December 30, 2022.
Natalia just served me a Bloody Mary. I prepare Martinis and Negronis but BMs are her specialty. I no longer know the recipe though I can tell this time she was quite generous with the vodka. We only have them in the morning, before lunch, and not very often.
It’s been only in the last couple of days that we have settled down and relaxed. Since my last entry, while in Doha, things have been hectic. Woland was alright when I got him at the airport in Washington DC. It had been a very long trip, over 27 hours, but he seemed relaxed. While waiting for my carry on (it was too heavy and I was forced to check in) he remained in his crate calm and quite. I was holding the crate’s door with my hand, he was licking my fingers, happy to see me but not hyper. As soon as we were outside the airport where Isabelle, my ex-wife, was waiting, I let Woland out of his crate thinking he would want to pee. I was wrong, what he really wanted is to poop. Fortunately, in a moment of clairvoyance back in Bangkok, I had taken the poop bags with me. When we got to Isabelle’s house Woland was received by two French bull-dogs – Virgilio, who is now Isabelle’s dog, and another dog she was babysitting. They were not very nice to Woland at first, but things improved with time – after I started to impose discipline and good behaviors.
I had planned to stay in DC for just a couple of days, the time it took Woland to recover. However, Copa Airlines, the only airline flying to Ecuador and accepting dogs, didn’t think his Thai papers were good enough. They wanted to have a health certificate from the US Department of Agriculture. Getting the certificate took some 5 business days plus a weekend in between when Sofia and I decided to visit New York. On December 15th Woland was ready to fly. Unfortunately, that day, Copa issued a regulation banning dogs from all flights until January 2nd because of the extremely low temperatures. I had missed the chance to bring Woland to Ecuador by ONE day. I immediately started to look for a kennel. Isabelle helped me find a reputable one a couple of hours from DC and I was lucky they had room during the holidays. But she also suggested I leave Woland with a friend of hers, a rich man who lives in a farm in Virginia and loves dogs. I consulted with Natalia and we all agreed it would be better for Woland to stay in a farm with the friend whom I will refer to as Mr. A. Thus, on the 17th very early in the morning, I flew to Ecuador and later in the day Mr. A. picked up Woland. We never expected what would happen next.
Natalia and her mother were already in Quito when I landed and we all met at my sister’s place where my parents are staying. Marina arrived the next day, Sunday, and on Monday we drove six hours to Casa Blanca-Same. Soon, Mr. A. started to send some very nasty text messages, insulting us and threatening not to give back the dog who according to him was malnourished. “If you cannot afford a kennel, you should not get a dog like this” he wrote. “He should be eating steaks, chicken, and salmon not the shitty dry food.” From the exchanges it became clear that Mr. A. was mentally ill, maybe some form of schizophrenia. Because of the tone and content of the messages we became worried about Woland’s wellbeing. We contacted the kennel; they still had room and were willing to drive and pick up Woland at the farm, but we didn’t have the address and Mr. A. din’t want to give it. A couple of days later Mr A.’s father died and things became even worse. We called the police but they couldn’t do anything if we were outside the country (Isabelle had flown to France with Sofia).
By then it had also become clear that my mother would not be traveling to Casa Blanca and that we had to go back to Quito to spend Christmas with her and the family. So, on the 23th in the morning, we drove 6 hours back to the capital with Natalia exchanging text messages with Isabelle who was trying to reason with Mr. A. It was a long and stressful trip, but towards the end Mr A. seemed to have calmed down.
That night I went out for dinner with my son Juan David and later to his apartment where we spend several hours talking, listening to music, and having drinks. He also played for me the latest songs he had recorded and I was very proud of his talents. He is a professor of economics but music is his passion. A girlfriend also joined at some point, a very lovely lady, although I understand it’s “nothing serious.” The sun was getting up when I got back to my sisters’ place and could only sleep for a couple of hours because, as Natalia had warned the previous night, we had a very busy day ahead of us.
In the morning Natalia, Eda, and Marina went shopping and I spent time with my parents decorating a tree in the garden that would play the role of Christmas tree. In the afternoon we cooked. Eda prepared borscht and potatoes with onions, Natalia a beat salad and an olivye salad, and I was in charge of the turkey. Several bottles of champagne and wine were opened during the day and evening. Gradually, the chimney filled with presents that were opened after dinner, early this time because mother was feeling tired.
The next day, after having had two cups of coffee, we drove back to Casa Blanca. Mr. A. had been silent over Christmas but started to correspond aggressively again on the 26th. On the 27th Isabelle wrote to Natalia indicating that Mr A. was going to be at his mother’s house near DC late afternoon and that we had a chance to extract Woland. We couldn’t simply ask the kennel to send somebody since we didn’t know how Mr A. would react, and the driver didn’t do pickups at night. I contacted Heba, a good friend of mine, who happened to be visiting DC. She was willing to take an Uber Pet, go get Woland and drop him at a yet undisclosed place. Natalia contacted our ex-neighbors and good friends, Rosa and Pierre, who live in Mont Pleasant and asked them if Woland could spend the night at their place. They gladly accepted and we called Morgan, the kennel’s manager, and told her she could send the driver to pick up Woland at Rosa and Pierre’s the next day. We had a good plan but it was contingent on Heba been able to extract Woland.
I was having a G&T sitting in the terrace when Heba sent the signal that she was on the move. I followed her progress through GPS and had frequent updates via WhatsApp. At 19:35 she intercepted Mr A. who was outside his mother’s house walking Woland. We lost communication for several minutes, but then received a message, a picture of Woland sleeping on her lap in the car. They were safe, on their way to Rosa and Pierre’s. We also got pictures and videos of Woland at their place and he seemed quite happy, loving all the attention he was getting. The only one who wasn’t happy was Rugby, Rosa and Pierre’s dog.
We are not driving back to Quito for New Year’s Eve. I will grill a big fish, a grouper, and some friends are likely to join at different times during the night. We have plenty of cava and wine. We also got the “año viejo” that, per the tradition, will be burnt shortly after midnight. Though I have to say he looks quite youthful and healthy and we should perhaps spare him (see pic).
Except for today and yesterday, the days have been gray and coldish at night, but we have enjoyed our time here since the end of Woland’s saga. Marina and I have been running at the beach every day. I’ve spent most of my waking hours reading. Yesterday I finished a book written by Charles Doane about the tragic life of Thomas Thor Tangvald, son of Peter Tangvald the sailor. A depressing but captivating story that I think you will want to read. Half of the proceeding from book sells will go to Thomas’ wife Christine and their two children.
Based on a recommendation from Webb Chiles I bought a Spanish, Kindle, edition of the complete short stories of Machado de Assis and read the Alienista. I didn’t know about Machado de Assis, which is a shame. I enjoyed the story and the writing and look forward to the others.
But for now I am reading the Assassin’s Cloak, edited by Irene and Alan Taylor. It is a collection of journal entries by well-known diarists. Confusing? Indeed, it is difficult or perhaps impossible to define the differences between a diary, a journal, a log, or a blog. Like de Assis’s, I found the book through Webb’s journal, which I have been reading from the beginning (it started sometime back in 2006). At some point, I remembered several citations I enjoyed from a certain “Assassin’s Cloak.” I assumed it was a website of sorts but when I finally googled, found the book and bought it. The title of the book comes from William Soutar, the Scottish poet and diarist. He wrote that a diary not only can persuade us to betray the self, but “tempts us to betray our fellows also, becoming thereby an alter ego sharing with us the denigrations which we would be ashamed of voicing aloud; a diary is an assassin’s cloak which we wear when we stab a comrade in the back with a pen.” I have a more constructive view of my journal but was pleased to learn that one doesn’t have to write entries every day to have a diary; some diarists do, many don’t. Some, like me, feel guilty about not writing more often but we shouldn’t. You write when you want and can.
The consequence of spending most of the time reading non-work-related publications is that I haven’t done as much work as I wanted to, which means that next week I will have to work more than I would like to. Contrary to wage employees, if I don’t work and produce, I don’t get paid.
After the BM and lunch of shrimp ceviche I took a nap and then went for a run with Marina. Back to the house I showered and resumed writing, this time with a G&T. Will have to stop for the night as we are going out for dinner to a restaurant owned by one of Natalia’s friends. She is Russian but the restaurant serves Ecuadorian food, probably a mistake. She is going through very difficult times after losing her eleven year old son and separating from her husband. The other night she came home to chat with Natalia and invited to the restaurant which she now manages alone. I would rather stay home.
December 31st, 2022
Up at 8am this morning; quite late for me. I prepared coffee and have been reading newspapers and magazines on my Ipad since. Most of the conversation yesterday was in Russian but I didn’t mind. I was drinking wine and from time to time checking on a game of chess being played at a nearby table. The food was mediocre. Tonight they have reservations for 50 people and they are serving two fix menus. Lidia, our housekeeper, kindly agreed to help them prepare and organize the dinner. Will pay her a bonus.
Before posting this rather long entry I wanted to give an update about BEHEMOTH and my forthcoming trip to Cartagena.
Yesterday I got a message from Stephany, the project manager at the boat yard, Ferroalquimar, where BEHEMOTH resides. They have finished all jobs I had requested, including antifouling the bottom. One coat is missing that they will add the day before the boat goes on the water.
Will drive back to Quito, directly to the international airport, on January 5th. That afternoon Marina flies back to DC via Panamá and Natalia and Eda back to Bangkok via Amsterdam. I will stay behind and fly to Cartagena on the 7th, probably with Juan David. I have reserved a hotel for the first couple of nights. Monday 9th is an official holiday in Colombia and staff at the boat yard won’t be working. They will launch BEHEMOTH on the 10th and I, or Juan David and I, will move aboard.
I will be able to connect to shore power (220V) and run/test all the systems, including the engine and generator. I plan to take a couple of days to hank sails, run sheets, install the dodger and cockpit enclosure, and do an inventory of the tools and parts that Vincent, the previous owner, left behind. Hopefully by the 12th I can go for a sea trial and then sail BEHEMOTH to her new residency in Marina Club de Pesca.
It will be a short, first date, with BEHEMOTH. On the 15th I have to fly back to Washington DC to pick up Woland and bring him to Bangkok. Poor animal, I never intended to subject him to a 27 hours trip to spend Christmas with a psychopath and New Years Eve in a kennel.
At some point during the first half of 2023, I will return to Cartagena to sail BEHEMOTH to Panama, cross the channel, and leave her in a marina on the Pacific side.
I hope the new year will bring health, new discoveries, and joy to all ….