The book Ready Player One sent me down memory lane this week. The journey was not triggered by the author’s excessive references to the 1980s, which border on obsessive. Rather, it was the name of the massive virtual reality simulation used by characters in this dystopian future to escape their grim surroundings: The OASIS. You see, that was also the name of my grandfather’s country estate, the setting where a disproportionate share of my treasured childhood memories were created.
La Quinta Oasis was a bucolic old whitewashed house with a massive stone staircase, three foot thick adobe walls and wooden window shutters that, when closed at night, would submerge the residence in pitch darkness. With no running water, electricity, phone or indoor plumbing, the only modern convenience was the battery transistor radio on which my uncles would listen to “Chucho el Roto”, a radio soap opera. The Spanish fighting roosters crowed long before sunrise, making it difficult to fall back asleep as the prospects of each new day's adventures danced in my head. Days were spent swinging from ropes strategically hung on three eucalyptus trees, catching grasshoppers, sliding down a steep creek bank or collecting the ancient bullets lodged in the eroded hillsides that made-up the limitless “back yard”. After a long day, I’d fashion small figures from the wax dripping off the candles as grownups held conversations. My two chain-smoking bachelor uncles, Rolo and Arturo, who seemed to me real-life Marlboro men, would chat it up with my grandpa and any of the frequent visiting relatives. When night came, I would pretend to be asleep so my parents might let me sleep over once again --it sometimes worked. Prior to locking the front door with a big old-timey key, a single shotgun round was fired to warn would-be thieves this was not an easy target. I could keep going but I’ve already rambled more than usual. One childhood memory the book didn’t trigger was eating donuts. That’s because we didn’t have them in Cuenca when I was growing up. I suppose that goes to prove nothing is ever perfect. Not even my Oasis.