Every day I enjoy my extended stay in Mexico a little bit more. Sure, there are problems here but where aren’t there problems? I’ve been here nine going on 10 months. I’ve heard my friend Pancho say more than once ‘in Mexico you are free’. That means a lot of different things to different people but I think it is fair to say that ‘free’  means that the rules are enforced only when absolutely necessary.

So what happens then? Robert Heinlein said  years ago “You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don’t ever count on having both at once.”

Octavio Paz devoted 30, 40 pages in ‘The Labyrinth of Solitude’ to investigating the ‘soul of [the] Mexican’. And I confess that most of his observations are too complex for this mere interloper. 

But living here in Sahuayo, Michoacán has for the time being answered the question of ‘what next?’ I have a purpose in life (again). I am involved with making things that I actually care about (again). Moreover, I am satisfied that the trivialness of sandal-making fits in with my larger and equally unambitious life aesthetic.

Life on a day to day basis is very satisfying. I give/take a language class, I run, I make sandals, and I write. That’s about it.

In the evening I lie in the hammock on my 3rd floor terrace and read and drink a little beer while I watch the sun go down. I patter downstairs in my barefeet and see what’s in the icebox for dinner. I turn off the music when it’s too dark to see, take down the hammock and lock the terrace door, then go to bed.

It is still dark when the first set of church bells sound at 5:45 am to announce the mass for the pious and the impending day for the others. I wait another 15 minutes for the pealing of the next set of bells before I get up to make my way downstairs to make coffee. And what’s the hurry? The sun doesn’t come up for another hour but the city is at its quietest; there are only the sounds of roosters crowing and the occasional dog barking in the distance. I drink a couple of cups of coffee and check email and do a little work.

At first light I reopen the terrace door, re-hang the hammock and settle into it with the last of my coffee to watch the sunrise over the twin spires of the cathedral on the east side of the plaza. And so begins just another day in my tiny little life.

Thursday was a typically good day but Saturday was not, although they both started in the same place; the Mercado.

Some new fruit has been showing up there the last couple of days. There are baskets of twisted pea-pod like clusters of fruit called Guamuchel. I had seen men and boys in the valley where I run carrying long poles with a metal hook affixed to one end standing under big trees poking and pulling the 3 inch long spirally clusters out of the branches. I broke one open and chewed one of the pieces and it had a nutty texture but not an immediately compelling flavor. Guadalupe says they ‘make your mouth smell’. I thought that was kind of funny when she said it that way. I guess it’s a learning English thing but it was funny to me nonetheless. And I smile inwardly every time she uses the word ‘poo-poo’ when we are having a health related discussion. Does she use the word because it is innocent sounding, or because she is married to a doctor, or because she is a Mom? It’s been my experience that after a baby pops out there is no subject too gross or too taboo for any new momma to bring into a conversation. Men generally speaking find it rather shocking when the gentler sex (thinking of Layla here) can open a new subject with, ‘I had to go to the toilet 3 times today’. Or like she said repeatedly the other day, ‘I about shit myself’; all said with that somewhat plumy British accent of her’s (which doesn’t do much to disarm that all too graphic image).

Another seasonal fruit that is being picked now is called Pitaya and it is from a cactus. Its season will end with the coming rains next month. They are about the size of a large apricot but greenish brown on the outside. When the skin is peeled off the interior is blood red and is deliciously sweet and reminded me texturally of kiwi right down to the tons of tiny black seeds.

Image

The last is called Cotorra and it is a tiny mango from the nearby El Rincon. It doesn’t disappear with the coming rains but its flavor diminishes; but for now they are at their most succulent.

On my walk down the hill on Thursday I saw that there were wanted posters up for ‘Lorin’; the large, noisy parrot that lived in the next block down. He apparently made a break for it when someone left both the garage door and his cage door open at the same time. I’ve never heard the little bugger speak but his screeching can be heard a block a way. (So maybe it was an assisted jailbreak?)

***Update May 8*** Lorin has been found and returned to the custody of his cage. I heard the little bugger squawking this afternoon and I asked the people across the street and it seems a neighbor  found him. Is that good or bad?

I always buy a 16 oz. fresh squeezed juice from my neighbor 2 doors down who runs a small stand out of her garage. I’ve taken to getting a mixed juice; a third carrot juice and two thirds orange juice. It is quite possibly the best 80 cents I’ll spend all day. It’s half gone by the time I get to the Mercado 4 blocks away.

I’ve taken to eating at Gaby’s most mornings. I rotate among her standard four or five offerings and on Thursday I had her delicious version of Huevos Rancheros; eggs smothered in either a red or green sauce depending on what else she is making that day. All served with homemade tortillas and beans. There is a guy who shows up once or twice a week and he always insists on sharing his avocado with me. Michoacán is the avocado capital of Mexico and the people here say that their avocados are the best in the world.

I bought 2 avocados on Thursday and picked up some other supplies as it was going to be a cooking night. The avocados cost me 20 cents each and the rest of the groceries, hand picked right down to the 3 pieces of fresh cut pork, and all from the Mercado, cost me another three or four dollars. I made a big pot of beans flavored with pork chunks and chilies and garlic; garnished with slices of avocado and onion. And I will eat on this for the next three or four days.

What to put on every morning is always a wonderfully choice-less affair involving only shorts, a t-shirt and sandals. The weather is typically 75° – 85° F which is about as perfect as perfect can be.

I go for a run most afternoons leaving the house about 1 pm and usually get back no earlier than about 4 pm. I sluice off under a rigged up shower on the terrace and then it’s boxer shorts and bare feet for the rest of the day.

Image

I spend all my time, except to sleep, on the third floor alternating between the laptop in the ‘study’ and the hammock on the terrace. The north terrace door stays open and a prevailing breeze carries through the floor to the large south facing street side windows that I also keep wide open.

Image

On the way back from the market on Thursday I scored a big bag of lawn clippings that I gave the guy that tends the plaza 80 cents for. I’m a do it yourself kinda compost guy and I am surprised that I wasn’t smart enough to think of hitting him up for his clippings earlier. So now all my vegetable wastes are combined with those nitrogen rich clippings and are at present fermenting on back terrace. You can’t buy a bag of mulch, potting soil, or compost to save your life around here so I was extremely happy to get this big bag of clippings, old roots, and attached clods of fertile dirt.

Saturday started out much the same way; 16 oz. glass of fresh squeezed juice, 4 block walk to the Mercado, another delicious breakfast. I had bought a kilo of bananas for 40 cents and a whole husked coconut for another 80 cents.

Out on the street a large funeral procession was making its way down Calle Madura to the main cathedral on the east end of the plaza. I recognized a few people but thought nothing of it until a man stepped across the street and told me they were burying Jorge Gomez’s 25 year old son that day.

I asked what happened and the man made a pointing motion with his finger indicating a gun. I thought, ‘Oh, shit’. I followed him, the hearse, and everyone else to the cathedral and stood there with the rest as they waited for admittance through the towering front doors. I stood in the back and it broke my heart to see my friend Jorge standing there with such dignity next to his son’s casket. I cannot imagine the pain of having to bury one’s child. I was thankful I was wearing a hat because I could wipe the tears out of my eyes without making a spectacle of myself.

Jorge was dressed not in black, not in a suit even; just his usual work clothes. I still cannot decipher his plaid short sleeve shirt nor pressed khakis or plain brown shoes except to note that the incongruity of his dress rendered the mass as something that was sadly ordinary; just another almost daily event here in this part of Michoacán.

Epilogue – I asked Pancho about it later that day and asked if he knew Jorge’s son and how he was killed. Pancho said that he didn’t know him but only that he was shot down on Thursday evening along with 5 other young men at about nine o’clock out on the boulevard. He said there was a gun flight between the bad guys leaving 4 dead and 2 wounded. So three other fathers, just like Jorge, had to bury their sons too.

Advertisements