16 April 2009

The Grim Reefer

The refrigerator that we had in the old parish house in García was ample but ancient. There was no light inside and the kitchen was pretty dark so I generally had no idea what the refrigerator contained past the first few inches of the interior. The refrigerator didn't sit level so when you went to open the door you had to hang onto it or it would go crashing into the wall. The kitchen was lit by a forty watt bulb hanging from the ceiling by a couple of fuzzy wires, the same as in my room. The bulbs looked like Thomas Edison originals. Whenever the motor in the refrigerator came on the kitchen light would go dim. I think I know why. The refrigerator was plugged into an old extension cord that draped over a cupboard and then wound around a hook in the wall about ten or eleven times and then eventually made its way over to a kitchen counter where the extension plugged into a socket mounted on the wall. The refrigerator made frightful noises when it was running and I knew that it was just a matter of time when it would go “poof”. I didn't worry too much about it though because nobody else seemed to. I figured that if it broke down they would just call in the greatest refrigerator repairman in all of García and he would go down to the ancient used refrigerator parts store which more than likely is located in somebody's house in a box under their bed and get whatever parts he needed to fix it.

Then one day the unthinkable happened. The refrigerator went “kaput”. The greatest repairman of ancient refrigerators in all of García came and gave it last rights. Not even a well placed modified coat hanger could get it working again. This posed a new problem. Padre Humberto located another refrigerator but the cost was four thousand pesos and the parish till contained only about ten percent of that amount. However, Padre Humberto is a very resourceful priest. In a stroke of genius he formed a refrigerator committee and installed me as chairman. He prayed that God would give me the wisdom and the insight to find the money for the refrigerator. My first instinct was to rob a bank but alas, García had no bank and if it did have one it probably wouldn't have enough money to rob. Not wanting to go hungry for lack of cold leftovers I took the job seriously and buttonholed every merchant, politician and passer by until the amount was raised. In the end I had to kick in quite a bit myself to put us over the top but finally the deal was made. We would have a new refrigerator. Besides, they promised me that the new refrigerator would have a light inside so that when you open the door you would be able to see what you are about to eat and you will be given a chance to turn back before it is too late.

In the evening of the same day that the refrigerator gave up the ghost I heard somebody banging around in the kitchen and whomever it was seemed to be humming to himself. I stuck my head in to see what was going on and discovered that it was Padre Humberto. He told me to come and help him make a fiesta. I asked him what the occasion was and he said, “The passing of the old refrigerator”. Apparently whatever meat had been kept in the old freezer section had already thawed and it couldn't wait for the new reefer. So, he took a bunch of avocados and chopped up some tomatoes, onions, and garlic along with some peppers and other “stuff” and mixed it together for the guacamole. Then he wrapped some potatoes in aluminum foil, handed me the meat, and off we went. Before we left the kitchen he yanked one of the old shelving grills out of the old refrigerator and he said “We won't be needing that anymore”. I didn't have a clue as to exactly what he was up to. He called to one of the sacristans and said “Go over to the Franciscan convent and tell the nuns to come to our fiesta”. Then we went out to the walled courtyard behind the parish house. He said, “Now we must cook the meat”. I said, “But Padre...how? We have nothing to cook it on”. He said”No problem” and he went around the corner to where some men had been working on the school and came back with a wheel barrow. He threw a few chunks of concrete into the wheelbarrow and started a fire on top of the concrete chunks with some wood and then threw on some charcoal. He put the old refrigerator grill on top and “presto change-o” we had a barbecue grill. Then he sent one of the boys to the corner store for some soft drinks and chips and soon the meat was cooking and the guests started to arrive.

It wasn't a big party, just the nuns and priests and I, the sacristan, and a few altar boys but it was very pleasant. The night was warm and the sky was full of stars. You could smell the bugambilia and the other flowers on a very gentle breeze. It was the perfect evening for a party. Padre Humberto hooked up a portable CD player (boom box type) and we had music. It turned out that these people were big Karen Carpenter fans. They didn't understand the words but they just loved her voice. So there we sat in very rural Mexico under a million stars, happily chatting away the time and listening to Karen Carpenter singing “Rainy Days And Mondays Always Get Me Down”. Oh, and speaking of “getting me down”, the high point of the evening was when the plastic Coca-Cola chair that I was sitting on collapsed under me and I did a double back flip. One of the nuns was the Mother Superior from the Provincial House in Bogotá, Columbia who was visiting. She looked like some kind of sour puss when she arrived...you know, kind of stiff, like a “lieutenant colonel” of the nuns. However, after the chair incident I started telling “Bob” stories and by the time the evening was over she was laughing and tapping her feet to the music and I knew that she had a good time. I also knew that the other nuns were very grateful about that too.

When the party was over and we were leaving, Sister Lucy (the head nun from Bogotá) came over and asked me to come to Columbia. She said that she had directed Sister Liliana to provide me with all of the necessary information about traveling to their country and directions on how to find their convent. I told her that I appreciated he invitation but that I didn't think that a trip to Columbia was possible. “Oh yes”, she said, “Of course it is possible and I know that you will come”. I take it that it was more of an order than an invitation. I'm sorry Sister Lucy, unless God grants me a double lifetime I don't think I am going to make it to Columbia. Oh, yes, and one more thing. Padre Humberto's makeshift barbecue grill worked just fine but eventually the wheelbarrow became very hot and the heat blew the tire on the wheelbarrow. The men came looking for their wheelbarrow the next morning and they were not very happy. Quick thinking Padre Humberto formed a committee on the spot to rectify the situation and once again gave me the dubious honor of chairing the committee and guess who ended up footing the bill for the new wheelbarrow tire. Oh what a feeling...

1 comment:

Constantino said...

Padre Humberto obviously saddled you with the important tasks since he knew you were a "get things done" kind of a guy.
Are you sure the mother superior didn't have access to the sacramental wine? Sounds like they wanted you down in Columbia to head a fund raising committee, you think?

I can remember growing up, we use to make a grill from a square metal 5 gallon can with one side cut out and some cross flow holes chopped in the sides, with a old fridge rack also.....it seemed that the food tasted better than on the new super-duper grills of today. Maybe it was just that a kid didn't have many expectations except chow.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.