I keep saying that the main reason behind my extended hostel stay was laze, but that may not be entirely true. There was something keeping me tethered to that place, soldiering through every new batch of tourists, through every obnoxious night of hollering broken English in the living room while I desperately tried to get some sleep down the hall. And in my final month, while I was packing up all my belongings to finally move to an apartment, it dawned on me that I was genuinely going to miss the sheer adventure of meeting all these fucking weirdos.
My time at the hostel was populated by a wide cast of colorful characters from various nationalities and inclinations. Some were awesome, some were total assholes, some oscillated wildly between the two. Some I’d develop a lifelong friendship with, while some elicited a huge sigh of relief upon checkout. But all of them left some kind of impression on me, an indelible mark that shaped my idea of the world and all the craziness that lives inside of it, in a way that all of my insulated hotel-room travels never could.
And then there was Ramon.
My first memory of Ramon is that of a disheveled, intoxicated mess of a human being stumbling into the hostel one morning. He was drenched in sweat, with one long stream dripping off the tip of his nose. He had a patchy beard and was wearing way too many layers for a man of his size and stature, or for the mild autumn weather, or for someone who was sweating so profusely. And I remember his eyes were wide open, wider than any pair of eyes I’d seen in my life (short of that one guy on youtube who can pop them out of his skull), and when they locked onto yours it was truly frightening. You could see the manic, narcotics-fueled energy residing within. They were the eyes of a caged animal. One who was incredibly high.
I was hanging out with my receptionist friend Sebastian when Ramon burst into the house. It was about 7:30am. Sebastian explained to me that Ramon was from Madrid, visiting Buenos Aires on business, and had checked in the two days ago. He’d rented out room B, a private room, for a couple of weeks. Immediately upon checking in, he unpacked his stuff and left the hostel. This was the first that any of the hostel staff had seen him since he first checked in over 48 hours prior, and it was clear as day that he had been on a serious bender of epic proportions. Ramon approached the reception and started to talk. Or at least it sounded like talking– the sound that actually came out was more like a series of hissed, sharply accented, unconnected syllables only vaguely resembling a normal speech pattern of any discernible language. After a solid 5 minutes of monologue (during which Sebastian and I nodded along, occasionally interjecting with an “uhuh” and “yes, of course”), our ears must have adjusted to his strained hisses and we were able to discern exactly six words from what was surely a tale of epic proportions. They were:
Taxi, prostitute, policeman, throw, Uruguayan, pills.
That’s all we could really understand. From the 10 or so minutes that Ramon babbled on like an incoherent supervillain, those were the six words we could make out. And we came to the conclusion that he was telling us about where he’d been for the last two days, and that it involved some hilarious combination of the nouns listed above. String them together in any order you want and it’s still a crazy couple of nights.
I was just going through my old pictures from the hostel year and although I have scattered pictures of just about every resident who left some sort of impression, I unfortunately don’t have one of Ramon. But I did find that illustration at the top of the post, which looks surprisingly like him. If you want something more photo-realistic, I can tell you that he looked almost exactly like a super-unkempt version of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs lead singer Vicentico. If you don’t know who Vicentico is, shame on you for not knowing your mid-90s Argentinean ska bands. Here’s a picture to aid your mind’s eye.
Living with Ramon for a couple of weeks was an interesting if at times frightening experience. He mostly kept to himself, staying out of the house for days at a time, then returning to sleep for 13 hours straight. But the few times he ventured out to the common area and actually interacted with the hostel populace, it was memorable for a number of reasons. The main one being he never made any sense– he’d jump into these lengthy, rambling monologues that were just as confusing and unintelligible as the one from that first morning, and it was always incredibly manic and hissed. This isn’t an accent thing– I know my fair share of people from Madrid, as well as several accents from across Spain– he always sounded like a coked-out Voldemort spouting off random syllables. Secondly, he smelled. He smelled really bad. It was a mixture of B.O. and something else– something intensely pungent and acidic. It was disgusting.
I remember once, coming home from work, I found Ramon standing in front of the door, staring at the walls, looking very disoriented. He looked at me… and I repeat, I had just walked in from outside… he came rushing towards me with those crazy psychotic eyes and he said, with a genuine tone of despair, “I CAN’T FIND THE EXIT.” I was taken aback because, not only was it the most intelligible thing he’d ever said, but also because I had literally just walked in from outside. Through the big door that he was standing directly in front of. I pointed to the door behind me and he gave me a hug, then stammered out onto Rivadavia avenue. The stench stuck with me for days.
But perhaps my favorite memory of Ramon, the one that I’m determined to put in a movie, is that time he walked into the hostel with two lady escorts– a dark-skinned brunette and a pasty-white redhead– and tried to pass them off as his “cousins”. Hostel management generally had a rule against prostitutes, but Ramon’s claim was so bold-faced ridiculous that they let him take them into his room. We were all sitting around the common area when this happened, and we exploded in laughter when Ramon walked past and gave us a wink.
A few minutes after absconding to Ramon’s love nest, one of the ladies came out— clearly frazzled— and asked us to keep her stuff. She handed over her, and her friend’s, personal items for safekeeping. They were afraid of him… I think, justifiably so. About an hour later, Ramon would walk out of the room, in his underwear, covered in sweat, and asking frantically for a lightbulb. When a male hostel staffer handed one to him, he asked if they wanted to join them in the room, which was met with the quickest “no” I’ve ever seen anyone utter in response to sex, and a hearty guffaw from the rest of us who were so incredibly amused by the sheer insanity of this situation.
When Ramon finally left the hostel, he’d left his mark on all of us… but more than that, he’d left his impression on room B. The overwhelming stench took weeks to get rid of. And now I can’t listen to a Vicentico song without being reminded of that eternally-sweaty, pestilent whoremonger. I think I miss him.