In my two weeks back in Cali, I’ve noticed a lot of things the same, but, also, a lot of different things. My friend, Eliseo, in the photo, still sells umbrellas on a street corner. He also carts around a loads of cheese and chicken in the afternoons to sell. He is 80 years old, but needs to continue working hard to make a living. He has a wife, and an older daughter with her young daughter, all living in the same small house.
I have, so far, seen most of the people in my neighborhoods that I know. They are all shocked, but happy, to see me. They all ask where I’ve been.
I visited the library where I had my two photo exhibitions. I think it has gone downhill somewhat. They don’t print the monthly program anymore that listed all the movies, exhibits and events for the month. Now you have to try to find what you want to know only online. It’s frustrating. The gallery has a show of paintings up now. The large title for the show, which was on the wall, was not even level. It was sloping downhill. All the ceiling spotlights were focused in different directions and were not even lighting up the paintings. They were hard to see since they were dark. There is a new curator and he or she is not even close to how good the former curator, Wilson Nieva, was. Wilson set up and wrote the introductions for both my shows. He did an awesome job.
Today, I learned more about the restaurant where I always ate my lunches. Since I’ve been back, I got sick once from the food there and almost sick another time. Claudia hasn’t been working there. She has been working in the panaderia with her husband, Augusto, all day long. Ney Lopez told me that they sold the restaurant. One longtime employee, Amada, still works there. The large lunchtime crowds are gone. I’ve found a better place to eat in a different barrio a few blocks from my house. The food, so far, has always been great and it is packed at lunchtime. I continue to go to the panaderia for bread and coffee and to read the newspaper early mornings. Augusto, my friend, for years, hasn’t been so friendly this year. There is no baker at the panaderia and he is now doing it all. Ney said he drinks all day and night. Through the years, I knew he liked to drink with some regular customers in the evenings and weekends, but, I guess, now, it’s even more. Maybe, his wife, Claudia, works in the panaderia too so she can keep better tabs on him.
And, on another interesting note, the former good friend of mine who borrowed money from me one time to pay her rent while in between jobs, now has a dance studio she shares with another instructor. It took a long time to get my money back and I lost my trust and faith in her. I hated to keep reminding her. She was also someone I danced with occasionally. One time, she stopped, and told me that after 4 years in Cali I still couldn’t dance. That was the last time I ever danced with her. Our friendship pretty much disappeared. I hope she treats her clients better at her studio then she did me, her friend. Other Cali friends who are dance instructors and performers said I was a good dancer and we always had fun dancing together. Unfortunately, those three women are all living abroad and teaching salsa and performing.
And, last week, I climbed Las Tres Cruces. My time was horrible, 42 minutes instead of my best last year of 30 minutes. The humidity was about 70% and I was sweating a lot. I constantly had to wipe and dry my face and eyes, especially. It was a struggle, but the juices and carrot bread at the top were still a great treat and made the difficult climb worth it. I noticed that the prices had risen a little. But, who cares. I hope to climb the mountain again soon and shave off some of those minutes.