"At that point, I am basically starving to death. My food consists of mostly mangoes. And at six in the [evening], I get in line for bread. This bread will cost me half a dollar, and that's what my food for the day will be."
The Photographer/Wikimedia Commons
It's not like you can just pop down to the grocery store anymore.
This, Busteq explained, is when the more professional criminals got into the mango game (stealing cars and iPhones isn't as lucrative when you're starving). They planned an Oceans 11-style fruit heist, and it worked. "So one day, a truck comes in carrying around five people. These five people get down off the truck, they climb my wall and begin shaking my tree. And they take every single mango left from that tree. And they drop them into the truck and take them away."
Busteq was lucky, in that he had the second mango tree in his backyard, not vulnerable to this kind of drive-by harvest and out of sight of starving strangers roaming around looking for something, anything, to eat. This, however, meant they would descend on the homes of other fruit tree owners in the neighborhood.
Who could've guessed a carelessly discarded fruit pit would one day need to be defended like the fucking Alamo.
"One of the neighbors realized there are like seven people in the yard of his house and comes out screaming. In the meantime, the guard of this [neighborhood] notices ... and decides it's not his fucking problem, and he runs. So the women begin screaming, and several neighbors come out, including myself. So one person had like an airsoft gun, and he begins flying around pretending it's a real gun. And he says something like, 'What the fuck's going on?' Acting all brave, trying to scare the people stealing mangoes."
It worked that time, but the guys with real guns weren't far behind. "Another neighbor two blocks away still has his mangoes. He tells me his two children were downstairs playing with a computer, and two guys on a bike came in. One points his gun and says, 'Open up the door, we want the mangoes!' ... The children try to run, and the guy shouts from the back, "Who do you think is faster, the bullets or you?'"
That incident ended without a loss of life, thankfully. And over the last month or so, Busteq's personal financial situation has improved somewhat ("The country is going down faster [than] ever," he adds). The mango season's just ended for this year, and the banditry with it, but Busteq is well aware that next mango season will bring the bandits back, hungrier and perhaps more violent than before. So he's armed himself:
"Harvest at your own risk."
Never forget that no matter who you are or where you live, you're never that far away from having to defend your dwindling food with a crossbow.
Robert Evans also has a book, A Brief History of Vice about how sex, drugs and bad behavior built civilization. It includes recipes for bizarre ancient narcotics!
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