My Big Gringo Christmas

I spent Christmas in St. Louis. I drank a lot. I’m back in Peru. This long post has subsections: American Food, Wal-Mart, The Porn Star, Christmas in America, A Doomed Friendship, and American Opulence & Materialism.

American Food

I thought I missed American food, specifically comfort food like pizza, wings, and cheeseburgers. But every time I tried, I couldn’t eat much. It didn’t sit well. I had a general digestive discomfort the whole week. At a sports bar, I ordered twenty wings. I quit after five or six. I could feel the oil and butter churning in my stomach. Another day I ordered a pepperoni pizza with my kid brother and couldn’t finish it.

Fast food was the worst. One night after a bender, my brother Ryan offered to treat me to my choice of late night fast food. I told him I didn’t want anything. The thought of it was gross.

My last day I woke up at my buddy John’s house. I borrowed his car and tried to eat like I used to, blowing $13.64 at Burger King. I ate the Double Whopper with Cheese and it didn’t sit well. I picked at the chicken tenders and Spicy Chicken Sandwich. I barely touched the fries before throwing it all away.

One day I was hungry at George’s house. He invited me to anything. I looked for fruit. There were a half dozen apples that looked old, except one. It was bright red without a blemish. I picked it out and washed it. I noticed its unbelievable girth. I stared at it in disbelief. It was so fat and flawless and red. Fruit’s not supposed to look like this. George noticed me staring and said, “It’s on steroids, muthafucka. Just eat it.” Better than fast food.


Before moving to Peru I detested Wal-Mart. Not for their encouragement of offshore outsourcing of manufacturing, their role in globalization, or union-busting activities. I didn’t shop at Wal-Mart because I thought their products suck. I bought a suitcase that fell apart in less than a year. And the people – customers and employees – aren’t pleasant to look at.

Wal-Mart was one of the first places on my list to pick up standard items not available in Peru. Surprisingly, my perspective had changed. Look at all this nice stuff, and these great prices! I even caught myself admiring the clothes. The sheer bigness was awesome. I wanted to take a picture to capture the grandiosity and show it to Peruvians. I went back twice in one week. After nine months in Peru the inner-elitist inside me is dead. Long live Wal-Mart!

The Porn Star

My first day George picked me up and we went to his house. I got depressed by his Christmas tree, baby things, and general family setting. I told him I had to get out of there and take me to a bar.

We went to the nearby dive. There were a half dozen middle-aged barflys already drunk at 5 pm. A couple rednecks. No music. The bartender had white hair. Welcome to Missouri. They had Busch on tap. Whenever a place has Busch on tap, I order it to be sarcastic. Two Busch drafts and two shots of well vodka!

Completely out of place with these overweight, ugly people was an absolute stallion. Tall, slim, big breasts, beautiful face. She had her two kids in the bar throwing darts and playing with the television remote. I commented to George, “Mommy has a couple more in her.” He agreed. Then I recognized her from school! In fact, I had a huge crush on her in junior high.

She made eyes at me. One time she met my eyes and suggestively opened her mouth. We started talking to her. It turned out we all knew each other from middle school. I asked her what she does now and she replied “Nothing good!” She later told us who she works for. George knows the guy and used the term: “websites.” I mentioned the kids. She said she met their father on a “photo shoot” but they’re now divorced. She went to fetch her parents, some of the middle-aged barflys. I asked George which one of us she wanted. He replied, “Both, at the same time. On camera.” His friend who she works for does internet porn.

She came back and drooled over how I live in Peru to her parents. Her mom asked if it’s a different lifestyle here. I told her it was.

While George was in the bathroom I got the porn star’s phone number. Every day in St. Louis I awoke to manually relieve myself with her on the mind. All I wanted for Christmas was the porn star. I didn’t call her while I waited for a giant pimple on my cheek to go away. I called her my last night, a week after she gave me the number. She was at the mall with her kids and said she’d call back when she figured out “what was going on.” Bullshit. My thoughts went back to Milagros.

Christmas in America

Christmas in America reminded me why I had turned Scroogish in recent years.I wasn’t Scroogish in Peru because they haven’t commercialized Christmas like America, where you’re inundated with red and green, Santa, and terrible Christmas music. “Terrible” isn’t necessary because “Christmas music” implies terrible.

In Peru, the Christmas flavor is Jesus-focused. Nativity scenes are the most common public display of spirit. There is no red and green onslaught of bad music, heinous sweaters, and over-enthusiasm to turn people like me into Scrooges. No urge to yell: “Shut the fuck up!”And to the kids: “There is no Santa!”

A Doomed Friendship

George and I have a history of drinking and getting in trouble. It’s better if we live in different parts of the world.

After lifting weights Monday, we went to my dad’s so I could get dressed. I realized I had a shirt I’d meant to give him the year before. I got it from a Jews for Jesus group and it said in big blue letters ‘JESUS LOVES YOU’. George is very cynical and, at the time, he always said “Jesus loves you” before hanging the phone up.

He vowed to wear the shirt that night. I said I’d wear my FUNKADELIC shirt. The FUNKADELIC t-shirt features a topless black woman in a thong. Her bare breasts are the first and only things you notice. We clapped hands in agreement.

An hour later we left George’s house with his gay roommate Jon and Jon’s seemingly closeted lover. We were driving to a suburban sports bar to meet his girlfriend, her friend, my brother, and several of George’s coworkers. I looked over from the passenger seat to see George smoking a joint in his new JESUS LOVES YOU shirt. He turned down the full-blast gangsta rap to say, “I hope somebody tries pushin’ up on my gal so I can bust ’em in they mouth.”

I view our getting in trouble as a profound need to defy convention and express that we’re different. That’s why I got the idea to cheer for the Bears once we arrived at the full-house Packers bar during Monday Night Football.

How sad was this mostly male, all green crowd wearing Packers jerseys and hats banking their happiness on the athletic performance of a group of men who don’t give a damn about them and play in a city hundreds of miles away. We loudly and enthusiastically cheered when the Bears made good plays and I strived for the volume and tone of Eddie Murphy in Coming to America during the scenes at the St. John’s basketball game (“YES! IN THE FACE!”).

There were no attractive women in the place except the server, who we promptly annoyed. George’s Girlfriend showed up with her short, fat friend. The kickball-shaped friend liked me and I decided to keep away. We ate wings and drank beer. We loudly cheered for the Bears. I spanked some a different fattie from the coworkers. Some heffer of a Bears fan who filled out her extra large sweatshirt came over to meet us. At one point Heffer and Kickball stood facing me, begging attention, from opposite sides of George and Girlfriend. Decisions, decisions. I chose more beer.

In the fourth quarter Girlfriend had to leave to pick up the baby. She took Kickball with her and told me to make sure George left soon. We were to meet at the house afterward. The Bears won with a field goal in overtime and we went wild. Then left. He spent $90 at the liquor store.

We took our booze back to his house where the baby slept upstairs. Girlfriend and Kickball patiently waited for us in the kitchen with Jon and Closeted Lover. Ryan showed up later. We got drunk and smoked joints. The general recklessness when George and I get together is so contagious that Ryan opted to get high – something he never does since being a hopeless marijuana fiend in high school. Jon and Closeted Lover went to bed – Jon in his room and Closeted Lover on the couch. Fighting?

To Girlfriend’s appall, George brought up the subject of Kickball’s large breasts. He analyzed them for some time. Girlfriend went to bed angry. George kept talking to my annoyance. Why couldn’t he just go to bed so I could have sex with Kickball already? Then he completely redeemed himself. He’d been on a mass phase in his training which, for white guys, means getting a little fat to pack on muscle. He took his shirt off and pinched the fat from his stomach in a demonstration. He squeezed the fat on his chest to create an illusion of boobs.

Ryan and I laughed uncontrollably. He told Kickball his fat was delicious and to touch it. He moved closer and tried to touch his nipples to her face. She shied away into my shoulder. Under George’s 235 pounds plus Kickball’s great weight, the chair broke. The whole kitchen erupted in even more laughter as the weed, alcohol, and food spilled all over the floor.

I left the disaster for the living room and woke up Closeted Lover. I explained that he couldn’t sleep there. A straight man needs to smash a fatty on this couch so he would have to sleep in Jon’s room. He sat up and agreed, but needed a minute. I returned to the circus in the kitchen. Ryan was gathering his things to leave. I didn’t notice Closeted Lover go back to sleep on the couch. We all laughed and drank for a little longer while I massaged Kickball’s giant butt cheeks.

George and I noticed Closeted Lover sleeping on the couch and sprang into action with the silent cohesion of an elite military team. George grabbed his legs while I grabbed his arms and we hoisted Closeted Lover off the couch and started for Jon’s room. He was not too heavy for strong guys like us but we somehow dropped him as soon as he cleared the couch. He landed on the hardwood floor with a thud. He opened his eyes, realized his situation, and retreated to Jon’s room.

I grabbed Kickball’s hand and sat her down on the couch with me while Ryan left and George went to bed. I was soon naked with Kickball’s pants off (she wouldn’t take her shirt off). We made out and petted and I spent an hour or so trying to rise to the occasion. I was too drunk and she was too fat. Thank God. She left so I could sleep in peace.

Despite your impression from this blog, I only drink twice a week in Peru. George has settled down, drinking even less than me and focusing on the gym. He has four kids by three women. He likes his current girl and wants to keep her. I don’t want to be the negative influence that ends that dream, and I have my own priorities. Jail time, serious injury, and STD’s don’t fit into the equation. George and I simply can’t live in the same city because all those would be inevitable.


American Opulence

One key difference between America and emerging markets is the amount of stuff people have. Big TVs, big cars, computers, DVD players, Wii’s, iPods, big domeciles, big refrigerators full of food. More materialistic Americans would have a hard time living in Peru.

I loved working out at George’s gym, Lifetime Fitness, located in the affluent suburb of Chesterfield. He landed a job selling memberships. While St. Louis is a second-rate, nothing special has-been of a city in America, I doubt there is any gym in all of Peru or most of Latin America to compare to Lifetime Fitness.

Lifetime’s equipment is state-of-the-art and virtually untouched. We ran into Ryan Howard – first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies, 2006 MLB MVP, and 2008 World Series champion – doing agility training. He’s from St. Louis and works out at Lifetime. Albert Pujols also works out there too.

After hitting the weights we went to the gym’s restaurant where George treated me to a glutamine- and creatine-enriched, chocolate-banana protein shake with a barbecue chicken pizza (all-natural chicken, whole wheat crust, and low fat cheese). Then I joined a pickup game of full-court basketball before taking a dip in the swimming pool with water fountain.

I changed in their locker room with complimentary towels and oak lockers, bathing in their private showers. I didn’t take advantage of the hot tub, steam room, sauna, racquetball, squash, rock climbing, salon, or massage options. There were countless other amenities in the plush, Wal-Mart-sized gym (150,000+ square feet). I assume the monthly cost of membership is higher than my rent. Only in America. If you find this level of luxury necessary, South America is NOT for you.

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  1. Sounds like spending some time in Peru has been a good (safe) choice so far!

    I agree with your comments about Walmart stuff, your perspective tends to change after living in Peru for awhile.

    Glad you made it back safe and sound.


  2. I agree that many of gyms in Peru leave alot to be desired, I especially noticed the contrast when I was in Sydney last summer. You might however want to try the latest Gold Gyms in Lima, I hear they were opening a new one every 18 months. One of the ones I found to be pleasantly modern was on Bienavides near Surco-Miraflores area, it sports all the necessary amenities and the girls are mostly middle to upper class teenagers to early 20s anyways – so at least the eye candy requisites are taken care of.

    Kudos on being perceptive on noticing the indifferent cold exterior many westerners seem to carry themselves with compared to latinos. I remember many of my return trips are a time of reflection from my Peruvian experiences. I am always amazed by how pretentious white society is in comparison. Im quite jovial and enthusiastic for a good many weeks when back in Australia, but the judgemental grumpiness of everyday joe and jane averages, do wane my bubbly optimism, which is only better cultivated by the warmer inclusive latino society I come to prefer. Besides why choose a colder people unfriendly crowd at say a dive bar in central Sydney than most friendlier places I frequent in Lima, where even the strangers take the time to show me a smile and a wave.

    Good story by the way 🙂


  3. I had a similar experience when i returned to USA in october just after eating 2 double cheeseburgers and the double cheeseburger is something i normally would have eaten like 6 at a time.

    Also the golds gym Marc would be mentioning is the one in Ovalo higuerta if you are ever in lima for an extended period. knowing you are in Arequipa though I dont think the info matters much.


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