from the far end of the yucatan i hitched to mexico city. which was a stupidly long way. i was confused and unsure about where i wanted to spend the dia de los muertos festival thing and addicted to motion. and it was a sweet ride. the truckie that picked me up just as i was about to give up for the day drove me about sixteen hours and was great to talk to. we ate dinner in a roadside stop postered with pinups trucks and the virgin mary, with the other men in his convoy. they all stirred prescription amphetamines into their nescafe. in the morning he took me to his house to meet his family. Ricardo and his wife and five kids live in a one room bessa brick house on the outskirts of texcoco. his mother lives two doors down and she and i watched the novelas together after everyone made me retell my funny australian fauna stories. i don’t know where i’d be without Kangaroos: We Eat Them and my personal fave, The Time A Koala Fell On Me.
Ricardo was, like many truckies, an angel of the highway, but it was also a strange coincidence. in mexico i sometimes introduce myself as Juana to avoid the fifteen minute repetition of my unpronounceable name, and his sister Juana had just crossed the border into the USA illegally, with three young children in tow. we had an interesting conversation about the frontier, travel karma, and faith. there were many photos of the family in his mother’s house, dusted like the two glass coke bottles that sat on her old lady trophy shelf among the ceramic dogs.
having come all that way i figured i might as well head to Pátzcuaro for the dead people. Pátzcuaro is a pleasant lakeside town about twice the size of Alice, with a ye-olde theme and a beautiful public library. festival atmosphere, lots of eating and looking at skeleton art and wandering around talking to random bracelet sellers from mexico city. the famous muertos thing is on an island inthe middle of the lake. it was very beautiful, very touristy, very solemn and moving and frustrating and surreal to sit up all night with the locals on Isla Janitzio and wait for the other tourists to thin out. it was a fishing village until all this happened. and essentially that’s what we were doing. fishing for spirits. i didn’t catch any. i spent the whole night talking to a seppo, sorry gringa, sorry USAmerican who was living in mexico working with P’urhepecha people (whose land we were on) in León. and had another interesting conversation. and felt weird being white people talking colonial politics in a cemetery in the middle of the night where folks sat up with their relatives. being a kind of pilgrim and tourist at the same time. how many different kinds of stranger are there?
it was really fucking cold but the dawn was special, like a reward for endurance. i thought about the dead people i know. although i am quite morbid it is generally abstracted. i spend a lot more time thinking about the landscape of death than i do its population. most of the nights i have spent in cemeteries have been a lot less reverent. it was humbling to spend time with the specifically dead, even as a stranger.
well that’s that. i wandered around taking photos of candy and marigolds in their millions (their scent is supposed to attract the spirits; their bold orange attracts the sunlight like a living thing) and looking at art and being charmed by the little kids who were happily making play from their peculiar combination of messed up indigenous-catholic tradition meets commercial halloween meets humbugging tourists for money. lucky i am not looking for authenticity. and lucky i am not USAmerican so i don’t have to feel as shame for the halloween thing. i can relax into the pleasing images of our post-authentic world: the child standing in their yard with a monster mask on under a washing line in the sun, watching the world go by.
and it moves, creaking old beast, and it turns. times of monsters come to an end. i am happy for my friends in the US that they do not have to live in so much fear and horror or be afraid to travel because ‘everyone hates (US)americans.’ i am pleased the ceiling cracked and let a black man through. it is still a mess and there is still a lot of work to do. and he still might get killed by psychotic USAmericans.
i gave myself the day off thinking about politics and went to look at butterflies, which are pretty, alive, and constitute a suitably inane thing to do with the eyes after meditating on mortality. they are the same orange as the marigolds. i hope i never forget the sound of thousands upon thousands of butterfly wings in the silence of the forest. i had a great coversation with the guide about mining, water, and environmental protection in our respective countries, asked lots of questions, and stood around in a state of wonder. at least until i thought, ‘i am sure there is something more useful i should be doing.’
already the next book is CLAWING at me. i am looking forward to wrestling with it, and feeling much better armed than i was, though no better defended. will go to guatemala, work on carapace.