Who am I kidding? This was the best moment so far….
I loved Si viviéremos en un lugar normal
by Juan Pablo Villalobos, enjoyed again the way that fiction can open up experience of home, patria, poverty, frustration, entrapment, and the inflationary economy in ways that non-fiction cannot. This post tells you a very little of the plot but does kind of involve a spoiler, so be warned.
En los anos ochenta en Lagos de Moreno, un pueblo donde hay mas vacas que personas y mas curas que vacas, una familia mas bien pobre intenta sobreponerse a los estramboticos peligros de vivir en Mexico.
On the amazon.co.uk page, this book is being sold as Quesadillas, rather than If Only We Lived in a Normal Place, and this description from the back is translated as:
It’s the 1980s in Lagos de Moreno – a town where there are more cows than people, and more priests than cows – and a poor family is struggling to get by.
Struggling to get by, yes without doubt, but this translation misses the vital point. I’d say rather ‘trying to overcome the absurd dangers of life in Mexico.’ Possibly bizarre rather than absurd. The rest of the translations are my own and done in a little too much haste, and all faults are mine.
This is, above all, a book about absurdity — of poverty, of politics, of life. The sense of absurdity that emerges from the anger that emerges from this poverty. That gut feeling that it doesn’t make sense pushed to its absurd liberatory conclusions that therefore other absurdities are equally likely to exist. The black humour that resonates so strongly with my favourite approach towards getting through the injustices of life. It is the same kind of humour found in The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist by Emile Habibi, describing the absurdities of Palestinian life under occupation. I adore the fact that both involve alien interventions from outer space (or do they?) because why not? (I mean honestly, why not?) What is stranger than reality, if not the way everyone ignores the injustices of its strangeness?
I can see, though, why they called the English version Quesadillas — delicious morsels of cheese melted inside a tortilla. For me, this use of quesadillas to explain the experience of the Mexican economy in the 80s is almost nostalgic, because here in the UK they remain a treasured memory as any semblance of the cheese required to make them does not exist here. But my own longings are beside the point.
Entramos en una fase de racionamiento de quesadillas que terminó por radicalizar las posturas políticas de todos los miembros de la familia. Nosotros concíamos muy bien la montaña rusa de la economía nacional a partir del grosor de las quesadillas que nos servía mi madre en casa. Incluso habíamos creado categorías: quesadillas inflacionarias, quesadilla normales, quesadillas devaluación y quesadillas de pobre — citadas en orden de mayor opulencia a mayor mezquindad. Las quesadillas inflacionarias eran gordas para evitar que se pudriera el queso que mi madre había comprado en estado de pánico, ante el anuncio de una nueva subida en los precios de los alimentos y el peligro tangible de que la cuenta del súper pasara de los billones a los trillones de pesos. Las quesadillas normales eran las que comeríamos todos los días si viviéramos en un país normal, pero si fuéramos un país normal no comeríamos quesadillas, por lo cual también las llamábamos quesadillas imposibles. Las quesadillas devaluación perdían sustancia por razones psicológicas, más que económicas, eran las quesadillas de la depresión crónica nacional — y eran las más comunes en casa de mis padres. Finalmente teníamos las quesadillas de pobre, en las que la presencia del queso era literaria: abrías la tortilla y en lugar del queso derretido mi madre había escrito la palabra queso en la superficie de la tortilla. Lo que no habíamos conocido todavía era el chantaje del desabastecimiento quesadillesco. (17-18)
We entered into a phase of rationing quesadillas that ended by radicalizing the political postures of every member of our family. We knew all too well the roller coaster of our national economy through the thickness of the quesadillas that our mother served to us at home. We had even created categories: inflationary quesadillas, normal quesadillas, devaluation quesadillas and the quesadillas of the poor — named in order from greatest opulence to greatest meanness. The inflationary quesadillas were fat to prevent the great amount of cheese from going bad that my mother had bought in a panic, confronting the announcement of another hike in the price of food and the tangible danger that the supermarket bill might go from billions to trillions of pesos. The normal quesadillas were those we would have eaten every day if we had lived in a normal country, but if we had lived in a normal country we wouldn’t be eating quesadillas at all, which is why we also called them impossible quesadillas. The devaluation quesadillas lost substance for psychological reasons, more than economic ones, they were the quesadillas of a chronic national depression — and they were the most common in the house of my parents. Finally, we had the quesadillas of the poor, in which the presence of cheese was only literary: you opened the tortilla and in the place of melted cheese my mother had written the word cheese on the tortilla’s surface. What we still hadn’t yet come to know was the blackmail of the cheese shortage.
Amazing. That encapsulates much of the humour, the next sentence captures how it hits a little below the belt, and makes it hurt:
A mi hermano no le gustaba ser pobre, pero la pobreza de los peregrinos circundantes no modificaba la nuestra, si acaso nos dejaba clasificados como los menos pobres de ese grupo de pobres, lo cual lo único que demostraba era que siempre se podía ser más y más pobre: ser pobre era un pozo sin fondo. (78)
My brother hated being poor, but the poverty of the surrounding pilgrims didn’t change our own, even if did allow us to classify ourselves as the least poor among this group of poor people, that only demonstrated that it was always possible to be ever more poor: being poor was a well without bottom.
A well without bottom — that’s what it is, isn’t it. And always you are afraid you have further to fall.
Two brothers are already embarked on picaresque adventures here — in search of their two younger brothers who have disappeared (meaning more quesadillas are available for everyone else). Their adventure involves a fight and a split — they lasted longer than I probably would have with any of my brothers, however. Orestes refuses to believe the story of his older brother that they have been abducted by aliens, (Orestes is our hero, they are all names after Greek figures — Aristóteles, Orestes, Arquíloco, Calímaco, Electra, Cástor y Pólux) and he continues on to the city, works out a con involving a machine with a red button, survives, returns. The unfinished shoebox of a house that he hates stands in the way of the development of a rich neighborhood, and they are evicted brutally, watch it torn down in front of them. It is all managed by their wealthy neighbour who also works inseminating cows — Orestes once went to play there with the son, eat their wealthy food, experience their wealth of possessions, and disdain. At one point he has to apologise to them, work for them, and oh, I burned with him. All these feelings. So familiar. There is, too, that feeling that things just happen to you and you have to react, the adrift feeling of circumstances pushing you here and there because you are not someone with the power or money to stand still, make your own fate.
Aparece una gigantesca nave interplanetaria…
— No puede ser verdad…
¿Y por qué no?
¿Por qué no, papá?
¿Acaso no viviámos en el país en que vivíamos? ¿No se suponía que nos pasaban cosas fantásticas y maravillosas todo el tiempo? ¿No hablábanos con los muertos ¿No decía todo el mundo que éramos un país surrealista? (180-181)
A giant interplanetary ship appeared…
— It can’t be true…
And why not?
Why not, papa?
Maybe we don’t live in the country in which we live? Didn’t we all know that fantastic and marvelous things happened to us all the time? Did we not speak with the dead? Did we not tell the whole world that we we were a surrealist country?
All the rules are off, and with clicks of the red button on Orestes’ little machine, the house of their dreams is built there in the field, reality constructed in ways that the poor are never able to construct their own realities:
al final, in the end:
Ésta es nuestra casa
Ésta es mi casa
Ahora intenta tirarla (186)
These are the fighting words, now there is something worth defending and everything is different.
This is our house
This is my house
Now just try and tear it down.
But, as always, the victory is terribly fragile.
Headed down to the Old Malt House in Bristol yesterday to catch a piece of the Bristol Radical Film Festival — the programme of shorts. With over 2000 submissions, the films they chose were wonderful indeed. In many ways short films face the same challenges as short stories — creating something to hold the attention, convey a message. To open up a character in a very short amount of time, or perhaps rather than a character a city, an aspect of human nature or action. These last featured in the opening film One Million Steps (Eva Stoltz), and this turned out to be my favourite. In truth what I loved most, though, was the feeling of the whole, seeing so many different kinds of film exploring various aspects of resistance. Still, this was brilliant and beautiful and expressive of so much in a very unique way.
An exploration of a city and its people through the sharing of the unexpected joy that dance can bring in the face of poverty and the destruction of the old and beautiful to make way for neoliberal development. From their website:
“Rhythm as a universal language, inspired us to meet with a city and its habitants through the rhythms of the steps we take in our lives. We chose Istanbul as our destination, a city of extreme contrasts that is over 2000 years old and subject to the expansion of a neo-liberal economy. What pressures does this generate? What becomes visible when we look at the daily steps and movements of the habitants?
With a small crew, we filmed for a week in April 2013. End of May 2013 country wide protests broke out and our initial questions suddenly became visible and audible everywhere. Not only did the movements of the people in the streets change – protesters and policemen pressing through the streets, people occupying a park to prevent it from demolition, banging pots and pans out of windows at 9pm – but people seemed to ask themselves different questions: how will this continue? How do I want to live and relate to my fellow citizens? What will be my next step?
Through the changing sounds and movements in the city, we felt a peaceful and creative resistance against a system that has alienated itself from the people and their needs. In the film we see through the eyes of the dancer how people reclaim their living space and fight for a piece of freedom. The dancer is a-political and playful at first, but then she discovers her affinity with the people in the protest and uses her dance as a powerful expression of solidarity.
There is so much here about life, music, daily resistance and extraordinary moments of resistance. So much about what it means to live with the destruction of neighborhoods as context — a blog post on the Istanbul places lost since filming is here.
This was followed by Silent Country (James Wren), a look at the future where even Bristish-born children of immigrant parents are being hunted down. I found it quite gripping — also curious that in the discussion afterwards some expressed that it needed exposition at the opening to set the scene, and that it was confusing. The curious thing is that Mark and I thought perhaps there was too much.
The Tomatoes Tree (Armin Mobasseri) — the struggle of two immigrants to cross the next border, the jokes and small talk of travel and the amazing contrast of this journey with that of the tourists wandering around taking pictures with their ipads.
No Te Conozco, Pero Te Necesito Para Cambiar El Mundo [I don’t Know You, But I Need You to Change the World] (Libres Films) — A wonderful short documentary on Rexiste, a political action group using art and action to challenge power in Mexico. I watched this and realised suddenly how many opportunities we missed when we were organising in LA, to use film to expand our strategies and our solidarity. Also, drones are being used in fascinating ways. But I could imagine the ladies breaking out the stencils after seeing this.
Cthulu Regio Entropy (Flavio Carvalho) — This one minute film is awesome with its accompanying text, bewildering without. ‘A probe launched. A flyby over ‘Cthulhu Regio’ in Pluto. Data lost.‘
The Movement (Shawn Antoine) — on the Black Lives Movement, but it gave too much time to the white lady talking about all lives matter, the footage from only one small protest…
Streets of Parliament (Lottie O’Connell) — I liked this combination of footage and views across East London. Not just because I love East London. But I sought what I knew in the montage, and thought it fit in well with the other types of short we were watching…
Pirates are the Best Customers (Alex Lungu) — I love infographicky sorts of things, and this was interesting enough, but if anything could have been said not quite to fit, it was this. That bit where the corporate executive is bouncing off the artists like a trampoline though? Amazing.
Austerity (Ranos Gavris) — a powerful short film returning to the world of narrative, character and resistance, a very slow, moving view into the meaning of crisis in Greece. The director was there, as well, and it was good to hear him speak about it.
Tree (Director: Sadegh Akbari, ArtDirector: Mohammad Zare, Storyboard: Masoud Sabahi) — I loved this animation, it was a brilliant way to end. There is nothing online about it, but here is a view of the story board
And the animation itself…
It’s very short, wholly darkly unexpected.
Short film is such an amazing media, I really need to remember to take more time, seek more of it out.
For more on film…
Even among the many books on economics and transnational corporations that I do not agree with, there are some among them that are at least rationally argued and relatively factual. But I rather enjoy when they are not, it allows me to stay awake through the boredom, mumbling angrily at the page and marking exclamation points and question marks in the margins. And their own contradictions and prejudices always come to the fore…a few choice quotes from my recent favourite:
Ford also expanded mechanical parts manufacturing in the United Kingdom (such activities are less sensitive to labor disruptions) and body and assembly in Germany, where the work force was more efficient.
Ah, racial…er…national profiling? Grand generalizations? You have to love them, especially when they’re tossed into the argument like olives of unknown provenance into a greek salad.
Increasingly, these disagreements within the US Big Three made it difficult for the US government to intervene effectively in their bargaining with the Mexican government.
Long live free trade! I wonder who was more vexed, the big three or the US government?
The UAW’s failure to negotiate better with the auto makers that had recently established in the United States also accounted for the disadvantage that the US Big Three face vis-a-vis their foreign rivals…
Is this the present or the past, who can tell? One thing I know is that it’s those damn unions again, always letting the home country’s corporations down…but I suppose if you can’t blame the workers for not kicking some Japanese ass, who can you blame for the American corporation’s failure?
The maquiladoras became the most visible symbols of the threats that low-wage countries could pose to jobs…
Again, if you can’t blame those greedy low-wage countries for the threats against jobs, who can you blame? Oh wait…
US government policies that fostered automotive production in maquiladora plants also altered the negotiating dynamic between the Mexican government and the US vehicle producers. The US auto makers learned about the low costs and the high quality of automotive production in Mexico, and the Mexican government learned about the benefits of rationalizing Mexican automotive production on a North American basis.
This is an extraordinary thing to say by any standard (unless you’re a patriotic elementary school teacher reading directly from a company brochure). It is especially extraordinary if you’re aware of the fact, as the author states earlier in the book, that Ford opened its first Mexican factory in 1925 and GM and Chrysler in 1935. And all of them had been operating there continuously for decades.
Sadly enough, the ongoing silliness of this right-wing hodgepodge of contradictory imperialist and free-trade theories kept me entranced until the very end! So I have now read a book in its entirety that I can never use as a source in good conscience, though I shall certainly find some of the original sources useful. I could have just read the bibliography…I suppose I know who has had the last laugh.
Ah, to write is such glorious madness, and to live even more so, the night is warm and full of stars and soft winds and the crickets singing…
Saturday night was full of the sound of…firecrackers? I am still not sure, I know gunshots, I know firecrackers, there was no pop, no hiss as the firecracker takes flight, no crackle as sparks fly up and burn brightly before fading into their fall back down to earth as ashes. Whatever they were, they riddled the darkness with holes and woke me every time I was about to drift into dreaming. And cars peeled out, raced down the road, cruised slowly with a ghetto bumping that ranged from rap to banda’s trumpets and I did not sleep.
So Sunday dawned and we got up and went down to breakfast. I checked us out and lied about why we were leaving a day early and the woman peered at me suspiciously though I wasn’t angry and wasn’t going to battle for my money back. I ate the extra night’s charges happily and thought about Ensenada. A final view of ex-ejido Chapultepec, fondly referred to as Calcutta by Jose, the view from our balcony and the dream denied of access to a white beach to lie on and the lulling of waves…still, I am glad that we were there and enjoyed it greatly. It is a different sort of enjoyment then that to be found lying on a white beach, but enjoyment none the less. I love windows to other worlds.
We were up and out of there quite early, and two bus rides later arrived into Ensenada where we dropped our bags at the hotel, and then went for a wander along the port’s shore. It was picturesque, but often I prefer the interesting, we passed this:
Caution no bathrooms…I am glad they were clear and warned me about it, because I was thinking that might have been just the place…
I love boats, so we paid $2 to an old fisherman to go out in one, and he took us around the bay which hadn’t promised to be too exciting (to all those who don’t love boats that is). I would have been happy regardless as the adventure is the thing (and being in a boat), but we came suddenly upon the grand wreckage of an old pleasure cruiser half sunk into the bay, and it was an extraordinary thing to see
gutted and filled with salt and water, rotting away to the music of waves and the sea lion’s discordant barking, they lay sprawled across every surface. They are amazing creatures really, looking so ridiculous on land, long smooth rolls of fat awkward and ungainly, yet in the water they have such beauty. The old fisherman who took us around ignored us completely and set us back down onto the little pier, where the safety inspector was waiting clipboard in hand to ensure we were still wearing the life vests that had been thrust upon us when he suddenly appeared just before our departure.
A little further down we came upon the fish market, like the sea lions you can smell it for some time before you actually get there…and you can buy delicacies there beyond imagining
We wandered a bit more, I lunched on a cream puff and some coffee. When it was finally time to check in we rested for a bit, the cool comfort of a nice room can never be over-appreciated I have to say. And then we wandered the city some more. We had lobster for dinner, and just after we sat down a very self-important and probably minor figure in Ensenada’s narco-traficante world came in. He had a round red face beneath a panama hat, squat body and bandy legs, he was dressed in money and no taste rather like a Texan tourist. And his money had bought him a very young girlfriend with a beautiful face running slightly to fat and a tendency to look rather peevish. He kissed her regularly and with much enjoyment, and luckily for us monopolized one of the wandering groups of mariachis. He clearly did not care for music, only for his ability to buy it, so was rather annoyed whenever they asked him what they should play next as he was also involved in the tedious work of keeping several waiters rather busy. His girlfriend was annoyed at being loudly solicited for ideas, and so by default we heard of the exploits of other more famous narcos in one corrido after another, but since I myself do love music, especially the live mariachi variety, I wasn’t at all sorry. I was just sad he didn’t ask me.
At any rate, we left the seafood spot, and stopped into a couple of bars, watched with enjoyment the Ensenada cruising scene unfolding before our eyes, wrote a corrido ourselves on a napkin in honor of the one-eyed cholo from Friday (ay juedita tomame un photo, que yo no soy joto, pero si soy un cholo, de Doheeeeeee-ee-ny…forgot to say that our one-eyed cholo friend claimed the neighborhood of Wilshire and Doheny, ie Beverly Hills…it wasn’t until later when we had all calmed down from what seemed a probable scene of violence that any of us remembered such a ridiculous statement)
And so we ended up in the very nice and old wood-framed bar at the hotel…I was buying a round and talking to the bartender and I was all “hey, I was here for new years a year and a half ago…” and he was all “I remember you! You were sitting under that window at the table over there!” and I was all “yep (though with no little surprise!),” and then he was all “You were with your two friends playing dominos,” and I was all “yep,” And then he was all “I got you to dance!” and I was all ”er…yep?” I don’t remember that bit but it’s not hard to get me to dance at all, so it is probably true. This was all in Spanish of course, very loosely translated. But it gave me a certain sense of homecoming. So we introduced ourselves and Arturo and I are now friends. And then Bev and I smoked the Cohibas procured at Mario’s restaurant under the “beach hotel” only that morning, and I was happy.
Monday was involved almost entirely in travel, after a breakfast spent listening to the radio playing old pop songs by Enrique Iglesias and Alejandra Guzman and Shakira…it reminded me of living in Guadalajara and I was suddenly filled with a great love for Mexico. And all things. It was a brilliant weekend.
A foggy morning in the ex-ejido of Chepultepec. We wandered down to the little restaurant for an excellent breakfast, un omelete de rajas con crema, chilaquiles, frijoles, happiness even though I could only finish half. We wandered out of the restaurant again, we heard the sound of tires peeling out, and through the arched entrance we watched police cars drive past going west, they must have turned where the road forks and then back they came going east…two cars, a truck, another car, another truck, they raced back up the road, lights flashing, sirens blaring. I walked through the arch to look down the road but they were already disappearing. And a minute later behind them came put-putting a tiny little car like a golf cart with a family happily oblivious inside. It was like the keystone cops.
We are back in el ex-ejido Chapultepec, but just for one more night, not two…And there are gunshots even as I write, first one, thirty seconds later another. I hope it is nothing. We got a reservation in Ensenada proper tomorrow but tonight there was nowhere available. Third gunshot, I hate guns. Fourth gunshot. A lot of cars pulling away. Fifth gunshot, they’re just fucking around, did I say I hate guns? I hate them.
Anyway, today was a great day…we walked down to the main road and waited for a bus…sixth gunshot. That one sounded closer. This morning we were waiting for the bus and there were three guys hanging out down by the fence alongside a little stand selling second hand goods. All of a sudden sirens blare, lights flash, and a police car and a police truck together pull over a van right beside us…I watch them for a minute, we’re a bit nervous you understand, then turn my head and the three guys have disappeared into thin air, vanished into the earth. The police get out with their huge automatic weapons, they confer. Seventh gunshot. We wonder if the bus will stop for us with them there, but it does, we get onto first one and then a micro to la Bufadora…eighth gunshot, I’m glad they’re just fucking around but it would be nice if they stopped now. So, la Bufadora, a natural phenomenon that is apparently very rare, there were a steady stream of tour buses headed there at any rate…small ones. We found out later that they were ferrying people from the cruise ships. Ninth gunshot, this is absurd.
And they’re interrupting my story, cabrones. So, we got on the micro with a man carrying a load of perhaps one hundred caramel apples fixed onto both ends of a pole, another with a khaki vest I rather fancied that had ‘professional photographer’ embroidered on the back in red…we wound along the coast and it was beautiful; if I come back here for a weekend I think it would be nice to try La Jolla beach, we passed it on the way, it was long and white, it was not fenced off, and apparently you can find beautiful shells there, I like shells. La Bufadora was…now there’s a loud fight taking place outside, you have to love Saturday night, I’m glad we’re tired and sunburned and in our rooms…so, La Bufadora was very cool, not astounding. Or perhaps it would have been amazing had there not been crowds of people lining the wall overlooking it…luckily they were all lazy and none of them felt like climbing to the top with us so we could look down for a while in peace. Bev says that the legend tells of a mother and baby whale traveling from the South to the North, and the baby whale gets trapped and so la bufadora is the poor trapped whale trying to escape and expelling the water from it’s blowhole. And that’s what it looks like, a huge spume of water that leaps up to oohs and ahhs from the crowd at regular intervals. I think if you were to stumble upon it alone, it would be spectacular. Crawling with people it is not quite so spectacular, though I rather enjoyed the gauntlet of tourist stalls on the way there: T-shirts of Zapata getting high, Bart Simpson as Che and an Aztec warrior, pharmacies selling antibiotics, valium and Viagra, knockoff bags by Chanel, the pleasant smell of churros in the air, chanclas of every description…
We took the micro back to the main road and then the bus to Ensenada to plan our escape. We passed fields of asparagus. We passed lines of farm workers tired and dusty carrying pails and waiting to get onto large yellow school buses. We passed piles of coconuts and stands full of preserved olives and chiles. We passed a Japanese restaurant with a large red sun above it, caricatured with slanty eyes and glasses and buck teeth. We passed a poverty that even coming from South Central is shocking. I had forgotten, funny how easy it is to forget when you don’t have to look at it every day. Or survive it every day. And we wandered Ensenada which is a great deal richer, but full of indigenous women and children hustling the streets selling bracelets and chiclets, they way they do in Nogales, in Tijuana, in Juarez, in Guadalajara. Everywhere in Mexico, such inequalities hurt my heart. And I wonder why they didn’t rise up and join the Zapatistas, why they came here. I wonder how such a precarious life of dismal suffering could be better then making a stand and fighting. I wonder if the decision was a conscious one or not. I wonder what I would have decided had I been in their place. I gave thanks for where I am; who I was born confusing as my worlds are sometimes. I am glad I am fighting, and I am glad to be alive, and I am glad to be here. And I am also glad I have no internet connection, almost two full days without being able to work and that has been a rather beautiful thing, though it is back to civilization tomorrow.
And er…those aren’t gunshots, they’re fireworks. They have to be.
We are five miles south of Ensenada…ex-ejido Chapultepec. Cars drive up and down every now and then outside the hotel. There is no other sound here, and no wireless networks at all.
If you keep walking west down the paved road you come to Faro beach quite quickly…Faro beach and trailer park. You can rent rooms there with kitchens, a space for a tent, a place to park. And welcome to chuntilandia! There are lines of washing. There is the smell of carne asada. There are ice-chests with beer, and radios playing rancheras and banda. Grandparents sit on folding chairs with their hard-faced tatted children and their children’s children in masses. The kids are lined up at the little store buying candy and snacks. You walk down the steps to the small stretch of beach and find it filled with more families; many of them are swimming in their clothes. To your left as your stare out over the ocean are broken down horses that you can rent for an hour’s worth of riding, and a wall that once bore a sign now half washed away saying the area is unsafe for swimming because of riptides. The remnants of what looks like a rather grand sea wall curve around with fisherman sat up on top. Before you get too far there is a fence, a guard, the other side is Estero beach resort. The people fishing on the other side are all white tourists. At least we are on the right side of the fence.
If you walk the other way you come to another dead end quite quickly, but you can climb up onto the wall’s ruin and follow it around past a new wall topped with barbed wire to the dirt road running to the houses behind the tents and short-term rentals.
The houses there are a crazy mix of anything that can be thrown together, the most common being a trailer entombed in a house, or a house built around a trailer…some feel more like one than the other. In one lot stood two toilets waiting patiently on a concrete foundation for their house to be built around them.
We passed Mario & Cookie’s house of love, un vato y su ruca on the sign and wedding pictures in the windows. There are a number of little houses here that are loved. But more that look empty, more that are abandoned and broken-windowed and falling apart quickly. Over a third are for sale.
In fact a huge amount of this whole town is for sale, or it feels that way. It feels as though it has lost its heart…or did it ever have one? I wonder if it is just an older prototype of what is springing up everywhere between TJ and Ensenada…the pockets of luxury play-homes, advertised by a line of billboards entirely in English showing the ocean, gleaming white houses with cool and modern interiors, beautiful women in bikinis. Mario at the bar said the resort has been there sixty-nine years and started out as almost nothing, a collection of trailers…some of the people in the restaurant had practically grown up there. They weren’t speaking Spanish. They were so obviously American in every visible way. I don’t understand how such a thing could be, but it obviously is.
Bev, Jose and I walked back to the hotel as it grew dark, and I attracted the attention of an old one-eyed cholo carrying a plastic cup of beer that was clearly not his first of the day. Like others before him he was taking no hints, to show off he had words with Jose about what neighborhood he was from, before it escalated the hotel owner kicked him out of the little courtyard…so that was exciting. We came in and watched anime until the coast was clear to go to the little bar next door for some bohemias.
I’ve enjoyed the adventure but…tomorrow we are getting the hell out of dodge for the day and look for another spot. Prepaid reservations now, that’s a dilemma.
Mexico lindo….so close! Saturday evening and I should be at the beach…but Davin is still sick, our host Dawn is now sick…so here we are. I think we’re going to catch a movie, I don’t really care since I am still deeply depressed though sadly no longer intoxicated. Too depressed to be funny at all. If I weren’t on a trip which always makes me think more than usual I wouldn’t even write.
Had a lazy day otherwise, everyone being sick…I have some photos to put up but am feeling supremely unmotivated. Last night there were a couple of coyotes living it up outside, I woke up and thought for a marvelous second I was home in Arizona and little and in the desert, but no, I knew I was in Vancouver when the 55 pound german bohemoth named Oz landed on top of me and started barking out the window. Am very tired!
Terrible day! Mexico, god! I swear Marquez was possessed by evil spirits! He needs a limpia (traditional and ritual Mexican cleansing for the uninitiated), and I for one, would be more than happy to break eggs over his head and whip him with bunches of ruda (rue), though he’s not worth sacrificing a chicken for.
Davin is sick so I wandered the conference alone most of the day…I mustered up the courage to walk up to and talk to my first complete stranger however! Davin has been doing the heavy lifting in that department because he actually likes talking to strangers, but I actually approached the swedish head of the international tenant union and engaged him in engaging conversation and it went over well, with me being half invited to a swedish reception later in the afternoon celebrating the returning of a stolen indigenous totem pole…the greatest threat to affable swedish-canadian relations for the past 10 years apparently! I didn’t go. I almost repeated the experiment, high on my first success, with a guy on the street who looked exactly like Clark Kent, but proceeded to trip over a crack in the sidewalk and so quickly changed my mind.
So I also wandered downtown, here are some truly touristy photos but with artisitic merit I think though I might be delusional.
The above is from the financial district, as is the fountain below:
and the waterfront is lovely…ther are sea planes! How cool are they? I want to fly one…
And from the walk back in search of food…
And this very cool graffiti, I’m impressed, i though LA had a corner on the street art department…