Sunday, March 25, 2012

Short takes

While I was in Massachusetts for a few months Jeannete rented out the landing above my stairwell to a nephew who installed two barber chairs and opened a barber shop. He painted stripes and arrows on the walls of what had been my area and clumps of hair wafted through on downdrafts. After getting my own hair cut I walked two blocks down el Conde to Mundo Artesanal, where I have sold fotos on consignment for years, and eventually persuaded them to rent me the space just inside the doorway on the corner of El Conde and Duarte for much less than Jeannette had been charging.

Today I drove Altagracia to Las Mameyes where she had heard there was a cheap clothes wholesaler. En route she got a phone call from Kiki saying that he had not been able to make any money trafficking across the Haitian border because the border had been closed due to the cholera epidemic and that he was hungry. So we asked some directions to Western Union from 3 different people, got 3 different answers—some of the wrong directions were very specific but none of them lead to a Western Union. We eventually wound up at Mega Centro and sent him $27 but since he has lost his cedula again we sent it under a friend’s name. This all took an hour and about 10 cell phone calls most of which were only to find out how to spell the friend’s middle name Meran. We returned to Las Mameyes and start asking people where the big clothes wholesaler is and after a half dozen vague responses Altagracia decided to bag the idea and go to Villa Consuelo where she had bought cheap jewelry before. She walked into 6 Importers and, after looking at blouses and jeans and asking prices, asked where the stuff was made and when they told her China, walked out. Walking out of an importer in Villa Consuelo because they sell clothes made in China is like walking out of a gift shop on El Conde because it sells cheap souvenirs.
Kiki never called to say that he got the money and eventually we found out that it was because he was arrested just before he went into the Western Union in Elias PiƱa. Police had evidently planted some marijuana seeds in his house. On our way home I bought two sheets of plywood for a display case to use in my new retail space in Mundo Artesanal.

While I am cutting up plywood in the marquesina later that afternoon, Altagracia got a cell phone message that she won $25,000 pesos—about $800 US. I explained to her and the crowd of neighbors who quickly gathered that it was probably a scam. But Niningo took over, called the number, borrowed $25 pesos and proceeded to buy the required phone cards and remit them to the company that had promised the 25,000. At one point when I came back up out of the marquesina to cry SCAM I turn the corner to the kitchen and see Felo, with my $50 Macy’s chef’s knife inverted over a can of guandules and his fist poised to drive the tip of the knife into the can to open it. To this moment—5 hours later—no one can understand why I yelled at him. The knife is worthless anyway now after it has been used as a screwdriver and to prune the guanabana tree in the garden next to the house. But I couldn’t take it anymore. Niningo meantime borrows more money to buy more phone cards so that he can redeem the grand prize. So about this time Belita wanders into the house sniffing around for lunch and asks if anybody has heard about the phone card scam and Niningo freaks and starts calling the police because none of the phone cards that he has bought and entered in the last half hour have taken.

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