Travels with Vi: Not Up There with Marco Polo, But the Best We Can Do

Violeta on the Face The Nation set at CBS DC. Is nothing sacred? 

Today, nothing shocking. You won’t need your fibrillator. Some not-too-coherent thoughts from south of the border:

In Guadalajara near the US Consulate there is the Estación de Lulio, an open walled restaurant, cafe and wine bar sort of place with unencrypted Wifi. Early on I could never remember the name and so began calling it the Libélua, or Dragonfly, and so it has remained for us. It is a hangout for students and people who want to do things with laptops or sit for a few hours over coffee or a glass of Merlot and read without being pressured to buy, buy, buy. An advantage is its being about a block from one of the city’s better bookstores, the Librería José  Luis Martínez.

Nekkid In Austin: Drop... Reed, Fred Best Price: $3.99 Buy New $14.95 (as of 01:20 UTC - Details) When Vi takes the CRV to Honda for its prescribed meals of grease and oil, she typically wanders around the José Luis a bit, buys something to read, and ensconces herself for a few hours in the Libélula. I stay home and write lies and distortion.

She has a nerdy streak, last time acquiring t Descartes’ Discurso del Método, something by Cicero and something else on Zen.

I think that reading philosophy is a sign of mental disorder. It seems to consist of very powerful minds spinning their wheels since they don’t really have anywhere to start. (“I think, therefore I am.” Oh. Rocks don’t think, therefore they aren’t. Or rocks are, therefore they think. I’d rather have a beer and watch old videos of Annette Funicellso in a swimsuit.)

Anyhow she is a scorched-earth reader, going through everything she can find by an author, Aristotle, the Pre-Socratics, the Apocrypha-all of the Aocrypha. My head hurts at the .idea. After my recent eye surgery we have been hanging out in the Libélula after check-ups. We could do worse. Like much of Mexico, the neighborhood has a pleasant European feel. This discovery should not cause heart attacks since Spain after all is in Europe.

I am not sure why anyone would want to look at the outside of a book store. It is a massive place of two stories, and contains everything ever written. I swear it. Everything. Though almost nothing in English. I throw it in because visiting Americans, the conservative ones anyway, are astonished and perhaps disappointed by unfulfilled expectations. They expect a decent illiteracy, as is proper in Latin countries.

The Ion Horse, a few miles from us. It is the world’s first physics biker bar. Customers drink free. Only the particles are charged. Slightly out of focus, a common condition on leaving the Horse.

People sometimes ask me why I live here. Various reasons. One is that Mexico is stubbornly itself. It is not conformist, not homogenized, not designed at corporate and imposed on the whole country by remote accountants in Jersey or somewhere.  Entering a pueblo you do not encounter a mall with JC Penny’s and Cracker Barrel and Ruby Tuesday’s and Taco Bell, the horrors that make America into one extended profic center. Downtown tin Guad there are  McDonald’s, Burger Kings, maybe Dunkin Donuts, all the stations on the road to coronary occlusion. In towns the bars and eateries are one-off and entirely local, each with its own flavor. I like that. It keeps all places from being the same place.

Au Phuc Dup and Nowher... Reed, Fred Best Price: $6.95 Buy New $10.95 (as of 08:20 UTC - Details) The towns all have their plaza, usually with a chruch, but these are all different, idiosyncratic, though usually with a central kiosko–used a bandstand during celebrations.

One afternoon Vi and I set forth with no destination in mind, just driving.  The day was sunny but not hot, we had nothing pressing to do, so we drove along the lake to its western end, turned south, and set forth along country roads. Encountering signs to Concepcpión de Buenos Aires, or Concha la Pedora as its people call it among themselves, we followed them. The land thereabouts is open, with sparse vegetation in understated greens and browns that for some reason I like. It is not excessively manicured.

Concha is low and level, buildings of an older style, with the common layout  There is in these towns a sense of time, of calm and permanence. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since 1517. You can feel it. Yet the kids peck at telephones, soccer plays on big screens, and the young listen to international bands on wifi. An odd mix.

We parked and walked. Few people were out, most being at work, chiefly in agriculture. The quiet contrasted with the bustle and traffic of Guadalajara. Concepción is untouched by expats. I may have been the only American to visit in a month, or many months.

Plaza, or part of it, at San Antonio Tlayacapan, near us. 

From the arcade on one side of the plaza came music, José José, who might be called the Mexican Sinatra.  On the other hand, Sinatra might be called the American José José. It was the only sound. We wandered over and found a small restaurant selling tacos and hamburgers. We sat.

The music came from the rocola, a jukebox, in one corner. The only customer sat at a table in front of it, a fellow of perhaps thirty, with his back to the world and a beer in front of him. He paid us no attention. The proprietor, as I took her to be, a brown woman in her mid-forties who looked tired, came to take our order, in my case a burger and a Corona, and chatted a bit. Where were we from? Ajijic, we said, on the lake. She knew it well and asked whether we liked it. Yes, I sid, not mentioning that it now has the traffic of an LA freeway at rush hour and that the huge expat population has turned it into Mexico by Disney. A Grand Adventure: Wis... Mr Fred Reed Best Price: $15.36 Buy New $15.42 (as of 03:45 UTC - Details)

Half a dozen songs, and then again, the man with the beer rising each time to put more coins in the jukebox. We liked his taste. Finally we were about to pay and leave when the tired woman brought us another round of beers, courtesy of the feeder of the juke. We thanked him, spoke briefly of this and that, whereupon he went back to his beer. When strangers buy you a drink there is always danger that they want more company than one wants to supply, but not in this case. We finished the beers and rose. He came to shake hands with us and said Que les vaya bien, which is courteous, and we left.

America is obsessed by race. Mexico is not. If you look like a derelict you will not be permitted in elegant restaurants, but it is economic distaste. Being of one race, or close,  Mexicans do not hate each other as we do, or spend all their time honking about racism. There is–not a color line, but a color blur with the lighter-skinned being at the top in presige, but compared to the US it barely exists. It declines as more kids of darker complection go to university and come out doctors and engineers.

While the country is not a monoculture, it is held together by a common Christianity, practically interpreted (never mind the parts about adultery and fornication) so you don’t have to watch your neighborhoods when walking.

Americans come to Mexico sometimes thinking to see short, squatty Indians wearing funny clothes. There are still some of these, but usually they are old, and their kids, much taller, peck at cell phones.

Actually, different Indian groups differ much in appearance, from tall, slender and green-eyed of light complection to darker with different features. (Headline: “Some of Mexico’s indigenous groups are as genetically different from one another as Europeans from Chinese.” Stanford Medical study.) Says the CIA Factbook, fewer than one percent of Mexicans do not speak Spanish.

Plaza at Jocotepec, twenty minutes from us. American websites hostile to Latin Americans make the persistent mistake–I am being chritable–ofinsisting that such towns are covered in trash.

Enough said. Times change. Some notice, some don’t. Sufficient unto the day are the burdens thereof.

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