So this is Christmas

Tzurumútaro, Michoacán, Mexico — 25 December 2007

Here you see the corner of our town plaza today, Christmas. I offer this as an introduction. The guys on the left are the good guys. The guys on the left are the bad guys. Got it?

The bad guys are the demons.

It starts with girls dressed up carrying – well, what the hell are they – going into the church…

…followed by some good guys (saluting), some bad guys, and the band.

And people with various iterations of baby Jesus, presumably to be blessed during this most sacred ‘Christian’ celebration.

After mass, they re-emerge.

The good guys are ready.

The bad guys warm up by threatening onlookers.

They don’t seem all that formidable, until you notice the gear they carry – chains and hooks.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The girls pound their colorful stick thingies with bells on them, the band strikes up a distinctive off-key refrain, and it’s fun time – the good guys start taunting the bad guys…

…and the bad guys attack, lunging at their legs with the hooks.

And connecting – notice the state of the jeans. You’ll notice that the good guys wear several pairs of jeans – and protective gloves. Notice that the good guys wear several pairs of jeans – and protective gloves….you’ll see why I repeat this in a moment.

The staged mayhem can get a little out of control…

..but it’s all an impromptu act, a play.

Everybody knows everyone else. Well, maybe, but hold a minute for that…

And besides, it’s Christmas. Ya know, Santa Claus’n’all…look again at this picture…

OK, a tad more WWE than Bing Crosby, but what the hey.

Then the girls and boys in white start doing a weaving in-and-out Maypole thing, and all seems kind of civilized. Wait, you say, Maypole? At Christmas!? Well, think about it:  no actually, don’t…because just now,

…the band strikes up its monotonous discordance once again.

And the battle between good and evil continues, Maypole/whatever be damned.

Anyway, it finally wraps up and people head off to – who knows. Hours later, they’re still wandering around town in costume. At least the demons.

But first they rest a while…

…giving a gringo photographer an opportunity to take a photo of another gringo taking photos – our Canadian friend Gary, who brought his wife, daughter and 12 year old grandson Lucas (‘this doesn’t really seem like Christmas,’ he confided to our son Jesse) to make up the handful of gringos observing.

Oh, Jesse. Did I mention that he ended up being a total pain in the ass this morning? I won’t go into details. If you’re the parent of a teenager, no further explanation required. If you’re a teenager or above (but not yet parent of a teenager) just think how incredibly oppressive-retarded your cro-magnon parents can be (which, curiously, your friends’ aren’t).

That kind of day. We go to our friend Donna’s for lunch and games (her family tradition) but eating wonderful food and sitting on her patio overlooking Pátzcuaro, blahblahblahing with Jerry and Shelly and Harry and Judy and Betty (we have five times more friends here in less than a year than we had in Spokane in almost two), enjoying a glass of wine or two, we decline to play Scrabble in Spanish or Monopoly in Turkish (f’real – Betty lived in Turkey couple years), The shared horror stories of teenage children serve as a balm to our souls, and on the way home we stop to buy carnitas para llevar (pork’n’tortillas’n’salsas to go) because we figure Jesse will be hungry and, pain in the ass or not, he deserves to eat.

But he’s not home.

I don a dark sweatshirt/hoody (good local look) and walk five minutes to the plaza to look for him.

Halfway there, saying buenas tardes to one of neighbors, a horn blares, and I greet Rick and Deb, and their parents Rose Ann and Errol, cruising our pueblo Tzurumútaro on their way home from a dinner in the big city Morelia (they all – well, except for Errol, who doesn’t give a shit about such things – wear black; we haven’t achieved that level of sophistication yet ;-).

Lots of people in the square, all eating – communal feast of some sort, as the Posada couple nights ago, which I didn’t quite get around to blogging about – one of several we’ve attended last few days, – sowweee!; styrofoam plates and cups left in the street because the planning, which may involve bringing huge metal pots in wheelbarrows, doesn’t extend to disposal of the disposables – all of which nonetheless have disappeared the next day.

No Jesse.

I wander by a cluster of giggly teenage girls, one of whom asks, ¿Busca Jesse?

Si, I reply.

Está en la tienda, she says, pointing, ‘the store.

Conosco ‘tienda,’ I reply with a wry smile (and giggles from them), gracias.
And sure enough, there’s Jesse, in the middle of couple dozen locals, several cradling cervecas.
One’s our immediate neighbor, others I sort of generically recognize. A slightly older (and slightly inebriated) guy affirms this is my son and asks my pardon for what has happened to him.

Meanwhile, Jesse clowns to a receptive audience.

Es un muchacho grande, I say to the ‘responsible’ guy, hoping that translates as ‘he’s a big boy.’
Jesse, I say, we brought you some carnitas. You hungry? Heading across the plaza, we (no actually Jesse: no, gracias) refuse a couple styrofoam bowls of food held out to us; all the way we entertain laughter, and at one point Jesse says to bystanders looking at his bloodstained trousers, ¡Pinches diablos! (Damned devils!)

So here’s the deal. In our absence, our son has been engaging the locals. How cool,
you must think, but consider that the locals whom he has engaged have hooks.

Is that blood? we ask. Yeah, he says, they cut my finger.

Then he shows us his leg. From the front …

… and from the back.

Remember my comment about the performers: Notice that the good guys wear several pairs of jeans – and protective gloves… Jesse has no gloves, hence his hand gets cut, subsequently staining his jeans. The claws tearing his jeans also tear his flesh, because he has only one layer of jeans.

The gringo kid joins the local fray, sin protection, gets his pants shredded by metal hooks, shows blood – which the performers don’t – all a bit interesting. Moments ago, as I edited photos and prepared this, he reappeared home, then took off again, on foot, to the plaza, five minutes away. I don’t wish I was in his place: I have no desire to be 19 again, but I look on in marvel, as perhaps my parents did, or as perhaps would have his birth parents had they lived that long.

Life manifests in remarkable ways.

My friends in the sky

Before moving to Mexico in early 2007, we lived for a while in Spokane, Washington, where the sky — when not chemtrailed into gray oblivion — often treated me to sylphs. The unnatural colors in some of them are the result of “Auto Levels” in Photoshop.

These are presented at actual size. Apparently at some Data Zen moment, I decided they individually didn’t warrant more than 10 kilobytes of precious storage space 😉

Sylphs, Spokane, 2006















Gone walkabout

My recent absence from blogging comes from having gone walkabout in the USA without a laptop computer. In other countries, you can find internet cafes everywhere. In the USA, you can find connections everywhere, but without your own computer, more dedication is required. And I enjoyed being offline. Not only that, but one day I logged on to find 11 new friend requests – so apparently shutting up and staying offline enhances my popularity in MySpace. (I’ll have to remember that.)

We were exploring the idea of relocating. From Spokane, we drove south through central Oregon, and through California to Flagstaff, Arizona. Appalled by the extent of the real estate bubble there, we took a side trip to Bisbee – I had never seen that particular tourist trap / ego – er, artist – colony. We stayed in an historic hotel, calling the police at 2 AM to report some blues-harp playing drunk piercing the silence (a sign on the hotel door advised of Bisbee’s noise ordnance, and suggested the popo). Next morning, extending our travel a half mile to gaze into the open-pit mine in town before returning the way we came, we were sold on the idea of continuing to Douglas, through a serendipitous encounter with a stranger in the mine-overlook parking lot.

We had previously very little interest in looking at Douglas, Arizona; it seemed rather grim. So, true to form, after a few hours we made an offer to buy a house so we could live 1.4 kilometers from the border of Mexico. (We haven’t heard back yet from the owners of the house.)

Then we drove home through Phoenix, Flagstaff, past Bryce Canyon, through Salt Lake, up into Idaho and Montana and back into eastern Warshington – some rather spectacular scenery. Yes, gas is getting a bit pricey, but every time the price of gas went up so did the value of a crude oil futures option I purchased (the option is for 1,000 barrels of oil, so the rising price of oil I’ve potentially purchased in the future more than offset what we consumed in our little road trip).

OK, OK, OK, I know: you find it a little hard to relate to someone who casually takes off for ten days to wander around without a particular plan (we had a lovely visit and met a couple of great-nieces for the first time in California), who casually makes an offer to buy a house 1,200 miles away, and who talks about obscure things like crude oil futures options. So, ignore that and check out this gem: the Mohawk Restaurant in Crescent, Oregon, somewhere south of Bend. The sign out front says ‘animal and bottle collection.’ If that’s not reason enough to go inside, consider too that it was the only place to eat within walking distance of our motel.

I can’t begin to capture the ambiance, nor exhaustively catalog the critters (who cares about the bottles?), procurement of which might land you behind bars these days. For example, the Great Horned Owl my little red arrow points to…


…or the Green Sea Turtle above the fireplace.


If you find the idea of dining in the presence of them off-putting, then you’d probably find no charm at all in the two-headed calf (about to be attacked by a Golden Eagle?) and the two-head whatever just aft of it.

Yes, I said two-headed calf. Don’t be too judgmental, because…

…her daddy seems rather proud of her. That’s a Gerenuk there with the long neck, and I know that little deer behind seems too small to be real. However,

…what more appropriate way to commemorate the fetal fawn from a pregnant roadkill? (Don’t you have any imagination at all?) There were something like 26 of those little things, in a variety of sizes.

So, have you saved some room for dessert?