Friday, February 16, 2007

Gingerbread trim and views of the harbor can be found throughout the capital city. Still it’s chaos inside, an iron and chrome mix of the subaltern and late-1980s-Upper-West-Side, packed with roadblocks, vendors, rundown municipal airports, protesters, vandals, open sewers, and buses emblazoned with humorous sayings. Unlike our neighbors to the west, we do not produce ethanol or natural gas; we do not produce glass-coffee tables. Much of our economic activity is hot, noisy, and overwhelming.

The monsoon of 1978 shredded our infrastructure. AID packages crumbled like the hillside over the government highway. Nobody emptied the ashtrays. Cars were parked in precisely the same space night after night. By the early 1980s, sources friendly to US interests declared the city passé. We wore out our carpets. For those with enough rope and air, the ocean awaited. Unfortunately, historical consequence was not a strong national trait.

And yet we continue to believe in our potential: cobalt-blue pools joined by spectacular cascades, dialogical plazas, Palladian alleyways, our annual street urchins regatta, the mud flats. Dissolved minerals give our tap water the flavor of a proud people nobly suffering the wounds of civil strife. According to legend, mermaids live in our grottos but can sometimes be seen along the coasts on moonlit nights. Still, we are not welded to traditions. Imagine a woman slipping a blouse from her shoulders, as she turns to whisper your name. Imagine our nation button by button.

We are fashioning a supercollider from your old mufflers. We have collected change from between our cushions. Our children come versed in a variety of mathematical operations. Now, we have storm drains large enough to swallow a small man.