Before a summer in St. Louis, I spent a weekend in Medellin. It was my first time outside Cundinamarca. Gringos and Colombians alike drool over Medellin. I got an invite from a reader, Zac, to crash on his couch.
I flew in May 20 on no sleep from the night before. I felt like an asshole wearing my leather jacket. Medellin’s not cold at all. To my dismay, Medellin proper is an hour from the airport. I took a little bus through the mountains into the city. It dropped me off downtown near a metro station.
Note: Medellin, a city of 3 million, has a light rail line. Bogota, city of 8 million, does not.
On the train, I saw beautiful paisa women wearing small clothes. The paisa women make up much of Medellin’s reputation. I met Zac at the Sabaneta station. After a nap on his couch, we started drinking aguardiente with his roommate, Justin, at the neighborhood park. We put down two liters by the end of the night, plus beer.
After bumming around Poblado the next afternoon, Zac and I went drinking in Parque Lleras, Medellin’s center of nightlife. I left Zac sitting in the park to pick up booze. When I returned with aguardiente and beer, he was doing coke with a little paisa guy. This guy was being paid to hand out flyers for a Peruvian restaurant in Envigado. They paid him 20,000 pesos to hand out flyers from 3 – 11pm. That’s ten dollars for 8 hours of work.
Zac and I bought cocaine from this guy. He stuck around after and bummed aguardiente and a bump of coke. He had huge buck-teeth with braces that stuck way out of his lips. He told me he was “muy paisa.” Tolerating him was more difficult than understanding him. The only distinct part of his speech was that at the end of every sentence, he’d say “¿Sí o no, caballero?” ¿Sí o no, caballero? ¿Sí o no, caballero? ¿Sí o no, caballero?
Rico also came to Medellin and we all got smashed in the park. We got so smashed and wired off coke that we never went into a bar. Not one. So if I say we partied in Parque Lleras, I really only mean the park. We didn’t hit the club scene. We didn’t really meet any chicks in this park. One trio of sexy little drunk paisas came through. Zac made out with one for a moment, but they moved on.
When things were dying down and all the bars closed, the three of us walked a few blocks to Parque Poblado. I don’t remember if we went to get cocaine or weed, but we ended up buying both.
We left Poblado park to return to Lleras and lit a joint on the walk. Some white Colombian guy with dreadlocks had joined us. I don’t how we picked up Shitlocks or if it were before or after Poblado, but he was with us on the walk back to Lleras.
Coppers who smelled our weed stopped us from behind. Rico, up front with the weed and lit joint, disappeared. Zac tossed the bag of coke in the grass, where it landed relatively unhidden from where we were. The coppers only had me, Zac, and Shitlocks cornered. They demanded the weed. We didn’t have any.
I’ve been to jail in the States several times, and I vowed long ago never to return. In my extensive experience with coppers, I’ve learned to kiss ass. I was doing an excellent job of being respectful while explaining I live in Bogota, here’s my cédula, and yes we were smoking weed but we don’t have any now. It’s all gone. I’m very sorry and it’ll never happen again. This is my first time in Medellin.
Shitlocks, on the other hand, had the opposite outlook on police. He disrespected them. At one point I told him to SHUT UP. One of the cops stifled a laugh at that. They feigned hitting him with a baton. They frisked us against the wall. At this point, my drunken logic decided to drop a 10,000 peso note on the ground and pretend I didn’t see it. In my experience, this wouldn’t have been enough to bribe a cop, but it was all I had.
One of the cops turned me around and told me I dropped some money. He GAVE IT BACK TO ME, then told us we could go. I thanked him. Shitlocks made another smart comment and a cop cracked him on the thigh with the baton. Shitlocks grimaced and clutched at it, but he could still walk. Zac and I quickly walked up the hill toward Lleras, while Shitlocks went down the hill toward Poblado. Zac saw Shitlocks pick up the cocaine on his way. Cocksucker.
We went back to Rico’s hostel and did other tourists’ cocaine until well after dawn. It was at least 8am – maybe 9 – when Zac and I headed back to the Metro. We looked as if we hadn’t been home yet. It was obvious. A cop made a comment in a little store. People gave us dirty looks in the streets of Lleras, and on the train.
Envigado: Night of the Freak Shows
Saturday Zac wouldn’t wake up. Justin and I went for a beer in Envigado. There was excellent street food in the main square of Envigado, but the evening ended with us each vowing never to go back.
We picked a place and ordered beers. We sat on the patio facing the square. A couple girls, a little older, saw us and grabbed a table nearby. There was a fat drunk asshole at the table next to us. He was too drunk to stand still. He came over and shook our hands, slurring incomprehensible jibberish.
In my experience, this is a fact of life in Latin America. If you’re a gringo in Latin America and you go to bars, you will encounter stupid drunks trying to shake your hand and make friends. It happens from Brazil to Peru to Colombia. The drunkest idiots around will annoy you.
Fatdrunkasshole went back to his table and we met the two girls. The one that was moderately attractive was into Justin, and the one that was not attractive at all was into me. I wasn’t trying at all. When the girls asked me why I was so quiet, I told them because I’d been doing cocaine until 9am that morning.
One interesting thing from this conversation came from the attractive one. When asked if she were married or had a boyfriend, she said her boyfriend was murdered a month ago in a carjacking. But she quickly added that she wasn’t too bothered by it because he cheated on her.
Every couple minutes, beggars asked for money or to buy flowers or something. This is another thing to get used to in Latin America. I worked at bars and restaurants in the US, and I’ve personally told panhandlers to stay away from our customers. All places do that. In Latin America, nobody does that. They even come inside the restaurant at some places.
One guy, however, wasn’t allowed to ask. A mulatto bum caught my eye and started to make an approach, but the server and manager swooped in and blocked his ass. They told him to fuck off. I assume he’s the neighborhood thief.
Just as Justin and I agreed to get out of this scene soon, Fatdrunkasshole came over to shake our hands again, as well as the girls’. He wouldn’t just shake our hands though. He’d linger, while holding hands, seemingly thinking of something to say, and awkward moments would pass while he’d clumsily shift his balance between feet. When he went back to his table, he missed his chair and fell.
As Justin and the somewhat attractive girl exchanged numbers, I told him I’m not shaking Fatdrunkasshole’s hand again. We gotta go. The unattractive girl gave me her number and said I could have her if I wanted. We told the girls we might call them later. We were delayed in leaving because our bill had one too many beers on it.
After getting that straightened out, Fatdrunkasshole stood up again to greet us. He told us he’s from Pasto or Pereira or whatever small town, and then he said ‘marica’. I was at the end of my patience and told him not to call me ‘marica’. He stupidly contemplated that. Before it could escalate, we got in a cab. Relief flushed over us as we escaped the Envigado freak shows.
Medellin’s amazing. The weather trumps Bogota, and the women alone are reason for many foreigners to live there. It’s more picturesque, since mountains surround the city. There’s not the eternal urban flatness that is Bogota.
Medellin’s not too small, but there’s definitely a small-town attitude. I learned that from the looks I got stumbling out of Poblado Saturday morning. In a city like Bogota, nobody cares if you’re still a drunken mess from the night before stumbling out of Zona Rosa or Chapinero. The cops won’t look twice. Those dirty looks make me uncomfortable.
The small-town attitude’s not all bad. People are friendlier. Zac and Justin talk to all their neighbors. In Bogota, you barely greet only a few. One of Zac and Justin’s neighbors co-signed for them on the apartment lease! No chance of a rolo doing that.
I’m thinking about spending a lot more time in Medellin when I return to Colombia. We’ll see how things turn out.
Stay in a luxury apartment in Medellin.
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