be rows of garlic cloves, crosses and other defenses behind these doors to prevent the criminals from attacking dining hall guests. Even though we are in a windowless eatery and sitting right next to pedestrians walking on those hazardous streets, we have nothing to fear from the lawlessness created by Chavez.
But before I could pursue my line of reasoning, Cowboy pulled out his famous, "No more politics" refrain, "How "bout that March Madness?" We had all been told that politics was a no-no topic while in country, but it seemed that only anti-right-wing, anti-conservative, and anti-ultra-radical Christian statements are really taboo. As long as one called President Obama "The Magic Negro," referred to his policies as extreme Socialism and denounced all unions and all liberals, one was permitted to speak openly and freely among the gringos without fear of sanction. If one, however, mentioned that Obama was probably born in Hawaii after all, one was immediately subjected to the politically-ending statement, "How "bout that March Madness."
At the end of the evening, it was paying time and Cowboy and I offered to help with the overall bill, even though I only had one drink and hadn't eaten. At first Vishnu refused, but his trusty sidekick, Sailor, seized the opportunity to have us help pay his bill. One drink wound up costing me 100 Bolivars (about $23). Quite an expensive drink if you ask me.
"We'll be moseying on back to the hotel," Cowboy announced with his usual insight for the obvious.
"No, you can't go," Enriqueta blurted. "It's too dangerous. Let me give you a ride."
"No, really, we'll be fine. It's only a half-block away. It won't take us but three minutes."
"The streets are far too dangerous to be walking them at night. I insist, you must ride with me."
I could see the international incident developing before my eyes. We had just walked there from Hotel Gringo not 90 minutes before. Cowboy and others had already returned safely, and under more inebriated conditions, the night before. No one had complained about feeling threatened, insecure or afraid of the walk. In fact, I had seen young girls walking alone the other few nights I had already ventured out upon my arrival there. I saw no need for such extremism.
But Enriqueta was more than insistent and, to avoid any unnecessary friction between us and the locals, we graciously accepted the offer. The vehicle ride took about as long as our original walk did, and the trip was exactly the same, down to the parking lot connecting Pygmy Street with Avenida de las Americas. We arrived at the door of Hotel Gringo just like we left there, and Enriqueta was satisfied that she had thwarted the Chavez-led evil doers once again.
I had thought that only in the US such extreme illogic about reality in one's country existed, but I am finding out that the same axiom holds true in other countries as well. Tell a lie long enough and people will start believing it.
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