Wednesday, February 27, 2008

on mexican time

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.


Paltihookus said...

BB (aka Gazelle), really nice way to remember Chris. Makes me wonder more about "checking out" to more simple, more human times somewhere in the world. Perhaps this a good place to retire. TCB, BB

Gazelle said...

I'm reading the section of On Mexican Time where the couple purchases a home and has to deal with lawyers, laborers, utility companies, and bribes. It's a bit sobering - makes Italy, NZ, or other locales a lot more appealing. On the other hand, the author still seems to think it's all worth it...