There was a time I was related to a former Prime Minister of Peru. I was in Lima visiting, he was obsessed with security and never left his reinforced apartment in the San Ysidro area without a bodyguard as well as a couple of revolvers, one in his jacket pocket so that it sagged like the belly of a pregnant bitch, and another stuck in the waistband of his slacks.
Sometimes when we drove around the city he liked to drive with the security guard in the passenger seat, buckled in and looking impotent. Lima’s streets were busy with impatient drivers and few police and fewer rules, all the cars seemingly racing instead of merely getting from place to place. But the former Prime Minister had his own tricks to stay alpha in the face of all those lesser dogs at the wheels. He would, while pressing the horn of his car with one hand, and steering with the knees of his long legs, with his free hand he would wave around one of his pistols, right out the window and directly at the shocked faces of all around.
One day, we were walking into a restaurant which was a bungalow with a squad of ninjas on the roof all dressed in black and pointing AK47s, security for the restaurant, this was the 1980s, a different time. A time of violence and hunger strikes and sit ins at the Parliament and a time of riots in the big city square where authors were considering running for elected office.
Just as we reached the front door of the restaurant we passed a bench. On the bench was seated an ancient man wearing rags and nearly toothless which became apparent when he opened his old dry mouth to smile. The former Prime Minister cordially stretched out his hand, and cracked a campaign smirk.
‘This happens all the time’, the former Prime Minister explained, ‘People remember me and the good I did for our country’.
But the toothless old man refused to shake hands, instead he turned his hand palm up, and it was clear. He was not saying hello, he was begging. The former Prime Minister had no cash in his pocket, and he instructed his body guard to dole out a few coins, and into the sumptuous restaurant we went.
Image by Amy Badass©
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