The adventures of a guy living in The City, probably one of the most bizarre cities in existence. Seriously.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Snakes Sex on a plane train, Part I

I stood on the edge of the platform and breathed in the cool, midnight air while trying to decypher the contents of the train ticket I held in my hand. There was German printed all over it, no doubt telling me exactly where I needed to go and what I needed to do while I shrugged my shoulders and pleaded at it with puppy-dog eyes, trying to tell it that I couldnt' speak its language.

For a moment I was overcome with anxiety. I had never taken one of these night trains before. What if there was some sort of unspoken etiquette that I was supposed to follow? In German, no less? If I were a cooler, more confident person I would just stroll in, find my place and plunk myself down, using my hat to cover my face while spouting out one-liners in a gritty voice to anyone who would talk to me, like something out of a Kurosawa movie.

Only I'm not a cooler, more confident person. I'm a nervous guy in a bright green T-shirt, standing in the middle of a train station in Das Bumfücken, Germany, with a small suitcase full of dirty clothes and no idea what to do in the face of the unexpected.

I was going to learn, though. Very quickly.

A rust-colored wreck of a train quickly pulled into the platform in front of me and screeched to a halt, and the sound of the aging wheels grinding against the tracks nearly split my eardrums. The doors to each wagon slid open, and I was able to see a small piece of paper with information (in English!) that matched some of the writing on my ticket. 2006-07-22, Duisburg-Copenhagen, Night train. I boarded, trying to look nonchalant as I did, and made my way to my assigned cabin. There were three cramped bunks on each side of the cabin and no place to put any luggage, so in the interest of not getting my shit stolen in the middle of the night I hoisted everything up onto my bunk, the middle one on the right side, and tried to lie down and get some rest. This was proving to be pretty hard, since I had a suitcase taking up a quarter of my sleeping area and, at the same time, there was someone repeatedly opening and closing the door to my cabin while muttering to himself.

The guy was 60 or thereabouts, and as far as I could tell he was having issues with the door, or he was a vampire and was expecting me to invite him in. Whatever it was, I couldn't tell, and when a girl around my age came into the cabin and gave him a furtive, confused glance I knew I wasn't the only one. Eventually the ticket inspector came and the crazy old German guy (cogg) mumbled loudly at him for a while. It was only after a few minutes that I noticed that the ticket inspector was just nodding and giving the guy blank stares because he didn't understand him either. Eventually cogg sorted out his business and climbed into the bunk above mine while the other girl settled in across from me. With that settled, I tried to get some sleep.

'Tried' is the operative word here. Mr. Cogg was still mumbling to himself about stuff that only he could understand, and interspersed with the mumbling was the sound of him coughing and choking on what I imagined to be his own plegm. When I got on this train the most I was expecting was for someone to talk to me in a language I couldn't understand; instead I was getting a front row seat to what sounded like a Kraftwerk concert as performed by Rammstein. With phlegm.

As I pondered my predicament I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the girl.

"Excuse me, maybe we can change to another place?"

"I don't know," I replied.

The girl looked at the cogg above me and visibly shuddered with revulsion.

"He smells so bad. I have to get out of here. I am going to talk to the officer and maybe change to another wagon. Should I tell him to change you as well?"

As if to anwer my question, the cogg coughed up some more phlegm and mumbled something that sounded like, "bubble dribble gobble sliver".

"Yes, please."

She left, and I was left to my own devices. In this case that meant that I was left to try and smell the cogg (I have no sense of smell, see, so I wanted to know what was getting that girl all worked up) and shift uncomfortably in my place. I was not living up to Kurosawa's standards at all.

Five minutes later, the girl came back in and gave me a look of sheer, unadulterated pity.

"I talked to the conductor and he found another place for me in a just-girl cabin. Sorry, I hope you're okay."

I was going to say something, but she had grabbed her stuff and wavedashed the hell out of there before I could.

Luckily, around that time the cogg had finally settled into something resembling sleep in human beings. Hey, this isn't so bad, I thought, finally drifting off to sleep myself. So I got off to a rough start. It doesn't mean everything's going to go downhill tonight.

Just then, a man and a woman barged into my cabin, ripped off their clothes, and started making out on the bunk below mine.


To be continued...

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Chupalefant

Every city has its eccentrics, and this one is no exception. Of course, he's no Emperor Norton, but he's there, even if people don't see him or know who he is, or just try to casually ignore him and look the other way when they see him coming. Of course I'm talking about the one, the only (hopefully) Chupalefant.

Well, that's what he calls himself, anyway. No one has ever really cared enough about him to find out who he really is, so they just stick to what they know: that he wears a big button on his worn, ripped jacket that reads "Your mother likes to suck the Chupalefant", and that the Chupalefant is probably him. Maybe he's like our own version of the Chupacabra, only instead of attacking Central American farms he goes after travelling circuses and sucks their 'elefants' dry.

In any case, it seems as though the Chupalefant has a mission, and that mission is to make everyone around him either extremely uncomfortable or irrevocably confused when he shows up. He does this just by showing up and saying random things at people who walk down the street. Like, for example, he'll walk up to you, get in close way beyond the limits of personal space, and then...do nothing. He'll follow you for hours, staring at you like you're wearing a marmoset for a hat, and not really follow through with anything. Sometimes, when people try to duck into buildings to avoid him, he'll wait outside (sometimes for hours on end) until you come back out, at which point he'll resume his silent stalking.

I had a run-in with the Chupalefant yesterday, while I was sitting at a small restaurant downtown and having lunch. Well, I wouldn't call it a run-in, per se, more like a he-ran-up-to-me-and-started-saying-weird-things-in. It all started when he spotted me trying to eat my meal, a small BLT sandwich that I was trying to scarf down while sitting at one of the outside tables at a small place called La Bamba.

"You know, in Spain, they would call that a Cordon Bleu," he proclaimed angrily and with gusto. I quickly spotted the button, along with a couple of other weird things like the fact that his big, white beard was woven into dreadlocks, and the fact that he had a bejeweled navel piercing, which he proudly displayed through a hole he had cut in his shirt so his big, round belly could poke out.

He repeated his accusation when he didn't get an answer from me, this time with even more anger and possibly a little desperation. I stared at him, put down my sandwich, and said:

"I have no idea what the hell you are talking about."

"That's because you don't see, man," he replied. I tried to get up and run away, sensing trouble and sandwich be damned, but he blocked me from getting up with the power of his sheer obesity and nigh-toxic B.O.

"Listen," I pleaded, "I don't know what you want from me. If it's money, you're out of luck because I just spent it all."

"I don't want money," said the Chupalefant. "What I want is for you to see, and for you to love me, you miserable son of a bitch."

O...kay...then.

I did a feint to his right, then dodged to the left, managing to get around him, at which point I took off towards the nearest crowd of people, where I could blend in and disappear. What I hadn't counted on was that the Chupalefant is actually very, frighteningly fast; I ran for a block at full speed without being able to put any distance between the two of us, and eventually I gave up, gasping for air as he loomed over me, hardly even winded.

"What they haven't taught you in school is that dispositions create motives for action!"

"What?"

"That's something I learned from Norbert Elias, see," he scolded. "Do you know who Norbert Elias is?"

"Well, yeah, he's a sociologist--"

"Wrong!" The Chupalefant grabbed his crotch and shook it at me. "I'll tell you who he is. He was my master. Do you want some more?"

"...no."

"He was also the master of many others, in a land where we were free! And do you know why we were free?"

"Probably not."

"Because, in that land, people could get killed and their money stolen so junkies could buy drugs, that's why!"

Uh-oh. This train-wreck of a conversation was about to get hit by a meteor. I had to think fast before the Chupalefant decided to try and recreate Mr. Elias' perfect land by offing me and using my blood money to get high.

Luckily, as it happened we were standing on the corner of a very crowded street with lots of cars. A quick glance to my right showed that the pedestrian crossing signal was green and blinking, meaning that it was about to turn red at any moment. I made a mad dash for the other side of the street, like a crazed Frogger, dodging the cars and buses that were already zooming through and barely making it to safety before a cement truck careened around the corner. The Chupalefant tried to follow, but by that time the traffic was too intense and I had already made myself scarce within a crowd of passers-by.

I don't think that's the last I'll ever see or hear of him, unfortunately. People like that have a tendency of popping up when you least expect them, and I'm sure this guy is no exception. Luckily for me, now I know how to spot his cowboy-rasta-santa-anarchist getup and I'll be well-prepared to run like hell when I do.

Still, I think I'll look over my shoulder a bit more when I'm walking down the street from now on.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Various minuscule changes

I've made a couple of changes to this blog that are barely noticeable. If you happen to notice them and they don't work or something, let me know.

Some Technorati business

Technorati Profile

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Going Out

I don't like nightclubs. This says a lot about me as a person, I suspect, especially if you're one of those people who really likes to make broad, sweeping generalizations about the world based on small, disjointed fragments of information. Still, there it is: I don't like nightclubs at all. Too loud, not enough talking.

Now, that said, I am also a person who tries to ignore his own dislikes if it benefits the greater good. Take yesterday, for example, when three of my friends and my girlfriend simultaneously and independently decided that we absolutely had to go out--out out--and that I absolutely had to come along with them. Despite my loathing of nightclubs, I accepted because, hey, you should know if you read the first sentence in this paragraph.

So out we went, my friends, my girlfriend, a whole bunch of people that knew them, and me. As with anything else that happens in The City, going out is a ritualistic endeavo(u)r that involves a lot of preparation and meticulous planning just so everything can come crashing down moments afterward. In this case, I was roped into inviting more people to come with us because there were too many girls and not enough guys in our party. See, there has to be a more or less equal amount so no one gets bored. Of course, no one gets bored anyway, but still. I was unsuccesful in wrangling the necessary amount of testosterone to go with all the X chromosomes that would be roaming around, but in the end I convinced myself that this was all right because I am a walking fountain of unbridled masculinity and artificially inflating my ego like that was the only way I was going to get through the night.

The place we picked for our splendid outing was a very posh place known as The Coffee and Book Gallery. This is as sensible a name for a nightclub as any, I think, if a little wordy; they'll name these things after anything as long as it sounds trendy and cool. I could probably come up with three or four decent names for clubs right now, watch: 'Incense', that sounds about right; 'Onomatopaeia' could work as well; how about 'Urban'? If I ever open a café or a nightclub (doubtful) I'll probably give it a really weird name just to throw people off.

But I digress.

The Coffee and Book Gallery is a salsa club strategically placed in the middle of one of The City's two nightlife districts, 93rd Street Park. The name is really a lot more fancy than what it is: a small, one-block park surrounded on all sides by restaurants, cafés, nightclubs, and one McDonald's. It is naturally very, very posh, the kind of place where wearing the wrong kind of clothes can get you evicted. No, I'm serious, the business owners in the park actually have a private security force that they hired to keep out people that don't fit in with the park's image. If you look even remotely like you're the type of person who, heaven forbid, doesn't own at least one thing that is worth more than USD$100 and serves no practical purpose, then you run the risk of being treated like a hobo. Of course, this meant that I had to dig around inside my closet for the one shirt and pants combo that looks halfway presentable to a discerning crowd. It was hard.

The funny thing about The Coffee and Book Gallery is that it's an 'old people' club. My friends and I (alternatively referred to as my 'crew' or my 'massive') were the only people there under the age of 40. We drew lots of perplexed stares and the girls were quickly pounced upon by every single, lonely guy in the entire joint. My friend Andrea was quickly picked up by a German guy and taken for a spin (literally) while my other frieds clung to each other in fear of being hit on by middle-aged men with bald spots and aching loins.

It's a shame, really, because if not for that then we would have been able to enjoy the place for what it was, which was pretty nice. The decoration was made up mainly of Buena Vista Social Club memorabilia and there was a screen in the middle of the dancefloor showing videos of concerts starring salsa legends like Celia Cruz and Richie Rey. If you're the type of person who doesn't mind dancing to the same type of music for hours on end, I guess you could kind of like this place.

Of course, what's the point in mentioning this without a funny story to go with it? It involves my friend Andrea (two paragraphs up. The last time I mentioned her she was being picked up by a German guy), who, at some point during the evening walked up to me and nearly yanked me off my girlfriend's arm.

"Help me," she said between anxious breaths, "please, please help me."

I looked at her funny. "What's wrong with you?"

"It's that guy."

"Oh, you mean the one you've been dancing with," I said cheerily. "Hey, it looks like you guys hit it off, I mean you've been dancing with each other for like an hour now."

My friend Andrea gripped my arm and squeezed, hard. Her hobby is pottery. You do not want to have your arm squeezed by someone whose hobby is taking hard lumps of clay and kneading them like dough.

"That's because he won't let me go," she protested, laughing despite herself. "He just keeps...talking to me and I can't get away. He's so horrible! I think he's going to try to kiss me!"

I was about to ask her what was so horrible, but at that moment the German guy appeared--no, not appeared, more like emerged--and sequestered my friend Andrea for another 15 minutes. Poor girl, she's much to sweet and kind to tell the guy to fuck off, bless her.

I talked to my girlfriend about the issue and she very wisely told me not to try and shelter her because 1. it's not like the guy was going to rape her, and 2. she needed to learn to blow off men anyway. I promised not to stick my nose where it didn't belong and shortly thereafter she left for the bathroom.

Two seconds later, my friend Andrea came back, promptly grabbed my arm painfully again, and dragged me to the dancefloor.

"You're asking me out to dance," she barked. "Now."

"What? Why"

She stared at me with a mixture of anger, fear, and trepidation, then pointed to the table where we were sitting. I was able to catch a glimpse of the German before my friend Andrea grabbed me and promptly activated the spin cycle on her feet.

"Can you believe it? He was actually talking to me about how he thought our children were going to turn out," she whimpered.

"I don't know," I replied. "You're both pretty good-looking, you could make some nice babies..."

I was going to continue, but I suddenly felt a searing pain where my bicep used to be. It still hurts where she pinched me.

"I swear," she said after some time, her tone calmer and more at ease. "That guy is just looking for nookie and he has no idea how to get it."

"Oh come on," I retorted, "it can't be that bad."

As if on cue, the German waltzed onto the dance floor with my girlfriend hanging from his arm.

"Oh yes it can," said my friend Andrea.

Now I was the one who was getting agitated. What kind of protocol do you follow in situations like these? It's all right if your partner dances with someone else, but holy crap, the guy had his big, aryan paws on my girlfriend's ass. He was honestly trying to feel her up as they danced, the way he tried to feel up my friend Andrea before. What was I supposed to do in a situation like that? I could have walked up to him and challenged him to a duel for putting the moves on my lady, but he was big, like a tank, and my body was built for love, not war. And why was my girl letting that happen, anyway? She wouldn't let me do that kind of thing...was there no justice in the world?

My silent questions were answered when the German let go of my girlfriend in the middle of the song and walked away looking sullen and morose. I stared at her, clutching to my friend Andrea and not even dancing anymore, as she walked past me calmly and sat down at our table. I, of course, followed her and interrogated her when we were both sitting down.

"So what happened with that guy, anyway?"

"Well, he couldn't find Andrea so he took me out instead," replied my girlfriend. "He was trying to score with me but I made him go away."

Oh? And how'd you do that?"

"Easy," she said, matter-of-factly. "I told him that you and I are getting married."

"..."

"What?"

"...is that supposed to make me feel better?"

She shrugged.

The evening eventually ended and we left, cutting swathes through the two types of people that populate The City in the wee hours of the morning: those who are smashed beyond hope, and those who aren't smashed beyond hope and wish they were. The story gets pretty boring from here, so I'll be brief: everyone went home, it was damn cold, and my clothes smelled like cigarettes the next day.

Oh, and my girlfriend possibly wants to marry me at some point in time.

See, this is why I don't like nightclubs.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

A couple of news bits from The City:

1. The War on Moisture has reached us and is now in full swing. Of course, since authority figures in The City are about as free-thinking as lemmings and take everything literally, this translates to an inflexible, non-negotiable ban on anything that is remotely non-solid in any way, shape or form. This means that diabetic and asthmatic travellers are now screwed because the medicine they carry around with them to save their lives is now potentially explosive and deadly. Pens of all sorts are also out because the police are afraid that someone will try to use them as containers for biological killification agents. I really hope no one tells these idiots that the human body is 70% water; they'd probably try to get rid of on-flight toilets to prevent would-be terrorists from
carrying deadly explosives in their bladder or their spit or something.

2. There's this 11-year-old little girl who's made the news these past few days because she was raped and subsequently knocked up by her stepfather. The reason for this (other than the unusual and horrifying nature of the situation) is because not one doctor at the hospital where she's being kept--not one--is willing to practice an abortion on her. And the reason for that is because they all fear that if they do the Catholic church will excommunicate them. Of course, logic prevailed eventually and the little girl was given her second chance at having a normal life, and of course, the girl, her family, and the doctor who carried out the procedure are no longer part of the Catholic church. This was three days ago, and the news is still talking about the different things these people are able and unable to do now that they're no longer among the faithful. They've also featured interviews with archbishops who insist that God's love is infinite even though He allowed an abusive stepfather to rape a little girl and would rather that little girl become a mother and ruin her life.

Meanwhile, the son of a bitch who did the raping is free, living in his house and probably beating the crap out of some other poor child as we speak. The police haven't even pressed charges. I don't think they plan to, either.

Monday, August 28, 2006

I Go on a Bus

Getting around The City is a nightmare. There is no arguing this point; sure, there are some modes of transportation that make the experience more tolerable, or maybe less painful and mind-rendingly stressful, but the most anyone can hope for is to get to their destination and still maintain their sanity when they get there. No one looks forward to actually going anywhere, unless they're masochists or something.

Out of all the different ways of getting around The City (car, taxi, unicycle, etc.), the worst is, by far, the bus. My disdain for The City's buses is nigh-pathological, almost like a disease, man. The fact that there are at least twenty buses on any street at any given time doesn't help matters much. So when I had to actually get on one of the damn things to go downtown, a little part of me died on the inside.

It happened this morning. I was standing on a street corner about two blocks away from my house, looking at the oncoming traffic--of which 90% was all buses--and trying to pick out which one was the one I needed. Eventually I spotted one: a big, grey behemoth with racing stripes and a sticker of Calvin peeing on the Toyota logo plastered on the front. A small, cardboard plackard on the windshield indicated the bus' destination, "downtown". I raised my hand and the bus immediately screeched to a halt right in front of me, sending another man who had just got on crashing into the front.

I had barely lifted myself onto the first step when the bus peeled out and took off at full speed. That's when I noticed that the man who had so unceremoniously smacked head-first into the front of the bus seconds before was still there, apparently at a loss as to what to do with himself next. His big, corpulent body was in the exact spot where the bus' turnstyle allowed entry into the bus, which meant that until he moved (which took about a minute), I was standing on a small, metallic step moving at 60kph with half my ass in direct traffic. I actually had to poke him to get him to move, and he looked at me like I had just insulted his mother.

Upon paying the fare, I made my way to the back of the bus, where there was a free seat. I made it halfway there before the bus swerved sharply to the right, almost hitting a small car in the process, and stopped dead on another street corner to let someone else on. After that it took off and swerved again, this time to the left, and almost hit a pedestrian as it ran a red light. I collapsed into the only available seat, but not before looking to the front of the bus, not because I wanted to quell the nausea that was now slowly building up in my insides, but because I wanted to see the crazy motherfucker that was driving this deathtrap. I was instantly sorry; the driver was, for all intents and purposes, driving without the use of his hands. Taking the passengers' fare and talking to his girlfriend on a mobile phone seemed to take priority over pointless actions such as steering and trying not to kill people.

Five minutes later, the bus got a new passenger. This one, however, did not pay for the ride, and even went so far as to hop the turnstyle. He had a battered-looking guitar in one hand.

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen," he began. "First and foremost let me wish you a pleasant journey. I want to sing a couple of songs for you, if you don't mind."

He took the guitar in both hands and proceded to strum the hell out of it while he shrieked at the top of his lungs. It was a pop song, I think, but it was probably the worst rendition of a pop song I've ever heard. While he played, the guitar looked like it was in actual, physical pain, like the cats that had given their lives to make the strings were crying out in agony or something.

After he finished playing his 'music', the man scoured the bus, looking for donations and, finding none, thanked the crowd for his time and exited the bus, which barely even stopped to let him off. As he did so another man with a wicker basket in his hand hopped in, dodged the turnstyle and started handing out small packets. I refused when he tried to give me one, but he was insistent so he dropped it on my lap and moved on.

"Good morning, dear passengers, I hope I won't take much of your precious time," said this man, in the same cheery tone as the musician. "I come here today offering you these delicious cookies, which are on sale. One cookie for $200, two for $400, or, for greater savings, three for $500."

I looked down at the packet in my lap. It was made of cheap foil and consisted of the word 'cookies' written across the front in bold, red type. As soon as I laid eyes on it I found it unusual that the package was labeled as 'cookies', plural, when there was in fact only one cookie in there. I mean, even if I bought three of those things (for $500, meaning that I'd be doing excellent shopping), I'd still only have three packets of cookie.

Aw hell, I wasn't buying the damn thing anyway. I gave the man his cookie(s) back as he exited the bus and prepared to disembark myself, for the lurching, hurtling safety hazard I was currently on had just swerved onto the street where I needed to go. I made my way to the back of the bus and pressed the small button next to the door that signalled the driver (Mr. No Hands), to let me off. Which he did.

In the middle of traffic.

Mind you, I try not to let little things bother me that much, but I think the bastard could have at least taken the time to let me off, say, close to a sidewalk and not in the path of three other buses which would probably run me over without a care. I barely made it onto the sidewalk before they whizzed by, shouted obscenities at me, and then stopped dead to pick up passengers not two meters in front of me. I wish I could say I had a brush with death, but when you take buses in The City this kind of stuff is par for the course.

And you know what's worse? Now I have to take one to get back home.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I Go to The Carnival

"Yo, man. What's going on?"

I was sitting in my car, one arm dangling out of the window casually, and watching as a party of five traffic cops, clad in fluorescent green vests, herded the traffic on the avenue I was on off to the side.

"Something about a carnival," he replied, bored.

I gave him a puzzled glance.

"A carnival. In August."

"Yep."

I retracted my arm back into the comfort of my vehicle and furrowed my brow. Carnivals happen in February, and usually there's a lot more fanfare surrounding them, as in, at least something to let you know the day before so you can, say, plan to not take the major traffic artery where it's supposed to take place on the same day and find yourself suddenly forced into a $4000/hour parking lot when you could be going home.

"Are you sure you don't mean a parade?" I tried to manage the tone of my voice so that it didn't sound like I thought the cop was a moron. Which I didn't, really.

"No, I mean a carnival. CARNIVAL," he retorted, ennunciating every syllable to stress the fact that he was really not in the mood to exchange more than two words with me. "The Carnival of The City."

Ah, now everything made sense. See, August 7th is the anniversary of The City's founding, way back in 1538. Someone, somewhere, decided that it would be a good idea to hold a carnaval to commemorate that date. Only, you know, several weeks later. And without telling anybody.

As I turned into a side street and left my car in the aforementioned $4000/h parking garage, I turned to my friend Andrea, who was sitting in the passenger's seat.

"Did you know about this? 'Cause I didn't know about this, and I like, totally read the newspaper."

"I read the newspaper and Plan B," she replied. Plan B is this monthly magazine that talks about the goings-on in The City. "And no, I didn't."

"Well, we might as well pick a good spot to watch," I said. "The only way we can get out of this part of town is by taking Caracas Avenue. And the only way we can do that is by taking a street that intersects the big, main artery that's just been blocked off."

We walked a few blocks and found a pretty decent spot on the steps of the National Museum, which is currently exhibiting 6 'display models' from the collection of the Terracotta Warriors of Xi'an. Fortunately, we didn't have to wait long before the streets were cleared and the carnival began. Or, well, continued; as it turns out the police were clearing the streets progressively as the carnival was still in progress for some reason. I discussed the (lack of) merits of The City's traffic enforcement system for a while before we were able to see anything.

Anyway.

The first thing that struck me as odd was that everyone participating in the carnival was wearing neon. Everyone. The first batch of people was this dance troupe dressed like stereotypical African warriors, splattered with neon paint from head to toe, followed by a samba group wearing neon thongs with a neon drummer playing a neon drum. In the beginning I wasn't able to tell whether I was witnessing a carnival or a parade of people dressed like traffic safety cones.

And then, it got weird.

I saw this man on stilts, dressed in all-white, pushing along a small, black, coffin-shaped thing on wheels while three women dressed like dominatrixes followed, looking forlornly at the ground. Suddenly, Mr. Stilts stopped dead in his tracks as a little girl, also dressed in white, emerged from a small hole in the center of the coffin up to waist-height and spread her arms, dropping rose petals to the ground as she did so. While this was going on Mr. Stilts started hopping on his stilts and screaming, at the top of his lungs:

"WHAT IS HAPPENING, THE CITY! WHAT IS GOING ON!"

The little girl then shrank back into the coffin and Mr. Stilts continued to push her along while the dominatrixes followed, making hissing noises and poising their arms like claws.

I'm pretty sure the entire thing was a metaphor for the womb, or communism, or something.

After the little display of performance art I got to see people dressed like Stereotypical Native Americans (neon feathers) doing a Stereotypical Rain Dance (I'm pretty sure the rain would have been neon too). Then I got to see a troupe of dancers performing some of The Country's native carnaval dances, badly. The Country's carnaval takes place in another city entirely, see, and in February, like it's supposed to; anyone who's had the pleasure of going to the actual carnaval knows that it has some really colorful dancing and wickedly cool costumes. What I saw, though, was a bunch of uncoordinated buffoons hopping around randomly in neon (ARRGH) costumes. I was about to just screw it all and walk back home. But then...

But then...came the floats. And with the floats, came the nudity.

My friend Andrea was the first to notice it. She tugged on my arm and pointed to a lone girl, hopping around as she made her way down the street. She was covered in (thankfully, not neon) paint that resembled some sort of painting of an Aztec sun god and actually looked pretty decent.

"Hey, I think that girl's naked," she mused absently.

I squinted to get a more detailed impression of the girl and noticed that she was, in fact, topless, and her bountiful bosom was bouncing dramatically with every footstep.

"Hey, yeah," I said. "She's topless. How about that."

"No, no," replied Andrea. "I mean, she's naked. Look closely."

I took another look and finally saw that, although the body paint was masking it really well, the dancing-sun-god-girl was as nude as the day she came into the world. Completely, absolutely, totally nude.

"Whoa man, that girl has balls. Figuratively speaking, anyway."

And she wasn't alone. Trailing behind her was a whole armada of small floats, each adorned with one or more women baring their attractively decorated assets for the prudish inhabitants of The City. Topless mermaids on a tropical island float? Check. Topless cavewoman (and bottomless caveman!)? Check and check. There was so much flesh on display that I was actually starting to question the sanity of the people who put this thing together. Children pointed and stared while concerned mothers covered their eyes in a futile attempt to protect their offspring from the deadly erotic radiation that had turned an already-bizarre display into...something else.

"Well, you know, they have topless dancers in Brazil as well," said Andrea, trying to downplay the shock value of two topless angels cuddling on a cloud. As if to answer to her comment, the following float contained two buxom devil girls mooning onlookers and flashing their breasts.

"I don't think they do it quite like that in Brazil," I replied.

Unfortunately, one can only see so many naked people at a time before it gets boring, so we left before the carnival came to an end and got some lunch. By the time we were out, the spectacle had subsided and traffic had returned to normal, allowing me to take my car (after paying $8000 at the parking garage, of course) and drive home. I later heard from a friend who had also witnessed the carnival that at the end the organizers started handing out fliers promoting civil obedience and voting for the mayor and whatnot. She didn't get one, but was pretty sure that the fliers did not feature nudity in any way and were probably not printed on neon paper.

One can only hope.