I just returned from nine days in Nicaragua, where I learned many things. Here are a few:
1. It is possible, in the 21st century, to live somewhere that looks like this, the Granada home of San Francisco friends of surpassing good taste and generosity:
(I do recognize that it is not possible to live like this without the centuries-long labors of those who cannot. In the Americas, Nicaragua is second only to Haiti in its poverty.)
2. A person of Jewish descent can wake up every morning in a mosquito-netted four-poster bed to cathedral bells and singing and not find it objectionable in the least. A view from one of my wooden-shuttered windows:
3. There is a reason that riding a horse through a jungle and cantering along an otherwise inaccessible beach is the stuff of fantasy. My steed was white, and named Pablo Picasso, and I sang "Caballito Blanco" to him, which I learned as a child in Chile. My fellow riders, near the surfing village of San Juan del Sur:
4. Flirting is even more fun in another language. My Spanish held up well enough for me to crack jokes, decline invitations, and read mash notes from the smitten. As many Nicaraguan men are quite short, I also had the new-to-me experience of being piloted around a dance floor to the strains of the Nicaraguan classic "Pobre de Maria" by a smiling fellow whose eyes were at the level of my nipples. This made conversation both impossible and unnecessary.
5. Still lifes are everywhere. Cezanne would have adored the possibilities created by 50 cents worth of gardenias, a lime, a checked cloth and a snappy straw hat: