Moodswing - Lary Land

At home among the outcasts in Nicaragua

Now Lary wants to buy an island, as if he doesn’t live on one already — just not the kind surrounded by water. It’s the kind surrounded by stuff that is not at all like the stuff that makes up his ancient home, which is almost solid concrete, with towering walls made from blocks of the cinder and glass variety, held together as a whole by Lary’s patented amalgam of, probably, ground-up insects and old cobwebs.

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It used to stand by itself on a stretch of highway immediately south of downtown, surrounded by nothing but city views and an old funeral home in the distance, where the smoke from incinerated loved ones belched from the chimney. “Ah, home,” Lary said each morning as he rolled unconscious crack addicts off his property, “nothing like it.”

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But in the years since, all the surrounding property has been parceled out and sold to developers. The funeral home was torn down and replaced with a crappy-ass loft complex, and his city view is now dotted with, like, neighbors, and stuff, not to mention the houses they live in: brand-new particle-board turd piles painted cheery colors like “Sunkissed Peach” and “Mountain Mist.”

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He tried to discourage the yuppies from taking over by wandering his street while waving his gun around, but all that did was discourage the real criminals, thus making the neighborhood even more appealing. So he gave up, and now there his house sits like a sore, blending in as subtly as a cockroach in a bowl of dinner mints.

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So I should have known better than to bring him to Nicaragua. First, Nicaragua is packed with crusty expatriates and other fugitives who do nothing, it seems, but sit in bars ruminating global conspiracy (I know that because my sister, Cheryl, actually owns one of these bars). Second, young Nicaraguan women seem to have no qualms about having sex with this gaggle of outcast hermit crabs, and third, you can buy an actual island there for only $25,000. What was I thinking? This place is Lary Land! The minute we got out of the cab, they practically crowned him king.

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Because if there is anyone who can forge a home in a massive lake at the base of a volcano in a Third World country, it’s Lary. He’d have the whole thing up and running like the Swiss Family Robinson ride at Disney World, only real. He’d figure out how to harness energy from the plumbing system he’ll carve from the rocks in tribute to the ancient Roman aqueducts, then fashion automated fishing systems that function in accordance with the lunar cycles, then he’ll pirate signals from a satellite when he wants to connect to the world. And he can do it drunk, plus hopped up on whatever discounted local narcotic the populace is derided for exporting to inner-city American drug dealers. Already, while we were at the shanty town of tents that make up the local mercado, Lary was demanding I ask the merchant how much a cluster of rusty elbow valves costs.

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“Stop it! You can get that in the States,” I said. “Why aren’t you over here looking at this here bloody hog head?” I swear, what was the point of bringing him all that way if he can’t inspect a bloody hog head with me? That right there is culture, dammit, and Lary needed to be by my side so we could ridicule it together. “Maybe you can inject it with polypropylene and prop it on a big stick outside your house,” I suggested, but even the prospect of a homespun gargoyle didn’t drag his attention away from the rusty gadget guy.

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“Ask him how much it costs for a concrete block,” Lary demanded of me. “What?” I asked. “How the hell’re you gonna drag home a concrete ...” Then it hit me. Oh, duh, he’s not coming home at all! He wants to stay here for the rest of his life, and who can blame him?

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Oh, my God, what have I done? I brought my best friend, who happens to be a drunk-ass, drug-grubbing, misanthropic old sea urchin who likes to build castles out of paper clips and concrete (pretty much) to a far-off land where islands are for the taking, booze is cheap, drugs are plentiful and sex is noncommittal. In short, Lary could actually be happy here! Am I an idiot or what?

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“He says concrete blocks are really expensive,” I told Lary, desperate. “Really, doncha wanna look at the bloody hog head? You can see his brains through his eye sockets.”

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That distracted him, but who knows for how long. The next day, back in Granada at my sister’s bar, Lary fell into conversation with some of the other societal outcasts, sharing with them his theory that all things are shrinking. “Even measuring tapes, so you can’t trust them, either,” he insisted, all the while sucking back the locally bottled battery acid that is Nicaragua’s native rum. Everybody practically patted him on the back, as if to literally take him into their fold. I was watching it all from outside as I caught a cab to the Managua airport. I was leaving to go back to Atlanta, and Lary was not. “I’m gonna hang here for a few more days,” he said. “Don’t worry, I’ll come back soon.” Right, I thought, sure you will.

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hollis.gillespie@creativeloafing.com

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Hollis Gillespie is the author of Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Other Love Stories.