The truth is, it's often hard for me to write about things when I am in Antigua. There are the things I dare not write, to protect myself and all the others who are guilty. And then there are the things that are just too near, too dear to write about as any attempt at linguistic capture would be so grossly inept as to embarrass me, if only in front of myself. But here's a little update on the mundane, for you my sweet family, who wants to hear from me.
I am staying with Christel in her lovely house next to the convent and the man with 40 poodles, although I suspect the number may have increased since last year. Christel is painting like a mad-woman as she has a show opening in December at Panza Verde, possibly the best restaurant in Antigua. Panza Verde is owned by a grouchy expat named Bruce, a retired Wall Street mogul. Bruce has made a lovely gallery on the second floor of Panza where he showcases local artists. I just went to an opening a few days ago and it was super - good art, decent wine, a cast of local and expat characters, the usual. And last night I went to my second opening, for Mario, another local talent. This town is full of talented artists.
Last night we had our Christmas party and it was as brilliant as always. Madeline and Shaun hosted and we drank and ate till dawn, as is the tradition. Many of the Guatemalans came this year, after spending the day with their families. Usually for Christmas it's just the expats and travelers, and then New Years it's everyone. Ana, from Amsterdam, and Ivy and Tess Mix and their father, from NYC, all arrived at 10pm, in time to have a couple drinks before we all poured out into the cobblestone street to watch the City explode with fireworks at midnight. It's like nothing I have ever heard or seen before, Guatemala on Christmas and New Years, every single street is littered with fircrackers and bottle rockets and the churches and city set off rockets using simple mortar launchers. It sounds like war. But it's not. It's wild. It's nuts. It's beautiful.
And then we sang. Ted and Eric played guitar, Mike and Brenden with their confident baritones, the party growing quiet as Eric sang Hallelujah. Christel, Ana and I ended the "night" by sitting on the terrace and watching the sun rise through the highland mist, illuminating patches of forest on the mountains - and then a huge rainbow shot up and we took it as a portent of good things to come in 2012. We hugged and kissed and then crashed for half the day.
And now we have a week to rest until the New Years where our little tradition is a long dinner and then to Cafe No Se just before midnight.
On Tuesday I am heading to Guatemala City with a crew of folks to see the art of a good friend, Juan Pablo Canale. He has an exhibit in the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura, which is a pretty big deal. It's in Zone 1 of the City, the safest part of that crazy violent City. The City scares me and I have heretofore avoided it except to catch a plane or a bus. Folks here, both Guatemalans and expats, get desensitized. They live here, and the extreme violence is just the norm and years of nothing happening to them personally brings them a confidence I do not share. Alejandro, Astrid's boyfriend and now a dear friend of mine, will take us. He grew up in the insanity of Guatemala City and I trust him the most to get us there and back safely. In Antigua, when Alejandro walks us here and there at night, he carries his gun, chambers a round when we step outside, removes it when we get to the restaurant or bar. He is hyper vigilant, smart, grounded. I trust him completely.