The Philadelphia Chronicles

Posted: September 2, 2013 in Crónicas

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I

Cuban coffee. We need Cuban coffee. We have to find a Cuban restaurant in Philadelphia. In Philadelphia of all places! We find two, Alma de Cuba and Cuba Libre. Cuba Libre sounds better. Isn’t this what we all want? Cuba Libre, at least in Philadelphia they understand. It is in a fancy part of town. We pay 20 dollars for parking, for just an hour! We are welcome by this question: “Do you have a reservation?” We didn’t know we needed one. “It’s not required but it is highly recommended.” Cuba Libre, I think as we wait for a table.

II

As we are walking back to the car on a beautiful Saturday morning in Olde City in Philadelphia, my oldest daughter starts complaining about a stomachache. She turns pale and starts vomiting. Then out of nowhere comes this man with dreadlocks and dressed in white. He buys a lemon soda at a hotdog stand and gives it to her, “This is what she needs,” he says. He also gives her a white towel and says, “You can keep it. It’s clean.” When I try to give him money, he looks at me and says, “No need.” And he walks away.

On the flight back to Miami, he sits a couple of seats away from us.

III

As I am getting ready to return the rental car at Philadelphia International Airport, the attendant, a black man with an accent, probably from Africa, asks me for my last name: “Gonzalez,” I reply.  “Gonzalez? You don’t look like a Gonzalez? Gonzalezes are supposed to be darker.” I look at him, give him a tip and walk away thinking how we all go around trying to fit people into stereotypes.

IV

After we check our luggage in, I realize my camera is missing. All I can think of are the pictures of my daughter who we have just dropped off at the University of Pennsylvania for her first year in college, all the photographic memories gone. The rental car! I left the bag with the camera in the rental car. I look at my watch. I have half an hour before boarding the plane. I tell my wife. I have to get back to the rental car and retrieve the camera. I see a shuttle bus. I run after it. It keeps going. The driver doesn’t see me or doesn’t want to stop. A total stranger sees me and asks me to get in his car. He will take me to the shuttle bus so that I can return to the car rental place. I make it to the bus. I tell the driver. He radios the manager. She says she needs to know what kind of car it is. It’s a Chevy Impala. She says we have hundreds of them. It’s gray. We have hundreds that are gray, she says. You need to get here so we can locate it on the computer. I get there and I give her the information she needs. She says, “Wait for me here in the office. I will go to the car and see if it’s the camera is still there.” But I can’t wait in the office. I’m too anxious. Then I see her walking towards me, but she is drowned in a sea of cars and I can’t see if she is actually bringing the camera. When she finally comes out, she sees me and smiles. She has the camera.

V

We have just gone through security. Now we are ready to sit and wait until we are told to start boarding the plane. We are walking towards the gate. We make a wrong turn and my wife and daughter cross the security line. Two steps. Only two. The TSA officer looks at them and says: “You crossed the line. You have to go through security again.” “But it was two steps only. They didn’t go far,” I say. “The sign says if you cross the line, you need to go through security again,” she says. Two steps, two steps only.

VI

There’s a story everywhere, waiting to be written. Sometimes I wish I didn’t see them. Because if I do, I won’t stop thinking about them until I write them. This is how I neutralize these thoughts, by fictionalizing them. Take, for example, the story of the German couple sitting next to me on the flight back to Miami from Philadelphia. She is obviously terrified of flying and the minute the plane hits some turbulence, she starts hyperventilating. Her husband looks at her and says nothing. He just holds her hand tight and keeps staring at her. I ask him, “Should I get her some ice?” “Yes, please,” he replies.  When things calm down a bit, I go to the back of plane and ask the stewardess for some ice. I ask her, “It got a little bumpy, didn’t it?” “It was ok,” she says. “I was just trying to finish eating,” she says and as she hands me the ice.

.

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Comments
  1. manuel c diaz says:

    Ernesto, I wish I could write something like that…and in English!. Excellent chronicles.

    Congratulations!

    Manuel C. Diaz

  2. Anonymous says:

    Muy bueno Ernesto. Fluye muy bien!
    Susana

  3. dovalpage says:

    I can’t believe your daughter is already in college!! El tiempo vuela!! Happy you got the camera back. Keep writing que me encantan tus cuentos!!

  4. Teresa Rojas says:

    Love them! Keep using your cellular, dear friend. Considera publicar estas cosas en una especie de anecdotario móvil. Son interesantes, originales, fáciles de leer. Uno se queda con ganas de seguir, y así, pienso yo, debería ser siempre (lo miso digo del teatro y de los maestros aburridos) despertar curiosidad, nunca permitir que el pensamiento bostece. Bien bien bien.

  5. Ivan says:

    Bueno Ernest, muy bueno……nos dejas con ganas de saber mas, aun cuando dices mucho en breves lineas. Un abrazo hermano talentoso.

  6. Zahylis says:

    Agree. There are stories everywhere waiting to be written. And I’m glad you can’t stop seeing them and writing them… These make me feel less of a reader and more of an spectator. Photographic memories taken with a different camera 🙂

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    Hi Ernest
    What can I say I love you. You did it!
    You are that crazy yet talented awesome writer. Keep it up!
    Jannet

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