THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ

 

BOOK FOUR:  THE BOOK of SCIENCE

 

CHAPTER THIRTY THREE

 

José Macias had arrived in the busy, young city of Saint Louis, Missouri, on that day that was adjudicated the one hundred twenty eighth anniversary of the founding of the North American republic; in consequence of which, the American hoteliers had raised their rates somewhat higher than that usual usurious status afforded visitors to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. He spent much of that day traipsing from guesthouse to guesthouse before, finally, securing a shared room for ten pesos... or five dollars American... which sum would have enabled many families of either nation to live comfortably for a week, meals included. "Hang it!" he declared to himself, throwing his hat upon the bed, and himself after... for his constitution had withered during his stay in Merida, and the American city was inordinately hot for a place so far north... "I am on holiday!"

          He awoke at dusk, hungry, and... as meals were not included at the guesthouse... he made his way to the Exposition, following that dictate to travelers that the Fair is best approached by night. No less than half a million electric lightbulbs welcomed the first-time visitor... the legendary Thomas Edison, himself, having assisted in the design of the Palace of Electricity. It was only one of several such great halls of industry and progress where were displayed marvels as, for example, Edison's new electric broiler - a device which could cook a steak to the customer's fancy in six minutes (or, perhaps, eight if he desired his meat well done).

          José acquainted himself with the grounds that first night under the display of fireworks and music of several competing orchestras; he assuaged his hunger by consuming several sausages wrapped in bread... thus, becoming, perhaps, the first Yucatecan to enjoy what would become famous (or infamous) worldwide as the American hot dog. (Additional comestibles making their initial worldwide appearance at the Exposition included the ice cream cone... which José sampled on more than one occasion during the next two, hot days... peanut butter, which he detested, and a strange concoction of spun sugar that was sold under the appellation "fairy floss", soon to be replaced by the more palatable "cotton candy".) Returning to the guesthouse before midnight, he slept soundly and, on the following morning, kept his appointment with Pieter Wallen, who was among those manning the Wrigley's pavilion; one of the dozens, if not hundreds of exhibits contained within the Palace of Manufacturers.

          "The whole world's come to St. Louis to get a mouthful of Yucatecan gum," Wallen enthused, providing the retired officer with samples which José tasted tentatively. In the Territory, there was nothing special about chicle, save that it was something with which a patrolling company could pass the time if in a locale where cigars would have captured the attention of the Cruzob or their dogs. However, the Wrigleys had flavoured the chicle with fruits and mints of various aspect... even licorice!... and coloured the sticks cunningly, so as to make them especially attractive to children (whose appetite for the free samples that Wrigley's representative distributed from their booth was prodigious). So busy were all the gum peddlers, in fact, that José finally took his leave, promising to meet the Belgian at six in the evening, at which time... Wallen promised in a hushed tone... they would dine with a man of importance at the German restaurant by the array of fountains that was called the Central Cascade.

          A few clouds kept the afternoon tolerable, allowing José to make a circumnavigation of the Exposition, beginning from the central axis of gold-domed Festival Hall where an international conference of diplomats was under way. From this, the Central Cascade fountains literally "cascaded" down past two great Pavilions to the eight Palaces that composed the intellectual nucleus of the Fair... the aforementioned Palaces of Manufacture and Electricity with six others, dedicated to mining, education, transportation, machinery, the liberal arts and, lastly, a Palace of Varied Industries (into which had been placed anything that didn't quite fit elsewhere). Hurrying through these, José stopped only to saunter through a chilled room, made almost arctic by a new technology that was described as "air conditioning" and to gape at certain cleverly constructed "infant incubators" that... declared the spokesman for the medical company that had brought them to St. Louis... would allow infants to survive as comfortably outside the womb as within.

          Perhaps, viewing these tiny, coffinlike devices, José Macias gleaned a vision of that great, mechanical future wherein all of the customs and accords of the past century... even those between mother and infant... would be rendered irrelevant!

          If the Palaces were the cerebrum of the Exposition, the mile-long amusements province, called the Pike, was its groin.

          On the advice of Roberto Urzaiz, whose knowledge of worldly pleasures was international in scope, José quickly toured... but did not linger at... the Egyptian Pavilion where... as others would confirm what the hermano mayor hinted at... many of the "authentic" Cairo belly dancers were amenable to exhibitions to private parties after hours. He sauntered through the exhibits dedicated to Mysterious Asia and the Tyrolean Alps... missing, however, the performance at the latter's St. Louis Inn of a young comedian of the name of Will Rogers. He observed certain inhabitants of Hagenback's Animal Emporium, who observed him back, noted the log cabin in which Abraham Lincoln was alleged to have been born and, also, a statue of President Theodore Roosevelt, sculpted entirely in butter... and his estimation of a society that could treat its leaders in so frivolous a manner was lowered considerably.

          At six, he returned to East Pavilion by the fountains, where Pieter Wallen was waiting to introduce him to Herr Wilhelm Katzenlöden, who represented himself as one of the delegates to the International Peace Conference at Festival Hall; also, a businessman and financier of Berlin.

 

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