By: Mimi Lipson
September 28, 2018

Part eight of a series of posts adapted from a travel journal originally posted on apexart.org.



If I had to pick a favorite building in Montevideo, it would be the Hospital de Clinicas.

It is the main public hospital and the only teaching hospital in Uruguay. I’ve been admiring it from a distance for weeks, and my printout said that today I’d be observing surgery there with someone named Gonzalo!

I wasn’t sure how to get to the main entrance. I approached from Av Italia and ended up in a rutted dirt parking lot where I ran into a medical student who was going my way. As we hopped between small lakes (it has been raining since yesterday), he told me the hospital opened for business in 1953 — which is a lot later than I would have guessed. Some of the floors, he said, are totally empty.

Love love love. The lobby reminds me of, I don’t know, a Bulgarian train station circa 1979?

Gonzalo met me inside, accompanied by a medical student named Maria Eugenia, who speaks more English than he does. I had though I would be watching Gonzalo perform surgery, but not so. He is an anesthesiologist, and furthermore, he wasn’t on duty. I wasn’t there to observe him but to observe with him.

We joined a long line of people waiting patiently for the two elevators that serve this enormous building. When it was our turn, we rode to the 18th floor. I saw no signs of activity there — just blank walls, yellowing linoleum, exposed ductwork and, here and there, spiky bunches of exposed wires. Was this one of the abandoned floors? No, Maria Eugenia said, it’s not abandoned. For instance, medical students come here to take naps.

We walked past a kitchenette, then a cement balcony with a vertiginous view of outer Montevideo. We turned down a hall with a row of doors, and behind each door was one of these:

This window-lined cement pod is not a spaceship, or even a 1950s television set of a spaceship. It is a surgical gallery encircled by a bench, on which we sat and watched the tail end of a hand surgery that was being performed on the 17th floor.

We hopped from gallery to gallery while Maria Eugenia explained the various kinds of anesthesia being used. It felt a bit like being at a peep show. One patient was suffering from kidney disease and needed dialysis, but her artery line has become infected. Her fingers were grey. I hope she makes it, but I had a very bad feeling.

If I had the whole day, I would not tire of being in the hospital, but Gonzalo and Maria Eugenia had places to go and I had a date with the fabulously named Ronnie Decker, an English ex-pat, to stroll around the British Cemetery.

It looked to be about two miles away, so I decided to walk. I wanted a chance to check out the shuttered city zoo, which was on the way. Javier told me that the animals are still inside, living out their natural lives in privacy. Once every last animal dies of old age, he said, the city can do something else with the property.

These were the only animals I saw.

I’d been waiting at the British Cemetery for half an hour when I got a call from Ronnie. There had been some confusion, and he was five miles away at Cementerio Central. Realizing that we’d missed our connection, I felt sorrowfully lonely. I can’t account for how badly I wanted this stranger’s company. Maybe it was his English accent, or the wet marble Victoria I was staring at while we talked. Ronnie heard it in my voice, I think. He offered to take me to a concert, tonight or tomorrow night, but I had to explain that my schedule was not under my control. No, tonight is an improv class and tomorrow the rescheduled field hockey practice. I have not dodged it after all.


One in a series of ten posts contributed by HILOBROW friend Mimi Lipson.

MORE MIMI LIPSON: Tube Your Enthusiasm: THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES | Wowee Zowee: THANK YOU | #Squadgoals: THE RUNAWAYS | Lost Objects: DODGE DART | Klute Your Enthusiasm: MEAN STREETS | Quirk Your Enthusiasm: HOW COME YOU’RE SUCH A HIT WITH THE BOYS, JANE? | Grok My Enthusiasm: 1973 SEARS ROEBUCK CATALOG and TRASH PICKING | Hermenautic Tarot: EUPHORIA | Significant Objects: HALSTON MUG | PLUS: HILO HERO items on Joey Ramone, Divine, Redd Foxx, Russ Meyer, Shelley Winters, Noam Chomsky, and many others.

CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: UNBORED CANON by Josh Glenn | CARPE PHALLUM by Patrick Cates | MS. K by Heather Kasunick | HERE BE MONSTERS by Mister Reusch | DOWNTOWNE by Bradley Peterson | #FX by Michael Lewy | PINNED PANELS by Zack Smith | TANK UP by Tony Leone | OUTBOUND TO MONTEVIDEO by Mimi Lipson | TAKING LIBERTIES by Douglas Wolk | STERANKOISMS by Douglas Wolk | MARVEL vs. MUSEUM by Douglas Wolk | NEVER BEGIN TO SING by Damon Krukowski | WTC WTF by Douglas Wolk | COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION by Chenjerai Kumanyika | THAT’S GREAT MARVEL by Douglas Wolk | LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE by Chris Spurgeon | IMAGINARY FRIENDS by Alexandra Molotkow | UNFLOWN by Jacob Covey | ADEQUATED by Franklin Bruno | QUALITY JOE by Joe Alterio | CHICKEN LIT by Lisa Jane Persky | PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | ALL MY STARS by Joanne McNeil | BIGFOOT ISLAND by Michael Lewy | NOT OF THIS EARTH by Michael Lewy | ANIMAL MAGNETISM by Colin Dickey | KEEPERS by Steph Burt | AMERICA OBSCURA by Andrew Hultkrans | HEATHCLIFF, FOR WHY? by Brandi Brown | DAILY DRUMPF by Rick Pinchera | BEDROOM AIRPORT by “Parson Edwards” | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | COMICALLY VINTAGE by Comically Vintage | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | MUSEUM OF FEMORIBILIA by Lynn Peril | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | MONSTOBER by Rick Pinchera | POP WITH A SHOTGUN by Devin McKinney | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | ANNOTATED GIF by Kerry Callen | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | NOMADBROW by Erik Davis | SCREEN TIME by Jacob Mikanowski | FALSE MACHINE by Patrick Stuart | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | UNBORED MANIFESTO by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen | H IS FOR HOBO by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators