March 27, 2009
We set out one morning to drive around the countryside surrounding Mendoza. No fixed plan, no itinerary. Stopping at a busy gas station, we saw the requisite stray dogs milling around the door leading to the convenience store, looking hopeful. Gypsies sat on low cinder-block walls, wearing long, brightly colored skirts and matching scarves in their upswept hair.
And there was this man, the traveling man's friend, an unpretentious entrepreneur. He stood outside the gas station selling wedges of sharp flavorful cheese and cuts of salami out of his basket. Using the flat part of the basket's handle to balance the huge wheels of cheese while he cuts it, he then drops it into a battered handheld metal scale to weigh.
Dogs stand nearby, close enough for a scrap but not too close, carefully watching the customers. The man, with his rent-free, mobile office and unfixed hours, sells sandwich stuffs to a couple on a motorcycle, who tuck the meal into a backpack. Guillermo orders some cheese, then salami, hungry as he always is for tastes of home. It is simplicity itself, and as the man wraps our lunch in white paper, we thank him, and are ready to be on our way. No health department permit and no business license, for this man, freedom is a basket of salami and cheese.
Antoine de St. Exupery said, "He who would travel happily must travel light." This man made happy travelers of us, indeed.
More photos on my flickr photostream, From Argentina With Love.