I don't believe I've ever told you about the time I pissed on Augusto Pinochet's back garden wall.
En serio, huevón. Ni cagando.
The time, 1976; the place, Santiago de Chile, Ñuñoa district, Calle Elidoro Yañez. Just down from Tobalaba westward, in the direction of Pedro de Valdivia -- you remember.
Young Ned, a downy-cheeked lad of fifteen summers, son of the Assistant Commercial Attaché at the US Embassy, fell in with a Bad Crowd from el colegio Nido de Aguilas. Always felt the need to act older than his age, the young fool, so he hung with the Fast Crowd -- sons and daughters of American astronomers at the La Serena Observatory. Since La Serena, three hundred miles north, didn't have an English-language school, their parents boarded them with bourgeois Santiaguino families. The kids ran roughshod, natch.
Or as roughshod as you can run in a full-on goosestepping fascist dictatorship.
Whenever we got two escudos to rub together (or maybe they'd switched to Milton Friedman's devalued pesos by then, it gets fuzzy) the pack of us would hop on mopeds or little 100-cc. motorbikes and scram up to an eatery in Las Condes that served these extravagant hot-dog confections piled high with any number of exotic fixin's -- avocado, fresh mayonnaise, corn relish, weird flavors of mustard. The dogs were quite an attraction, but perhaps even more of an incentive was the huge glasses of draft beer that they served, at maybe a quarter a throw.
After the gluttony, this buzzed gaggle of pimply expats might wander down Providencia to catch a movie. Papillon, Live and Let Die, Jaws -- anything with wide lapels and muttonchop sideburns.
But let me tell you about wandering around with a beer-buzz in a goosestepping fascist dictatorship.
I have no patience -- none -- with people who throw that f-word around thoughtlessly. I'll buy fascist leanings, okay, I'll tolerate the off-the-cuff employment of fascistic as an adjective of opprobrium -- but fascist is not a word to be flung lightly.
I'll further express sympathy for people who are harrassed by local police simply for the color of their skin or the level of English they speak. This truly sucks. But that's at least officially illegal in the USA.
In a goosestepping fascist dictatorship, a police state, Jeanne Kirkpatrick's weaselly authoritarian state, the police answer to no one. This is foremost in one's mind at all times of the day. Police in Santiago were stationed on random corners, often hidden, to detain and question absolutely any passerby they saw fit. And here's the Great Mind-Concentrator about this practice: At any time, for any reason or indeed for no reason at all, if they took a mind to it, THEY COULD SHOOT YOU DEAD.
And nobody would even raise an eyebrow down at the precinct house.
So you never left the house without a very firm, believable alibi in your mind (Guilty Until Proven Innocent is the Whole of the Law) and, most importantly, with your Get Out of Getting Shot Free Card, your Diplomatic Carnet de Identidad, in your pocket. They almost always respected that. They kinda had to -- Diplomatic Immunity and that. But if you forgot it, you were a Commie agent provocateur until the US Ambassador himself could vouch for you. Or they sent you home in a box.
So that's what you had foremost in mind when wandering the streets of Pinochet's Santiago with three very large draft beers making your tiny little teenaged virgin bladder increasingly uncomfortable as you made your way to catch Papillon at the Las Flores moviehouse.
Santiago's not a Washingon, DC, in the sense that while it's always been the capital of the country, it's not a one-industry town. National government is only one of its functions, and so it doesn't really have a Federal district or the equivalent of a White House or a Number Ten. Instead, it had in 1976 an area where the Rich Folks lived, and in among these several blocks of walled urban compounds was the home of Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, Citizen. You can imagine that the front of the place was easily identifiable by the machine-gun nests and searchlights and cop-cars, but the back of it, facing the side streets of Ñuñoa, was much like any other.
So on the night in question three or four beery lads made their way through the back streets off Calle Elidoro Yañez, when the effects of the beer became unbearable, and it was plain I wasn't going to make it to the theater. Glanced up and back the street: "Hang on, I've got to drain the weasel..." Wall. Shadows. OK. Here. Ahhhhh....
SCREECH.... Blasting around the corner on two wheels comes a Black Mariah, as indignant-looking a vehicle as I've ever seen, before or since. Fuck. I pinched it off, zipped up and tried to walk on looking casual, hoping they were after somebody else -- which was often the case, anyway. And remember -- running is certain death.
No. I'm the one they want. My young testicles retracted up into my throat. That's painful, in case you've never experienced it.
Before they could even approach me, I had my Diplomatic ID card out, rudimentary Spanish flowing. "I am the son of a US Diplomat! This is my ID! I am very sorry! It was very stupid of me to make the peeing in the street! I will not repeat it!"
Do you know where you are?
Do you know whose house you are PISSING ON?
Stand there and do not move.
While an underling covered me with his machine gun, he went back to the cuca, the paddywagon. Talked into the radio. I picked up, "Son diplomáticos," which gave me some hope -- he understood the implications of just shooting me, and I might escape intact. A few minutes later, he came back, handed me back my card, and gave me the dressing-down of my young life while I bowed and scraped and tugged my forelock and generally behaved like the most craven, contrite puppy-dog that ever messed on the carpet.
Your President lectures us of human rights yes, sir, it was very stupid, sir and you come to our country with your yes, sir, quite agree, sir, won't happen and you speak with self-righteousness of HUMAN RIGHTS yes I quite agree, sir, AND YOU SHIT AND PISS IN OUR STREETS well, I didn't actually SHUT UP yes sir....
Wonder where he is these days. Love to meet him again. We could have a nice chat about Human Rights, this time without the machine guns.
Ah, well. I lived to tell about it. Could have been worse.