In Mexico I noted two turns of phrase. You probably know "caballero" for
somewhere between "kind sir" and "chum." I find it charming. "Normalmente," I
learned means, "The world is composed of systems that demand respect, one of
which is currently weighing you in the scales of justice and avocados and so
on. Guess what; it's your lucky day... But you owe me." Example, "Normalmente
we wouldn't give you a refund for a defective product like this. After all,
you bought it! But today..."
It has been a while since I've heard anyone lecture on the benefits of travel.
The subject has become a little like cod liver oil; we have a memory of people
explaining that it is good for you, but we forget why. I was telling one
daughter that when jet travel first became a possibility we would have family
outings to Gatwick to go see people actually do it. There were viewing areas,
like you might find at the zoo. And now the zoo metaphor is no longer apt.
Show me a zoo where the animals wait in a check in line for an hour and then
another hour standing in zones one to five.
A friend was recently stranded at an airport for-- actually I've erased the
memory of how many hours, so horrible did it sound, and no doubt she has too--
while suffering intestinal issues. The account she wrote made me think of cod
liver oil on the hour every hour until you confess your counter revolutionary
But travel does reveal history, sometimes in surprising ways. For example, I
was ignorant until I visited Tule--which is famous for having a big, old tree
in a landscape nearly devoid of trees--that Jesus' birth was attended by
chickens the size of cows. Walking by the " mescal gin palace" we came to a
nativity scene in the main square. The usual suspects had been rounded up--
wise men, asses, bovines of two kinds, Mary, Joseph, Jesus in a manger. But
there were also chickens bigger than the bovines and the humans. Which is a
piece of theological and historical evidence that I expect to discuss with our
trio later today, after I've done my penance for blasphemy in LAX. My belief
is that anyone who was woken at two a.m. by his brain and told to draft a
letter to Trevor Noah, and who now finds himself having to listen to some
lady's video conversation, "How are you..you look a little fatter"; "No mom
I..." while still hours away from reunion with chickens, dog, cats... that
person I believe is entitled to a little blasphemy. Others may differ.
The program for the final day of our vacation was: more ruins, textiles, big
tree with nativity scene and chickens. The ruins were uncrowded, which was a
great improvement on all earlier ruinous experiences. This lot featured a
Masada-like retreat with a stone bath and one of the world's best ablutionary
views. You wouldn't want to wash the grandkids there though...bit of a drop
when they run to avoid the shampoo. Lunch was pretty wonderful. Even more
wonderful was our food arriving just as a bus group walked in. The
restaurant was large enough to accommodate them, but I wouldn't have enjoyed
the wait; the fire had only three pots on it. Three kinds of mole, one of
them supposedly pre-Hispanic.
Just when I was beginning to wonder why, in the complete absence of sheep in
the landscape, and year-round temps in the eighties, the area was known for
wool products, we called into one of the many weaving houses and were given a
very interesting demonstration of how dyes are made. I had a cochineal
beetle squashed on my palm. Purple. Add bicarbonate of soda. Red. Lime
juice. A different purple. The carding of wool, spinning and work on a loom
I'd seen before. Next came, "and what would you like to buy?" which was
always going to be awkward because I've owned a Mexican rug and so warned all
that these items don't lie flat. E. settled on a stylish poncho-like top.
"You made it?" "Oh yes." I whispered that I thought it unlikely that the
variety of weaves and colors and kinds of wool all came from one workshop.
There are times when you don't want to be right. E. bought the garment and
in the next town, saw exactly the same thing hanging from wire on a market
stall. The good news is they were asking three times what she paid.
At dinner someone who likes to play experimental jazz sax opened up in the
stairwell beside our table... which was also beside the kitchen. Yes, we had
no pull. Some people say that the bagpipes remind them of cats being
strangled. Here you could pick out exactly which cat was being attacked and
almost imagine the torture technique. No wonder groovy people nod when such
noises are made. Absolutely insider information.
J. took a different flight, necessitating an early journey to the regional
airport, where there is a barrier and a police person who asks you if you're
here for a flight. Had I been more awake at five of the a.m. and with more
than two words of Spanish I suppose I could have acted astonished and said,
"No actually, we were hoping this was another bar." Why don't they ask
something useful like, " Are you a terrorist?" Makes as much sense as the
guy dumping the vacuum-wrapped dried ham I declared at U. S. Customs, in an
effort to protect America.