|Taipei Charlie goes south, day two
||[10 Oct 2015|10:57am]
I have decided it. A translator works outward, to bring your text to the world; their primary focus is the work. An interpreter works inward, to bring the world to you; their primary focus is yourself.
Adriana is my translator; Fausto is my interpreter. Good. I can work with that. With them.
Since my last report, yesterday noontime:
We wandered the book fair in a writerly pack, with translators and interpreters and organisers all. We saw the tent we'd be gigging in; we saw books in plenty, tho' not yet our own.
Then we wandered off in search of lunch. CDMX is totally a city to walk in, at least here in the centro historico and environs. Traffic's crazy, but apparently I am a native Mexican, born to jaywalk.
We ate enchiladas and damn-I-don't-remember-I-ought-to-take-notes, drank beer, headed back to the hotel. Sat in the lobby and chilled, while I drank more beer from the ridiculous cubbyhole they dare to call a bar.
Then we had to go back to the book fair, because I had a gig.
I have gigged; I am a gigolo.
Beer helped, as ever (seriously, O my doctors: alcohol relaxes me, makes me less anxious and more fluent; you should give it me on prescription, not try to rule it out), but actually it was a tolerably easy event. "La Ruptura de la Realidad" - there were three other people on stage with me, Adriana and the splendid Vicente Quirarte and a moderator asking questions, but it was kinda mostly about me. Advocating for literature in general (my "books matter" attitude) and the literature of the fantastic in particular ("all fiction is fantasy, but"). I may have been a little pompous on occasion; I may have waffled, especially toward the end, but hey. Nobody died. I call that a good gig.
Only then I made the mistake of saying, perhaps a little plaintively, "I want a drink." Who would have thought it would be so hard to find a nice place to drink a beer on a Friday evening in CDMX? We went from the terrace bar that wouldn't serve us without a food order to the terrace bar that had just closed at 6.30, to...
Etc. We tromped the streets for an hour before we settled, by which time of course we ordered food; I dined on quesadilla and chilli-pickled vegetables. Actually mostly chillies. These Mexicans keep trying to tell me that things will be too spicy for me. Snort.
And so back to the hotel, through the district where the young people hang out. Friday night is date night, apparently (in my British youth, at least, Friday night was going out with your mates; Saturday night was always date night). The feral boys they catch-and-release hereabouts have extraordinary bone structure. And excellent skin and immaculately groomed hair, but really it's all about the cheekbones.
(Another of those side-notes of which I am so fond: I have known olives in every colour from green through khaki and purple to black. Olive skin is none of those, I am just sayin'.)
Back in the hotel I had to kick and scream to get someone to open the cubbyhole, excuse me, the bar, just to give us poor English writers a nightcap. It was too much trouble for more than one. I gigglingly paid $200 for a round, then worked it out on my fingers at about $12.50 US. Life is cheap, they tell me; they are not wrong.
And so to internets and bed. Where I woke up at 4am to find the bedside light on. On the other side of the bed, which is so wide I have never consciously got there. Taipei Charlie, my travelling self, is known for sleepwalking, but I don't really believe I got up, walked all the way around the bed, turned the light on, walked all the way back and got into bed again. Nor do I believe it had been on all the time; I should have noticed. I'm much more inclined to the notion of a wannabe assassin under the bed, slipping out as I slept, turning the light on to be sure of their prey, seeing me all innocent and vulnerable and shaking their sentimental head, slipping back beneath the bed again. I have conspicuously not looked; I don't want to force their hand.
Last night when we chased our interpreters away, we told them firmly to take this morning off. I have idled in my room, and walked a while alone through the city (I've found a nunnery for Ophelia, should she still need one). Every new city offers jobs I haven't seen before; here every little parking lot has someone - young or old, male or female - standing in the road waving a flag back and forth to attract drivers' attention. Sometimes they get to pretend they're stopping the traffic, to let a customer in or out (tho' as far as I can see this is never actually true).
And now it's eleven thirty, and we must congregate below. To the book fair! For music first, and then the official opening with the Minister of Culture. With whom we are having dinner, Sunday. We are told he will wear jeans and we are to call him Eduardo.