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FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 1: Bed 11:40PM; can't sleep.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 2: Pee at 1:40 and take doxylamine at 2:02. Then try to get "eyelash out of right eye-corner," and it actually WORKS, rather than staying around and annoying me for the entire rest of the trip. Wake at 5:55, feeling pretty good, then doze and up at 8:02. Eat breakfast watching a tape and do chores on list (1) record phone, 2) change videotape, 3) call car, 4) water plants, 5) take ham sandwich, 6) scissors and umbrella into BLUE bag, 7) vicks OUT of blue bag, 8) leave sign "fix TV" for return Saturday) til 9:20. Car rings at 9:29 JUST as I've finished going through the entire apartment to make sure everything's OK. They encouraged me to give them my return flight number, so I do, and Ken said that HE would take my car back, and he might ask driver how much it will cost to do that before he commits himself. Atlantic Avenue starts slow until the HSBC that was the Williamsburg Savings Bank, and then it's OK, getting to the airport at 10:10. Rather short line, but then I'm asked if I'm going to Miami and I say yes and am told to slip my credit card (for ID) through the "express" machine, but when I do, and enter the flight number, they have no record of my reservation! Oops! Then put in "MIA" and they still get no response, so I ask the clerk and she asks what my FINAL destination is and I say Caracas, and she says this only handles the US flights. But then she says I can go to this clerk anyway, so I check in, making sure the bag goes THROUGH to Caracas, and that goes quickly enough so that I'm at gate 8 at 10:30, Ken not there yet. I read magazines (amazing how calm I feel when I'm AT the airport, as opposed to the screamikng mimis the few days BEFORE the flight!) and Ken arrives 11:20, telling tales of delays, not operating A-to-Rockaway line, bus delays on the way to the airport, then having the bus stop only at the Howard Beach subway stop so that he then has to take the JFK bus around. He's bought a sandwich and wants a beer, so we go next door and have $5(!) beers and I have my ham sandwich, and pee at 11:47. Board 12:05 for wing-edge BEHIND me, but since the next flight is BEHIND the wing-edge, it was THIS flight which was the only over-wing one (WRONG! It was Miami - JFK on the way BACK!). 2:20 flight announced. Off at 12:48. Land at 3:08, mostly cloudy out but SOME vistas of New Jersey, the shore, and then Florida as we fly inland to land. We're 35 minutes EARLY, and we have to sit till 4 for a docking spot! DOCK at 4:02, have a slice of pepperoni pizza for $3.49, and board at 4:50. 2:35 announced to Caracas. SCREAMING babies, INCREDIBLY annoying just two rows behind me, and the parents seem to be able to do NOTHING with an IMPOSSIBLY spoiled brat who seems clearly to be fussing ONLY to get attention. Off at 5:33 and pay $2 to BUY a headset for "Men in Black II," because clearly this is going to be a difficult flight and I'm NERVOUS, so I'm hoping to distract myself as it gets dark outside, affording only the briefest view of dust-dim emerald-to-sapphire waters with yellowish sand-heaps at various sides of the Biminis. Go to the john at the end of the movie even though the seat-belt sign is on, though it's smooth, and we're very late in starting down. Set watch ahead an hour and back a minute at 8:54, coast visible in dark. Land at 9:07, not able to see a thing. Long time to get out, long time for showing passports, and though I didn't fill out a Customs declaration, I go out just behind Ken and motion that we're in the same group, and they wave me through without one. Guy checking my passport asked me my age, number of days in Venezuela, purpose of trip, all things that were WRITTEN on the form. Did he think I'd stolen it? Guides outside at 9:55, and we chat and Rafael comes up with the car at 10:09, we load up and go past very lit hillsides that are clearly the Spanish equivalent of Portuguese favelas, and I forget the "low-poor housing" with a different name in Belem. 25 km to Caracas from the airport, but we ARE at the Gran Melia Caracas, rather than some ratty place at the airport. BUT Michele FILLS our ears with "Don't carry bags in public, don't go out after dark, don't show jewelry or watches or cameras" so much that I fear I'm not going to feel good ANYWHERE. To hotel at 10:30, check in, and he takes a LONG time explaining vouchers and timing and hotel-leaving and Canaima-touring and alternative airports on the day to the coast, which takes at least til 11, and then up to room 820 to find a QUEEN-size bed, so the porter phones down and we're changed to room 819, with single beds, and I decide I want SOMETHING more to eat, like a tart, and we go down to the bar and he has two Sexo Playas and I start with a chemical-tasting (hardly any rum) peach daiquiri, cold and nice, and nuts and an apple tart, and then I have a strawberry daiquiri, maybe more booze, and everyone in the hotel is VERY casual, so we're almost the best-looking and best-dressed of the bunch. Drinks to 12:20 and up to unpack a bit and bed at 12:42, really tired. Pee about 2AM.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 3: Up at 8AM in the cold, so I increase the temperature, since Ken talks to me when I get back in bed after peeing again, and unpack completely and fuss with the safe, manager finally coming up to unlock it (from the previous tenant, I guess) and we're down to breakfast in the pool area with a good buffet of cereals, yogurt, fruit, a cold wedge of Spanish omelet, lots of cold cuts, and sample some of Ken's tastes from the hot-plates like shredded beef and black beans, but nothing's really that tasty except the fruit, the GREAT hot chocolate poured from a pitcher so I don't have to worry about asking for more, and breads and butter and jam. Breakfast 9:30-10:15, and I'm to the concierge while he finishes his third cup of coffee, but when I ask for tours he gives me a hotel brochure which I show to Ken but he doesn't want one, and when I ask about El Avila, which both Ken's books says has shut down the teleferique, but one says it might come back, the concierge comes up with a map on which he marks the place, but says one has to take a jeep to get up there, which Ken hasn't wanted to do since we'll be doing just that on the rest of the trip. To Metro at Gran Sabana at 10:15, JUST missing a train, but another comes in about ten minutes and we get to the Bellas Artes station three stops away, me looking at a CUTE compact body below a NICE chest and close-cropped hair of a fellow "with a good body and he knows it," as Ken observed. To the Contemporary Art Museum after asking at the Hilton how to get there, walking poor-seeming streets and unbuilt-vacant lots and part-built constructions, and Ken says it DOES look poor. The top floors contain interesting op-art pieces that change when you walk past them, and I regret not having my videocamera along (my pockets are stuffed with my camera and my hat and wallet and spare battery and scotch tape and film). Then out to gardens and nice sculpture to the "real" collection of Picassos (the Vollard Collection of rather erotic male-minotaur and female, some rather explicitly fucking) and Rauschenbergs and Lichtensteins and Boteros. Pleasant place, avoiding the musical event from 11AM on, glad that it's FREE, and then to the shops where we look at books and I buy a 2000B book that neatly encapsulates the museum, which Ken kindly carries in his bag, which no one has made an attempt to snatch. Museum 10:30-12:15, and a Hilton car-driver offers to take us to the Botanic Gardens (for which he has to stop to ask directions!) for 6000B, which I say is OK, and we're there quickly and pay 1000 each to enter, and 2000 for the map, which is mainly wrong, since there's no arboretum allee as shown, and no exit at the bottom end which would let us out near a more-convenient subway station. Past nice desert plants, some flowering trees, a "flying strawberry" as Ken describes a red-backed lightning-bug lookalike, and I try the "nature trail" which peters out just at the National Herbarium, stacks of files filled with 10,000 herbs, and down to find the Orchidarium and the Bromelliad buildings both locked, and we get to Laguna Venezuela, full of fish and tadpoles, to find that exit "prohibited" and Ken REFUSES to pass the yellow barrier, so we walk all the way back, again admiring the CLEAR-CUT ant trails through the grass, some filled with files of leaf-cutters, and to the gate at 2 to look for a taxi, with most cars going IN to the University and a Hospital, but a taxi drives up, offers to take us to the hotel for 3500B, which Ken pays, and we're in to the Prosciuto Pasta restaurant for two WONDERFUL lemonades to assuage our thirsts, and Ken has the anchovy pizza, filling, and I have the fettucini with salmon (which tastes like anchovy) and bacon which is VERY tomatoey and filling (I don't finish, he does), and then two glasses of water and then he's upstairs to drop my book off and pick up an umbrella, and we're out about 3:30 to walk up to the shopping-mall street, turning right to see how far we can get to the center of town through ways that they say are impassable (though it was true that trying to walk from the Gardens to the Hotel would be terrible, along mainly throughway-type sidewalk-less car-busy routes). Take #29 "Colon en el golfo triste," which I don't know what it means, and the Caracas Teleport Building in the back. It REALLY looks like rain as we sit in the Gran Cafe with his coffee with coffee ice cream, and my coffee with vanilla ice and Sambuca, both with LOADS of whipped cream, and we watch the people pass, the firecrackers go off, the dark clouds begin to lighten at the bottom, and two bottles of gassy refreshing mineral water go down, but we're both rather tired, fearing to have had too much to enjoy dinner, which we'd decided to have in the hotel at the Spanish buffet rather than going out to eat a larger meal anywhere else. Walk back to the hotel, actually through a few drops of rain and maybe I should have gone back for MY umbrella, but it doesn't come down, just as the lunch waiter said it wouldn't (and Ken wanted to bring along the cute guy "sunbathing" with a cell phone by the pool, lending visual beauty to the green slopes over which the white clouds poured, covering over the defunct Avila-top Humbolt Hotel most of the time, so it was probably a DREARY place to stay. Tantalizing house at the base of a huge transmission tower near the top of the range that separates Caracas from the airport at the coast, though there's a "local" airport to the east to which smaller planes fly as we sit in the Gran Cafe, and FROM which planes fly as I sit and type as Ken just SITS from 5:30, when we get back to the hotel, til 6:45, now. Sort out bags for "past" and "future" now that I have a good bag from the museum book, suddenly realizing that TONIGHT I'll have to pack EVERYTHING because we're going to CANAIMA tomorrow! Finish organizing things, including throwing away the slightly smelly Radisson white flipflops and substituting the much warmer Gran Melia Caracas ones, which I somehow think will get a rise out of Ken when I wear them to dinner, for which we're leaving just after now, 7:27PM. Turns out that L'Albufera is CLOSED tonight (as it was for lunch), so we go to Sumire on the same floor, and Ken has the sushi special, advertised at 8 pieces and coming in at 12, and I got the tempura selection of yam, shrimp, said-to-be-grouper, but there were lots of pieces of salmon, and we had the Polar beer, though they didn't have the Polar Ice, which is 4%, but the Lager, which is 5%, and Ken had a second of Solera, at 6%. Food decent, waitress sweet, service slow but pleasant, and a FABULOUS colorful fish tank where the ten or twelve gorgeous patterns went out of their minds when food was dropped in from above. We ate and ate, and Carolina responded to our questions by estimating that the hotel was about 25% full, that business was bad since 9/11, that the place was suffering, but the bill was 83,000B, with which Ken put a 3000B tip, and we got back upstairs at 9PM, quite full, and Ken closes the curtains and allows the thermostat to be raised to 22.5, and I stop now at 9:05 to shower. Out at 9:25 and try to brush teeth to TV, which is advertised with 67 or so channels, and only ONE, ABC, is listed in the preview and IT doesn't come on at all. So I listen to Ken reading in his two guidebooks about Canaima and Roirama, and figure I'm dry enough at 9:50 to finish this and go to bed. Get to bed at 9:55, but putting in earplugs produces a VERY wet sound in my ears, and I think about it and get back up at 10 to take cotton "buds" to my ears, and then get back to bed. But can't sleep. Look at clock at 10:15, 10:30, try to do Actualism but don't really succeed, which may mean that I drop off to occasional sleep, but at midnight I get up and take a doxylamine, hoping for a better sleep.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 4: Look at clock at 1PM, twice in the 2s, many times in the 3s, pee twice, 4s, and finally phone rings with AUTOMATIC wakeup call at 5:15, and then when Ken goes into bathroom to cough and shit and shave, the phone rings AGAIN with an English voice at 5:20 to wake us up. I put on the comfortable bathrobe and open the drapes to a perfectly-black outside, with lots of cars and lights and stars, and start typing this about 5:26 and end at 5:31, beginning to pack. [Turn this on at 7PM on Monday, and when I hit "end" it ends on a perfectly blank space, and when I backspace repeatedly, it seems to skip up and down lines, so I try from the beginning to skip down lines until I get to where my typing stopped, and then go DOWN a line and hit continued backspace until it gets to the stopping point. Continue this for awhile, until I get tired of it, then go to END and just keep my fingers on backspace, and eventually the text comes into view at the top of the screen and I get back to where I was, where the down-arrow doesn't go anywhere because there's nowhere to go. So, back to journal.] Change socks, Vicks nose, wash face, and pack to 5:55, frantic but finished. To bar at 6: nothing's there! Ken settles for coffee, I say I'm going up to Mediterraneo, and sneak in a side door which is open and go toward the food. A tall porter in brown says "We don't open until 6:30." I explain about the bar having been supposed to serve us at 6AM but there was nothing there, and we had to leave soon and wanted breakfast.  He kept saying no, though I was making perfect sense, and finally I push past him and say tartly "Report me," and put fruit on a plate and take a yogurt and sit at a table. Guy comes over and asks if I want coffee. "Actually, I'd really like some hot chocolate." "Very well sir," and he comes back with a small pitcher which he leaves on the table! I go back for more fruit, the ice-cold Spanish omelet, cold cuts, and part of a lovely fresh-baked nut strudel or roll, and Ken finally comes up and starts in also, we both finish by 6:40, to the room and down at 6:45 to chipper Michele at the bar. Check out with no charges and to car---HIS car---at 6:48. Ken's bag FILLS the entire small back space. Three other bags onto the death seat and we're squeezed in the back and drive through the city until we hit traffic, Michele driving VERY fast and weaving in and out, talking all the while about how Chavez is milking the country dry of funds, inflation is at the rate of 50% a year, and everyone wants to get rid of him. To domestic airport at 7:30, he had to go around twice, and quickly check in and to lounge at 7:45, the fact that the government is "vulgar" and a "malediction" ringing in our ears. I tell him that the US has the Republicans who are doing exactly the same thing. Long wait for 10:30 departure, read, do puzzles, read Sunday Times magazine, and at 9:30 go to shit. See Ken dashing toward where we had been seated, and he says "Board says we leave at 9:30!" I say "Shit," and we're down and around to gate 5C and get to waiting area, to find we don't leave til later, to shit, rather loose, taking a warning, at 9:35. Sunday doublecrostic a snap. Flight called at 10:15 and into bus and off the ground at 10:35, all 30 of us. We fly over the Caribbean for a long stretch to get past the mountains, and when we finally turn inland Caracas is only a dull blur in the distant valley, which I crawl over two women to photo. Then over trackless mountains, but then lots of streams and farms and towns, some even with apartment towers in their centers, and I'm surprised at the degree of settlement. Pilot announces that we can come to the cabin if we want, and Ken says gleefully, "We're sure to see the falls from the plane!" Guy in front of me gets in for a long time, then I snap a picture of the Orinoco from the front, then from the right side, then twice from the left side, finishing up #35-37 and starting Roll #2, telling Ken that was a stroke of luck, because I only had seven pictures left at the end of the previous roll. #1 LAKE at 11:35, and he said we'd land at 11:45, so we'll be late, and start down at 11:42. I go to the doorway and the captain starts talking to me, showing me where Angel Falls is in the distance, while I miss Canaima airstrip on the right, but he lowers toward the clouds as tepuys rise onto the skyline through the clouds and he notes that there's be some turbulence. I ask if I can stay, and he merely says "Watch your head, don't bump it." He swings around corners as I alternate taking photos and videos as the scenery gets wilder and wilder, whole cliffsides falling beside us as we fly lower in the valleys, and then round a turn and there's the top and then the entire length of Angel Falls, which I can barely get into a single shot, and keep shooting as he sails past, saying he'll return on the other side, and he turns WAY on the side and I brace myself in the doorway and photo as much as I can, thankful that my battery is holding out, and he returns while I return to my seat which seems to have the better view, and take even more pictures while Ken says "Obviously you got some good pictures," and I gurgled. Photo to #18 and video to 10:04. Land at 12:10---a LONG time! and take picture of the pilot, and Ucaima Hotel kid (who's Devo, all of 18!) picks us up and leads us to Alfredo, who's fairly incompetent, looking like a stupid Alberto Molina. Into an open-back truck and get to hotel at the top of the hill after stopping for a great overlook, taking photos all along, at 12:47. Get a welcome Ucaima Punch, rather intoxicating, and to room 10 at 1:08. Unpack to 1:25. To lunch 1:30, sitting with the white woman and Japanese man from Brazil who'd lived in Philadelphia for years. Chicken and salsa from yuca and green beans and rice and jello, which Ken hates, and video loros and rest before putting on swimsuit under pants and leaving for boat trip at 3PM, leaving actually early. We ride on the boat to a waterfall where we hike to the edge and sit under the foaming brim, Ken videoing me, and then walk to another falls where we actually walk UNDER the falls, great scene of people walking ahead with water CASCADING frm top right to lower left, green mosses streaming from the cliff-edge, wet rocks under slippery feet, and COLD water until you get used to it. Watch others, video lots, and then down to the beach to look at a frog, wade in the tea-water, and trek back to the lake for a boat which takes us past at LEAST a dozen other falls, videoing all of them frantically as the sun lowers, and get to the beach to wait for the truck that drops people back in the village (of 1700) of Canaima. Back to the cabin at 6:17, exhausted, and Ken shits and I do AGAIN and take an Imodium, and then shower in the COLD water and type lots before Ken returns at 7:25 to say dinner is about to be served, and up to the bar to drink an even stronger Camaima Punch, talk about my travels, mostly, and then to dinner with Merluzzo, Hake, bony, and potatoes and salad which we all eat lots of, and a final flan which Ken doesn't like but which is nicely sweet. Talk with the couple who have to leave at 10AM, while WE have to be wakened at 5AM to leave before 6 to get our day in before dark. Back to the room at 8:50, tired, but determined to type the rest of this, and Ken finds his top dop kit had fallen into the toilet, so I relent and get out the Swiss Army knife and the corkscrew manages to remove the cap from the impossible water bottles. Lend him my flshlight for his john worries, and I finish this at 9PM, absolutely ready for bed after not sleeping well last night. AND if we're wakened at 5 and I DO sleep, it WILL be 8 hours! Bed at 9:05 and sleep FAIRLY quickly.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 5: Wake at 12:12AM when Ken puts on the flashlight to go to the bathroom, and again about 3AM when he goes and there's the wonderful sound of rain that I listen to for a bit. Then get knocked up at 5:15AM, with the memory of a few dreams: first I forget, then later I'm looking at a TV listing that has some interesting programs but I'm not sure what channel they're on or how the listings are organzed. I want to see a program called "Universe" which starts at 4:40PM, but it's 5:35 so I guess I've missed it. Ken complains about the ants around the toilet, stomps them, and a LARGE black ant comes scurrying out around my bed. I'm amazed that I didn't get up to pee AT ALL during the night, and despite the imodium I feel that I have to shit this morning, so it's not totally binding. He's in the bathroom with the door open until I (I hope suggestively) close it. Type til 5:28, legs sore from the climbing about on the hillsides yesterday. Hope to see Angel Falls from the GROUND today! Ken finally lets me into the john at 5:35 and I have a decent shit, then pack with knife for the bottle of water, while Ken enumerates a long-sleeve shirt, a whole roll of toilet paper, and other remarkable things. To breakfast at 5:45AM. [Simply INCREDIBLE day, with my valuable time-table blown to the wind with the spray from Salto Angel. Higher than I would have dreamed, more volume that I thought possible.] Delicious hot chocolate and CRACKERS and jelly to 6, river actually FULL and up over a FOOT (though others say TWO feet) from yesterday. Off at 6:02, the two of us and four attendants, Devo thankfully one of them, and Ruby, Frank's grandson (second of three, each progressively LARGER, per Devo), manning the 40-horsepower motor on the best, lightest canoe, though not as good as it could be with the 48-horsepower motor. Deliciously cool, though three of the four guides are wearing jackets, and it even rains a few drops as we make our way toward an ominously dark sky whch has me thinking how to accept a totally clouded Angel Falls if we're faced with it. Continue up, and even Devo says it may rain, and the few drops are the last of it. I forgot my pills with the crackers, but they say we'll stop along the way for breakfast, so I make sure I remember to take them then. Out of boat at 6:15 since it has to traverse the worst rapids without any tourists aborad, and we walk across a sandy mostly-level peninsula, being passed by a tractor pulling a zebra-striped bus that's obviously used by another tour company to transport THEIR passengers across the unpassable rapids. As opposed to the "the Disaster" of another company that Devo describes: they're paid off in rum and gin, and they have to DRINK rum and gin to be EMPLOHYED by them, and thus everything is slightly fucked, and mostly a disaster. Walk across 6:15-6:45, and get back on the boat at 6:47. Ken and I alternate in front, and at about 7:30 we stop at a encampment where two British guys and two Swiss gals (traveling together) had slept overnight, to have breakfast, and when I go to make a note of the time, Ken tells me that I'd dropped my pen in the boat, and I was vaguely annoyed he didn't say anything to me about it THEN. When I get back to the boat and search for it, one of the Pimon guides had put it on the gunwale for me to pick up. Anyway, I borrow Ken's pen and say Breakfast stop with a hard-boiled egg generously offered by a Swiss who insisted she couldn't eat them, so Ken and I each took one, and hear the story of lightning hitting the water tower last night, and not hitting the shelter which has iron poles surrounded by concrete, so if lightning struck it, it could go down the poles and produce concrete shrapnel, to 8:10. Then back in boat for the longest distance, Ken sitting in front and having trouble sitting upright though I keep insisting that if he'd straighten his back to a rigidly upright position, as I'd learned to do in that position, he'd be more comfortable, but he found it impossible, so much so that a few times, as we got to rougher rapids, he actually fell backward almost into my lap, inciting a querulous "Ken!" from me and a responsive "I can't HELP it," from him. The clouds are mostly gathered at a low level around the tepuis (Devo said it meant table top), and I fear still that the falls will be invisible. Some falls ARE visible, and I wondered how they could decide which was the tallest, and Ken informs me that the literature said that Natinal Geographic came down to check out Jimmy Angel's claim and established it to be the highest, at just under 1000 meters. But recalling that the pilot said there were as many as 3000 falls, some of which did appear to be VERY high, made it somewhat questionable, but not as definite as "Nordkapp being the farthest north point when Kniveskjellen was obviously FARTHER north." Sometmes the clouds cleared, sometimes the clouds completely obscured the tepuis. I took photos and videos, but when we got off the boat at 9:50, Ken complaining that he was totally incapacitated, I'd tried to rewind a film that I'd snapped the 37th photo on, and it went down from 36-35-34, and then FLICKED to ZERO, when clearly it had not rewound! I tried clicking it again and again, but it wouldn't work, so in desperation I put the camera into my A&K bag and opened it to feel that the film IN FACT wasn't rewound, so I PULLED it from the takeup reel and tried to STUFF it back into the empty spool, but THAT didn't work, so I wrapped the spare film around the spool and as darkly as possible wrapped the whole thing in a black bag that Devo insisted was for OUR use and he REALLY didn't need it. Then I tried putting in ANOTHER roll of film and it would CLICK but wouldn't progress beyond ZERO, and of course I didn't remember that it would usually wind to ONE, and not zero, so it wasn't ON right? But when I opened it, again hoping to be in the dark, it had wound SOME around, but it just wasn't REGISTERING. Then I tried putting the extra-long end-film in and it came up "E" on the screen, so I couldn't figure what to do, tried to jam IT back into the spool, and happily settled on winding the SPINDLE which wound it back up, at which point Ken asked "HOW long have you had this camera?" and I could only respond "THIS never happened before," and thwn went on to complain that the LAST time the camera "broke" was on the Mauritius HELICOPTER flight, almost as important as THIS, and WHY did this unluck happen to lucky ME? So I resigned myself to the fact that the camera didn't work, satisfied that I'd be taking mostly videos anyway, and we took off into the bush at about 10:05AM. Came to streams, crossed with Ken splashing down into the water, and then to LAKES which we chose to go around one way or another. Up and up, more and more tired, Ken complaining that the muscles of his legs were RUINED by his position in the boat, and I felt pretty good, running ahead at times, and we went ON and ON and finally got to milestone 4 at which point we rested, and I asked if I could go ahead and Devo said Yes. I went on as the sound of the falls got louder and louder, we could SEE the rapids below us and white ahead of us, and the "rain" got heavier and heavier until it was a real STORM by the time I got to the overlook and GASPED at the DOZEN mouths of water from the top sending down a COMB of fall which seemed to concentrate in LITTLE falls in the middle third, off to the right, and then a TORRENT over a cliff just above us with an INCREDIBLE amount of water, which clearly came from this falls alone. When the wind shifted slightly, we could see the WHOLE fall down the center, but it was a real STORM in our faces, and our glasses were totally impossible, people didn't stay around for long, our shirts and pants got TOTALLY soaked, I'd put my A&K bag in a plastic bag long before, and finally risked gettng out the camcorder to get a WET, hopefully VAGUELY readable record of my point of view, and then kept STARING as the water and winds came and went, there about 11:15-11:30, and then Devo insisted it had taken us an hour and a half to get there, he saying we started at 10:45, but I couldn't prove a thing since at a horrifying moment I looked down to a white flutter on my left chest to see my note-card take flight flutteringly on the rain-wind and blow down the hill out of sight! Blessed Devo took out after it and returned it to me quickly, and I put it into the red plastic bag, hoping it wouldn't run too much (which it didn't, since I just finished typing the notes from it). So we started back at 11:30, and I was sure we'd be back to the river by 1, but even MY legs were terribly painful, and we went down and down and FINALLY came to the two railings that I remembered, and AT LAST came to the three lakes, which were more like five, and the two streams, which were more like seven, and we got to the river-edge at JUST 12:59, but then had to go to the side to get the boat and get across the river to a wonderful complex including a dark bed-area, where I transferred yet another film into my camera, finally getting it to "A great 2," which Ken laughed at and explained to the newly arrived Sylvia and her Japanese husband was a shit rather than a piss. I was TERMINALLY dry inside and wet outside and had a bottle of water, then a lemon-lime drink, then a coke, then ANOTHER coke, and finally had some of the good fried chicken and a few bits of tomato and onion, and then out at 1:55 to take some videos and more slides, and then just STARE at the endlessly braided falls, possible only because they were so high, and Ken and I stared rapt for many minutes, until Devo, upping his ante from his previously-stated 2:30, said we could leave at 2, and I took the front seat as we raced away from the increasingly cloudy rear, past INCREIBLE vistas of tepuis which had been obscured by clouds earlier in the day, but were now visible in all their glory with as many as 7 or 8 falls on one face at one time, at various angles and glories and sun-shines and cloudednesses, and then at 4 we stopped at the Happy Pool and he dived in for the benefit of the other women who came up with a humpy guide who stripped to the barest underwear before putting on his bathing suit and jumping into the tea-water which Devo said was VERY cold. He took me to the top for more photos, and then we were back to the boat, where he said we'd stop for more falls, but we got to the peninsula, he refused our taking the rapids: "If someone saw, I'd be in trouble," and we walked there 4:15-4:45, then into the boat, and back to home at 4:59, EXHAUSTED, and Ken went to change while I gratefully drank their two cups of hot chocolate expressly prepared for me, then Ken returned to refuse his special-made coffee in exchange for a Canaima Punch, which I had one of, and we went to the lawn chairs to enjoy the sunset, invisible to the west, the gathering clouds which obscured most stars, the lightning from the near right, the vaguely lightning overall, and the bats over the water and the lightning bugs when I went to look while Ken took my shoes and ONE sock back to the room, leaving the Times which Sylvia had left with Alfredo for me and which HE had to bring out while I was drinking. We agreed that dinner at 7PM would be better than 7:30, I STILL didn't go back, even taking off my shoes and socks, and we had GREAT onion soup, good beef with gravy and salsa, mixed overdone vegetables, and cheesed-over potatoes, with a gingerbread/chocolate/other cake, and I had two beers, Ken had only water, and back to the cabin at 8 while Ken washed his hair in the sink and I typed, after shitting only a little bit, and Ken didn't want to hear about the duck-head turd that I was tempted to give to him to give to Jay, lamenting his dog Taxi's prolonged death, while Ken wasn't willing to contact the Animal Psychic he heard on TV, and I typed away, while Ken complained and started snoring, to 8:50, aware that the light might be turned off at 9PM, which would be the hour after we left the dining room, since they refused to turn it on until after dark, at least 6:10, when Ken complained he couldn't even see to change clothes. I feel VERY dirty and don't know what I'll do after I finish typing now at 8:51, hearing the wind outside build to what might be another evening's satisfying rain-sound. Take a long time getting to sleep, but do it, because when Ken goes to the john I wake and look at my watch to see that it's 10:30PM. Quickly back to sleep.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 6: Wake at 3:30 and pee, and take a LONG time to get back to sleep, waking at 5:30 (ALREADY over 8 hours sleep) with an erection and the memory of a wonderfully erotic dream. I'd met someone in an orgy bar, even after it was supposed to be closed, and we played and got hard and sucked, but then I had to leave and met some "straight" guy in some position of authority, but he looked at me with a strange smile, sort of seductive, so I reached over and started playing with his nipples through his soft cotton shirt, and he loved it, so the shirt came off, and his pants, and I started sucking on his erection, which got larger and larger, as did mine, and we both got close to cuming but said we wanted to play more, and he got absolutely enormous and I decided to take it ALL, feeling the cock fill my mouth down to the uvula, and then I just opened up and took it all to the pubic bone, and he felt wonderful and I felt wonderful, and I woke and marveled at my enormous erection right there in bed, and lay against it with pleasure and thought about yesterday's pleasures, especially the moment of sheer tear-filled joy when in the boat I looked out at a clear tepui wall with lots of waterfalls visible and thought with enormous clarity: "Here I am, at last, in Venezuela, about to see Angel Falls from up close, and it's just been a WONDERFUL life, and I'm just ENORMOUSLY lucky, and the tears almost fell, and I knew if I spoke a word, it would be choked by my tears. Lay and thought, then fell asleep again as I started trying Actualism, but didn't get anywhere with it before I woke again in broad daylight and didn't need to light my watchface to see that it was 6:30AM. Lay thinking that I wanted to eat breakfast early and get into Canaima and rent a plane to FLY past the falls, so I could see the turnings of the rivers below and the entire falls from the closeness of a small plane, and got out of bed at 6:50 to go into the john and shit a few small turds, pee, and worry about the red area on my right thumb that I'd noticed yesterday which may be a splinter or a bug bite, but with something inside the skin that would probably better be pried out than left in to fester. Also a very itchy area to the left of my right middle finger, some insect bite, as well as an itchy right calf where the skin had been broken. Even the right just-below-elbow was slightly swollen with the scratch there. Hope things don't become infected. Finish this by 7:05, ready to get into the day. Oh, and stopped the toilet-bowl leak, which I'd let trickle from my 3AM pee, I think. Pack and repack and Ken's up, refusing to consider flying over Angel Falls in "dangerous planes," according to Michele. Give him a plastic bag for his damp jeans (I wear mine) and my extra nametag-linkage, which I have to teach him how to use. Finish putting everything together at 8AM, having run my tape forward to find I have 22 minutes left, more than enough for today's charge. To breakfast at 8:05. Have it right away: cantaloupe juice, two fried eggs with a fried corncake, and slices of ham and cheese, with two cups of hot chocolate and a glass of water, for each of which they charged us 800B, rather steep for a quarter-liter of water! Then Miguel, the bartender, offered to show us the road to the tiny airstrip, past flowering bushes and trees, birds, and the graves of the founder and his wife. Back to be shown the turtles by Alfredo and tried to see the iguanas in the trees, but failed. Pay the bill, 53,460B, rather steep $40 for two night's drinks. WAS cool and dry, but by the time I type this at 9:40AM I'm dripping wet and we're to leave at 10AM, so we have to wrestle the bags down by that time. Got everything packed, bluejeans drying on my body but getting wetter by the moment. Miguel opines that the bumps on my thumb are insect bites and NOT splinters, which relieves me a bit. SWEET guy. Devo will see us to the airport, and we decided to give him $50US between the two of us. I'd like to have more water, but will wait for the airport, still hoping to be able to fly over the falls before our flight departs. Leave cabin 9:47, onto boat at 9:55, across to leave off a girl from another camp, and onto truck at 10:07, just above the lip of the falls, most of which I can't tell the difference of, even when I see them in postcards. Get to the airport at 10:25 and Devo offers to drive us to the souvenir shop in Maturin at 10:30, where Ken buys two tee shirts for 35000B and I buy four postcards (none of Angel Falls) for 1600B. Then to the airport, taking #15 of the entrance sign, then to find that there's NO reserved seats on the flight! Same as ours, due to leave at noon, even though we didn't ARRIVE until 12:15. The four from breakfast yesterday arrive too, and the place is full of people waiting, with the bar closed so there's nothing to drink. Buy two Angel Falls postcards for 500B at the airport shop, along with a good area map for 1000B. Sit to finish doing this at 11:03, long time still to wait, but there's a cool breeze in the shade, but babies' crying. A somewhat smaller Avior plane, only EIGHT windows on the door-side, comes in at 11:04, and Devo knows that it comes from Cuidad Bolivar, and about 20 dazed tourists get off. INCREDIBLE guy starts talking about the small furry animal, some sort of night-moving maybe marsupial, and then he sys he's from Oklahoma and has been here 40 years. He had something to do with the borning diamond mining which had been individual until some time in the 60s, when the government took over and began to give out concessions. He'd been married, but when I asked whether his wife came here with him, he dismissed her by saying "It didn't work out, we got a divorce." THEN he mentions the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and I tell him that it's now an industrial complex, and he tells me what I take to be a true series of incredible adventures: to Norfolk for only 6 weeks of officer's training, then to Pearl Harbor, then to the invasion of Guadalcanal (or was that AFTER the escort of four oil tankers through Gibraltar for the battle which was to take place at El Alemain? He talked of radar which waited for the German submarines to come close, then they dropped depth charges on them and waited for them to surface, then blew them out of the water. Somewhere there was a station in the Aleutians, but not on Attu, maybe Unalaska? with winds so high that a number of PBYs were lost on landing in the storms. He constantly used the word "Anyway" to continue with another segment of the tale. Ken came and listened for a bit, then decided he was boring and moved away. I got tired toward noon when our plane came in with the same stewardess but a different pilot, so I excused myself and we shook hands two or three times and wished each other luck, particularly since he wasn't sure he could get back to Norfolk for the reunion of people on his ship which would take place in December. Free seating, so I'm sure I'm first on the plane and claim seat 2A, same as before, and Ken chooses the other side and we're only 10 pasengers. We're aboard so quickly that we're off at 12:05, told a 1:30 flight, but we go off the wrong way, so at the turn at the end of the runway I leap from the left side to the right side, the stewardess not saying a word, and take a video of the airport and falls and receding tepuis as we take off straight north without any deviations to see anything. Clouds fairly heavy, but still good views over farms and rivers and villages and some spectacular cloud-scapes which I photograph since I don't have to save film for more tepuis. Almost straight north because at 1:13 we're over the Caribbean and I switch back to my seat, no view of Caracas at all this far to the east, and we fly along the coast into mounting clouds, but the sea-level landing is clear over skyscrapers filmed at 1:36. Find luggage sitting by the door at 1:50, but no Michele to be seen in the lobby. We wait and wait, and Ken decided to phone him on the cell phone after trying the two "office" numbers and finding they're both out of order. But to make a cell-phone call he has to buy a special card for 5000B and go to a particular telephone. I sit and watch all the luggage, and then Michele walks in, smilng apologetically, at 2:06, so I race to find Ken coming out of the booth, havng left a message already. He "chats" about the nonworking phone numbers until I'm almost ready to say "Can't we talk in the car?" and then we move out. To Melia Hotel at 3:05, Michele having called his office, the transportation, his friend Enrique, and his wife, to say that we can go up to El Avila this afternoon. Ken had wanted to go to the museums and churches, but I said he had to tempt me with something worthwhile, and he later said he was VERY glad I pushed for El Avila and was disappointed with the two guidebooks for not saying it was as spectacular as it was. I suggested that MOST guidebooks tended to emphasize the real TOURIST spots and ignore the local picturesque places because they ARE mainly used by locals. To room 718, making sure it has two beds at 3:15, and DASH to unpack, me piling everything onto the top shelf of the closet and emptying my bed, which meant that my bed wasn't turned down and I got no chocolate when we finally returned. We change clothes, take jackets for the cool of evening on Avila, and put stuff away, recharging my camera, by 3:32, and to elevator 3:35. To car at 3:42 and to sandwich shop at 4:05, since Ken said he only wanted ice cream instead of lunch so we could enjoy dinner this evening, but we were both seduced by the little sandwiches, and Michele bought our tiny sandwiches, his of pastrami, mine of prosciutto and buffalo cheese and tomatoes, and his Coke for only 600B and my tangerine juice for 800B, and we paid for Michele's sandwich too since he said he was paying for our dinners, though when Ken asked on the way back, he said the full-day trip was $90 and the half-day was maybe $70, and maybe he could accept Ken's American Express card. TV is all politics, and I videoed the chief of the local workers' union being interviewed in the hotel lobby as we left. 11,000+B bill by 4:35PM and to Hotel Avila, past two security stands, to meet Enrique with his TRUCK at 5PM which forced Ken and me to sit on side-seats in the back, holding on for dear life as we climbed and descended, making sure we didn't bump our heads, as we were warned about after Ken bumped his. Up wonderfully rich neighborhoods in Altamira, great new apartment buildings and sections built "in the style of the 50s" and along the city boundary of the Avila Park, which road is closed on Sundays for walkers, cyclists, and families. Then past the Guardia Civil which supposedly checks that everyone's in four-wheel drives, and up the seven-year-old concrete block road that goes up in hairpin curves almost STRAIGHT up past increasingly impressive views down over Caracas. To a mirador at 6PM where the sun was JUST settng into the western clouds, unfortunately, because a little later it could have been a FABULOUS sunset without clouds. Take photos and videos endlessly, then back to truck to some parts of dirt roads and to an old coffee-grower's plantation which was now a public recreation area, and then up to Galipan, supposedly patterned after the flower-growing slopes of Tenerife, housing people who had been living there before the park so they were permitted to continue living there. Stop for blackberry (mora) juice, strong and intense, at 6:40, and then around to the Galipanier Restaurant to find that the dermatitis convention had taken over the dining room which looked down (except it was quite black outside) over the Caribbean through open windows, but they offered us seats on the patio which we took at 7:10PM. Ken refused to have the fondues for which the place was famous, so he had the pork which turned out to be a huge slab of ribs, and I had the young veal with both having the butter-fried new potatoes and a purple salad, and Ken heard they had wine and they recommended the Beaujolais for 27,000B which Ken didn't like and I figured was just like the cherry pop it usually is. The music was deafening until finally Ken was so sick of it he gave me permission to unhook one of the wires, silencing it, which had been done before because one wire was QUITE loose. Then the chocolate fondue for dessert was quite overwhelming: half milk chocolate, half bitter chocolte, with pineapple, raspberries which didn't quite go with the chocolate, strawberries, and melon, with another plate (oh, had a tray of three salsas with the grills: avocado-colored, a piquant salsa like the one at Canaima, and a light one they called Bearnaise but had some zip to it to my taste). Very good service, and the guy who served the fondue was an absolute doll, as was one of the bocce players we salivated over (and he knew it!) on the way up. We finish at 9:01, but when we pay for the wine, shared with Michele, and he pays for the meal, the waiter offers Limoncello and I almost get too much alcohol by 9:14, feeling slightly woozy on the rocky way down in the total darkness, sometimes meeting cars which had to back up to let us pass, down and down to the gate of the park, then down more streets, surprisingly busy, including two Hasids on the way to a synagogue, to the car at 9:40, and I hope I can survive, and get to the hotel at 10 and bed at 10:25, leaving a wakeup call for 6:45, having energy only to brush my teeth.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7: Pee at 2:30, up again to record dream previously noted: 4:25AM: incredibly long, detailed dream of my attending some kind of conciousness-raising session with someone like a combination of Leonard Orr and Timothy Leary and Baba Ram Dass, who's somewhat of a charlatan but also has some good stuff to pass along, and it's coming to the end of the evening---but before, someone at the end of my row of seats has a large glassine envelope of grass, and he's passing it around so we can all take some, and I take out a handful, which turns out to be grass "disguised" or "cut" with ordinary leaves, I suppose to make it less suspicious to an outsider, and I put lots into my breast pocket, glad to have it for later---and I'm sitting rather by myself, but people are leaving and I think I'm going to be among the last to leave, which would somehow prove that I was among the most developed of the audience, and people are moving from chair to chair, and I see a broken down dining room chair to one side and sit in it, rather wishing that someone would have some contact with me, and someone comes and stands behind me, and I mentally wish him to touch me, and he gently begins to rub the back of my neck, and I fantasize this will develop into something wonderful, but after a few gentle kneadings he stops, and I paranoiacally think he's found my neck too fat, or my chin too fleshy, and was turned off by it. Before that, I'd tried other seats, but they turned out to be damaged in some way and I didn't want to continue to sit there. Some rather revelatory things were said during the session that I might have wanted to remember, but I can't remember any of them now. More details remained in my head directly after I woke and lay comfortably in bed, but I forget them now, typing on the john in the comfortable temperature of the room in Caracas, at 4:34AM, having peed a bit and not inclined to shit, and having blown my nose and inspected my insect-bites to see they're not getting worse. Up at 6:42 to shit and shower to 7:02, phone ringing twice to wake us. We pack speedily to 7:18, and to breakfast at 7:20. Back to room at 7:51, Ken eatng about TWICE what I had, with good thick hot chocolate and a glass of water. To lobby at 7:55, to car at 8, and to the airport at 8:40, finding no parking in the waiting area, so Michele has to drive back around to the parking lot at 8:52, quick HOT outside, Ken still keeping on his jacket. Ken has to buy bandaids, where we try in three different places, and they sell them individually, and he gets ten for his abraded heel from his shoes. Then to check in, asking for window seats not over the wing, and she gives us 4A and 4C, which I observe IS over the wing, and Michele compliments me on my powers of observation, and we're changed to two window seats in the REAR so we can BOTH look out. Typing goes well until 9:56, now, when we should have boarded by 9:50. Forgot that we picked up the English newspaper from our doorknob on the way to breakfast, where we had a depressing conversation about the stupidity of people putting the Republicans in charge of the Senate with 51 assured seats, and he talks of the resignation of the SEC chairman for some reason which I could hve intuited, and I respond in my normal way: "I only hope that things get SO bad with the greedy politicians that the populace begins constructing guillotines!" He says I should know the details, but I retort that it only soldified what I already know! Graffiti on the way alternately praises and vilifies Chavez, who thinks he's the reincarnation of Bolivar! And one place had the word "goy" whose "o" was replaced by an "a", but Ken said it couldn't have meant what I thought it might mean. Now at gate 5C, same as before, a flight to Canaima is announced at 10AM and we're still waiting for our 10:10AM flight, which should only be 1:10, since Merida, contrary to my opinion, is closer to Caracas than Canaima. We're due back at the Melia on the 12th, so maybe we only have one internal flight before our departure? Vaguely apprehensive on the road to the airport, such CRAZY drivers and wouldn't it be ironic to be killed in a traffic accident on the way to the Caracas airport? Guess I have too much time to think, since both Ken and Michele were quiet during most of the drive, except when I asked about the "Distrito Federal" on the license plates. Decide to put this away at 10:03, since we should be leaving any minute. Flight called at 10:11, board from bus at 10:15, 19 seats, each at a window today, as opposed to 30 yesterday. No stewardess, two pilots. Take off at 10:21. #24 airport. LOTS of cities and airfields, then clouds at many levels and finally Andes peaks, one with snow on top (which a passenger says is Pico Bolivar). Land at 11:30, trying to get GUM off my shirt which had been on the seatbelt in seat 8A. Tell English-speaking pilot about it and he thanks me. My video film is at the very end as we land. NEW city. Pee and baggage starts at 11:41. Danny arrives at 11:49, when Ken was thinking of calling either the hotel or the tour agency, and she and Al apologize, but THEIR schedule had us arriving at 11:55, not 11:15. We're to Hotel Belensate at 12:06, and Jerry, the owner of Montana Tours, Eco-Voyagers' local agency, seems to be trying to get us special accommodations in El Castillo, but the desk clerk seems to say no and no and no, because of the 28-member soccer group, perhaps, so he gives us room 71 and a bellhop trundles Ken's monster down corridors and across plazas and along apartments and through a gate, across a road, and down a flight of stairs to Room 71, in a basement (but not the deepest basement) of what had been the first building of the hotel, and it turns out to have two bedrooms, a balcony looking over a jungle, and the sounds from a just-hidden highway past the jungle. Ken is talking about something or other and I excuse myself to go to the john, since I've been suffering some kind of intestinal difficulty---gas, faint discomfort, slight urge to defecate---for the past few hours, having debated shitting in the airport while waiting for someone from Montana Tours to show up, but urinating relieved most of the pressure, so I waited until the hotel. Didn't make any obscene noises before everyone but Ken left, and found the toilet-paper dispenser quite comforable, but also found a stream of water (?) on the floor from the base of the toilet to a nearby drain. Danny said she'd be waiting for us in the lobby to take us to lunch, so I quickly decide to take the bedroom away from the noise, but unfortunately get the one with the two lights from outside shining directly in the single window shaded by ineffectual thin curtains---I think for the second night I'll try draping the bedcover over the curtain-rod. Throw things away, hang things up, and get to the lobby at 12:40, to the car at 12:45, a high-doored (each entrance is almost a high-kick followed by a trailing-leg assist with a hand; each exit an almost-leap to the ground) four-wheel drive, and drive to the Mercado Principal, where we go up three flights to the top restaurant, comprised of six kitchens with slightly different menus on display, and she patiently explains each so that Ken gets a chopped-meat patty wrapped around cheese, and I get the Pabellon (rice: white, beans: black, beef; brown, as an all-colored tribute to the multi-colored people of Merida, just as the flag, she explains, is the blue of the sky, the yellow of the soil with the seven stars of the seven provinces, and the red of the blood of those killed defending their country). We also get mixed juice-drinks, my blackberry and strawberry somewhat better than Ken's strawberry and orange. As we're eating, police enter and force two young men from a neighboring table out into the corridor for a frisk with their hands up against the wall. One disappears around the corner, the other stands stoically as the cops ask questions of him, his girlfriends, others at his table, and unpack their shopping bags of teeshirts and something of fur. Danny explains that many fugitives come to Merida from Caracas, thinking they're safe, but their descriptions have been sent to the Merida force, which is very conscientious about searching for these thieves, and maybe this group looked like them. When it dies down we get more bottled water to drink and say we'll meet her downstairs at the juice stand that sells quail eggs and bull's eyes mixed with various aphrodisiacs which were of some promise to young growing men. We wander around the top floor, into and out of shops, and at one end I see three police cars, one for each of the suspects, and about a dozen milling policemen, many in bulletproof vests, and a particularly obnoxious plainclothes photographer who resorted to pulling hair and ordering nearby police to rough-house one poor fellow who didn't want his photograph taken, and he was punched and pummeled while I KNEW that the worst thing I could do would be to take out my videocamera to start recording such contretemps. Ken joined me, we watched while nothing much more happened, and then looked through the remaining two floors and met Danny and got back to the car about 2PM. Then she said that today's tour of Merida would concentrate on the northern, more colonial, part of the city, and she parked in a garage and we got out to walk a few streets and got to the Museo de Arte Colonial in a former General's house, restored as a museum by the government, containing old religious items, paintings, desks, chests, and a few other pieces of furniture from colonial Merida, Venezuela, and even Peru and Bolivia. Then down a couple streets to the Casa de Los Antiguos Gobernadores, which had a series of rooms with a series of pictures of the mayors of Merida, the presidents of Venezuela, and the directors of various universities for which the city is known, 35,000 of the 300,000 inhabitants being students at the University of the Andes, whose graduation room we visited as well as the gardens of the Rectorado and another formal central garden linked to it. Then down the street of shoes to the Plaza Bolivar, after visiting the Basilica Menor "Inmaculada Concepcion" patterned after the Cathedral of Toledo, but built only 70 years ago, so the stonework is modern and the metalwork on the balconies new and impressive. Sadly, the high nave-transept is being repaired, so the height can't be seen. The Plaza was small and pleasant, and we later went into another church where a nun was leading a group of women in prayer. Walk until I'm quite tired, maybe seeing some more sites I don't remember, and get back in the car to find a parking place on the street to go around the corner to the Heladeria Coromoto, written up on the Merida map she gave me as a "Libro de Record Guinnes" which offers 110 ice cream flavors a day from a total of 780 flavors shown on a wall which I take a video of after eating my double-dip of ham-and-cheese atop champagne, not liking Ken's shrimp (ugh! cream of shrimp!) atop cheese-and-spaghetti, which tasted, or textured, more like cheese-and-rice. Videoed the prices, something like 1200B for a double dip, and wished we had something like it in NYC. Cute daddy attracted my eye. To the hotel at 5:20, Danny saying that she'd pick us up at 9AM tomorrow morning for a trip to the outskirts of town, agreeing that we could do the teleferique on Saturday morning. Ken wants to go to the bar, so I put on my Melia slippers and we go for Ken's rum punch and my sweet-and-dry half-and-half Martini vermouth, the first of which we drink in the bar listening to the German group across the way and the "Merida beat" type of salsa music which Ken likes enough to want a CD of, and the second out beside the pool until it begins to rain. I start reading the book Jerry gave me, and then we go to dinner at 7:10, where I start with a great cream of asparagus soup and Ken has an enormous salad (lettuce, tomato, a creamy avocado that Danny says IS different, onion, garlic, etc), then he has the Mediterranean trout which he doesn't like but finishes, and I have the orichetti with ham and mushrooms and tomato sauce which is quite filling. Ken wants white wine, but they just have two bottles from Chile, and he chooses the La Huerta for 27,000B which he doesn't care for but which is OK by me. I keep glancing back at the History Channel's presentation of crop circles, which Ken says he's never heard of until I remind him of what they are. Too full for dessert and back at 8:50 in the rain, my slippers getting sopping, and I pick up a Newsweek in English about the DC snipers, but get back to read the book on his bed because the light's the brightest there, and then we're both to bed at 10:05PM, me saying that I'll certainly be up at 7:30AM, when Ken wants wakened.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8: Pee at 2:35. 2:35AM: Dream of attending something like a press conference where some VIP, possibly a big movie actor, has been accused of some terrible deed and keeps insisting he's not guilty, and when the judge decides he ISN'T guilty, he says "Now you'll have to apologize for accusing me." I'm no one of importance there, but I shout out, "WE know you did it, you FUCK, and will ALWAYS hate you for doing it." He snarls something back, but then a stop-motion film is presented in which, at .089 seconds, it's proven that he DID do it (maybe kill someone) and as a result I'M praised as being the only honestly-expressive person there. 2:51: Another fragment hits me: I'd forgotten to deposit some checks, but cleared things from my desk and found them, four or five of them, with the deposit slip I'd already made out, and know that my balance is big enough that it won't matter if I deposit them tomorrow, even through there's been great activity, somehow, with other people for whom I'm responsible. ANOTHER fragment involves a very popular Brad Pitt-type actor (from the Toyota commercial, obviously) who's attracted to me, and he's got a date at this party we're attending, but he makes it clear he can take her home and THEN we can meet and be together. Very gratified feeling in this particular fragment, so I HAD to get it down, even in the dark. Pee at 5:25, after taking a while to get to sleep with the light shining through the thin curtains on my sole window, but at least I don't have to worry about Ken snoring, and he's borrowed my flashlight so he can see his way to the bathroom. Oh, and I'd finished the English-paper puzzles last night before dinner. And then I can't get back to sleep AT ALL! Shit at 7 and read more of Alain de Botton's "The Art of Travel." Get Ken up at 7:30, continue to read in his room while he dresses, and I decide to shoot the last of Reel 48 in the rooms and rewind to find that I have 2:03:17 on it and put the defunct battery on recharge while we go to breakfast at 8:12 to 8:48, good scrambled eggs and onion and ham for me with toast and butter and apricot jam, and English-hello cutie-waiter gets me a single cup of hot chocolate and I have two glasses of apricot juice and take a glass of ice water that Ken talks me out of as being possibly unhealthful. Back and get a call from Danny at 8:55, but I have to change shoes and shirt from flannel to short sleeves, and take a last pee, so we're out of room at 9AM and take #33 at Chorreda Falls as we drive south, stopping at 10:12 in the old colonial town of Jaji, where Ken wanders around, we look at the church with an unusual winged St. Michael enthroned on the high altar, and then around more blocks, looking at the cracks from various earthquakes, and end up in a nice restaurant for two strawberry frappes (with local ice, of course) for 2700B from my pocket, after Ken took 45,000B for his $30, and I take last slides of Roll 2 there, and put in Roll 3 to take #1-3 toward Lagunillas salt-lake, and #4 at Lagunillas at 12:30. Then back to car, Ken always in front to this point, also having taken pictures of Pico Bolivar, highest in Venezuela at 6100 meters, with Mt. Humboldt just behind, and drive to El Bosque II where Ken has rabbit in wine and I have Centro de Lomito con champignons and each have two beers and enjoy watching the blue tanagers, gray thrushes, yellow-bellied bananaquits, a bright yellow-and-black pair she doesn't know, a small chickadee-type, and later a male and female woodpecker. Danny pays for everything, passing around her salad, and we leave about 2PM to drive further to Hacienda La Victoria, looking like rain, which was a former coffee-growing, fermenting, and grinding operation, now the Museo del Café, also including the Museo del Immigrante, which had a Jewish Pole as one of its entrants. I'm getting tired, we climb stairs to look at the classroom that has nothing to do with the coffee, stare at a horse in an adjoining garden with a diminishing erection, and go to the coffee shop to find that the coffee-maker is on the fritz, so he passes around some Coffee Cream, cold, which we like but don't buy, and out about 3:30 to drive back to Merida, stopping for a try at a closed post office to mail Ken's cards, having stopped on the way OUT to get stamps for cards, and buy him a flashlight for tomorrow night's night walk back from trying to see the Cock of the Rock in the evening, rather than getting up for a 4:30 departure when we'd be more likely to see them. Back to hotel at 4:15 and I video the macaws in the front cage while Ken tries the shop, and we get to the room where I pee and change to slippers and debate just SLEEPING, but Ken showers and I type all this until 5:48PM, now I guess to take a shower too, since I won't have time tomorrow when we're to meet at 8AM for the teleferique, with breakfast starting only at 7:30 and we have to pack to use two other hotels for the next two nights before returning here for the 11th, and then Melia again on the 12th! Really TIRED, but Ken's doing all the arranging with Danny, she's pleasant enough, and it's going adequately. Then shower til 6:12, pack for tomorrow's cold and hotel-transfer until 6:33, then ask Ken if he wants a drink and we go over and have two rum passions, then go to dinner about 7:10 and this KID starts running around and screaming, and not one of the 6 men at the table will do anything about him. Ken is sympathetic, but does NOT want me to leave, not even to go to the bar when our food comes. He's debating what he'd say if he spoke to them, and finally I flip out and dash to the waiter coming away from their table and shout, "Let me know when this kid is gone; I can't eat while he's here." No one seems to understand me, and the kid looks, cowed, at me and retreats to the table, and one of the middle-age men has the nerve to say, "He's just a child." To which I almost shout, "He's a BRAT." He seems to understand, but can't think of anything to say. I go back to the table, shaking, and Ken says "Take a deep breath," and I say, "I didn't realize I'd gotten to 12,000 feet!" But the kid is QUIET, and Ken seems to thank me, and his mediocre vegetable soup comes and my onion soup, not that bad, but not great, either, and I make a crack about them going to the Indian dinner I'd debated going to until Ken just refused to consider it, and anyway I wanted a SMALL meal and was tired. But the kid continued silent, more men and one woman joined the table at which I refused to look, and his penne was mediocre but he finished it with his beer, and I ate somewhat less than half my chicken breast with mushrooms and rosemary, too much rosemary, which Ken can't stand, and mashed potatoes and assorted vegetables, and we certainly didn't want dessert. Then across the floor away from the evil table to have the woman behind the desk add everything up we had as extras, and Ken signs a Visa bill for 39,240B, the slip from which he gives to me because he NEVER checks his statements. Back to the room at 8:30; I shit and hunt for my rubber-tip for about ten minutes, taking everything apart before finding it in my dop kit, where it would have been without this ridiculous "nothing sharp" security passion. Turn on TV to four stations of Latin soap opera, not even cute men, except one right at the end in "Egypt," and I brush my teeth which are VERY slick between teeth, since I hadn't done THAT in a GREAT while, and get it all done by 9:25 and bring water to my room and type this up by 9:37PM, ready to put the bedspread over the window, take my pills, and go to sleep, Ken setting his alarm for 6:30, me telling him that I have to be awake by 7, and he says "You only need 20 minutes to be ready to go to breakfast?" and I can't think what'll take me THAT long. Put up the blanket and it's so UTTERLY dark I have to fumble for a minute for the light-switch. Take final pills and final piss and get to bed at 9:46PM, even putting flashlight out if I need it later. Slow getting to sleep. Wake 11:10, then doze and dream of Rita having occult powers and threatening people around her if she can't have her way and go to a party a judge has said she's not old enough to go to, and is hoping to be proved old enough if she can be powerful enough. At first she trusts ME, but later she stares at me and in a TV suspense monent, she seems to focus to kill me, but I awake and look at my watch and it's 11:35 and I type this and then go pee.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 9: Pee at 2AM. Pee at 3:30. Pee at 5:30. 6:15AM dream: I've got a pocketfull of theater tickets, but of the five I'd ordered before, I have the three "regular-shaped" ones, but not the two "shaped-like-a-ship" ones, and can't remember when they are for, though I'm sure I've written them in my calendar, which I don't have with me now. Before this, I'd had an invitation to an Actualism event in honor of someone gay, and two of us could go for $85 each, so I asked Spartacus if he wanted to go, and he said "Sure," which made me happy, since it would be all-gay, but we all knew who we were because we'd belonged to an Actualism special-interest group. Also before, there was a benefit and someone asked me to be on the four-member Charades team, and I was amused to see that one of the other members was a woman, and another was a black, so we were "integrated." I was asked if I wanted to start, so I said "OK" and was handed a card with about 8 VERY difficult made-up words or phrases to give. At first I thought of some of the impossible ones to do, but then realized I was supposed to have the SHORTEST time, so I picked the word "SHIVE," thinking I could do "Shy" with my finger in my mouth and a simper, and "Five" with five fingers, and then show they should shove them together. Back to the most-recent dream: I knew that the play started at 2PM and I hadn't had lunch yet, but it was getting late and I figured I could treat myself to a $7 panini, like at the Met, during intermission of the play, but then it became unsure if I could even get to the theater by 2PM, because one subway pulled in and I was going to catch it, but it just sped through the station without stopping. Then another pulled in, slowed enough so that I thought I had time to nip into one of the shops along 42nd Street and buy two belts, because my pants didn't have any, and I knew I needed at least two size 38 ones, but then the train speeded up and I thought I didn't have enough time, but then it slowed again and maybe I did. Then, without transition, I was at Broadway and 42nd Street, but on a mesa above the sidewalks, so I looked to the side and saw about a thirty-foot jump from a rock ledge to the sidewalk below, and decided that was too much of a jump to risk without maybe getting hurt, so I looked to the side to see curved brick staircases winding down from the mesa to the streets, and looked to see which would be closest to the theater I needed to get to, and I woke up and went to shit and type this on my lap, finishing about 6:35AM with the wakeup call coming at 7. Dream of sorting through someone's stamps for 40 envelopes for Rita's wedding invitations, but I don't know where or when it is, and I figure to buy forms to be filled in and mailed. Up at 6:45, shit, do dop-kit shuffle for two-day trip away from Belensate, dress at 6:45, and Ken's ready by 7. I'm ready at 7:10. Breakfast at 7:20, Germans competing for first toast and first shot at scrambled eggs in tomato sauce that I get to FIRST, with rolls of ham and cheese, a final bowl of Meusli as Danny arrives and has a cup of coffee, and juice and hot chocolate to 7:55. Jorge, her boyfriend, is bluff but pleasant, though Ken finds his body hot, which I can't really see (either visually or esthetically). Ken has to get his coat out of his too-small baggage pocket to get to his passport which Danny reminds us we have to have when we pay bills or pass through the Civil Guard check-points in almost all small towns. [Start card 5, noted because I wasted about ten minutes sorting back and forth in this file and on card 5 to see where I'd stopped.] Off at 8:02. Through the Old Town to the Teleferique station at 8:07, she pushes us through by knowing everyone, and we get on the next car at 8:30 with the horde of loud-speaking Germans from the hotel. The second car is BLUE (all first three are colors of Venezuelan flag) (and Ken later tells me story of Venezuela's name: the first Spaniards saw houses built on stilts in water and called it "Little Venice," which stuck) at 8:47. Took most photos of the receding Merida because I figured it's be obscured by the third or fourth lap, and it was. To 11,000 feet at 9AM. We'll stay for ten minutes: each step has its own cars which go back and forth, the last has only one car. #12 Pico de Bolivar at 16,000 feet, taken from 11000 feet. Off to third, red, car at 9:14, great views down over diminishing purple bushes and the yellow Frailejon bushes that grow only at high altitudes. Diminishing as the altitude grows, the cold increases, and the crowd diminishes as fewer come up with us. Buy 3000B tickets for LAST car at stage 4. #16 last cabin, new, orange. Will leave summit in 20 minutes. Feel quite breathless, but out to video peaks with diminishing glaciers, the La Coruna which is divided into two peaks, while I thought "the" peak was named Humbolt AND Bomplan, rather unusual. Off at 9:56 and to the top at 10:07. Photos all around: Miranda-statue nearby said to be 2.6 meters, though Danny says the figure is more like 9 feet. Try to avoid filming the Virgin of the Snows as tacky. Clouds all around below except around US, though when we start down to next level at 10:55 (my notes seem confused here, check out later!) 11:16 FLY through CLOUDS, over flowers to 11:25. Long wait, next down starts at 11:41, down by 11:53. Last car down 11:59-12:12, where I'm content just to sit and let the views wash over me, though wishing I'd videoed the colorful stream through the center of Merida in a canyon. By comparison it seems warm in town (though I'd only needed a sweater, a hat, and no gloves, while others were bundled for winter, and the thermometer at next-top DID say 6 degrees C). Drive through countryside to Don Tito's lunch of fried pork pieces for me, good, and strawberry juicem, while they had passion fruit juice and steak, with servile frightened no-English waitress. Drive longer, rocking back and forth in front and back seats, to Mucubaji hot chocolate to 3:13, with cute Harry with pigtail joining Jorge with a great smile. To Hotel Los Frailes at 3:30 to unpack and forget to recharge battery until 3:40, so I delay our departure for the cock of the rock until at 4PM, cloudy, and up incredible canyon road from top to bottom to middle to top, with grand turns, to start walking at 4:57. Uphill tiring at first, then level, then down awful slope where Ken slips and falls, then watch unsuccessfully 5:45-6:18, seeing nothing more than the bright orange head seen through trees at the start on the road, with one flying to a tree above me but not seen, and another flying across the road in silhouette. Back in the dark from 7:16 to 8:28, almost despairing ever getting there, passing a taxi missing a left-front wheel in an accident, a crescent moon clearing from haze and entering clouds, and down to dinner 8:32-9:45, rather poor onion soup, good Ponche dela Casa of milk, brown sugar, Fra Angelico, and rum, Ken having two, and two glasses of Asti Martini for 2000B each while I had two beers at 1000B each. Poor Saltimboca alla Pollo (too SALTY!) while Ken finishes his Pollo con Naranja, and I have a CHILL as I dash to room, saying goodnight to Danny and Harry bound for the bar with Ken, and shower with chill, dry off, get into bed at 10:07, Ken in about 11, then sleep, after he hung up my four hangers with wet garments to dry on curtain rod, saying it wouldn't fit in the bathroom.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10: Wake at 12:01, pee at 2:53, again at 5:35, lay awake til 6:50 when Ken goes to the bathroom and I catch up with this typing by 7:31, Ken itchy to get out and walk. Ken reminds me about the puppies being sold on the road, and the outrageousness of the hotel we're not staying in (El Castillo) with wood- and stone-work and a medieval dining room with servers in costume. The stone chapel we're about to see was built by an 83-year-old. I wash my face, pee, and Ken continues packing and I type this at 7:39, well along in packing for the day. Walk wet grounds 7:42-7:59, including an old wing being refurbished, and up the hill to a more elaborate chalet-style. Many birds, two horses, and a cow on the hillsides. In to breakfast of omelets while later Danny and Jorge join us (after smiling Harry shakes hands warmly with me) with their Andean breakfast of shredded beef, black beans, and arepas, while my omelet has ham, mushrooms, cheese, and onions, and Ken adds garlic. Flower piercers come to the hummingbird bowls, followed by, at last, three different kinds of hummingbirds, the first two similar, the third much smaller, but when the sun comes in the window, the arm and hand movements of Danny and Jorge chase them away most of the time, and adding to that I'm sitting behind the window-post and usually they're on the OTHER side with their dipping, and I don't get much footage, except the battery is down to half, so I leave them at 8:41 and put it on recharge, while peeing, packing, and catching up with this at 8:51. Will have to REFRESH tonight, since the recharge finishes too quickly and there's STILL not much battery-power left. Ken comes in with hotel charge, pees, and I continue to 8:55AM, getting out to car. The first destination is the condors, so the car is packed by 9:02, and it's WARM out. Jorge is going with Harry and the American couple, so there are only the three of us in the car, me in the back, Ken teetering precariously backward in the front, and we're off at 9:08. #32 taken at 9:25 over lake from the mirador, identified on sign labeled Paramo de Mucubaji, which is the name of the general store we stopped in for hot chocolate at yesterday. I take another few pictures, not as many as 35, and it starts rewinding, and I make the mistake AGAIN of trying to hold IN the battery, which makes it lose contact and register at ZERO when it hasn't rewound beyond about 30. Back to the entrance building to see if they have a black room for my camera, but they don't. When we walk down toward the lake, clouds have moved in and I couldn't take any pictures anyway. We walk to where Danny's parked the car by maps, and I video them, and we go back to the general store where Danny asks for a dark room, but they say there is none. I don't quite believe it and circle the place to find a locked door which may be an ideal closet. Danny has to ask three or four people, but finally a guy opens the door and I see coats and a dark interior, so I say it's fine but he STAYS with me (would I take something if he weren't guarding me?) while I try winding the film with the front end still in the camera, but that doesn't work with the spool's rewind mechanism, so I take out all the film, hoping the slight light coming from the side doesn't affect the existing pictures, and rewind it and come out triumphant. But when I go into the back of the car to install the new roll of film, the battery-low indicator comes on, so I take out the old and put in the questionable one I'd carried with me from the start, and it doesn't work at ALL, so I take a new one out of a package and it works LOVELY, so that when I put in the new roll of film, which I think is number 5, but when I check I find that it's only Roll 4! #1 at 10:15 of observatories (third best in world) and hillside contrast. #2 at 10:24 of flowers: poppies, lupine, and got to condors at 10:40. #3 condor-flowers. #4 male condor, named Combatiente, and take lots of videos of them, particularly with Danny giving them water from her bottle. #7 condor-leaving view at 11:26. Leave at 11:39, take #8 looking down other side (which we don't use) from Condor Pass at 11:55, and pictures of the eight-foot frailejons with Danny, and of the remarkable scenery ABOVE the highest paved pass in the world. #11 condor statue at 12:13, videos of statue and young men gathered for some sports-club photo waving at me. #12 Virgen de Coromoto, whose name we hear lots in the next few hours, including on the mineral water we get at the lunch restaurant---chapel and horse with riders at 12:26, having gotten a toddy in the store which is what I'd been getting as hot chocolate in most of the previous hotels. #13 stone church in Santa Fe, and lunch 1:50-2:40 of good lasagna and sharing some of Danny's ham-anchovy-corn pizza and Ken's bacon-ham-pepperoni-corn-mushroom pizza, which he finishes, while she takes her last three slices home. I have Maltin, great tasting, which she said her son loves, and I'm just a kid anyway, and I say, "Well, I AM in Venezuela only 8 days, so I'm a kid eight-days-old." Out to the town square and the slant-floored church, then photo the dog of Bolivar at Ken's insistance, with a video-scan of the surrounding mountains. Look at a wooden San Ysidro and to the Castillo where she knows the concierge who shows us a Matrimonial Suite and the restaurant, the former of which I video and the latter of which I just gawk at. On the road to the Balcones de Musui we stop overlooking Santa Fe and video the whole thing from the church to the square to the Castillo, missing the cemetery behind, which I hope I videoed, and back in the warm car to the hotel at 4PM, where Danny introduces us to the owner and his wife and the bartender and the chef's assistant, and we go uphill to our cabin 4 where I try to shit but only turd a little, and Ken reluctantly takes the bed, much smaller, by the window, and I get out the Newsweek and go outside to read and stare at the ever-changing cloud patterns. From almost cloudless to almost fully clouded, I watched the sun's delimiter make its liesurely way up the mountains, sometimes assisted by ray-obscuring clouds, and the last light on the farthest peak vanished at 6:20. At times it appeared clouds would envelope everyting I was looking at, but they'd fray and let pieces of hillcrest, or high-lighted clouds, or far peaks, or near views visible, and only once, early on, did wisps sail between the public building below and our terrace, where the dog lay in the place Ken soon vacated because it was too cold. A couple comes up to survey the scene, but I'd put in earplugs to screen out the noise of the solitary kid playing with himself outside the open-air kitchen where the chef could be heard chopping, chopping, chopping. About 6:30 I take a tour to the far right, seeing a trail up to a lit house above and what may be a continuation of the incredible cliff-edge road that brought us here, and to the left to see lights from a village below, and various utility machineries, and then back to the cabin to the dog's tail's welcoming thumps on the concrete floor, and in to find Ken lying awake on his bed, complaining about the lights, but I say his bed-light is pretty good, and go to the bathroom to find THAT light the best, and about to take my laptop in there when he says "I have to see if I need to use the john," which is a strange way of putting it, and I turn on MY bed-light and it's quite bright enough, so I sit on the side of the bed and finish with this at 7:08PM, getting warm at last with my stockinged slippered feet and my sweater and flannel shirt, sitting right at the rotating Honeywell heater which Ken said didn't respond to any switches to cut off, though we could surely pull it out of the wall. Put my battery on for charge, and it does so in SUCH a quick time that I decide it HAS to be recharged first, so I put it on recharge about 4:30 and it's STILL only there at 7:10, so I'm glad there's nothing to video soon. Threw out one completely used camera battery and have to locate the other dead one to throw it away before I forget AGAIN which it is and carry it around for months before testing it. Rather surprised to have gone to File 4 so soon, but still no danger of filling up all eight files by the end of this trip, for which I'm counting the ending days since I'm SO tired, I hope mainly from altitude, and would just as soon be finished with it, though each day reveals more marvels from little-known Venezuela. Battery FINALLY starts to charge about 7:35. I sort through packing, combining future "busy-work" and throwing away Newsweek and second dead battery. Wash face and pack for tomorrow's walk and swim. Read "Art" to 8:11, then down to EMPTY dining room to eat 8:20-9:25, starting with salad, then my too-rare steak is sent back and Ken eats all his vegetables save carrots, and we get Bunuelos (chocolate covered dough-balls) for dessert, then to bar for Ken's sherry and my Sambuca with SEVEN coffee beans aflame for the seven hills of Rome. Cesar and his wife really try too hard to entertain us, so I go to the window to look out, then look through "Guest Book 2" for TOMES of thank-yous, then up to room to finish "Art" to 9:30 and do a puzzle and then Ken goes to BED at 10:05, putting in earplugs so I can do this until 10:10, hoping to have waited long enough after dinner to be able to get to sleep. Take a sleeping pill and pee and get to bed at 10:17, only needing ONE blanket over the sheet, not the quilt I pulled off from the top and not the second blanket at the foot of the bed "in case." Woke at 11:47 to pee, thinking it must be about 3AM, but it was only about an hour after I got to sleep!

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 11: Woke with seemingly a totally full bladder at 12:47, but had no trouble getting back to sleep. Woke again at 4:29AM, blowing farts each time but only peeing, feeling that I'll NEVER be at a lower altitude to get enough breath. Breath exhaustedly heavily each time I crawl back into bed, not really affected, thank goodness, by the cold now that the automatic Honeywell unit is off. Wake at 7:12AM and lay, looking at bright sunlight coming in under the door and wondering if I should get up to enjoy the cloud-vacant sky, but lay until 7:22, when I've got to shit and beat Ken to the bathroom, so I have a reasonably good shit, feeling somewhat guilty about putting the toilet paper INTO the toilet, as told NOT to on the rule-list on the door, but HOW could paper clog the toilet more than TURDS? Out at 7:32 and Ken's up and brushing his teeth and shaving, all in the nude after fruitlessly trying to turn on the heating unit, and I get to this and finish by 7:43AM. Get the hot water up, which Ken didn't, to wash my face and my glasses and my sunglasses, and root out my lip-balm for chapped lips, and just get told by Ken that we're to have our bathing suits ON UNDER our clothes when we leave at 9:30 this morning. I'm completely packed and caught up by 8AM. Down to breakfast about 8:15, fried eggs and bread, two glasses of orange juice, two cups of chocolate, and the sexy son says good morning and sits with his back to the view so that his mother can look out. The sun takes a long time to illuminate the depths of the valley, but I get up at 8:45 to do exhaustive video and slide panoramas of the exceptional site of our Balcones de Musui. Ken comes puffing up and we change into bathing suits and take towels and I finish this at 9:10AM, preparing to go down to meet Danny as she arrives. [Start of card 6] Down at 9:15. Sit on a stump and gaze over the beautiful valley and slopes beyond. Her car spotted at 9:31, and she apologized for getting caught in traffic getting out of Merida. We start walking at 9:40AM. #25 on trail at 10:10. #26 on trail at 10:26. #27 trail back at 11:32. The walk UP the hill was breathtakingly breathtaking, but she refused to take my hint that she at LEAST drive us to the top of the hill where the trail starts. But that takes some time and energy, and then we go over a barbed-wire fence onto a narrow trail that quickly becomes so eroded that we have to lean into the hill, sometimes even using our hands, to get around dangerously sloping portions on which, if we slipped, we'd tumble down a couple hundred feet before managing to stop. It seemed to get hotter and hotter, but thankfully the sun was at our back, even though I DID take care to apply sunscreen before starting off. #28 sign at 10:38, me suggesting to Ken that he act tired, but I don't think his tongue will appear under the shade of his hat at that distance. #29 down to the spring at 11:09. I'd actually thought the stone house in the valley was our destination, which house she described as the perfect place for a would-be writer, though you'd have to know how to ride a horse, the sole source of transportation so far from any road at all. Two dour-faced guys with hairy legs and two equally glum girls following a distance behind passed us on the way out, and Danny, looking through her binoculars, opined that they'd just broken up their overnight camp there. We take our clothes off, the gravel and stones surprisingly acutely felt on the tender bottoms of my feet, and I left my stuff way toward the top of the hill, somehow expecting OTHERS to compete with us for clothes-space. I stepped gingerly into the water, expecting anything from freezing cold to broiling hot at that point, and found even at THAT edge it wavered between cool and body-temperature. Danny was already soaking in her favorite corner, and I was delighted to find that I could stand up anywhere on the sandy bottom, while stirring up tiny sun-glinting silver-mica motes at all levels of the slightly murky water. She pointed out the hot stream from the left, the medium stream in the middle, and the cold stream from the rock near the entry point. Ken came gingerly down and was pleased too, and we lolled around and praised the beauty of the place, and when I saw the INTENSELY BEAUTIFUL interface between the absolute-green of the tops of the trees and the absolute-blue of the bottom of the sky, I knew I had to video the entire scene, so I got out of the water, with the expected chill of the air drying the warm water on my skin, and the grating feel of the stones underfoot, but the mission was so intense I went up and gathered all my belongings and brought them down to the edge of the pond, and extracted my video camera, and panned around the place, taking a regular picture too, I think I remember. We soaked until 11:55, my back getting surprisingly sunburned, and I'd even put on more sunscreen when Danny said my nose was VERY red after I came up from a lovely float, experiencing the magical levitation when an intake of breath almost breaks the surface with my chest, and an outflow lowers the body so much that I fear the water may lap into my nose. I thought she'd promised us a nice melon when we got BACK, but before we got out, she actually unwrapped a canteloupe from her bag and a knife from its sheath and cut the melon into half, then each half into thirds which she passed to each of us. At one point mine flipped into the water and Danny smiled and said the water was perfectly OK, though even after I ate the wet piece I thought that MANY things may be lurking invisibly in the water, but later SHE dropped a piece off her knife and simply fished it from the water and stuck it into her mouth. Wonderful interlude and CERTAINLY worth the effort, even Ken admitted. Dry rather quickly, and Danny goes off to "the ladies room" at the side to dry and dress, and Ken and I simply strip with our backs to her and dress, me without underwear, but that didn't cause any problem at all since my genitals are so shrunk they don't brush against ANYTHING like the front of my trouser-flies. Start back at 12:05. #31 looking back at 12:08. Many of the hard parts coming IN were easier going BACK because they were uphill rather than downhill, or maybe we'd just been through the worst and knew it couldn't get any worse. Back at 1:20 POOPED, aware that I'm panting VERY loudly at every step, and I REALLY made a mistake when I didn't take any water, since Ken was niggardly of his and my mouth and throat were VERY dry from the act of panting through my open mouth in the dry high-altitude air. But I got a few swigs from him, and a few more when we FINALLY got back to the road, and managed to survive, yet still breathing heavily. We went right up to the cabin, after I left my camera back at the car and regretted it when I saw the two cows splayed over our porch! Leave room at 1:35 and leave at 1:43. #32 hotel from below (cabins not visible above the blue public spaces) at 1:53. Antonio came with us, and I thought he was talking about HIS son having a terrible fungal infection of the blood, which Ken uncharitably observed was a typical symptom of AIDS, when it turned out to be CESAR's cute son Alfredo. To the Restaurant "El Aledaño" at 2:25. Eat rather decent pollo ala plancha, garnished only with some garlic-butter, and potatoes and vegetables, but started with TWO beers to assuage my terrible thirst, and a mineral water, followed by a strawberry puree that was delicious. [Ugh, typed this much from 7-7:30PM the NEXT day!] Buy rose petal liquor for 7000B. Leave at 3:47. To the MARKET at 4:28 because Danny CLEARLY wanted to meet Jorge there, even though she asked Ken THREE times if he wanted to go, and he said no but left it up to me, and I said I wasn't DYING to go, but she drove in and stopped and said we should tell Jorge she was here if we came across him. Ken starts shopping for a teeshirt, escalates to a bottle of wine after we had three samples of a cute clerk's offerings, and looked around more places and priced some things and left at 5PM, getting to the hotel at 5:10, STILL feeling tired. Get my bag back from under the counter, sitting in the chair as they figure the room we're in, and just throw stuff off the bed and sit and read the rest of Newsweek and New York Magazine, too tired to do anything else, and Ken argued about sharing the tiny bed-light with me, the only readable light in the whole room, unless I wanted to sit on the toilet. We didn't feel hungry after our late lunch, but we got to dinner at 7:45 to have two lovely refreshing gin and tonics for me and two rum passions for Ken, and then we ordered, but the cream of asparagus wasn't as good the second time, and the Mero Olive was SO fishy tasting I ate just a BIT of it and put lots of butter onto the mashed potatoes for the major portion of the meal. Service was VERY slow, though the place was only half-full, the table for 18 or so having I guess eaten earlier. Back to room at 9:40, and just throw all the stuff from the bed onto the floor and FALL into bed at 10:05, having taken, AGAIN, the three pills: two night pills and one sleepng pill, not even caring that Ken kept on reading.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 12: Wake at 12:32, and pee at 5:30, then wake about 6 to lay and think how long I've slept thanks to the pill, feeling fairly rested, and shower 7:37-7:57. Pack, brekfast 8:15-8:40, tomatoed scrambled eggs again, a piece of toast with butter and jelly, a glass of orange juice which tasted like it had lemon added to it, and when they didn't have meusli I settled on a roll of ham, a roll of cheese, a large piece of papaya and a small hard slice of canteloupe, finishing my hot chocolate which arrived late VERY hot. I find myself really getting IMPATIENT with Ken, hardly responding to his jokes, rather ignoring him at the table. Pack and leave room at 8:50. Danny's there, we check out and put our stuff into her car and to the airport 8:55-9:10, and it really does look like just another store on a main road in Merida. Browse the lobby to 10:01, asking at the Avoir countr for a travel brochure, being sent to the Arrival Lounge Information, being let through the chain without question, and getting only an area map of Merida's state, on which Danny indicated our various visits. Looked at the educational children's books being sold with approval, other things, and the Ozone-Pure water fountain, a nice touch. To departure lounge to wait some more after having our passports taken and our 2000B departure-fee tickets torn in two, and we'd been assigned 6A and 6C when I said that was STILL over the wing, and she changed us to 8A and 8C, which was unnecessary since there were only 10 of us on the plane. Board at 10:13 and off at 10:23. Good views over Merida, then swing around past Bolivar and Humbolt, taking what I hope is a good shot of the teleferique, taking the last pictures on roll 4 at 10:30, and rewinding SUCCESSFULLY and putting in Roll 5: taking #1 Caribbean shore at 11:20, and noting that the large silver factories probably protected the heaps of potatoes Venezuela grew for McDonald's french fries! #3 over the bay we'll drive to this afternoon? at 11:31. #4 smoke producing factory, which at first we thought might be a layer of blue haze in general, at 11:32. Land at 11:39. Michele waves at us through the glass. We get our bags quickly and into car and off at 12:04. #5 favelas overlooking Caracas at 12:35. Turns out to be 115 km from the western edge-highway start of Route 1 to Maracay, and we're going 135 km/hr = 80 mph! AND get passed by cars going EASILY 20 mph faster! BEUTIFUL parkway-like road, almost as pristinely perfect as the incredibly new roads between Balcones and Merida. We stop 1:51-2:04 for a piss stop where Michele does SOMETHING in the back of the restaurant, but it's hot and I don't care. Ken and I are both hungry and a bit annoyed, but there's really nothing we can do. Stop for lunch in Maracay, on the traffic-jammed main street which clears after we pass an accident which, interestingly, Michele says, "Maybe better not to look." Then he turns in at a faux-Spanish castle named "La Mansion de Luis I" at 3PM and we're in the brightly signed cafeteria where we're shown the main display: loin of pork, vegetarian pasticio, roasted green peppers, various seafood salads, olives, mushrooms, bread-crumbed things said to be crablegs, and other things. I order a MEAT pasticio, Ken a fish salad and crablegs and we're to split a roast green pepper. I get a strawberry puree when they say they have no beer. Then Michele shows us around the cookies and tarts and pies for dessert, and I order a special pie which turns out to be apple on delivery. We sit at the table while Michele says he's going "on the street to eat," and I look at uniformed schoolkids pass by on their way home from school. My pasticio isn't as good as lunch's, the crablegs are as ersatz as the fish-sticks on Ken's seafood salad, but we eat away and Michele is hooked into the TV coverage of some local Caracas mayors being barricaded by Chavez hoods behind metal plates in their government-building meetings, and he says it's all crazy. I take #6 of the Christmas tree: Michele: "They start everything early here!" We eat 2:45-3:22, Ken proving to Michele that the lunch bill IS part of what we paid for, and I have an extra 1100B berry drink because I'm STILL thirsty. Stop to copy plane schedule and Ken's Visa and passport for our $140 trip to El Avila from 3:33-3:48, already starting uphill to the green wall to the north of Maracay. Up past welcoming signs to the National Park, then no more buildings but a constant yellow-painted concrete sideboard with endless graffiti, among them a mysterious "Hello Fuckers." The road is almost as dramatic as the road to El Avila, but here you don't need a four-wheel drive, but it must be on the borders of it, although busses and trucks seem to make it anyway, making the hairpin turns particularly dangerous: we had to back up more than once to let some leviathan by. Then at the top it starts to rain, slowly at first, so that I even risk putting the camcorder out the window to photo some of the extraordinary vistas of trees rising in majestic silhouette far above the road, tier after tier, into the clouds we're riding through, though we at first caught glimpses of the still-sunny Maracay far below, over sheer parapets of graffitied yellow. Then the rain pelted down, bulleting on the car-roof, blowing down stray weak bamboo stalks in the middle of elephantine groves so thick they often looked like single titanic tree-boles. They fanned into the air, their symmetry broken by shattered stalks arrowing at ungraceful angles. For awhile I marveled at the engineering of the gutters, channeling rushing brown waters efficiently until they vanished down drains strategically placed. But sometimes brown waterfalls from the sidewalls so overstrained the drainage system that catenaries of yellow-brown water looped across the road until its natural curve drew the current back into the gutters. At the start Michele had tried to find a troupe of howler monkeys that he said slept in a particular grove of trees, but couldn't find them. An oropendula swooped past, and later little fugitive brown birds fluttered frantically past in the downpour, eliciting amused remarks from Michele and me. Huge trucks caromed around corners at the worst possible instants, causing poor Ken in the back seat to become more concerned than he had been: he confessed in the restaurant that evening that he was about to shout to Michele to PLEASE keep his eyes on the road, as I confessed that I was about to plead with him to slow down as he increased speed to about 30mph when I felt that 25 was safer. The volume of rain reached an apex when I jokingly asked "How many feet of rain fall here per year?" and Michele could only answer "Very, very many." We started toward signs of civilization and the effects of the rain became sadder: small groups of families, or sodden individuals, huddled under roofs and looked out at us as we passed. School children crouched under umbrellas or unconcernedly walked in their wetness. Streams seemed aimed directly into abandoned-looking storefronts. Then at the bottom of one slope the car skidded to a stop before a nearer, brown stream about a foot wide merging with a gray flood about seven feet wide, of unknown depth, pouring across the road and down a ledge into a gully. I was too stunned to video it. He looked, gunned the motor, swept through, and later seemed to be doing something with a special gear in back of the regular box which possibly was squeezing water out of the incapacitated brakes. Other low spots were ruined, broken roadways mere piles of pebbles and pools of rushing waters. Signs welcomed us to various villages, and finally the rain slackened and stopped, until when we reached Colonia Whatever it almost seemed it hadn't rained. We get to the town, pretty and old, and at 5:25 pulled into Casa Grande, found no one, and went around for a short tour of the non-swimming beach, the bridge to the Playa Grande, and around to the back entrance, where Vivi came out to meet us and Ken said that he'd read about him in his tour book! We get to room 3 to find a large bed wrapped in a mosquito net and a small bed not. No good. Vivi and Michele and a clerk talk. Ken talks. Finally we're shown room 9, where the small bed doesn't have a footboard, and it's just as long as the other, so I say I'll take it, after kidding Ken into wanting it to have his suitcase on the opposite bed facing him, and Michele assures me there are no mosquitos, particularly not in our better air conditioned room with a remote control. I believe him, but later---I'll tell it later. Fuss with room to 6:10 and I want to walk to Playa Grande, which takes us past a sexy young man spread out on a chaise longue in the street, lots of kids playing ball, and closed shops. The beach is gorgeous, though Ken says he doesn't swim in "water like that." I ask "Like what?" And he says, "With waves." Oh. Pure sand, lots of ghost crabs, wonderful look, tepid water. Back to hotel at 6:40, almost dark, and I lay on the bed and REST til 6:55, then write a LOT of this until Vivi knocks at 7:50 and we go to the Casa Blanca down the street, ignoring Ken's question if Humphrey Bogart ate there. A group of about 12 Hollanders are eating, and a pair are sitting at the table next, and I sit facing the cute blond with fuzzy forearms and a wonderful smile for his girl with her back to us. Ken orders kibbe with dorade, seemingly impossible, with a glass of white wine, and I ask what Sopa Bombay is, with fish, and Pollo Thai, with oyster sauce, so settle for Churrasca ala plancha, but sadly it's VERY tough and AWFUL tasting and Ken helps me turn it back for the Pollo Thai, which, afer a LONG wait, turns out to be GOOD with chunks of chicken in a brown sauce with lots of cutup red peppers and onions. My two beers go down well, and they pour LOTS of water. We get out at 9:30 and I start typing again, but when a small mosquito buzzes around the lamp which Ken had requested and gotten when he refused to let me sit at the head of his bed and use HIS bed-lamp, and there's a flash and it's broken! I put on the light to take Ken's, and he actually GETS OUT OF BED and tries to make the broken lamp work in HIS socket, saying that he'll tell them it was broken, and if they can't replace it, this is HIS lamp, and I'll have to type sitting on the toilet seat. "Don't be angry at ME," he says angrily. Sure. Finish this, rather pissed, at 10:25PM. Pee and take pills but not a sleeping pill and get to bed at 10:30.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 13: Wake when Ken puts on the light in the bathrom at 12:30AM, and pee at 4:20AM and don't seem to get back to sleep, but probably doze on and off, because it must have been a dream (rather than mere musing) that had me in my underwear in Bill Peterson's apartment, though "Bill Peterson" is more Ken Levin than Bill Peterson, and he definitely wants to have sex with me, or at least see me naked, and I'm not interested in starting anything sexual with him, and even think of leaving back to my apartment, but there's another guy there, a redhead who might be patterned after the sexy blond in the restaurant last night, that I COULD be interested in, and since he seems to "belong" to Bill, I decide it might be worth it to cater to Bill if it could lead me to the redhead. Pull up a blanket from the floor since the room is DEFINITELY cold, and leave out an earplug hoping to hear Ken going to the john and suggsting he turn off the air conditioner. Finaly about 6:50AM I hear him exiting the john: "Ken?" "Yes?" "Do you think it's cold in here?" "No." I'm almost too startled to think, but can only surmise that the air circulation in here blows most of the cold air into my corner and bypasses him in his mosquito-netted bed---but at least I console myself with the fact that being totally covered---at one point I even put my HEAD under the covers to warm my cold face and try to get some moisture to my dry nose---I'll have less a chance of getting bit by the mosquitoes who CLEARLY are in the room, having killed one on my curtain and seen many small flecks flying through the air. Get up at 7:17AM and see light in the room, which comes from the open bathroom door, and the window at the top of the bathroom wall appers to be OPEN, so it's silly to keep the bathroom door OPEN if we want the air conditioner to work at its best. Take the laptop into the john (hoping to find that I've only wrecked the BULB in the lamp that I "broke" last night, and I don't have to worry about typing the cost of a LAMP. Try to shit, but don't, just pee, and finish this at 7:26AM, probably soon to be up for 8:30 breakfast and 9AM departure by boat for the isolated village. I start reading an old New Yorker, clad in a long-sleeved shirt, sweater, jacket, socks, and pants. Ken gets up at 7:40 and I look for, and finally find on the floor near the door, my broken lamp which he'd grabbed and put somewhere last night, and let my lamp-bulb cool and find, to my GREAT relief, that it's only the BULB that's broken, so I can legitimately say it burnt out and get a new one without worrying about COST. Ken's still in the john now at 7:48. He comes out about 7:50, I explain about how I figured he was asleep and did what I did with the lights, he countered that since he'd so clearly JUST gotten into bed, I should have ASKED him about what to do, and then he said, "I guess that's meant as an apology?" So I say it was an apology and give him back HIS lamp which I'd inadvertantly thought was MY lamp, but when MY lamp wouldn't fit the distance to HIS socket, I realized my error. We go out with the word "bombesin" or something for lightbulb, but at 8:10AM no one's in the office and the technicolor xylophone (it probably ISN'T a "gay rainbow") brings no one, so we circumnavigate the couratyard to see a number of colorful Buffon paintings, two yellow birds on a car hood, and a fleeting hummingbird in the hallway. Three tables set for four and one table for two outside, and women are fiddling about in the kitchen. Warm and humid out, so that the remains of the air conditioning feel good when we return to our room and I do this by 8:18AM. Read at a table set for two, and when Ken wants to eat there when the menus come out, she says "With the frog?" And there's a FROG on top of the vase. "What kind of frog?" "Rana de mesa!" OUT of the room to read at 8:26AM, since breakfast doen't seem to be coming on time, and Ken makes fun of me when I look at the four "simple" choices for breakfast, and I tell the tolerant, smiling young woman (who actually turns out to be the Manager!) that I want 1) the scrambled eggs from choice 1, except please without tomatoes, 2) not the arepas from choice number 1 but the tostada con marmalada that comes with choice number 2, and 3) I don't want the coffe that comes with any of them, but could I have chocolata? Ken and she laugh, but she assures me I can have exactly what I want, and we have to ask for salt and pepper for the table, and Ken asks for additional mineral water, and she brings out a ton of toast and the orange juice is good, possibly mixed with lime, and Vivi comes to complain (wordlessly) that the others are waiting at the boat for us, but we aver that we're eating as fast as we can, but that the breakfast arrived late, and we leave (in his car? I've forgotten, but we MUST have, because I don't [[count to find I have only 45,000B and $60 US aside from $100 bill! And I seem to have RUN OUT of blank note-cards and resort to small notepad!]] remember WALKING to the boat for the waiting group of 6 Hollanders. [But in fact we DID walk, because Vivi avoided the first shop from which I wanted to buy a bottle of water because he favored a shop further down the street]). Off on (um...) boat at 9:18. #7 and 8 9:50 beach at Chuao. Boat IN at 9:48, VERY wavy, I'm glad we're in back because front BOUNCES up and down in the waves, and I put my A&K bag into its plastic protector-bag, but it doesn't get very wet. Interestingly intense face on Marcel, the son of Harry (with smiling teeth) and CKHelga, which Marcel intensely says is wrong when I say Helga, but I must cough-up-phlegm-RASP the H to make him smile and say "That's RIGHT!" Great waves dash on shore, we pass the Playa Grande with its concrete lifeguard short-telephone-booths, then Playa Seco, which Vivi says is great for snorkelling with its coral reef, which Playa Grande doesn't have, but Ken doesn't want to see it and I can't get there except by boat which seems difficult. Dock and manage to leap into waveless sand just off the dock, and the two short disconnected Dutch later appear to be a couple, and I can't decide if the shortest, lagging-behindest woman is independent or somehow attached to Marcel, who talks to her intently on the boat-trip back. We start our walk at 9:51. #10 EIGHT cocoa pods on tree at 10:12. #11 road ahead at 10:44. #12 bamboo grove to try to capture the look of the mountainpass-ride yesterday, at 10:56. #13 & 14 cemetery tree, a new bump for each body buried, from a Chuoan (sounding funnily like Chihuahuan) legend. #15 bridge at 11:05. Vlindler is the Dutch word for butterfly, which Shorty doesn't see when I point out the medium-sized-bird-sized brown flutterer. To village at 11:20 for two WONDERFUL cold beers, treated by Vivi, and a mineral water cold, better than the mineral water he bought for me before we left, even though the usual volume is only 222ml. I'm DRIPPING with sweat. Sit to 11:40, near Marcel drinking a Pepsi he went to a shop across the square to buy. #16 Chuao town-view 11:50, then GREAT cacao 11:55, almost gritty with cocoa grains. On standing-back truck, getting my hat knocked off early and guy runs back to get it for me, 12:22-12:39 to beach. #17 and 18 waiting for motor on boat at 12:47. Boat back 12:52-1:22, which started VERY wet, but evened out when we got into the middle, passing many boats driven standing-surfboard style, some full of tourists, and a city-like horizon-distant white freighter to the north. Back to hotel through more-crowded streets, to lunch with Vivi at 1:40, ordering my spaghetti Carbonara by 2PM, having beers again at Araguaneyes (the regional tree) Restaurant, open-air with local bloods doing wheelies on their motor scooters that drives our English-speaking waitress wild, so we move to a far corner and get glared at by another group of Dutch tourists, while a pair of Lesbians (I hope, since they wouldn't go very far as heterosexual women) lunch at another table. Their pizza oven wouldn't operate til 4PM, reasonable in this heat, but we HAD made our choices nicely before that. Ken had a huge salad, she gave out any number of free star-apples which she said were from Malaysia and had many names, and we have a slow lunch til 3:10, gazing out over the passing traffic and enjoying a sitting-up siesta. To the pool at 3:20, comfortable since we're the only occupants for the time, and it's just great floating effortlessly, sometimes looking up to see the circling frigatebirds and vultures and something-betweens, and sometimes with eyes closed, feeling just absolutely lovely, thnking that this is what vacations should be more like if only I could give myself the luxury to just sit back and enjoy them rather than demanding to do, do, do. Float to 4:05, then sit in the sun to dry, feeling good to get sun over my whole body-front, and then the sun disappears about 4:35. PEACE!!! Dress to 4:50, and back to pool to read at 4:52. Looks like RAIN. Vivi drive up at 5:10, I suspect paying us back for being ten minutes late the first time he met us. #19 Choroni at 5:23. #20 "Tinia", whatever that is---a flower? #22 Calabasa gourds: throw away the inside and make bowls and containers out of the outsides. Walk back to hotel at 6:20, trying to interest ourselves in what we were walking past, but it was more of the same, just to please Vivi that we were taking his tour of Choroni. Then to Arananeyes Restaurant for drinks and order Cuba Libre, awful with rum and whiskey?, and Ken has a Caprinha which he says is a section of Brazil made famous by Villa-Lobos' composition "The Woman of Caprinha." Remark about people passing on the street and look at the birds in the trees and on the telephone wires. Then Ken has another caprinha and I have a too-bitter rum punch to 7:20, Ken getting very silly when drunk, laughing uncontrollably at some silly thing I said, then making a spoonerism of it and laughing all the more. To hotel at 7:54 after walking to the beach, seeing fish being shoveled into piles of ice in back of fish-trucks, then along the spotlit Caribbean front with families and kids and toughs sitting and playing under the trees in front of rusting cannons set into the stone walls keeping out the waves of the Sea, bursting up against a too-near wall, rushing over stones before striking the base of other walls. Walk to the hotel at the far end of the beach and I try to video two men in the water, silhouetted against the surf, seemingly fishing. Back through the back streets, seeing many buildings for sale, an historic plaque commemorating the Casanovas for their 1780 building reconstructed in the 80s and now some kind of private hotel. Find the "local" town square, lots of tiny shops and houses open to view behind trellised facades, kids playing besides TVs, people cooking and eating. Vivi wanted us to eat at Mora, which was closed, and a third-floor panoramic restaurant which was also closed, so we continued down toward the beach and he met someone he knew and we went into a totally deserted restaurant where we looked at the menu and decided we could live with it: me with pollo ala plancha, not bad, just chicken with VERY good french fries, and Ken and Vivi had a sort of fish called Carita, which was the same as a four-foot long specimen which had been caught that evening which the fisherman had gone door to door in the northernmost part of town trying to sell, and I took the chance of videoing (But I GOT no video of that, sadly!) that salesman while getting, I hope, a better look at the beautiful man with a pierced nipple with a teardrop, with a narrow waist, greatly muscled chest and abdomen, an impossibly narrow hip, and a large chain-link necklace around his neck and chest. Ken didn't like him that much, but I thought he was dynamite. Then back to the restaurant for a strawberry batida, hoping the ice was OK, which he said it was, and some beer and I even tasted he fish and thought it was pretty good: pork-chop like with hardly any bones. Back to the hotel at 9:45, Ken goes almost immediately to bed but I've GOT to brush my teeth and read New Yorker to do so to 10:35, thankful that the angle of the room allows him to sleep while I can have my bed-lamp on and read. Take pills and pee and put LOTS of anti-itch hydrocortisone on the NUMEROUS bites, some of them at ankle-level that really smart during my walking, and try to dry everything out by hanging them from the hooks above the head of my bed. Bed at 10;45, feeling quite cold, so covered up while Ken has not bothered to arrange his mosquito netting, though I'm quite sure I was bitten a number of times, a puzzlement since I was under two blankets most of the time. Ken's alarm is set for 7:45, which would be nine hours sleep if I slept the whole time.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 14: 7:37AM: Dream of looking at a young Mark-Wahlberg-type sexy guy, figuring I have NO chance with him, and as he looks at me with SOME vague acceptance, I reach out to touch his naked torso with what I hope is a seductive murmur of "Pretty pretty," and as ridiculous as that sounds to my ears when I say it, he seems to respond positively, or at least lets ME respond positively to HIM when I reach out to grasp him by his narrow, muscled waist and draw his addominals to my bearded face, loving the subtle shadings and risings and fallings in each square of abdominal, and I nuzzle and kiss his middle, which he seems to enjoy, but I don't get to even feel if his genitals are responding to my erotic touch, or even to note if I am responding to my touch, when I wake with just the vaguest tingles in my groin, which instantly disappear, to be replaced by the near-trip-end typical litany of "How many days (3) and how many hours (60) until I'm back home, and what will have happened with Helen's will, and apartment 20K, and when will I do the two New York Times Sunday crosswords which will be undone by the time I buy the new one Saturday night, and what is the status of my restaurant list, and my stamps, and throwing away of books, and I haven't started throwing away clothes, and still have to clip my toenails and move the "extra Sunday" to my pillbox, and, and, and"---and though I'm thinking and thinking, it isn't with any real ANGST: these are merely THOUGHTS, though admittedly not of the most relaxing kind, and I think of the welbutrin I'm taking, and how it's leveled off feelings, and can't even get excited thinking about the first two or three erotic jerk-offs when I return to my videos and porno, and will I renew my World of Video year and when will I write the obligatory postcards at least to Sherryl, Rita, Shelley, Fred, and maybe one other to exhaust my purchased five Venezuelan stamps, but maybe saving at least one, and I somehow look forward to completely sorting my used US stamps with a new catalog, thinking of my annotated 1980(?) four volumes, etc, etc, etc, and now at 7:45 I can at least return to my REGULARLY scheduled program of keeeping up with my journal. Record the "pretty pretty" dream previously, and shit at 7:25AM. I think I also recorded then the amount of money I had and the fact that I couldn't find any more index cards on which to keep notes, so note 8 is on a scrap of the small notebook: Pack and leave room for breakfast at 8:25-9:05, earlier than before, she remembering to leave the tomatoes out, that I wanted chocolate and toast, but I forgot to tell her to leave out the over-salty cheese, which at dinner that night Vivi confirms that we ARE supposed to mix with what it comes with FOR salt, but I don't care for the taste of it, though Ken mixed it with his Cason, which turned out to be shark. I type outside in the heat and humidity so Vivi won't have to knock on our door, which seems a bit much, and he arrives at 9:10 and I call for Ken and we start at 9:15. #23 "goat" made out of scrap, not even as good as the mosquito later, but I'd taken the first so didn't bother to take a picture of the second. We went down a side road to the sugar factory, which was closed, but a black with a sexy walk and a low back decollete walked past often enough so that I could get a video of him when I took a picture of the nude female overlooking the river next to what looked like a major portion of an outmoded generator, and took pictures of the artistic fish-with-woman's-face, the armadillo that Ken pointed out, some of the paintings on the double-height walls, and remains of the sugar-factory equipment hanging from the ceiling. He said we would try to come back tomorrow. Sugar factory 9:45, and #24 "museum" at 9:56. #25 nude and motor at 9:57. #26 palm tree trunk with non-objective art on trunk at 10:03. #27 a view up the hill where we'll walk at 10:20. Have to cross two rivers, the first where they're in the process of building a bridge and I step on the fragile wood which Vivi warns me about, but I HAD gotten there safely. Ken is a real wuss about it, demanding that Vivi hold out a hand to him every rock of the way, but I manage with the help of the German walking stick that Vivi carried with him. The second is broader and swifter, and I get almost across but step into deep water with my left shoe and get quite wet, and then climb a fairly steep hill until we're told we reach level ground at 11:08. #28 treetrunk with termite-channels under the bark that look like the troglodyte housing in Capadokya, on ficus tree at 11:13. #29 forest tops at 11:24: I just wanted to take pictures that would give me an excuse to stop and to record where we were going, though there were very few birds, though Vivi tried to tell us he saw a toucanette, but I almost think he was fibbing because he had found very little ELSE to point out to us. Lots of bird calls and some rather familiar forms darting from tree to tree, but what impressed ME most were the numbers of types of TINY flowers: tiny white four-petalled flowers that joined in an XX pattern, little yellow blooms with red centers barely a centimeter across, somewhat larger red and white flowers growing from the forest floor, with the large yellow blooms above the car on the road where we parked. Also we decimated feet of ant-trails, some of the ants hauling truly enormous blades of grass, parts of leaves, or even twigs which clearly weighed two or more times their weight. At one point they were gathered so thickly that I think Vivi said to walk fast, and stomped his feet afterward to make sure none of them had clung to his clothes. And just a few minutes ago, typing this, I felt a tickle on my left shin and brushed off a large black ant, unfortunately not making sure that I'd killed him, so "I'll be back," he's probably saying. #30 lunch furnished by Vivi of a ham and cheese demi-hero with a nicely ripe banana, and Ken had insisted I carry my water, so I'd filled the Golden Pina bottle with water that retained a slight taste of pineapple through the drinking of the water in it. Lunch started at 12:09, Vivi telling the story of canal-builders (from 1890s) trapped by the sudden flooding of the falls and forced to hide in a cave until they were rescued with ropes after a few hours of praying, so they dedicated the cave to the Virgin of Lourdes, putting up a sign that led me to break it "porNO SOTRAS" rather than "por NOSOTRAS" but videoed a panorama and took a photo at 12:09. Start back at 12:30 after peeing in various places, and enounter two donkeys and three horses on the trail, I didn't film the first meeting, but did the second until Vivi started talking with a "cowboy" with a horse about his activity of produce-hauling which he takes across the rivers we'd just had bridges being built over to accomodate. #31 forest at 12:44. Vivi HACKS his way back with a three-foot machete that he managed to extract from his two-foot deep backback, and I got the idea he was doing it 1) to prove he had so much time while we walked so slowly behind him, 2) that he was so macho he had to participate in the maintenance  of the fairly-well maintained trail, and 3) to show that he was not only strong in walking but also in his arms, which might have been debatable because he slipped onto his tuchus on the slippery steps outside the sugar factory, stumbled forward over some rocks in the path as he was pointing out something, and made a couple goofs a couple other times which made me think he might be coming to the end of his 20-year career which he'd decided to devote to an area outside the city: he talked about his 18-year-old daughter just finishing school and his 12-year-old son, but said nothing about a wife (though someone later asked him about her; and in the car later, when he praised me for being in shape at 66, confessed to being only 52, which I think is usually much OLDER than his guidees), saying that he hoped to retire as the manager of a ten-room hotel because Venezuela provided no sort of Social Security at all, and I told him about my arrangements because I had no kids, and he verified that Ken had no kids and that we both lived alone. Un-hmmm. #32 trail at 1:08; I'd hoped to get them ahead in the sun, but by the time I got the camera out they were gone. Mourned the loss of the left eyepiece of my binoculars, since the drop of them yesterday which I remember, though I don't remember where, knocked the prism loose from its mooring and it rattled around in its tube, and when I tried to take it apart later in the hotel, the base housing twisted off but didn't open anything, and removing the eyepiece rubber protectors revealed a tiny screw holding that part together, so maybe I can fix it at home or buy a new pair before I need them for some theatrical event, remarking the irony that I'd just thrown away THREE OBSOLETE PAIRS of which I might have kept one had I known this pair was going kaput. Start down at 1:25, a bit earlier than expected, and then I figured it would be 50 minutes down, but it was much easier going down than coming up and we hit the road at 2PM. I demanded a beer and we stopped after a longish conversation with a farmer bringing banana-leaf wrapping for the Christmas puddings to be baked in them, and whose ankle had been cured preternaturally because of her intercession with the virgin. Before that I tried to get a good video of the white cock Ken said was the best rooster he'd ever seen, which of course I would introduce as the best COCK he'd ever seen, and Vivi ordered three beers, which I drank down quickly and soon he ordered three MORE beers, but then said that more than two would be too much for him to drive with, and Ken said he wanted to drink before dinner, so I squelched my desire for a third beer and we had to pay the bill of 3000B, not bad for six beers. We leave at 2:37, me now riding in the back and  feeling almost motion-sick from the beers as truckdrivers stop to chat with people on the road and I keep swiveling my neck to look at the LARGE number of people washing and bathing in the river. We stop in the town square of Choroni to verify that the church Ken wants to see is STILL not open, though we'll try again tomorrow, and back to the hotel at 3:11, me too tired to follow up the "option" of renting a boat to take me to Playa Seco, which Vivi made perfectly clear was NOT part of his itinerary and I would have to pay for the WHOLE BOAT, as Ken put it, myself. (And I keep wondering WHEN I'm going to hit the end of File 5, which I seem to have been typing forever, though it's only been since last night, but I HAVE been going on and it FEELS like this should be close to the end, but I'm blabbering like I would do on coming near the end of a 58-line page in my journal). Get inside and strip off my wet clothes and get into bathing suit and out to the pool, stepping in from the side, and still watching the endless circling of frigtebirds, vultures, none of the anomalous birds I'd seen before (for which Vivi brought a HUGE Spanish-only bird book for me to look through), and quick-flying orioles, not as many oropendulas, and some other unidentifiables, as well as a brownish dragonfly as quite a contrast to the brilliant ruby-red dragonfly we saw a couple of times on the trail. I leave at 4, tired of just lying in the shade on the chaise longues, listening to the maids chatter between themselves within scandalous earshot of their clients, and the shouts of children from the roadside not as bad as the screaming kids I had to shield my ears from yesterday. And an awful HORN kept blowing, too! Back inside to dress and pee and leave at 4:17, finding the upstairs closed for cleaning, so I have an unsatisfactory gin-and-tonic and Ken had one caprinha downstairs, then they said upstairs was ready, and we sat at the corner and dished everyhone on the street, including my tit-ringed honey, some other sexy guys including the shaved-bald blue-shirted luminous-smiling black who helped the gangly young Jerry Lewis type wet down the road so it wouldn't dust their customers, and I videoed passersby and birds on the wires, and we both ordered second caprinhas and I paid 7200B at bar and I recorded that last night we ate at the Restaurant Tasca de Bahia, whose maitre d' came after us on the street but we said we wouldn't be eating there tonight since Vivi said we'd be at Mora, which we verified earlier WAS open this evening. Back to hotel at 6:49, meeting Vivi in his car outside the door, who'll wait in Mora, and we get there about 7PM and Vivi has a fish soup, Ken has mushrooms with basil under cheese and I order a very late but good cream of vegetable soup. Vivi introduces us to Mora with her little kid, two dykes annoy us by beeping and squeeling their car alarm at least four times, and others come in to make it over half full, and my dorado with tartar sauce is good with sliced fried potatoes, Ken got calamari instead of the shrimp he wanted but realized it would take too long to replace, and we chatted while eating, and I had melon batida and two beers while Ken had enough alcohol, and he paid 4800B for the drinks at Mora while Vivi paid for the rest of the meal. Back to the hotel to put back the water Ken bought and my bag, and say goodnight to Vivi who'll be back at 9AM and we walk back to town to see my tit-drop walking around, me sorry that I didn't bring my videocamera, but Ken's tired and my slippers are getting wet and we've seen it all already, so we're back to the hotel at 8:40 and I undress and start typing at 8:56, Ken goes to bed at 9:18, saying he knows it's early, and I remark that he'll get 10.5 hours sleep with his alarm set for 7:45AM, and I type this HUGE amount of stuff til 10PM, finishing all my notes from the notepad which DID get soaked in my pocket from my wet shirt, and my khakis are totally ruined except I have to wear them for our trek tomorrow on the way back to Caracas, and this is the next to last night to go to sleep in Venezuela, and I have to wash my face from the sunscreen I slathered on before lazing in the pool and didn't bother to take off since, and will probably get to bed before 10:15, having slathered myself with STILL MORE anti-itch hydrocortisone on MANY bites, including what Vivi though might be a tiny spider bite on the inside of my left index-finger, which itches more than any other bight-spot, and I stop this again at 10:03PM, almost dizzy from typing so much. Take a sleeping pill which I hope will allow me MAXIMUM sleep out of the 9.5 hours available, spread around the clots of anti-itch cream left, try to shit but only pee a bit, curse the ridiculously loud bathroom door creaks, and type this by 10:15PM, truly ready for a LONG penultimate sleep in Venezuela! Seemed to have gotten RIGHT to sleep with NO delay.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 15: The sleeping pill really WORKED: only woke at 4:10AM, almost six hours straight, to pee in the bathroom left open by Ken, and then up again at 6:15AM, already almost eight hours, and dozed til 7:10, when I got up and showered and washed and conditioned my hair (and beard) until just at the point of finishing I hear Ken's alarm go off and comb my wet hair and deodorize and get out with my dry bathing suit and pillbox to find that it's 7:40AM and his alarm went off well before the 7:45 he said he wanted. The early-morning air is broken by his strained coughing, though thankfully his throat-clearing has been much less than usual. He never questioned my wearing earplugs in the early mornings together. Put on lots of anti-itch, particularly on my right index-finger spider-bite, whose red center is almost gone, and type this to 7:47, planning the packing for today leaving Choroni and tomorrow leaving Venezuela! Only about 33 hours to go! Get my dop kit from the bathroom while Ken's shaving to swab out my ears, then while he's showering I wash the mud off my shoes in the sink and put them out to dry on two pieces of toilet paper. Ready to pack and dress at 8AM. Ken wants to get out earlier, so I tell him to do so, putting in earplugs because someone seems to have screaming kids right outside the door. It turns out that two couples, one with a Finnair cap, has three screaming kids in the pool, and when we sit down to breakfast they move, of course, to the next table. I have essentially two menus with the two pancakes and the plate of fruit, and we're not communicating much through my earplugs from 8:35-9:05. Vivi's truck comes at 9 and we leave at 9:11 and off some other side road and start walk at 9:40. #33 red, red, and red: lechita, white glue under red leaves; ginger; and croton. Walk mostly uphill past lots of cottages, one with a pair of toothbrush mezuzahs outside the outhouse, many nicely planted with many varieties of croton and coleus. Arrive at the sugar factory at 10:11, but it's not working and coincidentally it starts to rain JUST as we enter under its tin roof. Vivi explains the process, I take #34 of the sugar mill and the sugar, then #35 of the boiling vat on left, cooling concrete cones with Ken to the right, and #36-37 of sugar cane fronds and hills in order to change film to roll 6 at 10:20. Rain stops and we start down at 10:30. I video small flowers of which there are dozens, and flies of which there are at least three on one plant, but the blue one flies away. Back to the truck thankfully fast at 11:20, still tired from yesterday and thankful that the rain isn't making the trail slipperier and that this is the LAST walk! We THINK we see the church door open in Choroni at 11:30, but when we walk across the square all doors are solidly shut: mass wishful hallucination! To hotel at 11:55, Vivi waiting for us at Mora, Michele stuck behind an accident on the highway and delayed. We mostly pack and leave hotel for Mora at 12:15, I having pollo ala plancha when they don't have guacamole con tostada, and don't want vegetables OR rice, so just order potatoes, and then have the brainstorm to ask for pineapple, and it goes real well, Vivi has some with his that he likes so much that he tells Mora she should add it to the menu. Look through a Cordon Bleu book on Salsa, with lots of good-looking pictures, and we drink beer, then I have a banana batida, and Ken pays for the drinks and we leave at 1:18. Back to pack up the last of everything, and put the bags in a closet since we have to be out at 1:30, but Vivi gets a call that Michele will be here in an hour, so we leave at 1:33 and walk to the Playa Grande, VERY hot walk, Ken walking slowly so as not to get hot, me walking fast so as not to get heated by the sun. Sit on a shaded rock and comment on the not-so-great bodies on the beach, though the smiling policeman in total blue takes the cake for attraction, but the poor tourist with the blue towel around his neck leaves before making contact with anyone, and finally at 2:05 I feel the need for a baño and we walk quickly back---ah, I'd passed tit-ring with a surfboard on his way home from the beach and wished I'd brought my camera. Hot hot hot. Back at 2:20 for a farty shit and get bag from the open closet to type at 2:25, catching up at 2:41, no sign of Michele, though Vivi said he'd wait around to see us off, so if there were an additional delay, Vivi would probably be called by Michele and tell us. Let's hope so. Read New Yorker and when I ask Ken why he's not occupying himself he merely replies that his mind's empty. Start recording in the back of my New Yorker for convenience, since it's so hot my litle notebook is totally sodden. Vivi leaves at 3:02, assuring us that "Michele will be here in 5-10 minutes." At 3:16 he arrives. Pack car, Ken's visa didn't work and they have to do it again, and we're off at 3:29, hot until the air conditioner comes on, and my shirt remains wet for the rest of the trip. The drive through the pass seems shorter now that we know what it looks like, still no monkeys though we drive with windows down to see if we can hear them, and still lots of surprising traffic at curves, and an agonized face on a woman in speedos pumping uphill, followed about ten minutes later by two red-faced teens begging Michele to tell they they're near the top, but he says "about half an hour." Good views down over Maracay before they're really expected, and we stop there for everyone to pee in the lightless john, buy things to drink and Ken shares his triply-remelted chocolate bar with the front seat, since he's now in back and I'm now in front. Drive quickly, but it gets dark quickly under spectacular clouds, and I'm slightly paranoid, but convince myself to look at the growing slums as we near Caracas, more and more lights as it gets darker, and a VERY long curve around a mountain that a long bridge would GREATLY speed. Traffic goes slower in town, and we're on freeways which are at least MOVING, but he passes the exit for Gran Sabana and waits for the next exit, but it's not really moving and he goes on and we PASS the Melia by about 100 feet at 6:40, and Ken exclaims, "Oh, we're going to be twenty minutes earlier than our estimated 7PM arrival." And I, prophetically, say "Well, we're not there yet!" Off the freeway finally, onto VERY crowded streets, and Michele looks up various off-streets with a great lack of conviction and stays on the conduit road, which then freezes completely, and it looks like gridlock: the bus coming TOWARD us wants to make a left turn to the street OUR lane of traffic is blocking, and I can see the line piling up behind it preventing the car at the front of OUR line from making a left turn across the traffic-stream. We sit and sit, Michele getting more and more anxious, Ken saying that we're SURELY staying in the hotel for dinner before our 6AM departure tomorrow. I start giving advice like "It's clear here," but he says we'd just get into more of the same, and maybe worse, and I apologize for making suggestions about a situation TOTALLY unknown to me. We FINALLY get to a street at 7:31 where he says "Maybe we can walk through the Commercial Center, if you don't mind walking maybe 100 meters." We say fine, and he whizzes down a few relatively clear streets and dives into a huge mall-type entrance, winding his way past shops and parking entrances, and asks someone something, and he goes down two levels and parks right at the end of a line, illegally, and we start unpacking when an attendant comes along, they exchange words in Spanish, and Michele backs up about a foot and we unload at 7:37. Then he leads the way through a MAZE of shops and storefronts, and I WISH I had time to video it, but we turn and negotiate and weave and go up and down, and finally he asks and is told C-3 and we go and get an elevator and ride up four or five levels, get off and walk around a corner and I recognize the Baroque architecture of the hotel ahead! Around more corners and to another elevator and find ourselves at a side entrance in front of the hotel, reaching the lobby at 7:46PM at LAST! Check in quickly and to room 617 at 7:52, Ken changes from shorts and short-sleeved shirt and I don't, and we're down to the dinner in [and I just erased maybe a dozen lines of ```, followed by    , followed by 111111111, but I could erase them all OK.] L'Albufera, which they finally assure us is open, and it IS, and we start with a rum punch he doesn't like and a very good gin and tonic with Schweppes "Aquakina" that goes on forever and fills me up a lot. Then look at the menu and Ken rather insists on traditional Paella ala Valenciana with chicken, rabbit, and seafood, and he starts with an almond soup that I wanted to taste, which he says is boring, and I got the Casserole of Mushrooms and Shrimp, which turned out to be absolutely HUGE. Then Ken wants wine, so he orders a 35,000 Blanc de Blanc by Sichel, which I thought was good, but it wasn't great. Then a couple moved in behind us with a baby in a stroller who started ABSOLUTELY SCREAMING, and I called over the Santa-Claus-type maitre d' and asked if we couldn't sit in the other side of the restaurant, which he said was closed, but he'd move us around the corner, if we'd like. We DID, and the baby continued to SCREAM through the meal, actually making me HAPPY that I'd moved, and the good maitre d' was almost apoplectic, and I really wonder why they CAN'T deny space to babies. Can't eat but half of the casserole, helped mightily by Ken, and then the Paella comes in an enormous tureen and our plates are loaded and I can barely get down to the botton at all. Eat and drink and chat and finish at 9:45, to the room at 10, and throw everything off the bed and get to bed at 10:10, with Ken leaving a wakeup call for 5 as we stopped at the desk to make sure one of the room service American breakfasts which our trip paid for (for 87,000 Bolivares!) had my hot chocolate on it. Take a sleeping pill because I'll really need the sleep, but wake the first time at 11:57PM, disappointed.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 16: Wake again at 12:40AM, 1:05, 3:40, 4:44, and 4:58, 59, 5:00, waiting for the phone, and at 5:01 it rings, Ken takes it and goes to john, I laze till 5:12, opening the drapes to see no sign of dawn, and pack to breakfast being wheeled in at 5:28, set with places, juice, coffee and chocolate and milk pots, and from the closed cabinets below he brings up FOUR plates, two of our cheese and onion omelets, two of GREAT fruit aarrangements of quartered oranges, tangerine bottoms, watermelon, canteloupe, and papaya. I eat as much as feels comfortable to 8:44, leaving MOST of the great feast! AND Ken says we get breakfast on the Miami flight! To desk at 6AM and check out with no charges, don't see Michele because he was in the john, and we're out to shove Ken's bag into the back and I REALLY snap at him about not using such a big bag again, and he says I'm touchy this morning. Michele checks his air in his tires AGAIN at 6:02 and we drive until I demand they turn back for my wallet (as described at 8:21AM: FULL day already: major panic when I feel my pants: no wallet; rifle my A&K bag: no wallet. I must have left it on my bed! Michele turns back without a word and we actually are delayed all of ten minutes when I race to the room with a new key and find NOTHING there, flipping my bed-blanket a number of times to make sure. Calmly panicking, I dash downstairs and empty my A&K bag onto the sidewalk in front of the Melia and find nothing more than I'd found before. Look through my blue bag, baggie by baggie, and in the temporary bag into which I threw my now-empty billfold that contained spare cash, THERE is my wallet. Apologize profusely and at one point Ken says he hopes I left my ANXIETY back on the sidewalk in front of the Melia. Thank goodness we get everywhere on time, though not substantially BEFORE time, and we SURELY weren't there three hours before) from 6:11-6:21. To the airport at 6:47, long line to security at 7:14, to ticket check at 7:43, babies crying and a DOG barks. LONG SLOW lines "like Caracas traffic" says Ken to his neighbor. Thru x-rays "computer OK" (and I prove it IS OK by using it successfully) at 7:54. To another window 7:57, takes yellow slip with nod. Checks passport on computer. Buy $6 bottle of punch and get change from my $100 bill since we don't have to pay departure tax, which was included with our ticket prices! To gate 23 desk and x-ray again at 8:17, takes tax slip, again "computer OK." Type to 8:25 and type lots more to board at 8:45, slow, for 2:56 flight. 77° in Miami already at 8:06AM THERE. 9:06 leave dock, 9:12: stewardess: "That's electronic, isn't it?" I say yes and shut it off as we're taxiing toward takeoff at 9:26. Roll 7, #1 Bonaire at 9:45. #2 Curacau (?) at 9:49. Haiti HUGE, #3 Port au Prince (?) at 10:55, halfway! But maybe it wasn't Port au Prince since it's close to the north coast of island, BUT maybe it was only the indentation of the large bay. Went to a map in EB but it still wasn't clear, though the city seemed a bit large to have been Gonaïves. #4 West tip of island, blue left and green right of (maybe) Turtle Island just off Haiti at 11:01. Fly above CLOUDS at 11:09, DAMN! But quickly OUT of clouds and seatbelt sign FINALLY goes off at 11:13! Pee at 11:30, one hour to go. LOTS of Bahamas. #5 COLORS at 11:40. #6 Bahamas color at 11:53. #7 North Bimini by shape at 12:09. FEW crying kids on this plane. #8 Miami Beach 12:15. #9 Miami 12:15. #10 airport at 12:16. #11 Speedboat ride and swamp on Alligator Alley at 12:23. Land 12:28 for a 3:02 flight. Passport check as we GOT OFF PLANE. 1:12 to luggage. IN LINE for gate E10 at 1:32, having gulped 6 Buffalo wings and celery and blue cheese for $11 til 1:57, changing watch to 12:57. Board 1:14, told to TRY window in back: "They love to move forward," but I'm displaced TWICE into my regular seat over the wing next to Ken before taking off at 1:40 in rain for 2:10 flight, in at 3:50 maybe. 3:24: down in 19 minutes. Land 3:51 in driving rain, no car waiting for us, bags START at 4:18, into taxi at 4:30, luckily no one's on the curb and we get the single taxi standing there who goes by meter for the two of us. I give Ken $30 for what may be half the taxi and home at 5:15 with a cheap $26 on meter. Letter from 101 Clark St about meeting Wednesday! Four phone calls (1) for VP, 2) from Carolyn, 3) from Pineda, 4) from Spartacus that I talk to 5:30-5:40), and Ken calls to say total taxi was $38, so I put $8 on the bill for him, and he reminds me that his $250 is due for the Beard. Look through the mail while tuna casserole is cooking for dinner, reading only the first bit of a Tahiti letter from Jean-Pierre. Look through two Sunday Timeses and skimming three magazines. Tired, having gotten up at 3:45AM NYC time, and look through a NYTimes Book Review during dinner, also rewinding tapes and setting up for this evening's taping. Bed at 8:40PM, not feeling like jerking off because it's quite cold in the apartment, so I put on living room radiator.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22: TV all day, finishing "Forsyte Saga" and finally proofing this until 8:30PM, catching up to date with bag weights: Blue 17# to 20#, A&K bag 12# to 16#, from 29# to 36#. Expenses to date: $3366 7/02 Visa, $280 9/19 Visa trip insurance, $310 cash, $177 I owe Ken, but $125 is for Beard, so my total is $4083.40/15=$272.23/day, roughly.


SAT,NOV 2: Beer-sandwich lunch at JFK. Fly JFK-MIA 12:48-3:08; MIA-CARACAS 5:33-9:07, watching "Men in Black II." Snack at Gran Melia Caracas bar and bed.
SUN,NOV 3: Breakfast in pool area, see Contemporary Art Museum and Botanic Gardens, lunch in Prosciuto Pasta in Melia, walk mall, coffee in Gran Cafe, dine in Sumire Japanese Restaurant in Melia, and bed with sleeping pill.
MON,NOV 4: Breakfast at 6AM in Mediterraneo in Melia. Fly Caracas-Canaima 10:35-12:10 after photoing (lost roll) and videoing Angel Falls from air from cockpit! Truck to Ucaima Lodge via Sapo Falls overlook, lunch with Brazilian couple, truck to walk over and under falls, dinner at Lodge.
TUE,NOV 5: Boat 6-7:30 to Encampment Breakfast. Boat 8:10-9:50. Walk 10:05 to ANGEL FALLS OVERLOOK 11:15-11:30, and back at 1PM, exhausted. Lunch at viewpoint. Boat back 2-5, stopping at Happy Pool. Relax and dinner at Lodge.
WED,NOV 6: Tour Lodge area: macaws, turtles, airstrip. Maturin gift shop. Fly Canaima-Caracas 12:05-1:36, lunch in sandwich shop. El Avila tour 5PM, through Altamira, Galipan, overlook, grocery store for Mora juice, dine at Galipanier Restaurant, to hotel at 10, tired.
THU,NOV 7: Fly Caracas-Merida 10:21-11:30, past Pico Bolivar. To Hotel Belensate, lunch in Mercado Principal with Danitza Fernandez and cops shaking down lunchers. Tour Colonial Merida with Museo de Arte Colonial, Casa de los Antiguos Gobernadores, Plaza Bolivar, Basilica Menor, and ice cream at Heladeria Coromoto. Drinks and dinner with wine at Hotel restaurant.
FRI,NOV 8: Read Alain de Botton's "The Art of Travel" these days. Driving tour of Chorreda Falls, Church and plaza and strawberry frappe restaurant in Jaji, Lagunillas salt-lake, El Bosque II lunch, Hacienda La Victoria coffee plantation and Immigration Museum with Coffee Cream in the cafe, dinner at Belensate.
SAT,NOV 9: Breakfast and check out of hotel, and to highest Teleferique in Merida 8:30-12:12. Lunch at Don Tito's in countryside, to Mucubaji for hot chocolate, and check in at Hotel Los Frailes before driving toward Barinas for a brief Cock of the Rock sighting, then dinner in elegant hotel dining room.
SUN,NOV 10: Tour hotel grounds before breakfast with hummingbirds, then lake with mirador and condor with flowers, rewinding second film-roll by hand. To highest Condor Pass with frailejons and Virgen de Coromoto and stone chapel and artwork in house in Santa Fe, pizza restaurant for lunch. To church and square, tour El Castillo Hotel. To Balcones de Musui vista-hotel for dinner and bed.
MON,NOV 11: Good breakfast and walk to hot springs 10:26-1:20, pooped. To Restaurant El Aledaño for lunch and rose-petal liquor. Back to Mercado Principal to shop. Last dinner in disappointing Belensate restaurant.
TUE,NOV 12: Fly Merida-Caracas 10:23-11:39. Into Michele's car 12:04 and to Maracay's Mansion de Luis I for lunch at 3. Over pass in rain to Casa Grande at 5:25, walk to Playa Grande, and dinner, led by Vivi, at Casa Blanca. Mosquitos.
WED,NOV 13: Breakfast with frog, boat to Chuao for chocolate-making and back at 1:22. Lunch at Araguaneyes Restaurant with Vivi, lounge in pool looking at birds overhead. To Choroni 5:10-6:20, church closed, walking back. Drinks at Araguaneyes, walk in town and dine at Tasca de Bahia on Carita (fish).
THU,NOV 14: Breakfast in hotel, drive to sugar factory and art, walk to lunch at falls with cave of Virgin of Lourdes, beers and broken binoculars back to hotel at 3:11. Pool for an hour, more drinks at Araguaneyes, walk town, dinner at Mora Restaurant, catching up with a lot of typing before bed at 10:15PM.
FRI,NOV 15: Breakfast with two other families, walk to sugar-boiling, not in operation, in jungle, flowers and flies. Lunch at Mora. Car to Caracas 3:29-7:37, ending in INTENSE Caracas traffic-jam. Enormous dinner at L'Albufera with screaming kid we move away from and only half-eaten platters of dinner.

SAT,NOV 16: Fabulous room-service breakfast, "lose" wallet, return to hotel, find it in blue bag on way to airport 6:47AM. Fly Caracas-Miami 9:26-12:28 with hour's time-change, flying over Bonaire, Curacau, Haite, Bahamas, Bimini. Lunch of buffalo wings and celery in airport. Fly MIA-JFK 1:40-3:51 in rain and clouds all the way. Home 5:15 for letter from 101 Clark about meeting Wednesday! Look through Sunday Timeses and mail and bed 8:40PM. Finished typing THIS noon 11/25!