Photo by Gary Denness
The author of On Mexican Time left his home in L.A. seeking warmth and sanity. Four years after moving to Mexico with his wife, he offers these thoughts on his new home in San Miguel de Allende, and where he came from...
"In California we don't talk much about Mexico. We've grown tired of the blank stares, the feigned interest, the allusions to Tijuana and the border towns, the beaches of Cabo or Cancun.
...Old friends are busy climbing up, clinging to, falling off career ladders. The conversation is the same one we checked out on six months earlier, different only in detail, with television and movies the referent, not live experience or books. I'm losing the jargon, the codes, the names of things. In conversations I blank on celebrities' names, hip expressions. Car alarms go off like crazy toys. Helicopters throb overhead, spotlighting evil. The nightly news imbues pedestrian acts with hysterical urgency. Few people walk for pleasure. There's little time to talk, and seldom of important things.
..."Yes, but what do you do there?" one friend asks.
How to describe a trip to the Tuesday market? A four hour dinner with Carlos, Elenita, Arnaud, and Collette in our patio by the Quebrada bridge? Waking up to the bells' sweet clangor? Hurrying along the cobbles in the rain, ducking under archways? How to describe Friday lunches at El Caribe, or checking out Thomas More's Utopia at the little bilingual library and actually reading it through? It's as if we have a secret life, in a secret place.
I used to like L.A.: the cool speed, the indifference to history, the near monastic life of house, car, house. It freed the mind to run along some ever widening horizon line. Flatness, the absence of affect: not a bad place for a writer. There's no world out there so you invent one. I can't muster that appreciation any longer. I want taste, smell, sabor, ambiente. I want the human shape to my days."
P.S. As an aside, some of you will remember my recent posts on the death of my friend Chris. I owe my knowledge of the author quoted above to him. Randomly, he sent me a book by the same author early last year which I only got around to reading shortly before his death. He told me he found the book in a bargain bin before a flight and thought it sounded like a good read. He'd never heard of the author until purchasing the book. After reading it, he sent it on to me. The very last time I spoke with Chris was to thank him for the book and to let him know how much I enjoyed it. He'd almost forgotten he sent it to me but he was stoked I'd enjoyed it. Now that I've started reading On Mexican Time, I see that Chris' spirit lives on, as I read a book I wouldn't know about otherwise, about a culture and people he loved so much.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
I concluded the 5 disc Ken Burns series "The War" tonight. WW II was so big, so dramatic, and so full of death and horror, it's really hard to get your head around. And part of the story in this series is that when the American vets and POW's came home, no one understood what they had been through, or even wanted to hear about it. But to hear these people tell of their suffering, their recurring nightmares, their hatred of the enemy, and gradual healing (in some cases) is perhaps the best way to start getting your head around it. You come away with the inescapable sense that the war fundamentally changed people, for better or worse.
One veteran in the film speaks of his best friend, who passed away in 2001 and fought with him in the war. He had a rough time adjusting to civilian life. He was from Alabama, and had been a hunter since he was a boy. But when he got home after the war he told his friends and family that he just didn't have the stomach for hunting anymore. He had become used to his prey being able to defend itself. Now that he was a battle-hardened killer of men, hunting animals who couldn't shoot back just didn't make sense.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Photo copyright 1992 Gazelle
Lately I've been watching the Ken Burns PBS doc "The War," and something which struck me powerfully (among other things) is that according to the film, an estimated 50-60 million people died during World War II, and of those, 405,000 were American. Almost all of these were military. Very few civilian Americans died or even experienced the war firsthand since a real threat to our mainland never materialized. The USA hasn't had to endure all out war on our soil since the American Civil War. We're spoiled that way like few other nations.
When the LA riots broke out in April '92, I in all my youthful stupidity decided to explore the heart of the lawless center of the city. I drove around and took some photos, none very good because the chaos and absence of any authority scared the hell out of me - I cautiously viewed most happenings from afar. The mood that first full day of the riots was what I imagine a war zone to feel like, although there was the added element of gleeful looting here and there. At a few locations, firefighters were hard at work without any police back up. Some rioters fired weapons at them. At most locations there was an eerie quiet, punctuated by bursts of angry property destruction. On MLK Jr. Blvd., I watched a young black woman as she feverishly attempted to smash the storefront of a small business with a brick. No one else was in sight. At one point she looked my way, and I swear she looked like a crazed zombie. Anyway, you're probably wondering what my point is. I'm not sure - it's an amorphous string of thoughts I'm experiencing. I would not recommend that anyone seek out a war zone, but I would recommend that everyone take into account that most of the world will continue to experience violence and chaos on a regular basis right on their doorstep.
You know that feeling of dread and fear and near nausea that you've probably experienced at one point or another in your life? Well, that's probably what most people are experiencing in the middle of a war zone...
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