In the Kronenhalle they find a table upstairs. The evening rush is tapering off. Sausages and fondue: Slothrop's starving.
"In the days of the gauchos, my country was a blank piece of paper. The pampas stretched as far as possible, inexhaustible, fenceless. Wherever the gaucho could ride, that place belonged to him. But Buenos Aires sought hegemony over the provinces. All the neuroses about property gathered strength, and began to infect the countryside. Fences went up, and the gaucho became less free. It is our national tragedy. We are obsessed with building labyrinths, where before there was open plain and sky. To draw ever more complex patterns on the blank sheet. We cannot abide that openness: it is terror to us. Look at Borges. Look at the suburbs of Buenos Aires. The tyrant Rosas has been dead a century, but his cult flourishes. Beneath the city streets, the warrens of rooms and corridors, the fences and the networks of steel track, the Argentine heart, in its perversity and guilt, longs for a return to that first unscribbled serenity . . . that anarchic oneness of pampas and sky. . . ."
"But-but bobwire," Slothrop with his mouth full of that fondue, just gobblin' away, "that's progress—you, you can't have open range forever, you can't just stand in the way of progress—" yes, he is actually going to go on for half an hour, quoting Saturday-afternoon western movies dedicated to Property if anything is, at this foreigner who's springing for his meal.
Squalidozzi, taking it for mild insanity instead of rudeness, only blinks once or twice.