Imagine you had the following two choices for President in 2016: a former First Lady who could become your country’s first female President, a woman both revered and reviled because of her association with the successful-yet-tumultuous 1990s and her famous last name (a name she shares with a former President, making some people grumble about a “dynasty”), or a septugenarian twice-married tall guy of German descent who campaigns on his history with, yet separation from, the world of high finance. Impossible to imagine, right?

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Everywhere we went in Peru, and I mean every single block of real estate, we saw signs for Keiko for President and PPK for President. This unlikely duo’s runoff election was scheduled for scant days after our return flight to the States. As everyone says, Peru is divided into three zones: the Amazon rainforest, the Andes, and the coast. I wouldn’t say I did a lot of pre-travel research, but I thought to do slightly more than nothing for each third, which meant, for me: the National Geographic study of Manu National Forest for the first part, the “Guns Germs and Steel” chapter about Pizarro conquering the Incas for the second part, and for the big cities, I watched an award-winning 2015 movie called Magallanes and read a bit about their current election.

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Keiko Fujimori is the daughter of Alberto Fujimori, the populist President who, in the 1990s, revived Peru’s economy, defeated the Shining Path, took many bribes, and abused many prisoners. During part of that time, despite being his daughter and not his wife, Keiko served as “First Lady,” an official job in Peru, much like in the United States (look it up). Alberto Fujimori is the only formerly elected President anywhere, ever, to serve time in his constituent country’s prison, though granted, he did elude capture/extradition for a few years in Japan. Keiko, however remained in Peru, presumably close to the hearts and minds of her people. The signs for her all say Keiko (kind of like “Hillary!”), and whether that’s more because of affection, sexism, or a desire to minimize the connection to the former President, I couldn’t say.

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PPK, pronounced “pay-pay-ka” by everyone in Peru, is Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a 77-year-old finance minister who spent half his career with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and Peru’s Central Reserve Bank. If PPK sounds and looks like the sort of stodgy bureaucrat who runs the European Union (into the ground), well, he is: he was born in Peru to German-Jewish and Swiss-French parents, and based on the fact that I choose to teach Breathless every semester (to inevitable groans), I personally love that the that film’s legendary, groundbreaking director, Jean-Luc Godard, is PPK’s first cousin.

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Perhaps America’s biggest point of pride of the last seven years is that we’re cool enough to have elected a black President. But in a country where 90% of its 30 million people look (and are) Latino/Amerindian, they’re choosing between an Asian woman and a blue-eyed white guy. How’s that for diversity, Estados Unidos?

Oddly, there aren’t that many policy differences between Keiko and PPK, a charge that Bernie Sanders supporters make against Hillary and The Donald (who have appeared in dozens more photos together than the Peruvian candidates). So the campaign became a referendum on the 1990s, and how much the former President would influence his heir’s new administration. Granted, Alberto Fujimori is currently in a prison in Peru, not jet-setting to fundraisers around the world like Bill Clinton, but still, the parallels were fascinating. PPK is no Donald Trump – who is? – but his “base” was very much the moneyed classes, the tax-cut-for-the-rich types, as opposed to Keiko’s base, what we sometimes call “the people.”

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When our trip began, I asked our guides and drivers who they would be voting for, Keiko or PPK. I stopped doing this for two reasons. One was that I could tell I was annoying Anton, even though the conversations were in Spanish (he’s not fluent, but he could understand enough to be annoyed). The second reason related to our guide Adriel in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Great, great guy, had all 20 of us in the palm of his hand until I asked that question. Speaking in English on the microphone on our tour bus, Adriel took five minutes to explain why he liked Keiko: she actually supports the people, she shouldn’t be blamed for her father’s mistakes, and besides, yes her father abused a few terrorists, but when Fujimori confronted the Shining Path, they were…and here he listed a litany of their crimes ending with the phrase “raping babies.” He repeated for emphasis “raping babies.” At that moment you could have heard a pin drop, or a new smartphone vibrate, on that bus. It was like the temperature had dropped twenty degrees. However true Adriel’s charge may have been, perhaps it wasn’t the thing to say to a bus group that included at least eight American college students.

So, who won, Keiko or PPK? Well…

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After our adventures in the Andes and Amazon, Anton and I were both joking that we needed a vacation from the vacation. We had literally arisen pre-dawn for eight straight days. I think this paragraph should give you a sense of our exhaustion. At the end of our rainforest adventure we arrive at a dead-empty Puerto Maldonado airport – looked like something after the zombie invasion. Was this a fever dream? Our guide Soledad hugs me goodbye, which is sort of weird. Was she as tired as we were? Then we board our flight to Lima. The flight takes off, lands. Anton and I disembark. A huge window says “Welcome to Cusco” with llamas and indigenous people and I complain to Anton that this is so Third-World, a travel ad that makes Lima visitors think they’re arriving in Cusco. And then we round the corner to the tiny baggage claim and I realize we’re in Cusco. I tell Anton and he freaks. He runs back the exact way we came, back to our plane; I hobble after him. (You may recall my injured ankle from the last entry.) We don’t even have our boarding passes anymore. Praise the sun gods, they remember us and let us back on. Unfortunately the fellow passengers remember us as well. For my only time in Peru, I got a bit of color: lobster red. Our flight was merely stopping over in Cusco on its way to Lima, which we somehow hadn’t known, even though the pilot had mentioned it in Spanish and English. (Come on, he sounded like Charlie Brown’s parents!)

So yes, we needed a vacation from the vacation. I give myself credit (breaks arm patting self on back) for baking this possibility into our itinerary: months before, I had insisted that we go straight to Cusco (Anton had thought we might start touring Lima) and insisted that we not book any hotels or flights after the rainforest, giving us flexibility on the third of our three legs.

After our crazy two minutes in Cusco, we arrived in Lima and took an immediate taxi to the bus station (an hour across town), where we jumped on the next bus to Ica. Yes, Ica, four hours drive down the coast and not accessible by airlines. We arrive in Ica after dark. Following tripadvisor and other such sites, we had been scrupulous about only taking regulated taxis (with lit signs on the top and registration stickers), but that evening we were so tired and hungry, we just took the first cab from the first of the many solicitous people who approach gringos arriving at any major terminal. Our taxi drove in typical Peruvian style, turning left and right into oncoming traffic, and after ten minutes we were in an entirely unpopulated neighborhood in nowhere, Peru. I whispered to Anton in English that was hopefully too quick for any non-native-English-speaker (like our driver) to hear: uh, hold tight to your money, and start thinking about things in your bag you can use as a weapon. But then we turned a corner and voila, our hotel. Turned out the hotel was resting on the edge of town, with a two-story sand dune behind it that, the next day, reminded me of the movie Morocco.

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Anton said: why don’t we stay here an extra day? I was in no position to argue; I was barely in condition to walk. Unlike our Cusco and Madre de Dios digs, this hotel had a pool, meaning I could gratefully suspend my twisted foot while in the pool or just lounging poolside. Sure, we had to eat the money for a reservation that night in Lima – despite my insistence, Anton had booked quite a few things in advance – but the vacation from the vacation happened. So there we were in Ica, Peru, catching up on the election, catching up on postcards (sending them is expensive in Peru), catching up on the internet, and catching up on the Warriors, who we saw beat the Thunder in Game 5 of the West finals.

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Our ostensible reason for coming to Ica was to see the Nazca lines. These are the hundreds of millenniums-old geoglyphs that begin with the mystery: why did the Nazca people, living at the time of the Roman Empire, bother to make stadium-sized shapes in the desert that they themselves couldn’t see in their unified, completed forms? Offerings to gods, perhaps. Signals to aliens, maybe. Communication from aliens, maybe. It’s also nothing short of amazing that these turned-over rocks have survived in their current positions for roughly (archeologists disagree) 2000 years: where’s the wind and rain? Nowhere; scientist believe Chile’s nearby Atacama Desert hasn’t had rain in more than 400 years. Take that, California drought!

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Months before our trip, Anton put the Nazca Lines high on our itinerary. I asked him: do we really want to pay $270 each for a one-hour plane ride where we’ll see shit that we can Google anyway? Well…we arrive at Ica’s tiny airport, mostly a series of Indiana Jones-type planes, and busier than zombiefied Puerto Maldonado’s. We check in for our little tour flight. There’s no tour brochure, no paperwork, nada except a couple of posters on the wall. The first paragraph of the Nazca Lines’ Wikipedia entry is three times as informative as anything we get that day, although they really should have reproduced and distributed something like the UNESCO page.

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Every seat on the tiny plane (pictured just above) is occupied: the two pilots (in case one falls ill), me and Anton, and eight Japanese tourists. (They only fly full flights, arranged well in advance; at a non-refundable $270 a pop, I presume passengers don’t often call in sick.) The pilots say “konichiwa” in Peruano accents, which tickles me. Didja know that Peru boasts the largest Japanese diaspora outside the United States? (Including Keiko and her dad.) It’s true! Our lead pilot, who doubles as our tour guide, tells us, as we fly by them in turn, the names of the shapes – like monkey, spider, hummingbird – in Japanese first, Spanish second, English sometimes as an afterthought. That part I find enjoyable.

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What I didn’t love: first, the tour guide only told us the names of shapes. He didn’t say anything about how old they were, about how they were (re)“discovered” less than 100 years ago, about competing scientific explanations for their purpose(s). Perhaps it’s best that he stick to plane-flying, but at $270 per customer the agency could afford a voice-over in the plane, or an earphone guide, or something. Second, we barely saw any geoglyphs! Well, we saw 12 of them, but there are over 300. Would such a tour have taken longer? Yes, but the tour was only a little more than an hour. Third (perhaps contradicting #2), flying doesn’t normally upset me, but my stomach was reeling by the end, because they take you over each shape twice, so that everyone can get a picture. A smarter move would be to custom-build a longer plane with a single row of seats (so that everyone had a view of either side). Again, they ought to have the money. Fourth…yeah, you could google this. So yeah, don’t waste your time. I mean, unless you like hearing Japanese spoken by Peruvians.

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Lingering in Ica, we felt far from the tourist circuit and closer to how “real” Peruanos live. The menus outside our hotel didn’t have any English. The sunglasses store where I went to replace my broken pair was delightfully cheesy. I was apparently near-delirious on the evening we arrived, in that I was worried about being mugged. Peru is so safe and the people are so nice. They deserve a nice President. I give the country credit because the first ten of our hotel’s 100 cable channels were entirely devoted to the final debate between Keiko and PPK. Who won? Well not us, because even understanding Spanish, I got bored. Turns out Keiko and PPK don’t make penis references as often as Marco Rubio and Donald Trump. We switched our hotel TV to The Hobbit in English. Hey, white people’s problems!

In Peru we wound up watching way more movies than one might have expected. The country’s best regular bus company, Cruz del Sur, had a very generous offering of six-month old stuff, mostly in Spanish, but who cared? I watched movies like 45 Years and Joy and The Martian and 50 to 1, the latter being a strong candidate for the worst movie ever made. Cruz del Sur also regularly delivered snacks (more Inca Kola, please!) and boasted luxurious, curve-hugging, reclined seats better than anything I’ve had on any bus, train, or plane in the USA. So after our break day and night in Ica, it was a genuine pleasure riding the bus back to Lima. My grapefruit-like ankle was finally coming down to the size of an orange. I stared out the window at the Peru scenery like a kid seeing Disneyland for the first time. (Mostly shanties and signs for Keiko and PPK.)

Then, the downside of my free-wheeling, non-booking-in-advance-style travel reared its ugly head. We arrived at Lima airport without tickets. Perhaps it would be better to say that we tried to arrive. A Peruano next to a security guard asked us for tickets, and when we didn’t have them, he walked us about 200 meters away, to a travel agency. Classic Third World-ism. We could have walked right past him at the airport entrance, but his apparent camaraderie with the armed guard fooled us for just long enough. If we’d pushed past him, maybe, just maybe, we could have, at the last minute, made a certain flight we’d wanted to book and take to Arequipa. But now at the distant travel agency, with my ankle, there was no way for us to book that flight and then run back to the airport. Our “revenge” was a meager, meager tip for the middleman (and the guard, who also had his hand out). We wound up cooling our heels for almost four hours at the Lima airport. Anton got food from the Lima airport’s McDonald’s; I went to its Starbucks, where I got an algarrobina latte (that’s not a typo) that was mm, mm, good. The vacation from the vacation stretched longer than intended before we finally made it to the White City.

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Arequipa is outstanding; I’m glad my cousin insisted that we go there. I can see why it’s not as visited as other parts of Peru – it’s every inch a colonial city, and there are more accessible colonial cities elsewhere in the Americas. But I sincerely doubt that many of them are as uniquely beautiful, or surrounded by three looming snowy-topped volcanoes. The uniqueness stems from the white stones long-formed by the magma emitted from those volcanoes, called sillar. Most of Arequipa is made of sillar, so when you’re looking at centuries-old churches and monasteries, they’re white! Well, off-white. Marshmallow. Full Moon. Calla Lily. Bechamel. Cream Cheese Frosting. Can you tell I’ve got my hands on a Kelly-Moore Paints color wheel right now? Whale Bone. Apollo Landing. Kitten Whiskers. Better Than Beige. Abilene Lace. Pogo Sands. Oh, I could do this all day.

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Another way to enjoy your day is to walk around Arequipa. It’s quite easy, even with a twisted ankle, even at its elevation, which is about the same as Lake Tahoe. We did the enormous monastery, thrilling to the delight of speakers pumping Gregorian chants. We did churches, including the big old cathedral in the middle of Plaza de Armas. We shopped and shipped. We did the Museo Santuarios Andinos, which contains the mummified remains of “Juanita,” a pre-teen girl apparently sacrificed to the gods. Her story makes for fascinating reading. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mummy_Juanita and as with the Nazca Lines, it’s better to get the story beforehand than rely on the required guides. Our English tour could only happen at a certain time of day – we booked it and came back an hour later – and was timed so that we couldn’t spend too long in any one room. I wanted to stare at more of the culture, including the freezing box holding Juanita. I prefer Avila, Spain, where you’re allowed to take pictures, and your sweet time, with the mummified remains of St. Teresa.

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And the food, oh, the food. On a whim, Anton grabbed the Lonely Planet guide to Peru on his way out of the U.S., and that whim probably saved us a dozen times, with helpful little recommendations for this and that, but nowhere was it more crucial than Arequipa. The best restaurants, like our hotel, are within 500 meters of Plaza de Armas. (By the way, every city in Peru has a Plaza de Armas, and yes the military does sometimes parade-march through; we saw them in Arequipa.) Oh boy oh boy oh boy did we eat well, and for maybe $15 per meal, which is really nothing by American standards. Ceviches, cuy (that’s guinea pig, mmmmmm), lomo saltado, rocoto relleno, anticuchos, all kinds of ways to eat alpaca…I’m drooling just remembering what the heck we ate. (/homersimpsondroolnoise) And somehow neither of us farted – at least not that you could tell – in twelve days in Peru. Go figure.

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After Arequipa, we returned to Lima for about 36 hours before our flight back to the US of A. And yes, we also ate well in Lima, with a little more seafood, reflecting our distance from the Pacific Ocean – about ten blocks. We stayed in Miraflores, the Pacific Palisades of Lima; while Anton napped, I hobbled my bad foot up and down its carefully curated cliffside coastline. Gorgeous. Every time we flew into Lima – three times – we failed to see the city until we were about 100 feet above it. The fog was thicker than San Francisco’s. We asked about this and were told that it’s partly pollution and lingers for nine months of the year! That said, when we arrived in the city center around noon, the skies were ocean blue.

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Despite everyone’s misgivings, we did give Lima a day to impress us. We walked down prominent promenades. We ventured into palaces, basilicas, convents, cathedrals. We saw the final resting place of Pizarro, which amused me based on what I know. We saw tombs full of skulls. We saw Lima’s big market, which was a big meh. We saw art. I told Anton that I pretty much hate all paintings made before the 19th century. I think Anton’s hatred gets even closer to the present than that, which is why you haven’t been reading me write about a lot of museum visits. That said, we were ready to make a big old exception for the Museo de la Inquisicion…but it was closed for renovations. What are they trying to hide? Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition…museum to be closed! Oh well.

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We discussed life. Anton says he’s smarter than everyone we know, because he’ll remain at his current job until he dies, and it’s even in the industry. He wondered what the heck some people would be doing when they turned 65, 70. I told him my truth: happy with everything except my career. We workshopped my options. Part of me had seen the trip as a chance to take a break from concerns about my career and about Dar. But of course, you can never really get beyond yourself. Maybe that’s more true now for me at my ancient age. The trip did feel like some kind of accomplishment, but then, it also felt like, uh, anyone could do this.

Prior to this trip, Anton and I had never traveled together. His joke was that we would finish either best of friends or worst of enemies. I don’t know that either happened. I loved his relative calm, his ability to think three moves ahead (what if so-and-so doesn’t happen, then what do we do?), and his mild snoring (instead of five-alarm snoring, which I’d feared). Would we do this again in another country? Well, we spoke about that elliptically. We’d try to involve more people, if possible, but otherwise, I think we’re good to go.

One thing I really want to do is get the blog’s populism and third-party-ism more involved with other social reformers who see things the same way I do. Not for money. Not for fame. I’d just like to help chip away at the stalemated, do-nothing Democrat-Republican duopoly as a writer if I can. One nice thing about Keiko and PPK: the next President will actually be able to work on their country’s problems without having a legislature half-filled of people intended to stop every single thing they propose.

A week after we returned stateside, I learned that PPK won the election. I know Peru’s election isn’t a good analogue to ours, but I probably wouldn’t have voted for the rich guy over the legacy woman. I’m fascinated that the sins of the 90s were eventually too much for the former First Lady. She was associated with glory and horror, but people better remembered the horror. You get ten compliments and one insult and you care about the insult. Actually, Anton told me he doesn’t care about either. And he’s working on that.

What am I working on? Last story. Our direct flight back to LAX arrived on time. But I had been stupid. I’d booked a connecting flight on Southwest back to Oakland, but I’d only given myself an hour and five minutes to make my connection. I’d thought that LAX wouldn’t make you go through security on any connection, but I’d already learned I was wrong on the way to meet Anton almost two weeks before. 65 minutes to get off the plane, get through customs, somehow journey through three terminals, go through the metal-detector line, and dash the rest of the way through Terminal 1 to my gate. On my twisted ankle. I guess every Act 3 needs a smashing action-packed denouement. Uh…go?

Anton and I are seated near the back of a big old jumbo jet, we’re talking seats 45A and 45B. No way am I just rushing off the plane. I ask Anton to keep his phone on in case I miss my flight and ask him and his wife to put me up for the night. He’s not promising to help with that. I really don’t want to stay in LA, considering my wife has already been doing double-child duty for two weeks. Anton and I both figure that Southwest flights are always delayed, especially toward the end of the day. I say something to Anton that’s only slightly less awkward than: “Okay, the last 12 days have been great, big goodbye, but I may see you again in a few minutes at customs anyway.”

“Yeah, bye.”

Because of politeness and decorum, I can’t really push ahead of anyone, even as we get off the plane, even as we walk through the walkway that connects you to the airport proper. After setting foot in LAX proper, though, boy I’m pushing past people like my hair is on fire. Remember that I only have the one bag; my Camelbak even fits inside it in moments like this. But I’m hobbling, so it’s a little funny for me to be pushing past people like I’m an elderly patron of a Slovakian cheese shop.

Naturally, the path from the gate to customs is like a rat’s maze of an Escher painting. Literally an escalator takes us to a walkway where we walk (I run) past and over a view of people checking bags at their airlines’ front desks. It’s all obvious from the glass, as though LAX wants to give new emigrants an extended glimpse of American life before potentially snatching it away. They couldn’t just take you from the gate directly to customs, like in Lima, huh? (Note: Lima has double the population of Los Angeles.)

I arrive at customs. Something new, oh joy! Now you have to stand in front of a glowing screen and press a series of buttons before you can even see a customs official. With these buttons you input the exact same information you had already filled out on your customs form. Okay, I do it. The terminal churns out my receipt, which has a big red X. A rent-a-cop looks at my X and sends me into a particular queue that is far slower than the one for US citizens without the X. Not as bad as the one for non-US citizens…uh, I think. I want to check if my Southwest flight is delayed, but my phone is at 10% power, and of course there’s no helpful signage. What I do get a very clear view of is Anton as he strolls up to the machines about ten minutes after I’d arrived. His receipt doesn’t get the X. He moves straight to the quick queue. I wave at him. He’s like, “and you are…?” That was the last time I saw him.

My Southwest flight is at 8:35pm. It’s 8:10 when I finally approach the live customs official. I say something to him that’s only slightly less awkward than: “My Southwest flight is in 25 minutes, but we both know they’re often delayed, but still I have a bad foot and have to go from Terminal 4 to Terminal 1 and through security and I probably won’t make it but maybe there’s a later flight, maybe to SFO.”

He stamps my passport and says, “Keep hope alive.”

Another long queue for other guards to see that stamp. Five minutes and done. Past that, Obama’s smiling face welcoming me to the United States of America. Past that, baggage claims. Past those, a sign saying “Connecting Flights” to the right, “Terminal Exit” to the left. I wait a minute to talk to an LAX employee who can confirm that my connecting flight, a domestic one, means I have to go to the LEFT. More walking. I’m kinda by myself, not needing to pick up a bag at baggage claim, not lingering with the flow of my flight’s passengers. Now, as though I’m on a movie premiere red carpet by myself, I see the crowds waiting to see their loved ones step off an international flight…we’re talking dozens and dozens of people, all mildly disappointed that I’m not someone they know.

Finally I step onto the curb at the Tom Bradley International Terminal. It is 8:25. Can I really make a flight scheduled to leave in ten minutes? I think, well, I could wait for LAX’s official shuttle that goes from terminal to terminal. But it will stop at 5, 6, and 7 before winding its way back to 1. At best, really at best, it’ll arrive at Terminal 1 in 10 minutes. No. Better I run.

So I do my hobble-run. At Terminal 3, and again at Terminal 2, I’m stopped by phalanxes of doddering elderly people who are hovering near the curb looking at me as though I just insulted their mother. I’d love to run in the street, but that’s entirely unrealistic; taxis and civilian cars are weaving in and out, and LAX officials would whistle me back to the curb. The distance between Terminal 2 and Terminal 1 feels arbitrarily epic.

When I arrive at Terminal 1, I realize I’m at arrivals and I need to be at departures. Where’s anything going up? I hobble past several baggage claims until I find the up escalator. Now I’m at the Southwest ticket counter. Finally I see a screen that tells me my flight’s status and departure gate. The good news is that I’m near the right security line for my gate. The bad news is that my flight is on time, boarding, scheduled to leave at 8:35. I check my phone, which has enough power to tell me the time. It’s 8:33.

I sprint up the half-floor escalator. An LAX/Southwest employee pre-checks my sole bag and “beeps” my boarding pass square on my phone. (24 hours and five minutes earlier, I had checked in from our Lima hotel, emailing the e-pass to myself.) I say, “my flight is in two minutes, can I get ahead of any of that line?” She goes, “That’s up to them.” My heart sinks. Thank God it’s mostly friendly black ladies. They wave me past them. I take off my shoes for the first time in my last seven metal detectors. I have to stand in the big 3-second star-chamber. I get patted down afterward, as usual, even though I just took everything off. As I put things on, I think, phone, wallet, passport, headphones, belt, sunscreen, shoes…what am I forgetting? It’s 8:36. No way to deal with it now. (Turned out I had it all.)

My ankle is on fire; it hasn’t hurt like this since we were piranha-fishing. I scramble through Terminal 1 to my gate. It’s empty, but there are still two Southwest employees at the podium, sifting through paper boarding passes. I run up to them, out of breath. “Am…I…too…late?”

“No. Can you show us your boarding pass?”

I hand over my passport, just to get it out of my way. My phone won’t bring up my stupid email. It’s searching for, and not finding, the wifi signal. The same signal it had two minutes before. It’s 8:38. I say, “You know I have it, or else I couldn’t have gotten this far.”

“We can see you by your passport. You’re fine. Welcome aboard.”

I can’t really walk down the runway slowly because that would be rude, but even normal-pace is an incredible relief. The runway is entirely empty, and as I approach the plane door I see a flight attendant. “There’s always one, right?” I say to her. She says sweetly, “We were waiting for you!”

The Tuesday night 8:35 flight from LAX to OAK is as empty as any Southwest flight I’ve ever seen. Maybe twelve people total. I collapse in row 5, a row I have all to myself. I prop up my ballooning ankle, which feels like it’s being punched. Remarkably, a minute later, another person runs on to the flight. Ha. I wasn’t last. 30 seconds later, they seal the door and start moving the plane. I made it with about two minutes to spare. I will see wifey by about 10:30. Yay. I text Anton and wifey to say I made the flight. The phone is at 5% power.

Now I have an hour with no phone and no book, plenty of time to do nothing but sweat and think. I think: none of the rest of the trip was like this. And it wouldn’t have been. Anton doesn’t do this. And I don’t do this to Anton. Or to anyone else. I don’t ask others to sprint. I treat myself like this. I respect others. Not myself.

You’ll recall a long time ago, at the beginning of this story, that I told Anton that I remember one insult better than ten compliments, like the Peruvian voters who judged Keiko more for her father’s flaws than her and her father’s successes. You’ll recall Anton said that he doesn’t care about insults or compliments, but he’s working on that. I wonder what country that’s like?

The personal is political and the political is personal. The world is changing, becoming more Western, even as the West becomes less like itself. I would run through a major airport on a broken foot the world’s behalf, but I’m more likely to do it for myself. I wouldn’t ask the world to do it. Maybe that’s my problem. Maybe if I find a better way to be useful to the world, I’ll find a better way to be useful to myself. Maybe I’ll look back on these blog entries as the time I started doing that.

Maybe one project I’d like is to write the first book about a sub-genre of movies – from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Bad Boys 2 – where whites and/or Americans appear in Third World countries and fight amongst each other, ignoring and even trampling on all locals. In the spirit of that future book, let me say that Peruanos are not a backdrop to my story. They are their own wonderful, incredible, amazing selves, where the rainforest meets the Andes meets the largest thing on Earth, the Pacific Ocean (pictured below, from the plane, sort of). So may it ever remain.

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