4:00, Spagna fountain

Those four beers got me nicely smashed and I slept soundly all the way to the decadently late hour of 9:30 am. Richard was up about the same time and raring to go, we have a lot to do today. He really wants to see both a slave castle and Kumasi, and it would be hard to do both via public transportation, so first we had to waste an hour negotiating a car hire with the hotel manager and the factotum of Servitransport, a consulting/construction/tour management enterprise located in a tiny office across the street. (Because of spurious connections with the global business network, credit cards usually entail a 15 percent surcharge, if they're trusted at all, and to rent a car outright requires an enormous cash deposit.) His price came to an aggregate of $100 for car, driver and gas, but Ramas the hotel manager said he could find us a better deal. Off to the White Bell again for breakfast, Richard armed this time with a drawing of sunny-side-up eggs that proved only partly successful. No more pineapple juice, we had to settle for Refresh, water and sugar and 20 percent fruit juice in a little box. I went to take a leak in the bathroom in back. As one stands at the urinal, there is a small window face high, from which one has a view of the side yard of someone's house. A women straddles her legs across an indentation in the pavement, hikes up her yellow dress and starts peeing on the ground, and the urine flows down the indentation and into the canal. O shit! No wonder it stinks so much here: those "canals" are open sewers! After breakfast we return to the hotel where Richard has an endless series of negotiations to conduct with Ramas on a variety of subjects, while I sit around wondering if we're ever going to do anything today. Finally, close to 2 pm, we are ready to go visit the National Museum. Just then I feel a tap on my shoulder and turn around into the friendly faces of James and Francis, who had stopped by to see how we were doing. It was a joy to see them, and they gave us a ride to the museum. The museum was small and not very well stocked, but much of what they did have was fascinating and revealing. The first thing you encounter on entering is a life-size model of a trader on horseback dressed for the weather in a wide-brimmed drooping hat and a long and wide canvas poncho that not only covered the man completely but most of the horse as well. There were some interesting paintings and collections of monies and tools and trinkets, but my favorite exhibits were the model of Elmina Castle, the grandest of the slave traders' forts, with big windows and doors and towers but only the tiniest of slits for where the slaves were poured out to be loaded onto ships—and two curious labels on two corner turrets: "Prempeh room" and "Prempeh wife's room"; the exhibition of Ashanti stools, which every Ashanti has and which symbolizes his existence, with examples of the symbolic carvings in the supports; and particularly the collection of speaking staffs. When a chief has an important message to impart to some village, he dispatches an envoy with a special staff that indicates the royal authority behind the message, and on the top of the staff is a carving that illustrates typically some well-known proverb pertinent to the situation. One such staff had a carving depicting a man standing erect and a smaller man hanging upside down across his shoulder, which illustrates the saying that "when a young man tries to jump over his elder, he gets stuck in his armpit," and was apparently meant for some village with teenage rabble-rousers. By this alone I felt illumined about certain things in Ghana, such as their easy and eager acceptance of the Bible, which is full of proverbs and pithy sayings, and the slogans that adorn not just shops but cars, vans and trucks. The museum has its own restaurant outside, Edvy's, which that day was featuring a smorgasbord of very intriguing looking native dishes for less than four dollars, but it was too hot to eat, so we set out down Barnes Avenue to introduce Richard, who had introduced me to the Caribbean, to Omeh's Beach Bar.

8:15, La Curia di Bacco

Barnes Avenue is broad and tree-lined and boasts wide sidewalks. Of course, that is too good to be true. First, they are retarring the sidewalks, then they're ripping them up with heavy machines, then south of Liberia Road all existence becomes again another market and, further south, complete chaos. On the minus side, they sell fish down here, so the garbage is even more disgusting, but on the plus side our noses are at one point taken over by the strong smell of fresh onions as we pass the "onion market," one of the few things here that is accurately and appropriately named, because an entire lot is filled with nothing but huge sacks bursting with onions. Richard is moving very slowly, but not complaining. It's another clear afternoon, but not unbearably hot. We admire the Nkrumah memorial and its clean and spacious and empty grounds, patiently walk in the sunshine past the large field, and let the sea draw us onward.

I remember from Alaska how visitors would come to the Aleutians from the lower forty-eight, stay for a summer and promise to return; meanwhile the Aleuts knew they would never see them again. So they loved me when I came back the second year. As we approached Omeh's, the proprietess happened to be near the entrance to the compound, and we saw each other at the same time. I waved, she threw her arms out wide and shouted, "My friend, you did not break your promise!" and kept her arms out wide until I was right before her, and then she closed them around me and pressed our bodies together from head to toe. Even for Ghana this was an unusual second greeting. I introduced Richard and she shook his hand and pronounced her name: Felicia. We ordered some soft drinks and sat down in the central ramada, as the few seats in the one closest to the sea were occupied. Future travelers take note: this is the most gorgeous, comfortable and peceful place in Accra. Richard and I were both immediately relaxed and content to just sit there. From the yard I helped myself to a pebble for Gerald and a rock for Kiki. Felicia schmoozed with some of her other customers for a while, then joined our table. She likes to talk, and talks not like a Ghanaian, shyly and incomprehensibly, but like a Jamaican, loudly and full of swagger, and we could understand almost every word. She told us many things, not all consistent with each other. She is a woman of twenty-seven years, then a strapping young Ghanaian stops by and is introduced as her eighteen-year-old son. She has traveled all over Europe, but doesn't like Italians, so I don't say I'm going to Italy, but we did say we're going to Kumasi, and Felicia tells us that she is "100 percent Ashanti," and wishes she could go with us and show us her village. She has had Omeh's for four years. The name comes from a man, also known as Mensa Guinea. Mensa means third-born son, and Guinea comes from the coveted Guinean pounds that Omeh had earned while working there. Omeh had built some sort of tall structure at the edge of the cliffs, but the sea eroded the cliffs and swallowed it, so by naming the place for Omeh, Felicia is pulling him back in from the sea. Felicia is particularly proud of how safe she maintains this place in this troubled area, and comes down harsh on the Rastafarians who hang out at Labadi Beach and rob and beat up people. Just then a tall, well-built gentleman with a rasta hair hat appears, and she explains, "He's a Rastafarian, but he's not like those criminals at Labadi Beach." When Richard asked about possible routes to a fort and to Kumasi in one day, Felicia responded with a mess of contradictions, but the rasta guy, seated across at the next table, who is apparently a well-traveled Ghanaian, gave useful directions to Cape Coast and the north. We were supposed to be back at the hotel to make final arrangements for a car at 5, but we were both so enchanted by the place and by its owner that we allowed our watches to do whatever they felt like doing. Felicia told me the next time I come I must not stay in a hotel but bring a tent and pitch it in her spacious yard; she has a girlfriend from Canada who does just that. Presently an adorable three-year-old boy appeared and crawled into Felicia's lap. He was crying and fussing at first, but when Richard asked to photograph the two of them he became interested, and when the flash went off he squealed with delight and remained delightful afterward. Fulfilling my unspoken wish, Richard then asked to photograph me and Felicia together. I moved to the seat next to her, into her waiting arms, and Richard took one shot, but before he took another I turned and looked at Felicia and she turned and her eyes fired into mine and the camera went off. I hope that's the moment captured. Sometime well after 5 we decided we couldn't stay there forever, much as we wanted to. So we got up. I stuck some cedis into the little boy's pocket, and he pulled them out and started playing with them. Felicia grabbed my wrist and held it tightly all the way to the limits of the yard, where Richard, having met her only once, received a handshake while I got abundant hugs and kisses. Me and Felicia were sure we would see each other again. Her big son had written down a mailing address, which didn't make complete sense, but we'll see if it works when the film is developed.

We walked up to the paved road and got into a taxi, which slowly crawled back up Barnes while the radio played a dance mix of Lisa Lisa's "Lost in Emotion," Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing," and Alvin and the African Chipmunk's rendering of "If You're Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands." At the hotel Richard wasted some more time trying to make arrangements through and with Ramas. I thought Richard was being a pain in the ass constantly pestering him to do this and call that and find the other thing out, but Ramas seemed to enjoy browbeating and bullshitting people, and Richard was just providing him with more opportunities to do what he does best. I went to the room meanwhile and accidentally managed to fix the camera, though too late for the many things I had beheld already because I had to remove the film and reexpose half the roll. Richard returned to the room upset that Ramas' "better deal" was $150, as opposed to the original $100, and the Servi guy, who wanted us to leave at 6 am the next morning, was nowhere to be found. I calculated the price of the gas entailed for our distance and thought the $100 was fair, and also thought we didn't have to leave so early, so I wasn't worried.

Since I was buying dinner (Richard, bless his soul, paid for the hotel), I suggested we check out some places mentioned in the guide to the east on Ring road. The first, Bus Stop Cafe (not, of course, a bus stop), is nice and lively but perhaps too crowded; across the road the Joysco is less appealing with only two or three tables on the dark sidewalk; and further down the road is the Paloma, located in a "modern shopping center," actually a cluster of small stores in an enclosed area with a large outdoor restaurant, a circular bar area and tables everywhere so you sit can down and order anything from anywhere. It was actually un-African, but the spaciousness and orderliness were appealing, so we stayed there. We both ordered fresh-squeezed pineapple juice, and received two large glasses containing the juice and ice. The doctors say, ice is made from local water, so don't drink it, and Richard, having just returned to health, was obedient, so I got to drink both glasses. I ordered some somosas and a small pizza with myriad toppings, which took a full hour to be delivered. But we had nowhere else to go. We noticed more white people in this place than we had seen the whole time previously, including lots of young girls speaking in British accents. My pizza was all right, the somosas were curiously bland, which was remedied by a good helping of the overpowering African hot sauce gracing each table. After dinner Richard took a cab home while I intended to sit by the circular bar and write some more. First I took a quick tour of the complex. The largest building is a hotel, on the first floor of which is an enterprise labeled "Sports Bar," and through the windows I can see waiters in referee shirts and televisions and pool tables, and I am disgusted. The circular bar is not a bar at all, just some tables at which are sitting mostly white people with British accents, which grated on my ear, so I hiked back down Ring Road into blinding headlights and over to old reliable White Bell to enjoy the Star beer and the dulcet music of Phil Collins.