…having garlic ice-cream at the garlicĀ festival in Gilroy, is just one side of it…


“Isn’t it amazing, what turns some people on, does piss other people off?”

I take a forty-five minute trip up north to the city of Gilroy, known as the garlic capital of the world. I bring my lady friend Rosa along. She is from Cali in Columbia and resides across the street from me. The roads are clogged with cars and with some luck we find a parking spot. It’s the annual Garlic festival and thousands of people are jamming the streets of Gilroy. Rosa is a highly educated lady in her forties. She and a lady friend of hers who used to be a Judge in Cali had left Colombia for good, during the hay-days of the scrupulous Medellin cartel. Both these ladies fled into American exile during the time when Judges and police officers had prices on their heads. These were the days when they paid criminals and outlaws cash in American dollars. Each unwanted official’s head, was tagged with a price by the drug king pins in Medellin.
Rosa and I have some of the special ice cream. We try it walking past the vendors. Our plan is to sample all the food and drinks offered. This garlic ice cream is not bad at all! It’s only different!
We talk about Rosa’s country and my country and what is good for one might not be good for the next one. Rosa’s eager tongue finishes licking the last speck of ice-cream from her plastic spoon. Then she says: “The streets in Cali used to be lined with coca trees; trees with shiny green leaves and no one ever made a big deal of it!” Rosa takes my arm and leads me to where they cook the squid. “The Indians used coca leaves. They chewed them to increase their energies on day long trips to the city or back to their villages.”
We watch the spectacles provided by some cooks, who fry squid in large skillets. They use a moderate amount of oil and garlic by the handful. They pour alcohol onto the hot frying pans. Flames shoot sizzling up, ignited from the gas burners of the cooking source beneath. A cloud of sweet stinking garlic takes my breath. I decide not to inhale. Still I try a little. I sniffle and snuff.
The smell is not too bad at all. So I take a deep breath of the air pregnant with garlic. It is sweet and pleasant. I like it. I always liked garlic. I say that “Cocaine kills a lot of people!”
“So do bullets, grenades, rockets and bombs!” I hear Rosa say and know she is right. We go a little farther and try some garlic wine, it is different. It is not really my vintage. Next to us I notice a necking playful young couple. They are feeding each other whole garlic cloves. I buy a jar with peeled garlic, open the same and hand one clove to Rosa as I try one myself. Beside the hot burning sensation on the tongue and gums it is not too bad. I try another clove.
“Tell me Rosa, I read in the newspapers that Columbian men and women swallow condoms filled with pure cocaine. At times smugglers die if the rubber or latex balloons spring a leak.” Rosa knows what I am talking about and points out that this is really unfortunate. “People living here might ask their visiting Columbian relatives to bring them some cocaine. The way you describe is commonly used to smuggle small amounts for friends.”
“How else is the cocaine brought into the U.S. from Columbia?”
“Sure, small amounts are mailed or brought within a traveler’s luggage. For economical reasons drug traffickers prefer to drop-ship big amounts.”
“They stash these into planes, boats or trucks.”
“They can ship the cocaine in furniture, clay-figurines, and any type of concealing goods which a mind can think off.”

We watch people having fun at the garlic festival. It is late afternoon when we start the search for my parked car. We find it on the third attempt and drive south on highway 101 to Salinas and then west home to Monterey. Here I stop at a gas station. As it has to happen we run into some friends of Rosa’s. She talks with them and I join the group. They try to keep a safe distance of at least four feet facing us. Rosa asks “What’s wrong?”

Her friends try to be diplomatic they don’t say “You both stink!” They say instead “I must be allergic to garlic!” and “It’s like a curtain of garlic in front of you two!” Rosa apologizes and tells them that we had been participating at the garlic festival in Gilroy. She adds “I forgot how bad my breath must be for to you. I didn’t notice neither did my friend here!” and pointed at me.

We stop bothering her friends with our garlic breath and head up the hill to my place, where I cook dinner for two. I make Gambas Con Ajollo. These shrimps in olive oil, with plenty of garlic and lots of French-bread, are excellent and I cannot help it but have to mention: “Isn’t it amazing, what turns some people on, does piss other people off?”

by helmut schonwalder