Wednesday, July 14, 1999

Musac, Haiti

Nightmare last night. Dreamt I was told I could go home to Montreal for a break … had a good time, met a lot of friends, but then I realized I didn’t have the money to get back. Couldn’t call for help since my address book was full of DJs. Stood and gripped my head and gave out a “NOOO!” worthy of Captain Kirk. Awoke relieved to be surrounded by poverty, disturbed to have to go on a run with Winzeler. It was my guilty subconscious trying to escape, I guess. After maybe a mile I felt like puking.

Saw my first traces of voodoo yesterday on the walk to Terre-Blanche. At a crossroads someone had left a sacrifice of 70 American pennies.

A Swiss named Gottfried something-or-other (too much disrespect? can’t think of a substitute) is on the Haitian NSA. We had an amazingly colonial conversation over tea one afternoon. Talked about local writers and Nobel winners, and then I disappointed him by not loving chess. Apparently he helped form an Olympic chess team here, with the full contingent of Siberian doctors, etc. Said doctor gave out too much free medication, so his colleagues took advantage of the last upheaval to hire thugs to break his fingers and rape his wife. His 12-year-old son escaped under gunfire, and can do little about it until he grows older, makes connections. The father died of chagrin soon after. Makes me reflect on Glen’s statement that you have to be unusual to move overseas. Overseas, maybe not, but to Haiti, it just might be. Gabriel Garcia-Márquez might be a strict realist.

Been thinking about Inch, whose sudden transubstantiation into a natty-haired woman who carries water jugs on her head can only strike me as a healthy move away from silly caricatures of myself. And a move toward other more serious portrayals of myself, I suppose. It’s a good change because it heightens the county-city contrast, the rich-poor contrast. It offers a reason for her having fallen out of touch with her sisters, makes her return (through thunderheads, of course) that much more prodigal. There is a battery lying in the yard in front of me, and I think that would distress her. She’d tell Layli she can’t leave that kind of thing lying around … she’s changed, the village doesn’t know how to relate to her anymore. Regan’s haircut still stands. It also adds a level of cool sorcery (read cool million; pace Oana) to her having smashed the figurine and carrying its hand in her mouth.

It would mean that Jim/Dieter/whoever will have to have gone on one hell of a world tour to find her. It makes sense, I guess—after the crash he returned home (Dresden, wherever), married the girl his mom always wanted him to marry, had a few kids, and then couldn’t take any more of it. Packed his bags and swore he’d be back. Holy Land, Zagros mountains, the Afar, around Africa and then to St. Helena … a Rio stopover on the way to Venezuela. I t was in a café in Jacmel that he heard her voice; turned to be pleased that she was pretty, too; and swore that he would find her happiness. I wonder what he wrote home in explanation.

I’ve never articulated my dreams of money ... they bother me; I don’t know why I should be interested in it, not in wealth per se, but in the actual stuff of it, in coinage—why should I dream of entering storerooms, of being entrusted with ingots? Why do I puzzle, even in a dream state, at odd-valued coins or strange impressions? Last night it was a seven-sided coin with two queens facing chin to crown. I couldn’t figure why they should be so crude when the Queen herself looked even older than She does today, and finally dismissed them as British. My point is that similar dreams could bother Inch … I know she isn’t after money, but so much of the story is about wealth.

Can she say that she’d forgotten how the palm trees assume animal characteristics? How they consist of manes and leather and disarticulated bones? Or am I insisting on the unfamiliar in a place where there is none? Whites have always imagined themselves onto the jungle.

E.g. my Tarzan toothbrush.

Market was today (Saturday too). Remember the unfinished cinder-block buildings, like in Simferopol, but with rebar rising high out of every column, into the air. The little booths that serve as banks were something like “Banque St. Antoine”—the Christian tradition here leads to all sorts of ridiculous names: “Bar Dieu A Voulu,” “Lotto Fils de Dieu,” or “Coiffures Dieu Seul Juge.”

After talking with Winzeler, notes for Scratch: the meaning of wealth—kaleidoscopic; its relationship with success—impossibly volatile. Greed as a good thing.


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