Posted by: powellpjc | February 1, 2009

Friday Night in Iquique


Every day it is the same. Sunshine from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. No clouds. None. The thermometer hits 30C in the afternoon and retreats to 27 for the night. Rain is only a dictionary’s word.

This was a typical Friday night. (Last night).

A friend and I decide to have dinner. I invite him to my place for cocktails. We will save on the bar bill this way. He and I enjoy the setting sun with a rich, dark rum from Panama. We slip out of the building and hail a collectivo. This is a cab-looking vehicle that haunts the city streets looking for fares. There may be other folks in the car when you enter and the car takes a winding route as all are delivered before you get to your own destination. It is a socialistic taxi and perhaps a throwback to the days of Allende. The cost is $2 Can.

We decide on a fish restaurant, not surprisingly and I tell the taxista, ‘Neptuno, por favor’. After two or three tries, he understands and we chug through town in a clapped-out Lada. We are early for dinner (it is 9:30) but the restaurant is almost full. We study the menu, knowing already what we will order. I do the ordering as my German pal speaks no Spanish. There is confusion. Eventually my German pal completes the ordering process with a mixture of English and German. I take a long pull of the white wine and wonder why my fluent Spanish is not so fluent.

Germany has shrimp, spicy and mixed with small potatoes and a green salad—mostly avocado and lettuce. I enjoy a slab of fried swordfish, giving little thought to the future of an over-fished species. Two bottles of wine is sufficient and we glide out of the restaurant as the serious diners start arriving.

We decide to walk home and take a detour through the city centre. For once, there is live music at the opera house. Or rather, on the steps outside the opera house. It is a huge stage, lit up for an outdoor, free concert and there are 1,000 seats on the plaza. They are all taken so we lounge about. The music groups playing are dressed in period Spanish costumes and while they look great, they sound terrible. It’s free.

We wander on. Along a dark side street we pass the high gates of the ‘Backpackers Hostel’. There is a lot of chatter from the garden so we linger. Through the iron bars we see examples of today’s youth doing their ‘South American Thing’. A lot of Bolivian Andes hats, rasta dreads and leftist conversation from rich kids slumming it. One brilliant red-haired 21-year old is explaining General Pinochet to a doe-eyed hippie from Australia. The Chileans could give a shit. We move on.

Better music attracts us two blocks on. There is dancing and open windows and we stop and leer. It is a birthday party for some young person. All the cousins, parents and grandparents are there and the cameras are flashing. We see the center of attention eventually. She looks about 18 years old, an exquisite and dreamy thing wrapped in a shoulderless white dress. She has very fashionable black glasses which come off for every picture. She  checks her dress every moment or so, taking care to see that her breasts are still well-bound. She dances like a silken shadow and belongs to no one, including the two leering letches at the window. We move on.

The street performers are out in force at the beach under the streetlights. Tarot card readers; unicycle riders; an astronomer with a large telescope–$1.00 for a look at Venus; a puppeteer dancing his doll to Elvis tunes; a great showman who dances with a life-size doll. People making a living. It’s still 28C at midnight and Friday turns to Saturday in Iquique.


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