Here is Chapter Twelve of Common Sense and Whiskey, the book. We're publishing each chapter here on the blog (Track down previous chapters here). You can order the entire book at Amazon.com, at BN.com, or direct from EarthPhotos Publishing. Here's the Kindle version (just $6.99). Click these photos to make them bigger. More photos and additional commentary are available at A Common Sense and Whiskey Companion. And here's the Paraguay Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.
The farthest back water washes to a national capital must be Asuncion, Paraguay. It’s as if its residents didn’t ask for the honor, but the capital had to be somewhere so they amiably accommodated.
Maybe parts of Africa are less vital. Think Ouagadougou, maybe, or Bangui. Even somnambulant Vientiane, which is in Laos, shows more vitality than here, smack in the middle of South America.
They’d rolled up the streets by the time we installed ourselves in the Sabe Hotel. The front desk spoke not so much as “hello.” No English. Here in the national capital.
The TV wouldn’t work until tomorrow because it was New Years Day and they couldn’t get anybody out to fix it, but it was a nice enough place. A picture hung partly over the window in the hallway. That was a little strange.
I was out early in the morning, through the business district and down to the Paraguay River. It wasn’t very big, downtown Asuncion, and it wasn’t very busy.
There was the main Plaza de los Heroes, down a few blocks, and Asuncion had a building modeled after the Pantheon. Sales ladies’ tables along Avenue Palma offered up the usual languid market fare: watches and underwear and (allegedly) Nike clothes and plastic toys. Birds were loud and it was hot hot hot by 8:45.
Down at the river, General Francisco Solana Lopez’s white-washed mansion, started in 1860, stood shuttered. Beyond it, children pumped water at a clutter of squatter shacks. A sand spit stretched out to two rusting shipwrecks, resting over on their sides, just on the edge of the water. Here in the national capital.
The breathtaking Asuncion waterfront.
But let’s start at the beginning, which was a few days earlier.