While waiting to fly out

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Ten days ago I flew into Atlantic City from Managua on Spirit. It seems to me the airline could have picked a better name - Spirit suggests an afterlife state of being, a visitation, or the Looney: fly with Casper. But what's in a name, a rose by any other ... , so I bought a ticket. It cost me U$231 (all fees included) one way, booking 5 weeks in advance. [Checking AA at the same time, it'd have cost me $540 ($404 before fees; one must take a few steps into the reservation process on the internet to get full cost), one way to Philly. Both make one stop, a plane change.] What sucked about saving money with Spirit, at the time, was that the flight left MGA at 1:09AM, after the bewitching midnight hour. (Spirit now has flights leaving MGA at 1:45PM on Tuesdays, although Thursday flights remain after midnite redeyes.) Six months prior I had arrived in MGA on Spirit at 2PM, a decent enough hour to go directly to Leon and avoid Managua expenses. Both flights were precisely on time, as was the connection. I must say that there's noticeably more legroom on their Airbus than on one of AA's Boeings. Plus there's plenty of space under the seat in front to store a carry-on free-of-charge (steep overhead storage charges are to kick in with Spirit on Aug. 1).

The Spirit ticket counter at Aeropuerto Internacional Augusto C. Sandino didn't open until around 9:30PM. From Leon the interlocal ($2) brought me into the UCA station in Managua around 4PM. Killing time, I ate a good churrasco steak dinner (but with the smallest baked potato I've had in my life) and caught a movie at Plaza Inter. It was a Mel Gibson flic; he's an aged detective chasing evil corporate/US government types who off his beloved, only daughter at the beginning - suspenseful enough for me to forget I was 'waiting'. Leaving out of the side of Plaza Inter opposite the Crown Plaza, I walked through the dimly lit parking lot to where cabbies gather chatting, waiting for fares. The first one to approach me want 10 dollars - I told him to forget it. I walked up to two talking and one said he'd take me for 150 cords; we settled on 120, which he put into the gas tank on the way. He's a good, reasonable guy, Carlos Garcia 8383-7494(MoviStar). He show me his license. I told him I may text message him next time before arriving.

At the counter I waited behind four surfers, college guys (talking about Prof so & so) on Spring Break, I guess. They had the biggest, multi-board, single piece of luggage I've ever seen. It could have held 3 wetbacks easily. I got my boarding passes with less delay than I expected, but customs didn't open the entrance to the duty-free lounge until close to midnight. I don't know why the delay. There had been a short, strong storm around 9PM with tornados passing through nearby Tipitapa. Also the next day there was a big pro-FSLN/anti-legislature demonstration going down. For what ever reason the delay gave me a chance to check out the airport's great atrium with its mirror polished floor and its circle of nine long-necked, oversized, sculptured heads on pedestals, spotlit in the center. Heads of women of the world, with poems on the marble pedestals, most of which I could not read for being white on white, try as I did. One or two I did make out to be poems by Ruben Dario. A 12 foot high, full-body portrait of that famous dude hangs over all at one end of the great hall. Strangely for a poet, but not considering he was a national icon in his lifetime, he's wearing a military/diplomat's uniform. (The Congress of Nicaragua changed the law so he could divorce "la garza morena".) Ruben's face was on the old, well-circulated 100 cord bills (value ca. $5); now all the plastic bills have no faces except güegüence's mask. (The 500 - I was never issued one from an ATM (beware of bogus ones!) - has a face.) The 100 cord bill isn't plastic, but cloth (like dollars), with a sketch of the great cathedral in León where Dario's body lies in a crypt. I saved a few of the old Darios, plus a Sandino (1,000) and a Fonseca (10), from 1985, that I bought on the street.

A 12 foot high, full-body portrait of Augusto Sandino hangs at the other end of the great atrium where the security & customs entrance to flights is. Sandino's image is the classic: riding britches, high boots, and an exaggeratedly brimmed hat. Even an abstraction of the curved outline of the rim of his hat is recognizable to all citizens of Nicaragua; it's part of their national psyche. Curiously the frame of this painting is red, white & blue. Under Sandino's feet, in the corner, is the Espresso Americano counter. At the opposite end, underneath Dario, and also in the corner, is the overpriced, socialist-Marxist bookstore. Perhaps because of their exploitive prices, and directly under Ruben (or because his face once was that of money) are a few ATM machines.

On the wall over the customs entrance are 14 analog clocks, the circular sort that imbue a sense that time is circular, round & round it repeats. As I mentioned, I had time on my hands. The digital Casio on my wrist said it was 10:30. I noted the time on each clock. Under each was the name of a world city. They were, at that moment: Brasilia-11:55, Caracas-1:30, Houston-1:45, Mexico-11:25, La Havana-11:35, La Paz-12:30, Londres-10:45, Los Angeles-5:43, Madrid-4:37, Moscu-10:25, Paris-6:19, Teherán-7:59, Tokio-1:30, Trípoli-6:23, and Washington,DC-9:40. A few of these times may have been correct, I didn't check. The politics and practicalities of the location selections is an interesting mishmash.

Let's face it, the exact time is really not that important to most Latin Americans, judging by the 9 countries I've visited. I mean if you're leading a donkey or riding an oxen-pulled cart loaded with your goods to market, daylight's a good enough measure, the farmer's temporal compass. An analog approximation or the digital precision of 'time' just is not that important. León has a municipal siren that sounds a few minutes before or after 7:00AM and noon. Hey, that's good enough. In my L.Am. travels I never saw a church tower clock with the correct time on it (you say, they must be right twice a day, but I'd glance back later) - until seeing one in Costa Rica and that on La Recollecion in León. Spain & France recently restored that church; removing the clock from the other tower face. Why the church puts them there anyway puzzles me. Moreover I'd challenge you: how do you measure time? By some international standard? By heartbeats? On Wall Street, they say time = money. Here, I think, Latinos have it right: time = life. Enjoy it.

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