I just saw 30 Minutes or Less. I didn’t read reviews this time. I thought I would see it without bias, and with the best expectations. That’s the last time I’ll do that.
It took a perfectly fine story and destroyed it with terrible screenwriting. I mean, just awful.
My tablet broke again! This time I think it’s the connector cord. Or that it’s a four year old Wacom Bamboo Fun. I had so many neat posts in mind, but now I’m put-out. And it’s your fault. You people don’t read words. You know how many people read mosquitoes? Two.
…and Tessa Nelson.
What is wrong with you people?
If I married Brooke Pancake, I would encourage her to keep her last name, of course, but also to do away her first name, so that people just called her “Pancake.”
That guy is William Mason. By then, he will be President of the University of Alabama. He’s drinking Johnny Walker, straight, because he secretly burns with envy for a girl named Pancake.
But I was the one to see the Crimson White that August morning and find, behind a dull fill piece, the girl of magic onomatology.
And yes, that is a white dinner jacket. Just like Humphrey Bogart.
Mosquitoes, when they land on someone, withdraw a small portion of blood, and, in its place, inject a small quantity of refined unhappiness. Most of it congeals in the area around the bite, making a welt. The rest enters the bloodstream, spreading just a whisper of despair throughout the body.
We go way back, mosquitoes and me. They remember when I first showed up to the jungle, their turf, with my bottles of 100% Deet, and they laughed at me.
But I got wise, and they got more vicious. I spent untold nights in Uganda sitting up, still, watching, trying to locate and destroy the ones that had slipped under my mosquito net. In a hammock in Guatemala, I covered up every inch of skin save my nostrils and lips, but they weren’t picky. They even gave me a bout with malaria, the bastards.
Mosquitoes eventually come to respect you, and with each new country, I proved myself. But with each new country, the war began afresh.
These were Nicaraguan coastal mosquitoes, hatched in the dens of vipers, raised on scorpions, and hardened by the salt air.
I didn’t even bring repellent this time, and they laughed at me.
Nicaragua’s east coast is largely a traveler’s wasteland. Its only real city is a port town called Bluefields. In the miles around it lie a few clusters of board shacks on the edge of the lagoon, where Nicaraguans, Garifuna, and Mosquito Indians catch shrimp, lobster, and the occasional floating packets of white powder abandoned in the cat-and-mouse game between drug runners and the US Coast Guard.
I met a guy named Antony in a village called Bluefields, and he looked like a local. He grew up in Nicaragua but spent his adult life in Washington DC. After 40 years, two marriages, and five children grown, he left his house in the suburbs of Springfield and resolved to wile away the rest of his days in the land of his Garifuna forbears. But he looked like a local. He wore turned-up jeans marinated in sun and mud, and something of a beard speckled his black face in gray. His accent never left him, though he could only respond in English when his cousins jabbered at him in Creole.
I think he liked having an American to talk to. He was a sage, a keeper of ancient Caribbean wisdom, and I was a hopeless urbanite who had only seen the sun in pictures. Once in a while, he would pick a mango off a tree or chop into a cocoanut like he was displaying some forgotten secret of the human condition. He spent most of his days fishing in his cousin’s dory or loafing around in a hammock, trying like hell to forget that he had spent the last 40 years designing databases for the State Department.
He asked me to go fishing with him and visit his family’s old pineapple farm. Farms such as these riddled the countryside, deserted over 30 years ago when the revolution forced the jungle communities to the coast. But his family’s was still good for a few sacks of pineapples.
At 6AM, his cousin’s dory was gone, so we took his other cousin’s dory, which I really don’t think was built for two people. It was carved out of a solid log and painted blue and white. It was narrow as a snake, and writhed like one when I got in. Tony admitted that the boat was “crankier” than the one he wanted to take, but no matter, he could handle it. Tony knew what he was doing.
So we pitched and wobbled this thing down the lagoon for two hours, then three, along jungle as endless as the ocean. The lagoon became a river. Its banks were walls of mangrove roots that dropped like waterfalls from the cloud of green over our heads. As the river narrowed, the canopies drifted closer and closer until we were bobbing through a tunnel of vine and leaf and fern, going deeper into that jungle that went on forever in all directions.
It was pretty rad, but I got nervous because all we had brought with us into the Heart of Darkness was a liter of Coca-Cola. I suspected Tony thought I could drink straight from the river, like him. In his mind, the watter’s drinkability wasn’t because of immunites he had built up in childhood, but sprang from Orinoco’s incandescent perfection. But Tony knew what he was doing.
Looking back, I ought to have had as much river water as I could stomach, while I had the chance.
We came to the mouth of a tributary, the smallest of thread of water hidden behind an overgrown fern. “Ha! Here it is,” Tony said. “Those guys didn’t think I would find it.” Apparently, he had only been to the farm once before.
Suddenly it hit me that we were in the middle of the Nicaraguan jungle, three hours from the nearest village, with most of a thing of Coca-Cola between us, and maybe, maybe Tony didn’t know what the hell he was doing. He told me to watch out for snakes.
We needed to watch out for snakes because they liked to bask on the branches that hung so low that I couldn’t sit up straight. Our path was a trench, little wider than my wingspan, cut through the jungle, and the ferns and Cyprus trees and gnarled vines tried like hell to close it in. So we silently drifter over water the color of iced tea, under tree trunks that grew out over the stream and a web spun from bank by a spider the size of Shelob.
Somewhere in there, the mosquitoes started to wake up. But by then, we were like those marines in Aliens who wander all the way into the bowels of the infested colony before they realize they’re totally screwed.
We had to keep moving forward, before they figured out they could bite us. Tony heaved us on from behind, shouting “Push out de bow!” like a madman as I used the paddle to smash away the floating debris and crank us around the hairpin turns, as the mosquitoes found my hands and neck and face, as we pitched and heaved until I was sure, sure that the crappy little canoe would capsize and send us straight into the water aswarm with snakes.
Tony said, “Oh fuck.” There was a fallen tree damming the stream. I’m sure the mosquitoes pushed it over, to stop us for an ambush. But then he realized we were there. “Ah! Those guys said I wouldn’t find it!”
Our problem wasn’t finding the farm, but finding our way out.
We hacked our way through the jungle with machetes, like Legends of the Hidden Temple. It would have been awesome, except that I had nothing in my stomach but a half a liter of Coca-Cola. Maybe I could find a pineapple. The farm, forsaken by its planters, had sought solace with the forest, and was now little more than a section of jungle that happened to have a lot of pineapple bushes. I didn’t even know we had found it until Tony started chopping at a place in the underbrush, plunged his whole arm into it, and came up with a pineapple, which I’ll admit was pretty cool and jungley.
The pineapple hunt should have been pretty rad, and I suppose it was, even though I was miserable. It had rained during the hike, which kept the mosquitoes down, but the now the rain was over, and the mosquitoes had us right where they wanted us. Well, me at least. Tony had local blood and had already been in the area for months, both of which made him less appetizing. Plus, his thin beard covered up the most delicious parts of his face. Compared to him, I was BBQ ribs.
The were like snowflakes. Everywhere. They bit places I didn’t even know they bit. I had long sleeves, but they bit the palms of my hands, my knuckles, and my fingertips. They bit my neck, my nose, my ears, and my lips. One bit the dead center of my forehead, which I bet gave me a spot like an Indian bindi. One bit the place right between my eyes. My face got bit so many times it gave me a dull headache. And I could do nothing, nothing but fling my arms around my head. I’m surprised I didn’t attack them with the machete.
After we had gathered two sacks full, Tony saw my face, puffed up like poison ivy beauty cream, and hands, shaking as my body pumped every calorie of that Coca-Cola into my immune system, and said that maybe we should be going. But we were lost.
He had been using a cocoanut tree as a landmark, but apparently there were several cocoanut trees. The farm was a tangled net of trails tromped out by decades of scavengers. We went forward and backwards and in circles. Sometimes we left the sacks behind to scout, and almost lost them a few times. We hacked through walls of trees and bush and vines before realizing we weren’t on a trail at all.
This went on for forty five minutes before I got myself together. A shower hit, putting the mosquitoes down, and I started to get a sense of the layout of the farm. Eventually I spotted a clue – a distinctive undergrown pineapple kinda like one I passed on the way in. Yes, Tony, I know where we are! There’s where we came in, it’s this way!
Tony looked at the opening for a moment, and just kept walking. I reckon the mosquitoes had him brainwashed.
So I followed him, getting more lost and knowing it. The rain stopped and the mosqutoes came back. I tried to put up my outer shirt like a hood, but they found their way in and got trapped with my face like tigers in a cage. I fantasized about finding a genie and wishing every mosquito within five miles into oblivion. Then I considered whether or not I would just wish for their extinction. I thought about how miffed an ecologist would be. She was wearing a safari shirt and cargo pants, in an air-conditioned lecture hall. I thought of yellow fever and sick African children and the English inventing gin-and-tonic to stave off malaria, but mostly I thought about how miserable I was, and I realized that right then, with my lips so swollen that it was hard to close my mouth, I probably would choose to obliterate every last one.
That’s kinda funny. I should blog about it.
I started to resign myself to hopelessness, like that night we got lost in the Himalayan woods and I finally told ol’ Ami from Germany that we may just have to sit on a rock and wait for the sun to come up. But that wasn’t so bad, and this wasn’t either. We would wait in that jungle, eating pineapple, until they realized in Orinoco that Tony and that tall white boy didn’t come back yesterday.
It didn’t come to that. This time, it was actually Tony’s bad navigation that saved us. He led us around an enormous circle, and I started to recognize landmarks again. Of course, he tried to go the absolute wrong direction, but this time I insisted. Soon I spotted my little undergrown pineapple, and sure enough, Tony declared that he found he way out, he was sure about it. It was the trail he had passed up before.
But the way forked. He said right, I thought left, and took off down my trail, scanning the ground. Soon I found the smallest shoeprint in the mud. Bingo.
I found a pineapple and chopped it with my machete. I must have been pretty weak, because I felt like vomiting as soon as I put it in my mouth, but it was nice. On the way back I hacked notches in the trees to mark the trail. I felt pretty well like Indiana Jones at this point. It was vain, but no young man should ever pass up the chance to feel like Indiana Jones. And I’m glad I made those notches, because on the way back, I had to show them to Tony to keep him from getting us lost again.
By the time we got out, it was too late for fishing, of course. Some locals caught us on the river and towed us back to town with their motorboat, and that was that.
That evening I showered off from a concrete tank of rainwater behind my house. The mosquitoes came out – night is their time – but I kept dousing myself in the water, and they couldn’t get me. We just watched each other. Now they could do nothing but lay their eggs on my wet skin. No matter. I would simply dry off, destroying the eggs and bringing them a little bit closer