Rocking into Oaxaca, Oaxaca

1:00 AM.   Delerious, and exhausted.  We had been on the road too many hours, maybe twenty.  I talked between reality and a dozing delirium, confusing myself.  Dad was too deep into a trans to realize.   Back on winding roads, mind on auto-pilot, weaving down the mountain this time.  Our GPS lost track of us.  I suggested we pull over, any-forsaken-where, to sleep.  Dad reminded me we were told not to sleep pulled over on the side of the road.  Soon after, a gal and guy were on the side of the road flashing lights, requesting help.   It had been hours since we saw another car.  They may have been their half the day, who know when they’d next find someone to stop and help.   We left ’em in our dust.  Dad reminded me we were told not to stop for strangers on the side of the road at night.  #America.  I, too exhausted to really care, agreed: “Yeah, its a trick and shit”.  Or that was all a dream, I don’t know, delving back into my delirium.

We stopped at a drive up motel, but held out hope we’d soon hit the heart of colonial Oaxaca, Oaxaca.  Fromm Native Zapotec and Mixtec settlements, to Aztecs military posts, Montezuma II’s gold, Spanish conquest & Orozro’s expedition, Mexico’s Independence and 20th century Zocalo protests, the valley has two thousand years of stories.  Some of triumph, some of horror.  We found a “centro” sign, bared left at the fork, made a left onto the cobblestone and stayed straight for three blocks.  Lights, movement, the sounds of music, voices, laughter, banter and everything we were hoping for.   A wave of relief.

I jumped out, per instructions by Pops, to find wifi and book a hotel ‘on my magic app’.  I was SoOo happy to be walking around, out of that damn car.  And, in the old city center where the history is palpable and the patrons happily spill from the bar fronts.   It’s about 2AM at this point, and dad is talking to a gal on the side of the street while I’m skipping building to building for a free wifi signal.  Dad decides the gal might be a prostitute and stops talking to her.  I’m curious to find out and say “Hi!”.   Dad is damn far up the road, but I run him down before it’s too late.  We dart over to Hotel Trebol, eventually finding it on the corner of Calle Flores Magòn and Las Casas, a block from Zocalo.  It was dark, but I knocked loud.  Two dudes were half asleep on the big brown couches of the front lobby, apparently in charge of Trebol at these wee hours.  They were reluctant to let us in.  Something about showcasing my dad in our haggard vehicle swung us into favor.  They push the huge heavy wooden doors open and we walked in. It was vibrantly Southern Mexico, floral, stucco, arches and old wood.

1,455 KM, which is nearly 25 hours if you realistically consider the drive.  At this point, I’ve no faith in smooth sailing.  Everything will look better in the morning.  It always does.


Up into Sierra Madres with God

The roasting sun sank in the sky and the late afternoon set into the fillet of the day.  The valley was still half filled with golden light.   A 35 yo pick up truck rumbled ahead of us, backfiring, coughing a blaze out of the tail pipe every 3 seconds, to a count.  Our windows manually rolled down, the hot air whipping through my dirty hair, passing green agave, massive cacti, dead brown brush, and wondering wild goats.   We were arriving at Huajuapan de Leon.  At this point in the road trip Dad was narrating all the road side signs in both spanish and english.  I made a jab at his ridiculousness.

“Hey son, did you see that one?  It said PELIGROSO:  Danger, if you don’t just shut up and drive” -Dad

We decided on the first restaurant Huajuapan had to offer.  Terezza, a cafe as good as any to rinse the dust off our crowns, and down espresso dobles.  Their baño was broke but I fixed it.  Within 15 minutes we stretched, reset ourselves in the vehicle and took back to the road. The sun had fallen to a low hover above horizon.

More than once we were warned not to drive at night.  But, we needed to make time and we had a jolt of caffeine.   Besides, if the next roads were like these last, it would be an easy ride.   Our eyes were fixed on the route’s next bold face: Asunciòn Nochixtlàn.   Friday evening crowds wandered through the center of town, causing us to slow to a dilapidated iguanic* crawl.

Our Map to Oaxaca

The twilight faded.  Big mountains stood before us, tops disappearing into the darkening sky.  A fat plop of rain dropped onto our windshield, either a challenge we accepted or an omen we ignored.  Wasn’t sure.

Dusk was submitting to the night.  Memorials stood on most of the road bends, usually Marie in pastel blue, no guard rail behind her, just the dramatic drop and infinite tumble. We ever-so slowly wound up into the Oaxaca Sierra Madres Mountains.  I drove at speeds that created my own parade.   White streaks of lightning ignited, flashing the blackness into a dim denim grey.  Flash, flash flash! Like God got a new goat’s horn, Cuerno de chivo.  CRACK, thunderous cries from the wide black yonders above, stirring the adrenaline, pouring on the ambience.

Sheets of rain assailed, the wipers frantic at full speed, my fists gripping the steering wheel.  Leant fully forward I searched for the road through the windshield, like searching for a sock through a washing machine window.  Pounding rain, jarring cracks of thunder, and my thoughts racing.  Red lights flash flooded my mirrors.  An emergency vehicle crept up my tail and I tried to pull over, hoping I wasn’t driving the car into a dive off the mountain.  I honestly couldn’t be sure. It was too dark and too loud. The ambulance, belching it’s sirens, swung around the curve, and the grim reaper sat perched in the front passenger seat, with half a cynical smile, and winked at me. I swear it. Does that mean “not today” ? Or, “see you soon” ?!

Hail now hammering down, bouncing off the road, steam rising up off the hot pavement, a shallow bed of mist. Hail, in Mexican mountains?? What does that mean, volcano? I calmly tell myself “You are going to die”.  Time to just accept it.   I look over and my dad has casually fallen asleep.  He’s snoring.  We are about to die and he falls asleep?!   Very well, a peaceful death for one of us.  How will the “How we died” conversation play out on the other side?   He’ll be chill, I doubt he’ll blame me.   I make my peace and continue to force myself to accept the impending death.  It’s natural, dying, leaving earth, it’s always been the plan.  I tell myself I’m ready to die, I don’t want to, but I’m ready.

But then I freak out again.   I summons the heavens on my death-to-be.  I re-work my demands as prayers.  I ask to be fully killed.  No paralysis, no vegetative states, no permanently physically disabled.  “God!” I cough out, insisting on his attention. We have a deal, God and I have had this deal for a long damn time, where it’s a clean kill. I don’t know for sure if he has outright agreed, but this is the damn deal. He respects me. He’ll kill me clean. Ok, so this is how it ends, I reiterate in my head, with my pops by my side, in a foreign country, on a mountain with rock on the radio.  Not that bad, honestly.  But something doesn’t feel right, I’m losing faith I the reaper’s re-emergence.   This isn’t my death.  Ok, that’s good, too.  Just as quickly as it began, the the sky cleared and the stars reigned gleamingly through the clearance.  Loved ones in the high sky, reminding me I didn’t survive alone, almost goofing on me for maybe forgetting.   Their spirits burning as fiery stars in distant galaxies, I can feel their grace, the gravitas of the divine.  The lightning now muffled by far-away clouds and tranquility restored.

I was ready to get out of the car, have a coffee and kiss the ground.  In the next town, San Pablo Huitzo, we’d rest.  I liked the vibe, connected with the energy, it was nice to finally be here.  Dad did’t jive with it as much as I did.  We bought an auxiliary cord and walked through the park, passing taco trucks, one after another.  Teenagers joked, couples courted, but most of the town was asleep. 10 PM. We drove to the recommended San Pablo Hotel, which should have been a walk.  Dad decided San Pablo Hotel was totally out of the question, without even slowing the vehicle down to look in.  Something about bugs, I think.   We hit the road again, and I sulked inside. I was ready to tap out for the night. But, plugged in we rambled on with Zed, Jimi, Freddy and other dead friends.

A couple hours later we made it to Asunciòn Nochixtlàn.  An old town, in the region of Mixteca, first founded in the 900s as a military zone.     Asunciòn Nochixtlàn.  It 2015-04-17 03.50.45was a one streetlight town and the streetlight didn’t work. -Dad.  It was nearly midnight and we needed food, or coffee, or a bathroom… something. For whatever reason, a pizza shop was still open. I thought I’d order a personal pie. Dad decided we’d order two family pies and 2L of orange soda.   Neither of us drink soda… We must have been delirious.   We ate a little less than half of one pie.   The coffee from the kitchen next door tasted terrible. I don’t know how she made it. Maybe she scooped up a roadside puddle and had an old diseased donkey’s crush the beans with its fungi-hooves.   There’s no getting a hotel here… What the hell do we do now?

*this is a made up word Iguanic: of or related to iguanas.

Puebla’s Rural Roads

Mexico is cheap, and hot.   It took us a few hours to get out of Mexico City.  A combination of Mexican-speed-to-action, distractions and traffic.

We have 4.5 days to travel 1,547 kilometers to Hard Rock Hotel to broadcast the radio show.    We left Tepoztlan and continued South on 95D, which was leading us into the only state Daniela advised we avoid.   Guerrero: where those 40 protestant students went missing (kidnapped and killed) with the help of the Mexican military/government (possibly).  This is the stark reality of political corruption, struggle-for-rule and centuries of violence serving as a means of maintaining social order in the absence of respected authority.

We turned off route 95D and onto a cross-dessert county road with far too many speed bumps (topes) to keep us even remotely on pace to reach Oaxaca before dusk.

We stopped for fruit on this new road, highway 138, rural Puebla.   It was a hot dusty stretch of sun-scorched country-side, and possibly the 4th circle of hell: damnnation of the avaricious, plunged into poverty.   But, it wasn’t, because the people were good-souled and well intended.  The middle of the ocean with a leaking boat, baling. Maybe help is on its way.  Family values and a humble hope in God.  I bought oranges, pineapple and bananas, and paid her double because she wanted nearly nothing.  Roaches scattered when I lifted the toilet tank to check for water.   The sun still sizzling.  My dad rather lap up his own sweat than take in any food from these road-front kitchens.

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A big billboard with busty women offered to wash our car, “lavado auto” asking but a few pesos.  In reality they only had scrawny Mexican men with mustaches and all the time in the world to lather us down.   Without debate, we sped up, rambling on down the road until the next tope, and again, (bump!) for the rest of the afternoon.

Religion on the radio, disguised as song, we were about a full day behind with only 4 days and 1,400 KM of unpredictable Mexican madness to navigate.

Mezcal + History + Beisbol = …

Today, Oaxaca, Oaxaca is good for gastronomia, especially protein-rich “Chapulines” which are crickets.   They toast them on clay cooking surfaces with garlic, lime juice and salt.   Sometimes they toast up grasshoppers too, with chili. To wash it down?   Mezcal, an alcohol made from the maguay plant, native to Mexico and sacred to pre-Hispanic Mexico.  Elixir of the Gods  with mythological roots, a lightening bolt firing from the sky, striking a maguay plant.  The “piña” [heart] cooked, split open and released a nectar.  Mexicans admonish it’s potency and solute “Para todo mal, Mezcal, y para todo bien, también”.   “For every ill, Mezcal, and for every good, as well.”  Most drink Mezcal straight.  The flavor is a bit smokey.    

Historic Mitla.   Somewhere between 900 BC and 600 AD. Mesoamerica was one of five ancient civilizations where writing developed independently.    And, as the Spanish so often did in their conquests, they conquered the people’s culture.   We did not think much about this at the time, we didn’t have wifi.   Or navigation.  Instead,  confusing roads and Mexican radio, dead ends, and driving circles until we arrived at a cathedral!   El sol!  It blazed unabated.  A bashful middle aged lady with brown wavy shoulder-length hair and tired eyes gave us a ticket for our car parking.  The parking lot had family restaurant, which had a wall armed with Mezcal.    The dusty, ancient, baking streets were lined with pitched tents selling crafts and souvenirs. I bought a bowl, a water and a Victoria. The Fab 4 were on the bottle caps.

Mezcal is actually a contribution of the Spanish. They brought a supply of booze over from Europe, and inevitably, it ran out.  They’d drank agave or maguey based drinks before, and took a hint.   They experimented to increase the alcohol content and came out with Mezcal. Of my favorite historic attractions: The 2,000+ year old tree, on the beautifully groomed grounds of Santa Maria del Tule.   Standing behind a 3ft high metal picket fence, and guarded by small fragile nuns is Árbol del Tule!   It so grandly hangs its big green cypress branches shading half the church property.   Children take field trips here.

Across the grass is a building with cafeteria tables segmented for 10 kitchenettes, which more or less offer the same exact food and drink.   We bought two tortillas and two drinks from four different shops.  We friended maybe 8 kitchen ladies, a range of ages, as we ate. In our return we stopped in a village for the Sunday market.  At this hour there was mostly tripe and gizzards unsold, and more than half the vendors were already packed up. Dad quiped about the department of health. I made messy avocado sandwiches for us.

Back in the car,I passed out for about 30 min. I woke up for BEISBOL!   Guerreros de Oaxaca my most favorite Mexican baseball team in the whole wide world.  Hot hot dogs with peppers and chili and Tecate cans of beer. Many locals were on call to help you out for a couple bucks. Busty young Mexican gals with thick legs and big faces wore short black mini skirts. They teased the baby bird mascot, he fought back playfully.

I convinced the hotel clerk, Juego, to be my drinking buddy.  Juego suggested we go to a boxing match.   He was excited about a fighter.  (?The son of Junior Seau, NE Patriot linebacker?) Boxing is a popular sport in Mexico, amongst Mexican-Americans too.   I thought Juego meant the fight was in Oaxaca, Oaxaca.  An authentic ancient city adventure in the valleys of the Sierra Madres!   We began up the cobblestone path through heart of the old town, Templo del Ex-Convento de Santo Domingo.

We stopped at a bar, sat on a balcony, crushed 20x XX, watched boxing in massive LCD, surfed spotty wifi, downed mas Equis, and kicked it with a few weird gals and mad laughs.    Drunk truck food. Half through the beers Juego told me he was a gang member since his days in San Diego.   A story of boyhood, juvi, and deportation. I asked how he got involved, why he joined. As he described it, for the same reasons I joined a fraternity. The camaraderie and power of community. “It was fun”. He described himself as a formerly “smart, good kid” that participated in class and prided himself on his academic success. When his cousin started getting bullied in the park, things changed and Juego wound up a high school dropout, wasting days getting drunk, causally causing ruckus, and then juvenile hall and country jail. He was a fascinating fella. Something about him I understood, we were on the same level. Between growing up with three sisters, a rebel mind, a touchy temper, all in the pursuit of a good life with good friends, we saw eye to eye. I woke up feeling like my brain was left sizzling on the taco fritter all night. I desperately pulled myself together and chugged water.

We would spend the next 5 hours in the Chevy-shit-box, winding bak up into the Sierra Madres, behind chicken trucks, along cyclists, with nature’s holiness.  This was the only road through.image. image

el primer día D.F.

We arrived in Mexico, around 10PM.  There’s one mission: get to Riviera Maya, alive, before my event kicks off, next Wednesday, April 22.  Only 1,599 KM of baking hot terrain to venture.

We woke up the rental car fella from his nap, and followed him into a shuttle vehicle.   He jumped out of the car at the first red light, unexpectedly, and have a quick goodbye.  The un-introduced fella I the front kept driving us around the airport towards what we hoped was the rental car services, and not a back alley robbery. The neighborhood seemed seedy.    The rental car services had our reservation, but no car… they had no cars available tomorrow, nor the next day…

We took a taxi to our hotel, and they too had our reservation but no accommodations for us… We walked down the street for beers, tacos, and wifi.  We booked at Casa Gonzalez for about 150 pesos.

Most the people that first night came off as hard and squaty.  Everything looks better in the morning though.

Mexico City, is commonly known as DF.  Distrito Federal, the district where the federal powers of the union sit, but not belonging to any single state (like DC) .  FD serves as the most important city in Mexico politically, culturally, educationally and financially.   Ciudad de México has 9 million people within the city limits, 21 million if considering the greater region.  It is the largest city in the Western Hemisphere.

The city was first built in 1325 by Aztecs.  They called it Tenochtitlan.  Two centuries later, Cortés and the Spaniards would intrude and cease the city.  Catholic churches replaced Aztec temples and the Viceroys claimed the imperial palaces for themselves.

A super sized city, with little worry of personal injury law suits or germs.  Round faces, business suits and bashful women, Ciudad de Mèxico vibes with the best of them.  Boutique and craft flourish on the same streets that are ladened with abandoned buildings and graffiti, like a Bushwick, but not so harrowingly far into a second city.

Walking the streets in the dry heat, I made my myself dizzy with sugar treats, a penny and a half each.  Sweet coconut, fudgey camel, sprinkle balls.  Basic addition/subtraction isn’t a strength for em vendors and my weak Spanish makes it messy.

Rested with a copy of “El Narco” in Zócalo, the main plaza, the heart of the the historic cente(Centro Histórico), along “the floating gardens”  Not very international group of people, a lot a lot of Mexicans.

We visited churches and ate tacos.  In iglesias, sit and pray, thank and praise, a new city, a weirdly interesting culture, another breath, another day.  Stout middle aged women sold Jesus faced tank tops, crucifixes, candles, rosaries and the alike.  Proceeds to a cause.

It was day two and we were already a half day behind schedule, and on the wrong road south, but on ward to Oaxaca we rode.

Daybreaking Brooklyn

I never wondered who was on the G train at 630AM.  A solemn crowd, your average, tired, introverted, unenthused straphanging strangers.

Cool trendy New Yorkers go party in Williamsburg before work, right?   Patrick doesn’t work but why should that exclude him from partying before the ass crack of dawn?  Same interests as any other party, right?  Just before getting the office on time…

It’s a warehouse party!!  Most the block was warehouses.  We entered were stamped and welcomed by a young girl with a smile and green eye shadow.   Straight to the back.   Lights and beats and raging babes glowing neon on the dance floor.  Dance, dance!   Felt like a long night out bouncing about on perico.   Daybreakers!  Dance, dance, dance and unlimited free juice.  Dance, dance!  The coffee was garbage, but the yoga pants and pretty, young, happy, party faces!  I’d say half were on E or yay, but who could know for sure.   We were engulfed in a sea of hipsters.  Young transplant Brooklynites….

A Novice in Nola

A celebration of cuisine, music, history, ghosts, swamps, and excessive indulgence.   NOLA; a celebration of life.

I arrived in the dark and taxied to an area called Lee Circle.   First, I’d drop bags and scoped the area, my block and the surrounding few style=”line-height:1.5;”>.  The receptionist at the hotel was cute.  Not too sexy, not too beautiful, but definitely looked like good fun.   A bubbling personality, world traveling, finding work, then vacationing, then moving onto a new city.  Something about her tone suggested there was more to the story.

It was raining.  I passed the WWII museum. “I’ll definitely visit the WWII museum, it’s so damn conveniently close to my hotel.”   Whispering myself another lie.

A lonesome-jubilee at “Cochan’s”.  Butter-fried meat pies and a pint of LA31.  A couple of French girls introduced themselves, after I introduced myself.    They looked like story-book ballerinas. Ballerinas are so damn beautiful.  I woke up with a ballerina many All Saints Days ago.   Back in the Frat fantasies really did come true.

I soldiered through the drizzle, down a barren block, thankful for the warm air.  I was looking for a dive: The Rusty Nail.  The way the ditzy-fun hostess reccomended it, I’d enjoy myself.   I envisioned an old pub where hell’s outcasts jammed their mental guitars, too tone-deff drunk to care if you liked the music they belched.  There’d be a big beer selection and loose local girls too classless to miss a happy hour.   Girls that enjoy wasting Wednesday evenings in the dark grungy dig’s of Louisiana’s back roads.   I envisioned I’d be happy.

I struck conversation with the big blonde babes about oil’s recent versatility in the market and how it’s influencing capital investments.   We also talked radio give-aways and how best to snort salt through a straw.   The rest of the night mapped together like a half-completed Vuze file.  I woke un-robbed and unimpressed with my unabashed self.

The sun wasn’t up just yet, but I had a fat file of work to flip through before breakfast.   I splashed water on my face, kicked myself some Nola knowledge and hustled down stairs to order a pile of shrimp & grits.  I devoured it with 6 cups of coffee and a business meeting on creative marketing.  We exchanged Central America travel stories and reviewed the nearby bar options. She was on point.

A few hours later I ate at NOLA PO BOYS.   A sloppy pile of delicious greasy goodness. I was in the heart of the French Quarter’s gaud.  Near Leffite’s, the Pirate-ghost bar.  Because they had one of my favorite drinks of all time, beer, I stayed a while.

I was advised to visit with Priestess Mariam, the Mambo of the Voodoo Spirit Temple, across from Congo Square in New Orleans.    Highest of the clergy, as mambo asogwe, she is responsible for preserving rituals and maintaining relationships with with spirit world.

The Spirit Temple was closed and that was the last effort I made to reach the priestess. The bar next-door was “Tonique”. As if this place was privy to making a pristine cocktail more eloquent.

I’d buzz through the afternoon, blasting off work emails and drinking more beers than my wallet thought I would.   I was lost in the history, haunt and charm of New Orleans.

Gripping half-a-six, I joined a haunted tour, accidentally rambling off insolence upon my entrance.   Our tour guide shot her grey-green marble eyes at me with a look I could quite read.   i was entranced.   She had endless stories to tell, some with laughter some with shivers.   The rest of the tour group thought we were dating.   The concierge knew we weren’t.  Her demo tape is still on my home-office desk.  I’mma help her get famous.