First casualty: everyday life…

Last night, my sister Cristina asked whether I’d go visit her today, relieve some of the tedium of these claustrophobic strike days, and chat about the project the NGO she belongs to is working on. I was a bit weary of using up the carefully hoarded gas in my gas-tank, but thought, what the hell, it’ll be fun. I set out at about 10:15 am, but pretty soon I realized it’d be tough going.

The opposition had called a trancazo for the morning, a half day action where people would block streets and highways to protest the government. It’s usually just a 10 minute drive to Cristina’s apartment, and I thought I could make it, but no go. The street in front of the Mata de Coco mall was blocked…I swung around and tried the Avenida Libertador: blocked as well. I asked a cab driver if the Cota Mil highway was open, no luck. And I knew Francisco de Miranda Avenue was blocked, so I was pretty well stuck…I remembered that old saying from Vermont: “afraid you can’t get there from here.” Shit.

So I parked my car close to my mom’s in Campo Alegre, bitter about the wasted gas, and figured I might as well do something with my morning. Like everyone else, my Christmas shopping is all backed up, so I thought I’d try to find that Discman I promised my mom’s maid – who washes my clothes. I spent 45 minutes going through Sabana Grande, one of the main shopping strips in town, and though a lot of clothes shops and bakeries were operating, every electronics shop in site was on strike. Feeling pretty frustrated, I finally found a quincallería, kind of an odds-and-ends store that looked like they stocked some electronics. “You got a discman for me?” I asked the guy behind the counter. “Sorry man, sold the last one this morning…God knows when we’ll get another delivery.”

Christ. OK. I still had about an hour to kill before my lunch appointment, so I thought I’d walk around for a bit. I left Sabana Grande for El Rosal, where there are fewer shops, and I thought, well, maybe I should get some coffee. If there’s one thing you can get in this stinking town is a cup of coffee, right? I asked a guard by one of the shuttered buildings where I could get one. Guy scratches his head. “Um, I think there’s a cafetería that’s still open two streets down, maybe.” He points me, and I walk over. “A large marrón, please.” (it’s kind of a dark latte) Woman looks at me, “sorry,” she says, “black coffee only…we’re out of milk.”