Cusco Postcard

Descending to the city, low angle sunlight on the basin shimmers and suggests even from this distance crackling intrinsic luminosity, a history and a vibrant present. Closer now in the streets, cobbled and crowded, colonial buildings leaning in, peoples’ postures of joyous comfort in intermingled movement.

A regal Plaza de Armas, SLR armed tourists deflect shoe shine boys and hatted women selling ceramic kitsch, with ubiquitous somehow more honest just straight ahead panhandlers. Beautiful people stationed outside generic eateries, “hungry? Good restaurant!” “happy hour later, karaoke,” and a shudder image of myself pisco sour in hand crooning Avril’s “Complicated” with new Irish and Aussie friends, not gonna happen. And then police on Segways, no joke, popcorn and music and iced fruit, groups of teenage girls taking turns in front of mobile phone cameras by the fountain, videographers following wedding couples in a circuit of the tended flora, laughter or the traffic control whistle, children queued up by the church entrance, a boy leading a confused looking llama around for charged posing. All like a self-organizing circus.

A man in a leather jacket sits next to me, asks my country, the irresistible entre into a conversation or a scam, I smile and wonder aloud why and he deadpans that it’s so he knows what language to use to sell me pot. Can’t you sell me pot in Catalan?, yes but it’s more polite to use my native tongue whatever it may be, I urge him to guess and we sail from France to Italy back to Argentina which I guffaw at and finally tell him. He’s excited now, which city? he’s unusually well informed about USA urban areas, we have a jolly time comparing culture in LA and Chicago and Seattle. A half hour later, so do you want to buy some pot?, no, why?, I’m a cyclist, oh! Yes, I completely understand we shake hands and he moves on, I’ll see him tomorrow and he’ll say hello and we chat again this time with no mention of commerce.

There’s a mathematical function, it can’t be very obscure, to describe the rate at which cheerful half ironic attempts to fleece foreigners diminish as distance from the Plaza increases. So then just Cusqeunos going about their loves, children pushing themselves along in red and yellow plastic cars, walkers headed home with transparent green plastic bags of bread, high heels on the flagstones or fathers carrying babies or hanging laundry on a 450 year old balcony or shoe shopping in an open air market or Volkswagen old beetles rattle out of a time warp for me, but just the sound now here. Neither the pace nor density change, but the direction orientation compass is wholly different, we live here just live here and we thereby generate and consume the transcendent human vitality that you as a visitor perceive.

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