I Scream, You Scream

It’s been a week of ice cream. At home, on the street, at work: I scream everywhere.

Outside my apartment, a push-cart ice cream vendor stands in the shade, trying to drum up customers. He has the red hat, the cheery smile for passers-by, the rainbow umbrella, but he’s not drawing a crowd. He’s come a few blocks up from the main street, where there is good foot traffic, but also impossibly torn-up sidewalks and cars that rip through the the intersections without regard for red lights. You’d think he’d have better luck up here in apartmentlandia;  for some reason, though, it’s not working. After half an hour, Mr. Paletero goes with the nuclear option: a boom box playing a cassette loop of the ice cream song. It’s not the song you remember, but it’s close–an organ, some oom-pah. The radio’s batteries are so worn out that the pitch wobbles up, down, sideways, like in the junior high geography films my teachers showed years ago. Nobody comes out to buy. He presses “stop,” holsters the umbrella, and pushes the cart down the street, ringing low-tech bells with his free hand.

Always in good humor.

Inside the school gates, it’s a different story. Domenico, or Domingo if you want to use the Spanish version of his Italian name, has been selling ice cream most weekdays after school for at least a decade. He started out selling on the street, where boom box man works in vain, but the parents thought it would be nice for the kids to have treats at dismissal, and they got Domenico an invitation to bring the push-cart up to the plaza in the afternoons. He’s seen kids grow from second graders to seniors; he recognizes everyone’s face, knows a lot of kids by name, and for his most loyal customers, remembers their favorite flavors. I’m thinking of starting a rumor that he owns a mansion in the country, a garage full of luxury cars, paid for by years of choco-cones and passionfruit icies.

It takes all kinds.

Sandra has been on fire. Since I’m at work before she arrives and come home after she leaves, we communicate via a notebook on the kitchen counter. She tells me what vegetables to buy, or asks for a certain kind of sponge; I tell her how much I loved the arepas or the beet salad, and could she please make some more. Last week, I left a few things in the washing machine and asked her to throw them in the dryer. Sheets, socks, some pants. When I got home, I saw that Sandra had re-folded every piece of clothes in my drawers and organized my underwear drawer into little sections: boxers, briefs, boxer-briefs, novelty. T-shirts arranged by color. Hanging shirts spaced neatly on the rack. Pants folded surprisingly and beautifully in thirds. That evening, I wandered naked around my apartment, afraid to make a mess or disturb the unmentionables.

Two Wheels Good: In a bid to join other enlightened cities around the world, Caracas closes a major road to auto traffic one day a week. Here, it’s the Cota Mil, the thousand-meter mark on the Avila mountain, above which no development is permitted. During the week, this is a major highway; on Sundays, thousands of cyclists, runners, and long-board skateboarders take over and make it a 12-kilometer playground of smooth pavement. I rode up there last week with other cyclists from school, taking laps in the sun, Caracas sprawling below us in the great east-west valley. Here’s a (very) short video from the road. Naturally, I celebrated the ride with an ice cream.

My student’s work. Check out
the full model!

PS–If you’d like to see where I work, in full CGI glory, check this out. It’s a 3D redering of the high school computer lab, made by one of my students. He used downloaded components and his own drafting to build this realistic model. Honestly, it’s better than a photo. Small sample to the right; the full model is excellent. Give it a few seconds to load, then scroll right and left to orbit around. (You can’t see it well without the full file, but this kid created the old iMac on the bookshelf, too!)

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