Further news on Patagonia: I woke up to another email from the U.S. government, which informed me that Torres del Paine will be closed for all of January. However, the website for my in-park lodging says that people will be allowed into the part of the park where the lodging is. In conclusion, I have no idea what will be going on with my trip south. Nonetheless, I am to leave on the 5th for a red-eye flight, arriving at an obscene hour on the 6th.
I talk to myself in Spanish a lot. This morning, I was trying to explain the benefits of calcium to an imaginary person in my head. “El calcio es muy importante por los osos… huesos? Em, las cosas blancas adentro de tu piel.” (Translation: “Calcium is very important for the bears… bones? Um, the white things inside your skin.”) You see, I’m getting very good — perhaps too good — at working around the words I don’t know or have temporarily forgotten.
On the way into town, I came across my first dead dog, lying in a gutter. I had always been surprised that I had never seen one here, considering just how many street dogs there are and the breakneck speed of the cars and colectivos. Still, it made my heart clench with sadness.
I headed to a new-to-me ascensor, the oldest one in Valparaíso (built in 1883): Ascensor Concepción. It was a short ride up, but incredibly steep — only a slant away from being full-on vertical. From the top of the ascensor, I walked out into Cerro Concepción, which is one of the better-known of Valpo’s hills (somehow I’d never visited it before).
I headed directly to my primary destination of the day, the Casa Museo Mirador Lukas. I had heard about this museum online, and thought that it sounded interesting. I had hardly any idea who this Lukas fella was, but that’s what museums are for, eh?
As it turns out, Renzo Pecchenino (better known by his pen name, Lukas) was an Italian-born man who lived in Chile from childhood. Over his life, he became a renowned cartoonist and illustrator, with special ties to the Valparaíso/Viña del Mar area. He dropped out of architecture school after his father’s death, and gradually began to work in art, ending up drawing cartoons for Chilean newspapers and magazines. Apparently, he also worked for California’s good ol’ Sacramento Bee; oddly, this factoid showed up in the English but not in the Spanish version of his biography.
I bought my ticket, and headed up the wooden stairs. At the landing, there was a recreation of a cartoon of his most famous character, Don Memorario (an older, bespectacled gentleman who provided a vessel for Lukas’s own musings on politics, the economy, life, and whatnot). A bit further up, the stairway was lined with a strip of images: both photos of Lukas himself, and artwork from his old stomping ground Valparaíso.
The museum itself was located on the sunny second floor of the building. The walls were hung with originals and prints of his cartoons, artwork, and books. There was also a recreation of his study, complete with a messy desk scattered with colored pencils, watercolor paints, and other paraphernalia. A balcony gave a pleasant view of the ocean and of the descending layers of city between el cerro y el centro.
I loved looking at Lukas’s artwork. The first collection I saw was his Bestiario del Reyno de Chile, an amusing series of illustrations of beasts with human-like characteristics. Then, I browsed through a broad collection of the cartoons he made for various newspapers, and was pleased to discover I knew enough Chilean culture and Spanish to understand the humor of many of them. Some of his humor reminded me of Charles Addams, especially in his cartoons that were presented without a caption (as Addams preferred to do).
Another collection of his that I liked was his Arquitectura de las Letras, a series of illustrations that used typography to create handsome architectural landscapes (showing his experience both as a letterer and as a architecture student). He also had many detailed, loving illustrations of Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, and Rapa Nui (Easter Island).
After I had pored over everything in the museum, I returned to the first floor, where there was a dark viewing room with a large television. I asked the lady at the front desk if I might watch the video (expecting a useful, bland documentary). She started the video for me, and it turned out to be a collection of 10-15 second cartoons he had made, a series called Una Sonrisa con Lukas (A Smile with Lukas). A sample cartoon: an elderly man is being chased by an angry rhinoceros, so he runs until he finds a handy tree, and climbs up it, only to realize he has actually just climbed up the bulky body of a now-angry python. Interspersed between the cartoons, there were interviews with him, as well as a drawing session in which he took a sketch of a navy ship and added lots of tiny entertaining details to it.
After a perusal of the gift shop, I headed back out into Cerro Concepción. I thought I might take a few pictures of interesting buildings, and then head back home. However, I kept seeing more and more interesting things, so I wandered quite far up the hill.
It’s a beautiful, colorful area: painted steps, sidewalk mosaics, towering varicolored churches, and thriving flora, all with the ocean looming in the background. It’s geared towards tourists, but that merely results in it feeling safe and tidy, with a few of the signs in English (which is rather rare elsewhere in Valpo). This is actually the first area in Valpo where I think I would have been just as happy to live as I am at V.’s.
I returned home and began sorting through my photos, once again asking myself the eternal question of “Good lord, why did I think it was sensible to take this many photos?” On a boring-to-everyone-but-me note, today I passed the mark of 10,000 photos ever taken with my current camera, which means the automatic photo-numbering has begun again with IMG_0001. (PS: there are a lot more photos on my Flickr, as I didn’t want to make this blog post cumbersome by using too many of them.)
In the evening, I met up with E. and co., and tried a common Chilean drink for the first time: white wine with various fruits mushed up inside it (in this case, banana and apricot). Then, we headed to a karaoke place; I had confessed to E. a few weeks earlier that I wouldn’t mind visiting one, and the wondrous lady made it happen! After a lot of waffling, our friend J. started us off with a well-sung Aerosmith song. C.’s polola sung a lovely canción in Spanish. Then, I attempted Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams. A little later, I convinced E. to sing a song with me (Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall), as it’s proper karaoke etiquette to harass your friends into singing, isn’t it? I also did Lily Allen’s LDN, nearer the end of the evening. I’m convinced that my voice is flaky and mediocre, but I nonetheless really love singing. As such, I was delighted that my friends were up for going to a karaoke place, and it was a fun and silly night.