It’s no secret that great milk comes from Happy Cows, and Happy Cows come from California

I Want To Be A California "Happy Cow" Said, Raja A Resident Of Mysore, IndiaOriginally written in February, 2009

Nandi, a local Mysore cow (technically a bull) recently learned of California’s ‘Happy Cow’ Campaign and auditions for a ‘Fresh Face.’ Nandi wants the part.

“Every cow here in Mysore dreams of going to Bollywood. But Hollywood? That would be being amazing,” said Nandi.

“Also, I am named after great bull of India that Shiva is always riding. I am shoe-in,” Nandi told The Agonist.

Asked what his qualifications were, Nandi replied: “I’m a 100% pure vegetarian cow. I am coming from India. But I am being a happy cow.” The Agonist’s Editor at Large, Sean Paul Kelley, conducted this once in a lifetime exclusive interview this afternoon on the streets of Mysore, India, just across from the city bus stand.

Nandi has gone on a hunger strike, as he believes all California cows should look like Pamela Anderson and the bulls should look like California’s Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Nandi’s hunger strike, something Americans would call a diet, has taken India by storm.

But Nandi remains unfazed by all the media hype.

When asked why he wanted to be a California ‘Happy Cow’ Nandi told The Agonist, “I am having the right colors. Just look at me! I am being sexy! And I am having my own guru, just like all Californians and I won’t be a botheration when I am there. I am fitting in to American life just well.”

Nandi did however, sound a note of caution. “Don’t think you’ll be eating me over there in America. I am not beef cow. I am sacred! I know he is not having a job any more like so many other Americans, but please tell George Bush I am bull, please don’t try and milk me!”

It is unknown if Nandi was aware the contest was over or not. Agonist Editor at Large Sean Paul Kelley did not feel like asking the question, due to a previous run in with a Water-Buffalo in Indonesia.

Austin Diary October 11, 2009: Lazy, Unenthused and Plain Lame

Granada SkylineI have an immense case of the lazies. Bad. I’ve been meaning to write but all I’ve been capable of is watching Law and Order, Psych and other particularly dreadful and empty entertainment on my iPod and decompressing. I’m not sure what came over me the last few days in Nicaragua, but I was concerned for a while that it might be Swine Flu (it isn’t). It was very uncharacteristic to be so lethargic, tired and unwell. I’m glad I’m mostly over it–although there are some residual effects still lingering. Like laziness–I already mentioned that, a severe case of unenthusiasm and pretty much being lame all the way around.

It’s hard to conjure up thoughts of sunny Nicaragua while it’s pouring sheets of cold drizzle down on me. It’s funny, too, that I was craving the cold so much while in Costa Rica and Nicaragua and now? Not really. Two days of it was nice, but I’d prefer to wear shorts and sunglasses again very soon.

I’m sitting in my ‘office’ hoping some form of inspiration will strike. Alas, it’s never really about the inspiration, more perspiration but it’s so chilly here it’s hard to work up a sweat. The thing I am struggling with is the storyline for Granada. I was so wiped out by the time I arrived there isn’t much of one. And there is even less material in my travel journal than normal.

A sample of said lameness:

Am in Granada, Nicaragua this morning sipping real coffee for the first time in a week and a half. Nescafe gets old, quick, but works wonders in the mornings. I’m watching a Cocker-Spaniel named Emmit run around the hotel. How lame is that? Then again, after a week and a half of very severe, almost India-like rusticity I am decidedly enamored of civilization’s charms.

Sheesh, a week and a half of India-like rusticity and I get tired? What happened to my chops?

Want more lameness? Here you go:

There’s nice silver on the table, soft pastels blue and white tiles on the floors, place mats, soft butter and fresh Guayava marmalade to be had. A ceiling fan circles overhead churning out fresh air. White washed walls, and a bubbling foiuntain.

A bubbling fountain? How fucking cliché is that? Really? I must have been really ill or out of my head because I know for certain I wasn’t drunk. And the misery continues:

Hardwood pillars hold up a mahogany and tropical cedar veranda, cork-screw palms and other plants I cannot name grow in the atrium.

“It’s a place done with love, not profits in mind,” my friend says.

Andreas, one of the owners tells me, “Granada is a very walkable town.”

I think to myself, “I may be out of bed, but I’m heading back there after breakfast. Screw walking.”

I made it out of the hotel a few times, however. Enough to eat a divine BLT with avocados on it at the Garden Cafe. Apparently I had the energy to note this, at the very least, in my travel journal. I was also happy about the smell of tropical flowers ‘mingling’ with the smell of fresh roasted Nicaraguan coffee.

Good God, I am rapidly in danger of turning into a giant cliché! I’m rummaging through the travel journal right now looking out for descriptions of Granada that include the dread words, “charming” and “quaint.” I haven’t found them yet. I guess I’m not too far off the deep end.

The Mountains, Land-Reform and Jobs

Ortegasm!I was involved in two pretty interesting conversations with Ruy and Plutarco while in Nicaragua. They spanned about three days, but below you will find the gist of them both. I traveled with a friend who wrote up the conversations in dialogue form, as my Spanish leaves lots to be desired.


On Evangelicos

Ruy: “There are a lot of evangelicos here. You know, the people here have a lot of illiteracy and no education. When the evangelicos come, the people don’t know any better. They take, and take and take and the people just flock to the church and give what little they have to these thieves; puto evangelicos estupidos.

On Ortega

· They are all the same (politicians). He is just another politico now.

· I’m not an Ortegaist, but I do have respect for him for standing up to the US

· Lo que me importa es trabajo, si tengo trabajo, estoy bien con el politico (I just want to be able to make my own way and I don’t have confidence in the politicians.)

On The Sandanistas

· I was taken into the mountains for three years. They took me, I did not want to go. “No, no fue voultario”. I went to a training camp with the Russians and they taught me how to fight.

· I saw two of my friends murdered in front of me in the mountains. One of my friends got his head sliced off, right in front of me. There was nothing I could do. When you are in the mountains the only thing you can think of is your own skin. Your own skin, that’s all you can worry about. This affects a person.

On ‘The mountains’

BR- Did the war impact the whole country or was it mainly isolated in North?

R- Yes, it was mainly in the North; in the mountains. They would take people from the countryside but the fighting was in the mountains.

BR – How are the people in the mountains now?

R – Oh, there is no more fighting in the mountains. The fighting has stopped. Its safe.

BR- What I’m trying to ask is how the war affected the people there.

R – Oh, there are a lot affected people there, crazies. The war makes you crazy. You can’t see what we saw and not be affected. I had to take off for seven years to clear my head. I went to South America and United States. It took a long time.

BR- You are really lucky you could do that. I imagine few people had this luxury. Are there are a lot of people with problems there?

R – Yes. The people in the mountains were affected. There are a lot of crazies there. The men beat their wives and there is a lot of drinking. Lots of violence, fighting in the bars.


BR- What do people around here do for a living?

P- Mostly fishing and small farming. Remember you saw the shrimp/salt farms on the way to town.

BR- there’s a lot of people here . . . .they all do fishing and farming . . . is there enough work for them?

P – More people used to work, things used to be better. People used to be able to get able to borrow money to grow their business and get them through hard times. The government used to help.

BR – In the 80s?

P- Yes. Now people can’t get any help. There are no loans and if you can get loans, they are too expensive. Interest is too high.

BR- What does the government do now?

P-They do what they can, but there’s no money.

BR- so do they give materials for houses or food?

P- Yes, materials for building (not sure if he was just agreeing to be polite . . . . .but t he clear message was that people were not getting what they used to)

BR- Didn’t the Sandanista’s give people land?

P- Yes, sort of. They gave it to cooperatives, for community co-ops. But the profit was never for the individuals. The government set the prices at which they would buy the whole sale product.

P- Now, its just too hard. People can’t get money to grow or sustain during hard times. You can’t barrow money and then owe the same amount in interest in less than 5 years. This does not make sense.

BR- Its good you know this. A lot of people have gotten into trouble by not understanding this.

P- Yes, people do what they have to. I watched my father do business when things were better. He would barrow money to sustain us when crops were bad. But, you can’t do that now.

BR- What about NGO’s or micro lending?

P- That’s only for the leaders of the community. They will receive the money for the community but it never gets to the community. They are the only ones that benefit.

BR- So the community politicians are just like the national politicians.

P- Exacto.

P – See this road, see how bad it is? It was great during the 80s. No one has cared to keep it up since then. They used this to get people for the mountains.

(Both Ruy and Plutarco would speak of “the mountains” not “the war”. There was something interesting about this but my Spanish is not good enough to explore this nuance. Nor was I comfortable enough to explore the irony in his complaint of the deterioration of the road used to take children from his town to the mountains.)

BR – The Sandanista’s would come for Soldiers, like they did for Rudy?

P- They like people from this area, rural people.

BR- Stronger?

P – Yes, and not political.

BR- Would they take mainly children?

P-Yes, you had to be (13, 14 or 15, I can’t remember) years old. I was not quite of age and they had already taken my two older brothers so my mother pleaded with them and I was able to stay with her but it was not easy. It was just me, taking care of the family. Then my brother came home from the mountains and he was not right. It was very difficult.

P- They also took land from the people here.

BR- Part of the land reform?

P- No, not for the people. For his people. See these hills, all of them, all this land? He gave this to one person. This is really good land. It goes all the way up there and all the way back there. From those hills you can see everything. It’s a lot of land, really good land.

BR- I thought he took land from Somoza to give to the people?

P – This land was from someone who bought it. He was not a polititician. He paid for the land. They took it when he died and the land was in probate. His family tried to fight it, they are still fighting it. That’s always how it is. The rich people have all the lawyers and judges and they just get more and more.

(then we started driving by the owners that were given the land)

P- there they are; see, they are not poor. They did not need the land. See how nice their truck is.

BR – So this was not land given to the people?

P – No this was land given to one person, for their own benefit. One of Ortega’s cronies, as a reward.

Many thanks to BR for the transcription, as I seem to have been overcome by a severe case of laziness.

It’s A Strange World

Cifar RestauranteHad someone told me twenty years ago when I was majoring in Russian, ready to fight the Cold War and all that, that twenty years to the day I would be spending my 39th birthday in a Nicaragua where Daniel Ortega was president and enjoying myself immensely, I would have laughed in their face.

Alas, here I am. ‘Tis a strange life and a stranger world. Lots of new photos from the Lago De Nicaragua here.

Popoyo Diario, October 3 2009

Popoyo Cloud ViewThe vile shit we do in the name of national security is beyond me, sometimes. I’ve visited a lot of countries in which our national security obsessions have led to all sorts of misery, but here in Nicaragua it seems the most futile. What harm did this desperately poor country ever pose to us? A little Cuban influence? Or Russian mercs running around in the hills? As Ruy told me yesterday, “Soy no Sandinista, pero if I have no job, I vote for Ortega.”

That says a lot for a guy who was pressed into the Nicaraguan army to fight the Contras. “Three years I spent in the mountains, fighting that puto Ronald Reagan. Pablito,” he tells me,” I love you Americanos, but Reagan was el grande puto.”

Ruy likes that word, he uses it with a large smile, his little Ortega inspired mustache hanging from his upper lip. He’s got an infectious hand-shake and at close to 50 years old has the energy of a 20 year old.

We drive for an hour and a half from the beach here at Popoyo to Rivas, the only place within a hundred kilometers with an ATM. “Yeah,” I think, “capitalism has come to even Nicaragua.”

“You see these schools? All built by the Sandinistas. Sure, our roads are no good, but we are educating people now. Soon, they will be smart enough to build the roads without the help of the Chinese or Nortenos,” he tells me.

The car stops, he says hello to some old man on a horse, chats him up and we speed along. Dusty rolling away in the read view mirror. Pigs loiter in dirty, disheveled front yards. Nicaragua is poor, but fuck, I think, the people do smile.

* * *

I require prodigious amounts of caffeine and nicotine to wake up, as I relearn that benadryl and ambien are not the best combo at bedtime. But my feet are no longer swollen like pimply papayas. There is something in the sand here I’m allergic to. That or I’m diabetic.

I grab the long board and head down to the beach to the ‘holy grail of Nica waveriding, Popoyo.” The board is heavy—and long at 9’2”—blows in the wind back and forth and tries my patience. There are few clouds and I look like a walking Crisco commercial, all larded up and not an inch of skin showing underneath the sunblock.

But the waves are too big and too fast for me. They come in easily discernible sets of threes and fours, with no whitewash to speak of.

My travel companion, whom I’ve taken to calling ‘Curls’ for her amazing mane of Shirley Temple curls, earned a very serious badge of honor yesterday. She munched her first board. She, unlike me, can surf. I just flail about like the rank amateur I am. But her? She’s got the goods. Alas, a big set wave came in, she misjudged the drop—they are two and a half meter waves—and went head first into the wall. The board jackknifed straight into the air, caught the next wave and snapped right in half. It amazes me that the human body just curls up in water and doesn’t get hurt at all, but the brittle board breaks. While she’s off earning real plaudits I’m in the surfers version of the kiddie-pool, desperately trying to just get up on a wave.

I’m reminded of Alejandro’s comment about surfboards, “unlike woman, the board let’s you get up on it every time.” What does that say about me? Am I neutered?

I wonder what Reyes would say to Alejandro? They are peas in a pod. So alike. Alejandro is a cad, but far too funny to dislike.

“I like my girlfriend,” he says, “but I like my life better. My priorities are family, surfing and girls.”

Latin to the core. And a surfer.

As much as I like Nicaragua, I cannot help but notice the country’s economy is a disaster. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a place that imports all its bottled water. But here in Nicaragua the water comes from Costa Rica and the salsa, of all things, comes from Honduras. Is there any industry here, aside from rich former-CIA staffers buying all the beach front property. “How’s that even possible,” I ask Ruy. “I don’t know,” he says, “but that mansion and that mansion,” he tells me, pointing north up the beach and then south, “are owned by former CIA staffers.

Is it paranoid rumor? I wonder? Who knows. The fact that the Nicaraguan’s think so is enough to be disturbed.

“And now, the evangelicos are invading,” he says. “Los putos puritanos,” he tells me. “Even the surf camp up the road is a ‘Christian’ surf camp.”

I shake my head.

“Soy Catolico, but he is evangelico,” he says, looking at his buddy Plutarco. He smiles at him. “I feel sorry for you.”

I concur. I’ve endured enough puritanism in my life as well.

Lazy Days In Nicaragua

Casa Maur, ViewA couple dozen new photos are up.

There is nothing so hideous as waking to the thumping bass and screeches of of foreign music at six in the morning. But after 36 hours of no electricity I can’t blame the Nicas (short for Nicaraguan) for wanting to revel in it. That, however, didn’t help my headache. Or my first morning in Nicaragua.

My room is terrifying. Ants scurry across the floor. The shower is little more than a PVC pipe pumping out sulfurous swamp water. The sheets are clean, but only in a tentative, hand-washed way. The rafters leak mosquitos. The wash basin is filled with the accumulated grit of years. I don’t think it has been cleaned since before the Sandinistas overthrew Somoza. The toilet has no seat. Surf boards and bottles of empty rum are scattered helter-skelter.

I stumbled out of bed, bleary-eyed and coated in sweat out to the veranda and ordered coffee. I lit a cigarette, dragged deeply as the nicotine and tar at the very least woke up my lungs. I surveyed the sights around me.

The wind blows up dust devils in the dirt road. Thatched huts line the beach. Blue skies and bluer water ripple out all the way to Hawaii as tropical clouds jog penitently in the sky. Alfonso argues in the kitchen with his mother. Coconuts cling to branches while the water in the mangrove lagoon behind me splashes softly onto sandy banks. A pair of Magpie Jays roost in the branches while a small heron and sandpiper feed on the banks. A fish kicks out of the water, snagging a wayward dragonfly. A hammock swings in the breeze beckoning me to waste my day in its embrace.

I’m tempted.

Three dogs lya on the cool tiles. A breeze ruffles the feathers of a parrot who’s vocabulary is little more than an occasional “Ola, papi!”We stare at each other across the table. He whistles softly at me. I whistle back. We continue for a few minutes and then he scratches his ears. I mimic him. Then he turns his head almost 360*.

“You got me on that one, buddy,” I tell him. I am now reduced to conversing with parrots for entertainment.

The parrot and I discuss the meaning of life. He disagrees with Douglas Adams. “It’s not 42, or 24, or whatever,” he says. “Life is about sitting here, eating, pooping on the floor, chasing the dogs and watching humans do stupid things,” he tells me.

A Coca-Cola truck rumbles into the village. Three Spaniards sip coffee and whisper in the slushy syllables of Catalan. I light another smoke, inhale deeply and lean back in my chair. A Playboy Centerfold hanfs on the wall behind me, a lithe young Latina in a completely unnatural, if oh-so-seductive pose.

It’s not even ten in the morning yet and already I know I’m going to waste my entire day on this veranda, or one like it. The deliberate motions of life’s languid rhythms will go on without me.

By noon I’ve managed to collect my gear and find a better hotel. The Casa Maur is a traditional-style, long house hacienda. Surf boards line the walls. Surf videos are on the teevee and surfers are crashed everywhere, bodies contorted and resting.

A monkey dangles from a tree. A pair of macaws cuddle. The Catalans sunbathe. Behind the beach a lone man casts a fishing net out into the lagoon, far away from the alligator snout, dragging in nothing. It is now two in the afternoon. The day is a wasting.

Popoyo is empty, except for a few fishermen in strange tai-chi poses waist deep in the surf. Fishing line wrapped around PVC pipes. During the heat of the day there is little except a breeze and a large dragonfly.

The hours pass. I haven’t moved from this chair. There are no clouds, and Magnificent Point is visible in the late afternoon. The only sound is the whoosh and crash of the pounding surf and my shallow, lazy breathing. The sun will soon set a friend says.

I turn my chair around, looking Northwest. Hills undulate up the beach, a narrow strip of golden sand snuggles between the broad expanse of blue ocean and green jungle. A lone surfer, board under her arms, walks up the beach. The sky grows pink, while a curtain of indigo blue draws down in the East.

Now it’s orange. The sun is a setting silver dollar over the Pacific. Five fingers of light reach out for crimson clouds until all that is left are the lazy embers of an old sun.