I met the freelancer Fein for breakfast. He is getting ready to go back to Iraq. He had dark circles under his eyes, and already had a Times under his arm. He bought his Times at the Loews every morning because they did not charge a $.07 cent tax on the newspaper like Starbucks did. He also had a small white paper bag. I knew what was inside, pain au chocolat. He got them from a French pastry shop run by Cubans. Last time I ate with him he had four. I was curious to see if he was going to top that today.
Fein ordered a grande latte. The counter worker asked him if he wanted something to eat with it. No response. Not the first time, not the second time, nor did he give his name to label the cup. Not even a nod.
"That's alright," the other counter worker said. Fein put down exact change in coins, in three neat stacks, then stepped aside.
We sat outside. It was windy and the paper blew. Fein threw out the first three sections, then flipped through the Arts to the crossword and carefully tore across. When the tear went too low Fein stopped and adjusted the paper on the table then continued to tear. He now had the puzzle free.
Fein opened the lid on his coffee and pulled a fistful of sugar packets from his pocket. He took three at a time, shook them, then made an even tear. He did this three times, nine sugars. He lined up three wooden stirrers so they would reach the bottom of the cup and stirred. He stared hard at the square of paper in front of him. He had no pen. On Mondays he tried to do it without the paper.
Dec. 8, 2005 11:07 a.m.
I flicked on the television briefly to make sure nothing was happening. A local channel had it first, shooting at Miami airport — then, I clicked to us, not yet, to the others, also nothing yet. Then it came like a wave, breaking over every channel. You try and think how big it will be and how long it will last when the phone rings. Car or taxi. Will the airport be shut down. How close can you get. You have to meet up with a shooter and a sat truck, who are also racing to the scene from different places. When you find them you see other reporters arriving, dozens of channels, throwing on blue blazers, parting their hair with one hand, putting in earpieces. One near me said to his cameraman, "I don't know anything," and the next minute he was on TV. He was able to talk for about five minutes. He must have been doing it a long time.
I saw one reporter go into the terminal and followed him. There was a crush of cameras around an exit gate, all looking for passengers that were on the plane. When one camera light went on there would be a flurry of movement. One small Colombian boy with a hearing aid was suddenly surrounded by 20 betacams, lights and microphones. He had gotten off early due to immigration problems. A tall black man on my right snapped off his camera.
"Man that kid ain't got nothing," he said, but the rest of the circle kept him talking, spinning him from one light to another. He was all they had.
Dec. 6, 2005 1:48 p.m.
Miami • Video: IEDs in Iraq
Bolivia is about to elect a new president. The leading contender is a man who favors the legalization of coca leaf growing for medicinal and traditional uses. Coca leaf growers in Bolivia are called "cocaleros." I have never seen a coca leaf, but I have read they are chewed.
La Paz is the highest capital city on Earth. A security expert we interviewed in Mexico said that because of this, golf balls fly a lot further than normal — that it was possible for an average player like himself to hit a par five in two.
Two hours of Spanish lessons a day. During the second hour, I drink coffee. There are also CDs to play in traffic. One song goes, "Dónde está, dónde está, está aquí, está allí." It is sung with great enthusiasm by a woman-man duet. It is hard not to sing along, and it is certainly more fun than sitting at a high school desk looking out the window. So far my phrase-making is limited to "Today is Saturday," which I have broken out twice and failed to spark anything other than an odd look.
Nov. 29, 2005 9:04 a.m.
Shot of wheatgrass
I asked the guy for wheatgrass in the apple-carrot. He said no, that would clash with something in the apple. He suggested taking the wheatgrass separately, swishing it around the gums, then waiting a few minutes before drinking the apple-carrot. He had an apprentice juicemaker with him. I deferred to his expertise with a silent nod, paid, and went out to get the paper with exact change, $1.07.
When I got back, a tiny, dark-green shot in a paper container like the ones that hold tartar sauce was on the counter. I did the shot. I guess they made extra wheatgrass because the master and the apprentice also each did a shot behind the counter. Their heads kicked back, the arms flew up. I didn't notice any swishing around the gums.
There I was ...watching FOX as usual, when who should appear at Miami airport but Steve Harrigan, the man always "on the spot." How do you do that, Steve?
Fort Worth, Texas
It's good to see a new blog. I'm sure learning Spanish is not easy, but at least you are learning it. Good for you! Keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing more of your blogs!
Come on Steve...say it with me..."Donde esta el bano?"
I so enjoy reading your blog and I will enjoy even more reading about Bolivia. I was in La Paz and El Alto and surrounding villages in February 2005 with a medical mission team. A piece of my heart lives in Bolivia now. I can't wait to read about your time there. I like you cause you keep it real. God bless you and Merry Christmas.
• E-mail Harrigan