[the palaverist]

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

[en méxico]

So we're in Mexico, my brother Effie and me. I flew into Phoenix on a delayed flight Saturday, slept a few hours, and got into the car for a long, hard drive down through Tuscon and Nogales and into Mexico. From there we pressed on to the town of Hermosillo, got lost crossing it, and finally cruised into the tiny coastal town of Bahía de Kino, driving dead on into the sunset and racing to get there before dark.

Kino is really two small villages. Kino Nuevo is a string of hotels and condos and houses for snowbird norteamericanos. It's really nothing more than a strip against the water, behind which begins the Sonoran desert. Kino Viejo, the older fishing village, is more oriented towards Mexicans. There's a small fleet of motorboats for fishing, a little pier, a few taquerías selling fish and shrimp tacos, the sole breaded and cooked over wood fires. It made a pleasant enough stopover for a day on our way further south. Amusingly, the best food in town was to be had at the Restaurant Trailer Park.

On Tuesday we took off before dawn, driving the entire day and finally arriving in Mazatlán as the sun was setting. It was exhausting, and it took a while to find our way to the beach, and then out of the Zona Dorada, a hideous enclave of package tourists, full of hulking mega-hotels and restaurant chains from America. We opted instead to stay at the Belmar, a 1950s-era behemoth on the beach in Old Mazatlán, where John Wayne supposedly used to stay, and where nobody has done any maintenance to speak of since. It's musty and absurd, but it does the job.

I'm getting by on what Spanish I can remember, dreaming now in Spanish, and wishing I could remember how to conjugate verbs in more than the present tense. In Mazatlán most folks speak at least a little English, because this is a town where cruise ships unload — we saw a group being herded into a crafts boutique, all wearing stickers saying,¨I'm ready to experience!¨ and being told by the tour guide that this place was ¨just like the West Covina mall.¨

But Old Mazatlán is lovely, and as my friend Patricia pointed out, the beach is always real. Typing on a Spanish keyboard is a little confusing, and Mazatlán awaits, so I'm off!

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

[¡viva méxico!]

So I'm not going to Thailand. Instead, through the magnanimous gesture of canceling my ticket, I brought peace to that country, and instead I'll be heading to Mexico.

It was over Thanksgiving weekend that it became apparent Thailand wasn't going to work out. The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protesters — who probably don't think PAD Thai is a funny joke — were digging in at the airports they'd shut down a week earlier. Reports were saying it would take as much as a month to clear the backlog of stranded travelers. Then someone threw a grenade at the PAD protesters who were occupying Government House in Bangkok, wounding 51, and the PAD response was to give up the Government House occupation and focus on the airports. (If you missed all this, it's because it happened at the same time as the Mumbai attacks, and American news networks, like the human nervous system, can only focus on one painful sensation at a time.)

This all seemed like the ideal situation to not visit. And so, on Monday morning, I canceled my ticket and ate the change fee. That night — daytime in Thailand — the Thai high court told the government to dissolve, which it did, and the protesters announced that they would give up their blockade of the airports.


In the meantime, however, I hatched a different plan. Forget Thailand. Forget Asia. Instead, I would fly to Arizona, meet up with my brother, a student at ASU, and drive down to Mexico. I talked it over with him, and he seemed to think it was a great idea. Then I asked him what his financial situation was, and how much he could contribute to the trip.

"I have thirty dollars."

Ah. Okay. Well, I decided to go ahead anyway. I'll basically pay for everything. It'll still be cheaper than flying to Thailand. The plan, subject to change as always, is to fly in on Saturday, December 20; leave early Sunday morning and head east, crossing the border at Columbus, New Mexico, a tiny town whose principal claim to fame is having been sacked by Pancho Villa, and whose principal advantage as a crossing point is not being El Paso/Ciudad Juárez; drive south through Chihuahua and Torreón; and spend most of our times in the central highlands, around Guanajuato and Zacatecas and San Miguel de Allende.

I've never really traveled in Mexico before. I've crossed the border twice, once into the tiny village of Boquillas, and once to spend a grotesque evening on foot in Juárez, trying to ignore the taxi drivers who kept offering to take me to Pusi — that's the name of the local ruins, apparently — and to find someplace reasonably non-disgusting in which to sip Tecate. The sum total of my Mexican experience, then, is the equivalent to an evening in Newark and an afternoon in Antler.

I'm excited to experience Mexico as a nation, a destination, a place separate from the United States. Latin America has never been the part of the world that has most grabbed my attention, and I don't know that this trip will change that. But it will hopefull broaden my perspective and stimulate a new curiosity. I don't expect this will be my last trip to Mexico.

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[things i'd like to write about but haven't]
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[how not to apply for a job]
[pop is the new alternative]
[what does it all mean?]
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[our pakistan moment?]
[how to fail like an olympian]
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