Some Thoughts on Guadalajara, Travel and Life
Hotel San Franciso
My Journey through Five Airports and One Mexican City
I am on a plane looking out at the mountainous terrain of what I believe to be Kentucky. Maybe. To my right sit the older couple from New Jersey who compelled me to think, "I do not want to die next to these weirdos.", earlier in the flight. Strange how the idea lacked emotion or concern for death. I will soon be in Houston Texas for the first time ever. I am embarking on a journey to Guadalajara, Mexico - though so far I have seen mostly snow. Not in my home state of Maine. When I left Portland it was raining. But in New York. I spent a day and half waiting for it to stop snowing at LaGuardia. It snowed for thirty hours and they got almost two feet of accumulation. Unbelievable.
Kudos to the people of Texas for building the nicest airport I have ever been in. It is amazing. Clean and efficient, filled with friendly people and bright sunshine. They have an amazing tram system that links all the different gates. I ate a black bean burrito in a little shop near my gate. A beautiful and bored looking Mexican girl brought it to me. I notice all the men in Houston are short and broad and look like the kind of fellows you'd like to drink bourbon in a dance hall with. Loud laughter and wide butts.
The flight to Mexico is amazing. Due to delays and missed connections I end up landing at the Airoporto de Guadalajara at 11pm. The moon is full and and is as large and clear as wonder itself. La Luna. I am in awe of this scene when the women next to me says something in spanish. I turn, she is small and dark and has bright pink lipstick. She has two gold teeth which glint with cold white moonlight. "Mi Madre es morte." I stare at her, alarmed. Two tears trail down her plump cheeks, leaving silver tracks in the unreal light pouring through the tiny portal of a window. I glean from some rapid fire spanish she throws at me that her mother is dead, has died recently, and that she is traveling to Guadalajara for the funeral. She cries gently as she speaks, and I touch her arm and say, "Lo siento."
Customs, a concern from the git-go, was no problemo. Despite the late hour everyone is friendly and the process is clear. No one makes fun of my exhuasted "Hola! Como Esta!" I get the first stamp in my new passport book. Jalisco, Mexico. It is beautiful. I exchange my money - $100 dollars gets me about 1200 pesos. I am unsure of what this will mean, but it looks promising. I walk out into the cool night and am whistled and hollered at by about twenty taxi drivers, one swoops over and hustles me into his car. He is large and plump and looks a bit like Cheech Martin. I give him the name and address of the hotel in my slow concise spanish and we are off. He drives a hundred miles an hour with incredible skill. The city is a jumble of metal, wood, billboards,graffiti, scrubby trees, abandoned shopfronts, white walls and people. My hotel, Hotel San Francisco is in the historic center of the city on a narrow stone street across from a stone courtyard with a fountain. Next door is Sol Sexi's Bar, which is bursting with noise, laughter, shrieking and people. It is now almost 1 Am.
Like Nothing I've Seen or Felt Before
My time in the city center of guadalajara was amazing and life changing. The weather was wonderful, cool in the morning, bright sunshine and clear sky's, working its way up to hot by 2pm and then as the sun sank low it cooled slowly back into the upper 40s. The people were kind and beautiful, there were so many plump laughing babies I lost count. Everywhere there was history, in the buildings, courtyards, fountains, and the streets themselves. Hundreds of vendors sold every product imaginable. Musicians roamed about along with mimes, acrobats, and armed military. Outside the historic and commerce center the buildings and people changed. There was a stronger homeless presence, more empty shopfronts, stripped vehicles, and garbage, but even there the people were friendly, no one paid me much mind. Walking to El Panteon de Belen, an old and amazing graveyard outside the city central, I saw a park filled with homeless people. They hung their clothes on trees and bushes, had blankets and possessions strewn about. But even here in the park I saw an old man laying in the grass holding aloft a dirty chubby baby. He spoke gently to it and hoisted it higher and the baby laughed and laughed, waving fat arms around and the man laughed, his toothless grin joyous and momentarily unencumbered by his residency in a filthy park.
Sometimes walking the streets I smell pee, sometimes a strong smell like sticking your head into a big bag of dog kibble, and sometimes the wind brings the sweet scent of orange blossoms from the orange trees that line the avenues. Mixed in with these standbys are the smells of cooking food, wonderful, and the many scents worn by the Mexican men. Hair tonic, cologne, I don't know what, but these guys smell really good. Strong, but good. I can't stop looking; at the balconies, fountains, musicians, children, and people. The sun is hot and wonderful. The food is amazing and cheap.
My travels home are exhausting and incomprehensible. I end up at four different airports in less then fourteen hours. I am at one point starving to death and forced to subsist on a glass of cran-apple juice containing at best four ounces of actual juice and two packages of pretzels, both slightly larger then sugar packets and a quarter full of pretzels of the stick variety broken into pieces not much bigger then tic tacs. Another moment in time finds me wishing dead what I had thought to be a beautiful and angelic baby. It's capacity for high pitched caterwauling is beyond anything I have ever known. I eventually reach Newark New Jersey and find myself eating some soup and drinking Bass ale next to a large red faced man who is telling me about how his cousin got pulled over by a helicopter ( am I even hearing him right? He is speaking english, but...) going 180mph on the turnpike in Connecticut. "Right," I say, "you got to watch out for that." I am thinking of Hallowell, Maine in a way I never have before, with frank and limitless love and longing. I've always liked my home, but now it seems to me to be the softest and loveliest of places where everyone understands me and where I know just what to do and say, and where I am free to do and say nothing at all if I like. Home.
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