Everyone in this hostel stays longer than they planned. Miguel at the front desk was supposed to be here for one night. That was months ago. Hillary from Melbourne was going to stay for one night but keeps pushing her flight to Los Angeles back. Why would anyone want to be a tourist in LA after this beautiful city? It probably looks like a movie set after Chile. Glitzy and clean, everyone with brand new clothes and looking phony as hell.
“I feel like writing on the wall is part of our instincts,” Eddy said at the beginning of our street art walking tour, comparing Valparaiso’s graffiti to cave paintings. We met at a central plaza for another free/for tips tour. There are only four of us but it makes for a much more personalized experience.
As we walk up and down the hills and alleys of Valparaiso he explained a lot about the artists and the meanings behind some of the amazing murals and graffiti. He told us about one of his favorite artists, Anis, from here in Valparaiso. Must of her work uses imagery and themes about indigenous women in a modern society that keeps forgetting its heritage and history. Her beautiful faces are everywhere in the city and have a gradient of orange to purple, sunrise or sunset depending on the direction of the gradient.
Like other art forms, some of the street art in Valparaiso is a transmission of traditional stories and characters that have been lost in recent years.
“Kids these days don’t give a shit about those stories,” Eddy said. But the murals have helped spark new interest.
As we explore the city more and more I finally start to see so much symbolism in every image, every little piece of the mural is chosen specifically to convey meaning and transmit cultural memes. And the more work I see by certain artists the more I recognize their style and themes throughout the city, even without Eddy pointing it out. This format is so tactile and visual and real — but always fading with sun and weather and time, always time. That’s why we need signal boosters, like transformer stations for power lines — if the signal is necessary for life than it needs to be rebroadcast through time over and over or else it will be lost forever.
How much of our history have we already lost? How much ancient wisdom was silenced forever under the control and censorship and fear-mongering of a few thousand years of monotheistic religions and obscured by the fire and smoke of industrialism. It’s a culture war and the culture-less are slaughtering the rest of us. Now in the silicon era of communication, have we stopped to think just what it is we spend so much time communicating? Do we have more questions or answers?
I spent the afternoon relaxing after the street art tour. I walked around downtown Valparaiso to see all the sidewalk vendors in action and the city is alive. It vibrates with color and character. And from the once bland brick walls behind the the produce stalls the murals begin to speak with me, it’s like I’ve started to learn a new language. I am enthralled and walk around for another hour or so indulging in the free galleries.
Later at night I went out to eat at a lovely restaurant with Elisabeth from Germany and Nata from Finland. We enjoyed an incredible view of the city and some food that I would be proud to plate: crunchy and fresh salads, decadent chocolate desserts and a rich quinoa and mushroom ‘risotto.’ All seasoned well with precise, distinct flavors and served with tasty, regional drinks — pisco sours and Chilean wine. The restaurant, Fauna, was really incredible and it was hard to find any fault. Even the stainless in the semi-open kitchen shimmered as the cooks scrubbed it at the end of the night. And to make it even more special, I never would have gone to a nice dinner by myself, it was lovely to have the company, conversation and excuse to treat myself.
We walk the maze of hills and alleys back home. It’s late by the time I finally crawl into bed. My mind is wandering, and not to the places I would like it to…cruel, lonely world, where has my patience and optimism gone? All I see is struggle for life and inevitable death. My lifetime of loneliness is grueling. All I see is pain and grasping. All I see is illusion and it fades into the fog as I reach out my hand.
Show me the truth, I crave its weight.
Let me gaze upon it’s twisted grimace.
I’ve grown weary of this endless night
And fisting coal into a frenzied furnace.
With jewels for pupils I twist the dagger
To dull the pain with a moment’s distraction.
Mules bray and stomp in barren pasture,
Marionettes dance with listless passion.
Pry my eye from this cracked skull,
A lurid dream stuck on repeat.
Contorted limbs and ghost of a soul,
Wake me up. Lull me to sleep.
There is nothing on the oaken mantle.
There is nothing less we place it there.
A blurry daguerreotype lit by candle.
A pile of salt and thirty two gray hairs.
O tired shelf of useless trinkets,
Dusty collection of dolls and toys.
Withered notes. Weathered blankets.
Speculation and white noise.
It will never be enough…
Unless the notion is willfully discarded,
Until the old skin begins to crack and peel,
When the sand eventually turns to diamond,
And the ocean is quiet, waves frozen and still.
The fog will clear with tomorrow’s sun I’m sure. See you in the morning light friends…