Travel Thursday Encore: Or as Michael Jordan calls it, the Louie, part 4

More Art edition

“When photography came into being, realism in painting pretty much died.”
“But photography doesn’t have to realistic either.”
Never letting an opportunity to tease her slip by, I tried, “Pascal once said, a long time ago, ‘How vain painting is, exciting admiration by its resemblance to things of which we do not admire the originals.’”
“Sounds like he was talking about Van Gogh.”
“It was long before the Earless Wonder.”
“He still had one ear.”
“Good thing he didn’t fall in love again. Imagine what body part he’d send his third love.”
“Overdoing it as usual,” she sighed. “Anyway, this Pascal dude missed the point. Admiring a painting that depicts a place we know but don’t like seems absurd and pretentious at first, but only if we imagine that painters do nothing but reproduce exactly what they see.”
I grinned, liking it so far, but she’d never believe it, so I let her ramble on.
“If that were true, then all we could admire in a painting would be the technical skills involved in the reproduction of an object.”
“I just thought of something.”
“I might have seen those five-legged creatures at the British Museum.”
“Moving on. . .” she sighed. (That’s two.)
“Cythera was a mythical island associated with the Goddess of Love,” I told her as she went glum again. She’d been hoping to reestablish superiority in the paintings, but I was already ahead of her.
“I didn’t know you were an expert on mythology as well,” she grumbled.
“You think I’m not going to know something about the goddess I worship?”
“That’s true,” she brightened. “I am the current priestess, right?”
“At least for today,” I bright-sided while flexing my biceps, knowing the blow would be coming. It did, but luckily she only had superhuman strength in bed.
We continued looking at The Embarkation for Cythera. To be completely honest, there was nothing in it to suggest it was a masterpiece. Except for the sky, the colors were very dark; all you could see was a large number of people heading away from the viewer toward the distant sea.
“Now that you know what it’s about,” I gave her a wicked grin, “what do you think they’re doing? Are they about to go to the island, and who wouldn’t, seeing it’s run by the goddess of love, or are they being forced to leave the island? If you look carefully, you can see they’re a bit sad.”
She looked closely for a bit longer, then turned to answer and found a stranger there. Looking around, she saw me walking toward the next gallery, but I saw the Mona Lisa was in that direction and made a rapid U-turn.
“I don’t know,” she admitted when she finally caught up with me. “which is it?”
“I don’t know either.” I interrupted her growing grin with, “Nobody knows. Watteau died of tuberculosis when he was 37, and he didn’t tell anyone.”
“Then why did you ask me?” she growled, nettled.
“No reason in particular,” I said lightly, walking along regardless of her slow pace. “You ready to stop this little competition?”
She startled, then was about to make things worse by saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” but luckily refrained.
I nodded, as if agreeing with that course of action. “Can you be satisfied with being the second most-intelligent person in this country? After all, I’ll be gone soon, and you’ll be back to being number one. The sad thought is that you’ll leave too, and then where will this country be?”
She stared at me for a while, then burst into laughter, causing me to do the same. The guard there this time was obviously immune to her blandishments–or just too plain old to bother anymore–and ordered us out of the hall.
“Gladly. Let’s get the hell out of here. I’ve seen enough of Reuben and almost the Mona Lisa to last me a lifetime anyway. . .”


Travel Thursday Encore: Or as Michael Jordan calls it, the Louie, part 3

Egyptian edition.

After some more aimless wandering, and knowing me well, she thought I would want to pay my respects to my goddess in her most famous incarnation, the Venus de Milo, but once we saw all the flashes popping around it, we decided to come back later.
A little more wandering led to the Egyptian Galleries, which pleased me no end. “I know nothing about Babylonia compared to the Egyptians,” I told her, making her sigh and wish there was something she knew even a little bit better than I did.
Besides modeling, of course, though as a photographer I was well-versed–
No, best not think about that.
The first thing we saw was a bust of Champollion, who had of course deciphered the famous Rosetta Stone–or so he claimed–which was residing in the British Museum; long story. He had also been the first curator of this section of the museum back in the 1820s.
“This guy must be one of your heroes.”
“Not even close. He was great at what he did, but he could never admit he had help. Champollion was certainly influenced by Thomas Young’s pioneering work, but never gave him due acknowledgement, and went a long way to diminish it in his book. It’s true that he made the important discovery that the cartouches contained the names of Ptolemy and Cleopatra, but if it wasn’t for Young realizing the hieroglyphics had some non-alphabetic signs, Champollion would never have gotten that far.”
“What does that mean?” she once again frowned.
I smoothed out the forehead lines with my fingers, which made her giggle, then explained, “Some of the symbols stand for letters, just like in English the letter A stands for the sound A. But some of the symbols also stand for certain things, like Chinese characters. An owl might stand for the letter M, for example, but it might also stand for wisdom, since the owl is the bird of wisdom. Or it could stand for the sound an owl makes, theoretically, as well.”
“Ah!” she exclaimed, seeing the light. “Good enough. Let’s move on.”
“You’ll never learn anything just by hearing the tip of the iceberg.”
“If you waste too much time, we may not get back to your place in time to enjoy ourselves enough, since I have another shoot early tomorrow.”
“You talked me into it,” I grumped comically as we moved on down the hall. Within seconds we came to a figurine, headless but still enough for me to recognize it. “Nefertiti!” I exclaimed in delight. “Now we’re getting to my area. I know all about her and her hubby.”
“I was afraid of that,” she grumbled. Then she looked closely at the figure. “Rather fat, isn’t she? Those thighs didn’t come from exercise. If she was a queen, she probably didn’t have to walk to the top of pyramids very often. I imagine a pulley system–”
“There’s two possibilities,” I told her, then ignored her usual refrain of “I was afraid of that.” “It could have just been what was in style back then; think of Reubens.” She agreed with a nod. “Or it could have been done to go along with her hubby’s look.”
“What hubby? You keep alluding to him.”
“A completely fascinating and probably crazy pharaoh named Akhenaton. He should be around here somewhere.” Then I laughed at a sudden thought. “They should bring the famous bust of Nefertiti and join it with this headless figure so they could have a complete set.”
She frowned yet again. “I’m beginning to remember. Is that bust the one in Berlin?”
I took her in my arms and pretended to kiss her passionately. “I knew you wouldn’t let me down,” I said after we finally separated, and her pretending to catch her breath.
“Not with incentive like that!” she murmured happily as we continued down the hall, eventually coming to the big guy in question.
“Akhenaton was a renegade who had different ideas about how he wanted to rule than his predecessors. He was a pacifist in a time of conquering, but more importantly, he believed in only one god instead of all the ones in vogue at that time, putting a lot of priests on unemployment. He worshipped the sun and nothing else. He was the world’s first hippie: love and peace, not war. And he had a glandular ailment that distorted his body.”
“I can see it now,” she nodded. “Was his wife really like that too?”
“Who knows? Maybe she had a girlish figure just like yours.” She gave me a look of askance. “Right. No one has a body like yours. Still, it’s strange that this guy was really pretty important, but his younger family member became a lot more famous because his tomb was found with all the loot intact.”
Instead of frowning yet again, this time she smiled. “Don’t tell me, I can guess this one easily. Tutankhamen, right?”
I looked at her in mild surprise. “You even pronounced it right. I’m so impressed I’ll hate to wait until we’re alone to show you how much.”
“No point in waiting, then,” she announced, tugging on my arm. “Let’s go.”
“Uh-uh.” Smile. “We’re nowhere near finished with this place. You’ll just have to show a little patience.”
Her response was an unintelligible mutter, thankfully.
“This thing has five legs!” she exclaimed in the next room.
“Very good.” I was at my sarcastic best. “It takes some people hours to figure it out.”
She looked at the figure in silence, debating whether to listen to what was bound to be an interesting story or sparing herself some more of my conceit.
But I made the choice for her. “These are human-headed eagle-winged bulls called lamasuu, mythological guardians keeping evil spirits away, found in the huge palace of Sargon II at Dur Sharrukin.”
“Sargon?” she frowned one more time. “Wasn’t that used in Star Trek?”
“Original series, Return to Tomorrow. Kirk, Spock, and the babe of the week beam down and get possessed by these giant melon balls.”
“I remember. So go ahead and tell my why they have five legs.”
“Well, it is a bit strange, considering how boring the Assyrians are in general, but basically it’s so a person looking from the front could see the winged bull standing proudly while at the same time a person looking from the side could see it in full stride.”
“Sounds simple enough. Are these the only ones?”
“Nope I’ve seen them before, the ones from the palace at Nimrud. I just can’t remember where.”
“You actually can’t remember something?” the brunette hooted. “Is the world ending?”
I did my best to ignore her, though her body did jiggle enticingly when she jumped up and down like that, as I tried to remember where I had seen them. . . obviously not easy with her aforementioned jumping around. “Must’ve been at the Pergammon in Berlin. I can’t think of any other museum that might have them.”
“I will never let you forget this,” she promised.
This time I was the one who walked on.
As we climbed yet another staircase, we found ourselves confronted with a statue. She squealed and said, “Even I know this one. It’s the Victory of Samothrace.”
“Perfect and intact it might be only a remarkable work of art, but broken, her gown windblown against her torso, she resists annihilation with a sensuous fury.”
She nodded “Look! I have survived time itself. This is my truest victory.”
“Not bad for a model,” I said out of the corner of my mouth, obviously intent on regaining the edge in our little battle.
The murderous look in her eye did nothing to inspire fear in me, to her dismay. “All right,” she said, already sounding arrogant as we moved over to make room for those ascending, “if you’re so smart, what goddess is this? She doesn’t have a head, so that can’t help you.”
“But the wings do, as well as that marvelously sculptured body.” I grinned as I saw her glaring at me sharply, no doubt waiting for me to say something about her own figure. “Besides, the goddess’ name is written all over my shoes.”
She looked down quickly at my footgear, but all she saw was the curvy checkmark on the side. “Are you saying the goddess is Converse or Adidas? It surely couldn’t be LA Gear.” She’d done a commercial for them, and was waiting for me to remark on it.
I walked away. “Just when I think there might actually be a brain behind all that only-skin-deep beauty, you fail me again. Every third-grader knows about Nike. . .”
She quickly looked down to the placard next to the statue and saw that this was true. Then she looked back in my direction, mock-furious. Seeing I had already gotten off the stairs, she ran down them and threw herself at me, landing on my back.
The guard, wanting to do his job well despite the beautiful woman, told her to cut it out, only to find her simpering and saying she had been aiming for him; she definitely loved to flirt, sometimes way over the top. Guys were an easy sell anyway, but she would have them believing she wanted them right then and there, all the while claiming she had no idea where they’d gotten the idea.
Anyway, as the guard basked, we disappeared to another art gallery.


Travel Thursday Encore: Or as Michael Jordan calls it, the Louie, part 2

Archaeology edition.

Not wanting to face another embarrassment for a while, she led me toward the archaeology stuff. She knew I was far more expert at such things, but at least they weren’t open to as much interpretation as art.
She hoped.
We found ourselves in the Near Eastern Gallery after a while of wandering. It was rather dark in there, but when we approached a black stela in the middle of the hall, I recognized it instantly. I quickly left her behind and moved to it, the joy evident in my movements.
When she joined me again, she read the French explanation next to it. “Code of Hammurabi.” Then she looked up at the phallic-shaped piece of black basalt and said, “Not much to look at, is it?”
“I’m surprised you aren’t more excited to see it, considering how much of a feminist you are.”
Again she had her mouth open to speak, then decided not to provoke me and get the lecture over with. She moved her hands into position as if holding a pen and pad. “Go ahead; I’m all ears.”
Since I am always aware of my surroundings, I knew that at the moment we were alone and thus allowed my hand to land on the shapely hip encased in the blue dress. “Not ALL ears.”
She grinned and shook her head, but didn’t say what she obviously wanted to say.
“Hammurabi was an eighteenth century B.C. king of Babylonia–he’s the bearded one standing here with the god of justice–who wrote this code, which is one of the most significant legal documents in history. According to this code, women had many of the same rights as men: own property, have their own businesses, and work as scribes, which was a big thing back then, not like today when writers are treated like a lower life-form. It also stated that the strong should not subjugate the weak and gave protection to widows and orphans.”
The brunette grinned yet again. “Is that all, professor?”
I gave her a dark look, then continued at full speed so as to overwhelm her. “Most of the other laws were pretty harsh, although technically they weren’t laws at all. It was more the literary expression of his social responsibilities and his awareness of the disparity between the way things are and the way he wants them to be.”
Her eyes became either dreamy or bored, so after a quick pause for breath I kept going.
“The stela itself is written in cuneiform, in the Semitic language, covering 49 lines of writing. On the front is a prologue, 65 laws that are easily read–” She leaned forward. “–if you know cuneiform, of course.” She blushed and moved back to her original position. “There are another 40 laws on the front that are almost illegible.”
This time she saw my pause for breath and quickly got a word in. “If you can’t read them, how do you know what they say?”
I glared at her. “Next time raise your hand like a good girl.” She actually turned and looked around before remembering we weren’t in a classroom, but by that time I had continued. “This is not the only copy of the laws; others were found later in Nippur and Nineveh. On the back are 183 other laws and the epilogue.”
She suddenly looked intrigued. “Can you read this?”
Which made her completely lose interest, typical model.


Travel Thursday Encore: Or as Michael Jordan calls it, the Louie, part 1

Bosch edition.

Today on Travel Thursday, we have a semi-virtual tour of my favorite parts of the Louvre, that gigantic building in Paris that houses the coolest stuff in all of France, with commentary by a mysterious (in her own mind) dark-haired model.
I helped the supposed damsel out of the taxi and then handed the driver a bigger sum than he would have expected, tip included. The man returned part of it and said something in French, which made her blush and say “Merci.”
After the driver left, she turned to see me grinning. With her mouth open to answer, I shook my head. “Never mind, I understood perfectly.”
She blushed again.
Since she was a simple girl who made more money than she knew what to do with, I let her pay the entrance fee. Once inside she turned to me. “Do you want to wander like we did in the Hermitage, or go straight for the Mona Lisa?”
Grimace. “I want nothing to do with that pathetic work. I think we should just wander. . . after I check out Bosch’s Ship of Fools.”
She sighed. “Somehow I’m not surprised.” When I frowned, she hastened to add, “Because of Bosch, not because you’re a fool.”
I shook my head at her, as if not convinced.
As had been our custom in the other museums we’d seen together, we stared at a painting we both liked for a good while before discussing it. On the surface Ship of Fools was easy enough to look at, though you could never be sure at the deeper meanings Bosch intended. It consisted of a tiny boat on some body of water, obviously a small one because of the trees growing out of it. There were two naked men swimming alongside, one holding an empty bowl while the other seemingly tried to get aboard. There were eight people on the boat: one was lying at the front, trying to raise a flask cooling in the water, while another was either attempting to talk him out of it or telling him to hurry it up. {It’s hard to tell if that one’s male or fem, but since it was holding a cup in its hand and looking impatient for the flask, we assumed it was a guy.} There was another figure looking down over the edge of the stern, which consisted of an old tree branch as the rudder; in the center, to the back, was a fat man with an arm raised and mouth open as if doing opera. And the central part was dominated by four people bobbing for a piece of bread hanging before their faces. One of these was a monk, and another was a lute-playing nun.
There were two more figures in the painting: a small man dressed as a joker, drinking from a bowl while sitting in the upper branches of the rudder, and a man up in the tree the ship had bumped into, trying to liberate the plucked body of an unlucky fowl that had been strapped to the mast.
“Rather easy to figure out,” she smirked as we sat down where we could still see it and discuss it without being shushed. “Bosch is obviously telling everyone, including those in the church, to lighten up and enjoy life.”
I would have usually agreed with such a statement about Bosch, but this time logic did not fit. “Why did he title it Ship of Fools, then?”
She had her mouth ready for an answer, then shut it and frowned, obviously thinking about it. Soon enough she pouted, “Well, what other explanation is there?”
“It could be he was warning the people about such fools. For instance, he could be angry at the way certain members of the religious orders abuse their influence. Those people are supposed to be noble and in the service of their god, but they waste their time singing and goofing off and are just as much gluttons as the rest of the people. They might have been the televangelists of their day.”
She smiled, admitting it was possible. “But then he would have made them suffer a bit, like he did in the Hell of the Garden of Delights.”
“He did. Didn’t you see the guy at the rear of the boat, the one leaning over the side, throwing up?”
She frowned again–I hope she wasn’t worried about wrinkles–and got up to make sure I was telling the truth. When she came back she seemed very contrite. “Are you going to tell me I missed something else, or can I say it’s unusual to see a Bosch painting without animals or demons?”
“Ha! You missed the owl in the tree.”
She frowned again, got up again, and walked over to the painting again. This time she did not sit back down on her return, instead grabbing my arm and hauling me up before leading me out of the room and on to another part of the museum. Some of the onlookers chuckled at her antics, especially when I grabbed the doorjamb as if to avoid being led to the slaughter, but this only inspired one guy to say, “I would go anywhere that woman wanted to drag me to.”
She blushed again.
But of course I could never leave well enough alone. “I thought you were dragging me to the ladies’ room for a quickie.”
Thanks for the set-up! her smile beamed. “Pierre. . . cuz my bladder’s empty.”
I poked her in the stomach to see if this was indeed the case, causing her to yelp loud enough to grab the attention of everyone in the next room. Fortunately she was already through the doorway, and made a quick left into the hall. I followed at a more sedate pace, not caring what people I was never going to see again thought.


Travel Thursday Encore: Putting the Machu in Picchu part 3

That afternoon we were strolling by the railroad tracks, hand in hand, on the ten minute walk to the part of Aguas Calientes that contained the tourist amenities. Despite the hunger, she was in the mood to try something other than the hotel restaurant, possibly something local; she was as adventurous in her gastronomic exercises as I wasn’t.
Though still feeling the hunger pains, her brain managed to function better now, knowing the beast would be fed soon, so she was able to take in the town. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been somewhere so poor-looking, then realized it reminded her of a movie western set. It felt really out of place, then she remembered Butch and Sundance going down to Bolivia and giggled.
Maybe because her shopping hunger had no room for engagement, or more likely because none of the trinkets did anything for her, she didn’t stop to look at the souvenirs and artisan works lining the street as we approached the busy section of town, still holding hands. That would probably change later, she smirked; once her stomach was full, she figured she’d give in to the buying urge that was presently lying dormant inside her, like an alien monster.
The crowd was mostly made up of tour groups and smaller units of backpack-laden hikers, some of which crashed into each other as they gawked at her. Despite the natural blush, she was well used to it, and enjoyed it, as long as the attention was limited to sight; rarely did anyone say worthwhile words about her beauty. And she knew I didn’t mind the looks either, as long as they kept their distance as well.
“They’ve fixed the place up since I’ve been here,” I murmured, pointing to the little plaza that in most Latin pueblos signified the very down of downtown.
“I need to take a photo,” she decided. “You told me once that this was Peru’s version of Katmandu, so I want something for comparison when you take me there.”
“Most people only go to Katmandu on the way to climbing Everest.”
“Oh. Well, I don’t plan on doing that.”
“But I guess we can go on a walking tour for a few days after the next trip to the Taj Mahal. Either way, go ahead and take your photo.”
“Don’t suppose you’d go pose over there, in front of that. . . whatever that statue is.”
“If you want to catch the whole square, I’ll be too far for anyone to tell who it is, so just shoot.”
“Okay okay, stop being so bossy.” She quickly framed the shot and took it before I said anything else, then grinned and jumped over to kiss me, kicking up a heel like a cliché. “Okay, no more side trips. Me need food!”
“I too. Remember when we arrived that the train station platform has tables for dining? There’s probably a good restaurant there.”
“I was too tired to notice anything at that point. And trains kick up a lot of dust. And I don’t want to walk that far. What else ya got?”
“Let’s find out. Did you at least see the market stalls when we got off the train?”
“Hmmm, you’d think I would, but I didn’t. Why?”
“I was watching as we approached, and they actually had to move their little portable stores off the train tracks so the train could park.”
“Wow! They really have no other place to set up?”
“Not if they want to be right there to hit up the weary traveler as soon as they step off.”
“Yes, I can see their marketing strategy. By the by, I am not looking forward to the train back down. I got enough of the scenery on the way up.”
“I can scrounge up another way.”
“We are not taking a bus!”
Of course not. It’ll be faster and even more scenic.”
“What is it?”
“A surprise.”
She pouted, but only for a second. “Promise it’ll be good?”
“Then I’m forced to trust you.”
“There’s a pizza place.”
“I did not come all this way to eat pizza,” she said primly, no longer grinning.
“There. That place.”
She looked. “Yes.”
It being brunch time in a place that never heard of brunch, we were seated immediately, and the service wasn’t all that different than it would be, if not in the States, then at least in other places around the world used to tourists. The waitress even spoke some English, and just like that Katarina was snacking on the bread pieces while I waited for my corn on the cob order that I’d placed immediately before checking out the main menu.
“They serve trout all the way up here? Really?”
“It’s flown in, of course,” the waitress smiled as she dropped off the corn on the cob, then quickly scurried away.
Katarina looked at me blankly, but I simply smiled and said, “I like her,” as I dug into my appetizer. The corn looked a bit different here, but turned out to be just as tasty, to my relief.
“Good thing for you they grow it up here,” she laughed.
“Corn was the staple crop in this hemisphere before the Spaniards, but only with the Incas was it sacred.”
“No wonder you like them.”
“They saved the very best lands for it. It even became a symbol of power, more so than even coca, or potatoes.”
“Your other fave,” she laughed, seeing no need to point out which one. Attentive but still very hungry, she reached over to grab the hunk of cheese that came with the corn. “It looks weird, all white and puffy, and those kernels are huge. How does it taste? Like corn?”
“There’s a corny base taste, yeah, but it also tastes sweeter than usual, with a little milk thrown in. Not as good as the corn I had in Rotorua, New Zealand, but at least top five.”
She grinned as she remembered that old conversation, especially about the entry at #3, and the corn girl who’d served it–and herself–to me at a festival in the Midwest. Thinking of that luscious redhead. . . that quickly went away as the waitress came back to take our main order.
Having a backup ready in case the description turned her off, she asked the waitress about the Pachamanca.
The girl was efficient. “That’s a classic mountain dish that goes all the way to the Incas, it means ‘Mother Earth’ in Quechua. Several types of meat, potatoes, peppers, herbs and cheese are baked in a hole over hot stones, with banana leaves placed between the layers. It is cooked underground because the Incas worshipped the earth, and to eat directly from it was a way of honoring the Mother Goddess and giving thanks for her fertility.”
“That’s perfect!” she squealed. “I’ll have that.”
She waitress smiled and ticked a note on her pad. “What soup would you like?”
“Hmmm, what’s sopa a la criolla?”
I smiled at her perfect pronunciation, but she was too hungry to reply with anything more than a return smile, listening to the waitress instead.
“That is a basic soup, but you may find it different because it used quinua as its grain.” Going on before she could be asked, she explained, “The word means ‘moon’ in Quechua. It expands four times its original volume when cooked and thus has more protein than any other grain, so you can see why we like it so much.”
“Is there a moon god that’s in love with the Mother Goddess?” I grinned.
“I hope so!” the waitress giggled.
Playing along, Katarina said, “There is now. I’ll have that.”
“Great. And you, sir?”
Not having enjoyed alpaca meat the last time I was here, I went with the regular beef steak, not worrying about how long it would take, since the corn was fighting an efficient holding action on my hunger.
Katarina looked at the cob husk left on my plate and sighed, wondering if she should have ordered a quick appetizer too. “What’s six inches long and makes me happy?”
I considered, then went with, “Just about anything, Earth Goddess.”
We’d quickly grown to love the silences between them when we’d first met, but she didn’t want that right now. “So, is there other stuff to do here besides Machu? And orchids,” she quickly remembered.
“There are other sites, mostly harder to get to, but also nowhere near as dramatic as Machu. Any tourists going there would think them anticlimactic. Like someone looking at any other model after watching you.”
“I was with ya before you said that,” she assured him, biting her inner cheek to keep from laughing.
“There’s plenty of places to hike, that don’t take four days. There’s one that goes up to that other mountain over there, got some good shots of Machu once. And if I can remember where that other one starts, there’s a waterfall that’s just your style at the end of it.”
“So, you wanna tell me the story about walking the Inca trail now?” But before I could answer, she suddenly cursed.
“What’d you do now?”
“Do you remember that as soon as the gardener left, we were all alone up there? Or even before he got there, when it was still dark? Who else could say they fucked at Machu Picchu?”
I smiled. “I love a sexually adventurous girl.”
“Especially if she’s yours, right?”
“Wouldn’t be any fun if she was someone else’s.”
Her eyes danced at that, but she kept a straight face. She also kept quiet for a while, because she was too busy eating, until finally she shouted, “I want dessert! And no donuts this time!” While perusing the dessert menu, she came across something she thought was amusing, though as usual with me the jury would always be out. “Says here this restaurant also owns another one near the railroad tracks called Toto’s House.” She grinned. “I know how much you hate the Wizard of Oz, but. . . dinner?”
Holding up my fork, which contained a chunk of steak, I asked, “Aren’t you afraid of what kind of meat they’d serve at a place called Toto’s?”
I watched carefully as her face slowly turned green, and knew I’d blundered.
“Ya know,” she rapidly dropped the menu, “I think I’m full.”
“You are not! Watch, I’ll distract you, and in less than a minute you’ll have forgotten.”
Less than fifteen minutes later–tough walk uphill and a stop for a snack to tide her over–though she was definitely not counting–she was luxuriating in a private room, lying face down and naked. It had taken her a bit to decide just what kind of massage she wanted, though the last thing she needed right now was the Energizing one that topped the list. Of course she had no idea what an Inca Massage would be, but was leaning toward one called Altitude Problems, for good reason, when she was informed she could have a mix of all of the above. She was so tired and eager for some hand-healing that she simply agreed to that and flopped down on the bed, then moaned when she realized she forgotten to take her clothes off first.
If she had any doubts beforehand as to the usefulness of hanging out with a guy on an expense account–yes, me–they were certainly dissuaded now as she undid her boots and dragged her jeans down her legs, not exactly gently, leaving the white socks on because she knew they looked so cute. It was tougher working off the blouse and bra, and then she basically had to just drop her undies, but soon enough she was really zoned out and giving herself up to the bliss.
It seemed like only seconds later she was awakened by the soothing breeze of condor feathers being waved over her. After being told it was an Inca tradition, she wondered what I would think of that. . . then realized she hadn’t given me a moment’s thought since she’d undressed. For just a moment she was mortified, since I’d been so kind as to pay for the whole thing, then realized I’d probably gone off to have my own massage. Yeah, but he’s probably thinking of me, she sighed, vowing never to let me know she’d broken her own rule.
Getting off the table with an audible groan, she reached for her clothes, only to find they were nowhere in sight. Instead the masseuse held a fluffy-looking blue robe out to her with a smile as well as outstretched arms. Shrugging inwardly, she donned the offered uniform and followed the still-smiling lady through a short labyrinth to the outdoors, where she saw me slowly slipping into the pool, looking like I wasn’t wearing anything either.
Laughing, she barely took enough time to throw the robe off before diving in, almost scaring me. But she turned out to be the one frightened as she realized her skin was sizzling from the volcanic-like water.
“Remember when you asked me what the town name meant?” I grinned when she broke the surface and did a jitterbug that would make any synchronized swimmer envious.
“And you said you’d tell me later, so I’m gonna assume it means ‘hot water,’ right?”
“This is exactly why I defend you when people say you’re not smart!”
“Thanks for that!” No longer impersonating a blowfish, seemingly getting used to the heat, she turned to wrap her arms around my neck and kiss me hotly, though not as hotly as the water, she giggled to herself.
We looked into each other’s eyes for a moment, and then I took in the whole view. The water had darkened her fair hair, and it lay tight to her head and across the brow in flat honey-gold tendrils, as if it had been sculpted.
Suddenly, as usual thinking things well after the fact, she glanced around frantically, her hands moving to cross her chest and block the view. I laughed, then used my own body to cover hers, wet rubbery skin slicking against hers as I whispered, “Relax. I paid for them to turn away anyone else who wanted to dip in here.”
“I was wondering why we were alone. That makes me feel guilty, but I can live with it.”
“Don’t. There are other pools, just not with a view of the sugarloaf.”
She turned quickly, being half-mermaid, then gasped. “I hadn’t noticed! Tell me what it’s like to climb it,” she sighed.
Leaning into her back, I murmured, “Do you want to hear about the Sacred Rock?”
Somehow managing to giggle and moan at the same time, she managed to gasp, “Been there, done that.”
“Never stopped you before. . .”
“Um. . .”
“To the left of the Sacred Rock is a path that leads to the gateway to Huayna Picchu. Even though it looks steep, even those in pretty bad shape can climb it in an hour.”
“How fast can you climb it?”
“If I was racing, about fifteen minutes.” I noticed the way she was staring at the Old Mountain. “Get there early, avoid the sun and the climbers. Get better photos that way, too.”
“How many people can fit up there at once?”
“Not many. There’s a booth where they make you sign in, and if you don’t come back quickly enough they’ll send the next people up, telling them it’s okay to throw them off.”
“Well, not really.”
Seeing an inflatable rubber animal next to her, she scratched for it and placed it on the concrete ledge underneath her breasts, then leaned forward to stare at the view.
“Last climbers at one, and if you’re not down by three, they’ll come and getcha.”
“The view, the view,” she sighed, fighting to keep her eyes open and looking through the clouds at the top of the mountain.
“There’s a platform at the top, directly overlooking the ruins and the forested mountains. But most people don’t know there’s a tunnel that takes you to a rocky perch that has full-circle views. There’s even less room in there, and I for one could spend hours up there shooting, if the people waiting weren’t about to throw me off.”
“They wouldn’t dare,” she whimpered,
“But you don’t want to climb it when it’s rainy. Those stone steps are even more slippery than the ones at Blarney Castle. Remember I told you about that?”
“The girl who told the guy to kiss her ass!”
“That’s her. It’s so steep it’s frightening coming down, but there’s a turnoff that no one knows about, an hour’s walk to the Temple of the Moon. The trail dips down into the cloud forest and then climbs again, so you gotta ignore your groaning thighs.”
She did manage to giggle a little there, though she was close to being completely out of it.
“Right above the river, about halfway down the peak, there’s a mysterious group of caverns and niches with the most beautiful stone work you’ve ever seen–”
“Better than the Alhambra?”
“Apples and oranges, though there are a few thrones around the altar.”
“For me, the Moon Goddess!” she screeched, then promptly fell asleep.
{To be continued, with an orchid walk, a hike to a waterfall, and a pretty scary trip in a helicopter}


Travel Thursday Encore: Putting the Machu in Picchu, part 2

It felt kinda weird walking with your head down and your arm up, hand on your new buddy’s shoulder, but it was necessary, since it was still dark and she couldn’t bear the thought of tumbling down the mountain and forcing me to live without her (yes, she actually said that). I stopped often as I looked for the best place to shoot the sunrise, the grey sky definitely lightening the more I looked up.
She’d had a little smile as we’d passed the closed ticket booth, but after that had come the horrid though short climb in the dark up to what was called the Caretaker’s Hut. Having visited archaeological sites before, she knew a lot of ancient buildings had fanciful names that had nothing to do with reality–that Castle in Chichen Itza was like most other pyramids, after all–so she didn’t even bother with this, and certainly didn’t look through the gloom at Funerary Rock.
After what seemed like forever but turned out to be less than fifteen minutes, to her shock, I told her she could let go. Instead she pushed forward till she was hugging me from behind, kissing my neck and licking my ear. But of course as soon as I tried to turn around to return the favor, she stepped back and told me to get my shot already, and if I was a good boy she might let me take a shot of her topless with the sugarloaf in the background.
“And you’ll choose the exact moment it’ll start to rain,” I grinned.
Shrug and pout. “I don’t mind getting wet. You know that.”
In answer I handed her my backpack, which she set down at her feet, and climbed the rocks that made up a former wall. The top of the mound was only about fifteen feet high, but it still made her feel like I was up on Mount Olympus (she told me this too) and she was a mere mortal beseeching her god for. . .
Then she told me about this new fantasy she was working on, but admitted she’d need access to a wardrobe department. “But then, you’d never wear the costume I have in mind for you, so you’ll have to photograph me in the open flowing white robe I am now designing in my head. . . then set the camera on automatic as you ravish me. . .”
I let out a big fat yawn, which amused her. I let the camera dangle on its strap and then put on my headphones, having to make sure the wires didn’t get crossed up with said strap, as often happened, much to my neck’s pain.
“What song will you be playing?”
“‘Sunrise,’ of course.” I’d played the Shannon Hurley tune for her on the train.
“Of course,” she grinned, then sighed, “that song makes me all gooey inside.”
I refrained from asking “What doesn’t?” because it rarely turned out for the best, at least in my experience. Though I couldn’t resist adding, “Followed by ‘Morning Sun.’”
“Lovers Electric,” she sighed, remembering that song from the train as well.
Then she got the bright idea to shoot basically the same shot, though with less elevation, but that shouldn’t make much of a difference, right? She left my backpack there and wandered over till she was standing right below me, then tugged on the zipper of her purse to take out her own little digital camera.
Perhaps that was why she wasn’t paying attention as the gardener made his way toward us with a hose, spraying water on the already-dew-spangled grass. With the sun peeking over the horizon things were no longer shadows, and it seemed like suddenly rather than gradually the side of Huayna Picchu was suddenly glowing. I took my first shot, but since the sun was practically rising in my face, in the camera eye, I had to stop after each shot and recheck the exposure, making sure the coming brightness didn’t overwhelm the bulk of the picture and render it totally black. Point is, I was too busy to pay attention to anything else right now.
Katarina, not well versed in light and exposure, was also shooting away, a little part of her ego fooling her into thinking these shots would be just as good as mine. But since she didn’t have the camera to her eye like I did, holding it at arm’s length, she was able to see in her peripheral vision that the gardener was almost to her. He’d better not spray me, she smirked, then suddenly panicked as she remembered my backpack and all the photography gear, as well as my laptop and assorted papers.
She remembered dropping it off at the beginning of the slight rise, which couldn’t have been more than a dozen feet from her, but she couldn’t see it! Nobody could have possible stole it, and there was no way it tumbled down the hill, so–
It’s beige! It’s blending in against the wall! The gardener won’t see it!
And then she caught the ray of light glinting off the UCLA button, and she realized the water was only inches away. . .
“No. . .!” came the dopplering scream that startled the gardener, but not enough to make him switch his aim. The next thing he knew a woman–oh, the amazing blonde from the truck!–was hurtling in front of him, next to the wall, as if she thought it was a swimming pool she was diving into.
Now instinct took over, and even though his mind wondered why she wanted to get wet, his brain still made his hand move the hose so that it no longer pointed in her direction. Still watching carefully, and a little fearfully, hoping he wouldn’t get into trouble, he watched the woman stand up, dripping, glare at him, then turn around and lift a backpack he’d never seen before, checking to see if it was dry.
Apparently it was, for she sighed in relief, gave him a rueful smile, and went back to the spot where she’d been standing to shoot the sunrise.
But there was one more squeal left in her as I jumped down to join her. “You owe me so big for this,” she muttered, handing me the backpack because she was still dripping.
“Do you think this would have happened if you hadn’t said, just a few minutes ago, ‘I don’t mind getting wet?’”
She laughed at that, then glanced at the sky uncertainly, as if not wanting to tempt the gods anymore. A thought made her unzip her jacket, but no, her shirt was dry, so she wouldn’t be winning any damp blouse contests while she braved the high-altitude cold. She started to rip off the wet jacket, then thought better of it, because her hair was still dripping. The jeans were another matter, but luckily she was a cold-weather girl and she had someone who could warm her up if needed later.
Not that I could do much right now, other than grab a replacement t-shirt from my backpack and wipe her face and neck dry, as tenderly as I could. She closed her eyes and shivered, though she couldn’t tell ya if it was from the cold or something else, and then she opened her eyes and kissed me on the nose she almost broke on the way up as I ran the shirt through her hair.
I whispered, “Don’t forget to pick up that little camera you’re almost stepping on.”
As thanks for saving my equipment–or because she’d allowed it to be in danger in the first place–she was forced to don the backpack to keep it safe, as well as to make it easy for me to grab whatever I needed. It was heavier than she expected, but she resolved to take it, as long as she dried out quickly.
It was still too early for the tourists to be allowed in, so I took advantage of the empty space to shoot some more of the site. From this vantage point and with the sun up, we were able to see the site’s full layout, especially how clearly different the agricultural and urban zones were. It was the perfect spot from which to not only get a photographic overview but also to zoom in and get at least a hundred shots covering just about every inch of the place. The workers were still walking around, but most of them had started here and made their way down, in some faraway places already looking like ants. And there wasn’t much to shoot behind me, except for long shadows, because we were already on the edge of the site, with a steep canyon on the other side.
So, figuring I’d never see it this empty again, I decided to take as many shots as I could before getting bored.
“Hey,” she yelped, “what’s with the llamas?” She couldn’t imagine a historical site or museum anywhere else in the world where animals ran wild, but on the other hand, maybe someone could sell her a sweater to take the place of the wet jacket presently tied around her wet waist but below the dry backpack.
She looked both cute and sexy with the pack straps having to go around her breasts, so I took a shot, reminding myself to try it later with suspenders and sans shirt; she’d love it, no doubt.
Then she took off the backpack and set it down between her legs as she sat on a rock outcropping, sighing a little heavily. As for me, I’d finally stopped yawning, at least for now, but was also feeling a little tired. “Altitude,” I pondered aloud.
She smiled and nodded, then reached into the backpack for the book she’d spotted me putting in, the one that was kinda like a tour book but with much more non-touristy info that the famous guides didn’t include.
“The Cusco Valley and the Incas are synonymous in most people’s minds, but the area was populated well before they arrived on the scene and they simply built their empire on the toil and ingenuity of generations of previous cultures.” She wrinkled her nose. “So Neruda wasn’t kidding about slaves building this place. I thought he was stacking the deck to make me feel sorry for them.” She looked up to see what I was thinking about, but I was too busy taking a photo of her wrinkled nose, which she instantly ruined by smiling. Not wanting an annoyed photographer on her hands, she stuck out her tongue at me, now that the bite had finally stopped hurting, then went back to the book.
“Hiram Bingham coined the phrase ‘The Lost City of the Incas,’ which was the title of his first book. He never gave any credit to those who led him to Machu Picchu, mentioning only ‘local rumor’ as his guide.”
“That’s one of the reasons I don’t like him. Typical Ivy League crap. John Lloyd Stephens was never like that.”
She smiled, glad that I was warming up to the conversation even as I looked for more shots.
“There’s reports of plenty of people who were here before, some even carved their names in the rocks,” I continued. “Guess that makes him more like that Champollion asshole than anyone else.”
“Not lost, just deserted.”
I smiled at her, and she returned it brightly, another of those little moments we cherished. Remembering to look up that French-sounding name later, she kept on reading, looking for another juicy bit. “Bingham built strong relationships with top Peruvian officials, so he had little trouble obtaining permission to ‘borrow’ artifacts. Upon returning to Yale he had more than 5,000 such objects to be kept in the university’s care until such time as the Peruvian government requested their return.”
“Which happened not that long ago,” I mused, “and guess what? Yale refused. Shocker, huh?”
Not wanting to get into that right now, and not bothering with the hand gesture I’d taught her, she went to a more touristy section. “Some people claim the silhouette of the mountain range behind Machu Picchu was in the form of an Inca face looking up at the sky, with the largest peak, the sugarloaf known as Huayna Picchu, representing his pierced nose.” Wrinkling her own nose again, she looked up at the landscape in question.
Having heard that before, I had tried to photograph it on every trip, but it was pretty hard to do when you’ve never seen it, never got it, looked like just a bunch of peaks.
She’d asked me numerous times about what Machu Picchu meant, let alone Huayna Picchu, but I always warned her it was a big letdown. Which of course made her wonder all the harder, but so far she’d refrained. And next time I chided her about her lack of self-control, she had this card to play, so better to leave it for now.
Standing up to look at the edges of the site now, she remembered her earlier thought about falling off the mountain and wondered if there was any lookout from which she could glance down. I had told her it was close to 2000 feet pretty much straight down till you hit the Urubamba River, but then I’m afraid of heights, so she figured I wanted to scare her away from such a thing. I’d also told her that due to the deep precipice and the mountains, it had been an excellent natural fort, and even if the Spaniards had found it, they probably wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it.
“Like Masada,” she mused, having picked up on my penchant for military history, then wondered if the Incas had a failsafe back door if they needed to get the hell out. I’d mentioned something about a rope and/or trunk bridge, and she’d made it one of her goals to find the path down to it, though of course not go all the way down, mostly because she sure as hell wasn’t in the mood to come all the way back up before breakfast.
Scanning quickly through the book, she found what she’d just been thinking about. “The location of the city was a military secret because its deep precipices and mountains were an excellent natural defense. The rope bridge across the Urubamba River provided a secret entrance for the Inca army.”
“Do you have a plan for today or are you just going to wander?” she found herself asking.
I rightly took that to mean she was asking about up here on the mountain, not the rest of the day in town. “There’s some stuff I need to shoot, but no plan. I’ll hit them all eventually. If you feel the need to go off on your own, feel free. I’ll try not to miss you.”
She grinned and almost replied, but stopped herself before she could be accused of playing both sides of the argument, as she often did, because she found herself frowning at the wall in front of her, coincidentally glancing at the section between my legs. I saw the frown, smiled, and didn’t ask, nor did I photograph it, for I had plenty of confused shots from her. My amusement grew as I saw her flipping through the book.
“The unmortared stones fit so snugly they might as well have been grown together.”
I’d noticed that on a previous trip, and while it had seemed quite amazing then, it was old hat now, so all I told her was, “These walls have survived earthquakes that leveled entire towns.”
“Maybe that’s why,” she mused as she kept reading. “This says the junctions are so perfect you can’t fit a knife through them. . . one hundred and forty structures? Really?” She got up to gaze around again.
“And I’m shooting them all,” I sighed, knowing the sympathy ploy always worked.
Except this time she wasn’t paying attention. “One hundred flights of stairs. . . that I can believe. Hmmm, it says some are carved from a single piece of granite. I wanna see that.”
“So let’s go find it.” I started down the stairs in front of us, then waited for her to make sure she was paying attention to where she was stepping while she checked how many pieces the steps were made from.
“What’s this big puppy here?” She was pointing to a big structure next to us, and was apparently too lazy to check the book in her hand.
“Temple of the Sun.”
Shivering, she wondered, “Should I pray, or make a sacrifice? I’m still damp.”
I passed up the cheap joke and went for a closeup. Of the round tower, not her. “Here’s were the stones fit together without a seam.”
Instantly quelling her shivers, she rushed forward to look, though still asking, “Is there a reason why it’s called this, or are they being prosaic as usual?”
“Hey, you learned a new word.” Or maybe she was just throwing it out without knowing what it meant, I didn’t add. “If you were standing on that ledge during the June winter solstice, you’d see the window is perfectly–”
“What? Time out! June winter solstice? You’re as deranged as. . . Oh! Southern hemisphere! Never mind, carry on.”
“In my deranged way?”
She smiled and shrugged, knowing there was nothing she could say to get out of a punishment later. Instead she looked around, then grinned. “Hey, no one could see us if we wanted to slip by this cordon and go inside and grab a little souvenir pebble. . .”
I grinned at her, the grin that told her if I thought she was serious I’d be calling the cops. Her reply smile was to make me think she hadn’t been serious. Sighing, she reached for the book, and quickly found something much more fun. “Fountains! Lead me to ‘em, gotta photograph them! See if they make me think of the Alhambra.”
“You sure are a water baby, especially for a Teutonic gal.”
“I’m making up for my childhood deprivation,” she replied absently. “Are we gonna climb the sugarloaf?”
“Not today. I will, because the view is so different you think it’s another place, but I’ll save it for the next time we come.”
“You mean, in a few years?”
“No, silly. I’m gonna see other stuff the next few days, so maybe I’ll come back the morning I leave for Chile.”
“You’re not supposed to tell me your itinerary! You promised!”
“Then down ask!” Blonde.
She ended up disappointed with the fountains, expecting tall ones, but was mollified when I told her they’d been used for plumbing, not show. “No wonder there’s so many,” she mused, then gazed over my shoulder–she was certainly tall enough–as I studied an aerial photo of the site, which showed the waterways and some of the trails, one of which connected to the Urubamba river in the valley below.
“A-ha!” she thought as she remembered her earlier quest, then tried to figure out where it was without asking. Then decided she’d look for it the next time, maybe spot it from the sugarloaf. Since we were just standing there, she took the moment to sit down and rest, realizing the lesser oxygenized air up here was tiring her out quickly. Plus she could see tourists now entering the place, so that honeymoon was over.
Remembering the book in her hand, she quoted aloud again. “Machu Picchu is an official Historical Sanctuary of Peru. Sounds like a national park or something. This area, which is not limited to the ruins themselves, also includes the regional landscape with its flora and fauna, highlighting the abundance of orchids. Orchids? We have to go see that!” she squealed.
I gave her the look, and her face did that half-pouty/half “Oops” thing she did so well. She was already formulating plans to convince me how much I’d enjoy shooting the flowers when I said, “Don’t you think I already scheduled that? It was going to be a surprise, but as usual–”
Feeling bad about misjudging me, but not wanting to face what she knew she richly deserved, she leaped on me and kissed my mouth shut.
After kissing back roughly, I pouted, “That’s your answer for everything, airhead.”
Letting that roll off her back, for a change, and struggling to keep pace now that I was back on the move, she tried to pretend she had just read something else, when in actually she’d been saving it for such a moment. “Hey! According to this you can visit at night! Need special permission and a guide, but you think you can swing that?”
“Probably. Did you bring your cold-weather gear? It’ll be a lot more dangerous, as well as spooky. And since you didn’t seem to like walking in the dark an hour ago. . .”
“Hmmm. I’ll have to think about it.”
Which I knew was her way of changing her mind without admitting it. Instead of actually making the potentially fatal mistake of saying that out loud, I stopped at a particular structure and told her to pose, which of course she immediately did, spending a few moments being serious, channeling her modeling muse, before hamming it up as usual. “Why this one?” she asked perkily when she skipped back to me.
“For some reason this one was named ‘Sexy Woman’ by the Incas. What better model could I have?”
“Aw. . . wait, let me pose better.”
“Too late. And keep your clothes on.”
“Well, I am no longer cold. . . though I might be getting damp another way. . .”
I faked a sigh so well she wanted to take notes, but instead enjoyed the hell out of it as I said, “Don’t you ever think about anything but sex?”
“Butt sex? Is that what–Hi there!” she saluted the obviously American couple who’d already made their way this far into the ruins in such a short time. The couple looked really happy to be there, no doubt fulfilling a lifelong ambition, but seemed to be moving far too fast to enjoy it.
“Probably going to climb the sugarloaf first,” I figured as I yawned. “There are no more sexy women places to shoot, so if you wanna go wander on your own, come up with some new fantasies for when we get back to the hotel. . .”
Remembering she’d already come up with one, but would under no circumstances admit it, she asked if I was trying to get rid of her.
“Maybe I want to get some photos of you when you’re not looking.”
“That works! See ya, studly!”
Not burdened by my backpack anymore, not that she’d carried it around all that much, she let her body do anything it wanted to, provided it wouldn’t hurt and wasn’t dangerous, until she found herself all alone and wondering just how the hell she’d gotten here. Turning around, she couldn’t spot me, so she’d gone too far to be photographed. On the other hand, she hoped I got some good photos of her frolicking her way up here.
Suddenly feeling tired, the thin oxygen thing again, she sat and reached for. . . what was there to reach for? she suddenly realized. The water bottles were in my backpack. She was now becoming annoyed by the jacket around her waist as well, and it had gotten too hot to wear. On the plus side, her jeans were now dry, though she couldn’t help smirking at the joke she’d thought of just a few minutes ago, right before that couple showed up.
And speaking of, once again strangers startled her out of her sexual reverie, though this time she didn’t mind. A tour group was just coming up the hill, a big one by the looks of it. The guide smiled at her and didn’t shoo her away, so she decided to stay right there and listen, hopefully learn something, if it was in English.
The guide pointed to a large hunk of rock, luckily not the one she was sitting on, and said, “This is known as the Hitching Post of the Sun. Experts believe it to be a sundial, or at least an astronomical and agricultural calendar, to let them know when it was time to plant the crops. If you look at it from a certain angle, you can see it appears to have the same shape as Huayna Picchu.” Everyone turned to look at the sugarloaf. “The Incas built similar devices all throughout their empire, but thinking they were for pagan worship, the Spaniards destroyed most of them. This one survived without a scratch till 2001, when some idiot bureaucrat allowed a beer commercial to be filmed here, and the film crew snuck in a thousand-pound crane, which promptly fell over and chipped off the top section here.”
She wondered just how someone managed to sneak a thousand-pound crane, or a thousand-pound anything, up here without anyone noticing. Oh, someone probably did notice and was paid off. Hopefully that asshole got fired too. She’d have to ask. . .
No longer really listening, she saw someone in the group slathering on the sunscreen and turned on her famous puppy eyes. Luckily it was a guy, who grinned and tossed the bottle to her. It hadn’t occurred to her that she might burn her very fair skin up here, but then realized the thin air wouldn’t do much to stop harmful rays, at least compared to lower elevations. Unfortunately it was a stinky sunblock, but that was the breaks.
Giggling, she was about to toss it back when she saw the guy was taking a drink; immediately she was thirsty again. The guy rolled his eyes, but was grinning as they exchanged bottles and she took a long and loud gulp. Through the distortion of the plastic she could see the guy taking a photo of her; maybe he was hoping to see some drip on her shirt, or more likely recognized her, but either was okay with her, and if the shot turned up in some paparazzi mag, she’d write it down as the most expensive drink of water ever. Sure felt worth it right now, though, gulp gulp.
The crowd moved on, and she joined the tail end, where hopefully the guide wouldn’t see her, and the guy wouldn’t be able to keep shooting her. She could imagine me getting a shot of her tagging along behind the group like a little kid, and her giggles almost drew the attention of the stragglers, except that the group had stopped and the guide started talking again; she barely managed to keep from running her nose into someone’s back, and she certainly didn’t want anyone to have a picture of that.
Even though the topic was a sacred rock that many believed contained energy–the guide actually called it “The Force”–she found her attention gathered by the sugarloaf mountain again, or as she should really learn to call it, Huayna Picchu. It looked truly big from here, and she realized there was a line of people going down a path in front of her, heading for it. Okay, now she knew, but did she want to?
Nah, that looks fuckin’ steep. Good thing we’re not climbing it today, but I may still not want to when we come back either.
The crowd broke up, some to follow the path to climb the sugarloaf, others going down to the rest of the site, and suddenly she found herself alone with the guide, who was grinning at her. Maybe she wants payment, Katarina thought, then quickly turned and barreled down the stairs, forgoing a touch of the sacred rock.
It felt like she didn’t stop running till she met up with me, and then I held her in a long and hard kiss that left her even more breathless. A stray thought eddied through her brain: what a way to die. . .
(to be continued)


Travel Thursday: Putting the Machu in Picchu

A few days in the Inca fortress with a former model who would really wish I’d forget that part of her life. . . and before you ask how I knew what she was thinking, let’s just say she didn’t hide her journal nearly as well as she thought. . .

It’s hard enough getting up at five in the morning under any circumstances, but since it was four times zones away from my usual, I was basically getting up at one, an hour I might just be getting to bed. And it was highly recommended that I wake up, since it wouldn’t do to walk unconsciously in this place, with the thin air and uneven terrain. The dark didn’t help either.
On the other hand, I didn’t have to worry about where to step and gasping for oxygen during the first part, which was riding in the back of a truck up to the site. Speaking the local language–or as local as possible here, not knowing Quechua–helped in getting an invite to join the workers who opened up the site, so I could get some sunrise shots. Of course, it didn’t hurt having top-notch archaeology credentials, a letter from the country’s top government cultural official, and a friendly attitude, but, whatever.
I’d shown up in the back room of the hotel, where the workers who got the archaeological site ready for the tourists had their incredibly early breakfasts. A little schmoozing over hot chocolate and I’d earned myself a ride. If all worked out, I’d be meeting that German girl from the train for breakfast at opening time, once I’d gotten all the sunrise shots I could handle.
Not quite. Katarina showed up, perky for bright and early, just as everyone was loading into the truck.
“Three hours is too much apart after meeting you,” she informed me cutely, though I knew she was just being cruel.
I turned to the guys waiting in the truck, but even the driver was grinning as they gawked at her. She gave her trademark smile as she put a boot on the fender, and the truck almost overtipped from the rush of guys fighting to help her up. Her power of attraction was no matter of shame or embarrassment to her.
Making sure everyone, including her, knew what was up, I put my hands on her ass and pushed, making for a cute squeal as she flew into the crowd. Perhaps one–or possibly two, with her body–got an accidental feel, but she didn’t complain, because they behaved themselves and she was laughing too hard.
Now though, on the road through the darkness, she started pet peeving. “I could have afforded to stay at the hotel right next to the site,” she grumbled as her ass left the truck bed again. Of course that wasn’t the problem; it was the landing she didn’t like.
“It’s not a question of money,” I explained yet again (after asking if she wanted me to massage her tender area; she said she wouldn’t feel it through the denim). “Those assholes think they can charge whatever they want, and there’s no place in the world worth $900 a night, no matter where it is. Nor the $25 buffet either, but I will let them know I won’t be recommending them in my new book.”
“You’re writing a book?” She looked puzzled, then groaned and slapped her forehead. “Sheesh!”
One of the workers smiled and handed over a can of insect repellent, which made me laugh. But after that it got a little boring, since there was nothing to look at, the dawn not making an appearance yet, thankfully for my camera. It may have been only nine miles up to the site, but it was a zigzag nine miles up the mountain. I couldn’t write, more due to motion sickness than darkness, so while trying not to fall asleep, I decided to try memorizing the photography notes running through my head. But that didn’t work too well either.
“I always seem to forget in which word the extra C goes.”
She commiserated, “I know what you mean. I keep putting both words with double Cs, so I know I got at least one right.”
I was too smart to point out that she’d always get one wrong too, or would get the same effect by just having one C in each. No point in wasting time, or precious thin oxygen, on that. Besides, she was too busy smirking at me. I knew she was still being a Teutonic tease, so I pretended to ignore her. . .
Until she put her lips on mine.
At the exact moment the truck hit another bump, or pothole. And while she remarked that she was amazed she hadn’t chipped a tooth with the contact, she didn’t notice me checking my nose for breaks.
“You’re weird,” I sighed, a bit nasally.
She took that in stride. “That’s why you love me so much.”
“That doesn’t say much for either you or me.”
“Mmm-hmm. Now tell me a quote about love, right now.”
“Love is like flushing yourself down the toilet: a nice cool ride with a lot of crap at the end.”
“Oh, that’s fucking perfect!” Then she saw the guys around her grinning, and didn’t have to wonder which word they’d understood. She gave them a big fake grin, secure in the knowledge that she could handle any of them if they got difficult, or I could.
“I can sit and wait,” she told herself quietly. “I’m good at that.”
I grinned, but left it alone.
“The hard part is holding a thought, with all this bouncing.”
“I’ll skip the blonde joke, then.”
“Speaking of unusual restraint!”
I smiled and let her have that one, then jumped–not due to the truck this time–when she shrieked in his ear. “WHAT?”
“Did you see the unicorn?” she asked excitedly.
“Right there, by the side of the road!” She tried to look back, but it was too dark. “You didn’t see it?”
“Of course not,” I snorted. “And considering all the stories you told me about your one-night stands while traveling, neither should you.”
It took her a moment to catch my drift. “Ha-ha. You really didn’t see it?”
“Not even a horse or a llama.”
“Unicorns exist,” she said quietly. “I know this. . . it’s a certainty. As certain as. . . as certain as I am that you want me, that the moment we get back to the hotel. . .” She grinned, having teased me enough for the now.
I smiled, but didn’t say anything.
“You do want me, right?”
“Either you’re really insecure, have a truly horrible memory, or you’re begging for some kind of compliment. None suit you.”
She didn’t seem disappointed her game hadn’t worked. “I’ll stop wasting your time then,” she smirked, then suddenly flew off the seat. “I’d better shut up before I bite my tongue,” she giggled as she landed.
“That’s a switch, biting your own tongue.”
The blonde stuck said appendage out at him, but another jolt caused her to bite exactly that, making her grimace and me laugh.
The next few moments were spent quietly, with her no doubt checking her tongue for damage, but we both enjoyed the silence. . . well, at least I did. Not that it was a perfect silence, for despite it being under her breath and very noisy in the back of the truck, I could hear her, as if she were trying to memorize a script, repeating, “We came upon permanence, the rock that abides. . . the city upraised like a cup in our fingers.”
“Neruda, huh?”
“You’d better know that.” She looked smug.
“And did you know he wrote that about this very place?”
I checked my watch, but figured I’d wait to write down the time and place of the very first occurrence of the German babe being rendered completely speechless. I remembered reading the poem to her on the train, where after beautiful descriptions of the ruins Neruda–or rather the poem’s narrator–promised to give voice to those long-dead humble builders who’d been forced into slavery to make these amazing buildings in this austerely beautiful landscape. Before this, Neruda had been all about the examination of his private life, but with this poem he became a public voice for those who couldn’t speak for themselves.
Which of course made him a hero to easily impressionable romantic European girls, who’d already been to Italy to see where Shelly was cremated. . .

Tune in next week, where we finally get to the site and have photographic adventures!


Travel Thursday: Noo Yawk, part 4

Once back inside the studio I went to prep for the next model, leaving Lea with no idea what to do for a while. It wasn’t till she was grooving to the music that she remembered where she was, and why, and as she walked to the big room, as she liked to call it, she found herself happy to know classical music could make her feel like dancing too. . .
“Big Beethoven fan,” I explained as I watched her sway to the music.
Today’s model pretended to understand. “Yeah, I love that dog too. Wish he’d make more movies.”
I somehow managed not to strangle on that one, even kept from laughing until the gal’s first wardrobe change. Lea zoomed right up, hands playing with the buttons of her blouse. “Since I’m not being paid today,” she mused aloud, “and we’re not in private, I will only take half of my clothes off. Would you like that?” she winked.
“Half-naked, or half-clothed?”
She hooted. “Which one is the optimistic one?”
“For me? I would like you to remove the clothes on your left side.”
Oh oh. . .
She was saved from ripping up her available clothing by the arrival of the model, who hadn’t dawdled as usual, not with a better looking model in the house. . .
Lea pretended to go away, for the model’s sake, but I knew where she was, which didn’t allow me to answer all the model’s questions honestly, but on the other hand gave me plenty of opportunity for fun.
“I’m not saying I hate the way Lea looks,” the model was protesting. “All I mean is that she doesn’t have the usual look the rest of us do. I’m surprised she gets any jobs at all.”
“Lea appeals to men,” I replied simply. “Most models are chosen to appeal to women, not in a lesbian kinda way, but to make them think, ‘If I wear that, I’ll look as good as her.’ Females are simple creatures.”
By the time Lea was finished sorting through all that material, the moment was gone, so she turned and flounced out. It wasn’t till the model was taking a bathroom break that she came back, where in as airhead a voice as she could handle, asked, “Do you believe in advanced mutual compatibility on the basis of a primary initial ident?”
Since I knew this one, I gruffly replied, “When the ident has curves like yours, baby, one look’s all that’s needed.”
She tried to look surprised. “I didn’t think you’d get that.”
“Saw the same show. Have it on DVD.”
She looked smug. “So our compatibility is based on more than just primary initial ident! Yes!”
“Glad there was something, since I didn’t see anything mutual on your part.”
“I fell in love with you the moment I saw you!” she squealed.
“You were looking at my laptop!”
“Oh, yeah.” Then she winced at having said that out loud, for now she wouldn’t be able to argue it.
Fortunately the model returned, glanced at us curiously, then struck a pose. . . literally.
Grinning in relief, Lea waved at her and retreated again. . .
But unable to stand the thought we were talking about her, she was back very quickly, where she saw me struggling with a flash umbrella, two steps up on a small ladder and teetering like memories of the playground. She quickly rushed over to help steady the ladder, giving the model a baleful look; the model shrugged and went to get some water, apparently believing that her job of calling for help if necessary was now in someone else’s hands.
The model startled and turned around, but by this time Lea was smiling sweetly at her, so she went back to her water bottle.
Wow, a telepathic curse! I don’t know my own brain strength!
She was frightened out of her own inanities when I jumped down to land beside her, then held her steady when she squeaked. “Sorry. I’m so used to moving silently. . .”
“I noticed that last night,” she smirked when she regained her composure, licking and then chewing on my jaw for emphasis. “By the way, I thought you preferred to use less light.”
“I’d shoot you under a tree, if there are any in this damned town. Why?”
She pointed to the object he’d just been adjusting.
“Got no choice, working in a studio. As a photographer, light is my life. . . don’t start singing.”
She smiled her delight, but didn’t say anything, kept on noshing on my face, making it difficult to talk, let alone concentrate.
“Remember, photography means drawing with light.”
“I get it!” she chirped brightly.
Staying there this time, she couldn’t help but notice I didn’t talk to this model nearly as much as I had with her. She remembered what I’d said about most models being bimbos, and believed the massive compliment I’d given her, if she hadn’t believed it before.
Suddenly she heard the model say, “I don’t have an accent, I’m from Brooklyn!”
Wow, the bitch was making an attempt at a sense of humor. Too much.
“Brooklyn is not an accent. It’s a speech impediment. It’s a mouth infection.”
Lea suddenly screamed and ran out, squealing, “Don’t say mouth infection!” Howz that for a screen test, buddy?
“Now you tell me!” came my dopplering voice behind her.
Okay, that was funny. . .
“I shutter at the size of your aperture,” she purred a few minutes later, running her hand over the long lens, which was fortunately not attached to anything at the moment. She threw me a wink, just in case I didn’t know where she was coming from.
“You really AREN’T a dumb model!”
“Thanks.” She had to work to freeze the smile.
“Although you’re the one with the aperture, babe.
She was probably right in thinking flouncing away again was the only response she could give. I didn’t see her again. . . until she got hungry, at which point I took her along to a business meeting I was scheduled for, knowing there was a good chance she could distract the other guy. . .
Worst of all possible worlds, the restaurant didn’t have a convenient subway stop nearby, which meant it was easier to. . . gasp! Walk!
“I want to be an actress!” she suddenly cried.
“There’s a shock. Thankfully you’re not like that around me.” Hadn’t she already said this? I couldn’t remember, and right now I had to concentrate on remembering the best route to the restaurant.
“The reason I bring this up again is because we are passing just a block away from a place where I’d really like to work.”
I made sure of the street we were on; nope, not close to Broadway. A good sign.
“It’s called Don’t Tell Mama.”
“Hmmm, I like where this is going. So you wanted to be a stripper/comedienne before I brought it up?”
“Not like that, sicko. Some might call it a cabaret, but it’s not like that either. It’s just a whole bunch of incredibly talented, struggling actors.”
“Waiting for someone to figure out how incredibly talented they are?”
“Exactly! The place is standing room only with a line out the door, spilling onto the street. Audience mem­bers sing, and even the bartenders perform. If you get there after 10 P.M., you’ll be listening from the outside, so get there early.”
“I wasn’t planning on going.”
“Not even to see me?”
“You’re not there. . . yet,” I quickly added to save my life.
“I want so much to play there!” she whined.
Perhaps she wanted to show her thespian range, or maybe she was just too thrilled to be getting a free meal at such a ritzy place and didn’t want to mess it up, but either way she was far more calm as we were seated. Squire Harry, as I referred to the Brit I would be parlaying with, was already there, but he pretended to be a gentleman by rushing over to kiss her hand and seat her.
“I work in the Empire State Edifice,” Squire Harry told her after a throat clearing, hoping that would impress her.
“That must cost a lot,” she replied between gulps of her soft drink, having ignored the alcohol offered. More than it’s worth, was the implication in her tone.
Well, at least she knew what an edifice was, he mused. But then, he knew my taste did not run toward bimbos.
I couldn’t resist sweetly asking, “Is your office next to the Nappy-Time place?”
Squire was spared from having to ask what the hell I was talking about–he hated having to admit he didn’t know something–as the waitress came to take our order. When that was done, he boomed a non sequitur, “Ah, I love New York.”
“Living in New York is worse than boot camp. Trust me, I know.”
“You can’t tell me it’s worse than El Ay.”
“I can tell you, and I will. Here’s easy proof. There aren’t even ten thousand cops in El Ay. Chicago has over thirteen grand. But NYC has more than forty triple O. What does that tell you?”
Squire’s usual reply would be an automatic “It tells me nothing!” but he knew better than to try that with me, under any circumstances but especially today. So he went with, “And yet you never see one around when you need him.”
“Next time something happens to you, make sure you’re in a donut shop.”
“I have people who get my donuts,” Harry complained, but found that didn’t impress the girl. Okay, something a little more moneyed, he thought. “I was at a fundraiser the other night, I don’t remember what for, but it sure raised a lot of money, I’m told. Had some big politicos speaking, and the police chief was there too. He went on and on in a verbal monologue–sorry, that’s an oxymoron– about how citizens have to help the police, even the rich ones like us. It was quite pathetic. Yeah fine, here’s a check, now shut up and get out.”
Lea glanced over at me, wondering which way I’d go with that; she thought of at least five avenues of attack.
“Verbal monologue is not an oxymoron; it’s a redundancy. Written monologue would be an oxymoron.”
Okay, six.
“And did you write him a check?” she asked sweetly.
“Of course not!” he snorted. “Who knows what he would have done with it!”
By the time we were done eating and she’d gone to the restroom, I’d gotten everything I could have hoped out of the negotiations, and more. Squire Harry didn’t seem put out, so maybe he would have given more, but I was more than happy with the results.
“Everything copasetic?” Lea asked mock-brightly when she returned.
“You’re a student of history too?” I grinned.
“I stude all over the map,” she giggled.
“Ahem, yes. Excuse me. My turn for the little boys’ room.”
“I like our euphemism better,” she told Squire as he stood up. That got a smile out of him as he made his way through the tables, thinking a woman couldn’t be a bimbo if she knew what a euphemism was. . .
Suddenly she threw her arms around my neck and kissed me, murmuring, “How’d I do? Distract him enough?”
Since I hadn’t told her about that, I couldn’t help but be impressed. “I could give you 15% and still come out on top, so yeah.”
“Yay! Amsterdam here we come!”


Travel Thursday: Jerez of my Dreams, part 2

“Best horses in the entire world! You will never find–”
She had been reading a brochure that told her The horse fair was headlined by the renowned Arabian and Andalusian breeds–the best in Europe, in riding competitions, exhibitions, sales–when, as irony would have it, this first of no-doubt many pitchmen started his spiel on her. She almost told him I was the wallet of the operation, but since I was caught as well, it wouldn’t have helped anyway.
Finally she just took the brochure and smiled falsely, then walked away quickly, hand automatically going out to grab mine; she felt a rush of female endorphins course through her when she realized it, even more so when my hand instinctively clenched around hers.
{How do I know stuff like this? I read her diary, of course. . . and if you tell her I’ll haveta mess you up. . .}
We hadn’t spoken much since I’d told her to drive down Avenida de la Feria, to which she’d replied, “That’s convenient!” showing she’d been practicing her Spanish. Now taking the time to look around, she noticed two different sections to the park, one a small village that seemed to be lined with restaurants and pubs, and the other part full of tiny roller coasters and bumper cars and such, games for the kids that allowed grown-ups to let go a bit as well. . . without getting drunk! she laughed inside.
“This isn’t what I thought at all!” she wondered aloud. “The way you explained it, I thought it was a private horse sale. . . you know, just the rich people and the horse sellers! Yet anyone can come in!”
“Humans are natural showoffs, like peacocks,” I tried, just to see if she’d bite. . . and not bite me, since she was a natural showoff. “They want all the peasants to see their clothes, their horses, their women. But they don’t really want to have to talk to them.”
“Just like Hollywood!” she marveled, though she was acting it up something horrible.
Not quite in horsie mode yet, she carefully took in her surroundings while sucking on one of the many samples she’d been given as we’d walked by. Just the thought of all these little white tents made her ecstatic, hopeful they all had something to sell. That grassy spot she figured had to be a horse exhibition ground, so save the spot for later, and when she spotted railroad tracks she knew it was time to turn back.
“So this reminds me a lot of a country fair,” she grumbled, “though with more horses than usual.”
“No one’s making you get on the roller coaster and such. And enough with the sherry! Let’s just see the horsies.”
“Yeah, where are they?”
“Should be this way. . .”
As always trusting me, she kept quiet, still looking around, hoping for differences that would make her forget the county fair comparison. But finally we arrived at a place that looked like a driveway, albeit a pretty driveway, seemingly one long mosaic.
“Just in time for the horse parade,” I grinned. “Get your camera out, and try not to think of it as shopping.”
“Wouldn’t that be something?” she enthused. “I want to buy a ranch and have all kinds of horses on it! I’d like to see if those from different parts of the world like each other, or if they–”
“Here comes the first.”
Dutifully she brought her arms up to put her little camera in place, then looked down the long walkway, or horseway, and giggled.
To me time seemed to pass ever so slowly, for after a while I got bored looking at horse after horse after horse. The only saving grace was her running commentary, making me wonder when she was going to repeat herself, but so far she hadn’t.
At one point, when a woman in a bright orange flamenco dress passed on the rear seat of an Andalusian–with me maniacally shooting frame after frame–she mentioned how much she’d love to ride in a dress like that, but never sidesaddle.
“You cannot ride like that,” one nearby man grinned. “Riding astride ruins the dress.”
“Phooey on that!” she booed, to the delight of most. “Hey, they get Western horses here too!”
“From the west of Spain?”
“No, dummy, cowboy horsies! Isn’t that a pinto?”
“A paint is a breed; pinto is a color.”
“I see. So–hey, curly horses!”
“Glad to see you keep things. . . ah, never mind.”
Which of course she didn’t. When the parade was finally over, she went to work on what I would usually do, checking the photos on the tiny digital screen; well, I was shooting film, but you get the point. I waited patiently for a while before asking if she’d rather do that in the shade. Instantly she put on her “Oops, excuse me for being a dumb blonde” face and allowed herself to be led away.
Her other tack was changing the subject. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many beautiful horses at once,” she pretended to swoon.
“Typical girl.”
“Oh no, I love horses more than any typical girl. . . and don’t you go making something out of that statement, you dirty-minded swine! Contrary to Freudian belief. . .” and she had to stop right there because I was laughing so hard she was afraid I might hurt myself.
It took so long she got bored watching me and went to her favorite time-waster, reading the brochures and various propaganda she’d been handed on their walk. Most of it was in Spanish, of course, but there was enough to tide her over, especially the overdone folds of the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, as they called the Riding School. As much as she loved the thought of catching the “dancing stallion” show, she wasn’t buying their claim that they were “comparable” to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, which was on her list of things for me to take her to see.
“Oh, I needed that,” I finally sighed, startling her, then making her wonder how long that had taken. Next time she had a laughing jag, she promised, she’d let me make all the fun of her I wanted!
Looking around now, she saw the crush of people was a lot worse than before. So much for the sedate pace all the literature promised! . . . wait, they did add something about except for the festival. Okay, my bad. . .
But it didn’t change the original problem. “We’ll never get through this crush of bodies!” she whispered fiercely. “It’s impossible!”
“Not with that attitude you won’t. The person who claims something is impossible is always right, because she’ll never do it.”
“Not again,” she muttered, then grinned falsely.
“C’mon, I’ll fullback for ya.” I grabbed her arm and pulled her along; only a tiny squeal escaped her this time as she quickly followed to keep her arm attached. “Swifter than centaurs after rapine bent,” I exclaimed, managing to confuse her long enough to get her to follow on instinct without thinking.
By the time we’d made it to the safety of the food and drink portion of the fair, she was out of breath, though that was due more to her laughter. Pressed to the point, she admitted she had no idea why she was giggling so much, but then tried, “I hope you make me call you ‘my little centaur’ the next time we do it!”
“If I don’t, you’ll get your money back.”
“What money?” she almost cried, but instead looked over as another white horse trotted by, carrying a man in the front and a polka-dot-dress-wearing sidesaddle lass behind him. “Tell me about the Andalusians.”
“The people or the horses?”
“The more interesting ones.”
“Ever hear of Medieval Times?”
“Sure! One of the knights gave me his rose.”
“I’ll try not to get jealous. Those white horses are Andalusians.”
“Like these? Awesome!”
“Andalusians love to dance.”
“The people or the horses?” she giggled.
“Both, but in this case I mean the horse. We’ll catch tonight’s show.”
“Really?” she squealed. “Will you then take me to Vienna to compare?”
“Not tomorrow. Hope you have a good memory.”
“I’ll remember,” she murmured in what she hoped was a mysterious tone. “Now I wanna play with horsies!”
“And I wanna watch you play with horsies.”
“That’s the spirit! Let’s go!”
Even though every woman in the place no doubt felt like she did, I knew I’d be able to work something out with a presenter. Usually just the thought of seeing their product with such a beautiful woman, especially if they figured they’d get a publicity-style photo out of it, should be enough. If not, there was always bribes.
Spotting a likely target, albeit not an Andalusian–I’d save that for a better idea, later–I hailed him heartily and began some rapid-fire Spanish negotiation as she smiled brightly and let the horse owner, or whoever he was, look her over.
Snapping out of her model trance as she heard her name being called, she trotted over. I immediately told her the horse was ours for half an hour, provided the guy got a photo of her with it.
“Sounds like a good deal,” she chirruped, wondering if I would give direction or just shoot as she played with the horsie, then figured she’d find out soon enough.
“We play this right, give him a photo he can show tomorrow, we might get to take a horsie on the beach.”
“This one?” she squealed.
“Probably not, he’s hoping to sell it, but we’ll see.”
“Oh, right. Okay, what first?”
Mistaking this request–I’d meant photographically–she giggled and ran over to the side of the enclosure, glad she’d worn sneakers. Not thinking there might be horse doo-doo on the ground until it was far too late, she ran back toward me and did a backflip; the place was probably too dark for me to catch it on film, but at least now I would know what she was capable of. . . outside of bed, for once, giggle.
Having landed adroitly on both feet, panting and laughing at my look of surprise, she turned and finally noticed the horse, which seemed to be looking at her strangely. Cooing, she patted him gently; when she saw that did the trick, she figured it was a male horsie.
And a blonde one, a natural blonde, she now noticed. Unable to resist, she wrapped her arms around his neck and snuggled, thinking how much she would love having an equine so docile it would be her teddy bear.
Quickly moving–or as quickly as I could without spooking the horse–I finally found an angle where I could shoot her hair melding with the horse’s, leading me to instinctively think, Wow, that would look so awesome nude. . .
For her part, she was already in model mode, at least her version of it; her mind had already gone, leaving only a little bit engaged in case I wanted another pose or such, but basically on automatic. Unbeknownst to her, so deep was her trance, a crowd had gathered, surrounding the enclosure as they watched the photo shoot. Anyone watching them instead of her would have noticed the pattern, that moment of startlement on first seeing her, then the losing of all mental power, the mesmerization caused simply by staring at her for about two seconds. Her beauty would not let go, there were so many focal points: high full breasts, slender waist, generous hips, long legs. And none of those curves were in the least hidden by her tight jeans and silk blouse, all of which fit her like a second skin. It made the more fashion-conscious wonder why anyone cared about fancy dresses or lingerie.
Finally–finally!–I told her to get on the horse. Only now did she realize in her conscious mind that it was already saddled, and had been since before she’d gotten close.
The next few minutes were spent with her riding the surprisingly nimble and well-mannered horse around the dark enclosure. When that didn’t work all the well, and having noticed how docile the white horsie was, I somehow got it to stand still, then told her to sit up proudly and pretend she was still riding. . . without bouncing, of course. This she was able to do so well it surprised even me.
Feeling pleased with herself and her costar, she leaned down to pat the horse and plant a kiss on its neck, and as her hair fell down the side of her face, it once again melded with the horse’s, to the point my camera couldn’t tell where one ended and the other began.
This time I said it aloud. “Damn, that would be so beautiful nude!”
She grinned at that, stuck to her tongue just on principle, but let me know she was thinking of that now too.
“I was gonna remind you of your promise to braid your hair for the shoot,” I grinned, “but that was well worth not remembering!”
Looking incredibly playful, she suddenly kicked out of the stirrups, jumped to her knees on the saddle, and yelled, “Let’s see how good your hands are. Catch!”
Without giving me a second to grasp what she meant to do, she leapt off, flinging herself at me. It took me entirely by surprise, and I was only just in time to catch her. As it was, she hit her forehead painfully against my cheekbone, barely missing breaking my nose, and had to save herself by throwing her arms around my neck. Kissing me quickly on both cheeks, she slid to the ground.
The only good thing I saw, besides her not breaking something of mine–including the camera–was the look of utter shock on the face of the horse guy.
“What did he say?” she chortled as we walked off, shoot done.
“Not sure it translates, but basically ‘Damn you and the horse you ran into!’”
It took her over an hour to stop laughing. . .