Venezuela, July 1990 Travelogue


Airport at Baraquisimeto, Venezuela

Back in the summer of 1990, I traveled to Venezuela with some friends whose close friends lived there. These friends lived in a remote, sleepy province Southwest of Caracas.  There wasn’t much to do there so we traveled quite a bit to various spots from Merida to Caracas.  It’s all a bit of blur for me now and I don’t have many surviving pictures to remind me of the adventure, but I did stumble across a travel journal I kept on the trip.  Some of my notes are unintelligible, and some, silly and immature, but what the heck, I thought I would post a few of my musings of nearly 25 years ago, lightly edited.

  • There is a town close to San Felipe called Moron.  I wonder if the locals are called Morons?
  • Altura maxima permitida 3.9m – I’m not sure if that means duck, or no worries. I should have learned the metric system.
  • The buses here look like customized bread trucks.
  • Everywhere I look, green, green, green, everything is green and they say it’s winter here.
  • Many tree trunks are painted white to protect against bugs.  Back home, I thought painting trunks was some kind of patriotic display.
  • The sun is more intense closer to the equator, make no mistake about it – we are closer to the equator.
  • For $50,000 U.S. dollars, a person could buy a mansion here.
  • The Texas Rangers are called the Texas Rancheros.  And Philadelphia is spelled phonetically – Filadelfia, the way it should be.
  • Hours after watching the World Cup championship match in which Alemania defeated Argentina 1-0, 4 of us were sitting around a table talking and out of the blue, one of Juan’s friends said. “You look like Klinsmann!”  (Jurgen Klinsmann, the West German footballer). I wasn’t sure if it was an insult or compliment.
  • The backs of all trucks read: Carga Larga.
  • Juan bought a sack of empanadas de pescado for 100 Bolivares, or about $2.00 U.S. Dollars.  Had there been more, I would have eaten more than 2.
  • Polar is the Venezuelan champagne of beers; Belmont Extra Suave, the Venezuelan Marlboro Light.
  • There sure are some nice arboles along these roads with curvas peligrosas.

Me, August 1990


Jurgen Klinsmann courtesy Wikimedia CCA Share Alike 3.0

Soccer Needs a New Scoring System

I confess.  I’m not a big soccer fan.  I didn’t grow up playing the game as a kid. I do remember playing a variant of the game as a 6th grader on an outdoor basketball court with a kickball, but that’s the extent of my experience.

I began following the sport a little bit in 1990 when I watched the 1990 World Cup final between Germany and Argentina.  I was in Venezuela at the time and ended up watching the game with some Venezuelan fans who were cheering on Argentina.   They thought I was a soccer player because I had on a pair of Addidas Samba.  And one guy was convinced that I was a fan of Germany because I looked like Jurgen Klinsmann, which, by the way is not true. I told them I didn’t play, didn’t know how to play, but they couldn’t comprehend that, or maybe they thought that my Spanish was bad.  Interestingly, Venezuela is not a competitive soccer playing country, but Venezuelans do love soccer.  I guess this is due in part to Latin American pride in the success the continent has had in the sport and the fact that there are so many families of European decent living there.

I do like watching World Cup soccer, but I’m not wild about ties, especially scoreless ties such as occurred between Uruguay and France in Group A competition yesterday.  Can’t they do penalty kicks at all stages?  Or sudden death? Why not have the players essentially play until they drop?  A tie is like the game was never played.  No winner.  No loser.  And yet each gain a point.  I wonder if teams play to tie.  And why not adopt defensive tactics to preserve a scoreless tie.  Conserve energy.  Win a point.  A win win.  There’s something wrong with that mentality.

Soccer still hasn’t caught on in the States, and I think it never will, precisely because a game can end in a draw.  There’s not enough scoring for the American appetite.  Where’s the equivalent of the three pointer in basketball, a touchdown in football or the home run in baseball?  In these American sports, there are multiple ways to score and various point values assigned to the scoring.  Couldn’t soccer adopt something similar? Let’s say 3 points for a scissors kick goal and 2 points each for a goal as a result of a header or a kick that hits the net in the air.

I’m half kidding of course, but I might be on to something.

A Slightly Witty Look At Today’s Headlines

Goldman Sachs turned a profit despite charges of fraud.  Well, a name with Gold in it inspires trust.  What do you expect?

Charlie Crist running as an Independent for the Florida senate seat.  Good idea.  The Republicans bowing to Tea Party pressure have put their weight beyond Marco Rubio.  If Crist wins as an Independent, this weakens the Republican party and would make it easier for Crist to side with Democrats on some issues.  I say stick it to the Republicans Charlie.

Hugo Chavez gathered with some allies to honor the 200th anniversary of Venezuelan independence.  Chavez has allies?  Really?  In a few years, Venezuela will be celebrating independence from the dictatorship.  Then Venezuela will have plenty of allies.

European planes have been grounded for days by the volcano in Iceland.  The volcanic grit can lock up jet engines.  The airlines lose millions for each day their planes aren’t in the air, while frustrated passengers scramble to make alternative arrangements.  It’s the 21st century.  We’ve mapped the human genome, built space stations, simulated the big bang, come on, can’t we come up with something to protect planes from fine particulates?  A force field, or a giant fan to blow the stuff away or some sort of laser to vaporize the dust.

Top 5 Gifts for a Dictator

To avoid another embarrassing gift encounter, the President should keep some emergency gifts at the ready for future meetings with dictators, and there are quite a few that come to mind – dictators that is.

5.  A Sunoco Gas Card because it’s cheaper than Citgo, H. Chavez.

4.  Copland’s Lincoln Portrait .  Nearly caused a revolution among the spectators in the 50’s when Venezuelan dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez attended a Copland conducted performance in Caracus.

3.  Bananas – the Woody Allen spoof on revolutionaries that should have all self-respecting dictators in stitches.

2.  President Obama’s books Dreams From My Father and Audacity of Hope both inscribed “to Hugo with warmest regards”.  Obama himself joked that he should have given Chavez a copy of his book.

1.  EZ Notes Digital Voice Recorder as Seen on TV,  It’s a dictation machine with a built in flashlight and key chain.  By one get one free.  One for Hugo, the other for Fidel.  The perfect gift for the egomaniacs in your life.

And if the President can’t find the EZ Notes Digital Voice Recorder, the one as seen on TV, I think a used Yugo would be a nice gesture.