The man without beans


the-man-without-beans1

I think diseases have no eyes.

I think his eyes are closed. I think her eyes are closed. I think diseases have no eyes. I think I do not know what a burnoose is, not exactly, maybe like a turban, maybe like a burka, maybe like a cold rope on a windy morning in a sad old town where a hanging will take place this morning. A brr- noose. Cold cowboys and outlaws, cold cowboys and outlaws with guns, riding for days on end, living on beans, living on coffee grounds. Tobacco had its purpose, you know. Tobacco kills hunger, and in those days, hunger was a real enemy, not just a gnawing dissatisfaction with life and the way we look in fitted jeans.

In those days, tobacco killed hunger, whisky killed time, and cocaine came up by mule train, a slow road from a country far away. Chew those coca leaves, you see the toothless man and he is smiling. The toothless smiling man is a little fragrant by Kansas City standards, but his eyes are bright like stars and he is generous with coca leaves. We make cocoa, we make coca cola, we make cocaine, we make a crazy starlight whirring, and by the way, coca leaves cure hunger, too, just like tobacco.

You can live on brown bread and gravy for a long time if you have to, is what the man riding north and south with the mule train discovered. What he discovered is that beans are better than nothing, and what he discovered is there are more languages spoken up and down the yucatan peninsula than he’d ever imagined. 30 or 40 indigenous languages, italian, greek, spanish, portugese, catalan, mandarin, tagalog, english, and a dozen varieties of sign language that crossed tribes and rivers for trading purposes.

coca-leaves


If you are hungry and there are beans and stimulants, that is a good thing. If you are hungry and there are beans and whisky, it is less good, but is still somewhat good. If you are hungry and there are no beans, but there are stimulants and whisky, that is a crazy time waiting to happen and this man, who rode shotgun with the toothless man as his guide and mentor, learned all about crazy time with beans and no beans. The toothless man, Reinaldo, named his friend crazy chile man, no beans, el senor sin frijol they all called him as he ate his way through coca leaves and tobacco, the skin of his fingers and around his mouth turning dark like the mules that chewed and carried them south and then north again.

Señor Sin Frijol wrote letters back home to the academy, giving attention to anatomical, botanical and horticultural details that were virtually unknown until he wrote about them. mango-knifeHe is looking at a leaf, a coca leaf, and that leaf is lit like a star, like a flame, and he stuffs it in his mouth and then draws it from memory.

You know, he knows, he knew eventually, maybe even before he died, that details are amorphous, colored and shaped by chemistry, by time, by the light shining on the pot of beans, and as hunger is a disease, a hungry man sees things differently than one who is full. He didn’t die on that expedition, and went home to write and lecture and imagine his heroism in the high thin hills where the coca leaves grow, and the less hungry he felt, the more beautiful were his rememberings of expedition, the less fearful he felt in the deep velvet leaves, the more convinced he became that memory is accurate and sharp as a knife.


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