Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Theme for Movie/Book/Ponderances

I´ve realized a really wonderful theme that makes me really happy to think about. I think it rivals, in how much I think about it and appreciate it, Kurt Vonnegut´s near obsession with "extended families."

This theme is basically adult men spending friendly, platonic time together, just as buddies. I´ve seen it all over the world, and I´d like to provide a few examples, including some from here in South America.

In the states, especially in San Antonio and at times (like during the condo building craze of the 2000s, I´ve noticed groups of fellas who work on construction, likely immigrants from Mexico or Central America, likely in the States alone (which is to say without wives, children, mother-in-laws, who live together in large houses, almost like college houses. I am very much enamored with the idea that they cook together, gripe together, work together from time to time, fight with each other, pay bills together, and drink beers and coca-cola together. I often see these fellas at Fiesta on 38th Street in Central Austin, purchasing bags and bags of jalapeños, tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. I want to join their meal and their conversations.

There is a great example in a movie, a movie that has recently become a real favorite. The movie is Cool Hand Luke, starring Paul Newman. It´s about a fella, Lucas Jackson, who gets sent to a roadside prison after defacing public property (cutting the heads off parking meters) while inebreated. Anyway, the bulk of the movie is about this population of fifty men spending time in said roadside prison, all suffering under the weight of the Boss´ iron fisting reign. They, naturally, find time to divert their attention away from the dismal situations they´re living in, through card playing, bet making, and an occasional squaring up in the boxing ring. I am very much interested in this idea of mutual suffering across a diverse group of adult men, as well as the coping mechanisms they employ to ameliorate and live through such circumstances, maintaining a sense of humor, diversion, and hope.

Other examples I´ve seen here in South America are the groups of older men, generally existing on some point of the continuum between sober and pass-out hammered, who spend hours and hours chatting in the park, sometimes sharing a bottle of aguardiente. Interestingly enough, a common Ecuadorian drinking tradition says that there is generally one bottle (of caña, aguardiente, chicha, punta, beer, whatever) and one small cup, sometimes plastic (which can be attained from the store selling the hooch) and sometimes glass, generally in a home or restaurant. Each drinker is given the cup, asked to down the contents, after which point the server (generally the purchaser) refills the cup and passes it down the line. It goes like so, in a circle, until the bottle is finished, after many a joke, argument, handshake, etc...I really love this, and would love to take part more often.

Another really wonderful and dynamic situation in many parts of Ecuador (and possibly South America overall) is the bus driver and bus caller relationship. I am very much enamored with this interaction, and have likely mentioned it on this blog before, but I now realize one of the reasons it touches me so much. Basically, one man drives the bus. The other hangs out the front door, yelling to those on the street the destination of the bus. It is his job to sell the bus, so to speak, to the potential passengers who line the streets of Ecuador. Therefore, they are a symbiotic beast, both depending on each other to work seamlessly to accomplish two things: One, fill the bus to capacity (generally 150-180% of legal capacity). Two, get the bus to the destination as quick as possible so as to facilitate more trips per day. These two jobs are somewhat in contradiction with each other, and therefore the two men (only because I have yet to see a woman fill either position) are to work in a really wonderful way together. Naturally, there are teams that work quite well and others that don´t. This interests me a great deal.

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