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In the Church they were holding communion. and of course being important people they had their reclinatorio which is a kneeling chair made of fine wood and covered in velvet, to kneel on. I was in the pew behind them with the rest of their family.  It seemed like they all where looking at me, wondering “What on earth is this prisoner doing with my parents?”  Of course I just kept praying and thinking “God let me be free of this nightmare,  I did not commit  any crime, why am I here?”

Now I need my 007

Now I need my 007

Wait a minute, did not commit any crime? Oh yes,  I had a half a roach in my pocket (it was not mine, it was my lovers, but nevertheless it was on my person) and seeds of Marijuana. It did not matter if I smoked it or not? I had them in my possession, but for 30 seeds, came on! Give me a break! It had been almost a month and a half and I was still a prisoner!

When the service was over, we walked over to the corner where there was a dinner place. The

rest of the family left, so the Licenciado, his wife and I sat down  in this restaurant “Maria’s” and between some food (glory be to God!), real food, we talked and I told them my story. They must have had a son who was on drugs or alcohol or something, because they were very sympathetic towards me and very gentle. I could read in her eyes tears wanting to come out, while he was concerned and gallantly containing his  emotions. Then he said I will try to help, and ask me don’t you have a lawyer?  Well, no and yes.. if you could give me permission to make some long distance calls to Caracas? I thought, maybe I can get someone to help me?…..

Smoking my dreams away

Smoking my dreams away

In  a few words, I understood that he would give me Monday the number of an abogado (Licenciado)  that was a very good friend of his– Lic. Lawyer Public Defender  Morales– to see if he could talk to the judge, they played golf together, to see about my case and when I would be going to court to finish this matter. The only thing I could say was GRACIAS, with tears in my eyes which I did not try to hide.

And when we were in the Cadillac,  I dared to ask if was also possible to allow me to use the phone with their permission to call my mother and my ex-husband? They said it would be OK.,  just that I have to ask his secretary for permission and not  to tell any other inmates,.

(I could spend many pages describing how moved they were  about my situation, but at the same time they could not show it, after all, I was their prisoner– yes, with some unheard of privileges).

They were holding back their laughter and smiles over this stupid incident, but the law is the law! They were so cute,  like seeing  that is exactly what they would havce been doing when they were younger, doing these crazy things that they never did, but would have  liked to have done!

Then when we got to the reten it was unusually quiet,  there were some men on the other side of the street, smoking and talking,  but my friendly cops were not there ,so  I went straight  to my hammock with my kitty and went to sleep with dreams of getting out of  Maracaibo and being back in the elegant parts of Caracas.

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That Saturday, after gambling until very late, for a change I lost some of may Bolivares, maybe because?– no,  I  am sure,  that the reason I is, I was  getting tire of playing with these guys, they were bad players and did not even knew the rank of cards well. So I drank and drank until I drank almost the hole of a litter bottle of rum by myself. There were several of than,  Saturday’s nights were  like this, ( thats not a surprise to any of you readers that know me).

Ludmila has been whit Peter in scary situations like THE ONDA NUEVA festival

Whit Peter Graves in Onda Nueva Festival in Caracas we had to confront almost Jail whit the mafia union to hired there grow of cameraman, in Onda Nueva festival that the close I ever became in prison ” (before this )…………….

Sunday I was tired but very excited: “I’m going out, out,!” Even if just to go to a Church  that is not mine, (Roman Catholic and I am Eastern Orthodox, you understand the difference?)+ I will see the streets and places; I was thinking that today there was also chance to talk  with Dona Magdalena and her husband the Jefe of this place,  and who knows what else es he? and of course beside being an: lawyer, lets not forget that, so let’s acknowledge that,  in fact he the and has wife may will be my ticket to ride out of here.

They arrived in a new black Cadillac parking  in front of the detention house main doors, Charlie call me out, escorting me too the car: “portate bien” he whispered in my ear.  We wink to each other with an smile.

(God bless  Dona Magdalena and her husband and her husband, at  times I think in retrospect it may have been her nagging her husband to set me free; she became my angel).

" In this photo, I was before in jail but was only a theater play"

” In this photo, I was before in jail but was only a theater play”

I was  dressed with my indian black dress and I did my long hair  on a Grace Kelly bun twist, nice and simple but elegant, very light lipstick very presentable  for Church ,  of course I still had my make up with me, being a model, what do you expect? not overly made up, just very presentable as I said before  for Church.

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I  notice that , I must say one thing,  that  in different civilisations women from tropical or latin countries tend to overdo their make up going to church, and the young dressed unprohibited for Church where I came from, of course that was my upbringing from my adored mama.

The smell of this new Cadillac reminded me of the good life, that I all of the sudden became too much, memories came back to my mind, my beloved William dancing in the private clubs, sunbathing in the Tamanaco pool, eating in great elegant restaurants, drinking out of crystal classes, real cloth napkins, etc,. men lighting may cigarettes, pulling my chair, opening the doors, where is all this gone? This was so rough, almost cruel, have to go back, I  miss it!.

.

Oh yes I missed that life, seeing my mother dress  up for Church,or going to a Russian Ball. All this was spinning  in my mind,  I felt  so weak in my present  nightmare. When is it going to be over?  I want get out of this situation and out of Maracaibo! It is a long and incredible story!

In Church on my knees I prayed and prayed and my tears just roll on by themselves; I could not stop them! Why  am I here?

There was an answer, but I did not know that yet, I was a alcoholic and I did no know at, and  that was that.

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All was quiet again in the evening, everyone went to their homes. I did not see Senor Rodriguez or Senorita Pepita that day,  just the two cops, policemen sitting at the table and talking and drinking something.  I noticed they had a deck of cards and I thought: this is getting exciting, maybe I can win some money so I can get that  Wayuu dress I want. I have very few Bolívares, so I have to be very good, or they have to be very bad!

Ludmila before the arrest

Ludmila before the arrest

Ola Officer Pedro! He responded, Señora? Is Pepe okay? Sientese. Thank you,  I will.  Then came Carlos,   now there three card players with Juan there. I said, “So now we are four is good for playing poker no? “

Pepe agreed, “Si señora, you take the dice and tirelos to see who deals!”  Bueno, I picked up the dice and rolled them fast and I had the biggest number, double six, so I dealt the cards. Juan pulled a bottle of rum out of the bag he had with him (a mochila) and passed it around discretely, while Pepe made sure to give me a glass too.

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An empty sardine can was our ashtray, and we smoked and played for hours  I was tired and nervous that  if I won too much they would get pissed off at me , so I said I was tired and needed to go to bed. I had made some extra Bolívares that I did no have before! Well, we sure did finish the bottle that night; and to my surprise they were very much the gentlemen and did not say nothing outrageous or crude, simply saying goodnight. Pepe only said, “Señora be prepared- that  there may be  lot of noise tonight, this is Saturday and there will be a lot of rum and aguardiente (these is the local cheap alcoholic beverage)  and ” muchos accidentes. ” I could only imagine what he meant, but I said, “I understand, okay?  Buenas noches,  gracias” and I went off the bed with my winnings.

Anatoly awaiting Ludmila in Canaima

Anatoly awaiting Ludmila in Canaima

But as soon I was sound asleep on my comfy  but dirty hammock, (have to wash it tomorrow),  the noise started up: drunk people with bandages still in:

after they were attended to by the medics; I don’t know what they were doing there, but they were making  lots of racket.

When it cooled off a little and everyone was back where  they were supposed  to be, Pepe knocked on my door and said,  “I have a surprise for you!” He handed me this little black bundle of fur– My kitten! “He was  right by the main street door, you want him?”   Si , si!   Back on my hammock I had the sweetest sleep in a long time,  with this little thing purring into my ears, it sounded just like a lullaby!!!!

And the week went in and out, and it was next Saturday. By then I hand a Wayee Indian black dress with the winnings of my gambling every night, a party accompanied always by rum or aguardiente or sometimes cheap vodka.

This is the third week in this reten (holding place jail), with some medical nurse por mainer things ,  the series once of course stay in hospitals, not here,.   After they  area will,  then they bring them here.

I still hadn’t heard or seen a familiar face and to tell the true I really did not worried  or care I hand booze,  cigarettes , gambling and thats all I care at the moment.

Saturday  before they close the milk giving and all paper worked in all this accidentes , people either went home some and others not  ,The secretary Pepita came to my room, my I came on , of course,( is your  place I  thought to myself,) They worked until 11 in Saturdays and invited me to the office of Licenciado Rodriguez, which by now was familiar to me, with me almost being a working person here for free. “Si Senor, at your service,” I said.  “Please sit down. Are they treating you good?” So. of course Senor Licenciado si!”  I called you in,  for this reason; my wife asked me  to ask you if you would like to go to the Cathedral tomorrow, where? is  Sunday  and is going to be a good service? We would be happy to take you, in our custody of course.”  “Yes yes ( thank your God) yes  if that is possible?  I would love to go with your charming wife and yourself, Senor Licenciado!”

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All the Guajira Indians wore these cover up dresses; so now I know why the Wayuu dress goes with this incredible heat and scenery!.

Waking up, on this bench, just as the people were starting to come and go, there were lots of cops and men with everyone looking busy and worried.

Now that confirmed my suspicion that this place was a sort of retencion place, half jail or halfway house  for people that have car accidents. Venezuela, like Mexico and most Latin countries, has Napoleonic law codes, which means, you are guilty until you proven innocent! Contrary to my beloved free country the USA. In Venezuela, if you have a car accident you go straight to this type of carcel!

That was why there were  so many men dressed in suit’s (lawyers) and some of this men were wounded with stitched and bandages and almost walk they just went in  the patio and lay down in pain,  mooing.

 I guess women had a different place, or may be they did not drive?

 I will never know and don’t really care!

Some how I managed to get breakfast a bread whit butter and coffee with milk, and after that I stood by the door of that big room that resembles almost a store, in there were two woman giving out containers of milk ,to each women that  walked on with a child I guess a container of 3 Kls. for each child?, with a paper on hand, mark with some code, and a date on it. So I asked, can I help and they were very happy to hear that, with a smile they said yes, came in here and just do what we do and  gave a big can of 3 kilos  of powdered milk to each señora with a paper.  yes very good, I will help, that was the easiest job I ever had and I loved it, it gave me a chance to speak a couple of words and forget about my situation.

Maybe I will call Peter Lawyford"

Maybe I will call Peter Lawyford”

But still, I had this empty space inside of me that only booze seemed to fill up, so the day went fast and easy, and when I realized I had free lunch given to me in the kitchen (a  bowl of soup made of bread and and egg), I thought it was so simply but delicious. Then it was siesta time , so I went back to my bench.  As I sit down ready to curl my body into the shape of the bench again, the cop Pedro (Pepe like everyone called him) said to me, pointing over to a corner room that had too big tall doors, “Go there,  there is a hammock es for your, your  can stay there, its the womens’ room.”  I walked over and there were of course no one there, but there was a hammock no so clean but large

.  As you will remember  I slept on one for a long time, in the Island of  Margarita, Porlamar where we lived before and with my fiance on long time ago.

As I opened the door, the first thing I see is a window and a small desk with a rattan chair and nada más. Well, I did not need anything, I had nothing with me anyway, though I would love to buy one of those dresses that the Indians wore. But I had no money, just a few bolivars, not enough for a dress. Maybe I can call someone to help! But what  would I say?  No , I can’t say I am in jail!  for what?, they would ask?.

To leie down and rest is what I need,  but I could not take myself from the window as the outdoor was so inviting and looking this window had no bars of iron on it,  would be so easy to get through and out of  this jail,  but then what? How am I going to get to the airport with no passport and no money? My ticket! Where is it? I don’t know, but they must still have it, so I should just stay, relax and think about nothing. You can call me a coward I guess, but today I call it smart move.

Standing by the window, I looked out at the road, and  a baby black little kitty was crossing the street. Meow meow! Like me, it was hungry and lost and lonesome! I went to Pedro who was sitting on his chair leaning against the wall, smoking a puro cigar and relaxing. “Senor senor, there is a baby kitten outside! The cars will kill it!” He just sat without moving and continued smoking, it’s O.K. not worried ma’am, so I went back to my hammock , but first I look through the window ,  to see the cat…  and the kitty was gone.

“Oh well, I thought,  just as will how would I fed him (  there’s milk)!  jajajaj,  but he is gone, lastima!, it would been a nice companion!, and talking to myself, I  said just relax Ludmila, God will help him, as he did help you, , as he has done so far, yes?.

The sky was so  blue, the heat very high and the  clouds they look like cotton….

……

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The  big door opened and I moved my head slowly in; then my body followed, half with fear and half curiosity, also a weird air of hope. “Pase, pase, Señora,” a voice came out from this large mahogany desk behind which a gentleman stood up, stretching his hand to me, “Welcome… please sit down.” This nice old colonial-style room with expensive looking antique furniture; the room had a high ceiling, and this short good looking older men was directing all his attention to me. He seemed to be saying to himself, “What am I going to do with this young Lady?” Curiosity seized my soul, so firmly and quickly I went up to this man and shook his outstretched hand, saying, “Como esta Ud. Señor?” (in Spanish of course). In so many words he made me welcome, after this initial formality that I knew so well. I asked, “Where am I? and how long will I be here?”  “Oh, that depends on your lawyer,” he assured me. I did not know I had one! I never met him, but I did not want to question my situation and was satisfied with being here and not there in that pocilga. Leaving his office, he said, “Just sit on the bench back there. If any news comes, my secretary Senorita Pepita will let you know…” I could only say “Gracias Señor Rodriguez”

At home writing my life, it seems like a movie

At home writing my life, it seems like a movie

No one stopped me from walking around, looking and inspecting this cazona. I was kind of free, and it felt great, walking around looking, hoping to get same rum or aguardiente, anything to calm the insanity going on in my head. I found the location of the kitchen, or what was supposed to be a sort of kitchen. I kept walking on into this big room like a storeroom, a gigantic space piled high with boxes of what looked like powder milk and more boxes and people behind the counter going through papers. The secretary of señor Rodriguez was giving instructions which I did not understand clearly, and towards the front of the room near the street was a long counter separating the room in half. A long counter so that the people entering from the street couldn’t reach the boxes on the other side. Then I went walking toward what looked like the patio I had seen when I walked in. But now I could see clearly there were many men in there: Why? I thought I understood why they were there, but I didn’t know why I was here at all?

So I went back to my bench and soon it was closing time. Everybody was going home except for a couple more policemen who arrived, maybe four or five; one or two of them went to the patio where the men prisoners were, and one went to the front doors looking and closing them better. Two of them sat by a table not far from my bench. I wanted to sleep, so after yawning and  saying goodnight, I said to them “I wish I could have a drink of something strong? my nerves are going to explode!”,  Pedro said, “We’ll see,” so I just had a glass of water.

Me now, Painting writing living to which I am getting costume to it

Me now, Painting writing living to which I am getting costume to it

I was still shaking a little, because there weren’t  any women there that I could see, except the old lady  in the corner at La bodega de la esquina.  The front door was half open with the policia talking to the one standing  in the street. I finally closed my eyes and in no time I felt someone standing in front of me , I opened my eyes in fear and there was Pepe with that crocodile smile, picara, passing into my hands a flask of rum and a package of cigarettes, I asked, ” Cuanto le debo?” but he replied , nada (nothing);,

God bless this guy, I’ll never forget him.

I drank up all that little bottle of rum and lay down again on the bench in a fetal position, with whatever I had as a pillow and went to sleep feeling okay: God had not forgotten about me.

Snoring in a sound sleep,  I was brutally awakened by the screaming siren of a police car, and through the  big central door came a few more drunk men covered in bruises.  My God,  they must have been beaten by the policemen! I did not move, I just lay there watching them all go straight into that patio where all those other men were…

Let’s get back to that dream whatever it was! Anything would be better than this..

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The black van raced along at great speed. “Where are they taking me?” Oh I know, to the American Consulate, of course!  That’s why he didn’t speak to me this morning when I shouted at him through the iron bars in jail. Or maybe even straight to the Aeropuerto de Maracaibo? I was feeling a little better thinking that as soon I get to Caracas to change planes I will call Walter in San Francisco, and tell him I am having a great time seeing Maracaibo! I would love to stay in the same hotel where we stayed! Sweet memories: we danced in the disco club until the wee hours of the morning. But I have to go to Canaima too, my brother is waiting for me. Walter’s memories are haunting me, and my love for him after all those years still makes my heart jump!

Guajiara India woman in a every day dress and I had one too

Guajiara Indian woman in an everyday dress and I had one too

All this made me feel nostalgic suddenly, and I was not very happy about Tad abandoning me. What a coward with a capital C! Walter would never do that– or would he? or did he? I will tell him how much I still really love him, no matter how many lovers or husbands I have had over the years!

The van kept moving, I think we went past the aeropuerto. “Now where are we going?” I dared to ask, but no answer. I need to open these dark windows to see, but of course they were sealed,  so I could only see a little bit, from where the driver and his companion looked through their big window, which of course was not tinted. I really would like to see and get some air, it’s an inferno in here! The temperature must be over 100F and the air conditioner does not reach back here. But I just shut up and said nothing at all. The AC seems to work only in the front cabin, far away, separated by bars. Of course the windows were sealed and the bars were locked.

Now I realized I was the only one in the baucan (van) wherever it was, with these two jailers, and they were staring at me, which did not look very good to me! “Oh not, not that, my dear God. They’re not going to do something like rape me!”

Finally they stopped the van and the doors were open and these two guys stepped out and closed the doors– what now?  I guessed they were buying cigarettes, liquor, rum, and then they would take me to a remote place, rape me and may be even kill me and no one would ever find me, oh dear God please help me!

They took their time in the store, in the meantime I could try to see where we were. It just looked like the street of a colonial old style suburb, but I could only see half of the store. I couldn’t see the whole picture because of the way the windows were blacked out, with my nerves on fire and my mind spinning thinking of hundreds of scenarios, none of them very good! At least I had the faith that always took me through life unharmed. My thoughts were interrupted by the guards getting back in the van and shouting “Vamonos!” I yelled at one of them, “What’s going on?” No answer.

After what seemed an eternity, I heard voices and another car and lots of commotion going on, but I couldn’t see from my seat. I was still handcuffed. Then the van came to a stop, voices and cars noises, and finally they opened the side door that gave me access to get out, “Out,” one of the jailers said, “out! afuera!”

It was a nice street in a very old colonial area, the sky was blue and clear with fluffy clouds dancing to a soft breeze and the temperature over 100 F, but I did not care!

At least I could breathe fresh air, not the putrefying odor of that jail! There was a big corner house, very old Spanish style, with those old windows I liked so much and some big wooden doors; it was painted a blue grayish color with white borders all around the entire house. There were women with children coming out of the right far door, and from the center door there were men in suits that looked like lawyers, going in and out.

Through the left door they escorted me, and we went inside to a big sala with a beautiful old wooden desk with lots of papers piled up, and many people coming and going, so I stood there while some policemen came in and took their handcuffs off me.

My guards pointed to a long bench down the room and left me, saying “Stay there.” So I sat there, immobile, I dared not move or even ask where the bathroom was. This was okay, I thought. The interior of this mansion was very elegant, a good place to be on this day.

I could see through an open door. There was a large inside patio with rooms around the square, and men sitting and talking. Some were shaving, talking, or drinking coffee. Oh I really wanted something to drink! They all looked like regular people. I felt like God was smiling down and I just sat and enjoyed the comings and goings of so many different people. What a welcome distraction! On the far end of the room, opposite me, there was what looked like a very private office. Only a few people went in. I could hear telephones ringing everywhere, but behind doors that were closed all the time.

I sat and sat until around 4 pm, I could see a big clock in the wall, that was visible to all. There were typewriters click clacking and the constant sound of a busy office. I thought, this big old casona must have been very expensive, maybe it belonged to some hacendados, a rich Spanish or Venezuelan family, maybe some big oil money from the black gold!

What A difference in dresses before and now

What A difference in dresses before and now

The private door to that big office came open and a very pleasant pretty young lady looked at me and said politely, “Please follow me.” What now!

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Book Scans Two0002

“Yes, I guess, yes,” said Maria, “but you cannot leave this office or go outside. You must just stay in that corner, so no one will see you. But I must put you back inside there at 5am because the other jailer is coming to relieve me and I will not be back until this evening. Hopefully you will be O.K.” What did she mean by hopefully? Well I couldn’t think, I just sat on the floor and tried to rest between her desk and the corner wall, away from the rotten, broken door left open all the time. So I could hear the noises of the giant square cell outside and the women cursing and laughing and screaming at each other with words that I had never heard before (and I heard plenty of curse words since childhood! They even expelled me from one school that my sister tried to put me in, because those were the first words I learned when we arrived in Venezuela). O my dear God, help me!…. but the night went by amazingly fast.

5 am: “hey, let’s go, let’s go!” My jailer walked out only a couple of meters from where we were, and I was following her very hesitantly. Then she opened that giant iron gate door, pushing the women away and telling them to back off. “Go in!”  “In there?” “Go!”  and she almost pushed me. I was carrying my poetry book of Khalil Gibran against my chest, clutching it for dear life, when they all surrounded me and I barely got to the first bed I saw and just sat there, with them all around me. One of them was walking towards us screaming “Let her breath mariconas (fagots)!” They just backed off a little, and this one came up and grabbed my book. “What is this?” I humbly but forcefully said, “That is dried flowers that I picked up hitchhiking from Mexico to here.” “What? Ha ha ha ha!” All of them laughed,  but she just stood there and said to the others, “Let her be.”  Looking at my book she said, “This is not Spanish,” and  I said, “No it is Ingles.”  “And you read Ingles?” she asked. “Yes, si”

The cockroaches were still flying everywhere, it was getting later, and the morning wanted to come in, even into this pocilga (pigsty). The smell was horrendous and the rats, well, they could not care less for these humans. I put my feet under me in yoga position and did not move. One of them brought a beat up steel cup, very dirty in my opinion, with water, and said  “Drink this and relax you are going to be okay.” “What?” “The men are gone.” What did she mean by saying the men are gone? Oh my God!

Tad picking Tomatoes through our trip

Tad picking Tomatoes through our trip

After a while, I don’t know how long, some jailers brought in coffee that tasted like pee water, and I had a chance to say “Please may I speak to an officer?” Yes, one was just here. “Si, please can I call again the American Consulate?” No need, the officer said, “they called last night and someone from the Consulado will be here this morning.”  “What time can I ask?” “Who knows? later…”

So I went back to my bunk, and they all still were there sitting on my bunk, all talking at the same time, and many if not all of them were scratching their heads. My head was spinning, because I was powerless over the situation for the first time in my life. All I could think was, a drink would be very welcome now, to soothe this pain!

There were some ugly faces and there were some sweet faces, and faces with cuts through their cheeks, some women with one eye, some limping, some had their arm in a cast– but they all had lice in their hair! Oh God! No! I have long hair, and it was in a ponytail, I thought, I must roll my hair around my head, to not get these lice or hair mites!

The hours went by miserably, slowly, and very disgusting, but I will not go into that at this point, everything I saw in there I will leave it for my book…

About noon the American Consul arrived, but he did not even speak to me. They just went straight to some office, with several people, and I could barely see them through the iron gate. In about 15 minutes or so, no more, they left without me. Why? I was about to cry or scream or do something crazy, when the head jailer came in with two others and opened the gate and said “Follow me, Ludmila Millman.” That was my last name from my marriage to Jack. Oh God, what now? I could not believe hearing my own name. So now I am out? (wishful thinking!) There was a police car and a black van, and the Jefe said “Get in!”

My dear God, what now?

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We sat in that scary immigration office at the border of Venezuela and Colombia.  Finally, after many hours of interrogation, we convinced them that we were just having fun cruising around the world.

Went to The horse Track, had fun wonn some money

Went to The horse Track, won some money

Using all my charm, and showing them my phone book, I persuaded them that I only needed to call the Herrera or Boulton families, or my political friend Rafael with a penthouse in Maracaibo. Although having so many influential friends, including my brother Anatoly who lived on Canaima, I really did not know who to call!  In this horrible moment, I decided to call Jack, my ex-husband, and I had Jack call other friends I had introduced him to at the Onda Nueva International Music Festival.

Finally, after all of the information I gave them, they realized that I was a Venezuelan citizen and resident and pretty well known celebrity from shows, and that my friend with me was just my lover, a harmless young American.

At that time, money was pouring from the U.S. to Venezuela, through the companies that General Marcos Pérez Jiménez had set up in deals many years before, and which were still in business. In other words we needed a friend to come driving to the border to pick us up and vouch that I was who I said I was, and that Tad was okay also.

This is were we are flying to Anatoly Island, from Maracaibo

This is where we are flying to, Anatoly Island, from Maracaibo

Boy oh boy, I was not a happy customer while we were in that hole full of rats in unbearable heat! I was drinking whatever I could find there! I found a little bodega, a hole with a piece of wood or old door for a counter, some fruits and veggies and some rum. And there, in this dusty place, stood one single bottle of “El Cacique King of Venezuela” rum, which I spotted immediately, remembering my wild social life in Caracas where that expensive rum flowed like water at the tables of the nuevo (new) rich people. But it cost more than we wanted to pay. We had no money to spare because we hadn’t reached our destination yet!

So I found a very inexpensive rum and Tad bought a bottle of wine to give to our friends when they arrived, as a gift. Well, I was oblivious by the time they arrived. While all the kissing, hugging, and introducing went on. I just said, “Let’s get out of here, we’ll talk in the van on our way to Maracaibo.” So it was goodbye, adios and gracias, let’s go. Finally we were on the other side of the border, so far so good. I was so happy and drunk and I started singing!

Rafael had come with his girlfriend and another lady that seemed to be an official, maybe an immigration secretary, and she was the one that signed for us and did all the paperwork at the border, before we could cruise on down the road.

I slept the entire ride to Maracaibo, well, to be honest I passed out, and woke up when I heard Tad say “Did we arrive? Is this your home?”  “Yes!” three voices sounded off.

I can tell you that the heat of Maracaibo is uniquely hot! I had been there many times with Walter, and then with Tony Aguilar on a tour with him singing and me promoting the Kent cigarettes that paid for the tour. We spent a few crazy days there at this condo of Rafael. We had fun; they were smoking marijuana everywhere we went, and I was snorting cocaine and drinking as much as I could. I am not so proud of the time we spent there. I was promiscuous and it left a bad taste in my mouth.

The time came to say goodbye and so we went off to the aeropuerto of Maracaibo. When we arrived there, we still had a few minutes to spare before boarding. Tad had a joint of marijuana he wanted to smoke before going on the plane. So we went out and sat in a semi-private area outside. I had been collecting some pot seeds as a hobby, and putting them in a silver little box that Walter gave me for cocaine. I was going to plant them somewhere. Sounded good and why not on the island, or better yet at my home in Los Angeles, in my own garden!

Then we heard the flight being announced, so Tad quickly put out the roach. Not wanting to waste it, I told him not to throw it away and put this barely a third of a joint, in my safari pants which had many pockets. We put it in a different pocket from my little silver box.

Walking to our line to board the flight, Tad went in front and passed me. It was my turn, and as I stepped up, this fantastic female officer, with a lesbian smile that seemed much too nice to me, started frisking me– she was touching me a little more than necessary I thought to myself! Then, when she touched the pocket with the little box, it must have been her curiosity, she stopped and touched it again almost like grabbing my calf muscle! I remembered what was in it and blurted out, “Oh shit!”

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We walked a few minutes down the little trail where there was no one around us, but there was a big tree in the tropical jungle providing shade, so I said “Let’s have a drink.”  “From where?” said Tad, “there’s nothing here no tiendas.” Well it just so happened that I had a bottle of rum and some cookies. So we sat on a limb of a tree near the entrance of a small river, where there were many places for little boats to get in and unload their merchandise. We were too tired and hungry to be concerned about anything but getting to Medellin for a hotel, rest and relaxation, after all this ordeal.

The sun was up and getting warmer, the tropical humidity was going to be very high from the shores now. We still had to walk through this unknown land, when finally we saw a real road! “Hey look at this, we are getting close!” Then we walked to what now became a highway with cars going and coming, so we hitched a ride too Medellin. What a beautiful city! We went to the first hotel that seemed okay, even if it was not classy, and we took a room. By that point, we did not care.

After sleeping and resting for a few hours, then getting ready to see the city and exchange some money, Tad asked me, “where first?” I said, “the bank I think.” So we went to the Bank to exchange money. There was music everywhere already playing in the early afternoon, with people dancing on the streets. It seemed that happiness prevailed everywhere.

Which bank, I don’t remember, but the exchange rate was not as good as we expected. So we went outside to see if any of the guys by the door who were approaching the people that entered the bank, to see if maybe they would have a better exchange rate, and they did. We proceeded to exchange the dollars Tad had to change.

Border Colombia and Venezuela waiting for Help S.O.S. .from

Border of Colombia and Venezuela 

Tad counted the money that the guy gave him, then I counted the money and gave it back to Tad. He counted it again and then the Columbian guy took the money from Tad and counted it again in front of us, then gave us the change money back correct. Everything was correct, and we went satisfied with the exchange of the money, happy, to the hotel to pay our bill.

But when we sat down and counted the money again, surprise! “What?!” Tad said with a loud voice. The whole amount was half of what it was supposed to be! We counted it once, twice, a third and fourth time. No, no, no good!  We had been fucked.

All of this contributed to my university; I know some fantastic people are saying that they went to the university of life. Many famous millionaires and other amazing people were educated that way, but I had the heart of a gentle gazelle, which was soon turning into a Cossack Warrior, awakening that nomad in me, including the drinking part.

We had certainly been taken by these Colombian con-men, for all that money, which thankfully did not stop Tad  from taking us out to dance and see a little of the nightlife in Medellin.

Oil in Maracaibo, Venezuela

Oil in Maracaibo, Venezuela

We stayed in Medellin for a couple of days, and on the third day we ventured off to continue our journey to Venezuela then reached the route to Maracaibo.

We went through an incredibly beautiful jungle, with houses along the route, little huts of vendors of tropical fruit and the smell of mangos, bananas, and ananas (pineapples) like delightful flowers. We spent another couple of days enjoying the Colombian countryside from Medellin to the border with Venezuela, and from Maracaibo we were to fly to Canaima. Maracaibo is located in the Lago de Maracaibo, Estado (state) Zulia, Venezuela, which is the largest lake in all of Venezuela and one of the largest places for oil extraction. The temperature is over 100 degrees fahrenheit everyday and only slightly cooler at night.

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We sat and waited on a broken bench with all our belongings, near the boat dock, as we watched the sunset. Then slowly, hesitatingly, we went over to the boat where the captain’s men were loading refrigerators and boxes full of other things; we waited to the side until they finished loading. Finally, it was getting dark, and that night there was no moon, so it was a smuggler’s perfect night, the boat would be very hard to see. There was contraband on board for sure, but even if they were transporting drugs nobody would be able to see us.

Waking around the Las Palms looking for a owner of a boat  that may takes to the shores of Colombia

Walking around the Las Palmas looking for an owner of a boat that may take us to the shores of Colombia

Captain Juan made a sign to us, waving his big hand, “Come on.” We got onto his boat while the crew prepared to cast out, untying the ropes. We put our belongings in a little corner space and just watched the show.

The sailors were just like Captain Jack Sparrow’s pirate crew; one of them had a scar over his face, another had one arm, and they all looked very terrifying. We were as careful as we could be not to leave our things out, and even so, we were soon missing some money from Tad’s bag.  But I had nothing of importance, so I was just watching Tads stuff.

We were too excited to go to sleep, so we asked for some sodas and paid for it. At about 4am we stopped in a shallow of a small river, and the captain, with a machete in one hand, came to us– almost scaring us to death! He said, “now my friends you are to go with him,” pointing to an ugly deformed man down in the water on a small dingy boat, loaded with a couple of boxes from our boat. “He will take you ashore to the Colombian shore!” So it was gracias and adios! I didn’t know if Tad knew about this arrangement, I couldn’t tell.

When and how some money disappeared from one of his bags remains a mystery to me because I did not leave his things, maybe when I went for a minute to the boat galley for some aguardiente or rum when Tad was asleep?

As we were walking, this women was standing next to this rotten boat whiting for her connection,  maybe her husband whit a contraband merchandise from Panam

As we were walking, this woman was standing next to a rotten boat waiting for her connection, maybe her husband with some contraband merchandise from Panama

We stepped down carefully onto a small boat, that looked like the water was almost up to the gunnels. I knew enough about boats to see that this was no good, plus this was a river of poisonous water snakes and big crocodilos. Our new Captain Raul is telling us with a knife on has sinch and a machete next to him, that was the reason why he was very well armed, meaning that he has a pistol, slowly I whisper to Tad, “you know? He can just kill us and we would never be found in these crocodile infested waters.”  We kept looking at him and being very alert, as usual we had no Plan A or B for what to do in that situation.

We had no weapons with us, not even a decent knife. I begin to pray and forget about my bottle of rum that I got from the cook. We said nothing, and sat on the end opposite to our new captain, his name he said repeatedly is Raul. I am sure none of the names were real! We whispered to each other as he started the little motor and we departed from captain Juan with a big smile, but which boat seems safer now?  This one is scarier! What would we do if he attacks us, takes our things and throw our bodies in the water?

Now we were really afraid. We said to each other, let’s sit a little further away, separately from each other, so we can defend ourselves better just in case he attack us. “OK?” I said to Tad. Yes was the answer, but we also did not want to be apart to far from each other in case the boat sinks. We were riding almost with water up to the gunnels of this little boat. I started a conversation with captain Raul, to distract him from looking at our luggage as much as possible and at me. Tad was telling him where we were from and that I was his aunt. Raul said it should soon be getting morning, we said to ourselves we hope. Dear God help us!

Tad was asking him how to get to Medellin from where he was going to let us off. Captain Raul said, it’s too far from the Pacific shores beach, you walk straight. It was still dark. We still could be killed by him or others that were waiting for him at the shore. At this time the stars became fewer, they seemed to have disappeared, a sign that very soon the sun would be coming up, just a few more hours to go. It was a full sky of stars, not that there were more stars, just that they were much brighter from the river. It was actually hard not to notice that fantastic sky in the middle of the dark waters. We were navigating in a very dark night, one of the darkest I ever remember seeing.

The light was coming slowly, slower than what we wanted! “Tad can you see land?” I asked. “Yes, we’re on the Pacific side, Colombia here we go!” he replied. “Hush,” I told him, “we are not completely safe yet,” still a long way from Medellin. Finally, after a little while we stopped, gave a tip to the captain and said our goodbyes and thanks, gracias and adios! With the outboard motor the boat couldn’t go any further, so we had to walk in the water to the shore. Captain Raul said adios, and again we said goodbye. After helping us out, he had a big smile on his face with all the front teeth broken. It was an even scarier face in the morning when he let us off. In those last dark minutes, we knew we could still be killed by him or maybe others that were waiting for him and his cargo at the shore.

Our bravery only can be described as naive, or a case of muchas bolas (a lot of balls)!

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